I suppose that by now many of us are living in self-isolation, which means we must stay home and cannot travel. This, though, does not mean we cannot wander with our imagination and reach whatever place in the world we love the most. In our case, the list of to-go places is very long (with Thailand, Vietnam and Australia in our top three!), but we already know that the first city we will go to is Dublin, where my family lives. To spend some time, last week Vito and I looked at a map of Europe and sort of imagined a long train-plus-ferry journey starting from Venice, with various stops in France. Just dreaming about all the towns, food, wine and people we will encounter along our way made us happy and slightly excited! Besides, it took us quite a while to check the trains and ferry routes and rates! A nice way to spend the afternoon ;-)
When in Dublin, we always sleep at my Nana's house, a lovely villa with front and back garden in the Ballsbridge neighbourhood. We take it very easily, so we normally have breakfast at home, go out during the day and return before dinner, so I can chat with my grandmother while Vittorio cooks for us. My Nana has a huge sweet tooth, so for our imaginary evening cuppa, I decided to prepare some buttery lemon cookies, crunchy on the outside, soft in the inside, and with a nice and fresh aftertaste.
When there, we like to return to the places we enjoy the most, like museums , markets and cafeterias. We go to town very often and never fail to visit the National Art Gallery, which has now been completely restored and always offers a new temporary exhibition, and anyway... the permanent collection has some great Italian art work (from Caravaggio to Venetian painters such as Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese and Canaletto) and plenty of Flemish still-life paintings to keep us busy for at least a couple of hours!
We wander around the various parks, like Merrion Square Park, Saint Stephen's Green and Trinity College's grounds, where the shades of green seem to be infinite, going from a palish yellow to one of the darkest greens I have ever seen; occasionally we get to see a squirrel, while families, couples walking the dog and students are the normality. The cafeterias offer mouthwatering cakes of gigantic dimensions and pubs are Vito's happy place, as he can enjoy Irish whiskeys that are difficult to find in Venice, like Yellow Spot, Green Spot and Teeling (just in case, in Venice the only place that has them is Corte dell'Orso).
In general, people are friendly and quite talkative, and we enjoy exchanging some chit chats especially with the lads of the farmers markets (you would never imagine how great Irish produce is! Trust me, unbelievable, I am deeply in love with their edible flowers and also with the more common vegetables like rhubarb and elder flower, which my aunt Bronach uses to enrich her Gin & Tonic!). Vito likes to buy greens there, so he always carries a small backpack to store the goodies...
Another of our favourites is the Chester Beatty Library, where we often stop for an easy ethnic lunch and from there, we then head towards Kilmainham, passing in front of Christ Church and Saint Patrick's Cathedral. The walk is long but time flies, with me visiting particular homeware shops where I get craft ceramics and other tools for the kitchen, and stopping for a drink every now and then. We like that area as it's full of students and has a sort of hippy feel, with cafes offering local organic food and plenty of music and cultural events.
On our way back we complete the dinner shopping at Fallon & Byrne, a specialty food store with a great wine cellar and a lovely restaurant on the top floor. I know it's a bit expensive and probably not the place where Dubliners get their staples, but after all we don't spend in restaurants so we might as well savour something exquisite at home! I always try a different type of sourdough bread, while Vittorio studies every single section with shiny eyes, looking like a child in a toy store.
As previously mentioned, we walk everywhere ... so on the way home a stop at the pub is simply mandatory, although, to be honest with you, I drink tea or coffee and not pints. Still, I love the atmosphere, people meeting after a day of work to unwind and the heat coming from the fireplace (okay, I know, now most fireplaces are electrical... but I'm dreaming... there's no need to point out such unromantic details!).
Once home, the routine is for me to sit in the tv room with Nana and catch up, while Vito makes us a (-nother) pot of tea. I drink so much tea when in Ireland that I am always thirsty but also always in the toilet... and wake up at least twice during the night...🙈🙈🙈. We are Italians, so we would use one tea bag for a pot, but my grandmother puts two or three, otherwise it's too weak, she says. She also adds a few drops of milk, a habit I lost when I was around 12.
We have tea also after dinner, and we are always offered cookies. Nana has diabetes type 2, so she can't indulge in sweets, she gets her treats only at special occasions and her favourite dessert is Pavlova. That was a bit too difficult for me to make, so instead, for our imaginary cuppa, I opted for lemon cookies, as I think she would love them, and I believe they could be a lovely addition to your afternoon tea ritual too!
Hoping she is well, and that you are all well too, I'll say goodbye. Take care, stay safe and, if it helps dealing with this situation, I think all this isolation will make us more appreciative and grateful of the time we spend with our dear ones. Big changes await us, so lets choose the best direction.
Talk soon! XXX,
RECIPE: SOFT LEMON COOKIES
Prep. Time: 30 minutes / Wait Time: 90 minutes / Cook Time: 15 minutes
Ingredients for about 30 cookies:
280 gr 00 flour
20 gr potato flour
120 gr brown sugar
100 gr softened butter
1 lemon (juice and zests)
8 gr baking powder
a pinch of salt
icing sugar to cover
1. Whisk softened butter and sugar until you get a nice foamy mixture (I used an electric hand whisk).
2. Spoon in the egg and a pinch of salt, and whisk for another minute.
3. Now add the lemon zests, the juice and the previously sifted flours and baking powder. Amalgamate well with a wooden spoon. When the dough is homogeneous, form a ball, cover and let sit in the fridge for 1 hour.
4. When the time has passed, grease some parchment paper, put some icing sugar on a plate and remove the dough from fridge. With your hands, shape the cookies into 1-inch size balls and pass them in the icing sugar. Press gently with your fingers and put back in the fridge for another 30 minutes.
5. After half an hour, pre-heat oven at 180° and bake your lemon cookies for about 12/15 minutes. When ready, let cool and serve with a nice cup of tea!