Sun 18 Dec 2011
There is a certain quiet that blankets Dublin in the wintertime. People seem friendlier and less argumentative. Maybe everyone is too busy rubbing their cold hands together for warmth or walking a bit faster to get out of the chill as quickly as possible – no time for quarrelling, just a swift “hiya” and a gracious wave.
The streets are hushed as well. Icy roads warrant a slower, perhaps more gentler slog to school and work. Drivers wave two, maybe even three cars to go ahead in the queue down the one-lane streets and appreciation is shown with a little flash of emergency lights – a sort of lit-up wink for their kindness.
It could be that people want to slow down so they can take a look at the Christmas decorations in the villages around Dublin. Each seems to have its own big pine tree, decorated with long strands of golden lights and a few rustic ornaments. Some have a nativity set or a Santa Claus while others roll out the enormous candy canes and sleighs packed with gift boxes. The morning frost makes everything glisten as if it had been designed that way. And in the evenings the twinkling lights emit a soft glow, giving the impression of warmth on a cold, dark night.
When it snows, as it did the other morning for the first time this winter, the pace slows even more. Pedestrians walk gingerly along the dusted footpaths and a few even stop to look up, extend a hand and catch a few falling snowflakes. When it gets heavey, there’s no better place than a cosy pub to warm up with a few pints or some mulled wine. There’s just something magical about a dimly-lit tavern, complete with a roaring fire and a friendly barman.
There’s just something naturally Christmas-y about Ireland in winter, and I feel more in the holiday spirit than ever before. Mountaineering Man and I bought a little tree and a few ornaments and a some sparkly candles – it’s our first Christmas living together so I really want to make our home as festive as possible. And since ‘tis the season, I made a very celebratory breakfast this morning: Panettone French Toast. Panettone is an Italian Christmas bread that’s buttery and rich and light all at once. It’s a brioche dough studded with dried citrus peel and it’s very popular around this time of year. We topped ours with a little cinnamon honey but you can use maple syrup, icing sugar or even whipped cream.
Panettone French Toast
2 eggs, beaten
200 ml whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon honey
6 thick slices of Panettone (I got ours at Carluccio’s, which has small and big ones – one small round is perfect for this recipe!).
1 tablespoon butter
In a shallow, large dish, beat the eggs together and add the milk, vanilla and honey and whisk until blended. Now heat up the butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Take each slice of bread and put it into the egg/milk mixture – just lay it down quickly and remove it, then do the other side but don’t let it soak up too much of the liquid. Place the bread slices in the pan and cook for about 2-4 minutes on each side, or until it starts to get golden brown. Serve with honey, maple syrup or whatever you want.