Forty shades of green



“Happy wife, happy life!” said Mr McDonnell as we drove (incredibly fast) in his Mercedes from Dublin to Limerick on a very grey but green afternoon in late October. It was his way of explaining why he had been prepared, on a Saturday, to drive 3 hours to Dublin airport and then 3 hours back, all the way to Glin castle on the other side of Ireland. It’s not that he’s not a busy man, as owner of a great big cow farm there are things to do, even on Saturdays, but “I’m always happy to help”. And three days later, as he drove us to the airport, albeit a closer one, we had come to understand that his mantra is true of many of the Irish in general. They are happy to help!

I had wanted to visit Ireland for most of my adult life and while it’s close enough to France, and even closer to England, where I lived for many years, I never had a good enough reason – sometimes you need a reason to do things, even things you desperately want to do. It turned out, in the end, that there were two reasons. Mr McDonnell’s wife, Imen, and her partner in crime Cliodhna. They’ve been doing their best for Ireland for years now, drawing attention to their respective home towns, local producers and traditions. Their joint enterprise, the beautifully named “Lens and Larder” is a collection of workshops usually co-hosted by them and people they invite, like Oddur and I, who also live and breathe in the world of food and photos.

The venue was irresistible, a real castle with a rich history and glorious gardens. The promise of days filled with cooking and eating and a historic pub that allegedly serves some of the best Guinness stout in Ireland – and not much else. The last part was enough to convince my husband, that and the fact that they’ve recently discovered in Iceland that their heritage is much less Norwegian than previously thought but considerably more Irish. A genetics company in Iceland, DeCode, has found through extensive studies that the Icelandic nation is comprised of around 80% Norwegian men and as much as 60-70% Celtic women. Maybe not the most romantic statistic, quite a brutal one actually, but it goes a long way to explaining why Icelanders look less like Swedes and more like, well, the Irish.

在我赶走我的盛大卧室之前,我们赶走了Glin Castle,一间四柱床,一个巨大的铺有地毯的浴室(带1岁的人旅行时令人难以置信的)和一桶香槟最丰富的餐厅里最可爱的晚餐。我们的主人那天晚上是凯瑟琳,其父亲是林林的最后一个骑士和她的演员丈夫的多米尼克西部。我们已经开始了一个傻瓜鸡尾酒(即使是我不是杜松子酒的粉丝)喝完了茶杯,这是一个非常迷人和古怪的茶杯,但很快就搬到了我们带来的波尔多葡萄酒,几葡萄酒Château Lafon-Rochet – Merci Basile – which everybody loved. When it comes to wine, nobody does it better than “us” Bordeaux people. The evening ended with a “professional” game of Charades, led of course by Dominic but by then I was safely tucked away in that four-poster bed, sleeping soundly with baby Lucian while the others moved on to Irish whiskey.

A pub and kitchen garden

也许整个周末的最受欢迎的一部分是第二天早上,当景观园丁凯瑟琳带来了家庭花园之旅,充满了几个世纪以来的异国情调的树木,令人惊讶的是,在多雨的爱尔兰完全茁壮成长。她对她的花园非常热衷,她正在加入和保留,使她在她面前的祖母这样的一生之一。想象一下童话故事中的英语/爱尔兰美女或凯瑟琳。我最亲爱的纪念品,我从她的厨房花园里带走。Classically seperated from the rest of the fields, so beautiful and practical at the same time – some of the best leafy greens and herbs I’ve ever had came from that garden and it’s inspired us to plant some new varieties in our own “potager” back home.

狩猎人(和他们的孩子)在全套制服中出来迎接我们,而那天没有实际的狩猎,我们有一个神奇的猎人午餐,配有鲭鱼,火腿和热嘟嘟。晚上,我们有一个酒吧晚宴,牡蛎和爱尔兰羊肉炖。那天晚上的音乐是传统的和美丽的,但也许来自那个晚上的最美丽的情绪来自酒吧的所有者或看护人托马斯奥卡尼西。He inherited the place from his father, a legendary figure, and while it wasn’t particularly his dream to run a pub (he has another full-time job and only opens when he can), he considers himself the caretaker of the place and his duty to preserve it. Later I found this quote from Thomas in an article about the O’Shaughnessy pub : “O’Shaughnessy was the name above the bar when I got it. And it’ll be the name above it when I go. That’s all I can do”. This is an endearing thought to me and I found a lot of encouragement in Ireland – people seem to understand and value their heritage which is paramount in these times of globalisation and consumerism. It isn’t easy to run a small business and a small village. But it can and must be done, and we should all support it.

最后我们没有看到爱尔兰,glimpse and a rosy, curated one at that. But we saw enough to want to come back very soon and one thing stands out above all – the green isle is truly green. Everything is so (in local speak) bloody green. I think I remember correctly that Imen’s husband told us Johnny Cash wrote his song “forty shades of green” as he was taking off in a plane and flying over Ireland. No wonder, that’s the impression you get, so so green and moist and inviting. Only thing is though, the shades are more like a million.

Johnny Cash’s song is beautifully written, here are the lyrics:

From the fishing boats at Dingle

And the folks at Skibbereen
The moorlands and the meddle

And most of all I miss her lips

Where the breeze is sweet as Shalimar
And there’s forty shades of green


I wish that I could spend an hour
I’d love to watch the farmers

To see again the thatching
I’d walk from Cork to Larne to see


The ballad of Sam and Niamh

Two people who I haven’t mentioned yet but had a great, positive if gently quiet influence on our days in Ireland were Sam and Niamh. They live across the great river Shannon in county Clare but had come across for a few days to help out with Imen and Cliodhna’s workshop. They made us the best breakfasts, lunches and dinners, cocktails and hot toddies but most of all they were just lovely. He’s a real renaissance man, good with his hands as they say and she works wonders in the kitchen. I’m hoping to lure them over one day to teach us a trick or two (my husband could use a tip or two when it comes to gardening and carpentry) but as they’re expecting a baby that will probably have to wait. One of my favorite things they made was a crab salad served on a fresh endive – I might add that recipe to this post later on – but for now, here is their recipe for the traditional Irish soda bread that I couldn’t get enough of during my stay at Glin castle.


Makes 1 loaf

Total time to make: 55 minutes


225克/ 1 3/4杯子孔小麦(全麦)面粉
225 G / 1 3/4杯通用(平原)面粉
1 teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
50克/ 3汤匙/混合种子,如芝麻,南瓜或向日葵,或金属亚麻籽(亚麻籽)(可选)
25克/ 2汤匙黄油,软化(可选)
1 egg
375-400 ml / 1 2/3杯酪乳或牛奶

预热烤箱180c / 350f


Bake at 180C/ 350F for 45 mins.


Cool on rack before serving.


Those who are interested in finding out more about what Imen and Cliodhna (or Climen as my husband likes to call them) can go to their sitelens & larder。他们总是策划一些东西,甚至可能会让我们回到春天的爱尔兰 - 这是非常诱人的,我们会看到

On another note, it’s worth mentioning that格林城堡, which has had many lives – one as a hotel – is potentially up for event letting, meaning that if you’re interested to head to Ireland with a sizeable group and play castle for a few days, then that’s utterly possible. It’s a dream I might add.

And finally, regarding our own workshops here in Médoc (and elsewhere) since we announced last summer we’ve had an overwhelming response and most touchingly over 100 requests from people who want to or are at least considering returning. Many workshops are completely full but some have a little leverage (sometimes people change their plans etc) – so if you’re interested don’t hesitate to write and we’ll see what we can do.