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It is that time of the year after the storms when the local farmers start to collect the seaweed for their fields . Looking at this abundant resource that nature provides one is constantly amazed by the painterly richness, color, tones, and textures. Through the decades Aran has inspired many visual artists to create a great diversity of work. To capture the REAL Aran one really needs to spend more than a day to discover the subtle differences between wall styles and the constant play of light. Looking at the body of work created by the Victorian photographer Jane Shackleton on the Aran Islands one realizes that not that much has changed
For more about Jane Shackleton’s photographs see Jane W. Shackleton’s Ireland
On Aran that sense of beauty is evident due to the ongoing management of fields, walls, etc by those who live here and continue to preserve those traditions. For those of you planning your first visit or returning on your annual pilgrimage it is worth remembering one night is not enough.
Checkout Aran Life
The first days of the new year have bought a reprieve from storms Eva , Desmond, and Frank which battered the western shores with a ferocity few of us can remember.
Having enjoyed a glorious October and November when the island reigned supremely in the beautiful light and unseasonable temperatures we are now paying for those blissful days with the wettest December on record.
Alas there is a light ahead at the end of the tunnel. Already the days are slightly longer as mid winter has gone. As you walk along the backroads one can observe some growth. Pheasants whose numbers have increased over the years are much more visible, as well as audible birdsong. There is that eerie beauty of shafts of light on wet glistening limestone that makes Aran a place of solace at this time of year. A harsh beauty in whose austerity the many tones of grey affects one like a silent prayer. Lamenting the passing of last summer with the haunting voice of Irala O Lionaird singing LCaoineadh na dTrí Muire (The Lament of the Three Marys) – iarla O Lionaird
Come and renew the spatial and spiritual pleasures of Aran.
At present we are inundated with Italian and French visitors coming to enjoy the peace, calm, and cool weather we have been having this summer as opposed to the inferno, heat and humidity that they have been experiencing on the continent.
I am reminded of an anecdote that a middle eastern guest told us. In the year there are posters with the slogan “come to Ireland where it is wet and green” which oddly enough seems to appeal to one if you live in climates of excessive heat and humidity.
The Aran Islands for Italians I guess holds the same fascination, a land of mist and mystery, and a sense of history, celebrating the joys of a slow way of life. A place where they can see the ongoing connection that we have with the land, protecting and preserving it for another generation who’s future seems bright and who we hope will respect their past and heritage for another generation.
To share with the many who will come to the spiritual home of Máirtín Ó Direáin, J.M Synge, Darach Ó Chonghaile, paying homage , making Ferragosto a truly Italian / Hibernian celebration with fresh fruits of the sea and a perfectly chilled Italian White wine savoring the beauty of Aran on Ferragosto.
Spring has sprung and the cuck00’s and starlings have arrived singing their hearts out. The Dawn chorus is certainly louder and earlier. The fields are alive with Gentians, Buttercups, Bluebells, Clovers, Dandilines, Primroses, Sea Pinks, Forget-Me-Nots, Sea Campiones, & Poppies all against the verdant fields framed by the labyrinth of grey stone walls makes for a bucolic sight.
May is truelly the most beautiful month on Aran. The long evenings of burnished sunsets and silhouetted horses delighting in the abundance of grazing grounds after a lean winter. Over the garden walls of many houses our eyes are surprised by the tender care the occupants have made to bring additional color and variety to the island. Tulips, Peonies, Color Lillie’s, Old Fashioned Roses, Carnations, Geraniums, Gladioli vying for pride of place to bring a joyful light to the interiors starved the long winter months of beauty only mother nature can give. As our summer guests begin to arrive, time is of the essence as we dedicate our working hours to their pleasure. We still have time to eat healthily as the salad leaves in the garden are ready. There is no better way to enjoy these – simply dressed and served with a baked Camembert on one of those bomby may evenings when you can literally smell the buds of May.
1 whole Camembert in its box, a clove of garlic chopped, a teaspoon of olive oil, and a teaspoon of chopped dilsk seaweed.
Preheat oven to gas mark 6, remove the cheese from its plastic and return to its wooden box. Pierce the top of the cheese and drizzle with Olive Oil and sprinkle the remaining ingredients on top and bake in the oven for ten minutes until the center of the cheese is melted or guuy. Serve immediately with croutons, salad, and Red or White wine.
Picnicking on the Island? Our local Spa in Kilronan has an excellent selection of cheeses and wines.
The name above has nothing to do with the Aran Islands perse. In Italian it means little oranges. I remember it whilst watching the first game of this years six nations rugby match, Ireland versus Italy. A game that had out hearts racing as we noted how well the Italians played. It is a paradox that the Italians have taken to rugby with such a passion, after all one associates Italy and especially Rome with the beautiful game, football.
Arancini, or Suppli as the Romans call it are delicious little saffron rice balls filled with Mozzarella or Ragu. Generally it is a form of food ‘on the go’ but can also be served as a starter or made smaller as an accompaniment to pre dinner drinks. It is a great way to make use of left over rice but also making it from scratch is worth it.
3 tablespoons of Olive Oil
2 tablespoons of butter
1/5 onion finely chopped
1 cup of arborio rice ( This is the rice used for making risotto)
A glass of white wine
Salt and Pepper
1/5 cup of grated Parmesan
2 beaten eggs
1/3 cup of milk
2 cups of seasoned breadcrumbs
2 cups of chicken stock
3 tablespoons of tomato puree
6 ounces of mozzarella (grated)
oil for frying
In a heavy skillet, put oil and butter , add onions, and cook until translucent. Add rice and stir until the entire mixture is coated. Next , add white wine and continuously over a medium heat until it is absorbed. Start to had the half a cup of chicken stock and tomato puree stirring until that is absorbed also. Continue in the manner adding stock and stirring continuously for 20 – 25 minutes until the rice is cooked but remains aldente, stirring the grated cheese and seasoning a bit of Basel if necessary.
Let the risotto cool for about 8 hours. Once cooled, place flour in a shallow bowl, the eggs in another, and breadcrumbs in a third. Take a small amount of the rice in your hand creating an indention (hole) in the center. Place a piece of cheese in the center and wrap the rice around the cheese creating an oblong / egg shape.
Continue to use up all the rice making the Arancini and place on grease proof paper. Take each rice bowl and first dip in the flour then add the egg mixture, and thirdly the breadcrumbs. Return to the grease proof paper and continue to coat the rest of the rice balls. Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan and fry three or four rice balls at a time until crisp and golden brown. Remove once completely golden all over and place on a paper towel in a warm oven, gas mark 2. Continue until all the bowls are ready. Serve hot.
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