A good recipe for friendship

Posted on: 4th August, 2015

Category: Food & Wine

Contributor: Mary O'Brien

Foodies and friends, Bridget Healy (co-founder of Café Paradiso) and Caitlin Ruth (Head Chef at Deasy’s Restaurant in Ring) chat to Mary O’Brien about making food and a life for themselves in West Cork.

Bridget Healy and Caitlin Ruth have both blown in to West Cork — from opposite sides of the world — but have become as indigenous to the area as our native nettle. “It’s easy to forget that we’re not originally from here until our accents give us away,” they say. “I regularly think ‘wow there are a lot of foreigners moving here’ and then I remember I’m one too,” says Bridget laughing.

A native of New Zealand, Bridget moved to a little cottage on an acre near Clonakilty six years ago. The outgoing Kiwi quickly made friends, endearing herself to locals in her role as the outspoken front of house person in Lettercollum Kitchen Project in Clonakilty. “I do feel a little guilty because I have amazing friends in the city but unless they come here I don’t really see them. I don’t want to leave West Cork…everybody smiles and waves at you here!”

Originally from a place called The Bay of Plenty (aptly named by Captain James Cook for its fertile land) in New Zealand, Bridget grew up surrounded by avocado, macadamia and nectarine trees and learned to cook and appreciate food from an early age. “New Zealand was a very self-sufficient country at that time; we grew and produced all our own food and preserved everything. Our garage was full of peaches, nectarines and plums and my mum preserved everything. Life was seasonal — you only ate asparagus when it was asparagus season and sweetcorn when it was sweetcorn time.”

A vegetarian since a visit to an abbatoir when she was 16, Bridget says that even though Caitlin keeps trying to feed her meat, perhaps if it’s the end of the world she’ll eat it! She laughs when she remembers ‘guts fights’ with her sisters growing up. “My dad used to do home kills,” she explains. “He still fattens cattle and is not impressed that three out of his four daughters are vegetarians!”

“I do like going back to New Zealand but everyone there is always so busy; my mum, who’s over 70, still walks up the mountain to shift the cattle. Life is a lot easier in West Cork.”

Bridget met former husband and co-founder of Café Paradiso Denis Cotter working in Cranks — ‘the vegetarian restaurant chain that made lentils fashionable’ — in London.

After moving to New Zealand for a while, the couple relocated to Cork City and opened Café Paradiso together in 1993.

“We were passionate about what we were doing and all worked ridiculously long hours.” A mother of two sons, Bridget used to drive home to read bedtime stories and then back to the restaurant again. “I don’t regret that time — we made the most amazing friends, and my children learned to fold napkins incredibly well!

“They were fun, exciting times; Toby Simmonds opened the olives stall at the English Market and Seamus O’Connell opened the Ivory Tower around the same time. Everyone told us we were mad.

“That was the next 15 years.”

Life now is more relaxed. There is time for long walks on the Sheep’s Head, snorkelling in Sand’s Cove, and dinner parties with friends. “I love being able to do an eight-hour walk on the Beara Peninsula and meeting no one, it’s like having a big empty playground all to yourself.

“I’ll cook something even if it’s stupid o’clock when I get home,” she says. “I usually chop up an onion and garlic, make polenta and then run down the garden to look for something fresh.”

Bridget dries Nori on her clothesline and eats it as a snack while she’s hanging out the washing. “I eat the washing,” she says in a fit of laughter.

Although she’ll ‘eat the washing’, whatever you do don’t offer her a glass of French wine! Ever since French commandos bombed the Greenpeace flagship ‘Rainbow Warrior’ in Auckland, New Zealand, 30 years ago, Bridget refuses to touch a drop of wine sporting a French label. “There are more than enough great wines from other countries,” she says staunchly.

“I just fell in love with her cooking and with her,” says Bridget of Caitlin Ruth. “When you invite Caitlin over for dinner, you leave things lying around and hope she takes over in the kitchen,” says Bridget with a mischievous grin over the table at her friend.

Every time we eat Caitlin Ruth’s cooking, our response is automatic: “This is the best thing I have eaten all year”. John and Sally McKennas’ Guides.

The self-taught Head Chef at Deasy’s Restaurant in Ring, Caitlin has been working in restaurants since she was 12. After making her first pot of broth at the age of six she’s been fascinated with food and what can be created from it.

“I’ve always cooked but I always thought I’d just do it until I found out what I really wanted to do. Then I realised I didn’t really want to do anything else.

“I’m driven by my ingredients. The other day I felt hot and tired at work and then the fish guy rang and said he had an Albacore tuna. All of a sudden I just felt so happy.”

Using the fresh, local ingredients around her, Caitlin aims to make the best food she can. She slowly cooked the aforementioned Albacore tuna in olive oil, teaming it with green beans and quail eggs. “At this stage, I just know what ingredients work well together. For instance, I’ll never put garlic with tuna.”

Originally from a tiny village in New Hampshire in the US, Caitlin settled in Ireland in 1992, raising her daughter Áine here and making the village of Timoleague her home. A lover of raw beef and chicory, she enjoys creating vegetarian food and loves nothing better than a challenge in the kitchen. “I like it when people come in to the restaurant with special dietary requirements and I can make them something delicious.”

