Thursday, 19 October 2017

Food: Recipe - Pickled Eggs with Jalapeños & Garlic

Any of you that follow me on Twitter are probably sick to the teeth of pickled-egg-tweets but a couple of weeks back I tried out some new recipes to add to my favourite beetroot ones - that original recipe is here by the way.

So bad news for you lot because here's my new favourite recipe for eggs with jalapeños and garlic!

You will need:

  • 10 Eggs – I use small or medium size
  • 300ml of clear malt vinegar
  • 200ml of water
  • 1 Tablespoon each of salt & sugar
  • Half of a 200g jar of sliced jalapeños - drained
  • 4 Garlic cloves
  • 1 large jar (I use an empty 950g olive jar)

What to do:

Boil eggs for 10 mins and leave them sitting in hot water for a further 10 mins, then place in cold water for 15 mins.

While waiting on the eggs to cool sterilise the jar and lid. I do this by washing them in hot water, rinsing well, then pour boiling water into the jar and putting the lid in a bowl with more boiling water. (Warning: It has been suggested that the glass might crack by doing this so choose whatever way to sterilise that you feel is safe. In theory the vinegar mix will do this job but I'm over cautious... )

Add the vinegar, water, salt and sugar to a saucepan, then bring to the boil to dissolve sugar and salt. Add the jalapeños and garlic and simmer for a minute or two. Carefully empty the water from the jar, peel the eggs and place them into the jar - putting garlic and jalapeños between each layer. When you’ve added all the eggs that you can - don’t pack too tight or they’ll stick together - fill the jar with the boiled pickling liquid and top to the rim with boiled water if required.

Carefully place the lid on and tighten. As the jar cools the lid will de-press and seal the contents. Rotate the jar as it cools to stop the eggs from sticking together - it will be very hot at first!

Once cooled, store in the fridge until you need them. They need at least a week for the flavour to infuse into the eggs. (The other eggs in the top picture are pickled with Komodo Dragon chillies - very hot, but nice too!)



(There’s a lot of discussions on various websites about sterilising and storage but this is what works for me with no issues so far. But I’m not a trained food handler so use your own knowledge and common sense.)

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

History: In Praise of 'A Pot of Irish Porter'...

I came across the following piece in an old newspaper last week, and thought it seemed worth transcribing and putting up on the blog. I'm unsure of the background to it and could not find the original article it appears to allude to, but here it is anyway...

To  the COMMITTEE  for  conducting  the  FREE-PRESS

I make bold to congratulate you upon the success of your late endeavours in the service of your country, by so strenuously recommending the use of Irish porter.
    Your patriotic sentiments are, at length, almost every where adopted, and there are not now in the whole city, over half a dozen houses of any note, that continue to sell English porter, and they too (being only frequented, either by Englishmen, or those connected with the interest of the porter merchant) must very soon fall in with the rest, or else, by obstinately persisting to oppose the laudable wish and intentions of the publick, become neglected and despised.
    Curiosity, and a desire to contribute my little moiety to the general good, induces me often to mingle with my countrymen in their hour of relaxation, at these meetings, and it is with secret pleasure I remark the chearful[sic] satisfied countenance each consumer of this wholesome beverage displays, when he calls for A POT OF IRISH PORTER : the inward gratification he feels, whilst drinking the produce of his native soil, and contemning that of ungenerous Britain, is happily expressed in his face, and nothing but mirth, harmony and friendship are every where found to be the attendant effects of it.
    To you Gentlemen, the lovers of Ireland are particularly indebted, as the principal promoters of this happy change. Which, whilst it keeps at home many thousands heretofore lavished on ungrateful neighbours, has also rendered a material saving to the laborious class of people, by being so much cheaper and from its healthful and enlivening qualities inspiring a universal love and fellowship that is evident on every occasion.
    On this point then, there remains nothing now to wish, but that the Brewers of Irish Porter, continue to do that justice they have so well began with: and let it not be said that this great and necessary undertaking (like many others for publick utility) shall in its infancy fall to the ground because ------- very much encouraged.
      I am, Gentlemen,
            Your most humble servant,
                       A NATIVE
    Sep. 1 1779
~ Freeman's Journal September 1779 - Via Carlow Library Local Studies Room

Stirring words indeed! There seems to be more to this letter of course than just Irish porter and it could be classed as incitement to hatred perhaps, against porter from 'ungenerous Britain' at the very least!

