Tag Archives: Ireland

Gigot Chop Lamb Stew (serves 6)

I am reposting my most searched recipe as I have updated it with a little more information on this curious cut of flavorful meat, (as well as tweaking the recipe). Hopefully this will prompt you to try it out now that the weather is getting colder and we are craving more luscious comforting food.

Gigot Chop Lamb Stew (serves 6)

Gigot Chop Lamb Stew

The picture of this dish says it all. Just looking at it makes me want to run to the butcher shop for some luscious Irish lamb chops! I may be bias, but at this moment I have to announce that there is absolutely no better lamb in the world.

The Most Beautiful Train Trip Ever

Fields and fields of sheep with their lambs. They can be seen everywhere munching down on the famous green grass in Ireland. (Woolly sheep happily grazing in County Wexford)

I grew up eating the best lamb stew in the world and only realized that fact when I moved away and could not find lamb that equalled it anywhere.

The cut of lamb that I prefer for lamb stew is the gigot chop, and if you can find them, you are on your way to making something fabulous.

What is a Gigot Chop?: It is a cut from the leg of an animal (I usually think of lamb but gigot pork is also a common cut). This chop has a small bone in the center helping provide a wonderful sweet flavor to a dish like a stew or any type of slow braise.

Lamb Gigot Chops

If you cannot find gigot chops, a good alternative is a cut from the shoulder.

Gigot Chop or lamb shoulder chop stew

Yum

_______________________________________

You will need:

3 tbsp extra-virgin or regular olive oil

4 to 6 lamb Gigot chops (if they are large, use 4. If you cannot find gigot chops, use a cut from the shoulder)

coarse sea-salt or kosher salt to season chops (about 2 tsp)

Several grinds of black pepper (optional)

10 small onions, halved

4 medium carrots, cut into thick diagonal slices

4 medium potatoes, washed & quartered

2 parsnips, peeled & thickly sliced

3 or 4 small/medium potatoes, cut into 4 wedges each (I used golden or yellow potatoes as they have a nice creamy sweetness and hold up well to long cooking)

3 sprigs fresh rosemary

2 tbsp all-purpose flour

2 tsp coarse sea-salt (I use Maldon sea-salt flakes)

several grinds black pepper (optional)

1 cup white wine

4 cups veggie or chicken broth (or 1 good quality bouillon cube & water)

Method:

Preheat oven 450*

1 – Season the chops with salt (and freshly ground pepper if you like), and sear in large saute pan on high heat in olive oil. Make sure to cook in one layer at a time, adding olive oil as you need it. Transfer to plate as you go and set aside.

Gigot Chop Lamb Stew (serves 6)

sear chops

2 – Turn heat down to medium and add the onions and rosemary and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Gigot Chop Lamb Stew (serves 6)

saute onions and rosemary

3 – Add carrots and parsnips and continue to saute for another 5 or so minutes, letting them take on a little brown color. Add the flour and stir into veggies. Cook for about 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Gigot Chop Lamb Stew (serves 6)

add carrots and parsnips

4 – Add the wine and stir to a thick paste. Next, add the broth (or water & bouillon). Turn heat up to high and stir everything together. Let the liquid come to a boil. When it bubbles, turn heat off. Taste the broth and add salt and pepper if it needs it (until you are satisfied)

Gigot Chop Lamb Stew (serves 6)

add liquids, next meat and top with layer of quartered potatoes

5 – Add the chops back to the pot in an even layer (meat will overlap slightly and that’s fine). Next scatter the quartered potatoes on top of the lamb. Cover with a lid.

Gigot Chop Lamb Stew (serves 6)

top with potatoes and cook in hot oven

6 – Place in preheated oven and cook undisturbed for 1 1/4 hours. Remove from oven and leave to cool down and settle for 10 minutes.

Gigot Chop Lamb Stew (serves 6)

serve

Divide chops between six plates or shallow bowls and top with lots of vegetables and broth. You can also serve with other things such as rice, pasta noodles, bread, cooked greens or leafy side salad.

PENLAND SCHOOL OF CRAFT – NOT REAL LIFE (my small ode to a place I love).

This post is dedicated to my friend, master metalsmith and teacher Chuck Evans (1940-2015)

tjfdjy

Approaching the Ceramics and Metals Studio, Penland School of Craft

It is early Saturday morning and I really should be lingering in bed in a haze of lovely weekend sleep instead of sitting here typing on my computer. It can’t be helped: I cannot get Penland out of my mind.

Penland: Not Real Life

Penland: Not Real Life

I erased everything I have written in this post up to now because it is saying what I want (or mean) to say all wrong. A clean slate is the only solution and I feel better already. Sometimes fixing something is a lot more difficult than starting anew, so here goes.

One View

One View

I have found an excuse to write about Penland School of Craft numerous times in this blog because it is so easy to attach it to food, which in turn I can attach to people, and the people who you meet at Penland are well-worth talking about.

A picture of typical food at Penland (just to keep within the rules!)

Typical food at Penland (just to keep within the rules!). This was what I had for dinner August 13th 2015 – I remember it well as it was also my son Calder’s 16th birthday – what a place to celebrate!

This August at Penland will standout as one of my very best visits.

One of the many beautiful ways to choose to get you to your destination

One of the many beautiful ways to choose to get your to your destination

Connecting a life in Ireland in 1986 and finding another life in the United States took two things: Grennan Mill Craft School and Penland School of Craft.

a peak at the view

Ireland – where I grew up

While going to school in Ireland it was impressed upon me that if you didn’t draw, you were not an artist or artistic. This was certainly the parochial view, where I grew up anyway. If you wrote, you were are writer, but if you fiddled around like I did making jewelry out of electrical wire and other scraps I found, it was not really anything – just kind of crafty.

The hike route to Pedlers Lake (an ancient Glacier paradise) county Cork

The hike route to Pedlers Lake (an ancient Glacier paradise) at Conor Pass, the highest mountain pass in Ireland and one of the highlights of the Dingle Peninsula

So I did what I was advised to do after secondary school and studied business in college – no Art School for me!

Reading on The Craft house porch, Penland

Reading on The Craft house porch, Penland

I actually loved college though. I’m just one of those people who love the feel of a classroom. Think about it, you get to sit somewhere or be somewhere all day long where other people (teachers) feed you information. I suppose when you attach the word “learning” to the experience it feels like work.

Leaving the Craft House Porch

Leaving the Craft House Porch

Nowadays when I ask my kids “well what did you learn in school today?”, I really want to know…..like what did you learn, because I want to know that too!! Ha, I just cannot help myself. They put up with me though and are used to my wanting to be involved (home schooling them for years took care of that!)

The Pines at Penland which is where we eat meals had

The Pines at Penland , where we dine, has a blackboard at the beginning of the line announcing the highlight of the meal. This year there was a particularly imaginative person doing the job. This was a standout!

This summer my son had to read a book, The People’s History of America by Howard Zinn for his upcoming history class, and write a synopsis of the book as he read. He was daunted, and I was exciting. This was the perfect opportunity for me to learn the history (albeit, a point of view of history) of the United States for once and for all. I had learned lots of bits and pieces over the years but I wanted a clear view, a timeline, and this book was the answer.

One of our reading spots

One of our reading spots (outside The Pines)

We read the book in all sorts of places over the summer and discussed and argued. I was completely fascinated from beginning to end and highly recommend it to anyone who wants to read a history book but doesn’t want it to feel like school.

There is the place we happily crashed this year and every year that we visit western North Carolina. It is our friend Shawn's

There is the place we happily crashed this year and every year that we visit western North Carolina. It is our friend Shawn’s House which is located exactly 2 miles from Penland School. (That is Shawn making our dinner!)

Oops – getting off track a bit, but back to me and my connecting the dots of my life. After college I was still itchy to “make stuff” as I referred to my little diversion. I got a friend to make me a big wooden board that closed up like a suit case from which to hang and transport my wiry earrings and necklaces and proceeded to hawk them on the street in town – very “hippie” thing to do in those days, but I was quite serious about making money to live on while satisfying my desire to create.

Dave took Shawn (his college freind) t drobe the 6600 miles to Penland

Dave (my man) hijacked Shawn one weekend (they were in college together) and drove the 600+ miles to Penland from Pennsylvania in 1990. He has been there ever since.

