Clontarf Swim Man Sorry for the lack of posts lately; between being busy with a slew of copywriting projects and trying to enjoy the summer, time has slipped away from me lately. Both Mountaineering Man and I are amazed at how fast time flies (is it August already?!) -we’ve both been swamped with a variety of work and home-related matters.

It seems like only weeks ago that I moved to Dublin, though it’s been three months already (!!). Some days I feel I’ve been here for years while on others I still feel very much a square peg in a round hole. I’m very familiar with parts of Dublin now and even drive quite confidently down the busy corridors of the city. But there are other areas of Dublin where I feel completely lost and just one wrong turn can have me feeling like I’ve crossed over into another dimension.

Clontarf Bathing

As for developing my Irish-ness, I realized the other day that there are certain Irish habits that have become second nature to me. I use the word “nice” to describe food – something I found so odd when I first moved here. In America, people would never say “This lasagna is so nice!” Nice is reserved to describe people or animals – the way someone acts versus the way food tastes. Another noticeable change is that my adjectives have turned into nouns. Instead of saying, “This weather is crappy,” I now say “This weather is crap!” 

Clontarf Surfing Of course like all Irish people, talking about the weather has become an hourly ritual. Though one thing I have yet to get used to, and probably never will, is the vague and completely unhelpful weather reporting on the news here. Every day it’s a similar report, each as useless as the last: “A bit of rain later in the day with bright, sunny spells in some parts. Dry in areas but showers on and off throughout the afternoon.” WTF is that? If I told one of my copywriting clients that I’d “do some spells of work, maybe sometime in the afternoon and in parts here and there” they’d fire me.

Speaking of showers, I rarely use an umbrella anymore – unless it’s really coming down. Irish people are so used to rain that they often endure sprinkles or even a quick shower with no umbrella. When I first moved here I would pop mine open at the first sign of drops, but after being the lone umbrella holder on many a showery day I started to feel self conscious. These days I just put my hoodie up and get a little wet like everyone else. I’ve also adjusted to the cooler climate here and my body has built up a tolerance to Irish weather. Though you won’t find me jumping into the ocean for an icy swim I have no problems wearing a T-shirt under gray and misty skies.

Clont Tofu Clont Basil

Clont Peas Clont Cream

While I’ve assimilated to some degree there are certain things that’ll never change – no matter how great the Irish influence. I still drink wine, even at the most dive-y old-man pubs where everyone else is drinking Guinness or beer. I still get sticker-shock at the high price tags on items that are so cheap back home (a tiny, made-in-China lamp selling for 35 Euros here goes for about $7.99 at Target in the U.S.). I still rage about the atrocious customer service at most businesses – from grocery stores and retail shops to estate agencies and Eircom. My reaction to these things will change only when these things change. In that sense I’m still very American.

Clont Lasagna 5

Like many Irish (and Europeans in general) I go to the food shops almost daily. Back in America, I’d do one big grocery shop on a Saturday and rarely went to the store in between. But with all the little local markets and produce stands around here, it’s nice to get fresh food daily and it’s something I really enjoy. Instead of having to plan for a whole week’s worth of meals, I can see what’s fresh and decide what to make based on what looks good.

Pea and Leek Lasagna with Basil Tofu Cream Sauce

Clont Lasagna 3 Clont Lasagna 6

Just yesterday I was at the shop and saw a beautiful fresh basil plant on sale. I absolutely LOVE fresh basil and was inspired to make a dish that highlighted this herb. Based on a tofu lasagna that my sister makes, I decided on a pea and leek lasagna drenched in a rich basil tofu cream sauce. The tofu gives the dish protein as there is no meat in the lasagna and makes a luxe cream sauce that’s healthy and absolutely delicious. It takes a bit of work but it’s so worth it! Note the prep on the tofu starts the night before.

2 packs (12.3 oz each) of silken tofu – do not use firm tofu!

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large leek, rinsed and sliced thinly (do not use the hard green part)

900 grams of frozen peas

2 oz of grated parmesan cheese

3 cloves of garlic, peeled

3 handfuls of fresh basil leaves

240 mls plus 120 mls of plain soy milk or fresh cream – it’s up to you!

Zest of one lemon

1 box no-cook lasagna sheets

200 grams grated mozzarella cheese (or use soy cheese if you’d like)

Sea salt & pepper to taste

The night before you’re to make this lasagna, you need to prep the tofu. Take a strainer and line with muslin cloth or even a couple of sheets of kitchen roll. Remove the tofu from the packets and place in the strainer/sieve and place over a bowl. Cover with a towel and place weights on it (I just used two tins of tomato). The process will help extract the water from the tofu so that it makes a creamier sauce. Store in the fridge overnight and the next day you’ll see quite a bit of water in the bowl. Discard the water and set tofu aside.

The next day: Preheat the oven to 180 C degrees. In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add in the leeks and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add in the frozen peas and cook until the peas are thawed. Add salt and pepper to season and set aside.

In a food processor, blitz together the parmesan cheese, garlic cloves and fresh basil. Now add in the tofu and the 240 mls of soy milk or cream and whizz until smooth. The texture will be like a soft cream cheese at this point. Add in the lemon zest and blitz again.

Now you are ready to assemble the lasagna: In a large baking dish, spread a tiny bit of the tofu cream on the bottom – just spread it around so it coats the bottom. Now place down one layer of lasagna sheets, followed by 1/3 of the tofu cream mixture, 1/2 of the pea/leek mixture and 1/3 of the grated mozzarella. Do this one more time. Now you’ll still have 1/3 of the tofu mixture and 1/3 of the mozzarella left. Put the remaining tofu mixture back in the food processor with the remaining 120 mls of soy milk or cream and blitz – the point is to make the sauce a bit runny so it’s easier to pour over the top of the lasagna. Now place one more layer of lasagna sheets and pour the sauce over it, covering the whole top. Sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella.

Bake in the oven for 35-45 minutes or until the top is golden and bubbly. Let rest for 5-10 minutes (if you can stand to!) and serve.