A little of what you fancy

Sat, Sep 8, 2012, 01:00

EAT IN:I ALWAYS THINK that a hunk of protein, fried and possibly stuffed, is the way to a man’s heart; it’s so death row. Breaded veal cutlets or pork, crispy fried chicken or chicken Kiev. These are the kind of things absolutely guaranteed to give us satisfaction because of their texture, protein, salt, fat and savoury deliciousness.

A little like junk food, we’re hard wired to want it. I do understand the allure of such food, but if faced with an either/or scenario, there’s so much other “bad” food (see recipes below) that I would prefer to treat myself to rather than a triple decker-sized can of soft drink, or other heavily processed foods. Eating good food as much as possible – and enjoying the occasional bit of badness, in moderation – is what most experts agree is fine, along with taking some exercise. In small quantities, salt, sugar and fat are alright. It’s when you overload your system, constantly, that your body cannot cope with them.

I feel strongly that being virtuous with your diet all the time is limiting yourself to a life without one of the greatest pleasures we humans can enjoy. If I had to give up everything but one vice or passion, and the list was books, cinema, music and good food, I am afraid all else would have to go except good food. If I was offered just enough calories to survive, but nothing nice to eat, I wouldn’t enjoy it much.

These sort of end-of-the-world thoughts were further prodded along the paths in my head when I saw Conor Horgan’s really great film, One Hundred Mornings. A tale of a post-apocalyptic Ireland and the lives of two couples living and learning to survive in the aftermath. Food, or rather, the lack of it, itinevitably becomes a central theme. I couldn’t help but start to wonder what I would do in similar circumstances. How would I survive? What would be in my hidden stash of food? In the film, some of the best scenes were around the kitchen table, at mealtimes. It was fantastic.

A far cry from the book The Dinner, by Herman Koch (see Domini recommends, right). This is a great read that centres on a dinner in a fine dining restaurant, with two couples, where life and death issues come to the fore because of the actions of their troubled children. It’s gripping stuff and the observations by the lead character about the sometimes infuriating ceremony of fine dining and the intricacies of each course are a great contrast to Conor Horgan’s stark film, where food is also central, but very scarce.

This veal dish would have been welcome in either film or book: it is extremely tasty and please feel free to change cheeses if you don’t like blue cheese. Tallegio is a great creamy Italian cheese, but something thin and sharp would also work, as would some sort of stronger Swiss-style cheese. Coolea and Glebe Brethan would both work too, as woud mild Wicklow brie.

The pears are a nice change from red wine or port-stained ones. After eating them, I felt they’d actually be lovely served with a slice of cheese as a sort of hybrid dessert. But if you’re serving them with the veal, then give yet more cheese a miss.

Veal steaks with Parma ham and blue cheese

Serves 2

2 x 200g veal steaks

2-4 slices Parma ham

50-80g blue cheese

2 eggs, beaten


Sunflower or rapeseed oil

Salt and pepper

To serve:mixed leaves, red onion, a spoonful of capers and lemon juice

Tell your butcher you want to flatten out the veal steaks to make two giant escalopes that you’re going to fold over and fry. If he or she is nice, they may even do this bit for you. If not, sandwich the veal between sheets of cling film and bash with a rolling pin until it has at least doubled or tripled in size.

On one half of the veal steak, lay down some Parma ham and then some blue cheese on top. Fold the veal over, and using the cling film, flatten it down, then chill it until you are ready to cook.

This is one of the few occasions when it’s alright to cook meat straight from the fridge. Normally I would always suggest that you bring meat to room temperature before you cook it, but because this is stuffed and the meat is exceptionally thin, you can cook it from cold.

Preheat an oven to 180 degrees/gas 4. Heat up some sunflower oil in a frying pan. Dip the stuffed veal in the egg and then flour. Season well and fry over a high heat until it is nicely browned on both sides. You can continue to fry until it is cooked through or you can transfer it to a baking tray and bake for another five to 10 minutes, so that the filling is piping hot and the veal very well done.

Make a little garnish by slicing the red onions very finely and soaking them in a squeeze of lemon juice and maybe a little drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. Add the capers and then toss with a few mixed leaves. It’s a sharp little side salad that balances nicely with the rich veal.

White wine poached pears

These are delicious with blue cheese, or else some plain whipped cream and a spoonful of the syrup. Serves 6

Juice and peel from 1 lemon

6 pears

1 bottle white wine

180g sugar

5 sprigs mint

3 sprigs thyme

1 vanilla bean

½ cinnamon stick

Put the lemon juice in a large bowl and fill with water. Peel the pears and leave them in the acidulated water. Get the stock syrup ready. Put the lemon peel, wine, sugar and remaining ingredients into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Scrape the vanilla seeds into the stock and throw in the bean also. When the sugar has dissolved, slowly lower each pear into the syrup and cook for about 10-20 minutes, depending how firm or soft you like them. Remove them and leave them on a plate to cool down and then refrigerate till cold. Reduce down the syrup by half, then let it cool down and pour over the pears to serve.

Food cooked and styled by Domini and Peaches Kemp

Come join us for culinary treats and culture

Readers of The Irish Times are invited to a three-course supper with wine at Domini and Peaches Kemp’s The Restaurant at Brown Thomas, Dublin, followed by a performance of Yeats and the Abbey in His Own Words, edited and compiled by Aideen Howard.

The event takes place on Thursday, September 20th, the eve of Culture Night, with supper at 6.30pm and the performance by Abbey actors using Yeats’s own words, from his letters, poems and plays, to follow.

Tickets for this Irish Times reader event cost €35 per person and are limited in number. For booking enquiries, email readerevent@brownthomas.ie or tel: 087-6642 986.

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