I have a conundrum. My problem is literary rather than culinary. I caused today’s difficulty when I wrote about The Man Who Wasn’t There. It was pretty straightforward writing about something that didn’t happen and somebody who wasn’t there to see it not occur. All that was easy enough. My issues started when I was handed this note by my friend who may, or may not, have made his second trip home from Australia since Christmas.
How do I write about the return of somebody who wasn’t there in the first place? It puts me in mind of the old Irish explanation of a bike being stolen; “There it was, up against the wall, gone”. Anyway, if you are still with me, and for clarity, despite him not being there in the first place, he did return. He handed me the above note. He also handed me a cooler box and bag of mystery ingredients. I can’t resist a challenge and the rules of engagement really got me thinking.
First things first. I needed to find out what the ingredients were. The grape tomatoes, wine and olive oil were easy enough, as were the white onions. The king mushrooms, Tutaekuri potato, mini squash I cracked within an hour and three-quarters on the internet. The pepper variety had me stumped.
Under the above rules, I could add garlic, a protein and a carbohydrate. I chose pork chops and sweet potatoes. I had to add a decent amount as word spread and interest in the challenge rose. I was cooking for six. First I par boiled the mini squash.
Then I popped them into a bowl of ice water.
Then I chopped the onions.
Then I fried them in some of the olive oil and added a half glass of the wine to keep within the rules.
Next we (help from daughter) chopped garlic and slice the pork into strips. Cue the best pouring shot of recent times. We add the olive oil to the pork and garlic.
Then I peeled the potatoes. Fantastic colours are revealed.
These were put on to steam while we (daughter again) peeled and chopped the sweet potatoes. We drizzled them with olive oil and sprinkled on some salt. Then 20 minutes in the oven.
The pork pieces were ‘twizzled’ to give more opportunity for crispy edge bits and then baked in the oven for 15 minutes.
Then we prepared the squash by cutting them in half, removing the seeds and stuffing them with some onion, garlic, tomato and a drizzle of olive oil.
By this time, my returning friend had called by. He told us that the peppers were paprika peppers. We opened them up and they went into the oven too.
I then sliced the king mushrooms and fried them off on the griddle pan.
All that was left to do was take out the pork, mash the potatoes, assemble the dish and feed the hoard.
We decided on the big chopping board as the best way to present the meal. (I was later accused of being “a bit Jamie Oliver”).
Challenge accepted and weird ingredients cooking completed. The man who wasn’t there has returned to Oz. The good news is he is due back in Ireland for a week in five weeks time. I’m looking forward to the next challenge. Bring it on!