Thursday, December 31, 2009

December Leftovers


Roasted sweet potato salad

Cooking in December was unpredictable, these are the recipes I made from the internet:

*I made Spanish-style grilled fish using whole whiting. It was good, but not notably Spanish.

*To accompany our Jamaican barbecue we had a roasted sweet potato salad based loosely on this recipe from Mark Bittman. I roasted the sweet potato on the barbecue sprinkled with some chilli flakes and raw sugar, once cooked I left them to cool. I added a can of drained and washed kidney beans, some diced red onion, young rocket and some finely sliced radish. The salad was dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and seasoned with salt and black pepper. It was really tasty and made a great accompaniment to the jerk chicken.

*The glaze for the Christmas ham and the rub for the South Carolina barbecue. Both of these were very successful.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

South Carolina BBQ

This week we moved on from the Caribbean to the USA, South Carolina to be exact. There is fierce barbecue rivalry between the states in America, which means more delicious styles of barbecue for us to try.

This barbecue was prepared without much planning, so I had to use two boneless pork shoulder roasts instead of a big bone-in shoulder. I also couldn't be bothered hiking over to Bunnings in the heat to investigate the availability of wood chips for smoking the meat. Get yourself a bigger hunk of meat and some smoking chips for a more authentic South Carolina barbecue. But if you can't be bothered doing either of those things, this barbecue still comes out rich, smoky and delicious.

To serve the cooked pork pull it or chop it into small pieces, serve it in a soft white bread roll with coleslaw and the vinegar and pepper barbecue sauce

Blackjack Barbecue Dry Rub
Makes 1 cup of rub
From here

2 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp cayenne pepper
3 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp salt
3 tbsp chilli powder
1 tbsp garlic powder
2 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp brown sugar

Grind all the spices and combine.

Vinegar and Pepper Barbecue Sauce
Makes 1 cup

1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp crushed red chilli
2 tbsp black pepper, ground
2 tbsp brown sugar
Salt to taste

Combine the ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer until the sauce is reduced to one cup.

BBQ Pork Shoulder
Serves 8-12

3-4 kg pork shoulder
1 cup dry rub

Cover the pork with dry rub and let it sit while you light the BBQ. The Webber site has comprehensive instructions on how to barbeque the pork.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas 2009



Christmas was cool and rainy. Much of the menu was served warm, it included:

Smoked shoulder ham with pomegranate molasses and mustard glaze
Smoked salmon with capers
Lentil and rice pilaf
White bean and tomato salad
Roast new potatoes with thyme
Chickpeas, carrot and beetroot roasted with sumac, served on baby rocket
Cornichons, mustard and sourdough

Monday, December 14, 2009

Red Enchilada Sauce



My partner in fruit crime is mostly vegan, which I find pretty easy to cater for since I was a vegan for eight or so years - I wish I had invented this sauce back then. My red enchilada sauce is made with tomatoes, roaster red capsicums and chipotle peppers, it bears no resequence to an authentic Mexican red sauce, but is rich and spicy and totally satisfying anyway.

If you can't get chipotle peppers might be able to imitate the flavour with Spanish smoked paprika and chilli powder, but you really should try and get some chipotle peppers in adabo sauce, I stocked up when I was in America earlier this year. In Canberra you can get canned Chipotles at Deli Cravings at the Belconnen Fresh Food Market and you can buy them online here. Freeze the canned peppers you don't use in twos with a tablespoon on the accompanying sauce for later use.

I used this to make enchiladas with kidney beans (using this method, again). Serve with avocado and green salad, cheese and sour cream on the side for those OK with dairy.

Red Enchilada Sauce
Serves 3-4 for enchiladas

1 tsp vegetable oil
1 medium red onion
1 can of whole peeled tomatoes
1/2 tsp dried marjoram/oregano
2 canned chipotle peppers and 1 tbsp adabo sauce
3 red capsicums, roasted, peeled and cut into strips
Salt to taste

Heat the oil in a small saucepan, add the onion and cook until soft. Pour the tinned tomatoes and juice into the pan and crush with a wooden spoon. Add the dried herbs, chipotles and adabo, and the roasted red capsicum. Let the sauce simmer for about 5 minutes, remove from the heat and  purée with a immersion (stick blender), then return to the stove and let the sauce simmer gently for about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and season to taste with salt.

Scrumped


During my morning bus journey and my evening walks, I have been making a list of neglected loquat trees currently filled with an abundance of blushing yellow fruit. We relieved a tree of some this weekend just past, with all last years preserves gone, I decided to turn our first harvest into chutney. Should I find the time to go scrumping again before the rest of the fruit falls, I'd also like to make this loquat barbecue sauce.

Date and Loquat Chutney
Makes 1.25 litres

1.5 kg loquats, washed, deseeded and chopped
225 g dates, chopped
450 g brown onions, diced
200 g brown sugar
2 tsp ground coriander
3 tsp fresh grated ginger
2 cloves garlic crushed
250 ml vinegar

Mix all the ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring continuously. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to a simmer, cook the chutney for 1 1/4 hours stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Uncover the pan and cook for a further 15 minutes.

Transfer the chutney to warmed sterile jars and cover immediately with new lids. Allow to mature for one month before eating.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Jamaican BBQ


This week we took a detour from Asia and moved to Jamaica. Jerk isn't a style of BBQ I have come across in Australia, but with all the ingredients for the marinade readily available it's a easy style to try and recreate on a charcoal BBQ.

I marinated some whole butterflied chickens in jerk marinade for about 3 hours, then cooked the chickens over coals with the vents partially closed.

To accompany the chicken we had a roasted sweet potato salad and a cold watermelon for afters.

Jerk Marinade
Makes enough for 2kg of meat
Adapted from Jerk form Jamaica by Helen Willinsky

1 brown onion, chopped
1/2 cup spring onions, chopped
2 tsps of fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp allspice
1 jalapeño chopped
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp cider vinegar

Combine all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Store leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge for up to one month.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Eggplant Curry



I've made this eggplant curry a few times and each time I am rewarded for persisting with the frustrating unordered list of ingredients. The recipe comes from a book from a historic Indian restaurant that was located in the Canberra in the 1980s called Shalimar, the owner and author of the book gallantly refused to moderate the intensity of his food - a sentiment I agree with entirely. The curry delicious and  well-suited for those who can't handle heat as it's not very spicy.

Brinjal and Tomato Curry
Serves 4 or more with other dishes
Adapted from A Heritage of Indian Cooking by Joseph Cotta

1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 large onions, finely chopped
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin, ground
2 green chillies, chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 tsp ginger, grated
4 large tomatoes, diced
1/2 kg eggplant, diced
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the onions until golden brown. Add the spcies, chillies, garlic and ginger and fry until aromatic. Mix in the tomatoes and allow them to begin to break down, stirring frequently,  until the oil rises to the top. Add the eggplant and stir well, add the lemon juice. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat to low and cover, allow to simmer for 20 minutes or until the eggplant is cooked through, then season with salt as required and serve.

Monday, November 30, 2009

November Leftovers



In November I used these recipes from the internet

*Simmered black beans, a recipe that I have at least six times since it was published in March, I really should have memorised it by now.
*I recently bought some vanilla beans from Spice West on ebay, which seems to be the cheapest way to get them. I used some beans to make vanilla extract using this method, but used half the alcohol and twice the beans. It smells fantastic after four weeks, I probably won't wait eight weeks to use it.
*I finally got around to trying Peter Reinhart's Napoletana pizza dough recipe. The pizza bases made with this recipe were awesome and the long cold fermentation makes a lot of sense during the warmer months.
*I wanted to add something a but different to the lunchbox fruit loaf rotation, coconut-pineapple loaf cake from Martha Stewart looked good. I made mine with yoghurt and a 400g tin of crushed pineapple, it's very nice, but the crumbly texture lends itself more to a cake than a loaf.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Vietnamese BBQ



Vietnamese BBQ this week, I picked some recipes from the recently released Little Vietnam by Vietnamese-Australian chef Nhut Huynh. The meaty component of the menu was barbecued pork balls, these pork meatballs were seasoned with fish sauce, oyster sauce, shallots, and sugar which led to some lovely caramelisation. Threaded onto bamboo skewers for grilling they were then served with iceberg lettuce cups, cucumber, and a hoisin dipping sauce.

