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Bacon and cabbage (12 of 12)St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner. It’s a little known fact outside Ireland that we short-of-stature and long-on-wit exchange gifts in advance of World Day of Drunkenness. I was lucky enough to be brought within the scope of benevolence of Pat Whelan, master butcher, advisor and innovator in all things meat related. This led to my cooking the internationally famous, traditional Irish staple of Bacon and Cabbage. But, I couldn’t leave it there. I had to put a modern twist on it. Hence, Bacon and Cabbage Two Ways. Sticking strictly with tradition, I served it with parsley sauce and floury potatoes. Also, with a ring of irony to it, I served it with a big dollop of English mustard. 

Roast pork and apple (7 of 9)Doesn’t the headline make you feel just a little bit uncomfortable? “He’s going to do something ironic and make us feel awful about eating pork.” “He’s going to pull at our heartstrings and make us think of the three little piggies and their curly tails.” “He’s possibly turned into a vegetarian!” Wrong on all counts. I just want to make the case for eating free-range, rather than cement cubicle raised, pork. That’s not unreasonable, is it?

Sous Vide Pork Chinese Style (17 of 19)I’m managing to totally befuddle myself. Up to a few weeks ago, I was pretty clear on the principles of Fusion Cooking. As I understood it, all one had to do was add some chilli, garlic, coriander leaf and a slice of lime to any tried and trusted European dish. Hey Presto! – Fusion Cooking. A regular beef stew could be transformed by the adding of a couple of bashed lemongrass stalks and a ghost chilli. Fusion was easy to understand, if less easy to comprehend. So, when I decided to cook some Sous Vide Pork Tenderloin Chinese Style, it was more confusion than fusion.

Steak Sous Vide (1 of 12)Let’s agree on something. This Sous Vide thing is pretty upscale. It delivers accurately, perfectly and deliciously cooked food every time. The soft texture of a piece of fresh fish cooked at 50º C for 30 minutes is sublime. The meaty taste and consistent ‘doneness’ of a nice steak given 53º C for between 1 and 2 hours will not be experienced by everyone. I have now, unwittingly become part of a distinguished, elite echelon of international gourmets.

Side note on echelons and gourmets: For those of you not in the know, echelons are always elite and gourmets always international. That’s just how it is. 

Dublin Pastie (12 of 12)While I was researching Cornish Pasties, I discovered that the former tin miners are a pretty defensive lot. They have the humble pasty protected under European legislation. By way of contrast, with their pasty protectionism, when the Duke of Wellington invented the Beef Wellington (I believe he carried a fillet steak and mushrooms into battle, hidden inside his left boot.), he didn’t say that the Beef Wellington couldn’t be prepared outside Ireland (for he was an Irishman). No, being both Irish and generous of spirit, he allowed anybody, anywhere prepare the now famous dish. By contrast with the complex and delicious Wellington, the humble pasty was originally some leftovers, wrapped in pastry, by a tin miner’s wife. So why, oh why, can one not prepare a Cornish Pastie anywhere outside Cornwall?

A symbol of the return to good economic times. Delicious.

This is dedicated to the end of economic austerity in Ireland. As is my way, I know what you are thinking. “What has a bit of pork belly to do with financial collapse and years of hardship for an entire nation?” In truth, the pork belly for me has become a symbol of our ingenuity and our ability to make the best of a pretty dire situation. Let me explain my thinking.

Sausage rolls (13 of 14)Any of you of ‘a certain age’ who have a navy blazer and a pair of sensible grey slacks hanging in the wardrobe, look away now. You are not going to like this one. I will admit that there are many things to like about Christmas. I suggest that you make a ‘nice’ list for yourself and refer to it on those occasions when you lose your temper queueing for the turkey and ham, or when the family presents don’t arrive from the magical Internet.

There are also a few pretty strident arguments as to why Christmas is a hateful time of the year. There is the guilt salving commercials on TV pleading for just €10 a month to fund the administration of some burgeoning charity. There is that feeling of self-loathing we get as we deftly ignore the carol singers’ outstretched bucket on our way to yet another Christmas boozing session. And there is the Dreaded Sausage Roll.

Spiced Beef (2 of 3) I have to caution you. I have conspired with others to break the law in bringing you this tale. I had decided I should tell you the story of Spiced Beef and the Spoiled Brat. It would be relevant and would allow me to post something festive without having to deck the kitchen with holly. All I had to do was cook the spiced beef. That’s where my descent into the murky underworld of international criminal activity began.

Beef Cheeks (1 of 1)

Yes, the picture really does tell the story. Beef Cheeks in Red Wine. A good friend of mine was suggesting recipes to me. He talked me into cooking beef cheeks (a first for me). He got to my penny wise side by extolling their value. They really are a cheap cut. That appealed, as anybody who knows me knows, I have a Scrooge side. The skinflint in me was happy until I decided to follow a recipe recommended by a more extravagant friend. 

Beef short ribs (1 of 1)When I had my recent poor experience of trying to buy some lamb shanks, I thought it was an isolated incident. However, I was wrong. There is an oft used expression in marketing circles. That phrase is ‘Retail Theatre’. You know the sort of stuff; a rotund, jolly looking chap carrying freshly baked bread on a tray above his head or the vegetable aisles that look similar to a Shakespearian street scene. I am all in favour of a bit of the theatrical when I’m out and about buying the staples. But, when style pushes a knife through the arras and kills substance as effectively as Hamlet saw off Polonius, It’s time for me to take to the stage.

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