HomeArticles Posted by Conor Bofin

Author: Conor Bofin

Ireland is experiencing a period of glorious hot, sunny weather. It’s currently the warmest spell since 1977. In Ireland, when the warm weather hits, we strip off, rush out and burn our pasty skin to a nice lobster red. Families and gangs of what are euphemistically described as ‘youth’ descend on our beaches. Following long periods in the sun, blistering themselves and spreading a desecration of used nappies (families) cans (youth) and litter (everybody, it seems), they return to their homes for an evening family barbecue. Most satisfy themselves with spurious meats in radioactive looking sauce from the supermarket. Life can be better than this. Let me show you how.

“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).

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