This weekend I shall be imbibing rather a lot of booze as most other Brits will as we welcome in the New Year. At my age and with my life experience here's my advice for the New Year:
1. Follow your own drummer: yourself. People will let you down, use you as convenience and everything, including their interaction with you is relative and based on their own needs. Learn to be wholly self-sufficient.
2. Remove all toxic people from your life- don't murder them but walk away from them. Repeat after me: if someone doesn't make you happy, it's time to say goodbye.
3. Expect the worst- that way you'll be pleasantly surprised because if you have high expectations of others, you'll fall hard on your face.
4. Shrug your shoulders a lot: It is what it is. Que sera, sera. Whatever. Don't pretend to be detached but remain unmoved by the mass hysteria that is every day living. If you can control your emotions you'll survive 2017 intact and not in a straight jacket.
5. People are nuts, deranged, unreliable and full of it. Knowing this will save you a lot of grief. Start telling men who ask for your 'phone number that they can have it if they're prepared to marry you.
6. Don't be afraid to do a Shirley Valentine- if you really want to join a convent or become a pole dancer, just do it! Time waits for no one.
7. Don't make the first move on some guy you really like. If he doesn't have the balls to know how he feels about you, he will be a needy, demanding, wet partner, lover etc. Think Linton in Wuthering Heights. Yuck! Many, many more fish in the ocean.
8. Think- introspection and finding silence, peace in one's soul is worth more than all the diamonds and pearls in this world. That is unless you want to bag a premier league footballer by having his child and never having to work again in which case peace is overrated.
9. Laugh a lot and preferably at yourself. I find my stupidity hilarious rather than unforgivable or dramatic- remember, life goes on regardless of how inadequate we are.
10. Walk the goddam dog. I cannot stress enough how walking has saved my life. Breathe in fresh air, watch the dog run around with a smile on his face chasing a stupid ball, understand how much he utterly adores you because you're kind to him. And in the process you'll stay slim and healthy.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
And now for that recipe:
Samantha's Beef and Onion Pie with Lard and Butter Pastry
This is a dish to eat when it's really cold outside. Today it was -2degrees C and sufficiently perishing to bring out the sloe gin, stodge, cream and boiled cabbage- in that order.
For the filling:
600 g topside or braising beef
5 medium onions, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Splash olive oil
50 g unsalted butter
Handful cubed Pancetta
Splash balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and ground black pepper
Two bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
One or two large potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
Flour for dusting
Tablespoon finely chopped parsley
For the pastry:
1 1/4 cups plain white flour
50 g lard
50 g unsalted butter
Pinch sea salt
3/4- 1 cup ice cold water
To make the filling:
Cut the meat into cubes. Toss in flour. Shake off excess flour. Heat the olive oil in a large casserole pan over medium heat. Add the butter, when it begins to foam add the meat in a single layer. Don't touch the meat for around two minutes then turn once. The meat should be nicely browned. Repeat until all the meat has been browned. Remember not to overcrowd the pan and brown the meat in a single layer. You may need to do two or three batches depending on the size of your pan.
Remove the meat from the pan and keep warm. Add the Pancetta cubes and render the fat over a low heat. Don't crisp the cubes over high heat- take your time. Add the onions. Lower the heat and caramelise the onions. Stir occasionally. This process cannot be rushed so if you're in a hurry order a takeaway. Once the onions have taken on a light brown colour and smell sweet, add the garlic. Toss for a few seconds then deglaze the pan with a splash of balsamic vinegar. Vinegar is acidic and cuts through the richness of the dish. You can of course use red wine instead. Add the potatoes, cover with water, season with salt, pepper, thyme and the bay leaves. Bring to the boil then simmer for 1 1/2 hours covered. After one hour add a tablespoon of flour mixed with a little water to the pan and stir in. This will create a thick sauce. Once the sauce has thickened and the meat is soft, remove from the heat and cool completely. I like to keep the mixture in the fridge overnight so the flavours can develop and make the pie the next day but you don't have to.
To make the pastry. Remove diamond rings. In a bowl add the flour, salt, lard and butter- cube these and make sure they are very cold. Add a pinch of salt. Rub the flour and fats between your fingers until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the water little by little. Use a knife to mix the dough together and finish by bringing everything together with your hands. The mixture should be sticky but not so wet it sticks all over your hands. Bring it together in a ball but do not knead. Cover the dough with clingfilm and place it in the fridge to rest for at least thirty minutes.
Pour the meat mixture into a deep pie dish and sprinkle chopped parsley on top. Roll out the pastry and place on top. Brush with beaten egg. Make leaves with pastry trimmings. Brush these too with beaten egg. Be sure to cut a vent in the center of the pie to let the steam escape. Return the pie to the fridge while you pre-heat the oven to 230 degrees C. Once the oven is piping hot, bake the pie for 20 minutes then reduce the heat to 200 degrees C for a further 40 minutes.
Serve the pie at once with boiled cabbage or other vegetable. Enjoy!
Photos copyright SvD.