Saturday, December 29, 2012

Dr Pepper-Miso Marinated Short Ribs

I wish I had got a better photo of these ribs, they were sweet, salty, savoury awesomeness, and devoured too quickly for the pause of a good photo, but hey what are looks, it’s all about the taste right?

Dr Pepper is a guilty pleasure, it’s a excellent cure for a night of overindulgence, which I probably do more than is better for me, but I hadn’t thought to use it as an ingredient in my cooking until the seemingly odd combination of miso and the soda popped into my head. Salty umami laden miso combined with fruity sweet soda paired with some slow cooked rich red meat, it seemed kind of wrong but I couldn’t think of a reason why it wouldn’t work.

1 Rack of short ribs
1 Can of Dr Pepper (reduced to 125 ml)
2 tsp Miso paste (shiro)
½ tsp Chilli flakes
1 tsp Cider vinegar
Splash, dash or glug of oil

Slice the rack part way down the meat between the ribs (or whatever serving size you choose) to allow the marinade to work in a bit deeper.

Combine all the ingredients and check the seasoning, adjusting either with more miso or a dash of salt. Marinade the beef for up to 24 hours.

Slice a red onion, and dice a couple of carrots and place in an oven-proof dish, lay the marinaded beef on top and pour over the remaining marinade. Cover with tinfoil and cook at 140–150°C for 3 hours.

When cooked carefully remove the ribs and set aside, get a heavy baking sheet in the oven and crank up the heat to 220°C, when up to temp place the ribs on the heated pan and cook for 10–15 minutes to give a nice crust, but be careful not to dry out the meat.

While the beef cooks pass the cooked vegetables and any juices through mouli adjust the seasoning and use it as a sauce for the ribs.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Beetroot Tartare

I can’t believe I haven’t posted about these great beets before, I came across the method on Ideas in Food back in January, they took beetroot cooked it until tender and then dehydrated it, not so dehydrated it’s a crisp dry husk but soft, chewy, and sweet. Recently I had been thinking about these beets and what to do with them, I wanted to make a simple dish that really let the flavour of the beetroot shine, but add a couple of complementing flavours, what I ended up with is a ‘tartare’ of beetroot with ewe’s milk feta and rather food geekily olive oil powder*.

Firstly the beetroot needs to be cooked until tender, you can either steam them or as I usually do put them in a casserole dish with a few aromatics and a splash of wine, cover and put in a medium oven until fork tender, 40–60 minutes.

Remove the beetroot from the dish and allow to cool until you can handle them, then peel.

Set the oven to 65°C, or use a dehydrator if you have one. Place beets on a tray in the oven for about 12 hours. Then allow to cool and place in a bag in the fridge to allow the juices to equalise throughout the vegetable and the outer layer to rehydrate.

Finely dice the beetroot and serve a round with some olive oil powder* and ewe’s feta ‘grated’ through a sieve, and maybe a little thyme.

* Olive oil powder is made by blending together Tapioca Maltodextrin (N-Zorbit) with olive oil, then passing through a sieve. Use 1 part N-Zorbit to 3 parts Fat by weight. N-Zorbit is crazy light, 1 litre = 100 grams.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Oeuf en gelée

I had been meaning to try my hand at Oeuf en gelée for a while, usually a poached egg set in a consommé gelée, maybe with a few other ingredients set in there too. A terribly old fashioned idea, foodstuffs set in aspic, a foreign texture, a little odd to begin with, wobbly cold savoury aspic and egg, maybe not to everyone's taste, but worth a try. I do have to admit this initial try was not a total success, I didn’t make my own stock, I clarified it though (egg white raft, but gelatin filtration is good too), and the ratio of gelée to soft boiled egg was a little on the high side, but it’s a good starting point.