Regardless of the deeper sentiment our writer is getting at, there are a few valid point we can still take from this...

The drinking of local beer, if it suits your palate and purse, and the gratification it elicits; that 'cheerful, satisfied countenance' that enjoying a pint in good company can evoke; and the need to always question what we drink, or eat for that matter, and ask, 'Is there a better alternative?', and that 'better' can mean something different to everyone of course...

Anyhow, I'm off to look for a pot of Irish porter ... wish me luck!



Thursday, 5 October 2017

Travel: On Forgetting to Remember...

It was on the Rue au Beurre in Brussels almost 10 years ago that I first remembered my father had died ... absurd as that sounds.

It had been four months since he had passed away. Taken quickly, leaving us to deal with the shock at first, and when it left what remained was sadness and a deep, aching hurt - tinged with anger and regret. And that pain was a constant presence in my head over those first few months, as if his ghost was rattling around inside of me daring me to forget him...

So I had gone to Brussels with a few friends, partly as an escape from the constant reminders of his passing and partly because I wanted to go somewhere to relieve that wanderlust itch, which no amount of reading or writing about travel can truly scratch.

Brussels did both. It was here I discovered Bruegel and Horta; it was here that I discovered a bar with 2,000 different beers; it was here I did the Cantillon tour and first found gueuze and kriek; it was here I was served beers in vases and horns hung on timber; it was here I learned how to pronounce Duvel correctly; it was here I tasted stoemp and sausage for the first time. And it was here I started to really appreciate beer, and began to respect it more.

And because of all of this I forgot about my father's death for the first time ... and not due to alcohol consumption I must add, but due to the sheer volume of information that had overwhelmed my brain and had distracted my thought process.

I was standing on the street, looking in the window of a gift shop on the last day of our trip when I spotted a tiny silver trumpet. It looked well made, with intricate, fine detail and came in its own little case. My father played a trumpet in a few showbands in the 1950s and 1960s, so it popped into my head that this would make a nice present for him. I was about to cross the threshold of the shop when I stopped, with my hand resting on the cold glass door...

It was only then that I remembered, as a wave of despair and pain struck me, that he was dead.

Anger then took over and guilt too, as I couldn't believe that I had forgotten his now permanent absence from my life. I turned from the door and crossed the street to a nearby church, seeking darkness and solitude. I sat down on an empty pew in the gloom and cried...

Loss is a difficult thing to deal with, as most of us know, but in those moments when it hits you again it can be crushingly, achingly painful. Ten years on it still happens, differently and perhaps lessened to a degree by repetitivity but it still creates similar feelings and emotions. In a way I'm glad it does, as it makes me appreciate and work on my relationship with others in my family ... especially my mother, and my own son.

But this is not a poor me/pity me post, although it possibly is about me exorcising my demons in some sort of cathartic way. It serves as a reminder that it's okay to grieve, i
t's okay to cry, it's okay to forget ... as the re-remembering that then occurs jars your emotions awake and makes you feel more human, mindful and alive - albeit with a strong awareness of mortality, and regret.

And that forgetting happens still...

I travelled a little with my father, and I was lucky enough to bring my parents to places such as Rome, Austria and Switzerland. Places both he and my mother had always wanted to visit but would never have gone on their own. And now when I travel, either alone or with others, there is a strange, irrational comfort in knowing that some part of him is with me on the same journey, seeing the same sights, eating the same food and trying those new drinks - because a part of him remains within me, still rattling around in my head.

My father was a hardworking, gentle, caring, honest man, traits I try to emulate although I often fail to attain. He was highly critical of the world around him, and questioned everything. He hated liars and thieves, had no time for fools and charlatans. We were always close although perhaps not as close as we could have been, and at times he was my biggest critic...

... but I'd give almost anything to sit at a bar in Brussels, or anywhere else in the world, and share a quiet beer with him right now.