Sunday Meatballs

Having in mind my last post there is almost room here for a Dexys themed pun but for the moment I’ll leave it. We have a greenhouse filled with tomatoes most of which are green so on Saturday it was back to the grocers to get some plum tomatoes to make a good sauce. I then cut along Whetstone Lane to New Ferry and Edges for a couple of pounds of minced pork. The big advantage of a trip to Edges on Saturday morning to get your fresh meat is the opportunity to pick up some of their bacon for breakfast on Sunday.
Sunday didn’t blow quite as hard as was threatened but it was still a day for being inside and getting jobs done. In my case standing at the top of a tall ladder in the bedroom to paint around the wardrobe. Periodically I broke off to make myself another cup of coffee and move onto another stage in the slow making of our late lunch.
I started with the tomato sauce – chopped onions and garlic in olive oil and left to cook gently for half an hour. 

 I threw in a few sage leaves from the bush outside the back door.

It was then back upstairs for another half hour of painting before adding the tomatoes. I had bought a bag of English Toms for 69p and and handful of Plum tomatoes. 

These were duly quartered and thrown in the pan and left to stew for quarter of an hour. The pan was then seasoned with a few slices of dried red chilli, salt and pepper.

I added a couple of tins of chopped tomatoes and a pinch of sugar and then left it for an hour.

Whilst all that was cooking down I made the meatballs. The minced pork went into a bowl together with a good couple of handfuls of fine breadcrumbs, more chopped red chilli, some roasted and ground fennel seeds and a good seasoning of salt and pepper. The hands then went in squeezing the mixture between my fingers until all the seasonings were well amalgamated.

A couple of eggs were then added to the mix and I did some more squeezing and then shaped the mixture in twenty golf ball sized lumps which were placed onto a greased baking tray. The tomato sauce still needed some cooking so I went back upstairs and finished painting around the wardrobe.

The tomato sauce was put through a fine sieve and I added some basil and left it to keep bubbling away. The sheet of meatballs went into a hot oven for twenty five minutes. I turned them once about halfway through.

The meatballs then went into a shallow pan into which I poured about half of the tomato sauce. They poached in that whilst I made a pan of spaghetti.

There was one small lettuce left in the veg patch so we had that as well together with the two red tomatoes I had been able to find in the greenhouse dressed with olive oil, salt and balsamic vinegar. 

The recipe for the meatballs came from the Polpo cookbook. There will be enough left tomorrow night although I won’t be here. The kids will finish them off.

Mid Sunday night now – listening to The Unthanks.

Dexys last Monday

ok so a large part of the rationale behind all this is the love of food, good things to eat and the cooking of them. But put me in a room and give me a choice between good things to eat and good things to listen to, I would be hard pressed to choose.

Music and the listening of it has been a part of my life for far longer than the food, tracing its fingers back to the records I managed to find at home amongst the James Last – even if it was the soundtracks to Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar. Soon after that it was T-Rex and then Blondie, by way of Queen, and then the whole gamut of all I could listen to.

REM and Tom Waits have played a big part in all that and if you were to put me back in that room and ask what concert I would like to be transported back to it would have been either REM at Warwick University in 1984 or Tom Waits a year or so later at the Dominion Theatre on Tottenham Court Road.

I never really got Dexy’s Midnight Runners the first couple of times round. I liked Geno and I knew that Searching for the Young Soul Rebels was good but it never quite made it. Come on Eileen was just too ubiquitous. Don’t Stand Me Down came and went until I started to pick up the odd word on just how good it was. Rather to my surprise I came across a copy of one of it’s re-issues in the racks of CD’s in an HMV so I bought it to see what it was like.  At first it just sounded like a slightly muted version of what I had expected then one day I listened to it in the car and found myself going back to to the beginning of This is What She’s Like again and again and slowly they started to make sense.

I just missed them when they played at the Royal Court in 2003 and since then it has been a slow wait whilst they, Kevin Rowland, sorted themselves out to make some more music. Five or six years ago there was a hint on a MySpace page of what was to come as a demo of a song called Its Ok Joanna leaked out. It was seven or eight minutes of half spoken song over a simple piano melody and sat one night listening to it on the stunted speakers of my laptop it was devastating. It was difficult to understand how a song as good as that could be stuck in the tight limits of a MySpace page.

Of course this year we have had the triumph One Day I’m Going to Soar. I bought it the day it came out. We were in Edinburgh  and a few days later we drove back home. I listened to it in the car all the way back and the songs and the story started to latch their way into the back of my mind.

They played last week on Sunday evening at The Phil. We were sat in the circle, too far away, but able to watch the whole thing properly unfold. The first hour was a straight play through of One Day I’m Going to Soar – the sound fuller and more rounded than the album. That got a standing ovation. The second hour was  a truncated tour of some of the back catalogue. There was a slight nervousness as they started on Come On Eileen but they dragged it back from the teenage discos  and turned it into a fifteen minute finale. Except it wasn’t the end. The band came back on and Kevin and Pete Wiliams started on the studio banter that then gave way to This is What She’s Like.

There were a few minutes towards the end  when it seemed as if all my years of listening and enjoying music had come crushing down to Kevin Rowland hunched down at the front of the stage telling us this is my story  as the music drove on. It was a brief storm of emotion before the evening moved on and we had to go home.

Those few minutes have stayed with me all week. A large part of Dexys music, and the concert last Monday, is about redemption, telling it as it is, and finding something better out of the mire we tie ourselves in….and we all need a bit of that in our lives.

