Saturday, January 28, 2012

Urad Dal, Flat Bread and Bhaji

Urid Dal Curry
Get a pot of water on to the stove with a couple of cups of Urid Dal lentils, an onion cut in half and a couple of bay leaves (do not add any salt as this will toughen the lentils and inhibit their cooking). Bring the water to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender, but not mushy.

While the lentils are cooking get the rest of the curry ready. Toast in a dry frying pan some cinnamon, cloves, nigella (onion seeds), a dry chilli or two, fenugreek seeds, coriander seeds, and cumin seeds. When all the spices are fragrant and toasted transfer to a blender with some fresh chilli, garlic, grated ginger and an onion peeled and quartered. Pulse the blender to form a rough paste.

Fry the paste in a little oil until the onion has softened and it has started to caramelise, tip in the drained lentils and stir through, add a couple of chopped de-seeded tomatoes, half a cup of water, and half a cup of coconut milk, simmer until thick, season with salt. Stir through some chopped coriander and serve with bread or rice, or both.

Flat Bread
I just use my basic bread dough, find the recipe here, and follow the pita bread instructions at the bottom of the post.

Onion Bhaji
Peel and slice a couple of onions in half and then in to thinnish slices, place in a bowl and cover with milk, let the onion slices soak for about half an hour.

Drain the onions. I cheat here and use a pre-made masala mix, but you could make your own, add a generous spoon of the masala to the onions and enough chickpea flour (gram flour) to coat the onions, you may need to add a little water to form a batter, but there should be enough liquid left on the onions.

In a heavy based pan add about a centimetre of neutral flavoured oil (I use grape seed oil), when the oil is up to temperature (you can test with a cube of bread) add a spoonful of the onion mixture to the oil and fry for about 2 minutes per side, take care when turning the bhaji not to splash yourself with oil.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Easy brioche

I had planned on making some potato buns for burgers but after flicking through Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot's book Ideas in Food: Great Recipes and Why They Work (their blog is, I came across their No Knead Brioche recipe and knew I had to make brioche burger buns for the ultimate extravagant burger. The no knead brioche is pretty simple, it just takes a bit of time.

Over a low heat melt 226 grams of unsalted butter, once melted set aside to cool.

In a bowl whisk together 50 grams of sugar, 10 grams of fine sea salt, 1.5 grams of instant yeast, and 488 grams of flour.

In another bowl whisk 4 large eggs (a large egg is between 63-73 grams), 113 grams of water, 65 grams of milk, when combined whisk in the melted butter.

Using a wooden spoon or spatula, beat the wet mixture in to the dry until smooth and free of lumps, it should resemble thick muffin batter.

Cover and leave at room temperature for about 4 hours.

After resting for 4 hours, dampen your hands, use a spatula and fingers to fold one side into the middle and press down, turn the bowl 90 degrees and repeat, do this twice more so each side has been folded in. Turn the whole batter over, so the seam is on the bottom. Cover with cling film and leave it to rest for 8-12 hours, it should have doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 175°C (with fan). With damp hands shape the batter into buns and brush with milk (I should have made some rings from tin foil to stop the dough spreading). Cook for 30 minutes, the buns should sound hollow when tapped on the underside. Alternatively you could put the dough into a loaf pan and cook for 1 hour.

Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.

A Buttery and delicate crumb, makes a killer burger bun, but it's very rich so smaller portions are probably the order of the day.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sangria Blanca

When there are no clouds in the sky and there is no escape from the heat, nothing beats a ice cold glass of Sangria Blanca. It has become my favourite drink this summer, not too alcoholic, not heavy like beer, and you can pretend it's kind of good for you (it's got fruit in it).

The best Sangria is made the day before, or at least a few of hours before you intend to drink it. Fill a jug two thirds full of wine (I like Sauvignon Blanc), slice up some fruit (nectarines, apricots, orange and lemon are good) and put in the jug, cover and chill.

When you're ready to drink, pour in ginger ale to fill up the jug (yes, wine and ginger ale, don't ask me why this works it just does).

Friday, January 13, 2012

Bread Salad (Panzanella)

Thank goodness there are tasty ways to use up stale bread, we often have some in our pantry, left over dough from pizzas made in to a loaf, baguettes not fully consumed, etc. In the cooler months bread pudding is a good go to for the stale loaf, but when the weather is warm Panzanella is on the menu.

Dice the bread.

Soak the bread chunks in a 1% brine. It should soak for about 20 minutes.

While the bread is soaking prepare the rest of the salad. Start off with the vinaigrette. In a bowl combine together some anchovies, mustard, confit garlic, finely chopped parsley, olive oil and vinegar (I prefer cider vinegar and a ratio of 2 parts oil to 1 part vinegar).

