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