This is a “non commercial” post. I was in with my friend, James Lawlor, the butcher over in Rathmines. James recommended Harry’s Nut Butter to me and gifted me the jar you see in this post. He also suggested I do a post about it as the producer is a start-up who is doing great stuff in the local marketplace. That’s reason enough for me. (The free jar of product had no influence. I’m cheap, but not that cheap).
I like to post my cooking victories here. I love that people see me as a cut above when it comes to home cooking. Having sous vide in the armoury really helps in that perception. This was a delicious crumble. It was elegant, flavoursome and had the perfect balance of softness to crunchiness. The addition of the Grand Marnier added a layer of sophistication that I could use to elevate my reputation. But, I have to be at peace with myself when I go to bed at night.
During our summer holidays, we got to stay on a plum farm in Agen, in the south of France. While we were there, we got to enjoy lots of the truly fine local produce. Our hosts gave me a supply of delicious prunes (dried plums) which I enjoyed so much, I had to get more to try the classic dish of the region Agen Prunes in Armagnac. It would have been rude to not try it given that Agen sits beside Armagnac and it really is a delight. Have mine been successful? Like I say in the headline, I’ll tell you at Christmas. I made them last week (October) and they are now hidden away in a dark press in preserving jars. They are out of sight so they have a good chance of making it to December 25th, by which time, they should be perfect.
I love crumble. A decent crumble is a series of contrasts. Texture, taste, tone – all three are complemented by the addition of a bit of creme fraiche which brings temperature and luxury to the party. My grumble with crumble is that so many of them skimp on the crumble and don’t do contrast. If you make a crumble with rhubarb and ginger, you can afford to leave the base mixture pretty tart. To contrast that, the crumble can be nice and sweet. The crumble has to crumble too. That could be another grumble.
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.
I have a bit in common with apricots. I can be a bit dull and uninteresting, often outshone by others. However, like apricots, if I’m pickled in brandy for long enough, I too am transformed into a thing of glorious beauty and attractiveness. Perhaps I might abandon the analogy at this stage as this personal transformation only goes on in my head, the effects don’t last and the memory tends to make me shudder with guilt and remorse.
I tend to do our weekly shopping. The Wife likes to have a kiwi fruit with her morning muesli. I like to deliver a week’s supply of perfect kiwis to preserve her good humour and to avoid waste. While in the supermarket, I behave like an old woman with a wheeled shopping basket, squeezing the fruit to find what I want and what I don’t. If my thumb goes through the skin, leave it behind. If it’s like rubbing my chin with three day old stubble, I leave it there too. Getting fruit at the correct ripeness is not easy. So, I get upset with the retail fruit marketing baloney I read. There is a stand out phrase “ripen at home’. What this means is the fruit is at the three day stubble stage and you can take a flyer on it. It may ripen or it may just go mouldy. So, when I inadvertently picked up a pack of ‘ripen at home’ peaches, I needed a plan.
Wandering the fruit and vegetable markets in southern France can be inspiring. This year, we have spent some time in the big Sunday market in Libourne, about 40k outside Bordeaux on the Bergerac road. There was the usual range of wonderful stallholders, selling delicious produce at fantastic prices. I was attracted by some magnificent looking cherries. I wanted to buy them. The Wife advised, as she often does, caution. What were they for? Had I a plan? Did I know what I wanted to cook with them?
I believe it’s important to face up to one’s shortcomings. If you can get into the way of doing this, it is very good for the soul. It also allows you negate the scornful snickering and finger-pointing of those with less emotional intelligence than you. I am lucky enough to live in a bliss-filled house where the Wife never alludes to my failings and daughters have only praise for my efforts in the kitchen. My beloved mother does as she has done for over 50 years. She doles out gentle encouragement for my culinary adventures. That’s all true up to a point. We passed that particular marker when I tried to cook Whiskey Marmalade Steamed Pudding.
I really don’t care if you think that this is an act of despicable laziness and crass in the extreme. It probably is a bit of both. Two Christmases ago, I posted about my mince tart. It is buried deep in the bowels of One Man’s Meat. A year after that festive, culinary triumph, I went to a lot of trouble to prepare traditional shortbread biscuits. They too are buried, just not as far down the list. If you are new to the blog, you will be delighted to have a couple of recipes, served up just too late to prepare for Christmas 2014. If you are an old codger who tends to forget things that happened over a month ago, these will be new to you. If you take insult at the ‘old codger’ descriptor, take heart, in time, you will forget that too.