Future plans are to find a better container to set the aspic in, make my own stock and rely on it’s own gelatin to set the the dish, although I’m not sure how much would survive the clarification process, I’d imagine none if I chose to do gelatin filtration, and I’m thinking a good ham or bacon hock with a few trotters in there should do the trick, maybe a riff on bacon and eggs? So I’m sure there will be a more indepth post sometime in the future on this dish, hopefully more successful entry.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Distracted Chicken Stew

I’ve been a little slack getting a new post up on here, perhaps it’s because I’m a little preoccupied with all things brewing at the moment. I’ve got a third brew on, and bought a second fermenter, and have finally got to taste the fruits of my labour, brew one got a little taste, not too bad for a first go and kit beer, brew 2 got a taste when I measured its gravity, coming along very nicely and am looking forward to adding even more hops to it in a secondary fermenter. The third brew is a kit cider for the other half, and I’m doing far too much reading on kit I can buy/make and what brew four and five should be, as I’ll end up with two empty fermenters very soon, contemplating the scary thought of an all mash brew.

So with distractions in mind here is one of my main go to meals, something easy to throw together, usually have most of the ingredients in the larder, and is adaptable enough to not suffer if I’m missing a few.

6 Chicken drumsticks, or a whole chicken broken down to 6 or 8 pieces.
Water, stock if you have it.
Tomatoes, a good quality can, or 4 or 5 diced fresh.
Onion, finely diced.
3 Garlic cloves, minced.
1 Lemon, juice and zest.
1 tbsp Cumin, toasted and ground.
1 Red chilli, diced, dried is good in a pinch.
Black Olives, remove stone (I always have a can Pelion Greek black olives on hand).
Capers, in salt please, rinsed.
Salt and pepper.
Pine nuts, if you have them, toasted

Generously brown the chicken over a high heat with a dash of olive oil in a pan big enough to hold all the chicken, I mean seriously get the bird crispy brown. Set the chicken aside and turn the heat down, sautée the onions until translucent, add the garlic, chili and cumin, cook until fragrant. Arrange the chicken in the pan, tuck in thyme sprigs, scatter over the tomatoes, olives, capers and lemon zest, drizzle over the lemon juice, add about a cup of water (or stock), season with pepper (hold off the salt till the end as olive and capers are salty). Cover and cook over a medium low heat until the chicken is almost done, uncover the pot and cook over a medium high heat until the chicken is cooked and the cooking liquid have reduced to a nice thick sauce, adjust the seasoning and serve.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Pappardelle with Watercress Pesto and Zucchini

This recipe was originally created for Urban Harvest, do go check out their website for some great produce and other recipe ideas.

Pesto is a great way of using up a glut of of herbs you happen to have, it will extend the shelf life, and give you a quick and easy meal or jazz up a salad dressing or sandwich. It takes its name from the same root that pestle comes from and is traditionally made with one, although a food processor these days is a little easier. When using a machine care should be taken as the more you break down the leaves the greater the oxidation will be, so coarse chopped will taste fresher and more like the herb you expect. With that in mind it doesn’t hurt to put in a little preparation before the convenient machinery, this is as simple as making a paste of the garlic with the back of a knife or fine microplane, grind the nuts before you add the herbs, and have the lemon juice ready to add to help halt the oxidation.

The obvious partner to pesto is of course pasta, and although you may think homemade is hard work, I assure you it is not complicated or too time consuming. Two parts egg to three parts flour by weight, standard flour is fine, but you can use durum if you prefer just take into account that different flours absorb varying amounts of liquid so adjustments will have to be made. The minimum weight (NZ)* for size 6 is 53g, 7 is 62g, and 8 is 68g, so a rough calculation can be made by how many and what size eggs you use, however I recommend using digital scales, but if not, err on the side of less flour and add extra as needed.

Watercress and Basil Pesto
2 cups Watercress (packed), 100g
½ cup Basil (packed), 25g
½ cup Olive oil
½ cup Pine Nuts, 70g
½ New Zealand Shaved Parmesan, 40g
1 Large lemon, juiced
1 small clove garlic (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

  • Toast the pine nuts and pulse in the food processor to roughly chop, set aside.
  • With the back of knife crush and make a paste out of the garlic, or grate it.
  • Pack the watercress and basil into the food processor with the lemon juice, olive oil and garlic, pulse until roughly chopped.
  • Add the pine nuts and parmesan, pulse until a rough paste has been formed.
  • Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, you may need to add a little more lemon juice, or a little more oil to loosen it.
  • Transfer to a container with a lid and let it rest in the fridge so the flavours can develop, I like to leave it at least an hour before using it. It will keep about a week in the fridge, if it’s not eaten first.