Give it a good whisk, making sure the anchovies break down and emulsify into the vinaigrette.

The salad vegetables are all very optional, and you could stick purely with tomato and basil, but I also added some cucumber, red onion, olives and capers. Mix through the vinaigrette.

Drain the bread and squeeze as much liquid out as you can, it doesn't matter if it crumbles, in fact I think it should.

Fold the bread through the rest of the salad, let it sit for at least 10 minutes so the bread has time to soak up the dressing.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Grilled Pork Shoulder

The clouds finally parted and the sun came out (although it's back behind a thick veil of dark cloud at the moment) so we had to take full advantage of the good weather, as it seems to be in short supply this summer in Wellington. Excellent pork shoulder chops in hand and a pair of tongs in the other, the cover finally came off the BBQ for the first time this year.

Keeping things relatively simple, I marinated the pork in some olive oil, salt, pepper, capers, rosemary and thyme for about half an hour while the BBQ heated up.

Then on to a scorching hot grill for a couple of minutes per side, carefully dodging the jets of flame that shoot out as the chops are flipped and the pork fat ignites.

Let the chops rest for 5-10 minutes.

Served up with some simple roasted potatoes, mustard (Dijon) and quince paste.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Sticky ribs

One of the great bonuses of buying pork belly is the attached spare ribs. You could cook the belly with them attached, but quite frankly they make portioning and serving the belly more work than it should be. I usually slice them off as a whole rack, bag and freeze them for use later as stock bones or a very tasty lunch.

Cooking ribs is an easy two step process, simmering the ribs until they're cooked and almost falling off the bone, then grilling and glazing. Fill a pot large enough to hold the ribs with water, soy sauce, star anise and a chopped up onion, bring it to the boil and place in the ribs, simmer for 30 minutes.

While the ribs are simmering, preheat the oven to 200-220°C (or get the BBQ going), in a bowl mix together tomato ketchup; five spice; minced ginger; minced garlic; soy sauce; ground chilli; and honey.

Drain the ribs and pat dry, be careful as they will be fragile. Brush the ribs with the glaze and place in the hot oven. After 10 minutes remove from the oven, flip and baste with the glaze, cook for a further 10 minutes. Repeat twice more (40 minutes in total, they may be done after 30).

I like to serve a couple of ribs with some simple steamed rice, coriander and slices of spring onion, the accompaniments help clean the palate. A finger bowl on the table is a good idea too.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Braised pork

Nothing beats slow cooked meat, it's tender, full of flavour, and once in the oven you can forget about it for a couple of hours. Slow cooked savoury meaty goodness doesn't need to be relegated to a winter only dish, by keeping the flavours fresh and bright, instead of heavy and unctuous it can happily sit within the summer repertoire. The best cuts of pork for slow cooking are the shoulder and belly.

Braised pork with buns

These are great as a light lunch or assemble your own party snacks. I made two types of buns to serve the meat and salad in, steamed and baked, the same dough is used to make both, it's purely the cooking method that separates them.

The buns are made from my basic bread dough (1kg flour, 600ml water, 20g salt, 10g yeast). Take a ball of dough, flatten it in to a disk and then fold in half. Bake at 180°C for 10-15 minutes (until they sound hollow when tapped on the base). To steam, place each bun on a round of baking paper and place in a steamer over simmering water for about 10-15 minutes.

In a roasting pan (or dutch oven) place some roughly chopped onion, carrot, garlic bulb and fennel tops, scatter over some fennel seeds and pour in 500ml of veal stock. Season the pork and brown it thoroughly on all sides. Place the pork in the roasting dish and cover tightly with foil. Cook for 3-4 hours in a 130-140°C oven.

When the pork is cooked wrap it tightly in foil so it remains moist. Strain the liquid and reduce it in a pan, taste often as you don't want to over reduce it as it will become too salty. Slice or pull apart the pork and place it in to the reduced liquid.

We had chunks of the braised pork in the buns with a fennel salad and shards of salty crackling.

Braised pork and figs with parsley couscous

This was cooked the same way as above but with different vegetables, no garlic was used as the combination of garlic and figs in my mind is not a good one.

In the roasting dish place some chopped carrots, celery and red onion. Brown the pork in a pan on all sides, place the pork in the roasting dish and scatter around some figs. Deglaze the pan you browned the meat in with some cider vinegar, then 500ml of veal stock. Pour the liquid in to the roasting pan and seal tightly with some foil. And cook as above. When reducing down the cooking liquid, add a little cider vinegar to cut the sweetness of the figs.

Couscous is simple to prepare, place 1 cup of couscous in a bowl, pour over 1 cup of boiling water, add a little salt and cover. Let it sit for 10 minutes, then use a fork to gently break it up and then rub between your fingers to make it light and fluffy, finally stir through some finely chopped parsley.