Stone Walls & Chicken Curry Dip. This is Ireland.

Our first stop in Ireland has taken us to a small homestay (which we found using helpx)on the Southeastern coast in a little town called Ballydehob.
Oh, just a castle. Just a castle that happens to be a mile down the road and owned by Jeremy Irons. It was built between 1450-1480, fell to ruin in 1603 for 395 years, and then was restored to an as historically accurate state as possible by Mr. Irons himself.
The opportunity to build dry stone walls is what brought us here, and indeed I spent a day's work working on this task. But after taking a nice hard look at the situation, we realized that the style specific to the Southern region of Ireland—that being one which utilizes extra large stones in their walls—perhaps wasn't best suited to my level of strength (and before you say anything smart, it's a very high level of strength) .
Part of the wounded stone wall that we helped to restore. 
A peaceful moment before the wild boys find their toy
Now don't misunderstand, I don't run away from heavy lifting all the time. In fact, I tend to like the jobs that I can consider the day's work-out. But regarding the small amount of time we're spending here anyway, I'm going to go ahead and label this "out of my league" and focus on other things.
John's first time on a digger to help move rocks. This is happiness. 
So what do I do instead of strength training? 

I help Sharon, our hostess (who tends a house of two young boys and her husband), with cleaning their adjacent rental property. I help her find her place in social media. I iron (I'm assuming the skill will come in handy one day). I garden. I enjoy this rare gift of a sunny Irish summer.
Foxglove love as the clouds threaten to move in
The glorious allium. Onions never looked so good.
And I eat.
An essential ingredient in an Irish breakfast: farm fresh eggs. What's not pictured?  Bacon,  white & black sausage, baked beans, brown bread, and a cholesterol test
It just so happens that the female component of our host duo happens to be a trained chef. And man, can she cook.
Sharon's all-star brown soda bread, which she makes using spelt flour instead of wheat.  It's healthier, and you wouldn't even know the difference.
Given that John and I tend to take the reins in the kitchen (either because other hosts don't enjoy cooking or simply aren't very good at it), we have nearly forgotten that typically the idea behind help exchange programs is that the host cooks for the helpers.

It's time to remember.
This is volunteer heaven: Local mussels in a garlicky broth with oven-baked french fries.
There are three foods that you can't go wrong with in Ireland: potatoes, beef, and butter. This is a healthy culture.
One of the most surprisingly amazing meals I've had on this trip: Baked free-range ham with a harissa cream sauce.
The recipe I'm going to share with you isn't rooted in Ireland. But are we really surprised that the best thing I've had here hails from India? I'm a spice person. I want pad thai over alfreddo, chai over coffee, and definitely [insert anything with strong flavors here] over Irish meat and potatoes.

No offense Ireland—meat and potatoes are delicious and hearty and let's be honest, it's one of the things you do best (the Irish are also great fighters, which is why I'm going to sleep with one eye open tonight). But Sharon's curried chicken dip is the food that I'm going to remember first about Ireland,  because you don't forget the time you meet a dip like this.

In fact, once you have the recipe, you will remind yourself that this curried chicken chutney dip exists over and over and over again.
Who could imagine that something that looks so simple will completely dominate all who dare taste it?
Welcome to your new addiction. (Courtesy of Sharon & her website!)

Chicken Curry Dip
2 large chicken breasts, poached or baked until just cooked through
6-8 fl oz mayonnaise
3 tbs mango chutney
2 tbs Madras curry powder
3 scallions
3 oz slivered almonds
Salt & Pepper to taste
Food processor, blender, or immersion blender

Directions (from the words of Sharon herself!)
Preheat oven to 180C/350F

"Place all the ingredients EXCEPT the almonds in your available whizzer. Blend until almost smooth. (If you are using a wand chop the chicken and scallions up first) If the mixture seems a little dry add the extra 2 oz of Mayonnaise. You can taste it at this stage to check the seasoning. Put into your oven proof dish [the mixture should be at least an inch or more deep in the dish]. Top with the almonds spread in a single layer and bake at 180 degrees for 10-15 minutes until it starts to bubble a little bit."
Prepare to watch a mesmerizing culinary disappearing act.

I know I've called this a dip and all, but don't you dare be afraid to spread it on your sandwich, too.

While you get your curry on, I'm going to go enjoy an Irish sunset.
Foxglove, I did not give you the love you deserved until you surrounded me in Ireland.

Stay tuned as we head off to the midlands to work in a bakery and cafe! 


  1. I'm really fascinated and intrigued by the working holiday idea. I haven't taken the plunge and tried it yet, but it's so interesting to read about. Love all of your photos, the bread and mussels look amazing! Makes me want to go back to Ireland asap!

  2. Dinan's almost 3 km long walls sheltered the town during sieges and ... The sheer effort required to hew these massive columns out of stone ... Butter Chicken, one of the most popular dishes of Indian cuisine..
    Given here




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