Pasta (Pappardelle)
(2 large servings)
2 Eggs, Size 8 (70g each approx)
210g Flour (1 and 2/3 cups very approx)

  • Pour the flour into a bowl and make a well in the center.
  • Break the eggs into the well and using a spoon start working the eggs into the flour using a circular motion working from the inside out.
  • When a dough begins to form use the heel of your palm to knead it together picking up any loose crumbs and working it to a relatively smooth dough.
  • Securely wrap the dough in cling film and let it rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, it’s important to let the dough rest as it gives the flour a chance to hydrate.
  • Divide the dough in two.
  • Dust the bench with flour, I like to use a mixture of fine semolina and normal flour to dust with when rolling out the pasta, the semolina gives a nice texture to the final product, something for the sauce to hold on to.
  • Roll the dough out into a rectangle and then fold the bottom third up and the top third down, rotate the dough 90 degrees and repeat. Folding ensures you get a nice bite from your pasta.
  • When you’ve rolled the dough thin enough to get through the thickest setting on your pasta machine start using that to roll the dough.
  • Run it through each setting a couple of times until you get down to number four, dusting it with flour as you go to prevent sticking.
  • Take the long rolled out sheet of pasta and give each side a good dusting then roll it up gently, so you end up with a log of pasta, carefully cut 2cm slices, don’t apply too much downward pressure.
  • Uncurl the pasta ribbons, dust lightly with flour and set aside. Repeat with the other half of the dough.

Putting it all together
  • Get a large pot of generously salted water onto boil, when a rolling boil starts add the pasta and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  • Cut the zucchini into ribbons with either a mandoline on the finest setting, or use a vegetable peeler. Sprinkle over some salt and then sauté quickly in a hot pan, just wilting the ribbons rather than cooking all the way through.
  • Toss the cooked pasta with a generous spoonful of pesto and the cooked zucchini, serve in a large bowl with flakes of parmesan, finished with an indulgent drizzle of good olive oil.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


I’ve been meaning to get into this beer brewing thing for quite a while, but always seem to put off getting the required kit, and the lack of a decent brew store in Wellington hasn’t helped much. But we now have The Brew House in Newtown a great little brew supply shop, determined to change the procrastination habit I made my way from Karori to Newtown and bought myself a starter kit, I figured if I started off with a beer for dummies kit it would be foolproof and build up a bit of brewers confidence setting me off to try more advanced brewing techniques.

I followed the instructions and all was going well until I started thinking about what my next brew could be, I found many homebrew forums, and they left me with severe doubts about the supplied kit instructions, there are so many pages and posts online about just how bad kit instructions are, which led me to throwing away the supplied instruction sheet, which advised the beer would be ready to bottle in 5–7 days, and ready to drink in a couple of weeks, I ended up brewing the beer in the fermenter for a total of 23 days, the last half the Gravity had been stable, but the flavours weren’t they were developing mellowing becoming something a lot more pleasant than what they were on day 7.

I finally got the brew in the bottle, possibly the most tedious thing in the world washing and sterilising 30 bottles, I still have 2 weeks before I can chuck a couple of bottles in the fridge to have a taste, and realistically I’m not expecting to really start drinking it for another 3 weeks (four in total).

Much research and thought has gone into the next brew, I was fortunate to find a The Brewers Friend website which has a recipe calculator, you put in what style of beer you want to make, and then the grains, malt, hops and it will tell you how far off the style you are. I’ve decided on making an APA (American pale ale), a not too strong (6%) hoppy ale. I’ve also decided to up technical difficulty, I’m going to do a partial mash, which is steeping milled grains in hot water (about 65ºC) converting the starch in the grain to fermentable sugars through an enzymatic reaction, I had contemplated doing a full mash but as it is my first go and I don’t know how successful or what at efficiency I’ll be converting starch to sugar1, I’m also adding a dry or liquid malt extract to cover my arse a bit.

