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They say that one is lucky to be able to count one’s friends on the fingers of one hand, even if one is unlucky enough to have suffered a gory industrial accident that trimmed a couple of digits. But, we can all take comfort in the knowledge that our supermarket has our back. They love us. They send us money back vouchers and offer us tasty bits of cake as we enter the store. They always have smiling people in the promos on Facebook. They even go to the trouble of taking out full page advertisements in the Sunday papers to let us know the great offers that they have set aside for us. They are our friends after all. That’s the sort of thing friends do.

“Ray Spines”, sounds like the name an author might inflict on a dodgeball insurance salesman who wears a Hawaiian shirt and a pork pie hat. His long suffering wife would have to be called Barb and he would have a minor role in a particularly gruesome murder mystery. That’s one Ray Spines for you. My ray spines are a different kettle of fish. Let me back the boat up a bit.

There are few meats more tasty than a roasted leg of Wicklow lamb, garlic and rosemary studded, cooked pink and served with a traditional gravy and boiled potatoes (with a green veg for form’s sake too). There are a few half decent recipes here on the blog for such like. However, I like to try out my ideas and I often (I really mean rarely) listen to suggestions from friends and family. So, when a friend suggested I should part roast and part steam a leg of lamb “low and slow”, I was delighted (reluctant) to try it.

Because of geography, interest and dumb luck, I know a good number of butchers. I also know a number of good butchers. But let me tell you about some of the things that help to make a good butcher great.

  • Understanding the customer is a great thing. But understanding on its own will not a great butcher make. 
  • Product knowledge helps when cutting steaks, yet it won’t cut the mustard in the greatness stakes.
  • Stocking the unusual is in itself unusual and is a great help.
  • Enthusiasm and passion are essential ingredients too.

When you come across all of the above, you know you are dealing with greatness.

“Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Man” – what a laugh.

My British friends, for I have a few, are more against than in favour of Brexit. I also hold an anti Brexit viewpoint. Looking on from the other side of the Irish sea I am aghast at the collapse of the already low standards held by so many UK politicians who seem to be scrabbling for party or personal power, caught up in a perfect storm of self interest. Apart, that is, from the leader of the opposition who takes up position sitting on his hands. Pathetic stuff. Perhaps the olde English phrase of “Opportunity makes the man”, from the original  “Opportunity Makes the Thief” is more appropriate to the sad behaviour we see. I am also astounded at seeing so many of my generation steal the opportunity that they squandered from the next generation. History will judge and not kindly.

I apologise for the dumb-assed headline. Had I listened to my own advice when I was younger, I probably would have the wit to write a better one. There is no doubt that an education is a gift that, like youth, is often wasted on the young (with apologies to Oscar Wilde). There is bad news for any of us who would have been more interested in what was going on out the window than on the blackboard. Lifetime learning is now the order of the day. So, when I attended a cookery demonstration by one of Ireland’s most accomplished chefs and all round nice guy, Derry Clarke, I should have had my brain engaged.

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. 

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