I heard about Grennan Mill through my then boyfriend (still friends – hi David!) and so I decided to check it out. It was in its infancy but it had the clout of  Kilkenny Design Workshops behind it (famous for its tradition of silver and silversmiths).

ounded in 1981, Grennan Mill Craft School is located in the converted grain lofts of the Island Mill, an old flour mill dating from the 18th century, on the banks of the River Nore in Thomastown Co. Kilkenny.

Founded in 1981, Grennan Mill Craft School is located in the converted grain lofts of the Island Mill, an old flour mill dating from the 18th century, on the banks of the River Nore in Thomastown Co. Kilkenny. (you can see canoes here on the river – well we used to take out a dingy old boat when it was nice. There is also a weir right there by the mill and I experienced the most magical hour or so watching salmon jumping the weir back to their spawning grounds. These fish were desperately torn up but determined to make the trip home)

A group in Ireland called AnCO ( it is/was a Training Advisory Service set up by the government to promote skills development within industry) was sponsoring an all silversmithing course at the mill for the first time (up to then students studied a wider range of crafts while there – ceramics, metal, textiles). It was full-time and the students got a small stipend so they did not have to work while studying.

Grennan Mill

Grennan Mill’s lovely Windows

Most everyone applying was involved in some way with art and/or craft so I went to the interview full of angst and apprehensions. I took my giant wooden suitcase with me and sat across a desk from the then director the lovely George Vaughan and my prospective teacher, the wildly talented and quirky Peter Donovan (he was head of the metals program for 30 years – only recently stepping out of the role). What was I going to say to convince them that I belonged in that class??

River Nore across the road from Bernie's house

The river Nore flowing through Thomastown, home of Grennan Mill Craft School (this was the road I walked to the mill)

To be quite honest, I don’t remember what I said but after showing them my work (if you could call it that) and saying whatever I said, I was one of the twelve chosen to take the course. These two men knew talent when they saw it – ha!

my freind's house in Irealnd

This is the house where I lived while going to the Mill. it was more rustic in my day. (when I moved in with a fellow student, Grace, we even decided to live without electricity as an experiment – a youthful notion imagining that the more impoverished it all was, the more romantic and artistic the experience would be  – we did it for 3 months and would have lasted forever but for the students who moved in next door used the same fuse box!). FYI  – Living by candlelight was kind of magically…

But on a serious note, I think they could actually see my passion and desire coming through because I really didn’t have anything else going for me at that point. My business degree would be put to use later I told my anxious mother and off I went to Grennan Mill Craft School in Thomastown, County Kilkenny.

My friend Bernadette Kiley lives in that house now. She is a most amazing painter and you should take a moment to look at her work. (River Nore Summer - Oil on Canvas

My friend Bernadette Kiely lives in that house now. She is a most amazing painter and you should take a moment to look at her work. (River Nore Summer – Oil on Canvas)

It changed my life.

This is by the artist Barry Cooke who I had the great pleasure to get to know while in Thomastown

This is by the artist Barry Cooke who I had the great pleasure to get to know while in Thomastown

It was there that I discovered a part of me that was itching to be discovered and it was also there that I found the company of the most interesting people I had ever come across. My kind of people, and for the first time in my life I had found a community that I totally and utterly belonged to. Yep – dramatic thing to say, but true.

The tabernacle at St Mels Cathedral County Longford

The tabernacle at St Mels Cathedral County Longford made by VCD Silversmiths, Thomastown, The “V” stands for Vicki Donovan and this is the kind of work that my fellow Grennan Mill classmate now produces

I am so thankful for that time in Thomastown as it wasn’t just the course of study that awakened me. I got to mingle with painters, potters, weavers and sculptures, all working on being the best they could be. I made friends for life, and that happened to me all over again when I took a class at Penland School in Western North Carolina seven years later.

Frutta di Mare by Shawn Ireland (Oil on Canvas)

Frutta di Mare (NFS) by Shawn Ireland (Oil on Canvas)

Moving from Ireland to the United States was a culture shocking experience, especially in the late 1980’s when the connections to other countries were not as instantaneous as they are today. It is so much easier today to get the sense of a foreign place with the click of a button. It is not like being there of course, but it does help you prepare if you are planning a journey, or as it turned out for me, a more permanent move (you always leave thinking you are coming back).

This is how Íde got around campus!

This is how Íde got around campus!

But, this was also the part of me that needed to be satisfied; my never-ending curiosity about everything and everybody. What makes a place tick? It turns out no matter where I go, the answer to that question is the same; it is the people.

Dave also liked this form of mobility - whoosh!

Dave also liked this form of mobility – whoosh!

I will ignore my NYC story of where I lived for seven years before venturing further (plenty of posts to read about that if you are curious) and skip right to Penland. I went on the recommendation of a friend who could see I needed to get back to my creative side (I took classes at Parsons School of Design just to keep fresh and I was renting a little studio in a dingy basement on 6th and 2nd Ave).

The Penland Annual Big Auction happened right before Dave's class so we made sure not to miss it.

Penland’s Annual Benefit Auction happened right before Dave’s class so we made sure not to miss it.

What can I say? It was like Déjà vu, only Penland was a scarier prospect in that I felt totally intimidated and out of my comfort zone: very good ingredients to thrive in I’d say. What I mean is if everything comes easy and there is no challenge or apprehension involved, then what is the point? The day you feel comfortable is the day to make a change.

This auction plays a huge part in financing all sorts of plans at the school, from new buildings to new equipment and various programs

This auction plays a huge part in financing all sorts of plans at the school, from new buildings to new equipment and various programs (there was a great cocktail party held before the auction in and around the new printing and book arts studios)

Creativity is something that is pulled from you and it takes a certain kind of work, although I hate to use that word. Maybe courage and effort are better descriptors.

Cocktail attire Penland style (Dave & Matt)

Cocktail attire Penland style (Dave & Matt)

Penland gave me a place where I could work with tools and materials that felt familiar to me. That was a good start. But the difference here is that there were no traditions or rules to upkeep. At least not with my instructor, Chuck Evans.

Wood Tiles made by donor's as part of the Lucy Morgan (founder of Penland 1928) Luncheon which honored Stony Lamar Lucy Morgan Luncheon, and Outstanding Artist Educator Stoney Lamar was honored

Wood Tiles made by donors (with the help of long time artist and regular Penland Teacher Brent Skidmore) after the Lucy Morgan Luncheon (founder of Penland 1929) which honored Stony Lamar for Outstanding Artist Educator

At Grennan Mill I learned how to use tools correctly, and techniques that I would call upon forever. Here at Penland people were doing whatever the heck they felt like doing, whether they had the knowledge or not. They would try anyway and see what happened.

Chuck Evans made this spoon in 1993 at Penland while teaching our class (He gave it to Dave and we have treasured it ever since)

Chuck Evans made this spoon in 1993 at Penland while teaching our class (He gave it to Dave and we have treasured it ever since)

I warmed to Chuck Evans immediately. He had a rough and tumble kind of friendliness, no frills, no bull. Sometimes politeness is overrated when you find yourself as an instructor having to coax a timid person into being more courageous. Chuck bypassed all of this when he saw me fretting over a box I was trying to solder, “well what are you waiting for, light the damn torch and start putting that thing together!”

This is my freind Dan Essig who was also taking Chuck's glass. He is the most amazing book arts guy I know

This is my friend Dan Essig who was also taking Chuck’s class in 1993. He is the most amazing book arts guy I know (Lucky for me he was also at Penland this year)

It was a two-week class whose purpose was to bring me back to myself and it succeeded. How could that happen in a short two-week period of my life?

This is a book that I own made by Dan - it is a very simple and beautiful example of his work (the rose bud is from the garden of a freind of ours)

This is a book that I own made by Dan – it is a very simple and beautiful example of his work (the rose bud is from the garden of a friend of ours). Check out his website if you want to be awed.

Well, Penland is not real life that’s why. Not even for the people who live and work at Penland. They know this fact too. Because, the moment they drive down the mountain and away from the school, a different kind of reality hits them; the real world.

Another Penland

Another Penland beauty made in an Iron Class in 1989. Trading work with other students is a big thing at Penland. It is the very best memento you could bring back to remind you of your class, or your visit, and to remember the person who gave it to you.

