Thursday, August 18, 2016

Why I hate reheated scones


Nothing beats a good cheese scone, fresh from the oven, or at least carrying that residual heat, it’s a soft fluffy wonder that just begs for lashings of butter to melt across the surface. Scones that have gone cold, but still fresh, and reheated are a dry crumbling mess that no amount of lubrication can fix that chalky horridness in your mouth. Give me a cold scone any day over a reheated one I say.

But why is reheated so naff? Well it’s all in the starch, as the hydrated starch molecule is heated it swells, dissolves and gelatinization takes place, which also makes the starch digestible. When warm the starch is a soft malleable fluid gel, and as it cools the gel becomes rigid and retrogrades back to a crystalline structure, which is not thermoreversible, meaning that heating will not turn the rigid crystalline like gel back into a smooth fluid gel.

So that’s why fresh warm scones are soft, moist and giving, but left to cool become drier to the mouth and more brittle and crumbly, reheating is never going to give you back that lush scone, it’s just going to give you a warm dry scone, probably drier as you’ve evaporated off water in the reheating process.

Originally posted on my Tumblr X-posts from Good Food in a Crap Kitchen

Friday, August 12, 2016

Pork and Pepperoni


The inspiration for this dish riffs pretty heavily on a post from Ideas in Food, I highly recommend getting them into your daily reading list, or hit them up on twitter. I actually have version two of this on the go now as I write, I’ve amped up the seasoning and am going to experiment a little more with the cooking and serving, so not really the same dish but this served as a springboard to push ideas further.

Counter to my last post about getting maximum comfort for little effort this post is really pushing things in the other direction, but holy heck is it worth it! It’ll take a little time and a little bit of investment of going to a butcher and getting a decent slab of pork belly, which may or may not be frozen, a supermarket is not going to have what you need, I’ve never seen a good three inch thick slab of belly at one, and quite frankly you’ll probably be paying twice the price. I ended up by chance at Preston's in town after doing my restock at Yan's Asian supermarket and they just happened to have a good deal going on frozen bellies, so $20 later and more than 2kg heavier, I left a happy chappy.

There is a bit to this but it’s not really all active, there is a lot of down time, so there are no stress about getting stuff done on time. You’re going to have to plan ahead a few days, so here is the rough break down.
  • Defrost the belly if you have to, in the fridge.
  • Cure the pork, 24 hours.
  • Remove, rinse and dry the pork. Dust with white pepper and place on a rack uncovered in the fridge for 24 hours.
  • Place in a roasting pan with the braising ingredients, cook for 8 hours at 120ºC.
  • Sometime during that 8 hours make some cavatelli, which is about half an hours work.
  • Remove and rest for half an hour, uncovered.
  • Cook cavatelli and remove excess fat from the braising liquid, taste and season, combine.
So as you can see not really a whole lot of work, mostly down time, but it’s 56 hour investment of time, totally worth it I promise.

Ingredients
Pork belly, 2kg or so
Pepperoni
Bottle of red wine
Tomatoes, 2 cans crushed
White pepper
Cure mix

Cure mix
1 Part Sugar
1 Part Salt
Chilli powder
Garlic powder
Cumin powder
Bay leaf powder


Weigh the pork and work out what 2.5% of the total weight is, that is the weight of sugar and salt to use.


Score the pork deeply to the meat, rub the cure mix in and transfer to a zip lock bag, refrigerate for 24 hours, try to flip it once or twice during that time.


Remove the pork from the bag and rinse, pat dry, coat in white pepper and place on a rack on a pan. Put it back in the fridge for 24 hours.

Time to cook!

Place the pork in a roasting dish. Dice the whole pepperoni and scatter around, add in the tomatoes and the whole bottle of wine, I used a tasty Shiraz. Place the tray into an oven preheated at 120ºC. Set a timer for 8 hours and forget about it.


Well apart from the cavatelli you need to make. Just follow the recipe on this page, I subbed out roasted rye for wholemeal flour but rye would be pretty awesome here too.


Take the pork out of the oven and very carefully transfer it to a board. Pour the braising liquid into a pot and let it settle for a while, skim off any excessive fat as this will be a sauce, place it over a very low flame to keep warm.


