A Little (!) Travel Post - Scotland & Ireland

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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Be ready for a massive picture post. Scotland, Northern Ireland, Ireland, workshop, people, food. It's all here...

I thought about breaking it into several installments but I can't. I am afraid my heart will sink everytime I look at the pictures of our trip. I had such an amazing time, seen so many beautiful sights and met so many incredible folks. I miss it all and yet, I am completely and utterly happy thrilled to be back, full on work and ready for the next chapter, whatever it may be.

On the road to Stonefield Castle - Scotland
We started the trip by landing at 7am in Glasgow. In our rental car by 8am, we proceeded toward the Mull Of Kintyre via Loch Lomond National Park. Let's just say that with no sleep and driving on the other side for the first time in over 20 years, the first 10 minutes of the trip felt right out of a video game. A video game gone wrong that is. With cars zooming towards you, on roads barely narrow enough for two, a stone wall or a cliff on your side, depending.

I have to tell you that none of it actually mattered. Every "oh shoot!" moment was followed by a "We are in Scotland! Dude! Nothing matters! We are in Scotland"...Yep, we could have totaled the car and gotten off the road, we still would have jumped screaming at the top of our lungs "Look at this! Wow!!".

That's pretty much the feeling and phrase that accompanied us throughout the trip. The opportunity to teach at Belle Isle and take a few days off before hand to trace back Bill's ancestors was something I will always be grateful for.

Oban - Scotland
We took the road to the Mull of Kintyre and stopped at Oban for lunch, Scotch and to stretch our legs, keep awake and energized. Still going strong, we headed for our evening lodging, Stonefield Castle. We were trying to be as close as possible to Castle Sween, an ancestral family stronghold for Bill and while looking at hotels in the area, Stonefield, overlooking the sea, was equal to a hotel in town. You can guess what I picked. Yes. Our first night of the trip was at this incredibly beautiful and serene castle.


Stonefield Castle - Scotland

We crashed on the fluffy pillows as soon as we got to our room for a restorative power nap. Rested, we were ready to head out and explore our surroundings, the woods and forest around us. Beauty everywhere. We will be back and for a longer stay for sure. Everyone at the hotel was wonderful and the food was outstanding. I ate it. I did not photograph it.

Stonefield Castle - Scotland

Seems like a food photographer on vacation shoots just about everything. Except food. I shot flowers. And meadows. And flowers. All the little wild flowers that never get the chance to grow in hot and hotter South Carolina. you bet I had my fill in Scotland and Ireland.


Stonefield Castle - Scotland

The shores at Stonefield Castle.


Stonefield Castle - Scotland

Walking around Stonefield.

Stonefield Castle - Scotland



Stonefield Castle - Scotland

Flowers everywhere. Lush and gorgeous flora.

Tree of Bouees - Stonefield Castle, Scotland

Bouees on a tree. Straight out of a Tim Burton's movie.

Stonefield Castle - Scotland


On the road to Castle Sween - Scotland

The next morning, we starting making our way to Castle Sween and a quite a few photo opportunities unraveled before our eyes. We spent half an hour with these horses. Every time we motioned away, they would come closer and wait for us to scratch their heads a little more.


Near Castle Sween - Scotland

Beauty.

Castle Sween - Scotland

Unexpected on an almost deserted road.

Near Castle Sween - Scotland

The area around Castle Sween is tranquil and lush. Green grass and low forestry.


Castle Sween - Scotland

Castle Sween. Bill got quiet and reverend. I could tell that a part of him was unsettled and curious. Sad too. So much he only knew from records and old letters. I also could feel that the bigger part of him felt home. It was truly magical to experience that moment of finding one roots with him.

View from Castle Sween - Scotland

The view commanding Castle Sween. Yes. Nothing to squint about...


Near Giant's Causeway

Later that day we hopped on a plane to Belfast, got another rental car and started our way up the Northern coast as soon as we landed. We spent the night in the little village of Cushendall and after a local pub owner shortened our route by sending us on ferry roads and adding bridges to an otherwise silent map, we made way toward the Giant's Causeway. A good walk later, we headed out to Fanad's Head...another ancestral ground for Bill.


