IN AN IRISH STEW

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

In the “old days” (say fifty years and before) farmers used to keep a proportion of the flocks of their sheep for several years. They would produce several lambs in this time. After which they would be killed and eaten as “Mutton” (any animal of more than one year qualifies for this definition). This was tasty, but tough and often with a good leavening of fat. Hence “slow cooking”, either by boiling (as in Ireland and the UK) or slow pot-roasting (as in Kleftiko) was customary, to tenderize and break down some of the fibres of the meat. Those with lesser incomes opted for the cheaper, tougher parts and slow-cooked.

In earlier times, Ireland was poverty-stricken and ridden with starvation – hence the emigration of a large number of its people to the United States and other countries. Ordinary people often had very little and sometimes no meat in their diets. What there was was often tough and fatty and, chopped up in small quantities, used to “extend” the quantity of stews or casseroles. One recipe became the generic “Irish Stew” and known around the world, wherever the Irish went.

The lines below are a parody from the British humorous magazine, Punch (circa 1860) which would have been sung to the tune of a very popular Victorian song, or “air”, called "Happy Land”. They are also the virtually complete recipe.

Irish stew, Irish stew!

Whatever else my dinner be,                                                                                                                                                                     Once again, once again,

I’d have a dish of thee.

Mutton chops, and onion slice,

Let the water cover,

With potatoes, fresh and nice;

Boil, but not quite over,

Irish stew, Irish stew!

Ne’er from thee, my taste will stray.

I could eat Such a treat Nearly every day.

 

clip_image002

Classic Irish stew! Perfect for a winter’s day.

IRISH STEW RECIPE

Ingredients for 4 – 6 servings

800g stewing lamb (ask the butcher to cut off the bone and into pieces, or use cutlets with bones removed)

2tbsp vegetable oil

500g potatoes, more if you like, peeled and cut into chunks

2 medium onions

150g carrots, chopped

2 leeks, sliced Seasonal ingredient

100g pearl barley

750ml lamb stock

¼ of cabbage, sliced

Sea salt

Freshly ground pepper

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 160 C.

2. In a large frying pan heat a tablespoon of the oil over a moderate heat.

3. Add the lamb, and fry until brown, turning it over from time to time.

4. Remove the lamb and place in a lidded casserole pan, cover with the potatoes, onions, leeks, carrots, pearl barley and season.

5. Add the stock and cook in the oven with the lid on for one hour.

6. Add the cabbage and cook for a further hour adding more stock, if required. Serve hot.

7. Some cook books recommended drinking Guinness or other dark beer with it. Me, I’ll take a glass or two of a good young Cyprus red.

IRISH HOT POT

To transform this recipe into an Irish hot-pot, you add a couple of the lamb’s kidneys, and remove the lid for the last half hour of cooking. You bring the potatoes to the top of the stew, and put them back in the hot oven to brown the edges. I like to add a couple of dumplings per person to this stew (put into the pot 45 minutes before serving)

Fennel Braised with Tomatoes

clip_image004         Plainly braised or turned in a little butter our Cyprus fennel is delicious as a side dish to roast meat, or even fried fish. Add another flavour with tomatoes and, with some fresh bread and a glass of wine you have a lovely light lunch.

Ingredients for four servings

2 Fennel bulbs, leaves, tops and choggy bits removed.

2 Sprigs of flat-leaf parsley.

2 Small garlic cloves

Half can (400g size) of tomatoes, drained and chopped (Or two or three fresh, ripe tomatoes, skins removed. I don’t mind the pips, but remove these, too, if you like)

60 ml (half cup) of extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

Method

1. Cut each fennel bulb in half, from top to bottom, then slice each half length-wise, 1 cm thick.

2. On your chopping board, combine parsley and garlic

3. Chop finely.

4. Place mixture in a medium-size heavy flame-proof casserole.

5. Add the fennel, tomatoes, and olive oil.

6. Season with salt and pepper to taste and pour in 125 ml of water.                                                                                                                        7. Cover and simmer over low heat for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the fennel is tender.

At Last! Cyprus Wine on the Web

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Many years have elapsed before Cyprus wines have become properly represented on the Internet. It doesn’t seem long – a few months, perhaps – since I searched the Web and there was not a definitive source of information about the vines, wines and winemakers of Cyprus. Looking recently I found one. It is called Cyprus Wine Pages and it is the work of Yiannis Constantinou, who has written very well about Cyprus wines for some years. The site contains both Greek and English pages and the information about 28 of the leading wineries is comprehensive. The site needs a bit of tidying up, enabling the viewer, especially foreigners, to traverse it more easily, but it is an excellent start. I congratulate Yiannis. And shame on the government organisations concerned with vines and wines that this job has had to be done by a private enthusiast.

