As St. Patrick’s Day draws near, I’m missing the life my lovely family and I left in Ireland one-and-a-half years ago. Our home in the country is situated between the mountains and the sea. Our daily village traffic jam is only ever caused by farm animals, elegant equestrians or the 184 bus getting stuck around a tight bend. From the upstairs windows of our home we can see a row of trees on a distant hill, which remind me of Africa (imagine elephants walking tail to trunk), and a gorgeous blue line that is the Irish Sea. On occasion, a rainbow will appear in our back garden – a gift like none other.
On warm days, the laundry hangs on a rotating clothes line in the side garden and reminds me of my mother-in-law…how many clothes she must have hung on her own line over the years as she raised her twelve children. Not just for a place for drying clothes, our garden is also a sanctuary, a place where we go to get away from the hubbub of the city, and a place for raising fruits, vegetables, flowers and happy children. In this tranquil space, our girls have the freedom to run like fairies across the expansive green lawn and exhaust themselves in childhood games of hide and seek or jump high enough on the trampoline to dream of touching the sky.
Our life in Ireland is a busy but respectable one. We don’t find ourselves running crazily from one event or task to the other. Life is just a bit slower in Ireland than America. We have time to call in (stop by) to a friend’s home for a cuppa (cup of tea and a chat) or take a stroll along the pier. I make soda bread or brown bread every week. Dinners are not a rushed stop at the Whole Foods grocery store but whole foods made at home, at my hob (stove) with the younger daughter usually by my side. For tea (dinner time) we sit around the table together and talk about school and work and we give thanks for what we share.
Wednesday nights are always very special: my husband’s extended family join us and the house grows full with granny, aunties, uncles and cousins under one roof. We call this tradition, Family Dinner Night, and it was started when our older daughter was just a baby. The dream was to have her grow up surrounded by laughter, stories and memories that belonged solely to our family. It’s amazing to have three generations sit together every week…year in…year out.
Yes, today I miss our lovely life in Ireland. As Saint Patrick’s Day gets ever more close, I am reflective and thankful for the life we have lived between the Irish Sea and the mountains. I look forward to getting back there in a few months time: to seeing family, friends, the horses, my garden and the trees on the distant hill. Thank you, Dear Readers, for letting me process my melancholy. Now, anyone for a slice of meringue roulade and a cuppa?
Mixed Fruit Meringue Roulade
4 large egg whites
225g/8oz/1-1/4 cup sugar (caster)
500ml/1 pint/2 cups cream, whipped
450g/1lb mixed fruit, quartered, plus two strawberries halved (for mixed fruit I use bananas, strawberries, pineapple, apples, raspberries, blackberries, kiwi as available and in season)
Extra whipped cream for decorating
1. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 150°C/300°F. Line a 30 x 20cm/12 x 8 inch swiss roll tin/baking sheet with parchment paper, extending a little over ends of pan.
2. Beat the egg whites and half the sugar using an electric whisk until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining sugar, continuing to whisk until the meringue forms stiff peaks. To test: lift the beater out of the meringue and turn upside down. If the meringue peak holds its shape you are done.
3. Spread the meringue evenly on to baking sheet/swiss roll tin and bake for one hour.
4. Remove from oven and cool to touch. Turn meringue out on to a clean tea towel. Carefully peel off the parchment paper and allow to cool fully. The meringue may be crumbly.
5. Spread an even layer of whipped cream over the meringue, leaving a 2 inch border on three sides. Sprinkle the mixed fruit over the cream.
6. Starting at one long side, gently roll up the meringue, enclosing the filling. Place roulade, seam side down on a plate or platter. Garnish with dollops of cream and a strawberry. Note: will keep in the refrigerator for 1-3 hours.