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Meat

IMG_8146Over a year ago, I posted about my home-made burger. On reflection, I have to admit that there was little to make it stand out from the crowd. Time for a big rethink. Time for a reheat and while I’m at it, time for a challenge. There are over 300 million of you out there who believe that you make the best burgers in the world. Yes, Americans, I’m talking about you. You certainly make and eat the most burgers, consuming over 40,000,000,000 of them each year. Yes, forty billion burgers. But the best? I doubt it. Not withstanding the growing horse meat scandal across Europe, that will run for donkey’s years, we have the better ingredients here in Ireland. 

Part of the haul that he did not bring.

Part of the haul that he did not bring.

I am a big fan of the Coen Brothers. To my mind, they have never (hardly ever) made a poor movie. One of my absolute favourites is The Man Who Wasn’t There.  Billy Bob Thornton plays a barber who manages to be ‘not there’ in most of the events in the lives surrounding him. It is a wonderful production, beautifully constructed. I tell you this to set up a very strange happening (or non happening depending on how you look at it.) that took place, or didn’t take place, recently.

As is our habit, we had a family dinner here a couple of Sunday’s ago. A good friend from Australia did not arrive. He did not bring a freezer bag full of smuggled exotic fruit and vegetables with a prized pair of kangaroo fillets secreted in the bottom. That would have been something I would frown upon. He did not use his experience as a chef and all round creative genius to construct a delicious tasting starter for the assemblage. They are not used to that sort of thing and would have been spoiled by it, if it had happened. 

Venison shoulderLast weekend, a couple of friends and I decided that it would be a good idea to go for a long cycle on Sunday morning. It had been snowing and the forecast was for things to clear. So, with a degree of abandon, we met soon after sunrise and headed south.  Temperatures were holding above zero and after about 30 minutes cycling the pain (along with the feeling) went out of my extremities. 

Mushroom stuffed leg of lambFirst, the back story, then the recipe. My youngest was earning some extra cash by helping with some shredding in the office. A huge pile of shredding if the truth were to be told. She managed to fill 37 sacks of shredded documents in one day. Given her great work rate and in an effort to keep the “How much ‘ya payin’ me?” conversation to a modest enough number, I brought her out for lunch at a local cafe. While we were waiting for our food, we were discussing family dinner for the following Sunday. A leg of Wicklow lamb had made its way into my possession and this was to be the base of the meal.

Beef Short RibsSorry about the long headline but I have been talking to my butcher. He tells me that beef short ribs or Jacob’s Ladder, as it is known in trendier spots, is becoming quite chique. If the normal rules of economics prevail, prices will rise as popularity increases. So, don’t cook it. We want to avoid inflation here in Ireland. Things are bad enough. It is not as nice as it looks so don’t cook it. Please. 

Vinison StewWhat do you do? The Wicklow Hunter’s youngest brother calls to the office and leaves a sack. He tells me that it’s a gift from the brother. “All legal ‘an all” he assures me. I thank him profusely and check the contents. YES! It’s another venison leg, from a pretty young deer by the looks of it. This gets me thinking. 

Engineered cottage pieMy recent fish pie with waves post has inadvertently reignited an old controversy. Not the lamb v beef cottage / shepherds pie polemic but something I had not foreseen. It started pretty innocuously. At work, Matt started out being quite complementary about my wavy topped fish pie. This led to a discussion about the right toppings for different pies. The conversation moved around the office but agreement was not reached. I now need to make a stand and draw up the definitive set of rules. 

I used to think it was pretty straightforward. “Build it and they will come” was my approach. A pork stew was a pork stew. If I announced it and cooked it, they would be there, happy to be fed in the family kitchen.  In more recent times, I have noticed a worrying trend. The casual conversation is no longer “Whatyacooking Pops?”. No, it has shifted slightly towards “Oh, Pork Casserole. How are you cooking it? What are you adding? What will make it really special this time?”.

Let’s face facts. Norway is not at the centre of gastronomic excellence. Many believe that all they know about is salting, sugaring and burying various kinds of fish and meat before digging it up again and eating it. Not the best calling card for a premium cooking reputation. However, there is another side to these weather hardened northerners. 

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