Meat

I have a love-hate relationship with venison. Good venison is expensive and hard to come by. The standard of lots of the venison sold in Irish butcher shops is, in my experience, variable at best. Buying from a good, reputable butcher is important, if one want’s to avoid some of the pitfalls. Having said that, I have no issue with the lovely venison meat in this post. I got it specifically to make a chilli with layers of flavour built by using a range of chillis. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the different types of dried Mexican chillis. They can offer great variety of flavour and a warming depth to any stew.

I try my very best to not screw up. I don’t like that sinking feeling of making mistakes. I spent the early part (the first 40 years) of my working life on the service side of business. Having spent my time always trying (and occasionally failing) to meet the needs, wants and even whims of my customers, I have been left with a Pavlovian reaction to my mistakes. I own up, I apologise and I ask what I can do to make it right. So, picture me in the butcher’s wearing my mask, talking through the small gap in the perspex screen and intending to ask for a generous half kilo of venison mince. What arrived was a generous half kilo of veal mince.

I have cooked hundreds of lamb shanks in my time. There is a bevy of recipes here on the blog for all sorts of lamb shank delights. This one is a revelation. In some ways it is very simple, in others it is the result of planning and a bit of work that many of you are not going to do. You can, of course, cut some corners. If you do, you are on your own as I will have cut you loose and want no part of your second rate cookery. If you do follow along, you will enjoy an Oriental lamb shank treat.

Many of you will read this and think “Does he live fifty five kilometres from a steak restaurant?” Others of you, on the far side of the Atlantic may think “Does he live 55 miles from a steak house?” And some of you might even, quite cruelly in my opinion, think “Is the old fool trying to lie about his age while overcooking a bit of meat?” No, this is a pretty pathetic introduction to a post about cooking a great quality rib eye steak for myself and the Wife using the sous vide. 

Before we start, though I am from an advertising background, this is not a paid post. Nor is it a sponsored post, I just want to say thanks to some nice people, for doing nice things. A friend of mine, Andrew Watchorn gifted me some coffee beans to try from Blue Butterfly Coffee. Andrew had developed a new corporate brand for Blue Butterfly (a great job) and his enthusiasm spilled over so much that he wanted me to try the product. It is lovely coffee. If you are buying coffee in a café, restaurant or hotel around Ireland, keep an eye out for the brand.

There are some advantages of having a top end butcher as a friend. (There are plenty of disadvantages too, but that’s for another story.) One of the great benefits is having access to stock bones without having to demean myself by asking for “a few bones for the dog” as some are reputed to do. In chatting with said butcher, we got to talking about the possible difference in stock quality by using bones from a Wagyu carcass. The conversation led to an experiment. The rest, as they say is history.

So this post really should be titled “Don’t forget to photograph the sauce”. That is as close to an admission of stupidity as I am going to get. You will note one or two pouring shots further down. One of peppercorns and one of smoked paprika. The sharp eyed amongst you will notice that they are both poured into the same pan and they are both going into the pan empty. The truth is, I was playing around with a couple of lighting approaches. I wanted to be able to really freeze the stuff mid-air. A blur in a pour is a failure. So, I spent about an hour getting the two shots, picking peppercorns off the floor and out from under the fridge as well as cleaning the oven dish repeatedly. I think I got there in the end. However, I should have spent my time thinking about what I was doing. I was preparing Smoked Bourbon Beef Short Ribs and that needs a sauce. It had one. It was delicious. But, I don’t have a picture to prove it. Damn!

There is a lot of China bashing going on right now. This may be because of fear of the Covid 19 virus or it may be because of fear of a Chinese ascendency in a globalised world, or both. For now, sitting here in Ireland, half way between the US of A and China, I really don’t care which is the cause, give it a rest please. We are here to try a delightful dish inspired by the flavours of Sichuan, particularly the Sichuan peppercorn. It really is not a peppercorn. It doesn’t add any heat to dishes. But, it adds a fantastic flavour combined with a lip numbing effect. Lovely! So, with the politics out of the way, let’s get on with the cooking.

“What is the old fool on about now?” “What’s with the +1?” I can hear you thinking to yourself. Give me a chance to explain. We have all heard people saying “It tasted even better the second day”. At least you should have heard that if you ever made a decent curry or spiced stew. If you haven’t been subjected to such praise, perhaps you don’t know how to cook in the first place. Then all the better for you because I am suggesting that when you cook this delightful spicy lamb and apricot stew, you leave it for 24 hours, reheat and enjoy. It really is so much the better for the day of melding flavours.

Let’s face facts, many of the burgers one encounters in the big, bad world, are pretty bloody awful. Most of you see the sun come out, rush to the convenience store and buy a box of frozen patties (Who is Pattie and what did she do to deserve this treatment?). Then it’s home to the garden, to wipe the cobwebs off the barbecue. Then you take the wire brush to the grill. Next you fire it up and burn off last season’s leftovers. You throw the frozen patties on the grill along with some jumbo sausages, ribs, bacon, cofti, chicken wings and pork chops. You take pictures of the whole lot burning on the too-hot grill and share it to your social media. You swill a few cans of beer, over-eat, get the “meat sweats” and retire to snore through the worst excesses of your piggery. But….., there is a better way. Better for you and better for small producers creating great product sold through independent butchers who know their trade. The way forward is the Way of the Wagyu.

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