My aunt often says to me that my mother was great at cooking meats; her beef Bourguignon was to die for and the treat for my father, on a cold Sunday, was her osso buco with flageolet beans and boiled potatoes. I guess I took it for granted, as children do, with a nonchalant face while playing with their fork, unaware of the love that was actually put before them. When she passed in 1997, I was only 25; at that stage, I had made my first baby steps in the kitchens of Sligo and Galway, before I got a phone call, before I had to sail away to say farewell, but that moment was never to be as she left before me. I inherited though, some lovely memories and a scrap book full of tender mess and quirky recipes from days long gone. My only regrets? I wish she could have seen Ireland, an Island she loved and supported through the “troubles”, through the struggles… She really did! The other one I guess is, that I would have really loved to have cooked for her… Just once. “But hey! Listen to me! This wasn’t meant to be no sad song” as legend Paul Brady puts it so well… We’ve heard too much of that before… We sure did!
One of her hidden recipe I found in the book she logged in since she was in secondary school, was veal “Marengo”. Or at least was one of her version, dumbed-down from the original Napoleonian original; please, look it up, it is hilarious! Since I don’t really care for veal on so many levels, I recreated with a little Breton-Irish twist a wonderful memory, and this is how it went!
- 500g of stewing beef
- 2 nice carrots
- 1 fennel bulb
- 3 celery sticks
- 2 red onions
- 2 cloves of garlic whole
- 10 Juniper berries
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- 20cl of dry Irish cider
- 1 heaped spoon of organic tomato purée
- Salt and pepper
There we go, first, gather the veg together…
What you need now is to fry the beef in olive oil and with the sprig of rosemary…
While the magic happens nicely, chop the veg and gather them in the sieve. You want a nice golden colour from the meat before adding the vegetables for a good sweat with salt and pepper…
For the quirky part, I like to have a bit of fun with the carrots; I was surprised to see that many of my friends didn’t know how to do this, so there you go. The tool is called a canneleur, it helps making them cool designs…And it often comes with a zester too!
Do it 4 times, and you get that…
But hey, I am drifting here! Now that the meat and the vegetables have been nicely sweating together, add a good dash of dry Irish cider. I got a gift of a bottle of Craigies Cider recently that I forgot about…This will do nicely. My Mother used dry white wine on everything, or heavy red for other recipes… In more ways than one!
Put a good dash in the stew, in order to catch and dissolve all the tasty bits!
At that stage, time is going to do the work. Put a healthy dose of organic tomato purée, stir well and top up with some water… Let it simmer for at least an hour, two if you can on low heat…
Add water, let it simmer and chill for a an hour or rather two…
Serve Marie Lou’s Marengo stew with boiled potatoes, couscous or rice… She loved them all…
And when it comes to the end of this story; let me leave you with those few words from Paul Brady’s legendary song:
” I want to take you to the Island, and trace your footprints in the sand”
Keep well and eat happy…