The Bread Circle & Sheep’s Head Food

The Bread Circle met at the home of Sheep’s Head Food this last Sunday afternoon and the opportunity was taken for friends to get together to share some good food, talk and to partake from the fridge full of cheese and smoked sausage.
A large part of Saturday was spent in preparation. There was a trip to the butchers at the back of The International Store to buy chicken wings and livers. Then onto the grocers for a large bag of lemons. There was already some smoked cod’s roe in the back of the fridge I had picked up last week from Wards. 
The chicken wings were mixed with honey and Ras el Hannout spice (also picked up from The International Store) and left to marinade for a couple hours and then roasted until done and left to cool.
The chicken livers were minced with some fried shallots and garlic to which I added some Calvados which had been lurking in the basement for years and another spice mix made up white peppercorns, cloves and nutmeg. That mixture was put into a couple of foil containers and went into the oven in a tray of boiling water for an hour. Once they were done I put a weight on top of them and they went into the fridge overnight.
The cod’s roe was scooped out of its leathery skin and went into the magimix with six slices of stale bread which had been soaked in milk  and squeezed out, some cloves of garlic were added together with a handful of parsley. Once the magimix was turned on I poured in a mixture of olive and sunflower oil until the mixture tasted slick and smooth.  

The lemons should have been unwaxed but it didn’t seem to make too much difference. We did them on Sunday morning. They were all peeled and three litres of boiling water was then poured over the peel together with half a bag of caster sugar. Whilst all that cooled the lemons were squeezed and the juice added to the peel and water before it was all strained into a great glass bowl.

Halfway through Sunday morning we decided there was a need for another vegetarian option so there was another trip to The International Store to pick up three aubergines. Those were roasted in the oven at the same time as Andrea and Cora cooked their beetroot and chocolate brownies. Once  the aubergines were soft I let them cool and then peel off the skin. The flesh was then mixed with squashed garlic, Greek yogurt and olive oil until we were left with a smooth, unctuous cream that carried with it the tart kick of the garlic.

Cora and I then laid out the wares. The sausages were presented in an old wine box left in the cellar for firewood. They were all from the Gubbeen Smokehouse and were a mixture of salami, chirizo and fresh chirizo.

We had a large round of Extra Mature Smoked Gubbeen and a slightly smaller round of Gubbeen which were placed on wooden boards. The rest of the small cheeses went into an old picnic basket. As well as the Gubbeen cheeses we had a couple of Milleen,three Cooleeney and some Durrus. A small but good selection of cheese from West Cork and the Cooleeney because it looked good on the stall at Bantry Market.

There was a box of windfall apples from the garden and two overgrown courgettes.

Shortly before people started to arrive I sliced up a selection of the sausages and laid them out for tasting on a wooden plate. I then laid out sample plates of the cheeses each labelled with the name of the maker.

People arrived from around 12.30. They made such a rush for the food that was laid out in the kitchen there wasn’t time take a photo. Steve came with a beautifully crafted soda bread he had been tending until the early hours of the morning.

There was almost a small crisis when we learned that the Bread Circle’s oven was in difficulties and it was not clear that the meeting’s bread would be ready. But Michael was able to improvise and rescue the situation and Leo and Galen walked in with trays of the small loaves that had been made that morning together with tasting notes prepared by Michael. People took up their plates and the food started to go.

Over the afternoon all the sausages were taken up along with most of the cheese. All we were left with were chunks of the large rounds of Gubbeen. Those will do for sandwiches in the week.

Cora and Natasha manned the till, taking in the cash contributions, bagging and labelling the sausages and cheese and chasing people down with their change. If Sheep’s Head Food ever gets round to properly setting up shop it won’t have to far for good staff. I snaffled the last pack of fresh chorizo and hid it in the fridge. I will cook them next week with a bowl of lentils.

The afternoon was a great success with people wanting to know if we will be doing it again. I don’t know if we will be going back to West Cork before next summer but I will need to investigate how to go about bringing back a larger fridge full of cheese

Although I don’t think anyone could hear it we listened to Christy Moore.

An Edam Cheese

Back in the heady days of summer my sister Anne-Marie was over from Holland. She had driven over and amongst the children had found room to tuck in some goodies for me.

There was a box full of beer – a mixture of de Koninck,Palm and Gouverneur. Sadly all the beer appears to have gone and the empties are now littering the cellar. There is a suspiscion that not all of them were drunk by me and the evil eye is being trained on eldest son who continues to plead ignorance.

There were also some packets of Stroopwafels. A peculiarly Dutch biscuit made from two thin rounds of waffle sandwiched around a layer of sticky treacle. They have that slight flavouring of cinnamon that the Dutch love so much. I don’t think I had any. The packets were emptied by the kids before I had a chance to remember we had them. By way of compensation the kids gave me for my birthday a beautiful blue Delft china stroopwafel pot for when we next have them. In the meantime we are looking for somewhere to give it pride of place.

Finally I was given a round of proper Edam. I have been having it in my sandwiches for lunch ever since. Periodically I have to pare off another round of wax so I can get off a clean slice of cheese. The wax comes away like a giant yellow toenail. There is about another two weeks of it left.

As much as the taste of Edam is engrained in my half Dutch blood it will be good to have a change of cheese for my sandwiches. I am looking forward to getting stuck into the Garstang Blue that is lurking and waiting in the back of the fridge and then finishing off the Irish cheese.