Reflections of Achill

Reflections on the water of Achill Sound

Reflections on the water of Achill Sound

Forgive me for my long silence! I just returned from a week on Achill Island, off the west coast of Ireland, where I was helping take care of some friends’ Bed & Breakfast lodge while they were away at their daughter’s wedding. Achill is absolutely magical – there is a very different feel to the air, to the light which reflects off the waters, and to the pace of life. Everything moves slower on Achill. There’s not much to do in terms of conventional entertainment. However, walking and biking around the island, ambling through Achill Secret Garden, and taking long tea breaks with neighbors fills up the time. When you arrive, it takes a good few days for the frenetic buzz of “mainland life” to die down, but visitors report (and I can attest!) that they have never slept as well as they do on Achill Island.

Running a B&B keeps you busy: cleaning rooms, greeting guests and visitors to the garden, cooking for the next meals, taking care of the garden, stocking provisions, endless laundry…

Welcome to Achill Secret Garden at Bleanaskill Lodge: officially one of my favorite places on earth.

Welcome to Achill Secret Garden at Bleanaskill Lodge: officially one of my favorite places on earth.

But after our daily tasks were under control, the other caretakers and I prepared meals together, laid the table with fine china, lingered over tea, and cleaned up together. The B&B has a true PeaceMeals ethos and the owners have quite deliberately cultivated a communal spirit. We work together, we dine together, and we return to our own worlds refreshed.

I have been thinking abut how I can reflect this Achill ethos in my own mainland life.  How, despite my crazy busy schedule and ten-steps-ahead planning and endless To-Do List, can I carve out those peaceful Achill-esque moments?

I am definitely going to linger more over tea and homemade bread, and try to treat everyone as if they were my guest of honor.

Drying the laundry outside, so that it smells like the sun and sea.

Drying the laundry outside, so that it smells like the sun and sea.

What are your favorite strategies for finding some peace and calm in the midst of busyness?

Doutsje, the proprietress of the B&B, is a magnificent self-taught chef.  I’d recommend staying there just for her homemade coconut cake and muesli bread! Her pantry is equally magnificent: homemade tinctures, teas, preserves, dried herbs, and more! She makes many things herself, using indulgent ingredients like full cream and vanilla sugar in the porridge and homemade rose syrup over the breakfast fruit salad. I learned so much from observing her glide effortlessly around the kitchen and “perform” each breakfast like a well-choreographed dance. When she left, I spent afternoons baking and testing PeaceMeals recipes. Below is a recipe for her amazing muesli bread – or as close of a recipe as I could recreate.  This bread is PACKED with protein and fiber, which gives us energy for our busy days, and can be made vegan. This recipe is simple and delicious, served warm with a melty pat of real Irish butter and marmalade….and, of course, tea.

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You can make this Doutsje’s Muesli Bread the night before and refrigerate tightly covered with plastic wrap. Pop it into a preheated oven early in the morning and then enjoy it warm with your breakfast. Edible coziness.

Doutsje’s Muesli Bread

Makes 1 loaf

Ingredients:

1 cup/125 grams sugar-free museli or granola*

1.5 cups/180 grams whole wheat flour**

2 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup milk of your choice (dairy or non-dairy)

1 Tablespoon oil (canola, olive, sunflower, or rapeseed)

*If you don’t have muesli, you can substitute with an equal amount mixture of the following: chopped almonds, walnuts, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, dry cranberries, raisins, oats.

**If you want to make this recipe gluten-free, just substitute your favorite GF whole grain flour. As a general rule, you can blend a combination of  70% gluten free whole grain flours with 30% gluten free starches and white flours. If you use GF flours, add ½ tsp xantham gum to the recipe. See: http://glutenfreegirl.com/2013/02/how-to-make-a-gluten-free-whole-grain-flour-mix/

 Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450F / 220C. Lightly grease and flour a bread loaf tin.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the muesli, flour, baking powder, salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, stir together the milk and oil.
  4. Combine both mixtures and stir until a soft dough is formed. Pour dough into the bread tin. Sprinkle more museli over the top and pat it down lightly into the loaf.***
  5. Cover the loaf with a tent of foil.
  6. Bake for about 20 minutes, then remove the foil tent and cook 20 minutes longer, until browned, and until a knife inserted comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool on wire rack.

***NOTE: You can make this into a decadent sweet bread by mixing together 1/4 granulated sugar and 2 tsp cinnamon, and sprinkling that over the top of the bread before you bake it.

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