Songs of Innocence & Experience
Delicious animal face parts. . . Many people would argue that these words should never be spoken together. But have you ever tried a braised Irish lamb cheek? Or beef sweetbreads covered in a Cashel Blue Cheese sauce? Many people haven’t. And even for those who have, they may not be at the top of the list when ordering off a menu. . . so it’s a good thing we don’t have a menu!
This wasn’t always the case. When we started the process of taking over the kitchen at Roundwood from Hannah’s mother, the meals she prepared seemed like they would be impossible for me to reproduce on my own. Rosemarie had spent years in that kitchen honing her craft, perfecting recipes, and learning both the subtleties and the broad strokes required to deliver a crowd pleasing set menu.
She was a great teacher, but when she finally took off the apron, the combination of my limited experience and a fear of deviating from her winning formula, meant I that cooked somebody else’s food for a lot of years.
I don’t say that as a bad thing. It was absolutely necessary. I was not Rosemarie. I had never had a job in my life that didn’t involve a guitar. I needed to practice. And to do that, I needed Rosemarie’s play book.
Fast forward to today. Rosemarie’s Parsnip and Cashew Nut Terrine is still a front runner. But things are changing in Ireland. Attitudes towards food aren’t what they were twenty years ago, or even ten years ago. Palates have evolved, and very conveniently evolved at the same pace that I’ve learned how to cook.
And with time grows confidence, and almost a decade at Roundwood has really taught me what this county has to offer. When I replaced the beef in Rosemarie’s bourguignon with Mick Keegan’s Laois-raised lamb cheeks, I finally started to feel free to improvise. Started to feel like it was becoming my kitchen. It’s now one of our most popular dishes. Check out the recipe below:
lamb cheeks (or substitute beef cheeks) 600 g (about 20 cheeks)
bacon: coarsely chopped 100 g
button mushrooms: quartered 100 g
shallots: quartered 100 g
red wine 0.5 litre
beef stock 1 litre
garlic: minced to taste
rosemary & thyme: finely chopped to taste
salt & pepper to taste
Clean the fat and sinew from the cheeks. Season and sear in a very hot pan. Deglaze the pan with some of the wine and transfer cheeks into roasting pan. Add garlic, herbs, seasoning, and the rest of the wine. Cover with beef stock. Cover the pan with tinfoil, and braise at 350° for 1½ hours or until meat is tender.
In a separate pan, cook bacon until crispy. Add to cheeks. Cook the mushrooms and onions in the bacon fat. Again add to cheeks.
You may need to reduce the sauce some more once all ingredients are added. Just place the roasting pan on the stove, and reduce until you get the desired consistency. It should be dark, rich and gooey.
It’s also important to note that the beef stock, made here at Roundwood, takes about 48 hours to prepare. When using shop bought stock for this recipe, be sure to look for an unsalted product.