Growing up with my mother, the lovely Ann from the heart of the west of Ireland was both funny since I was a Dub and an education in home cooking. There was no such thing as measuring, it involved “just knowing what goes in” a “fist of this and that”, as my Grandmother who we fondly called ‘Mam’ taught her. Her most famous recipes were Soda bread and Treacle cake, which she threw everything into a bowl and mixed with her hands. It was produced in a flash and always turned out amazing.
My love of cooking began at the age of four. I pushed over the chair in our kitchen and hopped up to watch my mother bake and cook, the fun part was getting to lick the spoon after. I watched intently. My mother was such a perfectionist, winning cookery competitions in school. She thought she was just cooking so that she could feed us good healthy food, bless her cotton socks. I was not allowed to participate for fear she would loose time, since she had other children to tend to and of course my father Des, ‘The food critic’ as he is fondly known. Who always taught us the importance of family meal time. My fond memories as a child were sitting on his lap eating his dinner which always tasted nicer.
My Dad who is also an excellent chef when it comes to the BBQ and his once a year “let me show you how to stir fry”. My Nana Boyle known the ‘flying nanny’ was also an amazing cook, she had 10 kids to feed and she had a creative flair always coming back from her trips abroad with new and interesting recipes. One of her favourites was her banana yoghurt cake, which I used to bake as a teenager. The beauty of baking when you have 3 brothers and one sister is that it never managed to get cold as it was devoured by the herd within minutes! One of the subjects I enjoyed at school was home-economics and I was always pleasantly surprised by my brothers gratification and my mothers surprise at my ability when I brought the fruits of my labour home. Always making sure we had some left for my ‘Dad’ waiting in anxious anticipation for the facial expression or as I call it ‘the result’!
Our trips to Achill, the Aran Islands and Howth were most memorable. After sampling mussels for the first time in the Aran Islands, my life was never the same. During a family holiday in Achill as children, ravenous with the hunger, and after a fill of crisp sandwiches and coke at the beach we returned back to the farm in the west and my Dad produced live lobsters, of course this brought out my inquisitive side. I felt sorry for the poor lobsters getting boiled to death, however my dad always made it entertaining, saying well ‘if we don’t eat them someone else will’ in his usual comical tone. He was right, they were delicious, it was worth all the gymnastics in the kitchen.
We love going to seafood restaurants in search of the best chowder and anything seafood which brought me to my home in Rush Co.Dublin near Skerries where there are some of the best seafood restaurants. The love of food has spread to my brothers who often ring home for my mothers famous spaghetti or chicken dish recipes and my sister is known as the ‘desert queen’. Although my diet has been somewhat healthy with the odd ‘Carbfest’ and after more than a decade of cronic IBS and subtle symptoms of fatigue and headaches, I found out I am blessed with gluten sensitivity and I have embraced the gluten-free diet since February, 2014.
Within two days on a pure gluten free diet my symptoms had subsided, however sticking with it is going to be my biggest challenge as I love my food. I believe it will take me a good year to heal the damage that has taken over my body. I found that dairy products are also difficult to digest, however I have found solace in lactose free milk and cheeses. Each day I remind myself that gluten-free living is a gift and that my body will thank me. Faced with the new challenge of living gluten-free and my dislike of processed foods, I was inspired to get creative in the kitchen. I have always loved my food but having an outlet allows me to share the food I love to eat. I am a self professed lover of anything baked, however rarely find the time so this will be a true challenge and a risk as the thoughts of baking without gluten, both intrigues and scares me so I hope my journey into the new will inspire others.