The batch after that, I’m not sure yet, the other half wants to try cider so that could be a goer, I’m already contemplating getting another fermenter barrel so I can do a secondary fermentation of the APA with hops, which will add a nice floral aroma and also help clarify the beer more. All going to plan once the first batch is ready to drink I should be brewing enough to keep us stocked up with beer and never have to buy it again, not that I won't, there are too many good artisan brewers in Wellington and too many good bars serving them on tap, I’m looking at you Hop Garden and Fork & Brewer.

1. I managed to get 60% conversion of starch

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Ricotta 'ravioli'

I mentioned that I’d post about this seamless ‘ravioli’ back when I wrote about the egg yolk ravioli, the method is pretty much the same but with ricotta cheese, and a little more care has to be taken when boiling to avoid the balls collapsing.

I opted for traditional flavours, a good pile of ricotta, lemon rind finely grated in, along with some nutmeg and a good sprinkle of salt, mix together well. Using a tablespoon scoop out even sized portions and roll into balls with damp hands. The balls are then placed on a bed of fine semolina flour (or use durum) and then covered with a layer of the flour. Refrigerate for a couple of days to let the flour hydrate forming a casing around the cheese filling.

Gently shake off the excess flour and cook in salted boiling water for a minute or two, keep a close eye on them looking for signs that they might collapse, it’s unlikely but better safe than sorry.

You could serve them nice and simple, maybe with brown butter and sage, but I had a meaty, spicy, dosed with extra anchovies and capers sauce on hand.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Twice cooked roast pork belly

There are dishes which you wish had a quick and easy version, or at least a way of getting the benefits of a long cook in a short time. Pork belly is one of those roasts that easily falls into that category, you want unctuous fall apart flesh and crisp salty crackling. There are a lot of shortcut methods that purport to achieve this miracle, but I have yet to find a one that doesn’t compromise some aspect of what should be a rather tasty bit of meat. As with anything worth doing, it should be done right, with a little forethought and planning you can spend a relatively short active time cooking to achieve perfect roasted pork belly.

Set your oven to 120–130ºC. Place the pork belly in an ovenproof dish, add herbs and some liquid, thyme and cider’s always nice, or a few juniper berries and bay leaves. Don't forget to season the meat. Cover the dish with a snug layer of tin foil. Cook for about 5 hours.

When time is up carefully remove the pork from the dish and set aside to rest. Get two dishes (I use a couple of rectangular oven dishes), ideally one will be slightly smaller, line the base with a piece of baking paper, place the pork in the dish and lay another piece of baking paper on the pork and then put the other dish on top, press down gently, you could weigh it down with some cans but I find wrapping it tightly in clingfilm does the trick and takes up less room in the fridge. Refrigerate overnight.

Ready to devour some porky goodness? Well not long now. Set the oven to 220ºC, I just crank mine up to full. Remove the pork from the fridge, score the skin side, portion it and season the skin side with salt. Get an ovenproof pan on a hot heat, and when almost smoking, place pork in the pan, skin side down. Put the pan in the oven and cook for 15–20 minutes.

That’s about it, get it from the oven, don’t forget that pan handle is going to be hot! Transfer the pork a board, skin side up, let it rest for 5 minutes or so, and then greedily eat it all up. All and all, some delicious roasted pork belly took you 10–15 minutes of active cooking, and a whole lot of waiting, but I think you’ll agree it’s worth the wait.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Fish pie

There's something deeply satisfying about fish pie, it's absurdly simple to make, you can tweak it to your hearts content and you get rewarded with luscious fishy béchamel, tender flakes of fish and crispy crunchy potato topping. Now you could tweak it, put a twist on it, but I like it simple. Béchamel made with milk that the smoked fish has been poached in, boiled egg, potato topping and lashings of butter, in fact butter is probably the second most important ingredient in this pie as there is almost as much butter as fish.

