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Author: Conor Bofin

Here in Ireland, we are such a bunch of hypocrites. We portray ourselves as being ruddy faced, outdoor types with knowledge that only someone born to wealthy working farmers could possess. We like people to believe we “know a fella” who can get us a poached salmon (uncooked poached that is) or a haunch of venison from “the Estate”, non, nod, wink, wink. When it comes to our feathered friends, a brace of pheasant or wild duck can always be had from “a lad I know”. This is mostly just tosh. Many of our better butchers now carry game in season and one only needs to pull on the wax jacket and green wellingtons to get from the car to the shopping centre.

Most of us who played team sports and grew up before the daft thought that “every kid is a winner and must get a medal” know the feeling of disappointment of being left out of the team, making the subs but not getting a game or even being taken off the pitch in the first half. It hurts. It also teaches some really valuable life lessons. Don’t worry, I’m not going to go off on a “Life sucks” rant. But, we all need to know how to deal with not being winners all the time. Life is just not like that. If all my recipe posts were winners, you would have read about my steak and kidney pie by now. There are winners, there are losers and there’s my steak and kidney pie. There are the ones that are really good but for some reason only make the subs bench. My really quite delicious Chicken and Black Turtle Bean Chilli has been on the bench for long enough. Time for it to join the first team.

Many people that I meet in business are offended by what they believe to be the overuse of business jargon. But, I have a different game plan. So, let’s open the kimono and deep dive into this really tasty dish, I’ll circle back with the ingredients and I will prove that Lemon Leg of Lamb really can deliver bang for your buck. I’m often asked how I come up with the ideas for my recipes. It’s really easy. I do a bit of blue sky thinking and then have a thought shower (outside the box, of course), punch the puppy a few times and by the close of play, I have run a few ideas up the flagpole. It’s that simple. 


Let’s get things straight, I don’t do book reviews. I don’t do restaurant reviews either (see footnote). If I am to criticise the work of others, I would first need to be better than them. If I were, it would demean me to denigrate them. If they are better at stuff or life than I am, I have no place criticising. It’s a tough position to hold. That’s why doing a review of Mastering the Art of Sous Vide by Justice Stewart is such a difficult task for me. Let me give you a bit of background on the man.

Butchers should love sous vide. They should be actively promoting the cooking method. They could, if they had the wit, see that the saving of their dying craft is tied to innovation. Domestic sous vide is such an innovation and could help on a path to profitability. Using sous vide, one can turn out a spectacular steak in just over an hour. I can turn out a spectacular steak in a lot less time without sous vide. Granted, the SV steak may be a bit tastier and a bit more tender. But, this is not where Sous Vide really shines.

The philosophers amongst us may start to waffle on about the unattainability of perfection. They may rub their chins (in a sage-like fashion) and let us know that it is what is removed and what is tolerated that brings us close to attaining this Nirvana. Yet, when I decided to wrap a simple fish cake in smoked salmon, I came as they say, pretty damn close.

“Why would you waste three days cooking a bit of beef?” “How can a cut like that taste good?” “Wouldn’t a nice fillet be tastier?” So go the questions. So goes the debate. I can tell you now. The debate is over. There is very little to be said. For the technical amongst you, this was beef cheeks sous vide 54/72 (129/72 American and 54ºC for 72 hours for the non technical). 

There is a lot written about food evoking childhood and other happy memories. I smile quietly to myself at the mention of a sugar sandwich or jelly and ice cream. Less pleasant feelings surface when confronted with over-cooked Brussels sprouts or boiled mutton and white sauce. Often we associate places with particular foods too. I can’t go into central Dublin without being hit with a particular memory from my teenage years. It was a dire, cold wet night. We had been into town to see a movie. I had just enough cash left to afford a bag of chips. The rest of the lads jumped a bus. I chose to trip around to Middle Abbey Street for bag fo chips. I scoffed it waiting, on Burg Quay, for the last bus. I was cold. I was wet and the crunchy chips were over-salted. I didn’t care. They were delicious. At the bottom of the bag, the fluffy potato was soaked in acrid vinegar that made me cough. I was in heaven on a cold, wet, Dublin night. Every time I cross O’Connell Bridge, that memory comes back to me.

You are probably reading this hoping it’s a software glitch in the Anova or a hacking of the Joule that has led to this culinary failure. It is technically true that an app was responsible for the issues. But in reality, it’s my own dumbass behaviour that was the problem. The app in question is WhatsApp and the issue had nothing to do with the sous vide end of the cooking. I started over two days out, planning a 48 hour cook of my short ribs. At this stage, everything went according to plan.

In an ideal world, all women would be a 10 so dress manufacturers would only need to make one size. Shopping would be a lot simpler too. Men would be happy with mid grey polyester-cotton trousers in 32” waist/ 34” leg. Retailing would be so much easier. In the same idiom, butchers could only sell mince meat and chicken breasts. Things would be so easy. But, for women, men and butchers, life is not that simple. Butchers need to offer a bit more than the top margin products that virtually sell themselves. Some try to do it by buying in a range of day-glow sauces and “adding value” by disguising the meat in these industrially produced “authentic” flavours. This may keep the wolf of competition from the door in the short term. Business logic tells me that the advantage will be eroded by supermarkets and this variety of independent butcher, like the guy trying to fit into size 32, will be under pressure again.

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