Review: Charolais, when a cow brought a tear to my eye

I’m making a concrete effort this year to get to more shows in The Dublin Fringe Festival. Maybe I’m trying to make good on last year’s (yes 2013’s) resolution to see more theatre. I am the cultural bulimic that I may or may not have spoken about during my undergrad viva voce.

Wow, that sentence is full of hot air.

That sentence couldn’t be less like the lunchtime play I attended in Bewley’s last Sunday. Charolais is full of shit. And muck. And blood. Cows. Jeeps. Kitchen tables. In other words, very down to earth, realistic. It’s a one woman show about a love triangle between a woman, her man and his cow with a little bit of his mother thrown in for good measure. Hilarious (guffawing out loud hilarious) and moving, this Show in a Bag is technically excellent as well: minimal set and lighting are augmented by extremely clever but simple costume and hair changes. Written and performed by Noni Stapleton and directed by Bairbre Uí Chaoimh the site for this drama is very much Stapleton’s body, rather than any particular stage, which she uses to great effect. This in itself is a metaphor for the action of the play which is occurring in the bodies of the main character, Siobhán, and her farmer lad’s Charolais, who are both living that which is many females’ most physically dramatic experience: pregnancy.

Charolais Photo by Sally Anne Kelly

Charolais Photo by Sally Anne Kelly

It doesn’t escape my attention that the last play I reviewed was also situated in the drama of the female body and while Charolais is no less dramatic than Between Water and Trees, it is likely a far more accessible production. Interesting though that two productions that I have attended almost by accident have focused on this topic.

If you fancy a lunch time or tea time pick me up this week (check Fringe site for times) get yourself along to this most excellent and original production.

Buíochas le mo chomrádaí ollscoile a roghnaigh an dráma íontach seo dúinn. Go raibh maith agat agus ná ligimid chomh fada arís é!

Ironically this awaited me on my return home:

Roast beef

Roast beef

Next up I hope to see Eating Seals and Seagulls’ Eggs which I understand examines, amongst other things, our relationship with the most hated woman in Irish History: Peig Sayers.

Photo credit: Sally Anne Kelly

Quick review: Between Trees and Water, Dublin Fringe Festival

I’m sorry I don’t have enough time to do “Between Trees and Water” the justice it deserves but I’m also conscious that time is of the essence if you are to make it to see this compelling production by Painted Bird Productions as part of the Tiger Dublin Fringe Festival. It runs here in Dublin until Sunday with matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 1pm in South Studios on New Row South.

Between Trees and Water. Photo credit John Allen

Between Trees and Water. Photo credit John Allen

Based on a collection of documents relating to an illegal abortion in Cork in 1939 the fabulous ensemble acting of the cast and subtle costume, set and lighting weave an evocative piece of theatre. They capture the dun, smoke-yellowed, enamel and brown bottle ordinariness of the lives shattered by this event. Their repeated use of certain words like “responsibility”, “girl” and “married man” remind you of the morals that brought these people into this parlous state. One sequence where the cast members regard the missing victim is particularly thought-provoking. I was not surprised to read in the programme that the director, Fiona McGeown, had studied at L’ecole de mime corporeal dramatique as the physical realisation of a story bound up with the very physical was enthralling. I could not pick one actor from the cast as I felt that the ensemble work was impressive. I could go on but I’ve run out of time.

Between Trees & Water – Painted Bird Productions from Julie Kelleher on Vimeo.

Go and see it before it’s gone. I’m off to Charolais on Sunday so another review to follow. Special thanks to my good pal Aoife for getting me out of the house and down to this show :)

Back to School Banana Porridge Bites

Well how did you all cope? We’ve had tears and recriminations but this was from the child heading into Ranga 5. Nipper 3.0 sailed into Naíonán Bheaga gan stró ar bith uirthi. So that’s it all my children are now “in the system” Our job now is feeding and watering and damage limitation (especially as Nipper 2.0 is in communion year.)

I’ve really noticed in the last couple of years, where I have been with them in the afternoons, that the boys EAT ALL THE TIME. I thought this was some sort of gender stereotyping but so far, so true, the older boy in particular. We feed them porridge everyday. They have a full on lunch at school and then come home expecting a meal circa 3pm and then dinner around 7pm. It’s my imagination that is mostly sapped by this experience. How do I feed them, keeping it healthy AND varied. When I experiment one of them is bound to turn their nose up (“Rocket Pesto? I don’t care that you grew, picked and made it yourself, it’s yuck!”) and I tend to fall back on those childhood staples of fish fingers and waffles or baked beans or scrambled eggs on toast. Soup, if I’m careful about its ingredients and consistency can sometimes gain their royal highnesses’ approval. This tomato and courgette soup was a surprising hit. With tomatoes and courgettes in season around about now  I would recommend you give it a whirl.

