For breakfast this morning we sat down to poached eggs and bacon on wheat toast served with black tea laced with something old and gold. Joining us at the table was the local priest. Worry yourselves not, tis no the religious fervour that has come about me since my return. No, it is more a condition of which I had to agree to on the purchase of my property that I must maintain the attached graveyard for those relatives wishing to visit their loved ones. Considering that the last poor sowl was laid to rest here in 1703, I haven't been too troubled by those overburdened with flowers. For those of you who are likely to tiptoe around the subject of churchyards, think for a moment about how I felt when we first looked at the ancient headstones and discovered my own full name on four of the markers. I stopped eating takeaway food for nearly a fortnight with the shock of it all.
Now, I am a busy man, so nipping out twice a week with the oul Flymo to keep the grass from licking the edges of poor missus O'Hoolihan's monolith was never gonnae happen. The little singing fella is always too busy entertaining the living down at the bingo hall to assist me in my quest, while my own brood are too busy keeping me in early retirement by laying bricks and building things because I no longer have the desire to do so. There was only one surefire solution open to me. Sheep! Now sheep are stupid animals, they have a brain the size of an Englishman's penis and tend to shuffle about leaving their droppings where people have to tread. I have good solid wooden floors, sheep shite and wood floors do not good bed-fellows make.
I currently have hens, geese, goats and the odd bedraggled llama to keep the place looking aesthetically pleasing to the untrained eye. Of course you lot are more than aware that I am a city boy at heart and I bought the animals only to justify the Range Rover parked in the driveway. The only animal ever to occupy space in that by the way is a wee ass who lives across in Limerick. Even then we put down newspaper on the upholstery. So the whole idea of purchasing a flock of baa-baa's just to munch the grass was the original plan of attack, they ticked all the right boxes and kept the man of god fae my door for twelve months of the year.
I wasn't surprised when he offered to 'lend' me his own small flock to graze freely in the field enclosure as this would kill two birds with one stone. With hindsight a man of the cloth could have used a better phrase, surely? So much for thou shalt not murder a living thing, eh? So, with the deal done the oul fella drops by once a year for his breakfast, a bottle or two of my private stock and a quick swatch over the wall at the condition of the grass. He doesn't preach to me about his boss, I don't necessarily point out that a couple of his flock disjoint themselves and end up laying in my freezer. After all, is it not said that god helps those who help themselves?
Roast Lamb with Parsnip Mash
1 rack of fresh lamb (about 8 chops)
4-5 parsnips (depending on their size)
8 medium potatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
Pre-heat oven to get things started, then heat up a bit of oil in a heavy pot or frying
Brown the rack of lamb for a minute or two on all sides, but for the love of all things tasty do not
brown the ends. Transfer to an oven-proof dish and cook for around 20 minutes. Vary the cooking time depending on your personal choice of pink or brown meat, but your
thermometer should read 120 when it’s done. Unfortunately the auld wooden barometer that hangs in your hallway will not be sufficient for this dish. (Little singing fella please take note)
Next step, de-glaze the pan the lamb was browned in by pouring in a bit of the
jus, and then returning this mixture to the pot where the jus is
simmering. Remove it from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes while you ponder the outcome of your accompaniment of traditional Celtic mash. I would suggest at least three fingers of single malt and a browse of the newspaper while you mentally prepare yourself for the delights of tonight's dinner idea.
Boil a medium-sized saucepan full of
water, peel and roughly slice up
the parsnips and the potatoes to prepare for boiling.
The snips will take slightly
longer to boil than the tatties will, so either place them in the
boiling water a few minutes before you put the potatoes in, or cut up the
snips into smaller pieces than the
Boil for 10-15 minutes or until the
largest pieces are tender enough to stick a fork
in. Drain the parsnips and potatoes and
transfer to a large glass bowl for mashing.
Make as you would normal mash,
although with a bit less milk since the parsnips tend to take on more
water. Peel some of the skin off the fresh
horseradish, and using the fine side of the grater, grate about a tablespoon of
horseradish into the mash. You might want more than this, or you might find
yourself incapable of achieving the one tablespoon because of the agony to your
eyes. Stir thoroughly, add salt and pepper to taste before turning out onto a large rectangular dining plate along with fresh minted peas.