To accompany the pork I made the papaya salad, which I can add to the new foods list for this year as I've only eaten it ripe in the past. I have a potted Vietnamese mint (Persicaria odorata) which came in handy, the picture in the book also has something that looks very much like perilla (serrated leaf margins, purple underside) which might be worth trying if you can get some, but wasn't listed in the recipe. Don't bother making more servings than you need since it supposedly doesn't keep well, a green papaya weighing 550 grams should be enough for about 4 serves; half of the unpeeled and unseeded fruit can be put in an air-tight container and reversed for later use.

The salad is a really interesting mixture of textures, the mint is probably the most notable flavour, the papaya is crisp and fresh and is more like bean shoots than you might be expecting. Piling the salad into the lettuce cups with cucumber and the BBQ pork made for a refreshing late lunch.

Papaya Salad
Serves 2
Adapted from Little Vietnam by Nhut Huynh

1/2 a small green papaya (~260 grams), peeled and seeded
Squeze of lemon juice
1 cup Vietnamese mint, washed
2 tbsp fried shallots
1 tbsp crushed roasted unsalted peanuts
20 ml fish sauce
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
2 fresh birds eye chillies, finely chopped

Finely julienne or grate the papaya then soak in cold water with a squeeze of lemon juice added, this removes some bitterness.

Mix the papaya with the other ingredients and toss well to ensure the papaya is coated with the dressing. Serve immediately.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thai BBQ


There is something intimidating about a giant, bright pink silk-covered cookbook. The tone of David Thompson's epic Thai Food, is rigorous and reverent but also sort of discouraging, it took me a while to finally start cooking from it. Now we're properly acquainted, this weeks barbecue dish came from the book, we made gai yang (grilled chicken) for a late Sunday lunch and it was fantastic!

A large jug of freshly made sweet chilli sauce in the centre, mojitos at the front

To accompany the chicken we had cucumbers, thinly sliced carrots and a herb salad made with roughly even quantities of coriander, ginger mint and pineapple sage lightly dressed with peanut oil. The archivist maintains that he loves ayam taliwang the best, but I thought that this dish had a great balance of hot, sweet and sour and it will be on the menu again.

The only part of this dish that requires planning it the coriander root since the other ingredients can all be acquired fairly easily. Coriander roots can be stockpiled in the freezer for later use. I have included the recipe for a half quantity of sweet chilli sauce, this should be enough for at least six chickens.

Gai Yang
Serves 4
Adapted from David Thompson's Thai Food

3 coriander roots, washed and chopped
Pinch of salt
4 garlic cloves, peeled
10 white peppercorns
3 tbsp fish sauce
Large pinch palm sugar
1 small chicken

1/4 cup coriander root
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup long red chillies
2 cups white vinegar
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 cups water

Using a mortar and pestle, pound the coriander roots, salt, garlic and peppercorns into a fine paste. Work in the fish sauce and sugar. Butterfly the chicken, wash and pat dry and and rub in the marinade, leave to marinate in the fridge for a few hours.

For the sweet chilli sauce, process the coriander root, salt, garlic and chilli in a food processor. Combine the vinegar, sugar and water in a pot and bring to the boil, then add the chilli paste. Simmer the sauce until reduced by half, then set aside to cool.

Chargrill the chicken until it reaches at internal temperature of ~83°C. Serve with a bowl of the sweet chilli sauce.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Baked Beans

All the baked beans from the last batch I made using a Jane and Jeremy Strode recipe had been eaten, to replenish the stocks I used the recipe from The Cooks Companion by Stephanie Alexander. I modified the recipe based on what I had in the kitchen and because her beans didn't sound particularly delicious; I did mostly follow her technique though (I didn't purée tinned tomatoes in the food processor when they are going to cook for four hours however).

As far as Stephanie's technique goes, I can't see any advantage to par-boiling the beans then baking as she instructs, over fully cooking the beans and then cooking them a second time with the tomatoes with spices etc. like the Strode recipe. The later is definitely faster and having eaten this batch a few times now, I couldn't detect an appreciable difference in the texture of the beans. Otherwise the mix of vegetables and spices I concocted is quite pleasing and has a much greater depth of flavour than your typical baked bean sauce. I wouldn't bother with the maple syrup again as it makes the beans incredibly sticky when you reheat them and the flavour is disguised by the tomatoes and spices, brown sugar seem like a better choice.

Basque Beans
Makes six 520 gram tubs for freezing (12 serves)
Adapted from The Cooks Companion by Stephanie Alexander

700g dried haricot beans
3 tbsp olive oil
400 g diced brown onions (~2 large onions)
6 cloves of garlic, crushed and diced
275 g carrot diced small (~2 big carrots)
350 g roasted red capsicums, skin removed
2 400g tins of tomatoes, crushed
140 g tomato paste
175 ml of shizaz cabernet or other red cooking wine
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of thyme
2 tsp smoked Spanish paprika
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp salt
1 tsp crushed black pepper
1/2 cup maple syrup

Place the dried beans in saucepan and cover with cold water to four centimetres above the beans. Slowly bring the beans to simmer, then leave at a simmer for an hour.

Half an hour before the beans are done preheat the oven to 180°C; heat the oil in a large enamelled cast iron casserole and sauté the onion, garlic and carrot. After about 5 minutes or when the onion is translucent add the capsicum, wine, tomatoes, tomato paste and spices and mix well. Put a lid on the pan and let the mixture simmer until the beans have cooked for an hour.

Pour the beans and their cooking water in to the tomato mixture and stir, add water to cover by about 6 cm. Bake for about 4 hours or until the beans are fully cooked, checking after 2 hours to top up the water. When the beans are ready add the maple syrup and serve hot or divide into containers for freezing.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ginger Beer


Ginger beer starter on day two, there's not much to see

Finally it's sunny more days than it's not, I've been planning some brewing experiments and now seems like a good time to get started. The Archivist has fond memories of his family bottling ginger beer and suggested that I get the family recipe. His mum wrote back, she and her brother used to use a method like this with bakers yeast and dried ginger when they were kids. She didn't recall the method that they used later.

So I decided to an experimental approach and culture a wild ginger beer starter. I found a recipe and I started things off in the hot water cupboard about three weeks ago, combining water, ginger and sugar in a loosely covered jar. I bottled the first batch 6 days later in 1 litre Italian made stoppered bottles scavenged at garage sales. After two weeks the beer was still flat and I moved the bottles from the garage to the living area, six days over 30 degrees later, a batch bottled in cheap and evidently shoddy Chinese made bottles started exploding, so I decided to try the the first batch was again.

The resulting beer is has a good ginger zing and has a slight and pleasant sourness from the microbes that you don't get in the commercial variety. If you can wait the recommended two weeks it will be more fizzy if it's left longer to ferment.

Now I need to try it in a Dark 'n' Stomry.

Ginger Beer
Makes 4 litres
Adapted from Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz

8 cm or more of fresh ginger root
500 g sugar
2 lemons or limes
Water

To prepare the ginger beer starter add two teaspoons of grated ginger (skin on) and two teaspoons of sugar to 250 mL of water. Stir well and leave in a warm spot, covered with cheese cloth to allow air circulation. Add this amount of ginger and sugar every day or two and stir, until the bug starts bubbling in two days to a week.

Make the ginger beer any time after the bug become active. Boil 2 litres of water, add about five centimetres of grated ginger root (add up to 15 cm for a really intense ginger beer) and 500 grams of sugar. Boil for 15 minutes and cool.

Once the ginger-sugar-water mixture has cooled, strain the ginger out and add the juice of the lemons and the strained ginger bug (if you want start an ongoing process keep a few tablespoons of the bug and replenish it with water, grated ginger and sugar). Add enough water to make four litres.

