Thursday 25 February 2010

Food, Music, Food, Music, Food, Music... Ad Infinitum

Please, be aware that the following post contains meat. A lot of it. And duck fat, too. I thought I'd mention that. And music, of course. So, if you're a veggie, you might want to stick around for the melodies and skip the recipe. Thanks.

The Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland advertises itself as the 'only cookery school in the world located in the middle of its own 100-acre organic farm...­' I say, amen to that, but it makes no odds to me whether the building is in a farm or in a shopping centre. The following recipe looks so yummy that I was blowing kisses at it when I first spotted it in the Observer Food Monthly supplement a few weeks ago. Darina Allen, Ireland's best-known chief and owner of the Ballymaloe Cookery School came up with this delicious dish after she saw one of her students chucking out some over-whipped cream. In her own words she 'realised that most people, even those who came to learn at her school, had lost touch with the traditional skills of cooking – and proceeded to make pats of butter with that cream. Her Forgotten Skills of Cooking course was born that day, and her latest book of the same name includes 700 of those skills, from bread-making and fruit-preserving to compost, making sausages and how to cook a perfect steak'.

From that book, I bring you now one of those dishes that will make your winter nights all the more bearable.

Braised Lamb Shanks with Garlic, Rosemary and Cannellini Beans

By the way, she advises slow-cooking with this recipe. Absolutely my kind of chef!

4 lamb shanks, about 1kg
8 small sprigs of rosemary
8 slivers garlic
4 anchovy fillets, halved
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the tomato fondue:
1 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
110g onions, sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
900g very ripe tomatoes, peeled
salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar to taste
2 tbs of any or a combination of the following: freshly chopped mint, thyme, parsley, lemon balm, marjoram or torn basil
a few drops of balsamic vinegar (optional)

For braising:
30g duck fat or olive oil (remember the left-over fat from the Sunday roast I keep in the fridge? It would come in handy now, wouldn't it?)
225g streaky bacon
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
1 leek, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 garlic head, halved horizontally
225ml bottle good red wine (as a teetotal, I skip this step)
300ml lamb or chicken stock (see below)sprig of thyme
2 sprigs of rosemary
2 bay leaves
2 strips of dried orange peel
1 x 400g tin cannellini beans, drained or 200g dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight then boiled rapidly for 30 mins
600ml homemade chicken or lamb stock
2 sprigs of thyme
leaves from 2 sprigs of rosemary, chopped
sprigs of rosemary, for garnish

Make the tomato fondue: heat the oil in a casserole or stainless-steel saucepan. Add the onions and garlic and toss until coated. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat until the onions and garlic are soft but not coloured.

Slice the tomatoes and add with all the juice to the onions. Season with salt, pepper and sugar. Add a generous sprinkling of herbs. Cook, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, or until the tomatoes soften. A few drops of balsamic vinegar at the end of cooking will greatly enhance the flavour.

Next, preheat the oven to 150ºC/Gas 2. Remove most of the fat from each shank and then scrape the meat away from the bone to loosen it.

Make two deep incisions in each joint and insert a sprig of rosemary and a sliver of garlic wrapped in half an anchovy fillet into each incision. Season the meat with salt and black pepper.

Heat the duck fat or olive oil in a heavy sauté pan or casserole and sauté the meat until it is well browned on all sides. Remove the lamb shanks from the pan.
Next add the bacon and cook until crisp, then add the carrots, celery, leek, onion and garlic and cook over a high heat until slightly browned. Add the red wine to the pan and bring to the boil, stirring for a minute or two.

Add the stock, herbs and orange peel to the pan, then place the lamb shanks on top. Cover and cook in the oven for 2¼ hours.

Remove from the oven and add the tomato fondue, cannellini beans, herbs and enough stock to half-cover the beans. Cover and simmer for a further 45 minutes to 1 hour.
When the lamb has finished cooking it should be falling off the bone. Remove the thyme, bay leaves and orange peel. Taste and correct the seasoning.

Serve the lamb shanks in a hot, deep dish with the beans and vegetables poured over and around. Garnish with sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme.

My first musical offering tonight is a slow-cooking number that suits perfectly this slow-cooking recipe. Listen to Cuban-born Mayra Andrade's 'Lua' (the equivalent of 'moon' in English) from her album 'Navega' and be ready to be blown away by her exquisite voice. I love the way the backing instruments are kept to a minimum, the better to highlight Mayra's vocal prowess. Yummy.

