Monday, June 22, 2009

Foynes Flying Boats, the Palatine and a Quiche

Although my grandfather's family in Ireland, living by the river as they did, earned their living messing around in boats, not too far away to the southeast, away from the river, there is an area with a rich agricultural heritage called the Palatine.
Before we visited the Palatine area, we headed due east along the Shannon in a light rain to see the Flying Boat Museum at Foynes, Limerick's port on the Shannon.

Between 1939 and 1945 this was the location of a terminus for flying boats crossing the Atlantic. Because the period of time between when flying boats were finally technologically able to make the Atlantic crossing and when regular airplanes began to be the regular cross Atlantic carriers was so short, most people don't rally know much about their place in air travel history.

Turns out that Charles Lindberg was hired to scout out the best place in Europe to be the terminal for trans-Atlantic flights. The small town of Foynes on the Shannon river was chosen after an extensive survey of all possible locations. My Cousin Mary was a girl when the first boats landed and she and a friend went to see them land on the river. It was pretty exciting!

The Museum is fairly new and exists due to the determination of locals to remember this part of the history of air travel as well as the part that this base played during the Second World War.

There are no available flying boats for the museum, so they got plans from Boeing and had a reconstruction built to size for the museum. Here is what the outside of the hull looks like:

When I mentioned the war to my Cousin, she was amused. Cousin S said that in Ireland it wasn't a war (because Ireland was officially neutral) but was called The Emergency. Sweetie had fun sitting in the captains seat in the full size model of a Clipper ship

as well as trying out the simulator for landing one. They had the radio and weather room with original transmitters, receivers and Morse code transmitter.

Another thing we learned was that Irish Coffee was invented here. The same chef who invented it later went on to the Buena Vista in San Francisco and found Irish Coffee well received there, too. We shared an Irish Coffee even though it was still morning...and it was great!

There is another California connection of a sort. Maureen O'Hara of Hollywood, CA fame was married to Captain Blair who piloted flying boats. She helped with this museum, including donating some of his memorabilia from those years. We both enjoyed this museum a lot.

After an illicit drive around the port, we headed off to Adare, Rathkeale, Ardagh and Athea in the Palatine, then home to Glin.

This area is in the Maigue Valley and is know as the Palatine because of the number of Lutheran refugees from southern Germany who settled there in the 18th century. The British sponsored them and even paid their rent at first.They are credited with introducing crop rotation. Their descendants still farm in the area.
The area around Rathkeale,

where we tried to visit the Irish Palatine Heritage Center, but found that it was closed only on Saturday and it was Saturday, is a great area for dairy-farming.

This old building was being restored. It's interesting to see how the different levels and roof lines a building cut open.

It was a beautiful ride on narrow country roads, up and down hillsides. Our favorite church of the trip is here and the first 'President' of the Irish Republic, Eamon de Valera, know as 'Dev is from this area, too. He and my grandfather were both Limerick County men, which might explain the fact they they corresponded long after Ireland became a Republic. When I visited my grandfather in 1970 he had a Christmas card from 'Dev' on the mantle and made sure that I heard about it.

Except for the preponderance of stone walls as field dividers, you could often be in Northern California. Perhaps a bit of homesickness inspired by those views explains why we had a yen for pizza that night?

Next time it's on to Dingle, beehives and rings.

And now to food!

Shortly after returning home I needed to bring something to a pot luck luncheon. One of my favorite things to make to take somewhere for lunch is a quiche. This one benefited from all that lovely Swiss chard that grew while we were gone, plus some bacon for flavor and Swiss cheese to keep the Swiss thing going.
You can make your own pie crust if you prefer, but since I was baking the pie shell the night before, still jet lagged and having worked all day, the Pillsbury ReadyCrust seemed like the way to go. Using pre-made pie dough makes this go together very quickly and this kind of quiche is always a hit.

Tip: If you use a pound of dried beans as pie weights as I do, save them once they have cooled off and you can use them again and again as pie weights...just don't plan on cooking them to eat. At about a dollar and a half for a bag of dried beans, it sure beats the almost $9 you would pay for Pie Weights from King Arthur or a similar amount at Sur la Table.

Quiche with Swiss Chard and Swiss Cheese and Bacon

1 9inch pie shell, blind baked at 425 degrees F for 10-12 minutes (recipe follows)
3 slices bacon, cut into small pieces and cooked until crisp, then drained
½ cup cooked, chopped and drained Swiss Chard (or substitute spinach), leaves only
1 cup Swiss cheese, cut into ¼ inch dice
3 eggs (or equivalent egg substitute)
1 ½ cups evaporated milk (I used non-fat) or light cream
¼ teaspoon salt
dash pepper
Dash nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Sprinkle the bottom of the pie shell with the bacon, Swiss chard, and Swiss cheese, distributing evenly. Set aside

In a bowl, beat the eggs lightly, then add the milk and beat with a fork to combine, add the salt, pepper and nutmeg and beat with a fork to combine.

Pour the egg/milk mixture over the ingredients in the pie shell. Place in the preheated oven and bake 30-45 minutes, or until set and lightly browned. Cool for 10 minutes before cutting to serve.
Serves 6-8

Pastry Pie Shell

1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup chilled butter
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons ice water
1 teaspoon lemon juice (optional)

Mix the flour and salt in a bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender, or two knives, until particles the size of dried peas are formed.

In a small bowl mix together the egg, ice water and lemon juice (if using). Sprinkle over the flour mixture and toss with a fork lightly. Do not over mix. Gather the particles together in a ball. Wrap airtight and chill in the freezer for 10 minutes. Roll out with a rolling pin on a floured surface until large enough to fill a 9 inch pie pan with some overlap.

Fit into a 9 inch pie pan, smooth to fit, trip excess , tuck edges under and crimp as for any pie crust. Prick lightly all over the surface with a fork. Freeze 10 minutes. Remove from freezer and cover with a circle of parchment paper. Fill the paper with beans or pie weights (blind baking the crust).
Bake at 425 degrees F for 10 – 12 minutes. Cool slightly. Remove and save the beans or pie weights. Fill with filling as called for in recipes needing a pie shell.


  1. (Ooh, gorgeous chard picture!)

    I've never even heard of flying boats!! Isn't it constantly amazing the things we never hear of from that time period? So much has been forgotten, so much happened here and not there. Lucky you to get a chance to ferret out some details. And the quiche looks fab, as did the Irish coffee. I've never had it, and they don't do a Scottish version, but I'll have to look up what's in it. Looks yummy.

  2. There is nothing wrong with having a good Irish Coffee in the morning when on vacation :)

  3. Thanks for taking us along on the trip!

  4. Love the Swiss chard and Swiss cheese -- such a great theme!