Tomatoes are messy things. Purists tell you to drop them into boiling water until the skin splits. Then remove them and cool them, peel them, remove and discard everything except the outer flesh then use this in whatever dish you have planned.
That is far too much trouble for a midweek night dinner. But, I have found a solution. While on a recent trip to the north of Italy (To cycle the awesome Stelvio Pass. It is one of the world’s most beautiful and iconic climbs).
Please don’t judge me too harshly. This is hardly a recipe at all. It is a testament to great ingredients and a wonderful cooking method, little more. On the criticism front, I admit that I judge people. I know that I shouldn’t. But I do. No mater how morally fortuitous you are, I bet you are also in the ranks of judgers. Picture yourself in the line at the supermarket. The rake-thin woman in front of you has a trolly piled high with overpriced “organic” vegetables and little else apart from some quinoa and Goji berries. Her shop comes to the price of a small electric car. You think about the overspend, the waste of money and how painfully thin she looks. While she roots in her gym bag for a credit card, you look behind. The trolly aft, in the charge of a middle-aged man, with his belly hanging gracefully over his waistband, is laden down with supersize Coke family-value bottles, frozen pizzas, giant sacks of crisps, oven-frys and a few boxes of microwave popcorn. You feel OK about your shop. Yes, there are a few treats but, you are not wasting money on either “organic” veg or “family-value” sugar laden drinks. Admit it, you are judging. It’s very hard not to.
Sitting in the swelteringly hot office of Fresh Mango Exports Inc. is the chief sales and distribution manager, ‘Rocky’ Albert, cooling his lined and oily visage with a hand held fan. In walks Sunny, the youthful and earnest head of picking and packing. “Albert my friend, we have a problem. Last night’s storm has caused windfall in the mango grove. The fruit is nowhere near ripe. It looks like we’ll lose our shirts on it.” Albert’s leathery face breaks into a sly grin. “Don’t worry your pretty head Sonny, even if the cricket team don’t take them for practice, I’ll sell them to the Irish. They wouldn’t know a ripe mango if it fell off the tree on their heads.”
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.
The Americans are gas. They have the biggest democracy on the planet and they end up with the Donald as one of the two contenders for the most powerful position known to man (or to woman, if Hillary gets the gig). ‘The Donald’ has tried to attract specific groups by playing to their fears. This will prove to be a mistake. If I were to take a similar approach, we would build a wall in the Irish sea and I would call out some lovely Irish blogs (like Donna Hennessy’s A Cookbook Collection or Katia Valadeau’s Proper Food and say that you shouldn’t vote for them because they are run by women. Worse than that, Hennessy is the name of a drink and that Valadeau one is not even Irish. How can we let these people into an awards competition, let alone into the country? But, I’m not ‘The Donald’. Have a look at their blogs (if you must) and then vote for whoever you think is worthy.
After a winter of being cooped up in the kitchen, I checked the weather forecast and saw that it would be dry and bright. Having spent the dark winter days trying to time my cooking to coincide with the available light, I decided that I would prepare the food and cook outdoors. My plan was to do some beef burgers. I wanted to take advantage of the warm afternoon. So, I donned a t-shirt and headed outdoors.
I have a dark secret. I lock myself in a darkened room. I make sure there is nobody around to catch me. Then I do it – I watch TV cooking competitions. Yes, I have even seen a couple of episodes of The Great British Bake Off, where Mary Berry with the help of a comedian (and the girl in the heavy specs), separate the competent from the inept. I’ve sat aghast at some of the efforts on Irish Masterchef. I’ve suffered foul-mouthed tirades of Gordon Ramsey on Hell’s Kitchen from the safety of my couch. Greg Wallace and John Torode regularly put in an appearance, criticising the pathetic efforts of people who obviously can’t cook and should not be asked to try. Why do I do this?
If you are one of those people who believe meat comes from the supermarket, I suggest you find something else to read. Unless you happen to be a fan of the Walking Dead and such programming where the content leaves the viewer as zombified as the actors. If you are one such, you might revel in the gore to follow. But, I digress. We are gathered here today to show you how to prepare pheasant for cooking.
“57º for 48 Hours. They will be delicious.” Or, so came the casual (too casual as it turned out), throw-away remark. I gave a good bit of thought to what would go nicely with the Beef Shins Sous Vide, over the two days and nights the dinner was cooking. They were going to be epic. I would serve them with a parsnip purée. Beef and parsnip is a match made in heaven. I would make a delicious thick gravy from the bag juices. This would tie everything together perfectly.
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.