The really good news is that after being there, you take a bit of the place with you and the real world takes on a different color or tone. You come away a better artist for sure, and with a happiness that just lingers. YES CORNY – and I am certainly not corny so I will defend myself.

This sweet bird and nest was made by a wonderful fiber artist Ann coddington rast

This sweet bird and nest was made by a wonderful fiber artist Ann Coddington Rast. Her class was in the Lily Loom house one of the most atmospheric and warm buildings on campus. She was so generous, sharing her talent with anyone who was interested and allowing visitors to her classroom like myself a chance to even try their hand at making something.

Penland proved that it is a catalyst for sparking creativity and happiness. People travel all over the world looking for these sometimes elusive things: going on retreats, pilgrimages, sitting on the top of mountains with fantastical views looking for inspiration for their work and their life.

Matt Fergason

This is Metals Studio Co-Ordinator Ian Henderson at Penland, a highly skilled metalsmith who has an addiction to peanut butter cookies from Penland’s Coffee House (pretty sure this is where he is headed for here)

It is in different places for different people, unexpected places at times. I didn’t go to Penland expecting anything but a way to use a good studio space with a teacher whose reputation preceded him.

The sweet treats at the Coffee House, whcih can be enjouyed up to midnight most nights

The sweet treats at the Coffee House, which can be enjoyed up to midnight most nights

I found out that the irreverence to traditional approaches and techniques (at least that it how I saw it the first few days) did not disregard good craftmanship, rather it was a way to show students that objects could be created in many different ways, using others modes or means of getting there.

The lovey Edwina and Cynthia Bringle. if you have never met them, you have never been to Penland

The lovely Edwina and Cynthia Bringle. if you have never met them, you have not experienced Penland.

So the big lesson for me was: there is more than one way to skin a cat!

Keiji Shinohara

Keiji Shinohara (check out his work) taught the Woodblock Printing Class this session and my son Calder was captivated by his talent and highly animated larger-than-life personality.

What a revelation (and a philosophy to be applied to anything really). Without being technical, the time I spent in a studio which was open 24-7 was invaluable, because of my crazy talented teacher and because of the other students in my class.

Dave giving one (of many!) demos to his metals class. this was a most amazing group of students of which the majority were absolute beginners. They made marvelous work and fell in love with thier teacher

Dave giving one (of many!) demos to his metals class. This was a most amazing group of students of which the majority were absolute beginners. They made marvelous work and I was truly inspired by their enthusiasm and relentless quest to make great things

The transformation did not stop when I stepped from the studio. It was happening all around me. I got to hang out in other studios and watch other artists doing the same thing I was doing, pushing themselves in a place that encouraged daring at every turn.

At the end of the session there is always an auction which benefits the Core Program. This auction consists of mainly student and instructor work made during the session. the pice that Dave's class collectivly made was bought by the class and they surprised Dave by presented it to him on that final day. Needless to say there were

At the end of the session there is always an auction which benefits the Work Study Program. This auction consists of mainly student and instructor work made during the session. The piece that Dave’s class collectively made and donated was bought by the class and they surprised Dave by presenting it to him on that final day. Needless to say it doesn’t get any better than that!

What happens when you come back from a really amazing vacation or  pilgrimage, or retreat, or some sort of holiday which made a big impact on you? You get all mushy about it right? You become the champion for that place or that thing. The feeling does wear off or is eroded by the daily grind and that’s only natural, but these warm fuzzy things happen.

Approaching the Metals Studios

Approaching the Metals Studios

It is 22 years since my class with Chuck and I maintained that fuzzy feeling by becoming a full-time metalsmith, and that is how I have been making my living ever since.

Forged Bracelet by David Jones

Forged Bracelet by David Jones

I forgot to mention that Chuck’s aspiring assistant became my husband! He was already a seasoned Penlander ( a good name for us all) and had just completed his masters in Metalsmithing & Jewelry at Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia.

his oh so sweet plate was made by the talented hands of Michael Kline. i met Michael when he was a resident artist at The Barnes (Penland has a wonderful Resident Program). He is also one who never left!

These oh so sweet plates were made by the talented hands of Michael Kline. i met Michael when he was a resident artist at The Barnes (Penland has a wonderful Resident Program). He is also one who never left!

He will tell you to this day that Penland is where he received his true education and the place were his craft was allowed to flourish with no limits.

These funky glass skulls were given to us by

These funky glass skulls were given to us by the equally funky Paul Marioni when we were both teaching a class at Penland.

We are both in the art business and I do most definitely consider it a business too as it has to be viable if we are to remain doing what we love. (Consolation to know my college years were not a waste of time!).

The blacksmith Elizabeth Brim is also a valuable fixture at Penland

Blacksmith and Penland’s next door neighbor, Elizabeth Brim is someone I always love to see. She is just a breath of life and how could you not love a woman who hot forges high heels out of steel!

Since then we have been back to Penland many times together to visit and to teach.

another pices from the auction (Artist: Borris Bally)

Another piece from the auction (Artist: Boris Bally)

This August Dave taught the 6th Session Upper Metals class ( I opted out of teaching simply because I wanted to hang out with our now two teenage kids on campus for this intense two weeks, and because I  wanted to take a break from actual work) and the visit was the most memorable ever.

Another totally awesome friend i got to see is Anne Lamanski - she is the total package of talent, fun and downright loveliness!

Another totally brilliant artist i got to see again is Anne Lamanski – she is the total package of talent, fun and downright loveliness! (This is one of her prints but you must check out all of her work to be fully amazed)

Reconnecting with all of my friends and fellow artists as well making new friends was the glorious highlight of my whole year. (There was a little teaching done when the students found out in Dave’s class that I was also a metalsmith and willing to offer any advice if asked. This is why I knew I could not teach too: our kids would never have seen us!)

My Three Amigos

My Three Amigos (David Jones – Metal Guy, Andrew Glasgow – Consultant Guy & Brent Skidmore – Wood Guy)

This was also the first time Calder and Íde lived on campus as semi-adults and were able to completely immerse themselves and have that “Penland experience”.

Coffee House

Coffee House

They spent their days exploring studios, hanging out getting to know instructors and students, watched their dad do demos and visit the Coffee house for delectable treats on a whim. We also made several trips to Asheville to see old friends and to eat yummy food.

Our favorite place to eat was Thai Orchid for thier Pad Thai

Our favorite place to eat was Suwana’s Thai Orchid for their Pad Thai. I make Pad Thai and while it is pretty good, it will never taste like this. There is something to be said for a native making their own food and the owner of Thai Orchid is most certainly invested in what comes out of the kitchen. Worth visiting for the Pad Thai, great service and for the way the paper wrapper from your straw comes to the table in a festive twisty celebration!

Now of course they are dying for the time when they can take a class (you have to be 18). In the meantime they can look forward to a long visit in spring 2017 when Dave will be teaching the Spring Metals concentration.

This is Northlight and the place that you gather for your introdcution to Penland meeting the evening before classes begin.

This is Northlight and the place that you gather for your introduction meeting to Penland the evening before classes begin. What I remember most about that first evening at Penland in 1993 is Paulus Berensohn who has lived in the Penland community for 40 years. He is a poet, dancer, teacher, potter and an iconic figure at the school. He read a poem by Mary Oliver titled White Flowers. It took my breath away and I will never forget that moment.

I could really keep going about how Penland and Grennan Mill changed the course of my life. There are so many stories left to tell, so many more people to include, but hopefully this taste will make you want to click on the link to the school and take a wild and wonderful adventure and see it for yourself.

Penland 2015

Penland 2015

It will not disappoint.

As I said: Not Real Life

As I said: Not Real Life (Coral Chandelier Dress by Susan Taylor Glasgow – one of the pieces at the Annual Benefit auction which brought a substantial sum)

I could not close without mentioning the Caretaker of Penland, Jean McLaughlin (real title being Executive Director). She has a quiet way of being a truly powerful advocate for the school and it’s mission, to support individual and artistic growth through craft. She has done, and continues to do an admirable job and I hope this little ode of mine serves to demonstrate some of her accomplishments.

Penland School of Crafts

Penland School of Crafts (1 mile straight up!)

