Yes Flowers in Galway City; Salthill Strand
Dungaire Castle; crate of cherries photographed under our cherry tree
Hydrangeas at Yes Flowers; front garden goat near Tracht beach
Sea Pink in Kinvara Bay; Valerian growing out of a building
Wild thyme growing on a limestone wall; classy books in Ard Bia
Ard Bia for lunch; bathroom geranium
It’s nice to be a tourist, and especially so in your own country, where you really feel that you ought to know better. Galway city and its hinterlands are good places for doing just this, with lovely shops, good cafés and then miles and miles of beach, lake and bog cotton wilderness. It also has a totally different atmosphere from anywhere else in Ireland, and at several points during the trip it reminded me a little bit of a Basque seaside town, with the wild, mild, Atlantic weather; the menú del día style fish lunch we had in Kinvara and the beautiful, bright white coral beaches that stretch the length of the coast all adding to this impression.
There’s a lot to like about Galway from a food perspective, too. It was named as a runner-up to Dingle in the ‘Top Foodie Town’ category in last night’s RAI awards – although perhaps that doesn’t count for a huge amount – and it has a lot of nice things going on, old and new. Everything we ate over the weekend was delicious and, remarkably enough, quite obviously Irish. For lunch in Ard Bia (go to Ard Bia), we had a mezze plate with homemade nigella seed flatbreads and three sorts of hummus; Toonsbridge mozzarella on great wedges of homemade focaccia and a ‘Berlin breakfast’, which was essentially a salad plate composed of herbs, garden greens, Gubbeen smoked cheese, thin slices of ham, thick slices of seeded soda bread with butter, homemade onion and gherkin pickles and a cold soft-boiled egg, which was a new one on me. After a jaunt around the harbour and a trip out to a slightly damp but still lovely Salthill, dinner was garlic & herb sausages from a local pork butcher, fresh bread and three salads from The Gourmet Tart Co., which is a great food shop and café based in Galway. One of these salads – cooked salmon, baked baby potato wedges and pesto – seems to be a bit of a local favourite, as we had something similar the last time we were down, in An Cupán Tae. Dessert was more smoked Gubbeen, this time from Sheridan’s cheesemongers on St Nicholas’ Church Square, along with some fairly luscious Spanish cherries brought from home.
The following day, we drove out to Kinvara, a beautiful little fishing village to the south of Galway City. The town is located along the Wild Atlantic Way – which I’ve decided that I love as a concept (so easy to navigate! so well sign-posted!) – and is definitely worth a detour if you’re in the area, as there are lots of beautiful views and interesting spots along the way. My parents had lemon sole for lunch, while I had a plate of the beautiful Kinvara smoked salmon, garnished only with a lemon wedge and a half-pint of Smithwicks.
I bought some very pretty raspberry-splattered meringues in The Gourmet Tart Co to have at home with summer berries and cream. I decided to make a sort-of Eton Mess, but with thyme flowers, natural yoghurt and a few tiny wild strawberries on top to make it a little bit lighter, brighter and wilder – just like Galway.
ETON MESS WITH YOGHURT, THYME & WILD STRAWBERRIES
1 large packet mini meringues, broken up
125g Greek or natural yoghurt
1 packet strawberries, hulled and sliced
Thyme leaves or flowers
Wild strawberries or fresh raspberries to decorate
Whip the cream and then stir in the yoghurt. Hull and slice the strawberries and mix through.
Break up the meringues and fold in. Decorate with the wild strawberries/raspberries and thyme leaves or flowers and serve immediately, as the meringues will dissolve in the cream if they’re left to sit. You’ll only need to slip away from the dinner table for about five minutes and it will make such a difference to the texture of the dessert.