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October 2018

Tomato and feta skillet bake (7 of 9)

There are questions in life that one simply doesn’t ask. Don’t ask a woman her dress size, her age or how many glasses of Pinot Grigio she drank this morning. Whatever you do, don’t ask when the baby is due. Don’t ask a man when he was last in the gym, how much he earns or how many pints he knocks back in a week. For that, don’t ask him when the baby is due either. Any of you from the creative industry will know to not ask for the original video footage or the InDesign files. Don’t ask a cyclist how much he or she spent on the bike (See footnote). All of you should know to never ask a chef for his recipe. It’s just not done. So, when one of Ireland’s top flight Chef Patrons offers you a recipe, take it and try it. But, don’t ask for another. It’s simply not done.

There are things that I love about food descriptions and things that I hate. In Oriental cookery, many of the descriptions are truly evocative and allude to history and culture in equal measure. Great examples include “General Tso’s Chicken”. This evokes thoughts of the great Zuo Zongtang, a Qing dynasty statesman and military leader. That’s as far as it goes as there is no known connection to him or the dish in his home province of Hunan. This dish is punching above it’s cultural weight as it really is just a sweet, sticky American chicken with rice. Then we have “Man and Wife Beef”, “Squirrel Fish” and the classic “100 Year Old Egg”. Great names all. But, sometimes possibly going wide of the trade descriptions act.

In my earlier days, I worked in the advertising business. Back then, it wasn’t frequent but not unusual to be involved in TV shoots that would last for days on end. The anticipation of working “on a shoot” added to the street cred that it gave one in the pub. Even I succumbed on occasion to saying things like “It may look like a lot of fun, but, it’s hard work.” “The ‘talent’ can be difficult to manage.” or “He’s one of the most gifted producers in world film today. We’re really lucky to have secured him for this paint commercial.”  In fact, working on a big budget TV commercial back in the days of 35mm film was a royal pain in the arse. Unplugging a light could stop a commercial for hours as union labour rights were reestablished. Not having a ‘chippie’ (carpenter) on set could send the project south altogether. Everything seemed to take an age. For the hapless client service executive (me) it meant hours of sitting around doing nothing but being on high alert in case the client wanted anything. God forbid that the customer requested a change at the last minute. That would surely send the day’s shoot into overtime and lead to a vast bill with everybody involved (except me and the client) getting paid a big bonus. The best thing about those days was hearing the director call “It’s a wrap.”

The sauce is a triumph. A bargain hunter’s dream come true.

I love a bargain. My big problem is what psychiatrists might call “Value driven impulse purchasing”. “Half-price menswear” – keep me out of the shop or I will buy up every pair of lavender coloured trousers and those gingham shirts that most sensible men on the planet have ignored. The “bargains” I buy usually spend a period of time in the wardrobe before being transferred to the charity-shop bag and out of my life. This behaviour is all the worse because I know that I do it. Yet seemingly, I can’t help myself. So, when I saw some lovely looking plums in the supermarket at 49c for a half kilo, you can guess what happened.

Butchers are like the rest of us. There are the good ones and there are the not so good. There are some worth marrying and some that deserve a life of loneliness. When it comes to the ‘lesser joints’, some butchers play a little on the ignorance of the buying public and sell them stuff that should really be going into the off cuts. Thankfully, there are many great independent butchers selling top quality meat. I believe that most of them are at least “in a relationship”. Butchers who are keen to educate their customers and are delighted to see people like me using the lesser cuts in different and interesting ways. So, when I encourage you to try this straightforward Beef Short Rib Stew, be sure you get the right ribs from the right butcher. It could lead to a beautiful romance and a long term relationship.

The Oxford English Dictionary describes an oxymoron as: “A figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction.”

Yet, here I am with as oxymoronic a dish as one could think possible. And to add to the culinary confusion, I froze it too. I suppose, to avoid accusations of culinary cultural appropriation, I should call this Oxymoronic Tandoori Style Chicken Sous Vide, Kindah. but, that’s to long for a headline and also “kinda” looks kinda Indian when it’s written down adjacent to Tandoori. But, I digress.

Garlic Pork Chop Sous Vide (8 of 10)

Please don’t judge me too harshly. This is hardly a recipe at all. It is a testament to great ingredients and a wonderful cooking method, little more. On the criticism front, I admit that I judge people. I know that I shouldn’t. But I do. No mater how morally fortuitous you are, I bet you are also in the ranks of judgers. Picture yourself in the line at the supermarket. The rake-thin woman in front of you has a trolly piled high with overpriced “organic” vegetables and little else apart from some quinoa and Goji berries. Her shop comes to the price of a small electric car. You think about the overspend, the waste of money and how painfully thin she looks. While she roots in her gym bag for a credit card, you look behind. The trolly aft, in the charge of a middle-aged man, with his belly hanging gracefully over his waistband, is laden down with supersize Coke family-value bottles, frozen pizzas, giant sacks of crisps, oven-frys and a few boxes of microwave popcorn. You feel OK about your shop. Yes, there are a few treats but, you are not wasting money on either “organic” veg or “family-value” sugar laden drinks. Admit it, you are judging. It’s very hard not to.

Many of us love cilantro. We adore the fresh, fragrant tanginess of the delightful herb. Some hate coriander. They can’t abide the soapy, earthy taste. This is genetic and there is little that they can do about it. For clarity, coriander is cilantro. They are the same thing. It’s not like “vest”. American’s wear a vest over a shirt. Europeans wear it under. It’s also not like “rubber”. Europeans use it to erase pencil marks. Americans, well Americans do something else altogether.

It’s an oxymoronic truth that racism knows no borders. Think of that greaseball you hate because of the colour of his skin, the language you don’t understand or your pathetic fear that he will take your miserable job.  He may very well hold similar bile for some ‘foreign’ unfortunate who for reasons of geography, colour, creed or economics, has come within the scope of his bigotry.

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