Saturday, March 10, 2012

Lamenting the loss of lie-ins

Oh, lie-ins, how I miss you. I can't remember the last time I enjoyed one of you, the last time I dawdled in bed with nothing to do except flick through magazines, doze and wonder what to have for breakfast.

I've been working so hard trying to get this café up and running while struggling to keep up with my writing and teaching work at the same time. Last Wednesday saw me teaching a class in Tralee, taking an interview in my car and then writing a 1200 word article in a car park all the while being interrupted by calls from fire safety officers and suppliers. This is just how erratic my life has got. So erratic that I'm going to bed exhausted every night and rolling out of bed early the next morning only to do it all over again. 

You can see why I miss lie-ins... 

I've made progress though. The painting is finished bar a few touch-ups. The kitchen is near ready. I've sorted out lots (but not all) of my suppliers. I've even hired some staff. And I also have a name. But it seems to be contentious...

I wasn't anticipating this but I've had conflicting reactions to the name and I wonder what you are going to think of it. I've decided to call it (drum roll, please):

Béile le Chéile (I'm useless at figuring out how to write things phonetically but it's pronounced something like bay-le le chay-le and it loosely translates as 'a shared meal'.)
Anyhow, I thought it sounded lovely as it rhymes and I liked the communal feel of what it meant. And I wanted something that was in the Irish language as it's something that I feel is at the heart of who we are in this part of Ireland yet it's also something that is slowly fading away.

So... here are the reactions I’ve had to it. Irish-speaking people instantly like it. It makes them smile.
Irish people who don’t speak English don’t like it and think that the fact it’s an Irish name will keep people away from the café. Be honest with me here: do you really think this will happen?
Foreigners who are not English speaking like it once they are told what it means and think it will have no bearing on whether or not they would go to a café.
Foreigners who live in Dingle and are not Irish speaking think it might affect business.
My boyfriend, who is English and speaks hardly any Irish, doesn’t know what to think!

I’m confused. It took me ages to come up with the name (and I have to give credit to my sister's boyfriend Gearóid for the final choice). I wanted it to be in Irish as I think the fact that the language is in decline has a lot to do with people like me abandoning it in favour of English when presented with situations such as this. I wasn’t expecting my choice of name to present me with such ethical problems. What do you think?

As you can see, I’ve had problems on my plate which is why I haven’t posted here for a while. I’d have much preferred to have something like this on my plate – a breakfast dish that is perfect for people who have just enjoyed a lie-in, a dish that is full of flavour, that is worth lingering over and is a great way to start a lazy weekend.

It comes from Yotam Ottolenghi's book 'Plenty' and it's eggy, herby and spicy with a hint of sweetness. It's called Shakshuka and it's one of my favourite ways to celebrate having had a lie-in.

And although it takes over a half an hour to make, you can make the pepper mix in advance and then all you need to do is cook the eggs in it for ten minutes in the morning. I've done this before and it's so worth it.

This makes a very satisfying brunch for two
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
90ml vegetable oil or light olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
1 red and 1 yellow pepper, halved, quartered and then cut into 2cm strips
2 teaspoons muscuvado sugar
1 bay leaf
3 thyme sprigs, leaves picked and chopped
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped coriander, plus extra to garnish
3 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Up to 125ml water
4 free-range eggs
Salt and black pepper

  • Place a large frying pan over a high heat and dry roast the cumin seeds for two minutes.
  • Add the oil and the onions and sauté for five minutes.
  • Add the peppers, sugar and herbs and continue cooking on a high heat for five to ten minutes to get a nice colour.
  • Add the tomatoes, saffron, cayenne and some salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes.
  • During the cooking, keep adding water so that the mix has the consistency of pasta sauce.
  • Taste and adjust the seasoning. You want something with a strong flavour.  (This is the part of the dish that you can make up in advance - it keeps well in the fridge).
  • Remove the bay leaf and divide the mix into two separate small frying pans, each large enough to take an individual portion. 
  • Place them on a medium heat to warm up.
  • Then make two gaps in the mix and break an egg into each gap.
  • Sprinkle with salt and cover the pans with lids.
  • Cook on a very gentle heat for 10 to 12 minutes or until the eggs are just set.
  • Sprinkle with coriander and serve with some crusty bread.

Breakfasts like this are what make me miss lie-ins even more. Oh well, off I go to the café to finish the painting and start decorating the bathrooms. If I get enough done today, maybe I can have a lie-in followed by some shakshuka for breakfast tomorrow. Now there's a thought to inspire a girl to work harder.


  1. Sharon,
    I love the name. It's a beautiful touch to something that is so close to your heart. I am so excited about visiting you on my next trip back to Ireland. c.a. xx

  2. Sharon.... love the name! It does roll off the tongue and you are right to go with an Irish name!


  3. I like the name a lot. Why not just write the outside sign in gaeilge and bearla in a creative way and leave all the other marketing bits in gaeilge only? Go with what makes you happy as that is what will matter most. I also think people will find you irregardless as they fill follow the wonderful smells and people will recommend with directions as they do with all restaurants around the town!