Fish pie
450g Smoked fish, I like using a mix of mackerel and hoki
Bay leaves
2 x 150g Butter
500ml Milk
100g Flour
Mashing potatoes
2 Hard boiled eggs, quartered (do I need to give you instructions? Ok, fill a pot with cold water, put eggs in it, put on heat, boil for 10 minutes, rinse under cold water until cool).

Heat your oven to 180°C.

In an oven-proof dish, place the fish, a couple of bay leaves, and a dozen or so peppercorns, pour over the milk, cover with tinfoil and cook in the oven for 20 minutes. When cooked, remove the fish from the milk and strain, reserving the milk. Pick the skin off the fish and break into bite size pieces.

Peel, boil and mash the potatoes with 150g of butter, season well.

Melt 150g of butter in a pan over a medium heat, add the flour and cook, make sure not to colour the flour at all. Pour in the milk and whisk to avoid lumps. This is a thick béchamel, and wheat flour is a flavour thief so season well! Gently fold the béchamel through the fish chunks and reassess seasoning.

Spoon the fish mixture into your pie dish and nestle in the egg segments, arranging so evenly distributed. Using an offset spatula spread over an even layer of the mashed potato, use a fork to give it some texture, or alternatively you could pipe it on. Dot the top of the pie with plenty of butter, I'm more than sure you can't over do it.

Cook at 200°C for 20–30 minute, or until golden brown and crunchy.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Egg yolk 'ravioli'

Wouldn’t you know it, another egg related post, although this was merely a side experiment that I did when I set about making seamless ravioli (an upcoming post, and yet again tweet inspired). This isn’t the quickest way to make an egg yolk ‘ravioli’, however it is very straightforward, and a little less bothersome compared to traditional yolk ravioli, especially when it comes to cooking and keeping the yolk liquid.

Pour a bed of fine semolina flour in a container big enough to hold however many yolks you are making, make indentations with the back of a spoon, so the yolk has a place to rest. Carefully crack open the eggs, separate the yolk and remove the chalazae, the white string of protein attached to the yolk to hold it in place. Lay the yolks into the indentations in the flour and dust over a covering of semolina flour. Cover with cling-film (or a lid) and place in the fridge for a couple of days. Letting it rest allows the moisture in the egg yolk to hydrate the starch in the flour, and cooking will gelatinise it forming a ‘pasta’ layer.

When you’re ready to cook, bring a pot of salted water to the boil and drop the yolks in, cooking for a couple of minutes, not too long as you don’t want to cook the yolk through just warm it.

Friday, October 19, 2012

13 minute eggs

I came across this method in Ideas in Food, and it got filed away into the must try that sometime. Asparagus finally readily available it seemed like a perfect time to try substituting out the poached egg with this 13 minute egg in one of my favourite combinations, butter roasted spears of asparagus, Pancetta and egg. It probably isn’t the most straightforward way to cook an egg, however unlike previous temperature sensitive cooking this does not involve staring at a thermometer for hours on end, only 13 minutes. OK well you may be asking why do I want to keep an eye on a pot of hot water for 13 minutes, it’s only an egg. Well it may only be an egg, but it’s an egg with a silky soft white and warm liquid yolk, a far easier and hassle free stand in for a poached egg, especially if you’re making more than a couple, and to top it off, you can cook the eggs up to two days ahead of time and just reheat in a 60°C for ten minutes.

  • Bring a pot of water to 75°C, using a large volume of water will make maintaining a constant temperature easier. 
  • Place the eggs into the water and cook for 13 minutes, don’t use eggs straight from the fridge.
  • Transfer the eggs to an ice bath to cool. 
  • Reheat the eggs at 60°C for 10 minutes, or store in the fridge for up to 2 days. 
  • Shelling them can be a bit tricky, but that could just be me, I have terrible luck with eggs, but I find with these eggs the easiest way is to use a knife to crack around the fat end of the egg, remove the shell and pour the egg out.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Pan Roasted Brussels sprouts

This recipe was originally created for Urban Harvest, do go check out their website for some great produce and other recipe ideas.

