Friday, September 30, 2011

Pork Cheek

We picked up some rare breed pork cheeks at the Masterton market, I decided to slow braise the meat and serve with some polenta. The cheeks have a beautiful layer of tasty fat and I thought the slow cooking would enhance its flavour.

I first prepared the pan for braising, I lined the bottom of the pan with tin-foil so I could seal it better later. Diced carrots, sliced onion, paprika (smoked), bay leaf, garlic, coriander and fennel seeds made up a bed for the cheek.

The meat got heavily browned on both sides and seasoned with salt and pepper. I then deglazed the pan with some chicken stock. The cheek was then placed on the bed of vegetables and the stock carefully poured around it.

Sealed up nice and tight, cooked for about 3-4 hours at 130°C. When cooked, the meat was placed in a bowl and the cooking liquid strained over it and it was left to rest (Don't discard the vegetables).

While the meat was resting I got the polenta on the go (I use 8 parts liquid, 1 part instant polenta and 1 part semolina flour). A mix of milk, water and butter made up the liquid part, when the liquid starts to boil remove it from the heat and while whisking sprinkle in the dry mix. Place the pot back on a very low heat and stir constantly until a thick porridge consistency is achieved.

Retrieve the pork from the liquid and cut in to generous slices. Spoon some polenta in to a bowl and top with the vegetables, pork slices and spoon over some of the cooking liquid.

Wairarapa Market

It was an early start for us last Saturday (well early for a weekend). We drove up to Masterton to check out the market and see the cooking demo put on by Marc Soper. The drive was pleasant and the weather got hotter and hotter as we headed north.

The market was quite intimate with about twelve stalls, so the tour didn’t take too long to see what was on offer. Small as it was there was a great selection of quality produce, excellent vegetables, rare breed pork, mouth watering breads, cheeses, olive oils, wines, preserves and so much more.

It may not of taken long to walk around and see each stall, but the warmth and friendliness of the stall holders meant you spent time discussing their produce, instead of the Wellington market mindset, grab what you need and push your way through a crowd to pay.

We had already a small bounty when Marc put on his first demo, Spätzle with Lamb loin finished with a pinot noir/olive oil syrup. He had a nifty little tool for scraping the Spätzle in to the boiling water, I have to get my hands on one, I usually use my potato ricer which isn’t the best. I love love love Spätzle and blue cheese and this dish had both. Luckily for me Sophie doesn’t like the cheese so much, so more for me!

During the break between demos we did a bit more shopping, on the other side of the market this time, picking up some fruit (some of the best grapefruit I’ve tasted in a while, ripped open and eaten fresh right there and then)

The Second demo was a Wanton with a filling of Kale and Blue cheese with smoked garlic served on a Fennel and apple salad. These were really tasty and so easy to put together. They would be great for party finger food, and has found a spot in my recipe collection.

We will be back to Masterton for this market, it's a great day out of the city.

Recipes from the market can be found at this link

The Spätzle maker (Amazon, though I'm sure you could get at a kitchen shop in NZ easy enough)


We headed up to the Masterton market last weekend and came back with a nice collection of goodies.

Vodka infused with atomic red hots, genius or lunacy. Only time will tell.

Burger night

I'm a bit over beef when it comes to burgers, unless you get some good quality mince the beef doesn't seem to add much flavour. So lamb burgers were on the menu.

I had made a batch of celeriac salad the previous night to have with a roast, it's super simple and tasty. Julienne a celeriac (use a mandoline, so much easier), thinly slice some celery and red onion and stir through some home made garlic mayo.

For the garlic mayo, in a food processor or blender (or by hand if you wish) start mixing an egg, a splash of vinegar/lemon juice, a teaspoon of mustard and a clove of garlic. When the mixture has some volume and turned a pale colour, slowly start pouring in oil while the machine runs (I use a light oil such as grape, I avoid olive oil as it has a strong flavour). When the mixture is thick it's ready (it'll take a decent amount of oil 1 cup+).

The burgers! I flavoured the lamb with thyme, grated garlic, lemon zest, salt and white pepper. It's important to give the meat a really good kneed (like bread) to develop it and make sure it has a strong bond to itself. Let it rest for a while, and then shape in to patties and sprinkle each side with ground coriander.

Cook however you like, I usually start in a pan and finish in the oven. I highly recommend you don't cook your patties well done, leave it pink in the middle (pink not raw).

