Thank YOU Basque Country

Thank you Basque Country… great food.


Trying to find food that is interesting, tasty, simple and fulfilling can be a challenge in this world of fake over chemically treated, non sustainable and very changeable food and eating. The simple concept of eating what is sustainably raised, with love and care, of not always having to follow the intricate peripatetic moves of celebrity chefs, chefs who think too highly of themselves and cooks who have lost the art of simple eating, is not simple. We are in the thrall of determined profiteers who will do what ever it takes to make money. Food is not about money, not about financial bottom lines, it’s about feeding our rapidly growing world population.


I am reminded that much has changed since the days when my Grandfather would select cows, sheep and pigs that has been well raised, had eaten good food, lived lives that did not make them suffer. They would be transported to Port Fairy where they would be allowed a month or two of rest on the family farm and then my Father would dispatch them for the family butcher shop. I can say, since I spent many many days with my Father when he was slaughtering the animals, that none suffered. Naturally they did not go to their death with joy, but they did not unduly suffer. The quality of the meat spoke for itself.


Confusion is something that we seem to have to live and deal with daily. There is little in life that can be said to be simple and easy. In the past a retreat to a quieter life in some rural idyll seemed to work, now even that has changed and we are forced by a never ending set of rules and regulations, climate change and a million other things, to be ever vigilant. The desperate brawling of supermarkets struggling for your money is such that strip shops, local corner shops, local butcher shops are in rapid decline. Farmers markets, once the hope of artisanal producers, now often given over to endless home jars of bad jam and chutney. Local genuine growers of great product, makers of butter and cheese are so overwhelmed by rules and regulations, health and safety rules, that they give up. Growers of meats that can be transformed into wonderful charcuterie are so burdened by rules and regulations they don’t even try.


One of the sadness’s of my growing up was that my family, great butchers, did not engage in anything but sausages, corned beef, pickled pork and dripping. The sausages were always and only beef sausages, made in the English style with finely minced meat and as I remember, a handful of ‘sausage spice’ that was kept in a large tin. The dripping was made in a large 44 gallon drum that resided in the back yard over a smouldering wood fire, filled with all the fat scraps from the shops and allowed to melt over a few days. This bit I loved, the bits of meat that were left were crisp and crackly and delicious. Although they raised pigs, and Dad and his brothers slaughtered them, it never occurred to them to consider ham or bacon or other smallgoods. I think in the early days before my birth, it was done, I recall seeing a large cement tub that had a huge wooden lid that was used for salt curing. Its fair to say that Australian butchers followed the British traditions and only when European migration started, did changes happen.


This is not about meat, but about a dish that is somewhere between a soup and stew, a dish that embodies the world of real food, treated with simple respect and completely delicious. The cost of seafood, long with many other meats is on the rise, suggestions are afloat that people will not be able to afford meat or seafood in the near future it will disappear from our tables. Perhaps to be replaced by plant based meats now rapidly developing in the USA. However, this dish calls for Tuna and that is not abundantly cheap in Australia, so could be replaced by any cheaper firm fleshed fish. For Vegetarians, the fish could be replaced by tofu, large white beans (precooked) chickpeas (also precooked) or vegetable such as pumpkin, zucchini, eggplant or even green beans.


I think the point I am making above, is that we eaters must reclaim the day, we must not allow our own fears on health overwhelm us, we must not let government at any level continue to bind us with endless rules and regulations … I am reminded that a good butcher in Central Victoria, a man who cares about meat, to the extent that he has his own small farm (just like my father) where he fattens the animals to his needs on natural grass, has had an enormous struggle with local authorities to do this. Having your own slaughter yard or small shed, is not any longer allowed. My feelings are that we have become so over cautious about cleanliness and the likes, that international food catastrophes sweep the globe with such ease (swine fever) that much of the cause of this can be sheeted to countries who under regulate, we need to claw back local production to just that, to separate from ambitious exporters who will do anything for money and leave them to their fate. Look what has happened and is continuing to happen in the dairy industry because of over ambitious central companies. We need to not fall victim to supermarket chains who will, with no hesitation do what ever it takes to improve the bottom line. We need to encourage and support small operators who offer us good food, good service and a future. We need to support the John the Butcher, Mick the Butcher and the local green grocer, corner store and mini mart. We need to not allow our consumption of food to be driven by time constraints, celebrity chefs or lack of knowledge or any one type of consumer, don’t allow yourself to be railroaded by Vegans or any other ism, they have a right to eat what they wish, so do you. Nothing is gone, no recipe forgotten, just slightly hazy. We can reclaim the day.



500 gram of Tuna fillet or similar cut into 2 cm dice

125 mil EVO

2 cloves garlic peeled and chopped

1 medium red onion peeled and chopped

½ red bell pepper (I use the peeler to remove the outer skin) chopped into 1 cm squares

2 large potatoes peeled and sliced into ½ cm slices

2 large tomatoes chopped (or one can of chopped tomato if the fresh are not up to scratch)

½ tspn fresh thyme leaves

½ tspn smoked paprika

1 tspn capers

1 bay leaf

½ cup of white wine

1 ½ cups of fish or chicken stock.

Place a good terracotta or steel pan on heat, add the onion, garlic allow to cook till onion turns translucent, add the tomato and potato, the herbs, the wine and stock and allow to cook until the potatoes are 95% cooked through and the liquid reduced by 1/3 rd, add the fish and turn heat down to cook the fish through. To serve, drizzle some oil on top and scatter with freshly chopped parsley. Have a good supply of crusty bread on hand.






~ by peterwatson on August 9, 2019.

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