Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas

I hope everyone is having a great Christmas holiday break and not overdoing it too much with the food and drink. I got given a couple of great books to add to my ever growing cookbook collection Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing by Michael Ruhlman, Brian Polcyn and Thomas Keller; and Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes by Jennifer McLagan. So Boxing day will be a nice relaxing day reading my new books, along with recovering from sun burn and overindulgence.

I made up another batch of Garlic Confit and got a video of the jars just as I pulled them from the pressure cooker, the jars are sealed and still under pressure, the boiling stopped as soon as the lids were removed.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Pressure cooked mustard

I've been meaning to make pressure cooked mustard seeds ever since I got my hands on a pressure cooker. The original method by Dave Arnold can be found on Cooking Issues (about half way down the page).

Get a couple of pots on to boil.

Blanch 1/2 a cup of mustard seeds in 3 changes of water. Strain the mustard seeds and add to the pressure cooker with 1 litre of cider vinegar. Cook on high pressure for 20 minutes.

Strain the mustard seeds and season. I used some honey, whiskey and flaky sea salt.

Monday, December 19, 2011


The slow down is coming, last day of work tomorrow and then three blissful weeks of nothing. Hopefully these cold winds will die out and give way to some summer sun so the barbecue can be fired up again and large pieces of meat can be grilled.

The above salsa is great on grilled red meat (or even a nice filling for taco). Grilled corn cut off the cob, red cabbage, spring onion, confit of garlic, chipotle (with some of the adobo sauce that comes in the can), a good splash of cider vinegar and olive oil, season to taste and let it sit for at least half an hour.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Summer Soup

It seems like only last week that the bean stalks only had a few lonely pods hanging from them, but now they sag heavily laden with plump broad-beans ready for picking. The herbs also have had a massive growth spurt in this strange hot but humid weather, especially the parsley. The potatoes I planted, what feels like an age ago, should finally this coming weekend be ready to harvest (fingers crossed).

It was all feeling quite green, lively and summery, the type of day you either chuck a huge piece of red meat on the barbecue sit out side with a cold beer (cocktail or wine) and get heat stroke, or, as I did, go the other direction and have a warm (not hot) aromatic, take advantage of all the great produce, soup.

I had some home-made chicken stock in the freezer and a couple of chicken thighs in the fridge. I defrosted the stock on the stove and then gently poached the chicken in the simmering stock, making sure to skim of any scum that formed.

While the chicken was cooking, I set about preparing the vegetables, a red onion; bunch of asparagus; carrots; confit garlic (again, a staple for the fridge); spring onion; celery; olives; parsley; broad beans; and peas.

The carrots, asparagus stalks (not tips), onions, celery, and garlic were set aside in one bowl to cook first, as they take a bit longer to become tender.

And the remainder in another bowl, ready add at the last minute.

I gently sautéed the first lot of vegetables on a low heat, to soften slightly. As they cooked, I took the chicken out the stock and shredded the meat off the bone, then strained the stock. I added the stock to the pan, a small handful of fusilli pasta, and let it simmer gently for about 8 minutes.

After about 8 minutes the pasta should almost be cooked. I then added the rest of the vegetables, herbs, shredded chicken, and a squeeze of lemon. Tasted and adjusted seasoning (and added a small shake of chilli flakes).

When the pasta is cooked (about 3 minutes more) take it off the heat and let it sit to cool down a little, this soup shouldn't be eaten piping hot.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pasta for one

Home alone for dinner tonight, and I felt like cooking, but not overdoing it as I usually do. There was an amazing pasta dish (cacio e pepe, pasta with black pepper and pecorino) on the latest episode of Anthony Bourdain's The Layover, and it put the idea of making pasta in my head.

With Ratio by Michael Ruhlman in hand, I set about making the pasta dough. The ratio for pasta dough is 3 parts flour to 2 parts egg (by weight). I weighed my egg (60 grams) and poured 90 grams of flour into a bowl. Make a well in the centre of the flour and start working in the egg. When a dough forms tip it on to the bench. Kneed until smooth and no longer sticky (5-10 minutes).

