Tuesday, February 22, 2011


There are some who leave an indelible impression upon us; others come and go leaving not even a shadow.

One day when living on Newry Island I had the good fortune to share time with a lovely lady. She’d come to the island for a day trip along with her granddaughter and her friends; the latter group intent on hiking across the island. Not up to the arduous task the young folk had in mind the lady asked if she could just sit quietly while they exhausted their youthful energy. Dropping tools, I decided to join my unexpected, dignified guest.

Sitting at an outdoor table, we chatted over a pot of tea, our view being picture-perfect sylvan islands loitering on a viridescent ocean like irresistible sirens. A cornflower blue sky interrupted by feather-like wistful clouds caressing the far horizon played host to a radiant tangerine sun. A courteous sea breeze barely disturbed the she-oaks and palms guarding the foreshore.

My intriguing elderly guest told me of her life in Papua New Guinea as a young married woman shortly after the Second World War. Alone into an undeveloped, mysterious land she ventured to join her husband who had already been living there a few months ahead of her arrival. By light aircraft she’d flown; a sole passenger into the highlands of PNG. Set down in a clearing in the midst of the dense tropical jungle she was left to her own devices to find her way to where her husband was posted. It has slipped my mind how it came about she had to make that unknown journey alone, but alone she did conquer the hazardous trek to the waiting arms of her young husband.

Enthralled by the charming woman sitting across from me, and engrossed in her fascinating narrative, I listened in captivated silence. Moments passed with no words exchanged. We’d become lost within our own thoughts. Like a soothing lullaby, the measured lapping of the ocean upon the shore settled us into a sense of peaceful harmony.

Contemplatively the lady interrupted our reverie. “We effortlessly grow weary of all this, you know,” she said, alerting my attention. “We complacently take for granted the beauty,” she continued, sweeping her arms across the vista before us. “It’s of no consequence. It’s unseen, unappreciated. It’s invisible. Our eyes are blind to it; our mind, unreceptive. We get on with our lives ignorant of what’s occurred. Beauty surrounds us, but we no longer recognise it. We underestimate its value. We must be wary! Like many things…we only appreciate their worth after they’re gone.”

Filet de Boeuf Beaujolais: Trim 6x5cm-thick beef fillets. Sauce: Melt 2tsps butter; sauté 1tsp finely-chopped eschallots until golden; add ground pepper, ½ bay leaf, 1 sprig thyme and 200ml Beaujolais/shiraz; boil; reduce rapidly to 2tbls; add 200ml demi-glace; cook over low heat 15mins; strain. Off heat, beat in 30g butter; gently mix in 60g fresh beef marrow; set aside in warm place. Fillets: Melt 2tbls butter and 1tbl olive oil in heavy pan; quickly sauté fillets on both sides; sprinkle with salt and pepper as you cook it as desired. Place fillets on warm plates; spoon sauce into pan, whisk in 50g butter; pour over meat; arrange a slice of marrow (or slice of garlic-parsley butter) on each fillet; sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Orange-Blueberry Dessert: Peel 4 navel oranges; remove pith; cut rind into strips; reserve; slice oranges horizontally. Make syrup by bringing 100ml water and 100g sugar to boil; add 90ml cassis; boil 2mins; cool. Pour half the syrup over orange slices and half over 1 punnet blueberries; refrigerate several hours. Blanch orange rind 3 times, change water each time. Make second syrup with 200ml water and 200g sugar; boil; add 50ml cassis; add blanched rind to boiling syrup; simmer until rind is translucent red and has candied, about 20mins. Remove rind; cool syrup; store rind in cooled syrup until ready to use. Assemble macerated fruit on plates with spoonfuls of syrup; garnish with candied peel and spoonfuls of sweetened mascarpone on the side.