Bottle in sealable bottles, leave the bottles to ferment in a warm spot for about two weeks. You will be able to see bubbles of carbon dioxide rising to the top of the bottle when fermentation is active.

Chill before opening and be prepared for strong carbonation.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Malaysian BBQ



Worldwide BBQ season continued this week. I wanted sate/satay and I choose to go with the Malaysian beef variant rather than any of the myriad of Indonesian options. I took my recipes from Rosemary Brisenden's book South East Asian Food and followed her serving suggestions by accompanying the satay with rice cake (nasi impit) and chunks of cucumber.

My inexperience with direct charcoal BBQ left the meat a bit overdone which meant that the flavour of the meat overwhelmed the well-balanced satay sauce. Everything was tasty, but not as delicious as last week. Oh well, practice makes perfect as they say.

Malay Satay
Serves 2 or 4 as a part of a larger meal
Adapted from South East Asian Food by Rosemary Brisenden

500g rump steak
1 stalk lemon grass, finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic
pinch of turmeric
1/2 tsp ground fennel
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Vegetable oil for basting

2 tsp coriander seed
1 tsp fennel seed
1 tsp cumin
6 dried chillies, soaked in warm water until soft
1/2 tsp shrimp paste
6 shallots
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp peanut oil
85 grams of peanuts, fried and roughly ground
250 ml coconut milk
4 tbsp tamarind water made from 1 tsp tamarind pulp
1 tsp palm sugar
salt to taste

Trim the fat from the rump and dice the steak in to 1.5 cm cubes. Make the paste by combining the lemongrass, garlic and spices in a food processor or mortar and pestle. Mix the meat and spice paste and leave to marinate for 2-3 hours; soak bamboo skewers in water at the same time to prevent them from burning on the BBQ.

To make the satay sauce, grind all the spices into a fine powder. Combine the soaked chillies, shrimp paste, shallots and garlic and ground spices in a food processor or mortar and pestle and make a paste. Heat the oil in a saucepan and fry the paste until aromatic. Add the ground peanuts, coconut milk, tamarind water and sugar and stir well. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring to prevent the sauce from sticking. Taste and adjust the seasoning. This recipe makes enough sauce for twice the amount of meat.

Thread the meat onto skewers, covering about 1/3 of the length of the skewer. Cook directly over a charcoal fire, brushing frequently with the oil. Serve the meat with the sauce on the side.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Indonesian BBQ


It was 31 degrees and sunny today, it seemed like a good idea to cook outdoors. I would like to try BBQ dishes from all over the world this summer, we started with Indonesia. According to my cookbook ayam taliwang (chicken with spicy sauce) is Lombok's most famous charcoal grilled chicken dish; it is basted with and served with a chilli-coconut sauce - which is quite delicious on it's own.

To complete the meal we had an authentic pickled cucumber - acar mentimun - and some improvised sides of spinach stir-fired with kecap manis and BBQ roasted sweet potatoes. The chicken elicited audible moans of appreciation and the vegetables provided a sweet textural counterpoint to the chook.

Next weekend, Indonesian again or Malaysian BBQ.

Ayam Taliwang
Serves 4 - 8
Adapted from The Food of Indonesia, Periplus World Cookbooks

14 bird's-eye chillies
1 medium brown onion
1 tsp dried shrimp paste, toasted
1 tsp palm sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp oil
4 cups coconut milk
1 tbsp lime or lemon juice
1 whole fresh chicken (sauce will be enough for 2)
1 tsp salt

To prepare the sauce blend the chilli, onion, shrimp paste, palm sugar and salt into a smooth paste using a food processor or mortar and pestle. Heat the oil in a wok then add the paste and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the coconut milk and reduce the heat, let the mixture simmer until the coconut milk is reduced by a quarter, then remove from the heat and add the lime/lemon juice. This makes enough sauce for up to two whole chickens, it can be stored in the fridge or frozen for longer term storage.

Butterfly the chicken by removing the backbone with a knife or kitchen shears, then place the chicken breast side up and press hard on the breast to snap the wishbone so the chicken will sit flat. Charcoal grill breast side up for 20 minutes, pour half a cup of sauce into a new container and use it to baste the chicken every 10-15 minutes until the internal temperature reaches ~83°C. Allow the chicken to rest for 10 minutes and then cut into large serving pieces. Spread some additional warmed sauce on the chicken before serving.

Christmas Cake



The first time I made a Christmas cake I made Alison Holst's Pineapple Christmas cake, that was 2006. I wrote the the Archivists mum asking for recipes and she sent me scans of three recipes from her collection. It turned out great and lasted beautifully until well after New Year, so I made it again in 2007 and somehow botched the timing and it was raw in the middle. I tried a different cake from Martha Stewart in 2008 and I would recommend the recipe, but I want a cake to call my own.

This year I cobbled together a recipe based on Alison's. I used a fruit mix similar to the Bourke Street Bakery's* Christmas cake recipe (raisins, dates and figs) and plan to feed the cake with dark rum just like the 2008 Martha Stewart cake, since I don't really like brandy and I have most of a bottle of rum.

I washed 500 grams of raisins, 400g quartered figs, 200g  chopped dates and 200g of sultanas, drained them, splashed them with rum and left them in the fridge to macerate for a week. Where the Hoslt recipe lists optional extras I tossed in 200g of glacé ginger. A 440 gram tin of Golden Circle crush pineapple is sufficient for the cake, squeeze out most of the juice. Blanched almonds on top, fed rum weekly, it should delicious in eight weeks time.

*The Bourke Street Bakery cookbook is lovely to look at, the recipes have very clear and precise instructions and the photos are great. Unless you're cooking for a crowd it may not be very practical as most of the recipes make large quantities (three loaves for breads, at least 12 serves for most sweet pastries). I am plotting an event so I can make some tarts to test it out properly.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

October Leftovers






October is a great month for garage sales in Canberra. The Willow ware collection is swelling and it's probably best we just don't talk about the accumulation of French preserving jars. In the kitchen, October was a cookbook month, although all the recipes for bunmania were sourced online. Otherwise:

*google directed me to Gordon Ramsay's caramelised bananas and rum which I made to accompany some hotcakes (can't comment on his hotcakes as I used a different recipe). I did something a bit wrong as my caramel also contained delicious chunks of toffee, definitely worth revisiting when there are too many bananas and another mysterious bottle of rum appears in the pantry.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Bunmania


Red bean buns prior to steaming, I need to work on making them round

I read the book tie-in blog Asian Dumplings written by Andrea Nyugen. When she directed me to her article in the LA Times on steamed buns I thought about making buns, and when one of my food fancying facebook friends posted a link to the article week later, I decided I should probably make buns as soon as possible. I had bunmania!
 
The yeasted bun dough was very easy to work and the recipe tripled successfully. I used one third unbleached bread flour and two thirds unbleached plain flour to produce a mix that I assumed would have equivalent levels of gluten to the American brand she mentions.

I made curried chicken and red bean steamed buns; using Andrea's instructions for filling and steaming the buns. I altered the curried chicken filling slightly by skipping the coconut milk and cornstarch, instead I added three tablespoons of shredded coconut and a little bit of water to bring everything together. I made the red bean paste recipe as instructed, which made roughly twice a much filling as required to fill one quantity of bun dough. To steam sixteen buns at once, you will need to use two twenty-eight centimetre bamboo steamers. These buns were light, fluffy and delicious; infinitely better than the frozen variety and most of the steamed buns I have tried locally.


Pan fried pork and scallion buns at the back, red bean buns at the front.

I also made the pan-fried pork and scallion mini buns and dipping sauce from the article. These were my favourite buns of the day, the buns were pillowy on top and crispy on the bottom, and the dipping sauce complemented the filling brilliantly.