Bring a pot of water to the boil and cook the cavatelli, drain and stir through the sauce, keep warm.
By now the pork should have rested for 30–45 minutes. Slice into thick slabs, cutting along the scores, serve with a generous spoon of cavatelli.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Orecchiette with broken pork sausage


With winter comes comfort food, the down side of the desire for warming rich flavours is time, usually the comfort comes from rich unctuous stews and slow cooks, sure you can cheat with a pressure cooker and little tricks, but it’s not quite the same. Thankfully there are a few dishes that really fulfil that winter rich dish feel and don’t take hours to prepare, there is risotto or other creamy rice dishes, always a crowd pleaser, or you can get really quick and indulgent with the dish pictured above, a simple pasta dish that packs a unctuous punch and is deep in flavour.

There are only a few ingredients in this dish, the main one being sausages, it’s important to spend that little bit extra and get good quality ones with high meat content, sausages shouldn’t be viewed as cheap or budget, unless we’re talking about cocktail wieners then I say cheaper the better. The sausage is also a good place to inject a bit of extra flavour into the dish, I used some good quality pork with fennel with great success, don’t be afraid to experiment.

Pasta is another quick way to change up the dish easily, my go to dried pasta for this is the little ears of orecchiette or shells of conchiglie, if I’m feeling particularly virtuous or ambitious for a throw together meal I’d make the orecchiette myself or make a batch of roasted rye cavatelli, but all and all dried pasta is good, it’s easy, and that’s what this is meant to be, a quick and easy throw together that packs a punch of flavour.

Ingredients
Pasta
3 Sausages, removed from casing.
Basil, handful of leaves sliced
Red onion, thinly sliced
Cream
Garlic, crushed
Chilli flakes, optional

Get a pot of heavily salted water on the to boil, and I mean really get it salty, we want the pasta seasoned well. Cook the pasta according to the packet minus a minute.

Put a heavy based pan on a medium high heat, and break the sausage meat in to the pan while still heating, as the pan heats it will help release the fat from the force meat, leave it to brown, resist the temptation to stir, I like it to sit until it has a nice brown crust and then break it up.

When the meat is thoroughly browned, with crisp crunchy bits and is almost cooked add in the crushed garlic clove, and chilli flakes. When the garlic is cooked, lower the heat and add in a good splash of cream, about 150ml, add most of the basil and stir through. Let it cook for a couple of minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

The pasta should be cooked by now, so strain and dump into the sauce, give it a good stir through and cook for the remaining minute.

Serve with a grate of sharp cheese, garnished with the reserved basil and thinly sliced onion.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Fridge that meat


Fridge that meat, a recent post on another blog bought this back into mind and raised a couple more questions about salting, I had in fact done just the thing a couple days prior and tend to do it when I have steak, I’m a fan of rump and this does wonders to that cut. The principle is simple, place the meat, steak, on a rack and place it in the fridge uncovered for 18-24 hours. Now you can salt the meat before you refrigerate it, it will draw out moisture and work it’s way into the meat seasoning it, I like to do this if I want a more cured meat flavour, works great for steak sliced up and served on a roll with lashings of horseradish. If you choose not to season the steak before the fridge, moisture will still be drawn out, the exterior will dry and will make for far superior crust when cooked, I usually don’t season first if it’s a steak to be plated, I’ll season it in the pan and as I baste with foaming melted butter.

My usual cooking method is to bring the meat out of the fridge at least half an hour before cooking, heat a heavy cast iron pan over a medium high heat, place the fat cap side down and cook for one minute, before placing a meat side down move the fat around the pan, place the first side down, season the upside, cook for one minute, flip and season the upside. Keep cooking for one minute and flipping until almost at your desired temperature. For the last two flips add in a healthy tablespoon or three of butter, this will cool the pan slightly, when melted and foaming slightly tilt the pan and baste, using a spoon, with the butter for a minute, flip and repeat. Place the cooked steak aside to rest for five minutes or so.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Chicken and Egg


Cold winter nights call for warm comforting food, savoury flavours, a deep richness. Being a fan of all things fried, crumbed, dredged and satisfying in their unctuousness, schnitzel makes quite a showing over the colder days, not that there seem to be many this winter, pork is always one of my favourites, especially with lashing of nose tingling hot mustard, chicken is a close second, a breast butterflied and crumbed is probably the best use for that piece of meat, it’s cooked quickly and stays juicy even though thin, thighs work just as well but are a little bit more work.

There’s not a whole to the flavour of chicken, so it’s best to use it as foil to build on, in this case I was really going for an umami bomb. The chicken is dredged in seasoned flour, then dipped in an egg wash laced with shiro miso, and coated in seasoned panko. I like to keep the oil I fry in quite neutral, butter just messes up the flavour, I did contemplate it though, so grape-seed was used, a good half inch deep, don’t skimp, it prevents burning and having enough oil ensures you can keep a good temp and stop the coating soaking it up due to temp drops. The chicken should only take a couple of minutes each side, when golden remove to a rack.

