So our opening game was against Montpellier. French teams are perennially accused of being more interested in their domestic league than the Heineken Cup, but that doesn't matter when you're playing them at home. An outbreak of mumps in the Montpellier camp had seen them miss their match the previous week and there was some expectation that they might be a bit rusty as a result; but by God, that was not the case. Despite the fact that you can never expect to easily beat French teams at home, Leinster were still expected to battle out a victory in the end. As it happened, we were extremely lucky to come away with a draw. Montpellier were completely dominant at the breakdown, their defence was nigh-on impenetrable and their discipline was good enough that they conceded very few penalties. It was only in the final twenty minutes or so that Leinster were able to build any kind of momentum, and even that was more down to the Montpellier pack getting tired than any improvement in our play. The ref. awarded a rather suspect penalty and Johnny Sexton equalised with the very last kick of the game. Two points in the bag, and I suspect that the team were more than happy with that, given the way Montpellier played. Onwards and upwards from here, hopefully.
The plan was to watch the match, which kicked-off at 1.30pm, come home, have a bath while Emmet did some work on his car and then make a fish pie for dinner. However, we ended up getting into a bit of an impromptu session in the pub, and staggered home at about 11pm with a bag of chips each. Ah well. I'm going to do the fish pie today instead. It's just as well, really, seeing as the pheasant I was hoping to get today appears to be unforthcoming. (Hint hint, Chris!)
The recipe I'm about to give you, I made on Wednesday. One of the great things about this blog is that it has forced me to widen my repertoire a bit - nobody wants to read five chicken recipes a week. This recipe uses pork mince and it was so delicious. Really fresh flavours, and a nice way to get away from the chicken-fillet-or-beef-mince rut we all find ourselves in from time to time. I served them with pitta bread, Greek salad and homemade hummous.
Sheftalia - serves two
450g pork mince 1 large onion, very finely diced
3 garlic cloves, crushed Small bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon 25g feta, cut into 6 cubes
6 black olives, chopped 1 fresh green chili, finely diced
Pinch of ground cumin Salt & pepper
1. Put half the chopped onion into a large bowl and add the mince, garlic, parsley, lemon juice and season to taste. Mix well until everything is evenly distributed. Divide into 6 rough balls, push a cube of feta into each and then mould into tight ovals. Pop back into the fridge for half an hour to firm up.
2. Heat a couple of glugs of veg or sunflower oil in a large pan. Cook the sheftalia on all sides until evenly golden-brown all over - this will take about 15 or 20 minutes. Drain on kitchen towels and keep warm.
3. Add the rest of the onion, the chili and the chopped olives to the pan. Sprinkle over the ground cumin and cook gently until the onion is soft but not browned. Squeeze over a little extra lemon juice if you fancy. Serve the sheftalia on warmed plates, topped with the onion mixture.