It has been a year now since I have renounced eating meat. It has been in my mind for the past six years, I may well have spoken about it before, well maybe not as directly but yes, it has been one year. Apart from that time in October 1st where I was invited by Chef Richard Corrigan at his own table, in his own restaurant and a beef Wellington might have been produced; it was Sunday brunch, my last real Sunday brunch, nearly a year ago. As I am typing this few short lines of my introduction, I can feel a frisson down my spine, and I swear, I clearly heard Anthony Bourdain whisper in my ear: ” you did good man, you did good…”. Is it cold here? Did you feel that?
There has been another weather alert issued for the isle of Ireland, this time it is for cold and snow. I am pretty sure someone on the radio mentioned the words “blizzard” and “accumulations”. Some people are getting a bit edgy, stocking up on water and food, just in case, all the weather drama queens out there… uh? Ok, I must admit, I get pretty excited too and yesterday, I did chop a bit more wood than usual but hey, I really don’t fancy doing all this on Wednesday, snow up to my knees and in -7c winds, or at least according to the gospel of Saint Evelyn from Met Eireann, our weather forecasters ( the new Rock’n’Roll stars in Ireland since hurricane Ophelia, you should see them walking down Grafton street, with their confident swag and dark sunglasses, shooting from the hip at every steps), our shepherds… Some even say that it could be – at least for a while- like the winter of 2010!!! Ta-Ta-Ta… Yes, you read well, 2010 was bad, it was the year the lakes froze solid…
Yesterday was a strange kind of day. This time of year is Dawn Chorus month and for the last five or six years, my two compadre from “Birdwatch Ireland Meath” and myself lead a group of very brave people, on a nocturnal procession in various locations of our county to listen to a new Dominical Dawn, bird waking up, welcoming daylight by the banks of the Boyne river. This good natured affair is also an early one, as we start the walk at 4 am, meaning I have to be up at 2:30 am, and in my car by 3:15 am latest. I normally return to bed between 6 and 7 am, waking up again later, never feeling fully restored and having that uneasy feeling that I have already had a full Sunday… As you can see, I don’t do too well on sleep deprivation!
Saturday night is a bit of a downer for me; spending nine hours talking about cheese, wines and other delicacies, advising and sharing recipes, debating about the weather, local news and gossips or the scheduled 5th end of the world since 2012. What I really like about my day job is the people; so colourful in so many ways, from so many different backgrounds, cultures and ideologies, I wonder sometimes if my food world landing was not just a mere excuse. After such a busy and intense – almost choreographed – day, when six o’clock comes, sitting at the wheel of my car, I can actually see the tumble weeds rolling across the road…
Last Saturday, I visited my local butchers, like a modern yet nonchalant hunter and gatherer, I was getting my weekly food shopping of course, but also having an opportunity – an excuse – for a bit of craíc and banter, a chance to catch up with the local news (some might call it “gossip”, but I will not lower myself to that level… Anyway, keep that for yourself, I’ll tell you later…).
I got taken by their latest creation, a Pork and Apple burger. I didn’t want to just put it in a bun; after all, a lot of effort went into designing this dish. The previous night I had made some lovely mash potatoes, with some grated Coolea cheese from Cork, a two year old Irish Gouda if you prefer, sweet and parmesan like somewhat. That was half the battle…
For the sauce, I decided to do a creamy apple juice sauce. I had a small bottle of Karmine apple juice from Tipperary, “The Apple Farm”. It is sweet with a hint of tart, perfect for a family dish like this; its execution is actually quite easy, just a bit of preparation will go a long way. It is also a great wink to both Brittany and Ireland: they love their apples, in whichever form they come into. Pictures and recipes below.
Get yourself ready…
And the final result, ready to eat!
For the mash
- 2 nice potatoes per person
- 150 g of Coolea cheese (or aged gouda)
- black pepper
- grated nutmeg
For the mash
Peel, wash and cut the potatoes, put them in a pot of salted water and boil gently until cooked. Put through a sieve, back in the pot to remove excess water. Add the butter (the more the creamier, taste is your judgement) and the milk, gradually while you mash. If it’s a bit too thick, add a bit more. Smooth? Mill some black pepper and some freshly grated nutmeg. While it is still hot, grate the Coolea Cheese and stir inside the mash. You can serve it from the pot or bake in the oven later for a extra crispiness!
For The Sauce
- 1 onion chopped
- 1 garlic clove crushed
- 1 leaf of sage
- 1 splash of balsamic vinegar
- 1 splash of soya sauce
- 1 organic chicken/ veg stock (20 cl glass is enough)
- 15cl of Apple Juice (Artisan, farmhouse, the commercial stuff is too sweet)
- 25 cl of fresh cream
In a pan with olive or rapeseed oil, sweat the onions and garlic with a bit of salt. Throw in the sage leaf (optional). Put in the equivalent of 2 tbsp of balsamic and soya sauce, let it reduce, the apple juice, let it reduce, the stock, let it reduce. Pass the whole thing through a sieve (remember to place a bowl underneath… I’ve been there!) and the sauce back in the pan; discard the onions etc… Back on the hob with a bit of fresh cream, keep stirring and reduce again until smooth and a little bit thicker.
For the Pork Burgers…
Well, in a hot oiled pan, few minutes on each side, I just get the colour done on the pan and I finish them for 10 minutes in a hot oven. Serve with a bit of blanched broccoli, green/ French beans and enjoy with a glass of farmhouse cider but a Burgundy Chardonnay would work quite well too!