For the third year in a row, she’ll be taking part in the Theatre of Food at Electric Picnic with Bridget, cooking delicious samples of food to give out to the crowd. This year’s theme is ‘Food for Life’ and Caitlin will also be holding a workshop showing people how to cook gourmet gluten-free food, delicious and without compromise.

The friends will also be cooking together at a yoga retreat at Dzogchen Beara in August. “We’re both really looking forward to it,” says Bridget, who’s also cooking at a yoga retreat at Dunowen House, Ardfield in October. “We just have to figure out how to cook more often together.”

Both are in agreement on this and on how great a place West Cork is to work and live. “I’m kind of glad the weather’s not predictable here or we’d really be overrun with people,” says Caitlin. “West Cork is such an amazing place.”

Latest News Articles:

Clonakilty Fairtrade Fortnight celebrates 15 years
€44 million to improve Cork roads
Clonakilty Access Group AGM hears of many frustrations and challenges for people with disabilities in the town
Schull student scoops top invention award at BT Young Scientist
Schull Garda Station wins ‘Leading Light in Road Safety’ award from Road Safety Authority
Go quackers at the 2018 West Cork Bird Race
Bandon in danger of losing its youth café
Local professionals invited to Anam Cara information pack launch
Bandon Transport and Public Realm Enhancement Plan shortlisted for Irish Planning Awards
Christmas on the beat

Join us on Facebook

Ballineen Foróige Young Engineers Exhibition 23 February 2018

The inaugural Ballineen Foróige Young Engineers Exhibition will take place in Gort Mhuire Hall in Ballineen this Friday 23rd February. As part of Engineers Week 2018, leaders and members of Ballineen Foróige Club have organised an exhibition which will showcase a diverse and exciting range of engineering projects that have been undertaken by members of the club over the last few weeks, with the aid of leaders and a number of local engineers.

With the aid of local pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, along with the support of STEAM Education, a UCC based company focused on promoting science, technology, engineering, arts, and maths subjects in primary schools, Ballineen Foróige has been engaging members and leaders in all things engineering over the last six weeks. From researching, designing, and prototyping a project based on local problems, to participating in various workshops on coding and careers in engineering, Ballineen Foróige have been extremely busy in preparation for the exhibition this coming Friday night.

On the night itself, Michael Loftus, Head of Engineering at CIT, Fintan Goold, Manager at Eli Lilly and All-Ireland Cork winning Footballer, along with Geraldine Coughlan of GCA Architects & Designers, a local business, will act as judges on the night, evaluating the different engineering projects and offering some advice to the members of the club. Also in attendance will be the CEO of Foróige Seán Campbell, along with a number of local councillors, TD’s and Senators.

Leading the team of Ballineen Foróige leaders organising the event, is Rebecca Dwyer, a bioprocess engineer at Eli Lilly. Rebecca recently became a leader in the club and says that Ballineen Foróige Young Engineer Exhibition 2018 “promises to be a fun, challenging and rewarding experience for all involved and we look forward to welcoming parents, relatives, friends and members of the public to the exhibition and film screening on the evening of Friday 23rd February.” Overall, there are twelve projects entered in the exhibition. One project, led by Cian Kennefick and Charlie Nolan, members of the starting out club, examines the possibility of installing speed ramps on the road near local primary school. Fourteen-year-old Charlie says he got involved in the project as it was something to do and it gets you thinking. Cian says the most exciting part of the project was the building of the prototypes.

Both Cian and Charlie, along with thirty other members of the club will display their projects this coming Friday 23 February in Gort Mhuire Hall in Ballineen. Doors open at 8pm and the event runs until 10pm. All are welcome to attend, and admission is free. Catering, including tea and coffee, will be provided on the night.
... See MoreSee Less

20th February, 2018  ·  

Did you know..... ... See MoreSee Less

Main course

17th February, 2018  ·  

Check out this new upbeat indie-folk track Edges, released today from Inni-K with a video by Myles O'Reilly. Inni-K will be performing at Levis’, Ballydehob on Saturday 24th February, with support from Sam Clague.

... See MoreSee Less

16th February, 2018  ·  

Vikings talk in Clonakilty!

“The Viking Gold and Silver Hoards from County Cork” is the topic of the next Dúchas Clonakilty Heritage lecture on Thursday 22nd at the Parish Centre starting at 8pm.

It will be delivered by John Sheehan, senior lecturer in the Archaeology Department, UCC and a former member of the Heritage Council and the Board of the National Museum of Ireland.

The Vikings were an important presence in Ireland for over two centuries. As well as inflicting great terror they were also responsible for introducing urbanism and new economic systems to the country.

In this talk the focus will be on the economy, looking at the gold and silver hoards that were buried in Co. Cork. It will also explore how these hoards were discovered, what happened to them, and where they are now!
... See MoreSee Less

15th February, 2018  ·  

Bandon Toastmasters is a club that helps people overcome Glossophobia, a fear of public speaking. The club is holding a night of inspirational and motivational speakers on February 22 that is a must for anybody wishing to overcome this phobia.
Tickets can be purchased either on the club's facebook page or through eventbrite.

... See MoreSee Less

13th February, 2018  ·  

Jump to: