Sunday, July 05, 2009

Discoveries in Limerick and California Scones

Our time in Ireland is coming to a close. As you can tell from the journal, we have enjoyed the land, the people, the ruins, and the culture and food…not so much the roads, but that part was an adventure! Today we leave the lovely lakes of Killarney and head toward Limerick, and then turn north to Ennis for one more pleasant night with Mrs. Keane at Grey Gables.

As we drive toward Limerick, we are again in the Palatine area with lush green fields full of sheep and cattle. At some point we reach the equivalent of a freeway…a two year old modern road with limited access. Once we get used to the fact that it is only a lane and a half in either direction, we enjoy the ride. Slower traffic moves to the half lane on the left, which allows for reasonably easy passing on the right. The day is bright after morning overcast so we enjoy the ride. As we near Limerick I look at one of my guidebooks to see what we can visit in the hour we have. King John’s Castle, which we passed as we left town, seemed too much like the other castles we had already visited.

The Hunt Museum, with “a hoard of archaeological finds” sounded promising, as did the National Self-Portrait Collection at the University of Limerick. We decided to take the first exit we came to and see what the signs said. On exiting we saw signs directing us to the University of Limerick, so that’s where we went.

The campus is very beautiful with abundant plantings and modern buildings. We managed to find a parking place and the parking attendant asked if he could help us. I said that we were here to see the National Self-Portrait Gallery. He thought for a moment and said that he didn’t think there was such a thing. Once we explained that our guide book said the gallery was there, he directed us to the Information desk. There the young woman on duty asked us if she could help us…and we gave her the same answer. She looked puzzled and said she would make a few calls. The first person she called said we would need to have a guide go with us, but that none were available. The second said it was fine to just go over and see the self-portraits. She directed us to the White House (plus a few minutes of chat about our White House and President Obama, etc.)

so we walked over to a lovely old mansion, painted white, which was the old manor house for the property prior to it being purchased to become the University.

Once we entered the beautiful lobby we were approached by an elderly gentleman who asked if he could help up. We repeated our request to visit the National Self-Portrait Gallery. He said that he didn’t believe that they had such a thing, but that there were some paintings on the wall upstairs and we could go have a look, and that as long as we were looking for paintings that we should also go through to the Foundation building where they had some more hung on the walls. By then we were quite interested in seeing these illusive self-portraits.
We mounted a beautiful staircase off the lobby and went through some tall glassed doors and found the first few of the self-portraits. They were wonderful! A long, long time ago I used to paint portraits. Self-portraits are even more of a challenge for an artist. There were probably 25 – 30 of them, hung along the corridors on the second floor. We sort of felt like interlopers, so I didn’t take notes about who these were self-portraits of, although I did photograph my favorite ones:

Then we went over to the Foundation building and enjoyed a collection of lovely watercolors on display

courtesy of the Limerick Watercolor Guild (at least I think that is the group it was).

It was unfortunate that they were hung in an area where glare obscured the true beauty of the paintings.

Then we had tea in the cafĂ©’ near where the watercolors were hung. As we were leaving we noticed that there was an exquisite mural designed to depict a ballad, using Venetian glass tiles.

Here at the University there are three wonderful collections of art in at least three media and no one seemed to appreciate that it was there. What a shame!

That evening, back in Ennis, we were chatting with our server in The Poet’s Corner Pub in the Old Ground Hotel. It turned out that she was a student at the University of Limerick. I asked what she majored in and she said “Fine Arts”, so I asked her if she had seen the National Self-Portrait gallery. She said she hadn’t. I mentioned that it was in the White House. She said that explained it, because students aren’t allowed in…it is a faculty only building. The corridors where the self-portraits are hung are those giving on to faculty offices. How disappointing that the students were barred from seeing these wonderful, skillful works of art.

Maybe that will change one day, especially if enough visitors show up and ask to see the National Self-Portrait collection. Just don’t believe them when they tell you they don’t have such a thing!

The following morning we were off to Shannon Airport and the long flight across the Atlantic. Glad that we didn’t have to take a flying boat and spend over twenty four hours on the flight!