Many people still screw their nose up at the humble Brussels sprout, with memories of childhood dinners, over boiled mushy green sprouts taunting them from the plate. But cooked properly, nothing can beat the sprout in my opinion. Simple is best, steamed with lashings of butter, roasted in the oven, or like below, pan roasted.

This recipe is ideal for a light meal, and will serve 2–3, it also works great as a side dish to a roast chicken.

300 g Brussels sprouts
150 g Gypsy bacon, cut into lardons
½ cup roughly chopped walnuts
3 baby celery
¼ tsp chili flakes (optional)
Olive oil
Lemon Juice or Cider Vinegar
Salt and Pepper 
  1.  Clean the Brussels sprouts, discarding any tough outer leaves. Cut them in half (or quarters if they’re particularly large), and remove the stem. 
  2. Wash the celery, remove the root end, and slice thinly including the leaves. 
  3. Toast the walnuts and chilli flakes in a pan over a medium heat, taking care not to burn them, when toasted set aside and wipe out the pan. 
  4. Pour a drop of olive oil into a heavy based frying pan (20cm) and add the bacon, slowly cook over a medium heat, until most of the fat has rendered and the bacon has become crisp around the edges. 
  5. Add the Brussels sprouts, spreading out evenly, and let cook undisturbed for a minute, give them a stir, you want the Brussels sprouts to brown not burn, cook for another minute, then add a splash of lemon juice (or vinegar), let the Brussels sprouts cook for a further 2 minutes. 
  6. Stir through the celery and walnuts, taste and season with salt and pepper. 
  7. Serve.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Some things are just too good to pass up, especially a pair of hare legs for less than eight bucks! Hare is probably my favourite game meat, lean dark rich flesh. Cooked well it’s wonderfully soft and tender, but get it wrong it is quite frankly crap, either stringy and dry, tough as old boots, or make the the mistake of over cooking it can turn to mush. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a hard meat to cook, it’s just one that lets you know you did wrong by shouting at you. So when cooking take into consideration the leg muscle of the hare, it’s very lean and does a lot of work, so a slow braise is the best bet.

The bonus of it all is that hare meat has strong flavour that can stand up to some hefty complementary flavours, such as, in this case a good strong red wine, port sauce, and some awesome baby beetroot (greens and all, thank you for not chopping them off) as acompaniament.

You’re going to have to forgive the lack of measurements, as the best I could do for you is use enough of each ingredient and you won’t go wrong.

Hare legs
Carrots, diced
Onion, diced
Garlic, crushed
Bay leaves
Dijon mustard
Tomato paste
Juniper berries
Paprika, hot
Salt & pepper

  • Dredge the hare legs in some flour seasoned with hot paprika, salt and pepper, shaking of any excess flour.
  • Brown the legs on all sides in a hot pan with a little olive oil.
  • Lay the legs on a bed of thyme, bay leaf and juniper in a casserole dish.
  • In the same pan sautée the onion, carrot and garlic until soft.
  • Deglaze the pan with a splash of port and stir through some tomato paste and mustard.
  • Pour in the red wine (enough to cover the hare in the dish you’re cooking them in), bring to a simmer.
  • Pour over the hare.
  • Cover the dish with a double layer of foil and cook at 160°C for 2–3 hours, until tender.

Beet Purée
Peel beetroot and steam it until fork tender.

Pickled Beet
Cider vinegar
  • Slice the beets paper thing (use a mandoline).
  • Heat the vinegar with thyme and sugar until simmering.
  • Pour the vinegar over the beet slice and let steep.

Beet greens
Really simple one, heat butter in pan until foamy, sautée the beet greens, done.

Instant polenta
Crème fraîche

Bring 500ml Chicken stock to the boil, remove from the heat and whisk in 125 grams of instant polenta, keep whisking until thick, you may have to put it back on the heat for a couple of seconds, but usually it isn’t needed. Add half a tub of crème fraîche and whisk in until fully incorporated.