From clean-shaved heartthrob to public toilet predator, the career of Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou has been full both of highlights and pitfalls. But one aspect has remained unchanged throughout his ups and downs: George Michael is a brilliant pop artist. And the following track, 'Father Figure', from his debut album, 'Faith' should be enough evidence. Strong voice, a knack for song-writing and charisma (I guess you need lots of the latter if you are in the habit of prowling the restrooms of Beverly Hills) have made Michael a very unusual and versatile performer. If we were to draw a comparison with Darina Allen's recipe, even if you're a veggie, you can't help admiring the way that lamb meat comes off the bones so easily once it's been given the slow-cooking treatment. Just like Michael's voice. Methinks. Enjoy.

There are good tangos and top-quality ones. And then there's 'Nostalgias'. To say that it is a classic, it's almost like saying that 'Hey Jude' was an OK song composed by a quartet named after (including misspelling) an insect of the order Coleoptera. From the start, Enrique Cadicamo's composition became one of the most covered songs by tango and non-tango singers. In fact, my favourite version so far is Estrella Morente's, a flamenco performer whose delivery is pitch-perfect. And look at her hands are 4:37. My God, is it any wonder that I've been playing her two CDs 'Mi Cante y Un Poema' and 'Mujeres' back to back to back for the last few months? I strongly advise you, non-Spanish speakers, to seek out a full translation of the lyrics online. It's one of the saddest songs about a break-up I've ever heard in my life. And as usual: Buen provecho.

Copyright 2010

Next Post: 'Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Reflections and Music', to be published on Sunday 28th February at 10am (GMT)


  1. Mmm. I want to eat at your house. This sounds fantastic!

  2. I loved this article and thank you for the mention of this particular cooking book!
    I'm always on the hunt for a good cooking book (I'm a cookbook addict) and this one might help me to fine tune my knowledge in some of my weaker areas.
    As always, interesting and informative!
    Warmest Regards from Utah!

  3. Great selection of music...though it's the first clip that could steal my heart and braise it! I saw Andrade on TV a while back and you've just reminded me that I should get hold of her album.

  4. Have you ever listened to the Spanish singer Ana Laan? She is an old school friend so I am biased but I think you would LOVE her music.

  5. This post seems to have it all. Delightful stuff!

  6. Many thanks to you all for your kind comments. No, Rachel, I have not heard of Ana and will now have to look for her music. Thanks for the recommendation.

    Greetings from London.

  7. I'm a veggie so i skipped straight to the music (though a cookery school on an organic farm sounds wonderful if they also do veggie cookery classes!). Love the tracks from Estrella Morente and Mayra Andrade... amazing music and even with very little Spanish I can tell Morente's song is heartbreaking...

  8. You spoil us! There's enough meat here to last for two or even three posts!
    I always enjoy the music, and much of the time, certainly when the music is Latin, it's a new discovery for me. (aahhhh yes...her achingly expressive hands at 4:37 indeed).
    I love George Michael and watched an interesting interview with him about a year ago on French TV that showed him in quite a different light. He goes his own way, for sure.
    Thanks for all the work you put into these posts, London...much appreciated.

  9. ALthough a veggie I read your recipe, I have to cook for the hubby,who loves meat. Surprised to see anchovie fillets (the secret ingredient according to Mario Batali). You always have wonderful music to share!

    Just lovely.

    A Mexican chica living in Europe

  10. Wow, on all counts - the food and the music. I wish I were a cook because I'd be in my kitchen this weekend,cooking this recipe. Alas, I don't have the cooking gene. Mayra, ay dios mio, what a voice. And Estrella, you're absolutely right about her pitch-perfect delivery. Made me remember, too, about Argentina and that my post tomorrow is about Merecedes Sosa.

  11. I think we're all going to come round for dinner and entertainment at your house. Great sounds.

  12. George gets some things right, thank goodness!
    I am mostly a veg, wasn't born that way, still can taste (in my mind) luscious recipes like yours..
    I also posted's the weather!!

  13. Cuban,

    As a veggie, thanks for the warning to skip the recipe!

    I loved the clips, especially Mujeres. I'm always hearing different and interesting pieces of music on your blog and I treasure that. It's lovely to discover new and lovely pieces of art.


  14. Everything in this post is delicious. Thank you!

  15. Many thanks for your kind comments. It's funny that another album playing on a loop at home is Concha Buika's 'Mi Ninna Lola' and she has a version of the same song 'Nostalgias' and I don't like it as much as this one.

    Greetings from London.

  16. Loved Lua - Moon. Jua = Sun in Kiswahili, interesting, n'est pas?

  17. Thanks for that tip Mama Shujaa. Much appreciated.

    Greetings from London.



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