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Therein lies the rub


HANDS ON Rubbing herbs and spices into meat before cooking is a simple way to transform the end dish.


Redmond Cabot

Since the 1980s, our family has always been on a mission to find the perfect way to make homemade ice cream. At one stage Mum bought home a wooden barrel with a rotating drum and crank handle – the operation involved packing the edges with ice and pouring salt around that to assist the cooling process.
Other attempts relied on white, electric contraptions that entailed multiple stages of processing and freezing.
Most often, we soon returned to the easier option of buying shop-bought creamy, rich, soft, luxurious ice creams that hit our taste buds and left us satisfied – without all the hard work.
Later, while working with Sligo man Tim Rooney in PD’s Woodhouse restaurant in Dalkey as a student, I learned a new way to use ice cream and make it your own. Tim used to mix whipped cream half and half with soft commercial ice cream, and add broken ginger biscuits and a shot of baileys. The outcome was delicious!
Sometimes the answers to things we seek are simple, sometimes there are no answers to what we seek; sometimes we try and learn something new only to return what we have learnt or been taught at seminal stages and sometimes the answers lie somewhere in between, in the wibbly wobbly hinterland. Food and cooking is like that too; a textured landscape that varies and alternates between what we know, what we try, what we learn, what we experience, and then the opposites of all that!

The reason for telling you about my ice-cream journey is to try to encourage you to experiment. Recipes act merely as signposts; you can follow them to the letter, or go off road. You might take a wrong turn every now and then, but you’ll learn something along the way.
Here are a couple of ‘signposts’ for interesting meat rubs – a great way to add a complementary flavour. These recipes that can be tweaked according to your taste.   
We might not be that familiar with the idea of rubs here in Ireland, but think of them as simply using more than the usual salt-and-pepper seasoning to bring out and enhance flavours. A word of advice: rubs tend to work better with stronger meats rather than softer meats, such as chicken.

Smoked tea with roast beef
Jonathon Keane of The Lodge at Ashford tells me he uses smoked tea in the preparation of his venison dish. It got me thinking, and I’ve come up with this rub recipe – a bit left field but good fun to experiment with.

What you need

  • Your choice of beef cut to roast  
  • Quarter cup Lapsang Souchang tea
  • 2 tbsp dark-brown sugar
  • 1 tsp peppercorns and sea salt

What you do
Heat the peppercorns for four mins in a frying pan, grind and mix with the salt. Rub this mixture on the beef, then cook the meet as normal in the oven – but take it out 10 percent before it is normally finished.
Line a wok with heavy enough tinfoil, including the lid. Mix the brown sugar and tea well in the bottom of the wok, then place a metal rack in the bottom of wok and place the beef on top. Heat over moderately high heat with the lid on. Smoke will appear after 2-3 minutes. Don’t panic – it’s supposed to! Cook this way for five to six minutes, then turn the meat for another 5-6 mins. Remove your wok from the heat and let the meet stand for 10-15 mins. Funnily enough, and despite what I said earlier, this recipe also works well with a steamed or boiled chicken.

North African-inspired lamb rub
Rubs are also great to have to hand in the cupboard. You can always double or triple this recipe and store the rub in airtight container for four weeks, for use whenever you feel like it.


  • 1 tsp of ground cumin
  • Ground ginger
  • Sea-salt
  • ¾ tsp of black pepper
  • ½ tsp each: ground cinnamon, ground coriander, cayenne pepper, ground allspice
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves

What you do
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Simply apply the rub to some lamb chops and cook under grill or in pan, or apply to larger piece of lamb for oven roasting and cook as normal.

One the side
Both of the above dishes can be served with roasted nuts and/or seeds with vegetables. To ‘roast’ nuts and seeds, simply toast them in a non-stick frying pan over low-medium heat, being very careful not to burn them.
All nuts and seeds contain beautiful oils that will warm and toast, bringing out extra ‘nuttiness’, texture, flavour and warmth. Serving with vegetables really works because of the texture contrasts and the intermingling of the flavours. Simply serve your veg sprinkled with your roasted/toasted nut mixture.
Nice combinations to try include lightly boiled cauliflower sprinkled with toasted pumpkin seeds; steamed or boiled carrots with roasted walnuts; roast vegetables with toasted pine nuts; or any veg mash with toasted sunflower seeds.

Red Cabot is interested in food, nature and small things. He sells his food at Westport Country Markets in St Anne’s Boxing Club, James’s St car park, Westport, every Thursday, from 8am to 1pm.