“Shadows gain, bottles drain…”
– Roddy Wooble
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say there’s a lot of anxiety around at the moment.
Covid, our jobs, Brexit, the Tories, Stormont, the environment, social media, VAR, Mondays, the weather, my dog called Waffle… sometimes it feels as if the whole universe is out to annoy a body, conspiring to push a person to breaking point.
Sometimes I read the news and despair. Sometimes I listen to Trump and think, “Is this what it’s come to? The evolution of man has brought us here?”
Sometimes, I feel the only answer – to paraphrase that modern luminary, Homer Simpson – is to hide under some coats for a while and hope that somehow, everything works out.
But then I wonder if maybe that’s where we’ve been going wrong this whole time.
Plastic is wreaking the world.
Ah, sure it’ll be grand.
Sectarianism is wrecking society.
Ah, sure somebody’ll sort something out.
Waffle has pulled all the washing off the washing line has has chewed up your boxers.
Ah, sure… he’s only a pup.
Instead of taking action, voicing concerns or unleashing some serious kung-fu on the hound, we let apathy dictate how our days pan out and inexorably, civilisation staggers on.
Honestly, I’m not sure what the answers are to this world’s increasingly challenging situation. Although in quieter moments I’m fairly sure that a benevolent dictatorship couldn’t be any worse. I’d be up for the job too, in return for a nominal fee and expenses and 28 days annual leave.
I mean, I could hardly do any worse that Boris and that shower currently running the show. If a politician or a government constantly has one eye on re-election as well as pacifying the benefactors, how can he/she/they develop enough foresight to take difficult decisions to the benefit of all?
‘President Devlin’ – I like the ring of it!
I bet I’m a better cook than Boris too. Plus I know how to use Brylcream and a brush – vital life skills when it comes to suggesting you’re not a wild-haired megalomaniac.
Did you know bangers and mash is Boris’s favourite dinner? Is it, or so the internet tells me.
Actually, here’s one that’ll brighten up your Thursday morning and lighten the mood.
Q. How do you know Boris Johnson is looking through your key-hole?
A. You can see both his eyes.
In the face of all this anxiety, I think it’s necessary to lean on a little perspective. OK, so we can’t wave a magic wand and solve all of society’s problems but we can make little changes in our own lives. We do what we can, when we can. And when the going gets tough, the tough make mince and dumplings.
I’d been threatening the clan with this dish for some time now, and when a friend suggested a one pot wonder on Friday, I knew it was time to crack out the suet.
As you can see from the picture, we had this on Sunday past with honey-ed carrots and buttered mash but in reality, all you’d need is the mince and dumplings. Starchy and comforting, warming and flavoursome… this little recipe ticks all the right autumnal boxes when the weight of the world is crushing your spirit.
If, by some strange twist of fate, destiny insists that I become President of Planet Earth (benevolent, don’t fret), I’d make this dish mandatory eating for anyone complaining of the blues. It’s like love in food form.
• dash of olive oil
• 1 large carrot, chopped
• 1 or 2 onions, depending on size, chopped
• 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
• 500g of steak mince
• half a glass of red wine
• 1 tin of tomatoes
• 1 tsp of honey
• half tsp of thyme
• half tsp of rosemary
• 400ml of chicken or beef stock (I used chicken)
• 2 bay leaves
• 250g of self-raising flour
• 120g of beef suet
• half tsp of fine sea salt
• 1 tsp of dried parsley or 2 tbsps of chopped fresh parsley
• around 180ml of cold water
Splash a glug of oil into a large sauce pan, or a heat proof casserole dish (ideally one with a lid) and fry up the onions, carrot and garlic over a low to medium heat until soft – about ten minutes or so.
Add the mince and turn up the heat and brown this off for another few minutes.
Add the wine to de-glaze the pan, if necessary and stir it around until it’s mostly all evaporated and then then dump into the tomatoes, stock, herbs, honey and bay leaves.
Bring to a simmer and let it bubble away for about half an hour, stirring now and again, until it’s thickened a bit but not too dry.
While that’s happening, get the dumplings on the go.
Add the flour, suet, salt and parsley to a bowl and mix to combine. Make a well in the centre and start mixing in the water. You might need a little more water (or even a little less) than 180ml but basically, you want to mix it up into soft dough which isn’t too wet.
Sprinkle some flour in a baking sheet or large plate and with floured hands, take small handfuls of the dumpling dough and form into a balls, about eight to ten.
When the mince is thickened and you’ve tasted and adjusted the seasoning if necessary, carefully lay on the dumplings, stick a lid on and let it simmer on a low to medium temp for at least 20 minutes. After that time, take a peek and the dumplings should be risen and cracking on the surface – a good indicator they’re cooked through. If they still look a little raw, give them another five minutes with the lid on.
And that’s that.
This went down a bomb with half a glass of red wine on Sunday afternoon and for the duration of lunch, all was well with the world.
Read the full story in this week’s paper, available in your local newsagents today or subscribe to our Digital Edition by clicking below