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Lamb shoulder sous vide (6 of 7)When I was a very young lad, we holidayed on Valentia Island, just off the Kerry coast. I still have memories of seeing a sow and her numerous porky offspring resting in the kitchen of a farmhouse. At the time, I didn’t think much about it. On reflection, they were much simpler times and we kids were happy sleeping three to a bed in our holiday home. There was no internet, no television, one channel on the radio and only a small river to amuse us children.

Jacobs Ladder Sous Vide (5 of 6)“What’s the ‘But….’?” you ask. The beef looks delicious in the picture. It tasted delicious, particularly with a beautiful, highly tasty, beef and wine reduction. The soft stem broccoli was lovely on the side and the celeriac mash was perfect too. So, what’s the problem? 

CrubeensI have been keen to post the photo above. It was taken, on 35mm, by my late father, in 1967 while we were at Puck Fair in Killorglin, Co. Kerry. The picture of a ’67 food truck gives a great insight into Irish life at the time. The typography tells me that Fish and Chips was the lead offer. Crubeens were a staple and Hamburgers were something pretty exotic. I had never cooked crubeens. Oh, they are pigs feet, for those of you not in the know. So, when Ety from Ethical Pork offered me a few, I knew I could redress the situation and have an excuse to show a wonderful bit of Irish social history from almost 50 years ago.

Lamb and Aubergine Curry ingredientsI like to have a plan, have all my ingredients lined up and get things done in pretty military fashion. At lest, that’s the aspiration. Sadly, often, the reality involves opening the press during the cooking, shouting some profanity at the empty space and then driving in a panic to the supermarket to get some essential spice or aromatic. This time, it needed to be different. I have been to cookery school (Yes, I have!). I have learned from the experts. I simply have to be able to prepare a Lamb and Aubergine Curry without the use of the car. 

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.

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