Pattie 70% cooked with a good coating of ewes milk cheese ready for the grill. They were the tastiest burgers we've eaten for ages.

Friday, September 23, 2011

I love getting parcels.

My order from Modernist Pantry turned up today, it only took five working days via standard US mail, not bad at all.

Now all I have to do is come up with some cool stuff to do with it. My first thoughts are use Wylie Dufresne's shrimp noodle making method and create an Asian inspired stir-fry noodle dish. The method is demonstrated here(links to iTunes). The method is pretty simple blend some shrimp, salt and 1% by weight of Activa RM, extrude in to 55°C water until set, then heat to desired cooking temperature (here for the source, bottom of the post).

I've also got myself a copy (it's a free pdf) of Texture – A hydrocolloid recipe collection and it has some pretty cool stuff to do, such as making a sheet of vinaigrette and using it as a wrapper. Pretty exciting stuff, but I must try to refrain myself from making crazy stuff for the sake of it.

All in all, it's lining up to be a good weekend, last night I finally replaced my stick blender for an insanely cheap price, thanks Briscoes. Tomorrow I'm of to Masterton for the
Wairarapa market and chef demo, and on the way home I'm picking up a cool retro Kenwood (70s is retro right?) A901 Mixer.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I may be slow, but...

I've only just discovered these great food science public lectures put on by Harvard University available on iTunes. I highly recommend them if you're interested in the hows and whys of food prep, they have great guests such as Harold Mcgee, Joan Roca, and Wylie Dufresne.

I found out about the lecture on the latest cooking issues radio show, and the latest has Dave Arnold (from CI) and Harold Mcgee.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


With plenty of leftover mackerel needing to be used (from the congee), I decided to whip up some kedgeree.

Firstly rinse the rice and get 2 pots of water on to boil. When the water is boiling, pour the rice into one pot and place 1 egg per portion in the other pot. Cook for 10 minutes (or until the rice is done), immediately get the eggs under running cold water, and rinse the rice.

While the rice and eggs are cooking; dice up some shallots; de-seed and dice a couple of tomatoes; finely chop parsley; grate garlic and ginger; and flake the smoked mackerel.

In a frying pan melt some butter and sauté the shallots, ginger and garlic until soft, then add a tablespoon of good curry powder and a teaspoon or so of mustard seeds. When the spices are aromatic add a dash of vinegar (I find this adds some much needed acid to cut through the oily fish). Add the diced tomato and a splash of water and cook until almost dry. Finally add the cooked rice, parsley and fish. Stir through, taste and adjust seasoning.

Plate up with a few extra flakes of fish and quartered eggs.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Leftover Congee, and stock

I had a bit of left over congee from the other night, I decided to put it under a hard vacuum seal to compress it in to a block of rice goodness.

A fresh batch of chicken stock had just finished reducing, so I thought a nice bowl of soup would go down a treat.

I cut some cubes of the set congee and fried them in a bit of sesame oil until crisp on the outside. With the stock I seasoned it with a little soy sauce and warmed through some tomato, chilli, and scallions.


Congee with pickled ginger, chilli, carrot, garlic, onion; crispy black pudding, smoked mackerel and scallions, finished with a few drops of sesame oil.

I made the congee in the pressure cooker, as it was quite late and I didn't have the time to simmer rice for hours on end. I used 1 cup of rice and 6 cups of water with a bit of seasoning and cooked on high pressure for 22 minutes. Most recipes I've seen use a higher ratio of water, but I figured as the pressure cooker is a closed system I wouldn't loose any liquid to evaporation so should use less liquid.

Very thin slices of ginger, carrot, garlic and onion, pickling in cider vinegar with a sprinkle of sugar.

Crispy salty chunks of fried black pudding.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Dinner out

Out for dinner last night, and we decided on Kayu Manis.

The best Beef Rendang I've had.

BBQ Pulled pork

Kaiser roll stuffed with BBQ pulled pork, sauerkraut and red onion with a side of oven cooked fries (I really need to invest in a deep fryer, but will wait until Briscoes has another 60% off sale, I'm sure I wont have to wait long).

Potatoes sliced on the mandoline in to french fries, getting a soak before a few minutes in boiling water (just enough to make them limp). Once boiled spread out on a tea towel to dry out.