I think it probably took me about two hours to make all the fillings, the dough and prepare and cook the buns, which isn't bad as I had sixty-four buns roll out and fold. Since the dough can be left in the fridge after the first rise, these buns don't need to be a weekend project. The steamed buns can also be frozen after steaming and reheated from frozen in the steamer later, which will be great when it heats up a bit more and I start avoiding the kitchen.

Cheap and plentiful bamboo stemers available in all sizes at
Oriental Groceries
2/38 Weedon Cl, Belconnen

Monday, October 5, 2009

Le Cassoulet



Thirteen people attended Labour Day cassoulet, the meal was pretty amazing. The cassoulet was rich and delicious with exceptionally creamy beans, it was accompanied by a simple green salad dressed with a vinaigrette based on walnut oil (la salade à l'huile de noix). For afters we had the tart aux pommes with Chantilly cream and an orange and poppy seed cake. We had champagne, a few different red wines and a dessert wine, I am surprised I'm still standing.

The final recipe I used for the cassoulet is as follows, if you want to add steps like making salt pork, duck confit and/or pork sausages you will need to plan at least a week in advance; after soaking the beans overnight this recipe could be prepared in a day or over two days. You will need an enamelled cast iron pot with a 28 cm diameter/ 6.3 L volume at least. I didn't use breadcrumbs and I was satisfied with the crust.

Le Cassoulet
Serves 10-15
Adapted from Goose Fat & Garlic by Jeanne Strang

To prepare the beans:
1 kg of dried white haricot beans
350g of salt belly of pork
Pork rind to cover the base of your cast iron pot, rolled and tied
1 carrot
1 onion stuck with 2 cloves
Bouquet garni (thyme, parsley and bay leaves)
Ham bone (optional)
6 cloves of garlic
Salt to taste

The meat:
2 tbsp duck/goose fat
350 g pork shoulder, 2.5 cm dice
2 medium sized onions
700 g Toulouse or pure pork sausage
250 g tomatoes, peeled, cored and diced
1 L duck stock or water
6 cloves of garlic, chopped
bouquet garni

For the cassoulet:
3 pieces of confit de canard
Duck fat
Breadcrumbs (optional)

To prepare the beans:
Soak the beans overnight in lots of water. Drain, rinse and place in a large pan. Cover with cold water and bring it slowly the boil. Boil for 10 minutes, skim off the foam then add the salt pork, pork rind, whole carrot, onion, boquet garni, ham bone and garlic. Cover and allow the beans to simmer slowly until just tender, adding salt half way through if necessary; the beans should be soft enough after 30 minutes at a simmer, don't let them overcook and turn mushy.

To cook the meat:
Add the duck/goose fat to a heavy bottomed pan, heat and add the diced pork to seal. When the pork has browned add the onions and carrots and let them colour. Prick the sausages and fry them separately until until golden. Drain and cut the sausage into bite-sized pieces then add to the pork, onions and carrots. Add the diced tomatoes, garlic and herbs and cover with stock or water. Allow to simmer gently for about 50 minutes.

To assemble the cassoulet:
Break up the duck confit into bite-sized pieces, discarding the skin and bones.

Preheat the oven to 150°C. When the beans are tender, drain the cooking liquid into a bowl, discard the ham bone, onion, carrot and bouquet garni. Cut the salt pork into bite-sized pieces. Use the pork rind to line the bottom of a large enamelled cast iron pot (at least 28 cm/ 6.3L), fat side down. Cover the rind with half of the beans then layer on the meats. Cover the meat with the remainder of the beans then pour on the sauce from cooking the meat; top up with stock or the bean cooking liquid so that the beans are almost covered.

If using breadcrumbs sprinkle them over the cassoulet, then place in the over cooking for an hour. After the first hour top up pot with more bean cooking liquid, more breadcrumbs (if using), and dot the surface with duck/goose fat, then return to the over for another two hours, or until the crust has become and appetising golden colour.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Le journal intime de cassoulet III


Left shows ingredients for the beans, on the right the ingredients for preparing the meat.

Sunday October 4

I drained the soaked beans, dumped them in to my pot and covered them in water. While I brought the beans to a boil prepared the salt pork and the other ingredients used to flavour the beans. The salt pork turned out nicely, since it had a relatively short curing time it as not terribly salty. I took all the rind from the whole piece of belly I cured to cook with the beans as you're supposed to use rind to line the base of  the pot when cooking the assembled dish,  I probably needed even more rind that I had. The beans took about one and a half hours to get to the undercooked stage (still a bit grainy and hard in the middle) needed for baking the completed dish on Monday.

Once the beans were ready I cooked the meats; the Strang recipe instructs you to brown the sausages, then simmer the meats in stock for 50 minutes and then assemble the cassoulet in layers with the cooking liquid from the meats, topped up with the cooking liquid from the beans if required. One of the sausage casings had spilt so we had it with brunch, it's a very tasty sausage with large chunks of pork, appropriately seasoned with black pepper. After all the cooking was done the house smelled amazing.


Confit de canard from La Belle Chaurienne

To assemble the cassoulet I had to prepare the confit to add to the beans and meats. Despite the best intentions, I have never gotten around to making my own duck confit. Mostly because I never have a surplus of duck fat, any duck fat I do collect is rapidly recycled into roast or fried potatoes; but it's also because I have had a 1.25 kg tin of duck confit sitting in the can cupboard. The confit was sent to me by the Archivist's mum a few Christmases ago, it will provide duck legs for the cassoulet, a few more legs to eat with salad, and I can reserve the fat to make more confit. I extracted three duck legs from the creamy fat and broke them up to add to the cassoulet, cutting my fingers several times. Instructions for making confit from scratch can be found here; now that I have about 2 cups of fat I will be making some soon.

I guessed that I probably would be able to fit the cassoulet in my pot after all; but it's very full and very heavy. If I had a bigger oven I would have done it in two pots to increase the amount of delicious bean crust. I lined my pot with the rind, added a layer of beans, then meat, beans, duck, meats, and beans on top and poured in all the liquid from cooking the meats. Tomorrow it just needs to bake for at least three hours to finish cooking the beans and develop the crust.

Labour Day cassoulet is looking like it's going to be a success. Friends are bringing wine, I will make a very simple green salad and get some baguettes, and for dessert we will have tarte aux pommes.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Le journal intime de cassoulet II

Tuesday September 29

The salt pork required attention on Tuesday, I was a bit apprehensive about discovering rancid meat, but the pork smelled strongly of bay from the cure which seemed to have worked as it should. I tipped off about 100 millilitres of the liquid that had been drawn out of the pork, the belly was fairly rigid, I applied more cure and this time I placed it skin side down in the container then returned it to the fridge. Two more days to wait.

Since I was working from home I decided to test an new recipe for baked beans starting  from 700 g of dried haricot beans that I had leftover from something else. I think I have identified the first problem in my cassoulet plan, that is that there is no way one kilogram of cooked haricot beans and about another one and a half kilograms of meat are going to fit into my 28 centimeter round Chassseur French oven. The recipe fails to mention size of the cassole/casserole needed to prepare the completed dish. Damn.

Thursday October 1

A quick examination of the salt pork showed that while mostly firm it was a but squishy in places. I applied some fresh cure and will check it again on Saturday.

Friday October 2

I got the Accountant to pick up some pork sausages from the Lyneham Meat Centre on the way to my house, apparently their sausages are fairly awesome and it was especially fortuitous that they had Toulouse-style sausages. I picked up the rest of the ingredients today too, a just finished ham bone from Deli Cravings at the Belconnen Fresh Food Market and some lean pork.

Saturday October 3

Three tasks today, soak the beans, wash and wrap the salt pork and defrost the duck stock.

The salt pork was uniformly rigid after an additional two days in the cure; it hadn't lost much more liquid but it seemed more compact. I washed off all the cure, dried it well, wrapped it in a clean cotton tea towel and returned it to the fridge.

