Pre-season friendlies. Everyone pretends they don't really give a fiddler's about them, but it'd still be nice to win them. We've a world cup to go to next month, like. Unfortunately, the IRFU seem to have enjoyed the 2007 debacle so much that they've decided to try and recreate it exactly and have started by renewing Kidders' contract before the world cup. Somewhere, someone is hearing the ghost of RockSteady Eddie howling "Noooooooo...". Not that Eddie O'Sullivan is dead, mind. I'm just using my artistic licence.
Ireland has a hooker crisis (insert dodgy joke about legalising prostituion here). Rory Best should just go away somewhere and never come back. Gerry Flannery must have the body of a calcium-deficient, arthritis-ridden nonagenarian woman, he's so prone to injury. Richardt Strauss will be Irish-qualified next year, but will probably be roundly ignored by Kidney & Co., who have shown themselves to be rather, erm, set in their ways in the past (Mick O'Driscoll, anyone?).
So, it's England next week. We have a bit of a history of pulling a performance out of the bag against the chariot-lovers, but as satisfying and all as that might be, it's not enough. Here's hoping the lads can pull themselves together by September 9th.
In related news, Emmet and I are no longer allowed to watch rugby together. It does not make for marital bliss, let's just leave it at that.
Anyway, there has once again been a woejus lack of cooking going on, for which I must apologise profusely. I've only spent two nights at home in the past fortnight, almost, so my routine is all over the place. The last thing I cooked was steak, which I know is a very subjective thing for people, but for what it's worth, here's my favourite way to serve it.
Steak with Cottage Cheese, Parcel Potatoes & Spinach Salad - serves 4
4x 8oz fillet steaks 400g low-fat cottage cheese
Juice of 1 lemon Bunch fresh thyme, leaves picked
Olive oil Salt & pepper
Aromat Garlic granules
1kg baby potatoes 2 large onions, sliced
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced Large bag baby spinach leaves, washed & drained
1) Take the steaks out of the fridge AT LEAST an hour before you plan to cook them. I really can't stress enough how important this is. Oil each steak and season each side with equal parts black pepper, garlic granules and aromat (no salt, the aromat is salty enough). Press the seasonings into the steaks, cover with clingfilm and leave to sit at room temperature for the hour.
2) Mix the cottage cheese, lemon juice, thyme leaves and a swirl of olive oil in a medium bowl. Cover and stick back in the fridge until you're dishing up. Make the salad by mixing the spinach leaves with one of the onions in a large bowl and pop that into the fridge too. (I usually cut another lemon into wedges too, for extra squazzing.)
3) Preheat the oven to 210C. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook your potatoes (cut any bigger ones in half) until they're just tender. Drain and bung into a large bowl with the other sliced onion, the sliced garlic, lots of salt & pepper and a good few glugs of olive oil. Toss together. Take a sheet of tinfoil, big enough to hold all your potatoes, then double it. Put the potatoes onto the foil, fold over and double-fold the edges together to make a good seal. Pop into the oven and bake for approx. half an hour.
4) Get a large frying-pan onto a high heat - as high as your ring will go. Don't oil it, as you've already oiled the steaks. Get your pan really, really hot. When you think it's hot enough, leave it for another 5 minutes. You need to be thinking "Holy shit, this thing is going to go on fire any minute now". That's when it's ready to cook on. Have your plates warming in the oven. Now, I eat my steak blue, so I literally cook it for about 90 seconds each side. I've been told, however, that not everyone appreciates steak that's still cool in the middle. Weirdos. For rare, give them 3 minutes on each side, for medium-rare, more like 5 or 6. And that's where I'm out of my comfort zone with steak. If you want it more cooked than that, you shouldn't really be wasting your money on steak in the first place. But if you insist on ruining it, give it 10 minutes per side in the pan, then move it to a baking tray, cover with foil and let it continue to cook in the oven.
5) Once your steaks are cooked, move them to the warm plates and allow to rest for 5 minutes. I like to just plate the steaks up and serve everything else in big bowls on the table, but it's up to you. The most important part is to make sure everyone has a big dollop of the cottage cheese on their steak. The contrast of the hot, peppery steak with the cool, creamy cheese is just amazing. Use another dollop to dress your salad, along with another squeeze of lemon. Heaven on a plate.
A note on buying steak: I have a fantastic butcher at home and I buy all my meat from him. With the exception of steak. I finally had to accept that Aldi's Specially Selected Irish Angus steaks are far better (and cheaper) than anything I was getting from the butcher. He just wasn't hanging his beef for long enough, unfortunately.
Today's Top Tip: Nissan Micra drivers - attach a lit sparkler to your radio arial. You drive the things like bumper cars, so they may as well look the part.