MY MOST SEARCHED WORD: GIGOT! And a new Gigot Chop Stew: Australian Lamb Shoulder Chop Stew (serves 6)

I got a stat report from WordPress (my blog server) at the beginning of this year and it was an interesting read. It was nice to see how over the past several years the visits to my blog have grown by the thousands. However, the most amazing fact to me is how many times a day GIGOT CHOP RECIPE is searched! This dinner was made in Ireland in August 2012 and has been made by someone other than me every day since!

Gigot Chop Lamb Stew

The most in demand recipe on my blog – Gigot Chop Lamb Stew

Gigot is a term I grew up with in Ireland and refers to a cut of meat from the forequarter (shoulder side) of a lamb, but here in the United States the word is pretty much unknown. That does not mean that a gigot doesn’t exist. I have found two explanations for why this chop is called a gigot that I am satisfied with: 1) the word is taken from the french word gigue which means fiddle (fiddle used for gigs) and suggests that the shape of the fiddle is similar to the shape of the leg of a lamb, and 2) it could also have come from the french word giguer which means to hop or jump, which conjures up an image of a little lamb frolicking in a green pasture! Of course this would suggest that the “gigot” comes from leg chops but as far as I know this is not true (at least for big lamb-eating places like Ireland and Australia) – all very confusing indeed!

a peak at the view

a peak at the view from The Rock of Dunamace, County Laois, Ireland (these are the kinds of fields Irish sheep graze in!)

The trick now, being in the United States, is where to find a good lamb chop that is the equivalent of the gigot chop? This is easy enough if you have a real honest-to-goodness butcher behind the counter, but sadly these days one is hard-pressed to find someone in the meat department in a supermarket in most places around here who really know their meat. Of course it is possible, but I find for something like this, it best to do your own research so you know exactly what to ask for.

Typical selection of cheese at any supermarkert in Ireland

Typical selection of cheese at any supermarket in Ireland

Go into any (almost any anyway!) supermarket in Ireland and there are four things you can count on; great bread, cheese, fish and meat. There is always someone working there who knows  a great deal more than you which helps enormously when deciding on certain cuts of meat or what kinds of fish can stand up to stewing or frying etc?

Woolly sheep happily grazing in County Wexford

Woolly sheep happily grazing in County Wexford (as seen from my train window on the way to Dublin)

The supermarkets in Ireland of course have those same aisles of sterile-y packaged meat and fish but there is always a meat or fish counter where someone is working on filleting fish or frenching chops, to answer any questions you might have. The supermarket that is closest to where I live now has a buzzer in the meat section that says “press if you need help” which I have pressed a few times but invariably no one shows up or they think I’m mad to even ask about say grinding some lamb so I can make burgers. This would mess up their pork and beef grinders I’m afraid. Most of the meat comes in prepackaged, so changes are a little difficult. Nowadays this service is only available in more upscale supermarkets which to me is such a strange thing. Why should it be a luxury to ask someone to cut a piece of cheese or butterfly a roast, but that’s the way it is I’m afraid. We are making progress with the “slow movement” and the Farm to Table trend, but while this is a good thing, it also makes ordinary food seem so complicated and exclusive.

Ide having a chat after lunch

Beef also makes a tasty Irish Stew (Ide having a chat after lunch in Tipperary)

Back to my Gigot Chop quest! I decided to make a Gigot Chop stew here in the United States so that at least when this recipe was searched I would have two to choose from; one from Irish Lambs and now one from Lamb I bought the other day in my favorite “upscale” supermarket. I could have gone to a Butcher Shop (now another Trendy way to buy your meat here!) but I wanted to find this elusive piece of meat in a more general location. Most people do their entire shopping in one place so that was where I was determined to find it.

This is the Forequarter of a lamb where the chop for lamb stew typically comes from and where the "gigot" comes from

This is the Forequarter of a lamb where the chop for lamb stew typically comes from and where the “gigot” comes from. This diagram comes from a fantastic Australian website; Beef and Lamb.com.Au that you should most certainly put into your favorites if you want to find out more about meat cuts. It even has an app you can download for beef, lamb and goat meat cuts! By the way, they do not call any chop from the forequarter a “gigot chop” so I’m guessing this is strictly a European term.

I’m afraid when I mentioned the word “gigot” to the guy behind the counter he was dumbstruck and headed off to find a guy “that really knew the product” and I could ask him. As helpful as he was, he hadn’t a notion and never heard the word before in his life. Of course this was understandable and after we talked about the cut of meat coming from the shoulder and I was going to stew it, he directed me towards the piece of meat he was sure that if it wasn’t a gigot exactly, it would make a great stew! Well if this was my choice I was going to go with it and see how it fared.

lamb shoulder blade chop

Lamb shoulder-blade chop. This is a lovely looking chop! (there is a small bone but no marrow bone)

The lamb chops he recommended were labeled Lamb Shoulder Arm Chop and Lamb Shoulder Blade Chop, the latter being $1 more per lb. The arm has a little bone with the marrow which seemed more similar to my gigot chops, but the blade had a nice bit of fat going through it so I couldn’t decide. In the end I bought both kinds and would cook them together and see if one ended up tasting better than the other? I thought that at least now there were more choices for anyone who could only find one kind wherever they shopped. I know, this seems all so nit-picky but when I am hellbent on cooking a specific dish I do like to use the right ingredients. So this post is for all those nit-pickers out there like me. And the people who are only interested in the recipe can skip all of this foody-nonsence and go straight to the recipe!

lamb shoulder arm chop

Lamb shoulder-arm chop – also a beautiful looking cut of meat (has a marrow bone and is slightly fattier than the blade chop)

These chops are organic (I figured that would put them in a similar category to the grass-fed lamb that I used for the stew in Ireland) and are actually not from the United States. It is near impossible to find lamb that is from here  unless you seek out a boutique organic farm or specialty butcher shop. These chops are from a country with as strong a lamb tradition as Ireland; Australia.

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The most amazing Lamb Stew

It was an amazing stew, and I would go so far as to say that this may even have been a better dish than the one I made in Ireland. It is a different style of Irish Stew in that I didn’t pan sear the meat or sweat the base vegetables. I layered the ingredients into a heavy casserole with a dredge of flour on the meat and a little salt and pepper on the veggies and let the oven do the rest. I did make sure there was also some fresh thyme in the mix as lamb without thyme just wouldn’t be the same!

My lovely layered lamb stew just out of the oven

My lovely layered lamb stew just out of the oven

After an hour in the oven I layered the top with some par-boiled potatoes and put it back into the oven to finish cooking. I used what is traditional, regular white potatoes, but also added some sweet potatoes with them. I had one on hand and I thought the sweetness would pair great with the flavor of the lamb. It was a good decision!

This was one of those dinners where the whole table was in absolute reverie, too busy sopping up sauce and getting the marrow out of bones to even talk. All I could here was the sound of food being lapped up.

The River Barrow (10 minutes from our house)

The River Barrow (the river flowing through County Carlow where I grew up). Cooking this lamb stew last night brought back some lovely sense memories as the aroma from the oven permeated my kitchen. Yep – now I’m homesick!

So if you are curious about Gigot Chops and think you cannot find them here in the United States (or you are in a place where that’s what they are called and you are still craving a dinner like this!), go out and grab any kind of lamb shoulder chop you can find and you will have the right cut of meat to make this superbly unctuous dinner. This will be a great dish to have in your repertoire to warm cockles and hearts on those long wintry nights in your future.

Also worth mentioning is that this recipe could be made by a 5-year-old  –  super simple!

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“Australian” Lamb Shoulder Chop Stew (serves 6)

You will need:

2 1/4 to 2 1/2lbs Lamb Shoulder Chops (6 in all – blade or arm chops Or gigot chops)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 medium onions (yellow, white or sweet onions)

2 cups baby carrots or 3 carrots peeled and thickly sliced

fresh thyme – about 4 or so individual sprigs (or bunch of little sprigs)

salt and pepper for seasoning

4 med potatoes (white or red skin unpeeled or mix with some yellow or white sweet potatoes  – peel the sweet potatoes) – cut into thick rounds

2 cups (approx) of chicken broth

2 tbs unsalted butter

Method:

Preheat oven to 350*

1 – Place flour on a dinner plate and add several grinds of pepper and 1 teaspoon of salt. Pat the chops with a cloth or paper towel to dry them and dredge in flour. Lay half of the chops in the bottom of a heavy-duty casserole dish. Sprinkle half of the thyme over the meat.