While the chicken rests to the side heat up a skillet with a knob of butter and spoon of shiro miso, when the bubbling subsides give the pan a swirl and slide a cracked egg in. cook until the whites are set and yolk runny. Place the cooked chicken on a plate and slide the egg, miso buttery pan juices and all, on top and finish with a grate of some aged sharp salty cheese.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Clarified Ginger Syrup


There is a glut of ginger root in our house, it’s stupid cheap at the moment and well I’m going through a phase, delicious Pho noodle phase so no complaints, and well one morning when getting a the stock pot on and filling it up with bones and the like for ramen that night I spied the ginger and had a hankering for ginger soda, I thought about a couple of ways I could tackle it, grate a bunch of it and squeeze it through a cloth, juice it (but I lack a juicer), then I thought of the ol’ kava trick, blend it with water until liquid and strain, best way to prep kava for a good kick. Half the problem solved, just as with kava root I was left with a liquid with a lot of suspended sediment, not really that pleasant to drink unless you’re going to get a face numbing out of it, and it would do it’s best science fair volcano impersonation if added to soda.

So I was left with a liquid which was pretty useless, thought about a coffee filter but that would clog up too quickly to make it practical, but then I remembered reading a while back on Cooking Issues about quick agar clarification, and thankfully I have a copy of Dave Arnold’s book Liquid Intelligence where he covers the process, saving me time trolling through old posts to find the relevant one. So the agar was whipped out from the pantry. It’s a pretty simple process, as about whiz up ginger and water, boil up some agar in water, combine the two, place in an ice bath, break apart and strain.


500 ml water
250 g ginger root

Blend until the ginger root is completely obliterated. Pass through a cloth and measure the liquid, I ended up with 650ml.


250 ml water (or roughly half of the above amount)
2 % agar agar (by total weight, above + 250g for this water, about 2g)

Put the water in a pot and and sprinkle in the agar whilst whisking, do not add the water to the agar it will clump. Bring to a boil while whisking. Keep at a boil for 4 minutes to hydrate the agar. Remove from the heat and add the cold liquid to the pot, the combined liquid should be slightly warmer than body temperature.


Set up an ice bath with a bowl in it and pour the liquid into the bowl. Set it aside to set, do not stir, swirl or interfere with it. It will set up pretty quickly. You can test by gently touching the top, and slightly tilting the bowl to check.


Using a whisk gently break the set gel apart, run the whisk through to cut it apart not mix it up, it should resemble curds.

Strain through cheesecloth, gently, gently massage the sack to expel the liquid, take care not squeeze any of the gel through. Be patient and you’ll end up with a good yield.

Weigh the liquid, pour into a pot and add an equal amount of golden caster sugar, heat gently until all the liquid is dissolved.

Store in a jar in the fridge, serve with ice cold soda/carbonated water and a squeeze of lime or lemon.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Pho Bo, fo sho



Having only just written about pho I thought it highly appropriate and relevant to write another post about the subject, Pho Bo this time, and well we had guests so what better time to try out something new and untested, no pressure at all, and it’s not like it’s a quick process, only a few hours, not standing in front of the stove though. That wasn’t enough pressure for me though, I also decided it was a great time to wire in a panel heater, I didn’t electrocute myself and I learned how to wire up a loop switch and install a power socket. I don’t want to make it sound hard, it’s not, it’s not even that time consuming, pretty much set and forget for an hour, add something, wait an hour, repeat a few times, so I broke the recipe down to a pretty manageable timeline which I’ll outline below. Adapted from Lucky Peach, which they adapted from somewhere, I forget and I don't have the issue in front of me.

Ingredients
3–4 kg Beef bones
500 g Brisket
200 g Fillet or topside, something lean and tender
3–4 Brown onions
Ginger, a hand sized root
1 Tbsp White Pepper
30 g Palm Sugar
2 Star Anise
2 inches of Cinnamon
4 pods Cardamom
2 Cloves
Salt
Fish Sauce

Day before
  • Season the brisket with a tablespoon of salt and place on a rack over a sheet pan and refrigerate.