Let it rest for 30 minutes (or a minimum of 10).

I used a hand cranked pasta machine to roll the dough out into a sheet and then passed through the cutter. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water for about 2-3 minutes

While I didn't prepare cacio e pepe, I did still keep it simple. Minced black olive, black pepper, parsley, garlic confit and a little extra olive oil. Toss through the cooked pasta with a little of the cooking water, and serve.

A great little tool for mincing leafy green herbs.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


Sophie and I spent Friday afternoon picking up some Christmas shopping and enjoying the Wellington sun. After the hard slog of trudging shop to shop we finally sat down and relaxed with a cold glass of wine on Oriental bay. With our glasses drained, and contemplating another glass or moving on, we decided to try out Kaede which we had wandered past on the waterfront (22 Herd St). Arriving just as the restaurant was opening, we thought to wait awhile and take in the view on the dock, when we had seen the second boat being hoisted up to dry dock we headed inside. Lucky we didn't wait too much longer as we managed to snag the only unreserved table.

The décor is eclectic and staff could of been a bit friendlier. But we were there for the food, so unperturbed by the less than friendly welcome, we set about eyeing up the menu. There is a diverse selection of dishes, and a happy change from the standard Japanese restaurant menu I'm used to seeing.

We ordered a variety of dishes rather than going for a appetiser and main. Takowasabi(diced raw octopus with wasabi); Smelt(small fish air dried then grilled), you eat the whole fish head and tail; Air dried whole squid finished on the grill; Takoyaki(fried octopus balls), I am an addict of these and if they're on a menu I'll order them; Fried soft-shell crab; Edamame, yet another addiction that is ordered at any opportunity; and seaweed salad (an addiction of Sophie's).

I don't eat or cook a lot of seafood, so Sophie was a little shocked with some of my ordering choices, but everything should be tried at least once. The only thing I found challenging was the raw octopus, but I think it was served far too cold, and was enjoyed more near the end of the meal when it had lost the icy edge. I absolutely loved the squid, very tender and very tasty.

We both thoroughly enjoyed our meal there, despite less than perfect service, it did not detract from what was very tasty food which came out quickly and was cooked wonderfully. The 7 dishes, 1 large beer and a large jug of sake came to only slightly more than $70 which is an absolute bargain.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


A few new additions to the bookshelf, I had to restrain myself at Unity books yesterday as there are so many books I want and are pretty reasonably priced.

I picked up Nose to Tail Eating by Fergus Henderson, there are so many recipes in this I have to make and as I read them I wish I was already making them; Larousse Gastronomique: Meat Poultry and Game a great reference book; and A Day at elBulli full of amazing photography and lots of information, it does contain recipes but I doubt they will be attempted, it was purchased unashamedly as food porn.

All in all Friday was a successful day, hot sun, cold wine, some Christmas shopping done, great books bought, an awesome dinner at Kaede and icy refreshing Caipirinha cocktails outside at home as the sun set.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Peanut butter biscuits

I don't have much of a sweet tooth, give me cheese and crackers (or maybe oatcakes) any day over a piece of cake. But I had a hankering for cookies. Unfortunately our pantry is rather lacking when it comes to the sweet side of baking, but I did happen to have a bit of peanut butter left in the pantry so all was not lost.

I made a pretty basic cookie dough 1 part sugar, 2 parts fat and 3 parts flour.

50 grams white sugar
50 grams muscovado sugar
150 grams butter
50 grams peanut butter (more if you want a stronger peanut flavour)
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C, don't use fan bake.

Cream the butter, sugars and peanut butter until pale and all the sugar is dissolved.

Mix in the egg and vanilla.

Sieve in the flour and baking powder (I used salted butter, if you're using unsalted add 1/8 teaspoon of salt here).

Roll the dough in to balls (I got 22 in total) and flatten with the palm of your hand, or roll out and use a cookie cutter.

Sprinkle with a mix of sugar and cocoa. Bake for about 12 minutes.

Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack.