Dredge chops in seasoned flour and layer into casserole dish

Dredge chops in seasoned flour and layer into casserole dish

2 – Add the onions and carrots in an even layer and add the rest of the fresh thyme leaves. Top with the remaining chops and add the broth. Only add as much as it takes to get to the beginning of the top layer of chops. If 2 cups is too much, then use less, or more as the case may be. Cover tightly with lid and place in oven and cook for 1 hour.

Add layer of veggies and top with remaining cops and add broth

Add layer of veggies and top with remaining cops and add broth

3 – In the meantime, parboil the potatoes by placing in pot, cover with cold water and place on high on stove top. Cover with lid and when the water is boiling, time potatoes for about 5 minutes. Drain gently into a colander and set aside until ready to use.

prep and parboil potatoes

prep and parboil potatoes

4 – Remove casserole from oven and remove lid. Layer the potatoes on top and dot with the butter. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and return to the oven for about 35 minutes. If the potatoes are cooked but not browned by the end of the cooking time, turn on the broiler and brown the potatoes (looks much better on presentation).

top with potaotes and dot with butter before placing back in oven

top with potatoes and dot with butter before placing back in oven

Serve into warmed shallow plates and dig in! I had bread and a salad on the table to go with this hearty meal.

Serve in warmed shallow plates or bowls

Serve in warmed shallow plates or bowls

What About Bob & Marie’s “Sunday Dinner”

Marie's Sunday Dinner

Marie’s Sunday Dinner

I asked my sister-in-law’s husband Bob to invite us to dinner! I never know how to introduce him; he is married to my husband’s sister and is “Uncle Bob” to my kids. But he is not technically my brother-in-law so do I say” hi, this is my sister-in-law’s husband” or “this is my husband’s brother-in-law” or “this is my kids uncle by marriage” or perhaps just “this is Bob” would be best. Yes, except that when you introduce people everyone needs clarification to feel comfortable. Like, “this is Mimi, my sister who lives in Ireland and thinks her winning dish is corn flakes with the perfect measure of sugar and milk” That way you know that this person is my sister, you know where she lives and that she cooks a mean bowl of cereal! People are more comfortable when they have a little information on someone new. Try going to a party and introducing someone by just saying their name and watch the awkward moment that follows! I guarantee the next question asked by the person left out in Limbo will be: “what do you do?” or “how do you know Tess?” We are odd insecure creatures.

Sister-in-law helping out

My Sister-in-law

So who is Marie now that you know Bob is my sister-in-law’s husband, my husband’s brother-in-law and my kids Uncle by marriage, oh and lives right next door. Marie is a person I never met but someone I have heard about over the course of 20 years, and in that time have pieced together a picture of this woman, Bob’s mother.

Every time I have heard her name it is always when Bob and I are talking about food. I don’t know if Bob and I have that much in common but the things that in the end give us ties that bind are family and food. Sometimes I think we share a sort of secret club of mutual understanding and empathy. We are both living away from what was familiar to us growing up (okay I suppose I win there being from Ireland and him being American). But we both have no family here and we are identified by our spouse’s family. I shouldn’t think of it like this because I love this new family-in-law for want of a better word, but when we are all gathered for Christmas or Thanksgiving, birthdays and sadly funerals, I see Bob and I, and then everyone else. It’s not a complaint and I do see the same thing when I get together with my family and how my husband looks “set apart”

Meatballs smothered in sunday Gravy

Meatballs smothered in Sunday Gravy

It is just what happens, the way that I have a nostalgic urge to continue to cook certain foods my mother cooked and not the food my mother-in-law cooked. It is the root of things that cannot be severed or relinquished. The piece of Bob that is integral to his make-up is the food that his mother made and the food he learned to cook himself through what must have felt like osmosis to him. The day in and day out of just being in the kitchen with her (whether he was helping with the meal or not), taught him how to cook her food. The familiar aroma that seemed to hang in the air of only his house became an association with her and her alone. When you grow up in a house where cooking is a nightly occurrence you can’t help but take that with you when you leave or when the parent who created all the smells and tastes dies. That is a very beautiful thing.

Bubbling Sunday Gravy

Bubbling Sunday Gravy

And it is that part of Bob’s mother that is very much alive for him. She grew up in an Italian/American household, lived in an Italian neighborhood in Newark New Jersey and married an Italian/American man who was from the same town (correct me if I am wrong Bob!). To me, the great thing about Italian food in American is how these expats. took the best of what their forbearers brought with them and held on tightly to those recipes. They made it their own of course but the backbone of certain dishes is very much Italian; like Sunday Gravy. Italy is one of those amazing places in Europe who is stubborn (in a very good way) about their food. They have not been lured by “fusion” even though the world itself has been fused together with people and countries mingling together creating a new kind of food culture and new kind of world in general.

Slow-cooked Italian Sausages

Slow-cooked Italian Sausages

When I lived for a few months in Italy last year the only food I ate, indeed the only ingredients I could find to cook with in the little Tuscan town (Cortona) I lived in was Italian food; all of the meat, the sausages, chicken, lamb, beef and all the mouth-watering cured meats were all local, as were the vegetables and of course the wine – all Italian! You could find a little more diversity in the big cities like Florence and Rome, but even their traditional Italian food reigned supreme. I did not complain (although I did pine now and then for some soy and sriracha sauce!).

The Piece de Resistance (Rigatoni with sunday Gravy)

The Piece de Resistance (Rigatoni with Sunday Gravy)

Getting back to Bob…a few weeks ago I bumped into him when he was waiting for his daughter (my children’s’ first cousin or my niece by marriage who is also my God Child – just to clarify) and I asked if he would make his mother’s Sunday Dinner and invite us. Brazen I know, but after 20 years I felt like I could ask and that he could go ahead and be a bit indignant that I had the nerve but I really don’t worry too much about stuff like that any more. And to be fair, Bob is a pretty easygoing fella so of course he willingly agreed to make dinner for us all! He sort of laughed and said it wasn’t anything special but a week or so later his wife (my actual sister-in-law!) called to say that Bob would be making “The Dinner” this coming Sunday – wow, he took my request as a serious one after all.

Bob and his long-cooked pot of Sauce

Bob and his long-cooked pot of Sauce

When you have the same dinner each and every Sunday for as long as you can remember then I suppose this dish is viewed as nothing special. I mean if I lived in Italy and had a cornetto and a cafe macchiato every morning for breakfast it would also become something ordinary ( I can only dream about that kind of ordinary right now). It is all relative, and since I grew up in Ireland on a diet of meat and potatoes the idea of eating  pork tenderloin, homemade meatballs and sausages that have been simmering all day in a rich red sauce and served with rigatoni pasta and a generous sprinkle of freshly chopped flat-leafed parsley, Parmigiano Reggiano and possibly a dollop of ricotta cheese seemed like a most glorious opportunity indeed.

Marie's Meatball Mix

Marie’s Meatball Mix

I had never experienced anything close to this kind of food growing up in Ireland. Loath though I am to admit it the first time I ate spaghetti with red sauce was from a tin. It never occurred to me that you could eat it any other way. I had never seen dried pasta in the supermarket namely because it was not sold in any supermarket in Ireland before 1983 ish. I’m guessing on the date but to impress upon you how rare it was to find pasta and even rarer to find someone cooking it instead of potatoes, I remember being in a very fancy supermarket in Dublin in about 1984 and in one aisle there was a whole shelf of dried spaghetti with a big SALE sign that said 1 penny! So even the supposed sophisticates of the country had no notion what to do with the stuff!

The Salad

The Salad

When I took some home and cooked pasta for dinner, my father said “this is great but where are the potatoes?” After that I always served pasta with a dollop of mash on the side. Even today, in every Chinese restaurant in Ireland you can have chips with your Beef Chow Mein!

Another combination (meatballs, gravy and rigatoni

Another combination (meatballs, gravy and rigatoni

Which reinforces the idea that even though the world has immersed itself in each other’s food we tend to stick to what we grow up with for the most part. Why do you think that Bob was still cooking a deep rich red sauce with his mother Marie in his kitchen in Newark in the 70’s and 80’s, which of course was handed down directly from some relative who came over from Italy. Preserving recipes is part and parcel of preserving a culture. Sometimes it is the only thing that helps distinguish one culture from another. 

