March madness while waiting for the spring


Redmond Cabot

Strange things have been occurring at home; a fox wiped out our hens after they had escaped any lean winter attacks. We were only a week without hens, as Martin from Loughrea was back selling his hens at ‘point of lay’ soon after. It must be a long point, they are not laying yet.
The three young ducks were also not laying, until we discovered they WERE laying… in the pond! Every day we go with rake now to fish out the eggs (figure that one out).
After an exceptionally mild and kind winter it appeared that spring might have swung into action. It didn’t and hasn’t. Overall, I love winter, and I love veg, but I just can’t look at another roast-veg dish with love. I simply cannot. (Others in the household have their aversions and foibles too. As a result, we cooked four dinners last night for four people. Madness or what?)
It looked like we would be getting ready for spring produce, then came the hungry gap. The spuds should be put in the ground this weekend. That’s not going to happen either. It’s all a bit weird. A bit strange. A bit mad.
It looked like Ireland would easily retain the Six Nations Rugby, then came England. It looked like Mayo football was gearing up for a great season, and then came the Dubs. Again. You will forgive me for desiring some spring relief. It’s coming, I know. Just not fast enough! ‘The darkest hour is right before the dawn’, sang Bob Dylan. He had it in one.

Winter’s End Stir-Fry
Serves 3
We enjoyed a good run of stews and winter-warming food, but sometimes you want something a bit different. You start to wonder what could keep your taste buds tickled. Often, a stir-fry is a great alternative comfort food, with fresh, vibrant vegetables guaranteed to give you a lift. I love washing and preparing a choice of veg before stir-frying them and serving them with good wholegrain rice and a dash of soy sauce.
This dish provides a light, zesty nutrition boost at the end of a dark winter, while a few winter veg still make the plate. Use wholegrain or brown rice, organic if possible. It sits well in the tummy, and leaves you feeling satisfied. Careful not to over-cook – I enjoy al dente rice, with a slight bite.
When it comes to making a stir-fry, I have few top tips: Prep all your ingredients first; use a heavy-bottomed pan or wok; use a wooden spoon; cook at a high temperature; use nut or rape-seed oil (olive oil may burn); cook hot and fast, adding the ingredients in a sequence determined by size and cooking time; cook only two or three portions at a time; and finally, pat any meat cuts dry and season them well before adding them to the pan (otherwise the meat can go tough).
If you’d prefer a meat-free stir-fry, make the following recipe using 350g of tofu instead.

What you need

  • 350g beef or chicken (optional), sliced thinly
  • 250g broccoli florets
  • 150g cauliflower florets
  • 150g carrots, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1cm ginger, peeled
  • 1½ tbsp soy sauce
  • Nut or rape-seed oil
  • 200g wholegrain brown rice
  • Squeeze of lime
  • Peanuts (optional)

What you do next
Wash all your veg, peeling if required. Chop to your liking – the shapes and sizes are up to you … diced or sliced, thin or thick. Some choose to blanch their broccoli or cauliflower florets, depending on the size they like. Have all your ingredients sitting close to a spitting hot pan or wok.
Cook the rice as per instructions and leave it to the side with a lid on the pot, to keep it warm.
Start your stir-fry by adding your meat to the pan first. Once sealed, add the ginger and garlic (taking care not to burn them, then start adding in the veggies, one kind by one kind, starting with those that take the longest to cook, such as carrots.
Spoon your rice onto warmed plates (the more patterned and colourful the better!), leaving a large ‘hole’ or ‘crater’ in middle, and then ladle in stir-fry to the centre. Sprinkle soy sauce around the ring of rice, and serve.
As the spring starts to take hold properly, you can start substituting spring onions, red peppers, courgette and the like. You could swap the ginger for fresh chilli. It’s all about balancing the finished foods with the seasons.
Now, I should really think about trying to get those spuds in the ground….

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 Street car park, Westport, every Thursday, from 8am to 1pm.