Heat a roasting pan with about 1/4 of a cup of oil in a hot oven (200ºC ). Tip the dried out fries on to the tray and cook until golden brown, stirring them occasionally.

You could do this low and slow in the oven, but I have a pressure cooker. Brown the meat on all sides and then chuck in a bit of chilli, fennel seed, 1/4 cup of cider vinegar, sliced onion, salt and pepper. Cook on high pressure for about 50 minutes.

Let the meat rest in its liquid until it's cool enough to handle.

Pull the pork with your fingers and put it back in to the pot with about 1/2 a cup of the cooking liquid and some BBQ sauce (homemade is best, but good store bought is fine). Cook for a couple minutes more, and then serve in some toasted rolls.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Modernist Pantry

I found out about Modernist Pantry via the latest Cooking Issues radio episode, they had arranged a promo for a free sample of Activa RM (meat glue) for the listeners of the radio show, and that was all it took for me to open up my web browser. However, I had little hope that they would ship internationally, but they do. Oh dear, I had suddenly turned in to a kid in a candy store!

I managed to restrain myself and only place an order for a few items (however if the shipping is swift, I might go a little crazy, sorry in advance to my credit card). On order I have some Agar (gelling), Calcium Lactate, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Alginate, Xanthan Gum (reverse spherification), and Activa RM. The shipping is very reasonable at $14 (US), and the prices aren't too bad either, I have seen these products available in New Zealand but are usually overpriced.

The offer is good for the rest of the week, but you'll have to listen to the show yourself for the promo code.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Clam spaghetti

A very simple pasta with a big hit of flavour. The sauce is made from the clam juices and butter with a good sprinkle of parsley.

I used clams, red onion, parsley, garlic, chilli, butter, vermouth, and lemon juice.

With the spaghetti cooking, get a good portion of butter on to the heat.

Soften the onion and garlic in the pan, sprinkle over some chilli flakes, then deglaze with vermouth.

Put in the clams and some of their cooking juices (make sure to taste the juice as it can be quite salty), then sprinkle over some chopped parsley.

Toss through the spaghetti with a little of the pasta water, and a squeeze of lemon.

Beer bread

Whipped up a batch of no knead bread to cook on the pizza stone this weekend. It's so easy, all it takes is a little patience which is rewarded with extra flavour the long ferment brings.

I used a ratio of 10 parts flour to 8 parts liquid (which happened to be an opened and undrunk bottle of flat beer) with about a tablespoon of yeast and enough salt. Mix to incorporate the flour, cover and let sit for 24-36 hours (if you plan on leaving it longer you will need to 'feed' it with extra liquid and flour after 24 hours to keep the yeast going).

Knocked back after 36 hours, very fragrant, I think it almost smells like mashed bananas fermenting.

Shape it the best you can, it's very soft. I placed it on a sprinkling of fine semolina flour so it would slide easily on to the pizza stone.

While the dough is proving (30-60 min depending on how active the yeast is) preheat the oven with the stone in it, I set mine to 250°C and wait for it get up to temperature then drop the dial down to 200°C when the dough is ready to place in the oven.

Slide the bread on to the stone and cook for about 20 minutes, until the bread sounds hollow then tapped.

It had a nice subtle beer taste and hints of sour dough, made a great salami sandwich.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Woke up with a bit of fuzz in my head and in serious need of a cure. I had some ham in the fridge that needed to be used and I hadn't pulled out the truffle oil in a while so I ended up making some truffle hollandaise with poached eggs and ham.

Just got Michael Ruhlman's Ratio in the post a couple of days ago, it's really well written and easy to read. I used the ratio from the book of 5 parts fat, 1 part egg yolk and 1 part liquid for the sauce.

Whisk the egg yolk, lemon juice and a few drops of truffle oil until light. Slowly whisk in melted butter until emulsified, and then place over a pot of steaming water and whisk until thickened.

[Edit 27/02/2012]
The method I currently use to make this sauce is slightly different, a little easier and a bit more fool proof.
  1. Melt and clarify some unsalted butter, leave it in the pot, but off the heat.
  2. In a bowl place egg yolks, and squeeze in lemon juice, whisk until the yolks have become pale in colour and increased in volume (about 2-3 times).
  3. Heat up the clarified butter until very warm.
  4. While whisking the yolk mixture pour in the butter in a slow steady stream.
  5. When all the butter has been incorporated, continue whisking until you reach the desired consistency.
  6. Taste and season.