Last week I was on the Greek island of Paxos for the Irish Wing’s Festival.
It was a celebration of Irish music, art, poetry and food, combined with indigenous culture from the island.
Donal Lunny and Andy Irvine musicians best known for being members of the folk group Planxty, played bouzoukis alongside traditional Greek musicians, in an open air concert in the grounds of an old school house. Poets Theo Dorgan and Anne Hagerty joined me for a cooking demonstration with interpretations on their work and those of Nobel Laureate, the late Seamus Heaney. Heaney had been in Greece when he was told of winning the Nobel prize for literature. I churned butter ( with the help of a trusty Kenwood!) and made soda farls, while reading the poem “Churning Day”. This poem perfectly describes the butter making process: “My mother took first turn, set up rhythms that slugged and thumped for hours. Cheeks and clothes were splattered with flabby milk. Where finally gold flecks began to dance.”
Anne Hagerty wrote about basil mashed potatoes in one poem and how affected yuppies in Dublin favoured them. She also composed a poem for the festival about her mother’s potato scones.
The two were combined to create a basil potato scone – split open, hot from the oven and spread with freshly made butter.
I’ve included the recipe for you to try and it’s one that works in a rainy day in Northern Ireland equally as well as hot climes. They go particularly well with a simple tomato and feta salad.
Theo Dorgan wrote a poem that mentions rabbit crackling. This lean meat doesn’t have much crackling so I cooked some pork fat up and chopped it finely to coat the rabbit loin. There’s a new beer called Heaney,named for the iconic poet, brewed by Heaney Farmhouse Brewery. The legs were braised with it and some Comber honey, straight from the comb. Food NI supplied us with great produce from here for the event like this ale, Elderflower cider from Tempted, Passion Preserved apple jelly and Broighter Gold rapeseed oil.
I always get a thrill when I see a table abroad, heaving with quality produce from here. Broughgammon Farm, famed for their goat meat, now have wild rabbits in stock.
It’s a deliciously sweet meat that should be used more often. Contact them at broughgammon.com for details.
When I lived in America we would often have takeway gyros, pork or chicken infused with spices and aromatics, cooked on skewers and sliced into a flatbread. The variation I had in Paxos, redolent of cinnamon, mint, lemon, garlic and oregano brought me straight back.
It’s the perfect food to enjoy outside, and it’ll give you a little taste of the Aegean, even if it’s bucketing.