Now you can let them cool on the bench if you like a slightly chewy cookie, but I like mine crisp, so I put the cooling rack back in the oven (turned off) with the door ajar to dry out.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

I ❥ Chicken

I love roast chicken, I don't mean sticking a whole bird in the oven and ending up with dry over cooked meat. I prefer to break down the bird before cooking, it gives more surface area to flavour, better cooked meat and a better carcass for stock.

A bowl full of olive oil, salt, pepper, olives (black olives (pelion), and Sicilian green olives), orange peel & juice, thyme, parsley and sage.

Toss the chicken pieces in the bowl.

Roast for about 30 minutes at 180°C.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Confit Garlic

I came across the recipe for confit garlic on the Modernist Cuisine blog the other day and I had to make it. It seemed like a great thing to have sitting ready in the fridge, and the idea of caramelised garlic goodness mashed on crusty toasted bread was too irresistible to pass up.

So on the way home I picked up an extra bottle of olive oil (the alternate suggestion of duck fat sounds pretty good too) and half a kilo of garlic.

Fill a Mason jar three quarters of the way up with garlic cloves, a sprig of rosemary and some thyme. Fill almost to the top with olive oil and screw on the lid, do a quarter turn to loosen it so steam can escape from the jar.

Place the jar on a trivet in a pressure cooker and pour enough water in to come 2 cm up the side of the jar. Cook for 2 hours on high pressure.

The cloves turn an amazing deep caramel brown and smell of deep slow roast garlic. I have a feeling this will be a staple in my fridge (they should last 2 months in the fridge).

Check out the Modernist Cuisine blog post for a heap of tips and information and more detailed recipe.

Modernist Cuisine - Pressure Cooker Safety : Garlic Confit from Modernist Cuisine on Vimeo.

I made up another batch of Garlic Confit and got a video of the jars just as I pulled them from the pressure cooker, the jars are sealed and still under pressure, the boiling stopped as soon as the lids were removed.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Homemade Bacon - The Final

It was finally time to smoke the pork that has been hanging under the stairs, and only hours away from munching down on my very own home made bacon.

Read Part 1.5

Read Part 1

Smoking the bacon is really easy, get the smoker smoking and up to temperature. The smoking temperature should ideally be between 75°C-85°C. Any hotter than 85°C the meat will shrink, loose too much moisture and will be cooking.

When the smoker is ready put in the pork and leave it for about 90 minutes, the internal temperature of the pork when it's done should be 65°C.

Straight from the smoker, looking delicious.

While it's still warm, remove the skin. The skin can be used to make stocks and is excellent to cook beans with.

A few "test" slices taken off the freshly smoked bacon.

Fried quickly in a smoking hot pan.

Had to use so much willpower not to devour the entire lot.

I found making bacon surprisingly easy, and has definitely put me off store bought bacon. So I'll soon be starting the process again so I have a ready supply of bacon. And I am giving serious though to making my own ham, pastrami, pancetta etc.

All sliced up, portioned and vacuum sealed, it should last about 3 weeks in the fridge or 4 months in the freezer.

I also put a tray of kosher salt in the smoker at the same time as the pork.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Homemade Bacon - Part 1.9

Final post of the bacon coming soon, I've just finished smoking it and at the moment it's sitting in the fridge to firm up before I slice it. Here's a snapshot of how the pork belly has transformed over the two weeks it took before it got to the smoker.

Read Part 1.5

Read Part 1


I don't know why I haven't used barley as main part of a dish before, I've used it in stews, soups and cordials, but never as a main component. The only reason I can think of is that it takes a long time to cook and is suited for slow cooked stews and soups.

But with the pressure cooker I no longer had the excuse of time, so I cooked the barley until it was almost cooked through, drained and set aside.

Finely dice up some carrot, onion and celery. Soften in a hot pan with a dash of olive oil. When the vegetables are translucent and beginning to caramelise around the edge, deglaze the pan with a little red wine vinegar, pour in the cooked barley and add a cup of good beef stock.

Simmer until the barley has finished cooking, season with salt and pepper and add a good handful of chopped parsley.

The young leafs of celery are very tasty but get bitter the older, bigger and greener they get.