Not only do my darling children demand lunch they usually expect a dessert with it. I blame the parents. Having a sweet tooth myself I understand the hankering so I was quite happy when I found this recipe for Chewy Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies on SkinnyTaste.com. This site is one of my favourite sites for family friendly, health conscious recipes although at times the recipes rely a little too much on products that can only be found in the US.Banana Oatmeal Bites with sultanas

These bites are great and never last jig time in our gaff. They are NOT flapjacks and are a squishy consistency but are a great energy booster on long days when the kids are rushing hither and yon to after school activities. I have substituted the chocolate chips for raisins and they are still delicious so experiment with dried cranberries, blueberries or chopped dried apricot. While I’m not a big fan of what chocolate they are gorgeous with White Chocolate Chips. Here’s the recipe, Europeanised :)

Banana Porridge Bites

Makes 12.(So consider making a double batch!)

  • 2 ripe bananas (I always keep a couple of bananas in the freezer for ripe banana recipes)
  • 80g oat flakes
  • 40g chocolate chips (dark, milk or white or a mixture)
  1. Preheat oven to 180C/ GM4.
  2. Mash the ripe bananasLay a sheet of silicon or baking paper on your tray. These do NOT spread so don’t need a huge amount of space between the cookies. Note in the pics below my silicon paper is completely crumpled. This was an excellent tip I picked up from some TV show to stop your paper rolling up and off your baking tray. Works when lining tins too.
  3. Mash your banana and stir in oats and chocolate chips.
  4. Take bite size portions or tablespoons full, create small balls and flatten onto your prepared baking tray.
  5. Pop them in the over for 12 – 15 mins or until golden brown.Mix in the porridge oats and the chocolate chips or raisins
  6. Allow to cool on trays.
  7. Store in an airtight container. I have no idea how long they keep because the Nippers have them shnarfed in no time.

Bake at 180C/ GM4 until golden

 

 

 

 

 

 

The little things bring it: Cannellini Bean and Bacon Soup

Serendipity. Sometimes the little things bring it. Rocking up to my local Supervalu to restock after two weeks holidays and finding a new line of Batchelors tinned beans* give me a little blasht of serendipity. You take it where you can get it, right?

I’m all for change but, gosh darn it, I want to be the one making the changes! When my local Superquinn switched to Supervalu I saw a few of my favourite products disappear off the shelves. Admittedly there are some new or expanded ranges but I can no more buy Doves Farm Yeast, for example. I have to schlep all the way to The Hopsack in Rathmines to pick it up. I use this nearly everyday. The range of De Cecco pastas has shrunk to insignificant – no more fusilli or lasagne sheets – but thankfully The Best of Italy in Dunville Avenue, close to the ancestral home, seems to be the importer for this brand and so stocks a dazzling range of my favourite pasta. I’m easily dazzled, folks.

Back to the beans. We were just back from our holidays. I was still in my one pot cooking mode after 2 weeks of Trangia creativity and rooting around my “Get into my mouth” Pinterest board when I came across a link to this beautiful photograph by Rachel Hathaway with accompanying instructions which fitted my mood: comforting, warm (it’s gotten colder), and easy to prepare ahead. I’ve made it three times since and I think I have it now. This is also a hit with the Nippers.

Cannelini Bean and Bacon Soup

Ingredients for Cannelini Bean and Bacon Soup

Ingredients for Cannelini Bean and Bacon Soup

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil
125g smoked bacon lardons (I use the Dulano lardons from Lidl, always have a stock of them in the freezer)
1large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, diced
1/2 tbsp Selection chopped fresh herbs, chopped (I use sage and rosemary which taste great with beans and bacon and grow well all year round in Ireland. Do it!)
1tbsp tomato puree
2 cans (400g) canellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 litre chicken stock
1 Parmesan rind (optional)
  1. Heat the oil in your favourite soup pot and, once hot, add the bacon.
  2. Once it’s beginning to render a little add the onion and cook until soft.
  3. Add the garlic and soften but don’t burn and lastly add the carrots and cook for about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the drained and rinsed beans, tomato puree and the herbs.
  5. Cook, stirring, until all the ingredients are evenly mixed.
  6. Lastly add the stock (home made or sure, feck it, from a good quality cube. I like Kallo Just Bouillon Stock Cubes which are low in sodium.)
  7. If you are using the Parmesan rind, add now.
  8. Bring to the boil and simmer for 45 minutes.
  9. Remove Parmesan rind and discard
  10. You can if you like blend some of the soup but I didn’t think it needed it. Some of the cannelini beans will soften into a lovely mush.
  11. Serve with delicious crusty bread (both the aformentioned Hopsack and Best of Italy stock lovely sourdoughs.)
Cannelin Bean and Bacon Soup

Cannellini Bean and Bacon Soup

A couple of notes:

You can, of course, make this with fresh beans correctly prepared.
You may find that smoked bacon makes your soup too salty so do try with an unsmoked variety i.e. chop up some traditional rather than smoked rashers.
Adding a Parmesan rind is a soup tip I got from the Corkonian and I save all my rinds in the freezer for this very purpose. It brings an extra depth to the flavour. Try it!
I’ve tried this recipe with black eyed beans and while this will render the kitchen table very tuneful the cannellini beans really are a must.
* So new, in fact, that they don’t even feature on their own website. You heard it hear first!