HomeArticles Posted by Conor Bofin

Author: Conor Bofin

Let’s face it. If you want to make anything sound that bit special, say it in French. A shrimp might be worth scoffing down. But a langoustine is something that has to be eaten with the reverence its embellished title deserves. Pommes Anna evokes crisp cotton tablecloths, silverware, crystal glasses and fine wines. With due deference to my eldest sister, “Anna’s potatoes” really doesn’t do much for the imagination. So when I cogitated preparing some sweetened duck legs in a plastic bag, it really had to be Duck a l’Orange Sous Vide. It may seem like déjà vu as I have done Duck a l’Orange here before.

“Boiled Chicken! You must be joking.” I hear you muse. But, this is no joke. Not only is this Chinese style boiled chicken delicious but it has a real bonus in store for you. But more of that later. This recipe uses a cooking method favoured by Chinese peasants. It is known as cooking on  reducing heat. In a country where firewood was in really short supply, this method had a lot to commend it.

Sorry in advance, but this one is a bit of a rant. “Go Back Where You Came From” This seems to be the underlying sentiment and backbone of some philosophies trumped at and by us today. I am offended on a number of levels. Firstly, the correct English is “Go back to from whence you came.” So, if you don’t understand your own language, don’t shout it at strangers.  My second level of offence is at the intolerance we show for each other at state level, and at every stratum of society, all the way to the most vulnerable. Thirdly, I am offended by the appropriation of the best culinary delights of numerous nations by those who believe the originators of those same recipes should “Go back where they came from.”  I don’t go with this line of reasoning. I welcome diversity and I believe that we need to welcome the people as well as their recipes. So, when my Indian friend Prateek started a conversation about Indian cooking, I took the conversation to a logical conclusion and cooked these Indian Style Lamb Shanks.

Is there such a thing as an authentic recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala? I doubt it very much. When I did my bit of research for this delight, I came up with a number of conflicting claims on the original. For many years, I thought that it was just some greasy, mild creamy muck that came in a jar from the supermarket. You know the type of stuff, hot colour, thin taste and a huge desire to drink lots of water later in the evening. There are claims that a Pakistani chef, operating in Glasgow, having run out of curry sauce, added some spice to his tomato soup and Chicken Tikka Masala was born. Others believe it to be an Indian original and I believe that England also lays a claim to its origins. In truth, most Chicken Tikka Masalas I have ever tasted didn’t merit anybody claiming the original.  So, I thought I should try my own.

This happens to me every summer. Torpor gets the better of me. It’s not that I stop cooking. I just seem to get into a fug of incapacity. I find I can cook and I can photograph. But, I just can’t write. It takes a really special dish to give me that mental kick in the apricots to force a bit of writing. This combination of free range pork belly and apricots is such a dish.

Don’t make a mistake about it, I’m a real hard-man. I walk tough, I talk tough. I can see out most of the bad-assed things that life throws my way. Though, there are a couple of exceptions to the rule of tough. I’m a sucker for a sob story. I can’t stand the sight of blood (particularly my own) and I am a fear-ridden jelly when it comes to the dentist.

 

Tomatoes are messy things. Purists tell you to drop them into boiling water until the skin splits. Then remove them and cool them, peel them, remove and discard everything except the outer flesh then use this in whatever dish you have planned.

That is far too much trouble for a midweek night dinner. But, I have found a solution. While on a recent trip to the north of Italy (To cycle the awesome Stelvio Pass. It is one of the world’s most beautiful and iconic climbs).

We recently got a steam oven at home. The oven has transformed our weeknight dinners Sous vide enthusiasts will know that one can cook sous vide in a steam oven too, depending on make, model etc. But, that’s for another day. During the week, we tend to eat a reasonable amount of fish with salmon being a once-a-week staple. In truth, it used to be a case of “Grilled salmon, it must be Tuesday”. This is not a good way to run your culinary life. The arrival of the steam oven has opened my mind to lots of different steamed dishes. High on the list of favourites is Sesame Ginger Chicken. It is a perfect partner to the egg fried rice I posted last week.

If there were awards for home cooking, there are plenty of contenders for the big accolades. I could put forward any number of culinary delights. Best Sous Vide Beef might be a fillet served with a lovely wine sauce. Roast Chicken of the Year would be hotly contended and there would be plenty of fish dishes hoping to net the big one. But, not many would be interested in helping the competition shine. My Egg Fried Rice is one contender. So, in my Imaginary Home Cooking Awards, the big actors can slog it out amongst themselves. We have one contender for what can be viewed as the best of the rest.

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