Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"that upon an average we cleared about five pints a head"

Being in Ireland, of an age to be drinking, and inspired by Mr A, I decided that I should try as many different stouts as possible. I quite like Guinness at home, but know that it is better in Ireland, closer to the source. Though having tried a can of Guinness after making a Beef and Guinness stew for Mr A, we thought that it was a bit on the watery side, even though everyone kept saying that it was thick oily stuff. Thinking it was perhaps because it was in a can, I was determined to have it on draught to see if I was mistaken.

On our jaunt to Belfast we tried a Chocolate Stout which was brewed using cocco, and while it was nice, it wasn't on draught, and didn't quite have the taste that we were looking for. Whilst in the first pub we fell in with some men, one of whom was a member of CAMRA who was bemoaning the evils of Guinness and their monopoly on the Stout market. He pointed us in the direction of the John Hewitt Bar hoping they would have a non-Guinness stout. They didn't have one on tap, so we settled for German Black beer instead, which was lovely. It wasn't pretending to be thick like one imagines a stout should be, but was full of flavour. The two we tried were bitburger and Kostritzer, the latter of which was the favourite.

I headed down South last week, and was determined to work my way through a good few pints of stout. The first evening I had a Guinness as there was no other stout on offer. It was better on draught than in the can, but still was lacking a depth of flavour. Perhaps, I thought, I was seeking a holy grail of stout that didn't exist. In Dublin I backed my Dad's enthusiasm for a slightly dodgy looking pub because they offered Beamish, a stout from Cork, on Tap. This was getting closer to what I was after. A fuller flavoured stout than Guinness, though not bitter. A nice creamy head and no disappointing watery texture. I was very impressed. For dinner we trooped into another pub off O'Connell St, and another stout was on offer, Murphy's. Again it had a fuller flavour than Guinness, but was lovely and smooth, like the Beamish.

A small pub in Roscrea was our next stop where I had a pint of "Good Guinness" according the the barman, and indeed it was good, better than the previous pint, but a lighter option to Beamish and Murphy's.

In my uncle's pub I indulged in more Murphy's and then I pulled myself a pint of Guinness, which had its merits for having pulled it. All in all I am pleased that there are other stout options than Guinness, and that I am now an established Stout drinker, to add to my love of Ale which was carefully nurtured and trained whilst in England. I won't know what to do with myself when I go back home and have to make do not only with no real ale, no varieties of stout and worst of all no pint glasses!!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

" I do not like to eat the bread of idleness"

Apart from my recent misadventure, my research and family time I have also been enjoying being in Ireland and the excuse to cook and eat as many potatoes as humanly possible, including chips with Chinese takeway. Potatoes and Nutty Krust bread. Nutty Krust is the Northern Irish answer to sour dough. It is dense, tasty bread, which I could eat by the truck load, toasted with a good whack of butter and if in the mood jam. I am sure my carb conscious self will reemerge when I return home, but for now I am enjoying eating too much toast. (Though I don't really believe such a thing is possible!)

Though I clearly am not carb conscious at heart, because not only have I been indulging in Nutty Krust, I have also been making potato bread, or Irish Griddle Scones, as my recipe states they are called. These delicious little pancake crossed with a scone triangles are wonderful, simple to make and can be eaten at any time of the day or night. (As I have proven, and are particularly good for absorbing beer when one hasn't had any dinner and has drunk several pints). They are made in a similar manner to scones, rubbing butte and flour together, then fork though some left over mash potatoes, add milk to bind and then knead the mixuture until pliable. You then roll out and cut into triangles and cook in a dry pan until browning. They are also good in these credit crunchy times, as any scrap of mash potato that remains from dinner can be made into bread, and they also go well with baked beans, another staple of the frugal. (Apparently, baked bean sales have sky rocketed in these trying times!). They are also healthy (until you fry them in oil or fat rendered from bacon, or toast them and smother them in butter) and children and grown ups alike love them. I love them toasted with butter and tomato sauce, though with equally as part of a fry, with bacon and beans. I will have to make sure I continue making it when I get home, and never throw out mash spuds again!

Friday, January 2, 2009

"Hope had already entered; and feeling all its anxious flutter..."

Historically Hysterical had been going to the library to read old letters day after day. The staff started to recognise her and her presence in the reading room. One in particular, Mr Archives, was drawn into conversation with her because of her accent, having spent a time living in HH's homeland.

HH and Mr A, from then on always exchanged smiles and small talk, but HH thought nothing of it, just that Mr A was a nice fellow, though their eyes had met across the reading room several times with some degree of intensity, HH went back to her work and Mr A to his. HH decided it was time to finish her work at the library, and on the day she was set to leave, she didn't see Mr A, so never said goodbye to him, which she regretted. After going to a bigger, less inviting library, HH decided that she wanted to go back to the other library, and so she did.

The next day, she saw Mr A again, who was surprised and, it would appear, pleased to see her. Mr A said how lovely HH's hair looked, and HH, though flattered, thought he could think nothing of her other than a reader, and went back to her work. Another day went by and HH thought that she would finish up at the library that day, and told Mr A that she was going to Ireland. Mr A was sad to hear that, but thought that the ship had sailed. However, HH was not quite finished her work, and left some letters in the library to read the next week. Mr A, seeing these when he was locking up the library, hurried out to where HH was packing her bag. He asked if she was coming back to the library, and she said, with a smile, that she was and that she would see him next week. HH left the library with a smile, wondering what Mr A could mean by rushing out to see her in such a fashion, and may have frightened some of her fellow commuters by smiling the whole way home.

HH's friends told her to ask Mr A to share a cup of coffee with her, but HH thought that it would be much to forward, but determined to wear her hair in the way that Mr A liked when she returned to the library. When she returned, Mr A was there and said that they should get a coffee, which caused many smiles from HH. The next day HH and Mr A not only had coffee, but also went for a drink after work, and a lovely time was had by all. HH had to go to Ireland the next day, so that was it, or so she thought. Many emails later, HH decided that being in Ireland would not do, so headed back to England to see Mr A, and again had a lovely time. Much historical sight seeing occurred, including Portsmouth, and cooking and walking and all in all having the most marvelous time.

HH had to go back to Ireland for Christmas, but Mr A came to see her just afterwards and stayed until New Years. Mr A and HH had a lovely time in Ireland, particularly spending hours and hours in a pub in Belfast. HH and Mr A will have about another week together before HH has to return home, so who knows where the story will go after that. HH is all hope, all anxious flutter.....but no more on that today.