Saturday, June 23, 2012

Poached Pear

So I had a food geek moment. I was going to make myself a salad to have with some of my duck prosciutto, but then I got this idea, the prosciutto would probably go really nice with pear, walnuts and cheese, a good classic combination. It got worse, maybe I wanted a cooked texture to the pear, I could poach it, add another flavour to it, heck, I know, I could totally sous vide that pear! Somehow I didn’t really manage to get the brake on that idea before it came out. Research had started, and it seemed reasonably easy, 2–3 hours at 75ºC, and I’d have a poached pear, easy enough, just keep an eye on a pot of hot water for 3 hours, I had nothing better to do, total food geek brain take over, sanity had left the building.

I don’t do it on purpose, sitting around racking my brain trying to come up with something convoluted and drawn out, my inner food geek is just waiting for the smallest opportunity to escape, much like with the 3 day wait for the pork cheek confit, or making dosa, I had the idea to make the dish, I just had no idea it would take 3 days, and to smaller extents pork hock cake, kai kem eggs or kimchi. It’s usually a passing thought or idea, and the next thing I know I’ve started making something that may take 3 days before I get to eat, or in this case set myself up to babysit a pot of hot water for 3 hours carefully nursing the temperature.

But I’m not complaining, I relish in it, spending hours in the kitchen, waiting and hoping the dish will turn out, that what started out as an idea will be edible and tasty, and that the sacrifice of time and effort will be worth it, and I’ll tell you, the results don’t always match the effort. But if I were to be disheartened after every failure, I doubt I’d ever set foot in a kitchen again, failure is an opportunity to learn from what went wrong, correct and improve on ideas. In saying all of that, the pears turned out great.

Success is relative. It is what we can make of the mess we have made of things - T. S. Eliot.

100 grams Butter (unsalted)
50 ml Brandy
2 pears

  • Emulsify the brandy and butter together, use a food processor or stick blender.
  • Peel the pears, and place in separate vacuum bags with half the butter mix in each, then seal. You could use a zip lock bag, and remove as much air as possible if you don’t have a vacuum sealer.

  • Bring a large pot of water to 75ºC.
  • Place bags in the pot and cook for 2–3 hours at 75ºC.
  • Keep the flame on minimum and adjust as needed.
  • If not serving immediately, transfer the bags to an ice bath to halt the cooking, and reheat in hot water when ready.

Visa Wellington on a Plate is just around the corner and I had the privilege of being able to attend the launch event. It was great to finally meet some fellow bloggers and tweeters, and people from the industry, eat some great food thanks to Ruth Pretty, and down a few good wines. But like all things, nothing good comes for free, and putting aside my absolute terror of public speaking, I’m on stage doing a Peecha Kucha presentation at the City Market event. Which I hope, should be entertaining, if not just for the fact that I tend to talk in half formed thoughts and leave whole ideas in my head and stumble out words in random order from my mouth.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Stuffed Pig's Trotter

I’ve been meaning to make this dish ever since I got my hands on Fergus Henderson’s Nose to Tail Eating: A Kind of British Cooking, the recipe jumped out at at me as I read my way through the book, a challenge to make something I’ve never eaten before, and it also sounded pretty damn delicious. Not everything went entirely smoothly, in fact it rather felt like the world was conspiring against me and my attempt to make this recipe. For the life of me I couldn’t get my hands on caul fat, I found wholesalers who had frozen blocks of it, but they wouldn’t sell to individuals, several butchers (including my local) couldn’t or wouldn’t get it in, I rather hope it was the former. Another hurdle, which I hope was just a misunderstanding on my butchers part, was their refusal to give me a trotter that wasn’t just the hoof, as that is a how they sell trotters, and they argue that any more leg would damage the hock, which in my opinion is a load of hock, to get what I wanted I swallowed the bitter pill and took the trotter with the hock still attached. So I had to add a little more butchery to the whole process, bisecting the leg at the appropriate joint, and hey, no damage to the hock meat, surprise, oh well, c'est la vie.

With what I thought was the the hard part over and done with, I resigned myself to the fact I wouldn’t get my hands on any caul fat, so the finished dish would be a bit different than expected, a little less crisp. I set about working my way through the initial, namely de-boning the trotter, a doddle I thought, I had watched youtube videos, I had downloaded skeletal diagrams, all in preparation, I tell you what though, no amount of research could've prepared me for the chore of deboning the first trotter. It took a while, a long while for the size of the job, a small little hoof with a couple of bones, knuckles and a crap tonne of tendons. But in the end I got it done, and the skin was still intact. With a heavy sigh, I set about on the next trotter, which to my surprise, and all the skills of a master butcher I'm sure, I got it deboned in about 2 minutes, that was at least million times quicker than the first.

With the difficulties of deboning behind me, I took the now limp trotters and liberally salted them, placed them on a dish, covered and retired them to the fridge. The bones that were extracted from the trotters (and the extra I had from above the hocks) got placed in my brand new 16 litre stock pot, which I got for my birthday (I am easily pleased), along with some stock vegetables, herbs, peppercorns, a little salt, covered with water, and set to simmer for 2–3 hours, skimming off the scum that rises to the top.

Feeling resilient, I set about cleaning the kitchen down, and then managed to relax with a cold Ritzling that had just arrived in the post, along with my invite to the programme launch of Visa Wellington On a Plate. So for the next couple of hours I pottered about, sipping wine, skimming stock, watching some Miami Vice (a guilty pleasure). Finally when the stock was done, it got strained through some cheesecloth and set aside to cool.