The fact I made duck stock in June and need the freezer space so I can use my ice cream maker was a significant motivating factor for Labour Day cassoulet. To make the stock I used the carcass of a roasted duck, wing-tips and a skinless neck (I rendered the fat from the neck skin earlier), covered the duck parts with water and simmered for at least in hour; I prefer to make neutral stocks so I rarely add aromatics - they can be usually added later anyway. From this I got about one and a half liters of stock.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

September Leftovers

Two weeks in the US means I had two cooking free weeks during September. I did manage to cook these internet recipes over the rest of the month:

*This recipe from the New York Times served as starting point for a brunch. I sautéed my beet greens in unsalted butter in which I had let a shallot soften, in a second pan I browned some diced bacon, then mixed the two and served it on rye toast with eggs over easy.

*Soft pretzels, delicious, I blogged about them earlier.

*I made these apple and cinnamon hotcakes for another brunch, I used a tasty but not especially juicy mix of pink lady and sundowner apples, the apples could have used a bit more sugar and water to make more of a syrup. I left the batter to rest and the cast iron pan to warm up for 15 minutes while I went and got ice cream, which meant perfect non-stick hotcakes.

*Rice pudding for Oktoberfest, I think 150 grams of rice to 1 Litre milk is the magic ratio for rice pudding.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Pluot


I was recently in the United States, while there I thought I'd try some foods I hadn't tried before; but being stuck in the midwest with limited access to transport my options were limited. I did get some pluots, a fruit that I haven't seen in Canberra markets yet. The pluot is a complicated hybrid Prunus bred from plums and apricots, Slate recently ran an accessible piece explaining the genetics of the fruit.

I grabbed a few plouts of varying ripeness for a taste test. The variety I tried was very similar to a ripe plum in taste and texture, the redish flesh was pleasantly juicy, maybe with a hint of under-ripe apricot sourness that wasn't unwelcome. Based on this test, I think I prefer plums to pluots and won't be paying a premium of pluots when they do start appearing in fruit shops here; if I had my own orchard though I'd consider growing one. Ed is far more excited about the pluot than I was.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Le journal intime de cassoulet I


Somewhere in the Pyrenees

Friday September 25

I finally decided to make a cassoulet this year since the warm spring weather seems to have changed its mind and it's cold again. Labour Day offers an opportunity for lengthy food prep and a long lazy lunch. Cassoulet is a bean stew with assorted meats that originates from the south west of France probably from the city Castelnaudary. It is renowned for taking days to prepare and its extreme richness.

I gather from the number and variety of recipes that I have read, that a fairly authentic cassoulet isn't really an onerous a task for the type of cook who can find the time to cook legumes from scratch. Besides soaking the beans overnight and cooking them for up to 6 hours, the number of days of prep required largely depends on the amount of charcuterie you're willing to do. Some recent cassoulet experiences from food bloggers are a good indication of the varying levels of complexity in the preparation of cassoulet

I re-read the cassoulet chapter in my copy of Goose Fat & Garlic by Jeanne Strang (currently available at Clouston and Hall for cheap). Strang describes her recipe as a compromise good for the "Anglo-Saxon kitchen"; like the "original" Castelnaudary version her recipe is principally pork, but adds a Toulousain twist with duck confit. The Strang recipe clearly divides the cooking process into three steps that seem easy to follow - cooking the haricot beans, browning all the meat, and assembling the beans and meats to bake.

From the Strang recipe I noted the first thing I would need to make was salt pork, which is used for cooking the beans. The book doesn't have a recipe for salt pork, so I spent some time searching the Belconnen Fresh Food Markets for pink salt assuming I would need it to preserve the pork. I didn't find any.

Saturday September 26

I googled salt pork and found that there's a recipe in Jennifer McLagan's book Fat which was featured on The Splendid Table podcast; you don't need pink salt to make salt pork as it happens. I retrieved my copy of the book and bookmarked the recipe for Sunday.

I solicited some wine advice from my Francophile mother in law; who kindly provided me with some regional suggestions, Madiran or Tursan. Should Cox Kelly, Jim or Dan Murphy fail me (and I believe that they probably will fail) I looked for some alternatives. I nabbed a copy of Cooking under the Influence by Ben Canaider and Greg Dencan Powell at the Lifeline Bookfair on Friday, they recommend a shiraz grenache blend, a syrah blend from the Rhône or a Barossa shiraz, so I should be able to find something complementary, possibly Canberran.

She also suggested a green salad with a mustard dressing to accompany the cassoulet and oeufs a la neige or madelines or macaroons with coffee. I'm not sure sure there will be space for anything but the cassoulet, but she might be on to something.

Sunday September 27

I bought the pork belly, about 1.3 kilograms. Salting it was simple and I was pleased to use up some more of the quatre épices I bought on a whim at Aldi. I made ther sure as instructed from salt, brown sugar, juniper berries, black peppercorns, bay leaves and quatre épices then rubbed it into all surfaces of the pork belly. It then went in to the fridge where it will sit unmolested until Tuesday. I plan to use the leftovers in baked beans or petit salé aux lentilles.

I did more more reading on cassoulet, leafing through another bookfair purchase, Elisabeth Luard's European Peasant Cookery, I was impressed by her cassoulet recipe which came from a neighbour she had while living somewhere in Languedoc. It is essentially a very similar recipe to the one I started with but adds lamb and lots of bacon rind, it excludes duck confit and the breadcrumb crust (I am undecided on the breadcrumb issue, but leaning towards not having it). I also found the recipe for Toulouse style cassoulet from Paula Wolfert's The Cooking of Southwest France online, no lamb, insane amounts of duck confit and a meagre quantity of crumbs. Both the Luard and Wolfert recipes offer important notes on technique not mentioned in the Strang recipe, so they will be useful when it's time to cook.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Oktoberfest



We had a very low key Oktoberfest dinner on Saturday; the menu was

Soft pretzels
Pork sausages, cabbage braised with apples, and mustard
Rice pudding with applesauce

The pretzels were my favourite part of the meal, food bloggers seemed to agree that Alton Brown's recipe was the best. It's a simple bread recipe very similar to a pizza dough with the addition of butter. Folding the pretzels is the most time consuming part; I found it easiest to use both hands to squeeze out the dough, one hand following the other until I had a fairly even length of dough about 50 cm long, then folded them following this tutorial. I made 12 hand sized pretzels from this quantity of dough. I only had 1/6 cup of bicarb left, this seemed to be enough for the water bath

They took about 17 minutes to bake in my recalcitrant but correct temperature conventional oven; at this point the bottoms were quite brown, but the tops were not quite as photogenically golden as I would have liked; if there is enough bread flour left I may have to experiment some more.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

August Leftovers

I cooked a lot of stir-fries and recipes from cooks books in August; the internet recipes I tried were

*Turkish carrot, tomato and lentil soup; unadulterated this soup is kind of grainy from the lentils, it definitely needs some sort of dairy added to improve the mouth feel.
*Nigel Salter's braised lamb shanks with leeks and haricot beans was enjoyed by the Archivist while I was out of town. Not too heavy for an early spring meal while leeks are cheap.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Brunch

Breakfast is beloved over here, so on the weekends we brunch and forego lunch. The morning starts with a strong freshly brewed coffee, then the cooking starts. Popular choices for brunch include

*Porridge with spiced fruit compote, crushed almonds, Greek yoghurt or a splash of cream
*Ricotta pancakes with yoghurt, banana and honey or stewed rhubarb and extra ricotta
*Conventional pancakes with banana and maple syrup
*The fry up, comprised of some combination of fried eggs, baked beans, bacon, pork sausages and some wholemeal toast
*Potato hash (boil the potatoes skin-on the night before) with bacon and eggs fried sunny-side up
*Smoothies made with bananas, seasonal soft fruit (berries, mangoes, apricots), honey, yoghurt, bran cereal soaked in milk and cinnamon
*Bill Granger's sweetcorn fritters with avocado salsa
*Herb omelette with cheddar or smoked salmon served on an English muffin
*Huevos motuleños

Since I'm currently mad for pink lady apples, I have been experimenting with the dramatically deformed Dutch baby pancake

Apple Dutch Baby
Serves 2 to 4

30 g unsalted butter
2 pink lady apples, peeled, cored and cut into thin wedges
3/4 cup milk
100 g plain flour
4 eggs
60 g white sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Ground cinnamon
Yoghurt or vanilla icecream to serve

Peconfigure your oven so that there is one shelf in the middle and preheat oven to 230°C. Melt the butter in a 28 centimetre cast iron skillet over moderate heat. Add apple wedges and cook until they soften and begin to caramelise, 10 to 15 minutes.