Bob said his mother never made less than 2 lbs of pasta for any meal, even if it was only dinner for two!

Bob said his mother never made less than 2 lbs of pasta for any meal, even if it was only dinner for two!

When I was growing up in Ireland and had the chance to go away on holidays when my friend Siobhan we would either don backpacks and stick out our thumb and hostel around the West of Ireland or go to France. France was easy as you could take a boat from Rosslare in County Wexford to Cherbourg or Le Havre. Getting to Italy required a little more planning and money of which the latter was in short supply. I never made it to Italy until last year (click on “Italy” to the right of my blog to read about my trip) so my introduction to Italian Food was in the States. I knew it had taken on a life of its own, as it should, but the essence was the same. It was all about big robust food centered around family.

Italian parsley - the best garnish in the world

Italian parsley – the best garnish in the world

Bob had talked about his mother’s Sunday Gravy a number of times before I asked him what it was. I felt kind of silly that I didn’t know what it was, because when I thought about gravy it was brown, thickened with flour or thinned out with meat juices. I was very far off the mark as it was Italian red sauce but essentially it served the same purpose as the gravy swimming on my plate every Sunday; it bound the food together and colored the flavor of everything you put into your mouth. I think Sunday Gravy is more important to Italian food than brown gravy is to the Irish kitchen (after all there is also White sauce!) and is the one component that every Italian or American-Italian has an opinion on. Some argue that garlic is imperative while others insist on fresh oregano or it just won’t be authentic. Bob’s Sunday Gravy is something I wondered about and the only way to taste it was to invite myself over to try it!

See What I mean (about the parsley!)

See What I mean (about the parsley!)

Bob did not cook this dinner every Sunday, far from it. It took on a more celebratory status when he made it because he had to be in the kitchen for hours watching the pot, stirring regularly and making the other things that in Marie’s time were part and parcel of the meal; like her meatballs, salad, cheeses and herbs. People don’t spend as much time in the kitchen on Sundays as they used to because there are so many other distractions and obligations, so while Bob laughed at how excited we all were (well me for sure) about a meal he could have prepared with his eyes closed there was no getting away from the fact that it brought everyone together under one roof; the in-laws, the cousins and the Granny!

Dig in!

Dig in!

The conversation drifted from food to family and back to food again. My mother-in-law wondered if having the smells of his childhood in his kitchen and all of the people milling around made him think about his mother and make him miss her? It didn’t seem so and I think he was comforted not saddened while going through the familiar motions of shaping the meatballs and checking the sauce. He was amused by my questions about how the sauce tasted to him, and if the Sunday dinner always has a bowl of ricotta cheese on the table, but I could see that he also enjoyed talking about the food and his mother and thinking about all the Sundays he spent in the kitchen with her. Up to that Sunday I had always wished I had met her, but now I feel a little like I did.

Thank you bob for giving us this most wonderful feast

Thank you Bob for giving us this most wonderful feast

Meatloaf with a “Reservoir” & The Sultry Voice of The Splendid Table!

I don’t like TV cooking programs – there I said it. When I meet new people and they figure out how much I love food, they automatically think I also love to watch the Food Network (or something similar). I have to say that I’m not a big fan.

meatloaf

Marvellous Meatloaf

It’s not because I think I know more (far from it!) or that I am above it all in some way or another –  it’s just that the majority of them are either hokey, annoying, or so formulaic that their predictability is a little insulting  – I mean how many times can you watch the guy on Hell’s Kitchen poke a hole in someone’s food and scream, “this is bleeping slop” I wouldn’t mind but he’s actually a great chef, but somehow, his ratings are better when he verbally insults people than when he cooks something amazing.

Mexican Bush Sage from my garden

Mexican Bush Sage from my garden

The contrived set where the kitchen is pristine and the cook even more sterile-looking does not feel like real life to me. And now we have trendy cooking talk shows like The Chew who boast exposing viewers to “smart and intelligent talk” of “food, life and fun”.  Somehow I can’t help thinking of a Gravy Train (pun was most definitely intended)!

some cookbooks

Some cookbooks in my kitchen

I am however a fan of cookbooks and, while Mario Batali on The Chew doesn’t remotely interest me, I have several of his cookbooks. He is a great writer and his love of Italian food and culture along with his recipes suck me right in.

The other thing I like to do is listen to the radio while driving. When my kids were young I would play those awful children’s songs in the car. I had to, it was the only thing that would lull the crying! When they fell asleep I would switch to something more intelligent, something that would stop my brain from turning to mush. I was desperate for some connection to the adult world as my world at that time consisted of book’s and movies with titles like My first ABC and Thomas The Tank Engine and Friends Have An Adventure.

Cookbook from turn of 20th century with great illustrations (Now sitting atop my piles of cookbooks in the Crappy Kitchen)

Cookbook from turn of 20th century with great illustrations (Now sitting atop my piles of cookbooks in the Crappy Kitchen)

I immersed myself in Public Radio stations and got my news, current affairs and culture throughout the day, but the weekends were the best. This is when my public radio station let their hair down with programs such as This American Life, A Prairie Home Companion, Radiolab and the cooking program which airs on Sundays, and the thing I want to talk about: The Splendid Table.

my new little cookbooks

Little cookbooks which I bought in Tuscany last year

It turned out that most Sundays around noon I would find myself driving somewhere, to the supermarket for that big weekly shopping, to the movies with the kids, to a museum, a park, a day in a city etc and I invariably caught the voice of  woman who literally crooned about food. I couldn’t decide if her voice was annoying or intoxicating, but after years of finding myself not reaching for the radio knob to turn the dial I would have to say it was the latter.

a little white wine

Cooking on the beach in Slea Head, Ireland

Radio voices are either compelling or repelling, and whether you listen to a program or not hinges on how this voice makes you feel when you are listening. A voice is like a book, where you have the glorious opportunity to use your own imagination to fill in the blanks. Like when someone says, “the movie was good, but I think the book was much better”.  And all I have to say to that is “Bravo” to that person’s fine imagination and how the movie playing in their head was a superior version of the story!

My heavenly lunch (truely)

My heavenly lunch on a beach in Wexford Ireland

The voices on the radio are exactly the same for me. I get to decide what kind of person this might be just by listening to them. Of course what they are saying is important too, but how they say it, the tone and their use of the language is what will keep me listening. The “voice” of the radio program The Splendid Table is the voice of Lynne Rossetto Kasper and when she talks about food she makes me feel like I am looking at a person eating something so delicious that they cannot help sort of humming through the entire dish. Well, Lynne Rossetto Kasper hums through her entire show, whether she is talking to a chef who is cooking a dish right beside her or when she is advising a caller on what to do with the boatloads of basil in their summer garden.

As she interviews and talks to these different people you can feel her total passion for the entire food world. She has the power to convince even me that eating a hotdog from a road-side stand in the middle of nowhere should be on my list of things to do before I die! It is the voice of love and the voice of love is a very powerful tincture. I’m sure she has won many a male listener (and hopefully turned them all into the kitchen!)

DONE!

Simple food from the Crappy Kitchen

Now that my kids are older and have inherited my love of food, if we happen to catch The Splendid Table on Sundays while driving to the supermarket there is a very large chance (99%) that I will get a sidelong glance from my son in the passenger seat or a little tap on the shoulder from my daughter behind me when something is described by Ms. Rossetto Kasper with such reverie that I will be quietly begged to stick those ingredients on my shopping list.

Ide's request every year is for this chocolate cake. The frosting color is the only thing that changes!

Birthdays are a great excuse to make cake and have a party (stay tuned as two are coming up!)

As was the case a few weeks ago when she watched the chef Lucinda Scala Quinn make her mother’s recipe for meatloaf. I am really not a big fan of meatloaf, I suppose because I did not grow up eating this ubiquitous American dish, but her sultry voice won me over and I ended up making it to the utter delight of my children (who are now old enough to cook this themselves!).

This is what I made for Tom's Christmas Party

This is what I made for my friend’s Christmas Party

As you can see by the pictures, it is mouth wateringly good-looking, but I am in no way qualified to really expound on how wonderful it is as the voice of The Splendid Table does a far better job than I could ever do, a job she has been doing now for 16 years.

meatloaf from the Splindid Table

Meatloaf from The Splendid Table

  I have never looked her up on the internet to put a face to the voice for the same reason I have no real desire to meet a celebrity or talk to a renowned writer: it would probably not match up to how I see them in my head, and don’t you find that they always seem smaller in real life! I’m being silly of course but the satisfaction I get from reading a book or watching a movie, and yes, listening to the voice of The Splendid Table is enough, is perfect in and of itself.

mix eggs, vanilla, oil adn vinegar together

My daughter is now the baker in the family!

