This is probably the simplest of the easy oriental series so far. While I was doing my online research (seeing how others have photographed the dish) I came across the phrase “takeout standard” on a couple of blogs. I won’t provide links here as it probably is not fair to diss the efforts of fellow food bloggers. But, let’s get real. If the height of culinary ambition is to match the dross sold in most Chinese take-out, we are wasting each other’s time. So, either read on my friends, or reach for the phone and that menu you found in the letterbox.
“Three days seems like a lot of trouble for a few cubes.” said the Wife. I was finding it difficult to disagree with her. Enthusiasm had once again got the better of me and I set about preparing some seriously reduced beef stock to use as a base for stews, sauces and gravies. My butcher friend, Long John, (not to be confused with his colleague Big John) had very generously dropped off some beef bones. “This shouldn’t take too long.” I mused to myself as I took out my new stock pot. How wrong could I be?
For a while now, I have been planning to cook the simple French classic of Steak Frites (steak and chips to you and me). As chance would have it, I was out and about and called to see the new James Whelan Butcher shop in the Avoca store just off the Naas Road outside Dublin. I was lucky enough to bump into Pat Whelan, son of James and the driving force behind the growth of the business. We had a good chat and Pat’s passion for Irish beef and all Irish farmed food really drove the conversation.
Nothing is likely to upset a Texan more than telling him you can cook a better chili than he can. No doubt, his recipe will have been passed down through generations of trail hardened cow-pokes. The exact mix of chili, the cuts of meat to use and the number of cans of beer are all closely guarded family secrets. They demonstrate their culinary prowess by boiling up great pots of the stuff on the back of pick-up trucks while downing slabs of beer, tipping back their ten gallon hats and belching to each other. Or so I hear…
For those of you that don’t know the story of Richard McGary’s combination of extreme fun and generosity, you need to read about the McGary Chili Challenge. For those of you who do know the story, you will appreciate that there was plenty in that food parcel. Given the continuing downbeat economy in Europe, I need to let you all know that we are very happy to receive such gifts in Ireland. Particularly, if they are as well thought out as Richard’s.
Sorry about the long headline but I have been talking to my butcher. He tells me that beef short ribs or Jacob’s Ladder, as it is known in trendier spots, is becoming quite chique. If the normal rules of economics prevail, prices will rise as popularity increases. So, don’t cook it. We want to avoid inflation here in Ireland. Things are bad enough. It is not as nice as it looks so don’t cook it. Please.
My recent fish pie with waves post has inadvertently reignited an old controversy. Not the lamb v beef cottage / shepherds pie polemic but something I had not foreseen. It started pretty innocuously. At work, Matt started out being quite complementary about my wavy topped fish pie. This led to a discussion about the right toppings for different pies. The conversation moved around the office but agreement was not reached. I now need to make a stand and draw up the definitive set of rules.
The other evening, I was ruminating about what to cook for Sunday dinner. I was thinking of doing something totally Irish and I had got as far as deciding on beef ribs when my musings were interrupted by the Wife; “Whiskey, Honey?” she asked with her usual economy of language. “Yes” I replied as inspiration dawned, “That’ll do it”. So I enjoyed a glass of Bushmills and plotted Sunday’s feed.
I’m an Irishman and proud of it. I am married to an English lady. These are both good things on a number of levels: She has put up with me for over 20 years. We have two mostly wonderful daughters. Because of her origins, I can get away with stuff others can not. I can talk in slightly derogatory and jocular tones about ‘The Brits’ and excuse myself by admitting to being happily married to one.