Pre-timing
  • Set oven to 180ºC
  • Get a large stock pot full of water and bring up to the boil.
  • Arrange onions and ginger on a sheet pan.
  • Blanch bones in the water for 3 minutes.
  • Dump bones into a clean sink.
  • Clean the pot.
  • Rinse the bones thoroughly with cold water and add back to pot.
  • Fill up the stock pot with enough water to cover the bones by an inch.
  • Put the pot on a high heat and bring to a simmer.
  • Skim off any scum that forms.

Hour 0 (Start)
  • Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, add 1 tablespoon of salt. Skim off any scum that forms.
  • Put the onions and ginger in the oven.

Hour 1
  • Remove the brisket from the fridge.
  • Remove the onions and ginger from the oven. Remove the skins from the onions and slice the ginger into 1 cm slices.


Hour 2
  • Add the brisket, onion, ginger, sugar and white pepper to the pot.
  • Half cover with the lid.


Hour 3
  • Add the cinnamon, star anise, cloves and cardamom.

Hour 4
  • Get an ice bath set up.
  • Remove the brisket and put in the ice bath for 20 minutes. Pat dry and set aside until ready to serve.

Hour 4.5 (4 hours 30 minute)
  • Remove the bones with a strainer, and pass the broth through a sieve.
  • Adjust the seasoning with salt and fish sauce, I like to go in first with the fish sauce, pretty heavy I must say and then tweak it off with salt.
  • Either let it cool and refrigerate until you’re ready, which makes removing excess fat easy, or serve straight away. If the later just keep the broth on a low heat while you get everything else together.

Serving
You can build up bowls of soup for each person, or, as I did, have everything central on the table and have each bowl just contain rice noodles and broth. In either case, Make sure the bowls are HOT and the broth is HOT, lukewarm ain't gonna cut it.

Rice Noodles: I like the medium thickness rice noodles. I put them in a pot, roasting pan for a large crowd, cover with boiling water, put the lid on and leave for 5–10 minutes.

Rare Beef: Slice the topside or fillet as thin as you can, freezing it for 15 minutes or so to firm it up can help, arrange on a plate.

Brisket: Slice thin, arrange on a plate.

Other fixings you can and should have on the table:
Hoisin Sauce
Sriracha
Vietnamese mint
Regular Mint
Spring Onions
Chillis, sliced
Coriander
Mung Beans
Lime

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Pho real


Pho has always been a favorite, usually post work stop offs at the locals to get my fix before heading home. Not really quite nailing it at home and feeling dejected and disappointed at my futile attempts which rather left me with a why bother it’s cheap enough to buy out anyway attitude. Homemade isn’t always best, but there is a certain satisfaction in creating something yourself, so it was with much joy I received the latest issue of Lucky Peach, which is dedicated to all things Pho, and recipes to boot. So here is Pho Ga, adapted from Lucky Peach.

Ingredients
1 Chicken, size 16
1.5 kg of chicken necks or carcasses
3-4 Brown onions
1 piece of ginger, about the size of your hand
1 piece of ginger, about the size of your thumb
1 stick of cinnamon
2 cloves
3 cardamon pods
2 star anise
1 dried red chilli
1 Bunch of scallions
White pepper
Salt
Fish sauce
Pho rice noodles (I like the small sized flat noodles, not vermicelli, but each to their own)
  • Rub the chicken with salt until the skin is taught and refrigerate overnight, or a couple hours at least. Remove half an hour before cooking.
  • Preheat the oven to 175ºC.
  • Bring a large pot of water to the boil, you need enough to submerge the chicken and cover it by an inch.
  • Slice the thumb of ginger and scallions and add to the pot, also add the dried chilli.

  • Lower in the chicken and bring back to the boil, cook for 15 minutes then turn off the heat and cover, let it sit for 30 minutes for a 1.6kg (size 16) bird.
  • Slice the onions in half and arrange on a sheet pan with the hand of ginger, place in the oven for an hour.
  • Get an ice bath ready. 
  • Gently remove the bird from the pot and place in the ice bath. Let it sit for 20 minutes.
  • Strain the solids out of the cooking liquid and put it back on the heat.

  • Remove the meat and skin from the cooled chicken and put the remains and juices in the pot.
  • Take the onions out of the oven and peel, remove any overly burnt bits, slice the ginger in half. Add to the pot along with the necks or carcasses, cardamon, cloves, cinnamon, and star anise. If there is not enough liquid to cover the bones by about an inch add some water.

