The age of abundance


COMPLEMENTARY The textures and flavours of mushrooms and kale work well together.

Redmond Cabot

We have lost the run of ourselves. Abundance is everywhere. It is pertinent to remember we are blessed in this country with foods. We must remember not to waste, to value everything. To give thanks for what appears on our table.
In this age of abundance I always remember my Granny Winifred and mother Penny. Having lived through the war years, scarcity and rationing was part and parcel of their lives. All of this came back to me as we were waiting for a visit from the French relations, Nicky, Jacques, Aishling and Laetitia.
I had no plan for feeding them, but I knew I had two lamb shanks in the fridge. About 4pm I quickly browned them in oil in the pan to get brown crispy outsides, threw them into a casserole pot with pearl barley, roughly cut carrot pieces, some washed spuds halved, three onions peeled and quartered, a can of beer lying to hand, a handful of black peppercorns and seasoning.
Four hours later I took it out of the oven, shredded the meat from the shank bones and mixed it around in the stew-pot. Nobody got big chunks of meat, but everyone got a little, and the flavour was everywhere. The barley and veggies did the rest. Everyone was happy. A reminder of a little going a long way.

Red’s mushroom and kale starter
I also took a spin into town at 6pm to pick up something for a starter in Kavanagh’s SuperValu in Westport. The meal was to be on the table at 7.30. Keep it simple, buy what looks good and make up the rest, I told myself. This interesting combination worked for a tasty starter.

What you need

  • 400g white button mushrooms
  • 2 medium red onions
  • 250g fresh kale
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • Seasoning
  • ½ tsp each smoked paprika, cayenne pepper
  • 200ml cream

What you do
Slice each mushroom into four slices (I like a thick cut) and place the slices onto a hot pan. You can add oil or not; either way it takes a while to brown the mushrooms and let their juices out. I tend to cover the pan with a lid to steam down the flavor, but that’s optional too.
After five minutes add the red onions (peeled, halved and chopped – I prefer half-moon rings for this dish) and a good knob of butter for flavour and glazing. After three minutes of stirring, sprinkle in your spices, season to taste, then pour the cream around sides of the pan. Just before the cream comes to a boil add the kale, roughly ripped into pieces.
The kale cooks in two minutes if covered. (A poll was taken to find out people’s views on the tougher stalks being used, and it was revealed that the majority preferred non-stalks. Luckily, I work on the principle that if you’re eating at our table, you eat what you are given!) Serve with wholegrain or toasted bread.
This starter, which came from nowhere, was very satisfying, with interesting flavours. The main course impressed the French, and everyone beamed after the dessert – chopped fruit sprinkled with sugar and a squeeze of lemon. No abundance. Less is more!

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.