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December 2013

Beef stock (1 of 15)“Three days seems like a lot of trouble for a few cubes.” said the Wife. I was finding it difficult to disagree with her. Enthusiasm had once again got the better of me and I set about preparing some seriously reduced beef stock to use as a base for stews, sauces and gravies. My butcher friend, Long John, (not to be confused with his colleague Big John) had very generously dropped off some beef bones. “This shouldn’t take too long.” I mused to myself as I took out my new stock pot. How wrong could I be?

Ma Jong SquidMany years ago, we used to frequent a Chinese restaurant on Pembroke Road in Dublin. To my shame, often, we would hang in pretty late, having “just one more bottle of wine” before making any decisions about falling into a taxi.  As night would inevitably turn into early morning, the staff would put us under pressure to finish up and leave. Repeated visits to the table to see if we wanted the bill would be met with orders for “definitely the last” bottle of house red. 

Shortbread (14 of 14)“He can’t be that much of a Christmas Grinch, can he?” I hear you think to yourself as you read the headline. It’s true, in the past, I have let the fact that organised religion is taking over the winter solstice celebrations get to me. They are even interfering with good, honest commercial activity by insisting that retailers and offices stay closed on the 25th of December. This is really all too much for me. Christmas is looming over the end of the year like some sort of Behemoth. I really have no choice. I will just have to stop all commercial activity for a couple of days and stick up two fingers to Christmas.

Paprika Chicken (18 of 19)I have seen lots of recipes for Chicken Paprika. Mine is unique (as you might expect). It’s uniqueness doesn’t come from any particular skill I have in the kitchen. It comes from having thoughtful friends and family. Thoughtful friend, Richard McGary sent us a box of chilis earlier in the year. While Richard was cogitating his selection, eldest daughter was busy in Budapest drinking low-priced beer and negotiating strings of paprika chilis for my delight. So in honour of both Richard and eldest daughter, I give you my take on Chicken Paprika.

Venison shanksI blame the lingering recession / bank crisis / political ineptitude (pick whichever one you fancy) here in Ireland for young families following so many from previous generations and emigrating. Back then, it was a big thing. Children left and lost all contact with parents. It was a real life sentence. Nowadays, there’s a lot of emotional claptrap spoken about this, usually by people who like to look backwards into our fraught history rather than forwards into a brighter future. With low-cost air fares, Skype and generally improved living standards, the long journey is not the trauma it once was. The other end of the world, yes. But not the end of the world.

Herbed Rack of LambIf you are planning to cook rack of lamb, it’s best to get your maths right before you go out to the shops. It is not difficult. There are eight chops on each rack. If there are less, it is either rack of (insert other animal name here) or somebody has been scoffing what is rightfully yours. If there are more than eight then it is rack of (insert name of animal that lives near a leaky nuclear power plant here). The maths problem comes about because rack of lamb is a “three chops each” dish.

Carrot and ginger soup (1 of 1)

On a recent trip to the Milk Market in Limerick with Stefan, I was highly impressed with the locally grown winter vegetables. I was also pretty awe-stricken by the prices. And, not in the usual way I am stunned by Irish prices. The carrots, parsnips and turnips were all fresh out of the ground and really great value. This is a rarity in our green and pleasant land. Such a rarity, that my enthusiasm got the better of me and I completely over-bought on the carrots.

Mapo Tofu If you’ve come this far with me in this little series, you may as well go the whole way. No, this one can’t be done with your usual supermarket ingredients. You are going to have to make a trip to the Asian supermarket. But, before you throw your hands in the air and mutter something that demeans your spirit, take my word for it, the journey will be worth it. This is probably the most famous dish from the Szechuan region, a provence famed for it’s fiery food. The bad news is that it is very, very (extremely very) hot. The good news is that it is really easy to prepare. The bonus is hot or not, it is delicious.

Red Wine Mushroom Risotto (15 of 16)THIRD PLACE! I don’t do third place when it comes to my cooking. When the weekend comes around in our house, I am master of the kitchen. I rule. What I say goes and everybody likes what I produce. Possibly because there is no competition but that is another story. But there was little I could do in this instance. Shockingly, the Wife and Stefan both conspired against me….

Meuringue CakeIt hurts me to write this post. I feel like I am putting another nail in my blogging coffin. You see, this post has me acting as “you’re in my way in the kitchen” photographer while the Wife prepares a recipe given to her by my revered mother-in-law. The real problem for me is that it is the dessert course of our multi-blog meal where we cooked along with Stefan on his and Kees trip to Tipperary. That is only a problem because my best efforts were knocked into a pretty degrading and distant third place.