  • Bring the pot to a simmer, add a teaspoon of salt, reduce the heat to low gentle simmer, cover and cook for 4 hours.
  • Shred the meat and skin into long pieces, refrigerate until needed.
  • Strain the broth into a clean pot. Simmer uncovered for 10-15 minutes, adjust and season with salt, white pepper and fish sauce.
  • Place the noodles into a bowl and cover with boiling water, let them stand for 5 minutes, or follow the instructions on your packet.
  • Place a portion of noodles into a hot bowl, top with a handful of the shredded chicken, sliced scallions and fried shallots. Serve with the fixings below arranged on a plate or two so you can dip into them as you need.

Fixings
Limes
Sliced fresh chillis
Fried shallots
Sliced Scallions
Coriander
Mint
Vietnamese mint
Sriracha
Bean sprouts

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Chicken Noodle Soup


Nothing beats chicken noodle soup on a crisp winters day. There are a couple of steps and a couple of pots involved in this version, but it’s not overly complicated or confusing, just keeping the two stocks separate gives a cleaner flavour and lets the chicken stock reduce down and develop deep caramel flavours.

Chicken Stock
Chicken, broken down to fit in the pot.
Ginger
Garlic
Chili, whole dried sichuan
Bay Leaf
Salt
  • Add the chicken to a pot and cover with an inch of water, toss in the rest of the ingredients and bring to a simmer.
  • Cook until the chicken is done, but not falling off the bone. Transfer the chicken to a bowl.
  • Strain the liquid and put back on the heat. Reduce to about a quarter of the original volume.
Vegetable Stock
Wood ear fungus (black)
Shiitake, dried
Garlic
Ginger
Onion
Bacon, fatty rashers
Celery
Carrot
Chilli
MSG (optional)

  • Add all to a pot and cover with water. Bring to a simmer and cook for half an hour. Strain.


Building the bowl
  • Pick the meat off the chicken, and set aside.
  • Combine both the stocks, taste and season with salt, soy and sesame oil. Reduce a little if required.
  • Cook fresh noodles.
  • Portion the chicken and noodles into bowls, pour over hot broth, add spoon or so of chilli crisp (or oil), and a little bit of pickled daikon. Slurp and enjoy.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Hot braised pork and noodles


This is a hot dish, it’s meant to be, it looks like the fiery red pits from hell when cooked, but it’s a little deceiving, the spice hits you hard, climbs up your nose and slaps you round a bit, then the sweetness comes in, gives you a hug and lets you know everything is going to be OK, then it headbutts you and calls you its bitch, and in a daze you slurp down another noodle, scoop another spoonful of rich saucy soup into your mouth as it splashes and flicks burning dots of oily red pain into your eyeballs. But you don’t care, it’s all worth it.


Hot and spicy braised pork belly
This is a little to taste, not precise if any measurements, so trust you palette. The main ingredients are:
500g pork belly, cut into bite size pieces.
2 onions, sliced
1 red pepper, diced
2 tbsp Gochujang, heaped, add more if you like
2-4 tbsp soy, sweet kicap soya*
1 tbsp Korean chilli powder, heaped, more if you want
1 tsp five spice
1 tsp coriander seeds, ground
6 large garlic cloves, minced
1 large thumb of ginger, minced
2 tbsp sesame oil
Salt
2 cups chicken stock**
2–3 tbsp rice vinegar

* add some sugar if you have regular soy
** more if cooking traditionally.
  • This recipe is done in a pressure cooker, you could do this in a heavy based pan over a low heat simmering for a couple of hour until everything is tender.
  • Heat the sesame oil in the cooker, add a large pinch of salt, toss in the pork and cook until browned.
  • Add the Gochujang, dry spices, garlic and ginger, stir through a cook through a little.
  • Stir through the pepper, onions and soy, make sure it’s all nicely coated.
  • Pour in the stock, bring up to high pressure and cook for 60 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and taste, adjust the seasoning with salt and rice vinegar.

Serve with pulled noodles and some sprouts, wet wipes are handy too!


Hand pulled noodles
The recipe and method can be found covered in the Cheat Sheet and in more depth via couple of posts on this blog, Cumin lamb with hand pulled noodles is a good one.

The basic run down of the recipe is as follows:
  • Form a ball of dough from 5 parts flour with 3 parts water, and 1% salt by weight.
  • Cover and rest for 15 minutes.
  • Knead by rolling in to a log and folding in half and repeating for 15 minutes.
  • Wrap and rest for 60 minutes.
  • Shape into a log and cut into 1cm slices, coat in oil and place on tray.
  • Refrigerate and leave for 60 minutes.
  • Pull out of the fridge 10 minutes before cooking.
  • Stretch the noodles and cook in salted boiling water for a couple of minutes.