Years ago Bill and I were iced into our apartment in Birmingham for a few days. Previous to WINTER STORM ’96 (as the newsfolks called it), we would have told you there was precious little to eat in the apartment. Let’s go to Taj India, we would have said. Or maybe La Fiesta. Or Arby’s. Amazing what a bit of kitchen foraging can do. I remember eating steak and baked potatoes, pecan pancakes, and a delicious multi-bean soup. We lost our hot water but we ate well.
Snow started falling in Dublin last weekend, and we happily hunkered down. Church was canceled on Sunday, so I found myself browsing through a magazine. I saw a picture of pasta with pine nuts and a fried egg. Ooooh, I said, can we have this? Sure we can, Bill said. An hour later we did. It was lovely and we’ve added it to our pantry dinner repertoire.
Dublin, like Birmingham and Austin, doesn’t have the infrastructure to deal with ice and snow, so when things get frozen, things get freaky. Buses stop running. Sidewalks turn to glass. I’m allowed to wear jeans to work. Cars were having trouble exiting our car park, so Bill started working at home on Wednesday. I’ve been concentrating on getting my bones to and from work in one piece, so we haven’t had an infusion of groceries for a few days. [I broke my arm on the ice last January. Remember? Of course you do because I keep talking about it. Broken. Ow.]
Bill had planned dinner for Monday (Tangerine Beef stir fry with jasmine rice) and Tuesday (Burgers with chips and beans). But then what?
Wednesday night–soup. The idea started as chicken soup (carrot, potato, chicken), but then morphed when Bill noticed a bag of Doritos (plain). Add a can of green chiles, canned tomatoes, cilantro (coriander) and lime juice–tortilla soup! A welcome treat after Colin brought me home (in a record three hours).
Thursday night–meat and potatoes. Half a honey-roast duck from the fridge. Roast it over some new potatoes and quartered onions. Serve with a vinaigrette-dressed salad. The perfect dinner after arriving home safely thanks to Dublin Bus, the DART and a layer of crunchy snow.
Friday–throw it in a pot. This afternoon Bill found some stewing beef in the freezer (from the sadly defunct Simply Sourced meat delivery service). He was looking for something to serve with couscous, so this is what he did:
- Salted and browned the beef in olive oil and placed in casserole dish.
- Added quartered onions to the pan and a splash of vermouth to deglaze.
- Added chopped garlic and spices–allspice, coriander (ground seed), cumin, chile powder, thyme, turmeric, and paprika.
- Cooked for a while, then added a few squirts of tomato paste. Allowed to thicken into a dark paste.
- Added a can of whole tomatoes and a cup of chicken stock along with a bay leaf, a pinch of saffron, whole dried apricots, toasted almonds and a couple spoons of harissa. And a strip of lemon zest.
- Brought to a simmer and then poured over the beef in a casserole. Added a cinnamon stick.
- Covered in foil and baked at 165°C/325°F for an hour.
- Stirred in a can of chick peas, drained and rinsed.
- Baked for another hour.
What came out of the oven was a beef and apricot tagine. Turns out the couscous was a bit old (um, 1.5 years expired), so we ate the tagine with rice. After my taxi ride home (of a basically normal duration), I entered an apartment filled with fabulous aroma. The warm spices and tender beef rang all my comfort-stew bells, and the nutty almonds and chickpeas matched well with the tangy apricots and tiny bursts of bright lemon.
We’re out of onions now, so Bill says we definitely need to make it to the store tomorrow. I brought home some milk tonight, so Bill can have his morning tea, and I’ve been thinking about cafe au lait.