Today is 1st February, and traditionally in Ireland this was considered to be the first day of Spring. It falls midway between the winter solstice (21st Dec) and the spring equinox (21st Mar). It marks the turning of the season and is the feast day of Brigid, whether you see her as a goddess, an aspect of the Mother Goddess or the Christian saint. There is a lot I could – and will – write about Imbolc and what it means to me, but that’s for another post.
Imbolc and the arrival of spring signal renewal, rejuvenation, a fresh start. I love watching for the first spring flowers. The spring bulbs are peeping through all over the garden, such vibrant shades of green
I haven’t heard of any ritual foods or dishes associated with Imbolc, but Brigid in her Christian form is the patroness of sheep, and an alternative name for the day, Óimelc, is thought to denote the time of ewes coming into milk. The new lambs are always a welcome and lively sight in spring too. This feels like a cleansing time of year – hence the spring clean? – and when thinking about Imbolc this morning I decided to make some lemon curd. Lemon is one of my favourite flavours and scents and the clean tang of lemon appealed to me in keeping with freshness. So after a couple of hours in the kitchen I came up with some lemon and some orange curd. You can see the lemon here. The orange didn’t set quite so well but still tasted great! I made an orange sponge cake filled with it.
For dinner I settled on a Darina Allen recipe, Winter Beef Stew – well having a winter meal and a spring inspired dessert seemed as good a way as any other to mark this turning of the season. There is still some snow on the ground, and the gritter went by earlier, but it is spring. Its time to move out of the reflective, restorative period of winter and move into the renewal, rebirth of spring.
Sometimes I get a little carried away in the kitchen. Yesterday was Valentine’s Day and while I was thinking about the meal I was going to cook for my husband and I (sound like the Queen there!!) I sussed that I had a load of lemons in the kitchen and some cranberries left over from Christmas in the darkest recesses of my fridge. So – cos I had nothing else to do! – I made cranberry curd and lemon curd. I had made both of them before but I tried a different lemon curd recipe this time (Darina Allen’s actually and it is by far the nicest ever). So as well as a meal of crab cakes, T-bone steak with chips, mushrooms and onions followed by lemon meringue pie, I also made these……. I don’t think they will last terribly long!!!
Actually just writing that has made me see how easily I am sucked in by descriptions on restaurant menus. I cooked T-bone steak and chips – but I could have equally described it as “pan-seared prime Irish T-bone steak (in fact very local – raised and slaughtered less than 5 miles from my kitchen) served with handcut potato chips, sprinkled with sea salt and served with slivers of mushroom and onion sauteed in a delicate garlic butter.” See what I mean??
Anyway, it all tasted bloody good!!!!