Good Food

Much of my time this winter was spent cooking. I am grateful to have the spare time to try (and fail) new recipes and to have access to an abundance of fresh produce just minutes from our house. Every Saturday, I’ve made it a ritual to go to St. Nicholas’ market and improvise a meal based on the produce that catches my eye. Slowly, but surely, I’m learning how to wean myself off of recipes and to create dishes of my own imagination using seasonal produce.

Only being able to buy what I can carry has taught me to be mindful of my consumption and intentional while cooking. Perhaps, I don’t need 4 month’s worth of “just in case” foods shoved in the back of the pantry. Who would have thought? The proximity and freshness of the food here in Galway is a luxury that I am grateful to have access to and I am trying to take full advantage of it. With this in mind, I want to highlight some of my favorite meals that I have made/eaten, all of which are tied to my fondest memories in Ireland thus far.

  1. Birthday cake for my grandma – August 2023

Truth be told, I made this cake at home in Chicago, but it was the last thing that I made before I moved to Ireland, so I associate it with the big change. I don’t usually enjoy baking because I prefer to improvise when cooking, but I wanted to challenge myself to make a cake while I had my family’s baking-ware at my disposal. I made my grandma a lemon cake with a saffron cardamom vanilla bean buttercream + a mascarpone and strawberry compote filling, and I decorated it with fresh chamomile flowers. It was my first time coming up my own flavor profile for a cake, and fortunately, it was a success!

All hands on deck for the flammenkuchen transfer
Orange Pistachio
Rosewater Cake
The spread ft. the €2 tablecloth that I found at the Simon Shop

2. Christmas Dinner – December 2023

In early December, I hosted a holiday dinner party with my friends to celebrate the end of our semester before we all went our separate ways for the holidays. My German friend, Lena, suggested that we make Flammenkuchen or tarte flambé, a specialty of Alsace, France akin to a crispy flatbread topped with creme fraiche. We made three variations of the dish, including pear-pecan-brie-honey, squash-thyme-red onion, and a simple tomato-onion-basil tarte flambé. For dessert, we made an orange pistachio rosewater cake topped with mulberries and toasted almonds. I never thought celebrating Christmas 2 weeks early and 3500 miles away from home could be as heartwarming as this.

Bánh mì-making process
First attempt at bánh mì.

3. Kimchi-jjigae + tofu bánh mì – January 2024

Although Galway’s food scene has many strengths, I haven’t found the Asian cuisine to be one of them. The winter weather significantly increased my cravings for meals I couldn’t readily access, including kimchi stew and a fresh bánh mì. So, I took it upon myself to try to make these meals myself, and kimchi-jjigae quickly became a winter staple. That said, my bánh mì is still a work in progress.

Completed tiramisu!
Careful tiramisu assembly by Ester, Natasha, and Lily
Lasagna before the oven

4. Lasagna and tiramisu ft. the Sanremo Music Festival – February 2024

In February, my friend Ester, who’s from Bologna, hosted a lasagna-making, tiramisu-building dinner party. In a frenzy of stirring the béchamel sauce, shredding parmesan, dunking the lady fingers, and stealing some of the tiramisu cream when Ester wasn’t looking…we managed to make a very satisfying Italian dinner. While eating, we watched the iconic Sanremo Music Festival, and Ester was gracious enough to translate the song lyrics for us non-Italian speaking folks. I am thankful to be surrounded by such a diverse group of lovely women and I have learned so much from them in a short time!

5. Brunch of the Gods – February 2024

Although Coldvember has long ended, Lena and I still make the effort to go for a sunrise swim at Blackrock as often as we can muster the strength. The strongest motivator is the knowledge that we have a big brunch to look forward to afterwards. The painful, post-swim walk from Blackrock to the house with frozen feet is nothing that shakshuka and pancakes can’t solve.

Stuffed onions before the oven
Hiking the Eochair with the Mountaineering Club
Sheer enthusiasm for our cooking club!

6. Post-mountaineering cooking club – February 2024

Last, and perhaps least… Ali and I initiated our “monthly” cooking club in early February (we’ve only convened once). On the menu were two dishes from NYT cooking that were delicious independently but less impressive in combination: stuffed onions with saffron rice and harissa chicken wings. Although each dish turned out as we’d intended, we were off-put by the pairing and vowed to put more effort into our menu curation next time. Suffice it to say that the whole was not greater than the sum of its parts, but I am holding out hope for our next attempt.

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