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Summerhill Farm (4 of 41)

When we Irish say “grass fed” we mean “grass fed”.

Competition is the life blood of commerce. However, many Irish retail businesses have suffered a perfect storm over the past few years. None more so than the independent butchers. While there are huge problems, it’s not all bad. And for those of us interested in real food, there might just be a nice fatty lining to the meaty retail cloud.

Pork Wellington Sous Vide (12 of 12)

Or, “How Far Will I Go To Keep It Local?”

If you don’t know by now that we were on a break in the Dordogne, you need to read the blog more often. While there, we prepared a meal with strict guidelines. Everything had to be really local. Leave aside that I had driven a round trip of about 1,800 kilometres to get all ‘low food miles’ for the dish. It was more of a challenge than a protest for me so I got cogitating. I settled on the above using local air dried ‘black ham’, local mushrooms, local free range pork, green beans and potatoes from the local market, walnuts from the huge farm down the road and we drank wine from the vineyard next door. It doesn’t get more local than that. The meal was a great success and I vowed to recreate it at home.

Brocante in France (1 of 12)I think that this post will appeal to the food bloggers amongst you. The rest of you will think it’s all a bit nutty.  When I’m not in the kitchen, slaving over a hot camera, I get a great deal of fun finding the occasional prop or gadget that will help make this blog that bit more my own and original. I do this partly through using old crockery and cutlery. It is getting increasingly difficult to source quality at a rock bottom price.

I have a bit in common with apricots. I can be a bit dull and uninteresting, often outshone by others. However, like apricots, if I’m pickled in brandy for long enough, I too am transformed into a thing of glorious beauty and attractiveness. Perhaps I might abandon the analogy at this stage as this personal transformation only goes on in my head, the effects don’t last and the memory tends to make me shudder with guilt and remorse.

The traditionalists amongst you might be a bit horrified at the prospect of drinking red wine with fish. Particularly with a fish as ‘white’ as hake. The key is the other ingredients in this sort of stew / soup / bowl of deliciousness. When you have got over your shock at my suggestion of red wine with fish, I encourage you to try Poached Hake in Tomato and Red Wine Sauce. Anybody who enjoys a good read will love preparing this.

I have a theory about so many of the highly flavoured and sugar laden ‘rubs’ that are used to enhance pork on the grill. I think that the reason they exist is to try to bring a bit of life to otherwise insipid and uninteresting meat. Some of you may spring to argue with this assertion. You might say “If you ever tasted my Uncle Jessey’s ten chilli rub, you would know how flavour can punch you in the gullet.” or “Sue Ellen does a mean brown sugar, corn syrup and honey wet rub.” I don’t deny that either of these probably have some value to add (Lord help us!). My issue is with the unfortunate meat that so many rubs serve to aggrandise. I’m not trying to cause any friction with my rubbing. I’m just making the case here for high quality meat, a balance of rub flavour and some gentle smoking.

Pork with ancho and cherry sauce (1 of 10)

Just over a year ago, I was asked to come up a recipe for a fundraising barbecue. The brief was straightforward. It had to use pork. It had to be simple, as it was going to be prepared in quantity, and it had to be a real crowd pleaser. With all that and seasonality in mind, I devised a delicious Pork with Ancho and Cherry Sauce. I was delighted with it. Then it all went wrong.

As Oriental as they get.

Globalisation is a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing in that it introduces us all to foods and flavours from all points on the compass. It also has a very annoying habit of promoting fake food. Many Brits are shocked when they discover that the most popular Indian dish in Great Britain the ‘classic’ Chicken Tika Masala is English not Indian. Tempura is Portuguese and Sauerkraut hails back to the building of the Great Wall, not a German in sight. Not that any of these are fakes they are just misunderstood. The fakes are in the ranges of foods like the Tex Mex crud of which any Texan would be ashamed or the Oriental sauces that sell themselves by combining fake flavouring with too much sugar. We buy it because it has a picture of a junk  and  some vaguely oriental looking text on the label. Thats globalisation for you.

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