It’s been a month since we returned to California. Today I was remembering the lovely scones we ate in Ireland and decided to make a California version. Part of the usual white flour was replaced with my King Arthur 12 grain flour. Some almond meal left over from making the Bakewell Tarts was added, too. I added a little almond extract to the milk mixture to pick up on the almond meal flavor and to go with the truly California part…fresh, diced strawberries, grown just a few miles from here…full of the sweetness of summer. Good thing I baked them on a silicon mat because the juices from some of the strawberries caramelized around the edges of the scones. This afternoon we sat outside, remembering the fun we had in Ireland, enjoying the view of the garden that grew so large while we were gone, and sipping Irish Breakfast tea as we ate our fruit and nut California scones.

Thus ends the tales of my trip to a small portion of the beautiful island of Ireland. Maybe one day we’ll go back and see some other parts. Still hoping that our cousins from Glin will come visit us!

California Scones

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup almond meal
½ cup 12 grain flour (or substitute whole wheat flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
4 oz (1/2 stick) very cold butter, grated on the large holes of a box grater
1 egg
½ cup light cream
¼ cup buttermilk
¼ teaspoon almond extract
1 cup fresh strawberries, diced finely

With a fork stir together the flour, almond meal, 12 grain flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the grated butter, then, using clean fingers, rub the butter and flour together until the texture of bread crumbs. Work quickly to keep the butter cold.

In a large measuring cup, use the fork to stir the eggs to beat them lightly, then add the light cream, buttermilk, and almond extract and stir to mix well.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and gradually add the liquid ingredient mixture, mixing lightly with the fork, just until ingredients are barely combined. Do not overmix. If mixture seems to dry, add a few drops of milk; if too wet, add a tablespoon of flour. Finished mixture should be the consistency of moist biscuit dough.

Again using the fork, gently stir the strawberries into the dough, just enough to disperse them.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Pat dough out to about a 1 inch thickness. Cut with floured scone or biscuit cutter, or with the rim of a drinking glass. Gather scrapes and pat them down, then cut some more scones until dough is used up.

Place cut scones onto baking parchment lined or silicone mat lined baking sheet(s) and bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for about 10 – 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool slightly in pan, then serve warm.


  1. I have never, ever heard of a place where the students' work is hung where they cannot go. That's ridiculous, as those are lovely and inspiring, and would certainly allow a student to dream a little of what they could do -- and isn't that the point of education after all?

    Yum! I haven't yet attempted scones properly; mine are always very biscuit-y and there's a certain something to them here that I haven't yet gotten... but still trying. I think the thing is, I just won't be able to substitute and make them lighter; they have a ton of butter, and to make them the same, I fear you have to use a ton of butter., I may not ever make them properly! Your recipe has the least added I've ever seen, however! So, perhaps there's hope!

  2. Oh wow, strawberry scones..heaven! So glad you're enjoying your time in Ireland! I am dying to get to Europe one day! Love your photos!

  3. The art is fabulous. There's something about faces that's so intriguing.
    The scones don't look bad either ...:)....

  4. Oh how lovely! What a trip and what beautiful scones! Seems like things are going well with you. Would love to get together sometime.

  5. I've never been to Ireland although it is just a few hours(flight) away from Germany. One day I will go there for sure. It seems you enjoyed your trip! Lucky you!

  6. Tanita, I think the self-portraits aren't student work, but it's still a shame they can't go look at them.
    These scones are not as rich (read: full of butter) as many in the British Isles and Ireland, but they are delicious.

    Lisa Michelle, Thanks! Ireland is really day you'll get there. It took me over 40 years, but I got there. :)

    Giz, I agree...portraits and self-portraits are so interesting.

    Anna, Yes, I would love to see you, too. Hope your Dad is doing well, too.

    Kristin, Hope you get to Ireland one day. The scones there are even better than these :)

  7. Interesting that the students cant see those lovely paintings. I've always wished I could paint - but I cant, let alone draw! Thanks for sharing the art and speaking of art, I think those scones are a work of art too!!