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Oriental Pork Belly Sous Vide (11 of 13)

I have a dark secret. I lock myself in a darkened room. I make sure there is nobody around to catch me. Then I do it – I watch TV cooking competitions. Yes, I have even seen a couple of episodes of The Great British Bake Off, where Mary Berry with the help of a comedian (and the girl in the heavy specs), separate the competent from the inept. I’ve sat aghast at some of the efforts on Irish Masterchef. I’ve suffered foul-mouthed tirades of Gordon Ramsey on Hell’s Kitchen from the safety of my couch. Greg Wallace and John Torode regularly put in an appearance, criticising the pathetic efforts of people who obviously can’t cook and should not be asked to try. Why do I do this? 

Spiced smoked baby back ribs (11 of 12) I was going to title this piece “Curse you Canada and the moose you rode into town on”. But, that would be churlish of me. No, why should I damn an entire country because of my distress?  I just have to accept that youngest daughter has flown the parental nest and is making one for herself in a maple tree. 

Ants climbing a tree (11 of 13)We westerners have an ongoing love affair with Chinese food. Dishes such as Sweet and Sour Pork, Beef and Broccoli and Kung Pao Chicken have become firm favourites across the western world. The difficulty with this popularity is that the dishes tend to become westernised. The process of westernisation invariably takes the edge off the dish. Over time and repeated modification, to suit a jaded and flaccid western palate, it becomes a pale imitation of the original. Happily, we have not got around to ruining the delicious Sichuan dish called Ants Climbing a Tree. This is probably because we are put off by the name and have never taken it far enough to mess it up with bad cooking, fructose and preservatives. 

Pork belly stuffed with prunes (7 of 10)

I don’t often do this. But, I’m not recommending that you cook this recipe. Don’t misconstrue me. It’s not a bad recipe. It’s a pretty tasty way to prepare pork. But, having sourced some prunes (I’m not at the stage of life where prunes are part of my regular diet) and after laying my hands on a slab of free range pork belly, I can’t really recommend it. But, where did it all go wrong?

Rabbit and olive stew (15 of 16)I really am lucky in many aspects of my life. As an occasional lotto ticket buyer, I have a know that all I buy is the period of anticipation in advance of the reality of not winning. Sometimes, even that can represent good value. For clarity, I have not won the lotto. No, my luck is a bit different. It reveals itself in the love and support of my family and occasionally, through my bunch of great buddies with whom I go cycling. “How does any of this have anything to do with Rabbit Stew with Olives?” I hear you think loud. Let me explain…

Venison (19 of 21)I arrived home from work last Friday evening to find a strange man in our kitchen. Actually, it was my hunting friend Brendan. It’s not that he’s strange per se. It’s just that I wasn’t expecting him and I certainly wasn’t expecting him to have two beautiful cuts of venison as a gift for the Wife and I. He reminded me that he had promised to drop some in at some stage after a shoot. The promise to “drop some in” is one made often by hunters as a way of ending conversation with greedy non shooters. It leaves everybody’s dignity intact and is not a promise that anybody expects to be kept. I understand this and, recognising myself in the latter description accepted the promise for what I believed it to be worth. 

Spiced lamb shank (1 of 1)-2As I was struggling for an original dinner idea, I decided to ask a couple of foodie friends for suggestions. Given that I have cooked lamb shanks every which-way in the last while, when the best idea that emerged from their deliberations was “Why not do a lamb shank?” I wasn’t impressed. However, I hadn’t cooked them sous vide. So the thought arose and it didn’t really inspire me.

Ostrich with armenia cherry sauce (15 of 15)I’m not a head-in-the-sand kind of guy. I was brought up by my fantastic parents to face up to the anguish that life flings our way. When we get grief (the real stuff, not the “somebody stole my parking space” kind), psychologists say that we go through five distinct stages. These stages ware replicated in a lot of my cooking.

Beef and Guinness Stew Vide (17 of 18)I was out for a pint with a couple of friends recently. We were in a bar, on Dublin’s Thomas Street. There were a very few customers and the only action going on was the rhythmic ticking of the clock. As usual, when one is having drink and enjoying the company of Tara Sparling and her persistently patient better half, Mark, everything was good in the world.
Side note on Sparling: I first met Tara at a blog awards ceremony a couple of years ago. She writes about all things books and literary. In my opinion, she is one of the funniest writers around. Check out her blog here

North African Meatballs (12 of 12)There is something pretty exotic sounding in ‘Tajine Virgin’. Visions of fleeting glances at the desired mysterious, shrouded in veils, on the edge of a Souk, conjure up that feeling of raw animal anticipation. The allure tends to fade a bit as one realises that the virgin is in fact a baldy, past middle-aged man, with a penchant for flinging himself in at the culinary deep end at every opportunity. Having said that, I suspect there are few better ways to consummate your culinary coming of age than to cook this version of North African Meatballs in Spicy Sauce.

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