Posts

Showing posts from March, 2020

Recipes from our Grandmothers

Image
I have written many times already about a tradition of food hospitality in my family. The Mothers' Day weekend has had me thinking about it again - this time about my grandmothers and the food I remember them cooking.

The daffodils at the head of the page are a reminder of my maternal grandmother. She loved the spring, and Grandad planted large numbers of daffodil bulbs in the borders around their front garden. He would always cut a few for her when they came out, which she would place in a glass to brighten up the house when the dreariness of winter was past. I've inherited her love of them. They are so simple, bright and cheery. I always keep an eye out for the first ones to bloom: I see it as proof that spring has finally arrived. Once or twice, I've bought a bunch and absent-mindedly reached into the cupboard for a glass to put them in. Some habits die hard! This winter and spring have been particularly difficult for us all, so I offer the image of these lovely, simpl…

St Patrick's day thoughts on Irish food & hospitality

Image
Rain.

Something Ireland has in abundance.

Soft, constant rain.

The Gulf Stream brings warm water up the Atlantic to the west coast of Ireland, ensuring the winters are never truly harsh, but it also ensures that the weather systems making landfall on that coast are well and truly water-laden. Cool air off the mountains condenses the water, which then falls as rain. It’s not great news for tourism, but it makes for fantastic agriculture.

Ireland has always been a producer of good food. The rain makes for rich pasture for beef and dairy cattle alike. Milk, butter and cheeses are sweet and plentiful. Beef is firm and flavoursome. Small-scale farming and crofting mean that sheep farming produces high-quality lamb and mutton that is much sought-after throughout Europe. However, it is the pig that dominates the Irish domestic table. You won’t go long in Ireland before being served pork, bacon or ham. Any country that has known widespread poverty and deprivation will come to depend on the p…

Learning new skills - butchery & charcuterie

Image
I mentioned a few weeks ago that I love the opportunity to try out new dishes and extend my range as a cook. This winter, a bit of quiet time allowed me to learn how to make the famous French charcuterie dish dodine de canard. This is made from a whole duck that has been boned out, stuffed with flavoursome forcemeat and baked whole. The process takes at least two days, as the duck has to be marinated overnight, when raw, then rested a second night when cooked. Only on the third day or after is it ready to be eaten. Served cold with mild pickles and salad, it makes a spectacular starter at dinner or a tasty main course for a cold lunch.

I first saw a dodine prepared on Michel Roux Jr's TV programme some years ago. Although I could never hope to match his talent, I still decided it was something I wanted to try my hand at. I found a blog that reproduced his recipe, and it seemed straightforward enough. Between the recipe and Roux's YouTube channel, I was confident my attempt wo…

Fine food with fine beers

Image
We've been drinking beer with food for centuries, but it's only in the last couple of decades that people have begun to give serious thought to matching food with beer. In the English-speaking world, especially, beer used to be seen as a working man's drink, and therefore unworthy of respectful consideration; wine was the drink of sophisticates. Working men were not expected to have discerning palates and an interest in what makes food taste good. As wine has become more popular, though, so too has to wine-drinkers' interest in food matching. I wouldn't have a blog if that cultural shift hadn't happened. Regardless of cultural class, these days there can be few drinkers unfamiliar with the idea of serving certain drinks with certain foods to enhance the appreciation of both. With the growth of interest in craft ales and micro-brewing, beer, too, has positioned itself as a drink for discerning and sophisticated drinkers, and sophisticated drinkers like to dine …