Sun 13 Nov 2011
About 15 months ago, I got an invitation for a night out in Dublin. It was from Aoife of the ICanHasCook blog, and she wanted to have me up in the city for a “night of culture and fun.” At the time I was living in Drogheda and I was busy discovering all things small town (well, small for me considering a few months before, I’d moved from Los Angeles) and was frequently writing on this blog about how much I missed the culinary and cultural offerings of a city.
I took the train up and had my first proper night out in Dublin. We hit about a half-dozen places with Aoife “Veg” and Catherine “The Runcible Spoon” and I ended up crashing in ICanHasCook & Nialler9’s guest room at 4 am. Looking back on that night now, it’s hard to believe how confused and overwhelmed I felt in Dublin – I had no idea where I was and no idea how to get to Point A from Point B in anything but a taxi. Though back then it was all a blur, I now know we went to Bernard Shaw for a pre-dinner drink, Rotana for dinner, the Workman’s for another drink, the No Name bar for more libations, a warehouse to see a graffiti-off between a English and Irish artists and a loft somewhere to see Alarmist and then to PantiBar for a nightcap.
Of course now I’m familiar with all those places and could lead a tour through most of them (except the warehouse and loft – still no idea where those are). And yesterday morning when I had two of my “culture” night co-horts for brunch at my Dublin apartment we fondly recalled that night of fuzzy taxi rides and way too many cocktails and laughed about how clueless I was about the city I now call home. It’s hard to fathom how much my life has changed in such a short time, and it was great to reminisce with Aoife and Catherine about that night.
Joining us as well was another Aoife – The Daily Spud – and Sharon, one-half of Gunternation. They, too, have played important roles in my progress here. I actually started emailing with The Daily Spud a few months before moving to Ireland; I’d been reading her blog for a while and as I was already food blogging in LA I thought it would be a good idea to try and make some blogging friends in advance of my move. We’ve been friends and frequent dining companions ever since. And though I only met the Gunters a few months ago, they live very close, and are fellow expats and major foodies. Developing friendships with neighbours is an important part of feeling settled in the community and I’ve found that thanks in part to Sharon and Bill.
The brunch was my way of thanking these individuals for their support and friendship, and also a good excuse to try out some recipes from the River Cottage Veg Everyday cookbook I recently purchased. Though no one in the group is a vegetarian, everyone seemed to enjoy the dishes inspired by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s latest publication. We feasted on Tahini Dressed Corgette and Green Bean Salad, Frittata with Summer Veg and Goat’s Cheese, Baby Beet Tarte Tatin, fresh fruit, multigrain bread (with my parents’ homemade yuzu marmalade), Catherine’s amazing homemade brownies and some Cinnamon Apple & Almond Spelt Muffins (my own recipe, see below).
It was a really fun morning of conversation and catch-up and we all had a grand ol’ time. One particularly funny story centered around veg, appropriately enough. Sharon was telling us about how, on one of their first dates, Bill cooked her dinner. She took a bite of the veg and remarked, “This is good asparagus.” Bill, with a look of utter shock, exclaimed, “WHAT?” After a little back and forth it turns out Bill misheard her, thinking she said, “This is getting serious.”
We all roared with laughter. It was a great morning all around.
Cinnamon Apple & Almond Spelt Muffins
2 cups spelt flour
1.5 teaspoons baking soda
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Pinch of sea salt
1 apple, mashed (blitz in food processor)
1/2 cup natural yogurt
1/3 cup agave nectar or 1/2 cup honey
2 apples, peeled, cored and cut into small cubes
1/3 cup chopped almonds
Preheat oven to 170 C. Line a muffin tin with 12 with paper liners.
In a medium sized bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, mix together the mashed apple, eggs, natural yogurt and agave nectar (or honey) until combined. Now add in the dry mixture, stirring until until incorporated. Add in the apple cubes and almonds until combined.
Divide evenly among the muffin tin cups and bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then remove and continue to cool on a rack.