Stews

There are some advantages of having a top end butcher as a friend. (There are plenty of disadvantages too, but that’s for another story.) One of the great benefits is having access to stock bones without having to demean myself by asking for “a few bones for the dog” as some are reputed to do. In chatting with said butcher, we got to talking about the possible difference in stock quality by using bones from a Wagyu carcass. The conversation led to an experiment. The rest, as they say is history.

“What is the old fool on about now?” “What’s with the +1?” I can hear you thinking to yourself. Give me a chance to explain. We have all heard people saying “It tasted even better the second day”. At least you should have heard that if you ever made a decent curry or spiced stew. If you haven’t been subjected to such praise, perhaps you don’t know how to cook in the first place. Then all the better for you because I am suggesting that when you cook this delightful spicy lamb and apricot stew, you leave it for 24 hours, reheat and enjoy. It really is so much the better for the day of melding flavours.

They say that one is lucky to be able to count one’s friends on the fingers of one hand, even if one is unlucky enough to have suffered a gory industrial accident that trimmed a couple of digits. But, we can all take comfort in the knowledge that our supermarket has our back. They love us. They send us money back vouchers and offer us tasty bits of cake as we enter the store. They always have smiling people in the promos on Facebook. They even go to the trouble of taking out full page advertisements in the Sunday papers to let us know the great offers that they have set aside for us. They are our friends after all. That’s the sort of thing friends do.

There is a lot written about food evoking childhood and other happy memories. I smile quietly to myself at the mention of a sugar sandwich or jelly and ice cream. Less pleasant feelings surface when confronted with over-cooked Brussels sprouts or boiled mutton and white sauce. Often we associate places with particular foods too. I can’t go into central Dublin without being hit with a particular memory from my teenage years. It was a dire, cold wet night. We had been into town to see a movie. I had just enough cash left to afford a bag of chips. The rest of the lads jumped a bus. I chose to trip around to Middle Abbey Street for bag fo chips. I scoffed it waiting, on Burg Quay, for the last bus. I was cold. I was wet and the crunchy chips were over-salted. I didn’t care. They were delicious. At the bottom of the bag, the fluffy potato was soaked in acrid vinegar that made me cough. I was in heaven on a cold, wet, Dublin night. Every time I cross O’Connell Bridge, that memory comes back to me.

We were on a trip to the North of Spain recently, flying into the beautiful city of Santander and travelling to the regional capital Oviedo. If your view of Spain is formed by drinking copious pints of Watneys Red Barrel and eating the all-day English breakfast down on the Costa Del Sol, then you need to broaden your horizons and travel north to Asturias.

Beef and Mushroom Stew (1 of 2)

We live in a rapidly polarising and intolerant world. More and more of us have no room to share with anybody who has different views, different religion, different nationality, different colour or different sexuality to ourselves. It’s kind of easy for me to take a stand on this as I don’t have a religion, have very few views on anything of importance, am a citizen of the world, in my underwear, I am a pasty colour that is best kept covered up and you can mind your own business on the sexuality bit.

Thai Beef Stew (2 of 9)I’ve been writing this blog for a few years now. Like all endeavours, it has it’s ups and downs. There are weeks when I am overflowing with ideas for stories and recipes. There are the fallow periods when I haven’t either a recipe or story idea that makes any sense. I have been through a thin patch recently and was beginning to think that perhaps I should park the endeavour for a while (That’s a euphemism for give it up entirely). Then, along came a thought; “What about a Thai style Beef Stew?”. Without thinking about it, I was thinking about it. I rummaged in the press and the fridge. Yes! lime leaves, coconut milk, lemongrass, chilli, ginger, garlic, potatoes and palm sugar. I just needed the beef and the spinach. Then I got to thinking about my motivation. Why do I write this blog? Why do I take the photos, process and publish them? Why do I devise and cook these recipes? 

I get a lot of fun out of the blog. It keeps me in touch with friends old and new from all parts of the globe. I learn lots and hopefully I give a little back. One of the ‘friends’ I have gathered to my metaphorical bosom (being male and of “a certain age” my bosom is most definitely metaphorical) is Adam J. Holland, the oddball Texan and author of the excellent RV Chronicles on his Unorthodox Epicure blog. I have cooked numerous chillies over the last couple of years, having been introduced to “real” chilli by the late and great Richard E. McGary our much missed Dallas blogger. Having received a gift of some chillies, I was delighted to tell Adam that I planned to cook a lamb chilli. His reaction surprised me somewhat….

beef-chilli-chunky-4-of-4
Back in the early 1960’s, there was a TV programme called The School Around the Corner, on RTÉ (Ireland’s then sole broadcaster). It was presented by the affable Paddy Crosby. On the show, he would interview schoolchildren. He had a way with him and managed to extract stories from the young ‘uns. Stories that were charming in their innocence. One infamous interview had a young lad telling a story about a horse that fell into a hole in the road. The horse was beyond saving. A vet was called and  he decided to shoot the horse. Paddy asked the innocent child “Did he shoot him in the hole?”. “No” replied the youngster, “he shot him in the head”.

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