Coast of Ireland


At Giant's Causeway



At Giant's Causeway


At Giant's Causeway


On the road to Fanad's Head - N.Ireland

I seem to have an afinity for telephone booths....On our way to Fanad's Head. Still making our way through ancestral grounds and towns. After a night at Downing's Bay, we made our way down to Donegal. We were on a mission to find Castle Doe. Another family castle. Puts my French falconer ancestral roots to shame...!

Castle Doe - Donegal, Ireland

At Castle Doe. Old stone. New life. Color.

Castle Doe - Donegal, Ireland

Castle Doe. There was silence around us. Except for the winds and the legends.

Castle Doe - Donegal, Ireland


Castle Doe - Donegal, Ireland.

After our stop at Castle Doe. It was time to head out to Belle Isle Estate for my workshop. We quickly got settled into our cottage and grabbed our gear for a little walk. The estate is gorgeous and the surrounding grounds lush and bountiful. The cottages were super cozy with all the amenities one can think of. We vowed to come back with my parents and rent a couple of them for an extended stay. So much to see and do in the area. Fermanagh is really a beautiful county.

Belle Isle Castle - N.Ireland



Belle Isle Castle - N.Ireland


Belle Isle Castle - N.Ireland

A little peek at the Castle at Belle Isle.


Belle Isle Castle - N.Ireland

Reminded me of The Princess Bride. I know...

Belle Isle Garden & Orchard - N.Ireland

Beautiful fruits and veggies are grown at Belle Isle and used at the cookery school where the workshop was help. Apples, redcurrants, blueberries, salads, herbs, peas, etc... Cows, sheep and hens can be seen and heard as well.

Belle Isle Castle - N.Ireland

View looking out from the castle at Belle Isle. Not too bad...


Belle Isle Castle - N.Ireland



Belle Isle Garden - N.Ireland

The walled garden at Belle Isle. Push the door opened and be mesmerized.


Belle Isle Orchard - N.Ireland



Belle Isle Gardens - N.Ireland



Belle Isle Garden - N.Ireland



Belle Isle Food Photo Workshop

Finally, it was time to meet up with everyone and start the second part of our trip. The workshop. The group of attendees gathered was absolutely delightful and hard working. I say that of every workshop I teach. I know. But it's true everytime. I am also very appreciative of the non negotiating trust they bestow on me to guide them right from the get go. I know exactly what's going on in their mind and I have no doubt that each day will be better and more fun than the one before.


Belle Isle Castle Food Photo Workshop - Northern Ireland

Leona and Victoria. Fearless and talented.

Among the group we had a wide array of cultures and places represented. Ireland, Tel-Aviv, Dubai, Australia, San Francisco, Denmark, The Netherlands, Japan, Vienna. I was honored for the miles and hours everyone put in to come learn and play. Huge props to Corrie and her staff at Belle Isle Cookery School for feeding us and providing us with all the necessary foods and ingredients for the shoots we were practicing throughout the weekends. Thank you also to Charles and Fiona, the caretakers of the castle for their generosity and great disposition throughout the weekend.


Idan

Idan. Intense. And cute as a button...


Belle Isle Food Photo Workshop

Berries from the garden.


Belle Isle Cookery School - N.Ireland

Lettuces and chives in the garden.


Belle Isle Castle - N.Ireland



Dana & Elizabeth

Dana and Elizabeth. Focused. Determined.


Simone

After knowing them for the past five years online, I finally got to meet Simone of Jungle Frog Cooking and Pernille. Simone, a professional food photographer herself, it was a treat to have her attend and soak in the atmosphere as we all did that weekend. Pernille works as an art director at her company and I had to smile at how much I could anticipate her reactions. It was nice to show other aspects of food photography to the attendees and why the eyes of an art director pushes a photographer that extra step further toward hard work well done.


Belle Isle Food Photo Workshop

It was an amazing trip. The scenery. The adventures. The people. The food. The time off spent with my husband. He's my compass. I'm the navigator. We keep each other good.

I am off to Washington D.C in the morning for a few days and the recipe posts will resume as soon as get back.

Fresh Shark Tacos With Lime & Red Onion Marinade

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Fresh Shark Tacos

We are back from our trip to Scotland and Ireland and slowly catching up on mail, emails and returning calls. Nothing out of the ordinary. We are also catching up on friends' news, family happenings and local news. I can feel that I am a harder time than him adjusting to being back. Just getting back into the groove of things. The wider roads, driving on the other side, the blistering temperatures and evening thunderstorms.

