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My eldest daughter has, as they say in polite circles, some issues. She doesn’t like gravy. As if that’s not bad enough, she claims to like sauces, jeu and reductions. So, when I am preparing our regular Sunday family dinner, her expectations need to be managed. Beef with a pan reduction is wolfed down while beef with a pan gravy will be rejected out of hand. As if cooking for my extended family was not difficult enough! So, when I decided to serve them with a leg of lamb with anchovies, thyme and garlic and a rich gravy, I knew that there would be a sales job to be done.

I was visiting a new cook-shop in a local village. The proprietor, a pleasant enough young man gave me a good run down on the pots, pans, dishes and bowls. We were talking about food when he said “You write that blog, don’t you.” Flattered, I admitted that I do. he then said, almost to himself “Yeah, the style is very traditional home cooked type of stuff.” I muttered something in reply and left the shop. I was slightly miffed by the thought of my cooking being very traditional. So, I had a look at the blog. There are more than 50 oriental dishes and over 40 sous vide dishes hanging around. So, if that’s traditional Irish cooking, here’s what might be thought of as traditional Irish sous vide chicken ramen.

Recently, I had the great pleasure of making a presentation to the Associated Craft Butchers at their annual conference and exhibition in County Kildare’s K Club. My talk was titled “Can Butchers Fight Back?”. Independent butchers face huge challenges from a variety of directions. Life is hard for the average butcher. But, they are a stoic lot by nature (stoic is another word for grumpy) and are slow to complain openly. I hope that my talk gave those in the room something to think over. At the end of the conference, I was saying farewell to a couple of chaps from Irish Country Meats (they distribute lamb to the independent butchery trade in Ireland). The lads were clearing out their fridge and offered me a couple of lamb tomahawks to try. I couldn’t say no…

Last October, a bunch of us MIDRA (men in denial of the reality of ageing) went on a seven day cycling trip to the mountains of Southern Spain, taking in exotic, historic towns including Seville, Ronda and Granada. We also cycled up and down some huge mountains, some of our group conquering the Pico de Veleta, one of the greatest cycling challenges in Europe. The mountain is the third highest peak in Spain, and the highest paved road in Europe. Spain is a beautiful country and well worth the trip if you have the inclination. As in any group of men, there are leaders and followers. On the Spanish food front, our buddy Seamus is a leader. He has spent more time in that part of Spain, than the rest of us. Using his experience of the region, he took charge of some of our restaurant bookings. His thought, to give us some insight into local food traditions. One of the highs of the trip for me was the night we had the Spanish Oxtail Stew.

If you are planning a ‘quick dinner’, this is not the one for you. If you are thinking of buying a vineyard and making a quick killing, then look elsewhere. If you are buying beef shin and expecting it to be tender in anything under a working day, you are in the wrong place. However, if you are after an unbelievably tasty, flavour packed meal to please a crowd on a winter’s evening, read on my friend, read on. I’ll even tell you a bit about two of Bordeaux’s next generation of winemakers, from Kazakhstan, of all places.

Salt Baked Lamb (9 of 15)

There are lots of things in this life that appear to be interesting but remain untried. It’s not that I have led a particularly sheltered life. I’ve waterskied barefoot across lakes in County Sligo. I’ve ridden my bike to the top of Mount Ventoux in French Provence, I’ve drunk more than two gallons of beer at a sitting (not recently and not while on my bike) and I’ve managed to stay married to the one woman for the past thirty years or so. All of these (except the beer) seemed like good things to try. Yet, there are lots of other things that peak my interest but remain untried. Until last Sunday, Salt Baked Leg of Lamb was in this category.
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