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Thursday, 15 December 2011

Cheesy leek & dill pie

Plague house. I've got stomach lurgy, Mark has a dreadful cold, the little foster lurcher has colitis. We were all up till 4am this morning with our various ailments. Time for some serious comfort food. Mark is no fan of meat free recipes but even he said this was the perfect thing for all the things that ailed us; silky, rich, deliciously cheesy and satisfying (also quick and cheap!). I think if leeks were an exotic vegetable we'd eat them a lot more. They are amazing tasting when cooked properly (and when you have a good, grit-free source).

1kg trimmed, washed leeks, chopped into 2" lengths
1oz butter
200g chevre or feta or a mixture
100g mature cheddar
2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
salt & pepper & nutmeg to taste
Pack ready rolled butter pastry
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 200oC. Simmer leeks for 15 mins, drain very thoroughly. Add butter, cheeses, dill & seasoning. Stir well and cool. Use as filling for pie fashioned from the pastry and sealed with the egg. Bake for around 30 mins. Cool for 10-15 minutes before eating. Return to the sofa and prepare for death, but with a better disposition than before.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

I lied, I lied. I got another foster.

No, I don't know what I was thinking of either. I only posted Dearg off to Sligo a week ago. Sheba's spay went successfully but she was an incredibly bad patient; I had to sit up with her all night stroking her head and paw (this is no exaggeration-the minute I stopped an unearthly wailing kicked off. I got to bed at 7am). Mark and I had plenty on our plates and sure Christmas is only a few weeks away.

Then Jane from Sighthound Strolls posted an urgent request to foster a little whippety lurcher for Christmas. I have a massive weakness for whippets and they are only tiny.....I persuaded the ever amenable Mark that we should take him in as we would hardly notice one more little one. Fortunately the whippet got rescue space that day, but Jane said if I was willing to foster she had the sweetest little Saluki X.......

To cut a long story short, next Saturday we were back down the road to Newry to pick up little Bono (so named for his extravagant vocal style) whom we promptly renamed Yogi as we both hate U2 and he is a darling little bear of a dog.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Haddock Plaki

This is another of those gorgeous Greek braised dishes, full of olive oil. Please don't stint, it makes all the difference.
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 oz butter
Juice of 1 lemon
2 medium onions, finely sliced
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp Aleppo pepper
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried Greek oregano
1 glass white wine
1 cup of chicken stock (or more wine)
4 tomatoes, each cut into 8 pieces
6 medium red potatoes, peeled, thinly sliced and boiled for 2 mins then drained into a colander
4 large skinless haddock fillets

Preheat the oven to 200oC. Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the butter and when it begins to foam, add the onions along with a pinch of salt, stirring to coat well. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Raise the heat to medium and cook for 4 to 6 minutes longer, or until the onions are golden brown. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the oregano and stir to combine. Add the wine & lemon juice and bring to a boil. Boil for about 5 minutes, or until the pan is almost dry.

Stir in the tomatoes, the stock, and a pinch of salt. Return to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer, cook for about 10 minutes, season and remove from the heat and set aside.

Heat a large frying pan to medium-high. When hot, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sear the fish for 1 min each side, only one or 2 at a time. Don't crowd the pan. Drain them on kitchen towel.

Mix the potatoes with about 2/3 of the sauce and spread it into a lasagne dish. Put the fillets on top and pour the remaining sauce over the whole thing. Bake for about 12 minutes, or until the fish is opaque and cooked through.

Dear Dearg III - a day is a long time in fostering

Looking like butter wouldn't melt......hmmmm.
One thing you learn very quickly about pound dogs is that it's such a stressful experience for them (the noise, the cold and the fear) that it takes weeks for their personalities to come back again. The first two days are especially hard for them and all they do is eat and sleep. The problem with this is that you won't see some of the more "challenging" behaviour for a day or two and then, just as you've been lulled into a false sense of security, they display some appalling behaviour out of the blue and invite you to "deal with it, bitch".

And so on the third day Dearg decided to act the bollocks and attack all the other dogs. To a certain extent I don't mind husky-on-husky fighting - they mostly enjoy a bit of light hearted scrapping and they have enough coat to protect them from the worst of it. But my little Saluki X is extremely thin skinned and Dearg was lunging at her in an alarmingly fangy way. Also my own two huskies are getting on a bit and you could see that while they were trying to be polite they weren't really enjoying Dearg's toothy advances.

At this point the fosterer has to take a very deep breath. You cannot risk your own dogs being hurt or being affected in the longterm by a foster dog's behaviour. On the other hand, the foster dog has been through an awful lot and you have to give them a break. Something's got to give. And that something is your right to a decent night's sleep.