Leaving this part of Europe made me feel as homesick as when I leave France after visiting. The landscape may be a tad bit different but I know the customs, the differences, the little quirks. I am familiar with green pastures, cattle, small farms and strange weather. It was as close to home as I knew it before I moved to the US.

Local Lemon Lime

I was not prepared to fall in love with Scotland. I was not prepared to feel so at peace in the brutal landscape of some parts of Northern Ireland. I was not ready to go home. Plans are already being formulated for a future visit. Bill and I spent the greater part of the plane ride home mapping out another route to take next year.

We work really well while traveling and this trip was no exception. All our planning worked out perfectly, leaving plenty of space and time for the unscheduled, the unknown, the spontaneous. Finding great little cafes and restaurants with local bon vivants giving us tips on the better roads to take, the good ferries to catch, etc...I believe everyone we met received an invitation to come visit us here. Might have been the Jameson or the Oban talking. We were just inebriated from the fresh air and lush beauty around us.

Fresh Shark Tacos

We ate well. Local fish, meat and vegetables. Eggs from local hens, milk from nearby dairies and lovely local cheeses and yogurt. Nothing that we don't already do here but you know how it goes...things always taste a bit different when in a different place than home. My usual breakfast is a cup of coffee and a cup of coffee. This trip, I had a hot breakfast of tea, toast, jam, eggs and sometimes bacon every morning. I did not feel any different from it but I did enjoy that moment spent with him, mapping out the day ahead and anticipating the surroundings to come.

Fresh Shark Tacos

We live in a sea town where access to fresh fish is akin to taking a breath of fresh air. A natural occurrence. Shark, catfish, pompano, oysters and shrimp are easy to find and fish around here. You can imagine that we were giddy as can be feasting on local salmon, cod, coley, bream, ... the list goes on. Preparations were new, different and always tasty. And if I could have peat smoked anything for the rest of my life, I'd be a happy gal.

We got back yesterday afternoon and I have yet to make a dent in editing pictures from the trip. That's my plan for the next couple of days. In the meantime, I leave you with a recipe for some tasty Shark Fish Tacos I made before we left. Super tasty and really easy to make. The garnish can be as varied and different as you wish.

Lime and Cilantro

The marinade for the shark is very much based on the Halibut Tacos recipe written by Becky Selengut in her book "Good Fish". I love that book. I can adapt all the recipes to our local fish and seafood. If you don't have it in your arsenal...run to get it.

Fresh Shark Tacos


Fresh Shark Tacos, adapted from Becky Selengut's Good Fish.

Note: please be aware that all shark is not created equal in terms of species, fishing and overall health properties. More information about it and other seafood and fish can be found here.

1 pound fresh shark or other firm fish
2 limes, zested and juiced
1 small onion, cut in half crosswise and sliced thin
1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro, chopped
1 jalapeno, membranes and seeds removed, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tequila (or water)
4 tablespoons olive oil
fresh ground pepper
pinch of salt

Remaining ingredients:
fresh flour (regular or gluten free) or corn tortillas
avocado (cubes or slices)
cut tomatoes
arugula and extra cilantro
sour cream or creme fraiche

Cut the fish into 2-inch cubes and place them in a large dish.
In a medium bowl combine all the ingredients for the marinade (from the limes to the salt and pepper). Mix well, and pour over the fish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour, turning the fish occasionally.
Heat a large nonstick pan over medium high heat. Add about 2 teaspoons of olive oil and cook the shark in batches for about 4 minutes on each side. Do not add the marinade ingredients just yet. Adjust the cooking time depending on the thickness of your fish. A thinner fish will not take as long.
You want to work in batches to prevent overcrowding your pan and drop the heat in it significantly which will result in boiled fish and not sauteed.
Remove all the fish pieces to a platter and loosely tend with foil to keep warm. In the meantime, pour all the marinade ingredients in the pan where you cooked the fish and cook over medium heat until the onions are soft and the liquid has evaporated.

To serve: place the fish on large platter with the cooked marinade ingredients around, fresh cilantro, arugula, tomatoes, avocado, etc... so that each guest can fill their own tortilla. Serve sour cream, guacamole, and other sides in bowls long side.

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