While the apple is cooking, mix milk, flour, eggs, sugar, and vanilla in a bowl until smooth. Pour the batter over the apples and transfer the skillet to the oven, bake until the pancake in golden and puffy, 20-25 minutes. Dust with cinnamon and serve with yoghurt or vanilla icecream.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

July Leftovers


*I inherited an unnatural affection for soup from my Dutch grandfather, as a result we eat soup weekly year round. Curried black-eyed pea soup has been in my bookmarks for a while. I withheld the bacon, doubled the spices using sambar masala instead of madras powder, after puréeing 3/4 of the bean mix I added a box of fresh baby spinach that I had chopped roughly. I added fried bacon to bowls just before serving. This soup was nice enough to add to my big mental list of soups, I'll be making it again.

*Continuing with soup experimentation I made a pot of spicy cashew tomato soup. I puréed the lot as recommended by the Culinate editors and only added the optional cayenne. Delicious and very filling, Afghan bread makes a nice accompaniment.

*I got a specific request for black bean quesadillas for dinner this month, I use this NYT recipe for simmered black beans. I like that the beans in this recipe are not heavily seasoned during cooking. The beans are great over Spanish rice with sour cream, avocado, and hot sauce or puréed and smeared in a tortilla with cheese, jalapeños, and fresh coriander, or served in huevos motuleños.

*With a recent yum cha meal on my mind, I made steamed spare ribs with black bean sauce. The marinade does not need the a tablespoon of salt in addition to all the other salty condiments. Easy to prepare and it didn't taste bad, but there was too much sauce and the flavour was too generic.

*I wanted a rice pudding recipe that serves two, I found on on Simply Recipes. The Archivist loved it, I though the egg yolk gave the pudding an unpleasant grainy texture.

*It seems July was the month of orange cakes, since I had a whole three kilogram bag of oranges to use up. Milk and Cookies' orange and yoghurt cake was the first cake of the month. It is dense and tasty as written and great smeared with raspberry jam, cut into batons and covered in hot custard, if you're in to that sort of thing. With some oranges still lingering in the fruit bowl I made this orange cake. I thought the cake tasted far too greasy. I also made a jaffa drizzle loaf from the BBCs Good Food. It sunk so I didn't bother with the drizzle, I suspect is was over-leavened since I finally got an oven thermometer and used the right size tin. The orange and yoghurt cake is the only recipe of the three that I'd make again.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Too Many Bananas


With all the apples, mandarins, and left over birthday cake, the bananas didn't get much attention this week. I can't really claim that this banana is healthy in any way, but it is delicious. I use freshly ground and brewed Jinedabah espresso for this cake, which tastes much better than a coffee substitute.

Banana Cake
Adapted from Ladies A Plate by Alexa Johnson

115 g unsalted butter softened
150 g white sugar
2 large ripe bananas
1 egg
1 tsp strong espresso coffee
180 g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarb
1/4 cup milk

120g icing sugar
30 g unsalted butter, softened
1 tbsp strong espresso coffee

Preheat a conventional oven to 180°C, grease and/or line a 18 cm square baking tin. Cream the butter and sugar, mash the bananas into the mixture with a fork then add the egg and coffee and mix.

Mix the flour, baking powder and bicarb and mix it into the wet ingredients alternating with the milk. Bake for about 40-45 minutes, then remove from the oven and turn the cake onto a rack to cool.

When the cake is cold make the icing. Mix the icing sugar into the butter then add the coffee. Use the back of a spatula to break up any lumps of butter and add a small amount of boiling water if required to make the icing spreadable. Spread the icing over the cake with a palette knife, then store it in an airtight container.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

June Leftovers

A quick review of some recipes that I made this month, that you can find on the internet:

*I brought some Korean chili powder back from Sydney earlier this month, Korean seasoned tofu, was a simple choice from the to-make list. I made this recipe with a 300 gram block of firm tofu and quantities of seasoning as written. I served the tofu with rice and some stir-fried greens, the tofu was very tasty and had an appealing texture cooked this way.

*Lamb shank and barley stew from Steve Manfredi's Sydney Morning Herald column. He calls it a stew and later a soup, my version was definitely soupy. I couldn't get celeriac so I used a swede instead, which when combined with pumpkin and carrots led to an unexpectedly sweet, but oddly delicious soup. It takes longer than 40 minutes to get shanks falling off the bone-cooked at the suggested simmer, so if you plan to reheat and/or value the integrity of your vegetable chunks add them with the barley and tomatoes. Recipe serves at least six.

*Home-made baked beans from Jane and Jeremy Strode. I started paying attention to my sodium intake this month, canned baked beans sadly made the too salty list and have been banished from Friday night fry-ups and Sunday brunches. To prepare the 450 grams of dry cannellini beans I used the 90 minute, no-soak beans technique to completely cook the beans; then I seasoned the beans (sans bacon) using the Strode recipe replacing the white pepper with mustard powder. The process makes five 450 gram batches of cooked beans; the resulting beans are infinitely better than the canned variety, but I'm on the lookout for another recipe to try.

*Chinese-style braised beef one-pot from the BBCs Good Food magazine. I made this using one kilo of beef shin, but I followed the recipe as written with respect to seasoning quantities since many commenters remarked that the dish needed extra seasoning. The ambiguous one red chili was six bird's eye chillies which gave a invigorating boost to the flavour of the dish and about 300 milliliters of stock was needed to cover the reduced quantity of meat. As written this recipe is unsoundly salty, I cut the salt back a bit by using home-made unsalted chicken stock and I didn't season the flour for browning the meat, it didn't need additional soy sauce either. My one kilo version would feed four very hungry people, or perhaps up to eight if it was served with other dishes; like all braises it is much better on the second night so make it a day in advance.

*Barbara Tropp's chill-orange oil. A dim recollection of a tasty sounding infused oil led me back to the New York Times Bitten blog and on a wild goose chase around the internet to find the actual recipe. I carefully watched my deep frying thermometer while the magic happened, sadly 15 minutes of boiling is overkill for infusing oil. The oil has a lovely aroma and it's moderately tasty on rice vermicelli with carrots and cucumbers, but I think I will toss this batch and try again as the burned chili overwhelms the other flavours. For the next attempt I will use the just-published Mark Bitman's method.

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Birthday Feast with a Middle Eastern Twist



The Archivist didn't feel partying for his birthday this year. I didn't want to leave it pass uncelebrated so I planned a roast meal with some Middle Eastern influences, the menu:

Honey-Glazed Duck with Walnut Stuffing
Roast potatoes with Thyme and Sumac
Minted Cabbage Salad
Sticky Date and Cardamom Cake with Caramel Sauce

Working from home for the day, I decided to use the Amazing Five Hour Roast Duck technique. I have roasted duck this way before, it's a great technique since the duck cooks at a low temperature it doesn't make a mess of the oven, it lets you to collect all the fantastic duck fat for later, and makes great roast duck.

The cabbage salad is a simple combination of finely shredded cabbage, mint and a citrus dressing, it worked well as a crisp and refreshing counter to the rich duck. The potatoes, parboiled then baked in the oven with the duck for the last 90 minutes, were both crisp and creamy, and tasted of a hint of lemon from the sumac. To accompany the meal we drank Mt Majura pinot noir. The birthday boy declared his birthday dinner "duckalicious".

I'm sure I've made the sticky date cake before, but the recipe I found online adds dark chocolate, I added a teaspoon of ground cardamom to intensify the flavour and to tie it to our main. I made the sauce as described, but without whiskey. Served warm with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce, this dessert was really great. Plates were licked.