Mark and I took turns for a full two weeks to sleep on the sofa and ensure that Dearg didn't take a lump out of any of the other dogs. This is not something we will be repeating any time soon and we cannot recommend it. We both have trapped nerves and filthy dispositions as a result of the enforced separation. While I do think the two weeks in our house did Dearg the power of good, it took a lot out of us and our dogs. He's now with Irish Sled Dog Rescue in Sligo and if you feel you could give him a good home, please get in touch. He's a good little man, affectionate and clever. But I think he wants to be an "only dog".

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Dear Dearg II - Stinky Husky

The little stinker......
We first met Orsin in a hotel car park. From a distance, cute as a button and good as gold. Then we got closer and.....sweet Jesus he was HONKING! I noticed the lovely transport lady and her two kids looked a little queasy after driving him from Dublin and we were hastily given his vaccination card, told he was a good boy and then they scarpered, leaving us with a very smiley husky who smelt powerfully of socks, Parmesan and something indefinably awful. Possibly badgers.

Anyway, he really was good as advertised and hopped into the back of the car without demur. Five minutes into the journey I pleaded with Mark to crack a window. Big mistake, that just pulled the smell right through the car. Honestly, you could have made sandwiches out of it, it was so thick.

I called a few dozen dog groomers on the way back up to Belfast, but it was lunchtime on Saturday and my opening line of "I wonder could I get a rescue dog washed this afternoon? It's a bit of an emergency..." probably wasn't calculated for success. Our only option was to invest in a few rubber mats and hope he didn't destroy our bath. To be fair he was perfectly behaved throughout his soapy ordeal, standing quietly and looking up occasionally with that pained look dogs feel duty bound to do when being bathed, even when secretly they are quite enjoying the attention.

So far, so well mannered. But I'm no dozer, my rescue Saluki was a little lady until we got home, where she swore emphatically at my dogs for four days solid (and indeed still sometimes throws a casual little snarl out when a dog passes by). My three were dispatched out the back with marrow bones to distract them from the newcomer, giving him an hour which he put to good use snuffling round the house, shaking water out of his coat and on to us, rolling around on Sheba's rug (hell to pay for that later) and looking for cuddles from us (which would have been far more charming if he wasn't so wet and smelly). The orange blossom shampoo and evening primrose oil conditioner were certainly effective, but there was still a lingering cheesiness about him....

After an hour the inevitable scraping at the back door started, leaving us with no option but to do the introductions. Amazingly, after a few brief scuffles and awkward dances, everyone seemed to accept him remarkably quickly. Maybe because he's a husky. Maybe because he showed due deference to everyone. I
neither knew nor cared - by that stage we were so knackered we just took it as a blessing and started to walk all the dogs. Yet again the little man impressed, walking quietly (for a husky) on the lead. Was there no end to his talents? I was getting a bit worried as we had agreed beforehand he was Strictly Temporary and already I could see my husband falling for his not inconsiderable charms.

Dear Dearg -The husky that stole a fortnight off me

Orsin, now called Dearg.....
So two weeks ago I took Friday off work. Woke up early with a filthy cold and trotted downstairs for a Lemsip. While I was waiting for the kettle to boil I checked Facebook......and there was my little red nemesis. You see, when I got Sheba from Dunboyne Pound I offered the local rescue, A Dog's Life, foster space for a husky should they need it. Huskies are a (for which read demented) and husky fosterers are apparently like gold dust (I didn't know this when I offered!).

So I saw Martina's call for a foster for little Orsin. You see huskies regularly in Dunboyne Pound - they have non-existent recall but people persist in letting them off lead. Orsin was still wearing his little red halter when he was found, so you would think he'd quickly be reclaimed. Not so.......his five days were up and Irish Sled Dogs Rescue weren't able to take him till December the 3rd. Orsin needed sprung from the pound as technically he could be put down at any time.

I studied the post. There were several people offering to foster him. I'm a hundred miles up the road from the pound so I knew they'd only ask me in extremis. I spoke to my husband, who immediately said "yeah, tell them we'll take him if they are stuck."

Well of course the offer was accepted on the spot and next thing we knew we were signed up to looking after an unneutered red husky of allegedly friendly disposition and very good in cars. That's about all we knew. We arranged to meet his transporter in Newry at lunchtime on Saturday. Friday night we went out for a Chinese, figuring that would be the last time we got across the door for anything not related to dogs for the next two right we were.