Plate up
Spoon a pillow of polenta with the greens placed in the centre, deboned hare leg placed on top with the sieved cooking juices spooned over. Arrange beet purée and pickled beet slices around the plate.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Bread, again

Bread is one of those basic staples everyone should know how to make, it’s easy to learn, and takes a lifetime to master. The most simple and basic of loaves is 1 kg flour, 600ml water, 30 grams yeast, and 20 grams salt, mix, knead, let it double in size, shape, rise again and bake. Simple. But there is so much more to the humble loaf than just that set of ratios and steps, you can increase the hydration, add fats to enrich the dough, let the dough ferment for longer, add vinegar, whip it in a beater, not knead it at all, the ideas are limitless when it comes to bread making.

Hydration is probably my favourite way to experiment with bread making, it significantly changes the texture of the crumb, go high enough and the baked bread has an almost plastic-like interior, and you can achieve some pretty light loaves. I’ve also been interested in the order that the loaf is made, does it have to be mix; knead; rise; punch down; shape; rise; bake; or could I let it rise once, then whip it with a dough hook in the beater?

When adding fat, you have to be careful when in the process it is incorporated, too soon the fat will coat the flour and prevent gluten formation, so you’ll end up with a denser shorter crumb, in saying that though, if the total fat is less than 5%, it shouldn’t matter when you add it. If the fat is greater than 5% it’s best to add it after you have given the dough a good knead, so the gluten has already formed. Adding fat to your dough will give you a softer, finer crumb, usually a softer crust too, not to mention the richness it adds.

I recently made a standard 100/60/3/2 ratio bread (see above), with a bit of butter and a longer ferment, it went down a treat.

The night before in a bowl mix together 200 ml of warm water and add 5 grams of yeast, stir it to dissolve. When the mixture begins to foam, stir in 200 grams of flour. Leave overnight, or 24 hours. Leaving the starter to develop adds a pleasant sourness to the bread.

The next day dissolve 10 grams of yeast in 100 ml of warm water, and then add that and 300 grams flour to the starter. Mix together and knead for a good 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. This is a lot easier with a beater, but you should be able to manage it by hand, mix (or in a beater with a dough hook) in 100 grams of room temperature butter bit by bit. Once it is incorporated let the dough rest for about half an hour, or until it had doubled in size. Punch the dough down, and then shape and let it double in size again.

Preheat the oven to 220ºC. Before putting the dough in, pour half a cup of water on to the bottom of the oven to create some steam. Put the dough in the oven, and turn the temperature down to 200ºC, cook for about 30 minutes, or until it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, or until the internal temperature is 90–94ºC.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Spicy Chicken Wings Mk IV

Cooking, or at least developing a recipe, or a dish, or a snack, or even just figuring out just how you like your grilled cheese, is always a work in progress, you’re never likely to get it right the first try, or even the second, time and patience is your friend. I’ve recently started a hot and spicy affair with chicken wings, trying to nail the perfect crunchy spicy wing, a good crust, moist perfect flesh and of course hot! Easier said than done, you have to get the ratio of flour right, choose the right spices, should I just use wheat flour? Deep fry? Oven bake? I previously wrote about mark 1, but now with mark 3 behind me, I am almost there, and this recipe (mark 4) is as close to perfect as I can get, in a perfect world of course.

The quantities below are based on 500g of chicken wings.

Spice Mix
10g Coriander seed
10g Cumin seed
5g Chili flakes (hot)
5g Sweet smoked paprika
5g Salt

  • Grind all the ingredients together, a blender is handy but a mortar and pestle will do the job. 
  • Sieve the resulting mixture, saving both the resulting powder and coarse separately. You should have about 16 grams of powder, if you’re off by a gram or two don’t worry, but much more than that put the coarse back in the blender and grind more. 
  • Mix the 16g of powder with 5g of the coarse, about a 3:1 powder to coarse ratio. Set this aside, and either discard the remaining coarse materials or seal up in a jar and store.

The powder separated from the coarse chaff.

16g powder & 5g coarse chaff.