Honey-Glazed Duck with Walnut Stuffing
Serves 4
Adapted from Mietta's Recipe Collection, Arabesque by David and Lucy Malouf

2kg duck
30 g butter
1 medium onion, diced
60 g walnuts, chopped
120 g fresh breadcrumbs
1 tsp parsley
2 tsp thyme
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1 beaten egg
Juice of 1 orange and 1 tsp zest
2 tbsp of honey
1 tsp sherry
3 tbsp water
1/2 tsp black pepper, crushed
1 tsp orange blossom water

Preheat the oven to 150°C. Cut the wing tips and head of the off the duck, remove any giblets and the large fatty deposits from the cavity. Rinse the duck and dry well with paper towel or a clean tea-towel.

To make the stuffing, melt the butter and add the onion and cook until soft but not brown. Add the walnuts and fry until browned. Mix the onions and walnuts with the breadcrumbs, parsley, thyme, egg, juice and zest. Stuff the duck, pack the stuffing around the bay leaf and cinnamon stick and truss to the duck to contain the stuffing.

Use a small paring knife to make lots of small slits all over the ducks skin, but be careful not to pierce the flesh. Put the duck breast side up on a rack and set the rack on a edged baking tray. Place the duck in the middle of the oven. Every hour for four hours, take the pan out of the oven, pierce the duck all over with the knife, and turn it over. After the first two hours of cooking and every subsequent hour, pour off the fat from the pan.

To make the glaze, put the honey, sherry and water in a pan and warm the mixture until the honey dissolves. Add the crushed black pepper and when the mixture is cool add the orange blossom water.

After four hours, increase the oven temperature to 180°C. Glaze the breast-up duck with the honey glaze every 20 minutes during the last hour of cooking.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Pie Crust


Remains of the cherry and pear pie


Each year, around Thanksgiving, food forums and blogs are suddenly aflutter with panic over pie crust; it's really not that hard especially if you use a food processor. The food processor evenly distributes tiny butter pieces throughout the pastry better than I can do by hand. After letting the dough rest in the fridge, roll your crusts out quickly and ideally, do it in a cool kitchen. This will give you an effortless flaky crust.

Pink Lady apples make a delicious pie this time of year, I made one this week. Jarred Morello cherries also make a decent pie if you can't be bothered faffing around with apples.


Aunt Peacie's Double Pie Crust

Makes a double crust for a 25cm (10 inch) pie
Adapted from Shelia Ferguson's Soul Food for a small food processor

250 g plain flour
1 tsp of salt
160 g unsalted butter, cubed
Iced water

Put 125 g of flour, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 80 grams of the butter in the bowl of a food processor. Blend until the mixture resembles coarse sand, then add iced water little by little until the crumbs form a large ball and the blade won't rotate any more. Turn the dough out onto cling film and form into a disc, refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling out to make crust. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Choc Chip Cookies

Several of my favorite baking recipes have come from the wrapper of the featured ingredient. This choc chip cookie recipe was featured on the packet of Nestlé milk chocolate chips sometime in 2004 and I have been using it ever since, making a few tweaks of my own. The addition of peanut butter and oats to the mixture gives the biscuits a most moorish yielding crumb.

At some point I want to try the apparently super-awesome Jaques Torres choc chip recipe, but my recipe takes a fraction of the time, has no hard-to-find ingredients and is more satisfying than any cookie you'll get from a supermarket or cafe, so it will do for now.

Choc Chip Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen
Adapted from a Nestlé packet

125 g unsalted butter
60 g smooth peanut butter
200 g brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
85 g self-raising flour
85 g cup plain flour
50g of rolled oats, pulsed in a food processor to make a coarse meal
185 g chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 180 °C. Combine butter and peanut butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently for 3- 4 minutes until the butter has melted and the mixture is well combined. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool for 5 minutes.

Add the sugar and egg, mix well. Add sifted flours, oats and chocolate chips and mix well to combine. Roll tablespoons of mixture into balls, place onto a lined tray and flatten slightly. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes – less in a fan forced oven - until golden and firm to touch. Stand for 5 minutes on the tray before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

This recipe can be doubled and the dough can be well-wrapped and frozen for up to six weeks.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Korean Stone Pots

When I travel I like to bring home cooking souvenirs; a palella pan, saffron, and many tins of paprika from Spain, duck fat and preserving jar rings from France, Marlborough flaky salt harvested from shallow pools near the Archivist's Grandad's house in the South Island of New Zealand; cookbooks too. A trip to Korea is not on the cards any time soon, so a mission to Koreatown at the south end of Sydney's Pitt St was necessary to acquire some new regional cooking tools.

After visiting every Korean grocer between Golburn and Bathurst Streets, admiring fermented stuff and purchasing a variety of chilli products, I finally found two stone pot bowls, made of smooth Korean granite, $25 a piece. Pressed for time I carted my booty to the Opera House to enjoy Brian Eno's 77 Million Paintings and then back to Central Station for an uneventful bus trip to Canberra.

The stone pot is essential for making the delicious scorched rice that characterises dolsot bibimbap (돌솥 비빔밥); a current food obsession of mine. My Korean cookbook - The Korean Table by Taekyung Chung and Debra Samuels - advises that you can also get crispy rice by preparing bibimbap in a pre-heated cast iron pan - but this isn't such a great solution if you want individual servings and to enjoy the ritual of breaking the egg yolk and stirring the artfully arranged namul (나물) through the rice as it sizzles.

Preparing the Stone Pot

To season the stone pot before it's fist use, fill the bowl 1/3 with salty water and heat in the oven at 200°C until the water boils. Then carefully remove the bowl from the oven, tip out the water and place the bowl on a heat proof surface. Paint the inside, rim and outside of the bowl with sesame oil or any other edible oil until oil no longer permeates the stone. Wipe off the excess oil with paper towel.

To make dolsot bibimbap, preheat the oven to 230°C, then heat the bowl for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, brush with sesame oil, press cooked rice against the bottom of the bowl and assemble the dish.

DO NOT put hot stone pot into cold water, granite is sensitive to sudden temperature changes and will fracture.

For bibimbap topping ideas and assembly instructions check out these videos



Monday, May 11, 2009

Chilli While They Last



Further trimming my cooking magazine collection, I set upon the Gourmet Travellers from 2005. Gourmet Traveller is a beautiful magazine (with a very average website) but I have rarely cooked from my issues. When I spied a Masterclass focussed on Mexico I decided to make the lima bean and chicken chilli verde for Sunday dinner and leftovers. As luck would have it I was able to buy a cheap kilo of anaheim chiles at the trash and treasure market at the Jamison Center on Sunday; now the frosts have started it's probably the last of the local peppers for the season.

This chilli tastes light and is deliciously spicy, perfect for an autumn eve, it's good served with sour cream, lots of fresh coriander and parsley, and steamed rice or some warm flour tortillas.

Lima Bean and Chicken Chilli Verde
Adapted from a recipe by Kathleen Gandy in Gourmet Traveller January 2005
Serves 6

250 g dried lima beans, soaked overnight
500 g fresh anaheim chillies
1 kg skinless chicken thighs cut into 2 cm cubes
Plain flour for dusting the chicken pieces
4 tbsp extra light olive oil
2 jalapeño chillies
1 large brown onion
3 cloves of garlic
400g tin of tomatoes
2 sprigs each of oregano and thyme
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 dried bay leaf
1 1/2 cups of chicken stock

Place the soaked lima beans in a large pot of fresh water and bring to the boil, cook for 30 minutes or until the beans are soft; drain and set aside.

Remove the stalks from the anaheim chillies, then place them under a grill on high. When the skin has blistered on one side, rotate the chillies. When they are charred all-over remove them from the grill and wrap them in cling wrap. While the chillies sweat, seed and dice the jalapeño chillies and dice the onions and garlic. Open the cling wrap parcel of chillies and slide the charred skin off the chilli, you can also remove some of the seeds; roughly chop the skinless chillies.