East is East…and West is West (and ne’er the twain shall meet)

In the “West” (I define this as Western Europe and the Americas) a meal not eaten “on the hoof”, which is to say not a snack, generally comprises two or three separate and distinct “courses”: a starter, a main course and a dessert or savoury. Whereas, as soon as you get to the eastern Mediterranean and travel onwards to the Far East, most meals comprise a selection of dishes brought to the table at about the same time. I can find no explanation for this. Perhaps it is because the eastern countries were more populous and the demand for prepared food in cafés and restaurants greater. Maybe it was because, it being colder in Europe, food items were kept hot and served separately. It was a custom happily adopted by commercial caterers, as a means of keeping customers seated and consuming for a longer time.

The demand from an increasingly well-off populace for a choice of food prepared by someone else was met by the creation of restaurants, noticeably in France in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. As the 1800s opened, the catering trade was well established in Paris and other cities. They became objects of interest for writers – and their readers, as this extract from Balzac’s “Lost Illusions” shows. A young man, in Paris for the first time, steels himself to dining at “Véry”, one of the city’s finest, where he ordered….

“….A Bottle of Bordeaux, oysters from Ostend, a dish of fish, a partridge, a dish of macaroni and dessert…. He enjoyed this little debauch…. The total of the bill drew him down from these dreams, and left him the poorer by fifty Francs which were to have gone a long way in Paris…. Wherefore he closed the door of the palace with awe thinking as he did so that he should never set foot in it again”.

clip_image002

The bill, monsieur” The young man’s stomach is as replete as his wallet will be empty after settling it. His modest monthly stipend has been consumed by the delights of one evening at “Véry”.

It would be wrong to think of all French cooking as complex, rich and expensive. Varied and innovative, yes it is. And not difficult either, as this little book amply demonstrates…

  clip_image004   clip_image006

The book….. the author….. and just one page from it….

                           clip_image008

I can provide no words better to describe de Pomiane’s works than those of Elizabeth David: “I love Dr. Pomiane’s work… to me his brief explanations, his methodically organized recipes, unburdened with excess detail but invariably embodying the vital touch of the artist, are worth volumes of weighty expertise. I know of no cookery writer who has a greater mastery of the captivating phrase”.

“French Cooking in Ten Minutes” by Edouard de Pomiane, published in the USA by North Point Press, at US$12.00. Available on-line. A splendid little book of mighty fine food. This publisher’s catalogue is worth a look – it has gems of culinary related items.

Poussins in a Pot

                             clip_image010

An oven-ready poussin is between four and six weeks old and weighs not more than half a kilo.

Ingredients

4 Poussins (baby chickens)

50g butter

1 onion, peeled and sliced

1 tbsp of brandy

30g flour

1 litre of fruity, dry red wine

Salt and Pepper

Method

1. Heat the butter in a deep, flame-proof casserole and then add poussins.

2. Turn them round in the butter for a couple of minutes to give them a nice colour.

3. Add the sliced onion then flame with the brandy.

4. Sprinkle in the flour and mix well, to make a nice smooth sauce.

5. Pause for about a minute and then pour the wine over. It should cover the chickens.

6. Cook on a low heat for 45 minutes or until the little birds are tender.

7. Serve with a selection of fresh vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots, and leeks. Instead of potatoes, noodles make as good accompaniment.

Wine to accompany?

In keeping with our French accent, the word “Beaujolais” Comes to mind – like a lightly chilled Fleurie or St. Amour. For a Cyprus wine, I look no further than Ayios Onoufrios.

SEASONAL GREETINGS AND SOME THOUGHTS TO GO WITH THEM

clip_image002.jpg

As yet another year comes to a close (where did it go to?) I realise that I have now been writing professionally about food and drink for almost 55 years. At 85 I wonder if I am – or on the way to be – the world’s oldest food and wine writer? Who cares! Not […]

[Continue reading...]

Patrick Skinner’s FOOD, DRINK AND OTHER MATTERS–November

clip_image002.gif

    THE MEZE TABLE The sight of a meze table fully set is an inspiring one. “How on earth have they done all that?” you ask yourself; but if you look, on closer inspection a lot of the little dishes have come out of jars, cans, packets and the freezer. And you can produce […]

[Continue reading...]

FAR EAST DELIGHTS IN THE EAST MEDITERRANEAN

clip_image002.jpg

“Vietnam” is a word that excites very different emotions in people of different ages. For the young and adventurous it can mean a back-packing holiday with a difference. For the well-off it may mean comfortable hotels and touring a large country enjoying lush scenery and varied human activity; from a train window on the “Reunification […]

[Continue reading...]

Roll up! Roll up! For a slice of RETRO

clip_image002.gif

  Ably assisted by my daughter Susanna, who is a wiz with Internet publishing and my son Robert who is highly expert with websites, I have launched my first non-food book, a bit of autobiography in fact. It takes the reader back quite a few years – more than 75 – and tells what it […]

[Continue reading...]