Mad Hens aka Mad Men

Take one bride-to-be
Take two families
Take some great friends- from work, college, secondary school, childhood.
Include seriously competent party-planning bridesmaids.
Take a theme of Mad Men, or Mad Hens

60’s Glamour at a Mad Hen Party

Thats a lot of women, of all ages.

Consider a Hen Party.
One that isn’t predicated by the invention of pink plastic but on camaraderie and fun.

Consider the arrangements
There has to be more to do all day than go to the pub.
A beautiful location, accessible to all,
A welcome, considered hospitality,
Dancing and night-clubbing for the party animals later on,
And Great Craic

It’s September 2010
The M6, the motorway from Dublin to Galway has just opened, making it possible to go from Dublin on the east coast to Lahinch, County Clare on the west coast in about 3 hours.
The North Atlantic Drift has spent the whole summer warming up the Atlantic Gulf Stream (and that’s not a private jet!)
Surf’s up
The West’s Awake and beckoning.

Setting sun seen from the roof terrace, West Coast Lodge, Lahinch

The West Coast Lodge in Lahinch is open. Duncan and Carol are happy to accommodate all of us and make all our arrangements

Mad Hens preparing to take to the Atlantic with Ben’s Surf Clinic, Lahinch

Ben’s Surf Clinic is ready and willing to introduce all to the art of surfing.  And our instructors are kind enough not to laugh!

Local hairdressers can pamper those who prefer grooming to surfing- and they do the best BEEHIVE!

Barrtrá Restaurant has a private dining room with great cuisine and service.

It was perfection.

Rising to the challenge of Mad Men involved raiding vintage shops, practising fifties/sixties make-up, ‘Getting the Look’ of Betty Draper (easier for some than others), Peggy Olsen or,(dream on girls…) Joan Harris. The Mad Men theme was everywhere at the time, and we were no slouches.

We arrived gradually on the Friday night, and had the use of the kitchen and breakfastroom in the West Coast Lodge so that we could have dinner and be there to greet people as they arrived.   Dinner was my job. I prepared a chicken, chorizo and chickpea casserole at home in Dublin the previous night and brought it with me.    This is a failsafe casserole which travels well and re-heats even better.

After a great breakfast on Saturday, we walked the 200 metres or so to our surfing lesson around lunchtime, the time being set by the tide.   Whoops, laughs, screams of delight!  The sea makes children of us all… and gave us great thirst and appetites!

Then back to the Lodge where the roof terrace had been converted into a Cocktail Party zone.

After lots of posing and games,we were on our way by bus to the restaurant where we had a great dinner and lots of fun.

Imagine a busload of Mad Men Wannabees pulling up outside O’Looney’s Restaurant and sashaying in……
only to find that another Mad Men Hen Party was there already?
There were enough fit surfers to go around and the craic went on until the wee hours.

After a good lie-on on Sunday morning some even went for the ritual ‘cure’- a swim in the crashing Atlantic under the Lifeguards’ Watchtower. Nothing could be more bracing.

Nobody wanted to go home.

Rainbow on the Atlantic seen from the Burren

Some of us lingered for a walk on The Burren before hitting the road.

It doesn’t get easier.
If I hadn’t been so busy enjoying myself, I’d have taken a lot more photos.
But you get the drift.

Here’ s the casserole I made for Friday evening.   On arrival it was warmed gently, and the green beans added for the last five minutes. I trebled the quantities for thirty people, and there was some left over until after surfing the next day. The casserole travelled well in a travelling cooler with a power connection to the cigarette lighter in my car. (Betty Draper would be horrified).

Chicken, chorizo and chickpea stew

Serves 10-12


Ingredients for Chicken, Chorizo and Chickpea Stew

4 medium onions
8 large garlic cloves
8 tbsp olive oil
300g chorizo (the best is available in Sheridan’s Cheesemongers)
2 chicken stock cubes
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
4 x 400g cans  chickpeas ( or the equivalent, soaked overnight and boiled until tender)
2kg chicken thigh fillets ( ask your butcher to prepare these and have them ready for you)
2 glasses red wine, approx 350ml ( use cheap cooking wine)
4 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
2 x 300g jars roasted peppers in oil ( good value on the Polish shelves)
1 lemon
Tomato ketchup or honey to taste
large bunch of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 x 400g fine green beans
2kg small new potatoes


-Peel, halve and finely slice the onions.  Crush the garlic.
-Heat the olive oil in a spacious, heavy-bottomed casserole, stir in the onion and garlic, season with salt and cook covered, stirring occasionally, for about 20 min until soft and translucent.

Chorizo from Leon, Spain

-If using chorizo from a whole sausage, run a sharp knife down one side to cut the skin and peel it away. Slice.
-Dissolve the stock cubes in 1.2 litres of boiling water.
-Tip the chickpeas into a sieve or colander and rinse thoroughly with cold water.
-Cut the chicken into large, bite-size pieces. Stir the separated slices of chorizo into the onions, cook for a couple of minutes until it begins to release its oils and colours the onions, then add the chicken.   Cook gently, stirring continuously for a few minutes until all the pieces have turned from pink to “white”, allowing about 10 min.
-Add the wine, the smoked paprika and the lemon cut in two (remove later)

-Increase the heat, let it boil up for a few minutes, while you slice the bottled peppers into strips.  Add peppers, tomatoes, and stock to the pan.   Return to the boil, immediately reduce the heat and leave to simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for about 45 min until the chicken is tender and the vegetables have merged into a thick sauce.
-Stir the drained chickpeas into the stew, reheat, taste and adjust seasoning with salt and lemon juice, adding a dollop of ketchup or honey if it needs it. Leave to cool then refrigerate until required.

Boil a medium saucepan half filled with salted water. Throw in the green beans and return to the boil. Drain and toss into in a basin of cold/iced water. Leave for 5 min, drain, bag up and chill until required. Boil the potatoes in salted water, drain, cool and keep, covered, in a cool place until needed.

To serve, slowly reheat the stew. At least 15 min before you are ready to serve, stir in the potatoes. Warm through then stir in the beans and chopped  parsley.

Serve with a green salad, some crusty bread (to mop up all the lovely juices) and some soured cream.


Note: This stew feeds a multitude at a very reasonable cost. Chicken leg meat is tastier in a dish like this, and is cheaper. Left overnight, the flavours develop and improve, so it’s a perfect dish to transport. Buy large plastic boxes that fit in your electric cooler and use them to store the stew safely until you’re all ready to eat.

About haysparks

Viewing the world, the human condition, our history, evolution and health through the prism of food.
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2 Responses to Mad Hens aka Mad Men

  1. Ailbhe says:

    This sounds awesome. Just wondering, if you could tell me of any Mad Men/Hen games you played. I’m currently organising a Mad Men themed hen and I’m trying to invent/find suitable games. would love if you had any insights.

    A x

    • haysparks says:

      Thanks for your feedback…it was awesome! I’ll e-mail you with some of the ideas over the next week. Just back from hols now and still in the throes of laundry, returning calls etc.

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