So, if you are pottering around your house this Sunday or driving along some lonely stretch of road, turn on the radio and find the voice of The Splendid Table. It will make you smile, make you hungry and most certainly decide that daily question of “What’s for dinner!”

________________________________________________

*I did alter the recipe a little to suit me better. I added some fresh herbs just because they are in my garden at the moment and I added some hot pepper flakes for a little zing*

You will need:

2 lbs ground beef (use something with some fat content) OR mixture of ground lamb and beef

3/4 cup breadcrumbs (I made them by whizzing a few slices of bread in my food processor)

1/3 plus 1 tbs milk (any %)

1 small onion, grated

1 medium carrot, grated

1 large egg

2 tsp sea-salt

several grinds black pepper

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper flakes (optional)

2 tbs finely chopped Italian parsley

1/2 tsp thyme leaves

1 small sage leaf, finely chopped

“Reservoir”  ingredients:

1/2 cup ketchup

1 tsp sriracha sauce (or other hot sauce)

1/4 cup sweet pickle relish (If you don’t have this, use 1/4 cup finely chopped sweet pickles)

Method:

Preheat oven 375*

1 – . Combine the breadcrumbs with the milk in a small bowl and let sit. Crack the egg into a large bowl and whisk for a moment with a fork. Add the meat followed by the herbs, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper flakes, onion, carrot and the soaked breadcrumbs. Mix it altogether with your hands until it is fully combined.

Make meatloaf

Mix meatloaf

2 – Combine the Reservoir ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

make reser

Make reservoir

3 – Place meat in a loaf pan and using your index and middle finger make 3 holes in the meatloaf, going almost to the bottom of the pan. Spoon the reservoir sauce into each hole reserving what is left over for later.

Assemble meatloaf

Assemble meatloaf

4 – Place in preheated oven for 55 minutes. Remove and let it rest on the stove-top or counter for 15 minutes before serving.

Cook in oven

Cook in oven

Serve this with whatever you like. It is traditionally served with mashed potatoes, gravy and a green vegetable but don’t let that stop you from serving it alone, with pasta, rice or even making it the star of a robust dinner sandwich!

Do You Want Curry Chips With That? (with your Baked Curried Cod that is!) Serves 4-6

The other day a very old friend tracked me down via this blog, and since then we have exchanged a couple of emails. The kind of “old friend” I am talking about is the one you are forever bound to because you were in the same place at the same time during those precious formative years; the years where you were beginning to become the person you ultimately became (for lack of a more evolved explanation).

Curried Chips: the reason for this post!

Curried Chips: the reason for this post!

I met Maria when we were thirteen and we were thrown together, for better or for worse, until we were grown women of eighteen (supposedly anyway!), and, except for a few occasions when we happen to bump into each other, and keeping up a little through mutual friends, we had never really kept in touch. I didn’t see this as a  failure on either of our parts. It was just life, and our school friendship was complete in and of itself, unchanged by the years in between and the cheery hello I received from her last week.

The River Barrow (10 minutes from our house)

The River Barrow (10 minutes from our house)

Of course the way in which friendships like this one are rekindled  is to connect over the events that our lives revolved around at that time; the place we lived, the people we knew, the food we ate etc. And so when we emailed, we both started off with “remember when?” comments.

Maria’s “remember when” was about running over to get batter burgers at lunchtime! What’s a batter burger you may well ask? Basically, the Fish & Chip shop was the only place to have something quick to eat in the 1970’s through the 80’s, and was (and still is) synonymous with the last stop on the way home from a drunken night on the town. It was thought to be a good hangover cure, or at least make it more bearable.

Crispy battered cod

Crispy battered cod from The Saltee Chipper in County Wexford

  ‘The Chipper”, as any one of these places was generally referred to, was by and large run by first generation Italians in Ireland, and they had accomplished the art of frying fish, meat and potatoes (the staples in Ireland back then), in a small vat of bubbling oil to crisp perfection. There is nothing quite like a meal of battered cod and chips (french fries) with a good soaking of vinegar. It can be such a deeply satisfying dish when eaten at exactly the right moment. The batter burger sounds awful, a beef patty dipped in dough batter and deep-fried to a golden puffiness – yep, that does sound awful, but I assure you I must have liked it at one point in my life. Battered sausages were also a popular item but I never had the nerve to try one. They looked like long blistered…well they looked pretty disgusting to me!

Approacing Christ's Church Cathedral

Dublin is a great place for Fish and Chips

Being reminded of foods like batter burgers made me think about the food from the Chipper that I really enjoyed. I still make Fish and Chips today (plenty of examples of this on my blog) but the memory of Curried Chips was what I became fixated on. In Ireland chips came with everything. It was simply unacceptable to serve a meal without a potato on the plate in one form or another. The Chinese restaurants that opened up were soon to learn that serving chips on the same plate as the chicken curry and rice gleaned more hungry Bar-goers and so it became common to eat chips accidentally soaked in curry sauce.

a peak at the view

County Laois

I am really just coming to my own logical conclusion that the flavor of  the curry sauce on the chips was so popular it became a frequent request at the Chip Shop, and slowly but surely Curried Chips became a popular item on the menu. So much so, that along with the obligatory question, “salt and vinegar?” after your chips were hot out of the oil and in a neat little rectangular bag, you were asked if you wanted curry sauce too. It was either poured into the bag or given on the side. As messy as it was to eat, I preferred it spilling out of the bag!

Curried Chips with Cod Fish

My Version of Curried Chips with Cod Fish

The logic continued to follow that I would have to make Curried Chips myself to capture some of that nostalgia. When my son took his first bite he declared, “hey, these are like the curried chips in Ireland”

Enough said!

___________________________________

For the Curry Sauce:

4 tbs unsalted butter

3 to 4 cups chicken or veggie broth OR 1 good quality bouillon cube and water (which is what I usually do for this. I use Rapunzel brand cubes: really great)

1 1/2 to 2 tbs mild or medium heat madras curry powder

1 tsp sea-salt

freshly ground black pepper

Method:

1 – Put sauce pan on medium/low heat and add the butter. When it has melted, add the curry powder and sir until incorporated. Add the flour and repeat process. If using a bouillon cube, crumble it in, and stir well.

melt butter, add curry powder

melt butter, add curry powder

2 – Next add the liquids 1 cup at a time while mixing with a whisk. Cook sauce (stirring all the while) until thickened and flour and spices have cooked into the liquid, (about 10 minutes or so). Taste and adjust for salt and pepper according to your likeness. Cover and set aside.

Cook for a little

Cook for a little

*If you feel your sauce could be thinner, add more stock or water until the desired consistency is reached.*

add liquid, salt adn pepper

Add liquid, salt and pepper

Serve with whatever you like; in this case, chips or french fries (depending on which continent you grew up on!)

serve with fries

serve with fries (either on the side like this, or smothering the chips completely in sauce!)

Recipe for Chips (Fries):

4 large potatoes (not huge, just large!)

3 tbs olive oil,

1 tsp sea-salt

generous grinding of black pepper

Method:

Preheat oven 475*

1 – Wash and dry the potatoes and cut lengthways into thick slices (3/5″, 1cm) and put in large bowl. 2 – Add the salt & pepper and the olive oil to bowl and mix well with hands until potatoes are well coated. When oven is hot take your big baking sheet and add 2 tbs oil to pan and place in lower 3rd of oven.

from potato, to slices, to fries!

From potato, to slices, to fries!

2 – Add the salt & pepper and the olive oil to bowl and mix well with hands until potatoes are well coated. When oven is hot take your big baking sheet and add 2 tbs oil to pan and place in lower 3rd of oven. Let pan warm for about 4 or so minutes. Take pan out (it will give off a bluish smoke, don’t be alarmed) and immediately pour potatoes onto pan (should sizzle).

