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Would he be an overbearing, arrogant Frenchman?

Would he be an overbearing, arrogant Frenchman?

I had some trepidation growing in me as our pre-arranged meeting with Stéphane Gabart, the author of the delightful My French Heaven blog loomed. The arrangement was made some months before our trip to France in July. As the time got closer, I found my psychosis growing and was asking myself “What if he is a pompous French git?”, “What if he lords it over us with his superior French attitude?” “What if he doesn’t speak English?”, “What will we talk about?” I allowed the pressure to build and build inside my head right up until Stéphane greeted the Wife and myself at his beautiful home. “This is a mistake.” were the words that nearly escaped my lips as we got out of the car to meet the man.

Barbecue Rack of Lamb (9 of 9)It seems that my “Ireland’s Greatest Ingredients” series is gaining some traction. I was happily cooking, writing and posting about the fantastic foods we are so blessed to enjoy in Ireland. Happy, that is, until I got the call from the Section for Magnificent Dining Experiences. Yes, such a Section really exists.  It is housed in a secure area in a sub basement below the Department of Agriculture. Secret access is through warren-like passages hidden behind a false freezer door in the kitchens of a well-known Molesworth Street hotel. The secrecy is vital, I am told, to protect the Section from the now regular attacks by disgruntled farmers who, depending upon market pricing and rainfall levels, overrun the Agriculture offices with sheep, cattle or pigs.

Spiced leg of lamb (4 of 5)

I know, I know, I posted a spiced leg of lamb a few weeks ago. That one was pretty delicious. The herd (or heard if things are not the way they want them) were fulsome in their praise. So, I thought it would be good to get a leg of lamb in as number two in my occasional series Ireland’s Greatest Ingredients.

Having prepared a pretty fine dish, this one didn’t raise a single complement. Not one word. Five of them sat around the table and said nothing. Not a single word…

Fruit Stuffed Pork Steak (19 of 20)

No, I have not become a vegetarian or a vegan or anything else beginning with ‘v’. No, my instincts about stuffed pork steak was honed and formed many years ago. Back in the day, pork steaks were stuffed with breadcrumbs, parsley and some scant seasoning. They would then be cremated “…to be sure the meat is cooked”. Dry pork steak stuffed with even dryer breadcrumbs makes me think of eating a piece of wet leather retrieved from a sawmill floor. Not that I have ever done such a thing. Though, I think you get my drift….

Indian Lamb Shanks (24 of 24)I had a great post organised. What could be easier to write about? Indian style lamb shanks made from delicious Irish lamb.  Also, we had decided to make our own coconut milk from scratch. That had to be something most of you haven’t tried. This was going to be easy. So I concocted the recipe, organised the ingredients, cooked the meal and photographed the proceedings. Why then, did I find myself writing, scrapping and re-writing this post four times? That was until I saw Karen’s recipe for Lamb Shanks with Gremolata Crumbs. That fired and inspired me. 

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. 

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