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December 2012

Monkfish Cheek in Tomato SauceAs you look forward into another new year full of promise, you want your life to be simpler, less pressured and healthier. You are thinking about joining (or rejoining) the gym. You have resolved to eat healthier, to exercise more and to get up earlier in the day. It’s time you looked at your alcohol consumption too. Not that it is too high. It’s just average amongst the people (drunks) you know. If you are a smoker, you are going to give up the evil weed as soon as you go to bed in the early hours of January 1st.  You know you are going to do all these things because it’s a new year approaching and a time for renewal. A time for hope. A time to make a list of promises to yourself…

I used to think it was pretty straightforward. “Build it and they will come” was my approach. A pork stew was a pork stew. If I announced it and cooked it, they would be there, happy to be fed in the family kitchen.  In more recent times, I have noticed a worrying trend. The casual conversation is no longer “Whatyacooking Pops?”. No, it has shifted slightly towards “Oh, Pork Casserole. How are you cooking it? What are you adding? What will make it really special this time?”.

Mincemeat TartIt’s a few days to Christmas. Unusually for me, the festive atmosphere is beginning to raise my spirits. My mood is good. I decide to nip into Dublin city to arrange gifts and presents for the ones I love.

It’s cold as I make my way down the ramp in the car park. My progress is stalled by a crunching sound, followed by a stream of expletives from a respectable looking woman. She has scraped her car against a pillar. I can offer no solace. I put my head down and manfully walk on.

Let’s face facts. Norway is not at the centre of gastronomic excellence. Many believe that all they know about is salting, sugaring and burying various kinds of fish and meat before digging it up again and eating it. Not the best calling card for a premium cooking reputation. However, there is another side to these weather hardened northerners. 

Toulouse SausageThis is part 3 in my ‘Meat Reheat’ series where I take older posts and try to improve my efforts. In this case, it is not hard to do better than I did on my first sausage making fiasco.

I have been experimenting with slow cooking. There are many benefits. I get time on my own in the kitchen and if I’m in the kitchen, I am working, right? If things go wrong, I can always do something quick to fill a gap in the menu and bluff my way out of it. If I get it right, the food can taste delicious. Really delicious. The big bonus for us slow cookers has to be financial. Cheaper cuts of meat and things like sausages produce the very best slow cooking results. As the economic devastation continues here in Ireland, such slow cooking must be gathering a following…

Pork steak with mango I was having a bad day. I started with no plan for the evening meal. I trawled the fridge, the fruit bowl and the vegetable basket. I had a pork steak. I had a big ripe mango. I had some chilis and I had some flat leaf parsley. The inventive side of me decided that I would cook Pork Steak with Mango, Chili and Parsley. Now all I had to do was to get something nice to go with it. That’s simple enough, surely?

Rump of lambThere is a tendency in many social circles to ‘name-drop’. I hate it. Only the other day, I was saying this to the Queen of England and she told me that neither she nor Michelle Obama approve of it. Bad enough at dinner parties and gatherings where people hob-knob but this ugly behaviour has now spread to food blogging.

When I brought up the serious topic of ploughed potato fields versus potato mountains on Shepherds Pie, I thought I had put all the arguments to bed. There were some feeble-minded individuals who suggested that I might have been wrong about the ploughed fields. I will deal with them another time. Flori over at Flori Cooks had the effrontery to suggest that the mountains on a Fish Pie should be replaced with waves. “WAVES?” I thought. Where does she get off telling me how to do my fish pie?

Lamb ShanksOne of the excellent things about writing this blog is that I can do what I like, unbound by convention. One standard would state that posting the same stuff twice is a no-no. To hell with that. If anyone can extract a second serving from one dish, I’m your man. One of my earliest posts was lamb shanks under the banner of How slow can you go? I now realise that I can go slower and lower, a lot slower and plenty lower. Hence, part one in my Meat Reheat series.

Pork in CiderThey say that keeping pigs in the orchard is good both for pig and orchard. The pigs get to eat any fallen fruit while keeping the soil in good condition and keeping pests at bay. One side benefit of this practice is that the pork meat from the orchard kept pig takes on a subtle apple flavour (or so they say). 

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