Mix in a bowl with rest of ingredients

Mix in a bowl with rest of ingredients (I added a few sprigs of rosemary that I discovered lurking in the back of the veggie drawer)

3 –  Arrange evenly in a single layer and place in oven for 20 minutes. Take out, let pan cool for about 30 seconds to 1 minute and then turn fries with a spatula (or egg flip/turner?). They should release easily….if not, put back in oven for another 2 minutes and try again. Turn and place back in oven for a further 8 to 10 minutes (peak after 8). Take out, give them a minute to release themselves and get ready to serve or keep warm as the case may be.

great fries

Great fries

Recipe for Baked Curried Cod:

1 1/2 to 2 lbs fresh cod fillets (use 2 lbs if cooking for six), cut into 4 to 6 oz pieces

1 tsp mild curry powder

sprigs of fresh thyme (about 2 dozen)

1 tbs olive oil

1 1/2 tbs unsalted butter

sea-salt and black pepper for seasoning fish

Method:

Preheat oven to 400*

1 – Wash and dry fish. Season fish with sea-salt and pepper and curry powder. Rub a baking sheet with the olive oil and toss the thyme sprigs in the bottom in the even layer. Place the fish on top of the thyme.

*If some of your fish is thick and some thin (the tail end), all you have to do is fold the thin pieces in two to thicken them out and to assure they cook around the same time as your thicker pieces*

Arrange fish on baking tray with other ingredients

Arrange fish on baking tray with other ingredients

2 – Place a pat of butter on each fish piece and bake in preheated oven for about 12 minutes. Take it our of the oven and cover with foil until ready to serve.

et voila!

et voila!

Serve this with whatever you like: if serving alone, add some lemon wedges. This is also great with egg noodles, rice and a sautéed green.

As you can see, I served the fish with curry sauce adn chips - delish!

As you can see, I served the fish with curry sauce and chips – quite delish!

“SALT LOVE”

I thought I would celebrate my 600th post (I know, right!) with a confession. What I want to talk about is an ingredient that people are told to shun left and right – not me however: I love salt!

Sea-salt flakes (Maldon & freshly ground black pepper

Salt (Maldon flakes)

Most people are horrified when I take a pinch of salt and promptly put it into my mouth.  My reason for ignoring their admonishment is simple: I feel that if I crave salt then my body must literally be crying out for it – I can’t ignore a cry for help!

Fine grain Celtic Sea salt

Fine grain Celtic Sea salt

If I were to play the word-association game and I was given the world “salt!”, what would be the first image that came blasting to the forefront of my mind? Let’s try it shall we: “Tess” (you would say), “What?” (I would reply), “SALT” (you would shout) to which I would shout back, “my Grandmother ” and “Saxa Salt” All very explainable (read on!) and I must admit that this “Jung psychology” may have worked on me in that I thought I would have come up with something a little more evolved considering I think so highly of this glorious and restorative seasoning and medicine.

Maldon salt

Maldon salt – If I could only have one salt; this would be it!

Going to my grandmother’s house was a frequent outing when I was growing up. All eight of us would pile (literally) into our mini (Mini Cooper in the United States – plain old “Mini” were I come from!) and travel the six miles to her farmhouse which was located about a 1/2 mile off the main road . It is funny to think now how short the distance was as my memory is of it being a miserably long journey. Now I realize this was probably due to the fact that I was squashed in the backseat and every second felt like an hour!

Mini Minor

MINI-MINOR! (used to fit 8, but now that’s illegal!)

Okay, I could digress as I have a great urge to talk about my grandmother and her house, but let’s leave that for the book shall we and stick to the salt association game. Her kitchen table always has two things on it, whether there was a meal going on or not: a cut glass sugar bowl (“with three stubby glass legs”, which my sister June pointed out to me when I talked to her about her memories of salt last night on the phone!), full of white sugar which always has a few lumps in it due to using the same spoon to scoop the sugar as to stir the tea, and, a little-cut glass salt dish also full to the brim, which also invariably harbored  little lumps of hardened salt crystals. I distinctly remember  my father and my uncles sitting down to dinner on Sundays and use their knives to scoop out an ungodly mound of salt onto the tip and store it on the edge of their plate where it was used to conveniently dip each fork-full of food before eating it.
A little something to stop peoepel from gnawing on the table leg while I was having fun in the kitchen..

There is nothing like several pinches of salt with a hot boiled potato

The other word that sprang to mind was “Saxa” (pictured below as I remember it in the 1970’s). Saxa salt was first sold in 1907 and is still on grocery shelves today. It always sat in the middle of our table at dinner time (breakfast and tea time too no doubt) and by the time this large plastic container of salt was used up, the yellow and white label would become faded due to frequent handling! The salt spout was large and every one of us was an expert at tipping it over quickly towards our plate and not pouring until we each had  a tiny white pyramid and we did this before ever tasting our food. I had no idea that this was insulting to our mother by presuming she had not seasoned the dish correctly. She was never offended as she knew only too well that there was always a penchant for a little more salt no matter how much of it she saw fit to use!

SAXA SALT (the way it looked in the 1970’s)

There was no knowledge of salt being bad for certain people pron to certain health conditions so it was used freely and often. It rescued many a bland dinner and the majority of the time was the only seasoning on hand. At that time and for a long time later I had no idea how many different kinds of salts there were in the world. I grew up loving a common fine-grained table salt, so you can imagine how excited I was to discover how huge the world of salt really was.

Salt on my counter top at the moment (it changes frequently as i run out and as I discover more!)

Salt on my counter top at the moment (it changes frequently as i run out and as I discover more!)

My love for salt has not diminished even with the new-found knowledge of how it can be a downright killer if overused. I am more taken with the fact that you can also die if you don’t get enough of it. I love the whole history of salt and the hundreds of ways it is harvested, stored and used, (I had better not go down that road or this post will never end!). I just cannot imagine the culinary world without it! Have you ever tasted something that was near perfect but no matter how you seasoned it, the taste was still not right…that is not until you added a few grains of the perfect salt and then WOW – something amazing happened and all was right with the world again!

Some of the salt selcection in Kalustyan's in New York city

Some of the salt selection in Kalustyan’s in New York city

The Crappy Kitchen may have only one counter-top from which to cook from, but that hasn’t stopped me from filling it up with dishes of salt for liberal abuse. Right now I have the following varieties: Maldon Sea Salt flakes (always), fine ground Celtic Sea Salt ( I used this for mixing into my mashed potatoes, my scones and sprinkling on homemade popcorn), Sicilian Rock Salt (you might know that I’m in love with most things Italian), Gueronde’s Grey Course Salt (having anything French in the kitchen is imperative), and Dulse Seaweed Salt from Maine (procured from my favorite place to buy condiments in NYC, Kalustyan’s). Because they are within easy reach, I tend to use them all and doing this has helped me to discover how to take best advantage of each of their unique qualities.

two salt that i picked up that day in NYC!

Two salt that I picked up that day in NYC!

I used to think that salt just tasted like “salt” but now I see that what part of the world it comes from, and how it is harvested and stored really plays a big part in how it tastes and how it compliments our food.  Growing up only knowing Saxa Salt closed so many flavor doors I never knew existed. That of course is not to say that Saxa Salt does not have a place in my kitchen or in my heart but nowadays it is loved in the company of other great salts.

the piece de resistance

The piece de resistance is salt clinging to the egg topper! (just for June x)

Maldon is a great finishing salt and brings out the brightness and flavors of a cooked dish while something like the Dulse Seaweed Salt is great for seasoning meat for strong dishes like stews and long-cooked braises. This might all seem way too complicated but I assure you, if you knew me you would know that it doesn’t take an expert to figure all of this stuff out. The only requirement is that you have to like spending a little part of your day hanging out in the kitchen making something pleasing for you to eat everyday.

There is nothing better on Fish and Chips that a heavy-handed doucing of salt!

There is nothing better on Fish and Chips that a heavy-handed dousing of salt! (lunch at the Saltee Chipper in Wexford, Ireland)

If you only have the ubiquitous variety of ground salt from your childhood or from the generic section of your supermarket I suggest you break free and try at least two others, and I guarantee your food will become happier for it. If I had to suggest two, it would be Maldon Sea-salt flakes or Fleur de Sel and Fine Ground Celtic or Italian Sea Salt.

Crispy Lemon Fried Smelts

The only dressing this little fried fish cried out for was some flaky finishing salt

Find your salt love!