It never ceases to amaze me that when one fruit goes out of season, in our garden, another can take its place. I had but a few days of yearning for fresh berries, when I spied the first of our blueberry crop, already ripened by the summer sun. For the past number of years we've successfully grown blueberries in pots filled with soil, acidic compost and the odd shovelful of rich compost, from our compost container. The blueberries are deliciously juicy, and even seem to thrive without the benefit of a sunny summer. Rather surprisingly, they are the only fruit in the garden that the blackbird isn't drawn to, leaving all the more for us to enjoy.

One of our old, large pots that we filled with soil and acidic compost before planting the blueberry plants.

This little lady is a big fan of blueberries, and loves them best when she has picked them herself for her morning cereal. 
I was recently sent a few punnets of blueberries from a relatively local grower in Ballyteague, Co. Kildare, called Kildare Blueberries. Here they have a farm shop selling their berries, but visitors can also pick their own, if they’d prefer to have a hands-on fruit picking experience. Like my own blueberries, these were remarkably bigger and juicier than many of the foreign, shop bought varieties. We mostly munched on these berries as they were, but with one punnet, in a matter of minutes, I made a tasty compote, which served nicely on that morning’s pancakes. This flavoursome compote also made a perfect accompaniment to a few afternoon scones. When blueberries are at the height of their season, now is the time to buy a few punnets of them, pop them into the freezer and enjoy them winter long in smoothies, jams and delicious compotes, such as the one in the recipe below, (just increase the cooking time by 5 minutes when the berries are frozen).

Blueberry Compote

250g blueberries
zest of 1 orange
2 tbsp soft brown sugar
2 tbsp water

1.      Place 225g of the blueberries into a medium sized saucepan, along with the orange zest, sugar and water.
2.      Place over a low heat and allow to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring regularly. After this time stir through the remaining 25g of blueberries, and let the saucepan remain on the heat for a further minute, and continue to stir well.
3.      Allow to cool slightly and serve with pancakes and a dollop of yogurt. Otherwise allow to cool completely and keep in the fridge for up to three days. 

In Other News
I'm thrilled to announce that my blog has been shortlisted for three categories in this year's Irish Blog
Awards. Thank you so much to anyone who nominated me and to the judges who shortlisted this blog.
Also a big congratulations to all my fellow nominees. Best of luck. xx
* Móna Wise has written a great blog post all about blogging, and the opportunity of
gaining employment as a result. I was delighted to contribute to this. Have a read here -

We're not long back from a week of holidaying in East Cork, and even though we have taken many a holiday there it's somewhere that we tend to return to again and again. There really is no place more beautiful than Ireland, once the sun makes a bit of an appearance, and we were ever so fortunate with the weather. The temperatures were just perfect for basking by the beach, as we kept an eye on the children, as they tried to outdo each other with their castle creations. For each of these beach visits much fuel was needed to optimise our energy levels. Rather conveniently, the ever impressive Midleton market made light work of filling the picnic hampers. It must be the best Farmer's market in the country, with each and every stall holder a true artisan. I even managed to have a cuppa with my blogging buddy, Lilly Higgins, who's lucky enough to have this beautiful market as her local shopping ground each Saturday morning. 

In between beach visits and market shopping I managed to take in a visit to the Ballymaloe Cookery School. My eldest boy, Jack, and I spent the afternoon at the most enjoyable cookery demonstration, guided by Rory O'Connell, who founded the school in 1985, along with his sister, Darina. The food he demonstrated was eloquent, but most of the ingredients were simply sourced from the school's impressive gardens and glasshouses. One such dish was a tomato water served with ripe peaches; perfect as a canapé or as a starter for a dinner party. The flavours reminded me of my Tomato & Feta Salad, which I tend to make lots of while Irish tomatoes are at their ripest. So, the day after our demo Jack and I put together a big bowl of this salad, and generously packed it into an Arbutus ciabatta, which we had picked up at the market. With flavours true to summer, this was the perfect picnic sandwich for that day's outing.

Tomato, Basil & Feta Ciabatta

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 clove garlic, crushed
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
4 tomatoes, thinly sliced
Bunch of basil leaves, roughly torn 
100g feta, crumbled
1 large Ciabatta

1. First make the dressing by combining the balsamic vinegar and the olive oil. Add the garlic and season with a little sea salt and pepper.
2. To a large bowl, add the tomatoes, basil and feta. Drizzle over the dressing and combine well.
3. Cut the Ciabatta in half and stuff with the tomato and feta mixture. Wrap tightly with tin foil and refrigerate until ready to go on your picnic. 

While in East Cork, we also spent a day at Fota Wildlife Park and paid a visit, and of course a kiss, to the Blarney Stone. This year's holiday was extra special as the children had the company of all of their O'Donovan cousins. I know for sure that the fun memories they made together will last a lifetime.