Toss the diced chicken with seasoned flour to coat. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large (28 cm) pot over a medium heat, then add a third of the chicken and cook for 3-4 minutes or until browned, then remove and set aside. Repeat twice with the remainder of the chicken.

Add the remaining oil to the pan, then add the chillies, onion and garlic and cook over a low-medium heat for 5-6 minutes or until softened. Crush and add tomatoes, herb and stock and increase the heat to bring the mixture to the boil. Return the chicken to the pan and add the drained lima beans. Decrease the heat to low and cook with the lid on for 20 minutes, season with salt and pepper and cook for a further 20 minutes with the lid off to allow the sauce to thicken.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Best Banana Bread

This recipe comes from C. Thiel of North Albury, New South Wales. I clipped it from a New Idea or a Women's Weekly in the 90s; it's one of the three banana bread recipes I use, each has different textural properties. This loaf is full of bits of fruit and nuts and is a little bit spicy and not too sweet; the dried fruits and nuts can easily modified to use up bits and pieces from the pantry. If it doesn't all get eaten during the week leftovers can be frozen.

Best Banana Bread
Adapted from a recipe by C. Thiel

140 g of raw sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
125 g mashed banana
1/2 tsp mixed spice or a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg and all spice
120 g chopped walnuts
2 tbsp shredded coconut
3/4 cup sultanas or raisins
190 g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp of milk

Grease a 15 x 25 cm loaf pan then line with baking paper. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Mash the banana in a large bowl, add the sugar, egg, spices, nuts, coconut and sultanas and mix to incorporate. Add the dry ingredients and milk in two stages.

Spread the mixture evenly into the prepared pan, bake for 45 minutes or until cooked when tested. Let the loaf stand for five minutes in the tin, then turn on to a wire rack to cool.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Cookbook Shopping

I have a bad case of procrastinators diligence; instead of devoting my time to career making activities, I am compulsively planning and pricing additions to my cookbook library for the next 5 years in exhaustive detail. Memories of a Cuban Kitchen by Mary Urrutia Randelman, Bengali Cooking by Chitrita Banerji and Quick and Easy Tsukemono by Ikuko Hisamatsu and many others have become items of great importance.

Recently launched Australian price comparison site Booko has been a great aid to my compulsive searching and list compilation. You search the site by title, author or ISBN and it retrieves prices and the cost of shipping from an impressive list of book sellers. You can compile a cart of books that gives you a running total of your bill and also accounts for things like free shipping after x dollars offered by some retailers.

For cookbooks, the UK based Book Depository (offers free international shipping), the charitable American retailer Better World Books (cheap carbon neutral shipping) and Australia's Fishpond usually come out cheapest; I even managed to score a copy of the lauded Australian reference The Cook's Companion for less that $60 from Fishpond (it's back to around $110 now). In my experience books will take longer to get to you from Fishpond than the other two.

Booko, bookmark it and don't buy books online without it.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Sorrel



My unofficial new years resolution for 2009 was to try new foods. This week's find was a bunch of just-picked of sorrel from the local Sunday markets. I used it in a simple breakfast, I removed the stalks and cut the leaved into ribbons and folded though an omelette until the leaved were just wilted. I served the omelette over a small pile of home fries. The tartness of the leaves really complemented the eggs and fried potatoes beautifully.

I will buy it again. Or I might try and forage for some as this vegetable is a common weed in most of eastern Australia. This video shows how to identify it in the wild.



Inspiration for our next meeting:
*Salmon with Sorrel Sauce
*Sorrel Tart

Sunday, March 15, 2009

For the Zucchini Sceptic

I couldn't resist a big bag of late-summer zucchini from the market this morning. With a weekly lunch box gap to fill, I went back to my feed reader for inspiration. I've further modified a recipe for zucchini loaf that started in this months delicious magazine and made it to me via the Canberra Cook. I further reduced the sugar as she suggested, used a walnut and canola oil mixture and added some drak chocolate and it came out with moorish loaf with a hint of sweetness that even swayed the zucchini sceptic in the house.

Zucchini Loaf
Serves 10-12
Adapted from the Canberra Cook and delicious magazine March 2009

400 g self-raising flour
200 ml vegetable/nut oil
1 heaped tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
115 g white sugar
115 g brown sugar
3 eggs, beaten
2 tsp vanilla extract
500 g zucchini, grated
90 g walnuts
40 g dark chocolate, chopped


Preheat oven to 150°C; line a large bread tin (mine is 29 x 10 x 13 cm) with baking paper.

In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients except the flour and oil. Add the oil and mix well, then fold in the flour gently.

Pour into the loaf tin, and bake for 90 minutes, or until a testing skewer comes out clean. Cool in the pan for about 15 minutes, then turn out onto a rack.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

One From Nigel and One From Gordon


Foccacia topped with a paste of sun- dried tomaotes, garlic and oregano; Persian-style Onion Soup and Rocket salad

It's a cool evening, a storm has just passed over leaving the ground barely damp. I'm finishing off last weeks vegetables, cooking a pot of potatoes to make home fries for breakfast tomorrow and a big pot of lamb bones, carrots and aromatics are simmering into lovely stock for a soup next week. Dinner tonight is foccacia, a rocket salad and a bowl of warmly spiced onion soup from Gordon Ramsay recipe. The Accountant bought a Ramsay cookbook last year, the only recipes that interested me were the soups, I've got to say that he does make a fine soup.

Foccacia
Serves at least 6
Adapted from Nigel Salter via Blake at the Paupered Chef

450g bread flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp fast-acting yeast
400ml warm water
cornmeal
3 tbsp olive oil

Put the flour and salt and yeast into a large bowl, mix well then pour in the water to make a sticky dough. Mix well with a wooden spoon then knead in the bowl using a silicone pastry scraper to fold the mixture and make a smooth dough, this takes about 5 minutes. Alternatively use a stand mixer. Foccacia is a particularly wet dough and you don't want to be adding a lot of flour to make it possible to knead by hand. Once the dough has been kneaded, cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp clean tea towel and leave it until it has doubled in size, which may take up to 1 hour.

Prepare a baking tin (30 x 20 cm rectangle; 30 cm diameter circle) by coating with olive oil and applying a thin layer of cornmeal. Preheat the oven to 220°C.

Remove the dough from its bowl, then push it into the baking tin. Trying to cover the base of the tin. Cover with plastic wrap then let the dough rise for another 30 minutes.

Create a seasoning mixture from garlic, fresh herbs, salt, with olives, sun-dried tomatoes or caramelised onions. You will need about 3 tablespoons of a seasoning mix to cover the loaf of focaccia. When the dough has risen for the second time push several holes deep into the dough with your index finger, then spread the seasoning mixture over the dough.

Bake for 35-40 minutes until the top is golden. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and let the loaf rest for 5 minutes, then remove from the tin and serve while warm.

Persian-style Onion Soup
Serves 4
Adapted from Healthy Appetite by Gordon Ramsay

3 tbsp olive oil
800 g onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
2 tsp fresh mint or 1/2 tsp dried
2 tbsp plain flour
1 L vegetable or chicken stock
1 cinnamon stick
Juice of 1 lemon or some preserved lemon
1 tsp raw sugar
A few flat-leaf parsley sprigs, chopped

Place a heavy-based pan over a medium heat. Add the olive oil, the onions and 1/2 tsp salt. Cover and sweat for 12-15 min until the onions are soft, lifting the lid and stirring occasionally. Remove the lid and increase the heat slightly. Add the spices and mint, then stir in the flour. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3-4 min.

Gradually pour in the stock, whisking as you do so to prevent any lumps forming. When it has all been added, drop in the cinnamon stick and simmer over a low heat, for 30-40 min.

Stir in the lemon juice and sugar, if using preserved lemon dice the peel of half a lemon and add to the soup with the sugar, then taste and adjust the seasoning. Discard the cinnamon stick and serve with parsley.