Home2018

June 2018

“Fancy a quick one?” There was a time when one could ask that without drawing the ire and raising the hackles of half the planet. It’s an innocent question. If it has been misinterpreted in your cesspit of a mind, that really is your problem, not mine.  I’m talking about a Chicken and Broccoli Stir Fry. It’s really easy (You could misinterpret that too.) and quick. Try giving it a lash.

Back in the day, in the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, pork belly futures were traded. It was a market that made sense. Year round, pork was produced, the bellies were frozen and in the summer, when demand was high, bellies were defrosted and bacon was produced. So, there was a time lag between the expensive end of production and eventual consumption. This created an opportunity to turn a couple of quid. Weather patterns, political and social attitudes and even religion could have a marked effect on the future price of a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich. Traders in brightly coloured jackets, worked the floor of the ‘Belly Pit’ in the Mercantile right up until 2011, squeezing a profit out of pork belly futures.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a good rip into the Irish mango scene. Practically every mango in every supermarket is as hard as Ronnie Kray on a bad day. Many of you will be too young, too foreign or too well brought up to know of the bold Ronnie. He and his brother Reggie made up the Kray Twins, who ran much of the crime in the West End of London during the 1950s and 1960s. They were a bad lot who killed their enemies with shocking regularity, dealt in drugs, gambling and extortion. They even mixed with politicians and celebrities. Unforgivable. I digress. I think you get the point about the hard mangos. This was my bugbear until I visited Ingredients Oriental Supermarket in our local village of Stillorgan.

Spicy Prawn Couscous (1 of 1)

Life can be difficult. Though, it has a habit of heaping more of the stinky stuff on some less fortunate than others. As I write this, I feel compelled to give examples. Think of poor Donald Trump, unqualified, unhinged (if his Twitter feed is anything to go by) and unable to run the country. Think also of poor Viv Nicholson, the “Spend, Spend, Spend” lady who’s dreams came true when she and her husband won a €3,000,000+ (at today’s rates) prize on the British Football Pools. Dream turned to nightmare when the consequences of instant wealth and a propensity for splashing the cash conspired against her. She died in 2015, having had a brief spell in the tabloid spotlight, followed by an extremely difficult time in obscurity and poverty. Think too of people like me, who recognise that it doesn’t have to be that hard. It usually is not the stuff that comes our way but the way in which we handle it that defines us. So, when a large bag of frozen Argentinian prawns came my way, I had an opportunity to win big and do some good.

Sous Vide Pork with Mango (9 of 9)

Sitting in the swelteringly hot office of Fresh Mango Exports Inc. is the chief sales and distribution manager, ‘Rocky’ Albert, cooling his lined and oily visage with a hand held fan. In walks Sunny, the youthful and earnest head of picking and packing. “Albert my friend, we have a problem. Last night’s storm has caused windfall in the mango grove. The fruit is nowhere near ripe. It looks like we’ll lose our shirts on it.” Albert’s leathery face breaks into a sly grin. “Don’t worry your pretty head Sonny, even if the cricket team don’t take them for practice, I’ll sell them to the Irish. They wouldn’t know a ripe mango if it fell off the tree on their heads.”

We were on a trip to the North of Spain recently, flying into the beautiful city of Santander and travelling to the regional capital Oviedo. If your view of Spain is formed by drinking copious pints of Watneys Red Barrel and eating the all-day English breakfast down on the Costa Del Sol, then you need to broaden your horizons and travel north to Asturias.

A tandoor is a type of traditional Indian oven that generates huge heat. Using a tandoor requires a deft touch and really accurate timing. Using my barbecue in the back garden is a lot more forgiving. I really enjoy a good Tandoori chicken. But, not being armed with the right equipment could be a handicap.

One other handicap many of us in the western world face when preparing ‘authentic’ Indian dishes is the pretty awful marinades and spice blends available. This is very often the fault of the sauce manufacturer’s marketing department (SMMD).

“What on earth is Lardo?”, I hear you ask. Only because I was in the “What is Lardo?” camp myself until my friend Katia brought me a piece back from a trip to Rome. Lardo is the cured back-fat of a pig. This may cause some of you to recoil in horror. Get over yourselves if you do. If you use butter, oil or margarine, you are using fat in your cooking. Lardo is fat. Lardo is not the sort of thing you should eat by the block. But, Lardo is a true delight when used correctly.

I am a very lucky guy in lots of ways. Both professionally and socially, I know more than my fair (or should that be fare) share of chefs and restauranteurs. Over the last few years, they have all, in various ways, been inspirational for me in developing my blog and the food that I prepare here. Kevin Hui, the affable and talented owner of China Sichuan here in Dublin is one such person. Recently, I told him that I planned to prepare Bao, the delicious steamed Chinese buns. I was surprised by Kevin’s reaction; “Don’t prepare the buns yourself. They are a pain to make. I’ll give you some.” This, of course had the opposite effect to that intended by Kevin. I had to make them.

%d bloggers like this: