The thing is though, solid oak furniture and the usual customary décor that befits our chapel home does not fit well with open plan Spanish white walls and clean lines, not to mention glass viewing windows facing the Med. Dilemma. Actually no. Siobhan and my daughters have offered to step in and save the day. The list was a waste of time. Everything will remain in situ at this end for our return at Christmas and Hogmanay. Why cart furniture halfway around Europe when you have women in the house prepared to go on ahead and shop till they drop? Aye, that'll be right! Even someone who has taken as many blows to the head as masel is no going to agree with that, eh? No, we are going to go revisit our past. When we moved into our tiny first home as newlyweds we had very little, but we found infinite pleasure hunting for bargains of cast off furniture and hand-me-down knick knacks. Money was extremely hard to come by and there wasn't such a vast array of beautiful items available as there is today. We were happy just being together and sharing the sofa which had been previously owned by my family (since 1756 if the stains were anything to go by) and watching the damp grow mushrooms on the window sill brought us closer together. Lean times they might have been, but happy times indeed, without question. We intend to enjoy many more happy days while we are still fit and able. Meanwhile, here is something enjoyable and tasty to keep yourselves busy in your kitchen as I go about arranging rescue for the little singing fella. It would appear that his VW camper has broken down 30km this side of Galway City and herself is busting for the loo.
He should never have sold his pushbike.
Ragu alla Contadina
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (45 ml)
2 ounces/60g pancetta, finely chopped
1 medium red onion, diced
1 medium stalk celery with leaves, diced
1 small carrot, diced
1 large handful of sweetcorn
4 ounces/125g boneless veal shoulder or round
4 ounces/125g pork loin, trimmed of fat, or 4 ounces/125g mild Italian sausage (made without fennel)
8 ounces/250g beef skirt steak, hanging tender, or boneless chuck blade or chuck centre cut (in order of preference)
1 ounce/30g thinly sliced Prosciutto di Parma
2/3 cup (5 ounces/160ml) dry red wine
1 & 1/2 cups (12 ounces/375ml) chicken or beef stock (homemade if possible)
2 cups (16 ounces/500ml) semi skimmed milk
3 tins plum tomatoes, drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil in a 12 inch (30cm) skillet (frying pan) over medium-high heat. Have a large saucepan handy to use once browning is complete. Add the pancetta and minced vegetables and sauté, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, 10 minutes, or until the onions barely begin to colour. Coarsely grind all the meats together, including the prosciutto, in a food processor or meat grinder. Stir into the pan and slowly brown over medium heat. First the meats will give off a liquid and turn dull grey but, as the liquid evaporates, browning will begin. Stir often, scooping under the meats with the wooden spatula. Protect the brown glaze forming on the bottom of the pan by turning the heat down. Cook 15 minutes, or until the meats are a deep brown. Turn the contents of the skillet into a strainer and shake out the fat. Turn them into the saucepan and set over medium heat.
Add the wine to the skillet, lowering the heat so the sauce bubbles quietly. Stir occasionally until the wine has reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Scrape up the brown glaze as the wine bubbles. Then pour the reduced wine into the saucepan and set the skillet aside. At this point myself and the delightful daisyfae usually open the second bottle and swally the contents before continuing.
Stir ½ cup stock into the saucepan and let it bubble slowly, 10 minutes, or until totally evaporated. Repeat with another ½ cup stock. Stir in the last 1/2 cup stock along with the milk. Adjust heat so the liquid bubbles very slowly. Partially cover the pot, and cook 1 hour. Stir frequently to check for sticking. Add the tomatoes, crushing them as they go into the pot. Cook uncovered, at a very slow bubble for another 45 minutes, or until the sauce resembles a thick, meaty stew. Season with sea salt and white pepper. Hopefully, it should look like this.