Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Pumpkin gnocchi with chorizo, mushrooms and walnuts

Winter always seems to come late to my kitchen, it’s now heading into spring and I’ve only just now decided to bring out the big guns of autumnal flavours, deep earthy tones, rich in salt and fat, with a piquancy to warm the cockles.

I’m no expert when it comes to gnocchi, in fact it’s still a challenge I am learning to master, so instead of doling out advice on a subject I’m no authority on I thought I’d send you off to a good resource and a couple of recipes I’ve made in the past. Firstly there is Lucky Peach’s How to make gnocchi, an awesome article well worth the read, then my own small contributions, potato chip gnocchi and potato flake gnocchi. I made, or rather attempted, swore a lot, and cobbled together passable pumpkin gnocchi, but any gnocchi would work well with the sauce.

There’s really actually not much to this. Get a heavy based pan on a high heat, and add in a splash of oil and a knob of butter, when the sizzling subsides add in the cooked gnocchi and generously brown, but quickly you don’t want to develop too thick of a crust. Transfer to a bowl, or other vessel.

Get the pan back on the heat and top up with butter if needed, toss in the chorizo and cook to release the fragrant fat from the sausage, add the diced shallots and cook until translucent. If you’re going to add a little heat with chilli, sprinkle it in now, then add the mushrooms and brown. Just as the mushrooms are getting done, toss in the mint, rosemary and walnuts, cook until fragrant. Toss the cooked gnocchi through and add a splash or two of the cooking liquid to lubricate. Taste and season, then serve.

What you’ll need for the above.
Mushrooms, sliced
Chorizo, dice
Walnuts, roughly chopped
Rosemary, pulled off the stem
Mint, thinly sliced
Cooked gnocchi
Reserved cooking water
Shallot, diced
Chilli flakes

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Asian Burrito

A Frankenstein's monster of bits and pieces from all over, not at all authentic, but its own creation. Should these things be put together? Probably not, but the end result is magical, something fiery, hot, fulfilling, and perfect with something cooling and refreshing to wash it down.

There isn't much to making it, but presentation is everything, something is just not the same unless it’s wrapped up snugly in a layer of tinfoil and left to stand for a few minutes before being unwrapped, like a greedy child on Christmas morning, make it hot enough and it’ll be the gift that keeps on giving, the rest in its sheath allows the heat and moisture to permeate through the burrito, warming and softening the tortilla, the rice noodles soak up the excess oils from the chilli pork and everything equilibrates to a perfect eating temperature.

The only real cooking is the chilli pork, which I’m not sure how much instruction you need. Take a good wok, get it hot, add a dash of sesame oil and a tablespoon or two of peanut oil, stir fry the pork mince until cooked through, tip into a bowl. Get the wok back on the heat, add another splash of peanut oil, when nice and hot toss through some sliced ginger and crushed garlic, add the pork back, take care not to add any liquid that may of seeped out, cook until the mince is golden with some tasty crunchy bits. Add in some chilli crisp, that wonderful condiment that you get in jars from asian marts with the surely multi millionairess on the label, somehow disapproving of buying it and giving her more money, if you can’t find her chilli crisp, chilli in oil is good too, get the one with peanuts in it, three ingredient chilli sauce is a winner too, I think she can do no wrong when it comes to her combinations of oil and chilli and other bits and bobs. Back on track, add in a spoon, two, half a jar, two jars, whatever you think your palette can take. Cook through until the meat is coloured that wonderful golden red and the house carries that scent that if you sniff too hard you’ll be hacking up half a lung. Toss through some scallions, add the resting liquids and tip out into a bowl ready to assemble.

The rest is a cinch. Get a square of tinfoil bigger than your tortilla, lay the tortilla on the square, spread with gochujang, add a layer of rice noodles, I use that wonderful Pho brand with the elephant on it, soaked for 10 minutes in boiling water before draining and placing in a bowl with cling film over them, on the nest of rice noodles add the chilli pork, dot with as many Thai red chilli as you think you can handle, add the cabbage, scallions, and mung beans. Finally top with a scattering of the seaweed and fried shallots. Tuck the ends over and roll up, you don’t have to be too tight or careful just make the general idea of a burrito, place it seam side down on the tin foil, fold the foil ends over and then roll up tightly, take care not to use too much pressure though. Set aside in a warmish area.

What you’ll need for the above
Tin Foil, a must for authentic classy presentation.
Rice Noodles
Chilli pork: pork mince, chilli crisp, ginger, garlic, scallions
Korean seasoned seaweed, shredded
Red cabbage, shredded and tossed in fish sauce
Pickled Thai red chilli
Mung bean sprouts
Fried Shallots

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.

Pork belly, 2kg or so
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.

3 Sausages, removed from casing.
Basil, handful of leaves sliced
Red onion, thinly sliced
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.

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
Fish Sauce

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

  • 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.

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
Vietnamese mint
Regular Mint
Spring Onions
Chillis, sliced
Mung Beans

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.

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
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.

Sliced fresh chillis
Fried shallots
Sliced Scallions
Vietnamese mint
Bean sprouts