  4. Hey! I'm a foreigner who speaks Irish and lives in Dingle/An Daingean, and I love the name and I think you should keep it if you like it. Would you change it only because of fear? Do you really think people won't go because it's in Irish? I think the opposite! I think people will love the fact that it's in Irish, and especially in the Gaeltacht! Many many people come here atracted by the Irish language, and they'll love to have a "béile le chéile" at your cafe! Ceapaim go bhfuil se go diail ainm as Gaelainn a phiocadh agus ba mhaith liom tacaíocht ar fad a thabhairt duit ar é seo. Ar son na teanga!

  5. As a foreigner here whose only words of Irish are being able to count to ten and the few I picked up from my daughter when she started learning it in junior infants (only to quickly leave me far, far behind - I guess it's true what they say about it being hard to learn a new language when you get older), I love the name! It has the double advantage of sounding lovely in Irish because it rhymes as well as having a beautiful translation in English. Far from it being a deterrent, it's a name that would actually draw me in. Go for it!

  6. Such heartening comments...

    Carolanne, I'm really excited about welcoming you to the café.

    Margaret, thanks for the vote of confidence.

    Sharon, I think you're absolutely right.

    Anonymous (or Lucia, as I know it's you!), I'm not thinking of changing the name because of fear. I was just surprised at the strength of some people's responses. Tá súil agam go dtaithníonn sé le gach éinne sa tslí céanna agus go dtaithníonn sé leatsa!

    And Kristin, I'm so happy you like the name and that it would draw you in.

    I had already decided to keep the name. In fact, I registered it as a business name a few days ago. But knowing that you all like it makes me feel even more sure of myself. Thanks so much!

  7. Dear Sharon, I love the name you chose. I live in the US but wish I could be there & take the job you have posted on Twitter. Saw it retweeted by Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh (my favorite singer). I met her this past month on her US tour & she is a wonderful example of the talent you have there in Dingle, County Kerry. It was because of her music that inspired me to learn Irish again. I had learned some years ago but it took some growing to realize how Beautiful the Irish Gaelic Language is. Please continue to use it & not let it or your other Irish talents fade away. I wish I were there because I would not only work for you, if I could, but would promote your wonderful language along with a sandwich, a drink & good conversation, in Irish that is :) Best to you in your ventures from an Irish-American longing to be there!!

  8. Hi Sharon, I've been busy and also offline for a while and came here today to see how your café is coming along. And so I read now that you were worrying about the name. Your post is already a couple of weeks old today, so it's probably all settled by now... Still I wanted to encourage you to stick with the Irish name. Who else would be able to preserve the language but the people who are fortunate enough to speak it?! It also adds a nice local touch, being in the Gaeltacht.

    From a marketing point of view:

    The name would not deter me, but would make it memorable for me, as long as I get the message of what the place offers. Of course the lovely meaning would be lost to me, and a lot of foreigners might have difficulties pronouncing the name, i.e. when asking for the way.

    So in flyers and advertisements you should make it clear that it's a little restaurant or bistro. (Note: We Germans would tend to assume that a "café" just offers sweet stuff like cake or scones with tea and coffee, as that is what you get in a German "Café".)

    All the best for the rest of all the work!

  9. Isteach: I'm so glad you like the name and if ever you come to Ireland, you must visit. You can even work for me if you like!

    Katja: thanks for checking in. I've stuck with the name and a lot of people like it although as you say, some have difficulty in pronouncing it. And I will take your point on board when it comes to flyers and advertisements - thanks for letting me know!

  10. Thank you so much for the kind reply, Sharon. It is a dream of mine to visit Ireland. I would also love to stay awhile & work for you!! One never knows :) God Bless you in all you do & please continue to keep the Beautiful Irish language alive. Thanks again for the kind response. I will keep checking your blog & watch for the great pictures & recipes you put up!

  11. Thank you so much for posting this recipe! I ate Shakshouka at Béile le chéile last week while visiting Dingle with a friend, and it was lovely. Now I'm home I want to recreate it, and I won't even have to experiment. And I promise to come back and eat it at the cafe again sometime.

    In case it is of interest, we picked your cafe for lunch because we saw immediately from the board in the street that it had something to suit both of us - one fish and one vegetarian dish. I can't remember what the veggie thing was, as I didn't actually have it, but that was the draw for us. We didn't much care about the name!

    Best of luck with the cafe, I hope it is a great success.

  12. Ladymoonray, thanks so much for your kind comments. I'm so glad you visited the café and even more glad that you enjoyed the food. I hope you get to come again and that when/if you do, I get to meet you and say thanks in person.