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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.

Lamb Shank CasseroleI’m a positive person who looks on the bright side whenever there is an opportunity.  I don’t often set out to write about failure. I do take a bit of pride in what I do. Even though my inclination is to hide my light under a bushel, I really hate to leave you unimpressed.

Pork and plums (6 of 7)I have been in a bit of a tizzy of late. I have found myself wandering the aisles of the supermarket, looking at the meat. Wandering with desire but little intent. The Wife has warned me off any random acts of meat buying. So, no matter how attractive the deal or how delicious the cut, I have been abstemious. My lunchtime walks around the Sandyford Business District have been a torture. “Look, but don’t buy.” has been the watchword. Home in the evening for ‘a nice bit of fish’ or ‘some healthy chicken’. I have had an unpleasant form of meat anxiety. I have been fretful and perspiring, in need of a good meat fix. That was until tonight.

Pork and bean stew (14 of 15)The expression ‘pork and beaner’ brings to mind a very grim time in modern history. Depression era USA had huge unemployment with transient populations doing what they could to keep body and soul together. Any of you young enough to wonder “What is the old git on about now?” should read some John Steinbeck to get an insight into that depressing world. Back then, a ‘Pork and Beaner” was a boxer, usually old, unskilled and destined for a painful bruising, who would fight for a plate of food. Often the staple, pork and beans.

Pork Chili

We Irish are all small little people. We wear greasy flat caps and are inclined to doff our forelocks to our betters. We are introverted and talk in such a thick accent that no civilised person can understand what we are saying. This leads to further introversion, perpetuating our inward looking approach to life.

The Texans, on the other hand, are all big people. They add to their grand stature by wearing snake-skin boots with Cuban heels and top off their suntanned heads with large multi-gallon hats. They speak in loud, booming voices and stride about in a powerful, overbearing fashion. We could not be any more different to each other. 

Fillet steak with porcini crust (15 of 16)In a café beside our office in Sandyford, they serve the scones on little wooden boards. I think they are called shingles in the building trade. Weatherproof, very trendy and they only need a wipe with a cloth between servings. When we have our coffee there, we have fun watching patrons scrabbling around on the floor to retrieve the mini jam jars that slide off the shingles like rain off a roof. The madness of using building materials in food presentation doesn’t stop there. No, we have grown used to the ‘trend’ for serving chips in buckets. With every shovel of the cement of fashion into the mixer of dining, we seem to move further and further into the building site.

Pork pie (2 of 3)The ‘what will he cook this weekend’ debate started out innocuously enough with: “What makes for a ‘real pork pie?”. “It needs to be a hot water crust.” was my contribution. Friend A suggested “If there isn’t a boiled egg, it isn’t a real pork pie.” Friend B recoiled in horror at the suggestion. For my own part, memories of my Mum making individual pork pies (with an egg) for my Dad’s fishing forays into the western half of the country pretty well decided the issue. I found myself committed to cooking a pork pie. 

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