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

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.