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Meat

Beef fillet with hazelnut herb crust.“Only a fool would mess with such a beautiful piece of beef.”

“Pepper it, salt it, fry it.”

“Are you sure you want to experiment with that? It must have cost more than the national debt!”

My expected guests were all of similar minds “Don’t mess with the beef.” seemed to be the unanimous theme. Like the late Margaret Thatcher, I was not for turning. Unlike the late MT, I was not wearing a blue dress. I was cogitating a new recipe for beef fillet.

Spiced Leg of LambLet me set out my stall nice and early here. I subscribe to the ‘Craft’ school of cookery. Please don’t confuse this with the similarly named conglomerate, I don’t subscribe to them. My ‘subscription’ to craft rather than science is based on my own laziness rather than any dark art that I have evolved or inherited over the years. As any regular reader will know, I tend to throw things together based on what I think should work. The results are not always perfect. In fact, the results are often pretty disappointing. My supportive family sits around the table lying to me. “No, it really is pretty good.” “I love the chewy texture of the meat.” “Actually, I like my vegetables nice and watery.”

Toad in the Hole

A friend of mine was suggesting something fun to cook in celebration of Ireland’s imminent victory played away against old rivals England in the 6 Nations Rugby Championship. One of us mentioned Toad in the Hole, as classic an English dish as one can find and a suitably juvenile play on words. There is a bit of the teenage sniggerer in many of us and when I found myself in the butcher’s later in the morning, I had to buy some Toulouse sausages (another pun, in case you didn’t get it) to make this simple and extremely lardy (Perhaps like the English rugby team?) dish.

Carne AdovadaDamn those darned Texans and their big attitude, big hats and big generosity. I was having a pretty easy time over here on the east coast of the Emerald Isle when Richard McGary suggested “You should try Carne Adovada. You have all the chillis you need in the chilli parcel. Now, a suggestion like this from most other people would prompt a response like “Yes, of course, I must give it a go one of these days.”.  (That is an Irish way of saying “Thanks for the suggestion. I will never do it, not in this or any other lifetime.”). But, the gentle prompt from the refined McGary leads me to the cooking, my eldest daughter to buy a tortilla press and her boyfriend, to get the appropriate corn flour.

Beef and BroccoliThis is probably the simplest of the easy oriental series so far. While I was doing my online research (seeing how others have photographed the dish) I came across the phrase “takeout standard” on a couple of blogs. I won’t provide links here as it probably is not fair to diss the efforts of fellow food bloggers. But, let’s get real. If the height of culinary ambition is to match the dross sold in most Chinese take-out, we are wasting each other’s time. So, either read on my friends, or reach for the phone and that menu you found in the letterbox. 

Beef stock (1 of 15)“Three days seems like a lot of trouble for a few cubes.” said the Wife. I was finding it difficult to disagree with her. Enthusiasm had once again got the better of me and I set about preparing some seriously reduced beef stock to use as a base for stews, sauces and gravies. My butcher friend, Long John, (not to be confused with his colleague Big John) had very generously dropped off some beef bones. “This shouldn’t take too long.” I mused to myself as I took out my new stock pot. How wrong could I be?

Venison shanksI blame the lingering recession / bank crisis / political ineptitude (pick whichever one you fancy) here in Ireland for young families following so many from previous generations and emigrating. Back then, it was a big thing. Children left and lost all contact with parents. It was a real life sentence. Nowadays, there’s a lot of emotional claptrap spoken about this, usually by people who like to look backwards into our fraught history rather than forwards into a brighter future. With low-cost air fares, Skype and generally improved living standards, the long journey is not the trauma it once was. The other end of the world, yes. But not the end of the world.

Herbed Rack of LambIf you are planning to cook rack of lamb, it’s best to get your maths right before you go out to the shops. It is not difficult. There are eight chops on each rack. If there are less, it is either rack of (insert other animal name here) or somebody has been scoffing what is rightfully yours. If there are more than eight then it is rack of (insert name of animal that lives near a leaky nuclear power plant here). The maths problem comes about because rack of lamb is a “three chops each” dish.

Mapo Tofu If you’ve come this far with me in this little series, you may as well go the whole way. No, this one can’t be done with your usual supermarket ingredients. You are going to have to make a trip to the Asian supermarket. But, before you throw your hands in the air and mutter something that demeans your spirit, take my word for it, the journey will be worth it. This is probably the most famous dish from the Szechuan region, a provence famed for it’s fiery food. The bad news is that it is very, very (extremely very) hot. The good news is that it is really easy to prepare. The bonus is hot or not, it is delicious.

Red Wine Mushroom Risotto (15 of 16)THIRD PLACE! I don’t do third place when it comes to my cooking. When the weekend comes around in our house, I am master of the kitchen. I rule. What I say goes and everybody likes what I produce. Possibly because there is no competition but that is another story. But there was little I could do in this instance. Shockingly, the Wife and Stefan both conspired against me….

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