25g Fine semolina flour
25g Plain wheat flour
21g Spice mix (the 16g powder + 5g coarse from above)

  • In a large bowl mix all of the ingredients together, if you have more than 20-21g of spice mix adjust the flour accordingly, 5 parts flour mix to 2 parts spice mix. 

Getting it all together
  • Pat the chicken wings dry with some paper towels, and lightly coat with some oil, canola is fine, I usually just use the aerosol cooking oil that I spray the sheet pans with, it’s canola and as it’s a spray I can get a nice even light coating. 
  • Add the wings to the bowl with the spiced flour and cover with a double layer of clingfilm. 
  • Gently toss the wings in the flour, making sure to coat thoroughly, you may wish to give another little spray with oil to help, but it’s not always necessary.
  • Place the bowl in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, this will allow the starch in the flours to hydrate, making for a stronger coating that will help trap in steam from the wings as they cook, and less likely to fall off.

  • Preheat the oven to 200-210°C, let it sit at temperature for a good 15 minutes before adding the chicken. 
  • Line a sheet pan with baking paper and spray with some non-stick spray (yes the double up of non-stickiness is needed) 
  • Arrange the chicken on the pan, allowing room around each wing for airflow. 
  • Cook for 15 minutes, and then remove from the oven and turn each wing over, cook for a further 15 minutes. 
Note: for extra crispy wings, and for people not watching their weight, spray the wings when placing them on the sheet pan, and again when you flip them. 

Serve up with some hot sauce, a finger bowl and lots of napkins.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Braised Beef Cheeks

Slow cooked meat is awesome, melt in the mouth, big rich flavours, it’s all good, apart from the time it takes to get the result, you can cheat it with a pressure cooker, well the texture kind of, but you can’t cheat the rich strong flavour that a three hour braise produces, which is a problem when it’s a Wednesday night at 6pm and you have beef cheeks you really want to eat, but like hell you’re going to wait til what will probably be a 10pm dinner time. So like the crazy food weirdo that I am, I think hey I can cook two meals tonight, I don’t need to be sociable, I’ll just set up shop in the kitchen for the night. With one dinner made, and ate, I set about getting a beef cheek braise on the go, I figure if I get it in the oven by 8pm and cook it for 3 hours at 140ºC, I should be able to get it cool enough and get it in the fridge overnight to be finished off the next day.

2 Beef cheeks
2 Carrots, diced
1 Onion, diced
2 Celery stalks, diced
1 tsp Smoked sweet paprika
1 tsp Hot paprika
1 tsp Mustard
1 tbsp of Garlic confit
1 tbsp Tomato paste
250 ml Red wine
50 ml Tawny port
2 Bay leaves
1 Bunch of thyme

Preheat the oven to 140ºC

Brown the cheeks in a little olive oil, remove and place in a casserole dish (or dutch oven, I would have used one, but the enamel on mine exploded off with some gusto a while back and I haven’t replace it yet).

Sweat the onion, carrots and celery in the pan.

Add the paprikas, mustard, tomato paste, and garlic, cook until fragrant.

Deglaze with the port, and when almost evaporated add the red wine, bay leaves and thyme, simmer for a couple of minutes.

Pour the mixture over the cheeks and place on a lid, or cover tightly with a double layer of tinfoil. Cook for 3–4 hours.

When done, carefully remove the cheeks to warm bowl, and strain the liquid into the same, the vegetables have done their work, and will be pretty bland, so just discard them.

While the meat rests in its sauce, prepare the polenta. I unashamedly use instant polenta, good for you if you have the time and patience to put up with making the regular kind, and for putting up with the burns you get from popping bubbles of steamy polenta hell. Bring 500ml Chicken stock to the boil, remove from the heat and whisk in 125 grams of instant polenta, keep whisking until thick, you may have to put it back on the heat for a couple of seconds, but usually it isn’t needed. Add half a tub of crème fraîche and whisk in until fully incorporated.

Spoon a pillow of polenta onto a plate, take a cheek and slice it in three, then rest it on the polenta, spoon over a generous amount of sauce, and finish with a grating of a nice nutty cheese and a sprinkling of herbs.