As you may of gathered by now, this is a bit of a long-winded process, and if you’ve read much of my blog, you’ll probably notice, it happens often. But soldiering on, when the stock is cool, take the trotters from the fridge, thoroughly rinse off the salt, and pat dry. Place the now dried trotters in an ovenproof dish, surround with one heads worth of peeled garlic cloves, and pour in enough 50/50 mix of red wine and stock to cover the trotters. Cover with tin foil, Cook for 3 hours at 175ºC.

After the allotted time in the oven, remove the baking dish, and allow it to cool, but not so long that the liquid sets to jelly. Carefully remove the trotters and set aside. I had a small issue of the trotter skin splitting, I’m not too sure why it happened, I think maybe the oven was a little hot, but the onset of depression, and thoughts of all my hard work gone to waste were quickly set aside, and I pressed on, no damn trotter was going to defeat me! I’d just simply reshape the skin around the stuffing, no biggie.

While the trotters relax on the bench, cooling down to handleable temperature, the stuffing can be made. It’s a simple mix of boiled potato (I used agria) passed through a ricer to make a smooth mash, mixed with a couple of diced shallots that have been sautéed in two good sized tablespoons of butter (or duck fat) until translucent, but not brown. When everything is cool enough so that you won’t get third degree burns, carefully start stuffing the trotters, reshaping them to their original form. If by luck you have caul fat, Mr. Henderson advises not to overstuff the trotters, as the potato will swell when cooked. So in saying that, if you have caul fat, wrap the trotters tightly in the fat, trim off any excess, place on a dish, cover and refrigerate overnight. But as I mentioned earlier I didn’t have caul fat, so I lightly oiled some aluminum foil and placed the reshaped trotter near the edge and carefully, but tightly rolled the trotter in the foil, maintaining its shape and not pushing out any stuffing, it then got a layer of cling film and a rest in the fridge overnight.

The trotters wrapped and in the fridge and the kitchen in need of another clean up, I stored the cooking liquid from trotters in a container in the fridge destined for a sauce. I must be a glutton for punishment, the kitchen was cleaned down again, and then I set about making dinner for that evening, as the trotters wouldn’t be ready till the next day.

The final stretch is painfully simple when compared to the rest, remove the trotters from the fridge, heat the oven to 200ºc, place an oven proof sauté pan on the heat, and fry the trotters until brown all over (if they’re in foil do make sure to unwrap them first), then place the pan in the oven and cook for about 20 minutes. Easy huh, well there are accompaniments to sort out, sautéed savoy cabbage, a few pickled rhubarb slices, and a sauce to prepare, a red wine reduction with shallots and the reserved cooking liquid (now jellied), strained and enriched with butter.

It made quite a dramatic plate of food, the hoof stained dark with the red wine set against the bright green of the cabbage, the flavour didn’t disappoint either, rich melt in the mouth porky skin with its fat melted into the mashed potato, the sauce enriching it and making it very indulgent, finally a nice sharp bite of rhubarb snapping it all back to reality, and alas the plate was empty far too soon. Even the other half managed to get over the fact there was a foot on her plate.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Cardamom palmier

I had a lot of leftover puff pastry after topping off my pies, instead of putting it in the freezer and forgetting about it, and only finding it when I have a dig around the tiny tiny freezer some months later, I decided some sweet buttery pastry cookies were in order. It is a great way to use up leftover pastry, or a good excuse to make some pastry.

Sugar Mix
¾ cup sugar
1–2 tsp ground cardamom, depending on personal taste (grind your own for the best result)
1 tsp salt
  • Preheat the oven to 190ºC.
  • Combine all the ingredients and mix well in a bowl.
  • Roll out the pastry into a rectangle, using the sugar generously to prevent sticking, much like you would with flour.
  • Sprinkle sugar over the pastry, coating it evenly.
  • Firmly roll up one edge of the pastry into the center, and repeat with the opposite edge.
  • Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for about 20 minutes, so the pastry has a chance to firm up.
  • Cut 5 mm slices and arrange on a baking tray. They will spread slightly so leave enough space around each to allow for this.
  • Bake for 10 minutes, then sprinkle with sugar.
  • Bake for about 10 minutes more, or until golden brown and crisp.
  • Cool on a rack, and when cool, store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Rhubarb creaming soda

Nothing beats ice cold soda on a hot summers day, sun beating down, creating hazy mirages on the asphalt. OK, so we’re in the throws of winter, and the only thing beating down is rain and the haze has been replaced with actual pools of water, but nothing is stopping you from cranking up the heater and pretending!

I have rediscovered creaming soda, I recall having it several times throughout my youth, but always with disdain, a kind of “What the hell am I drinking!”, but I think it was the brand and low quality of the drink rather than the concept of creaming soda itself. But now a complete convert having tried proper creaming soda, tasty almost burnt sugar with strong vanilla. Having a carbonation rig at home (à la sodastream), I set about creating my own creaming soda syrup with—seeing as it’s winter—a rhubarb twist.

The below measurements could easily be multiplied up if you wanted to make a larger batch.

250 grams of rhubarb sliced
150 grams of sugar
50 grams of sugar
250 ml of water
5 ml vanilla essence, or replace the sugar with vanilla sugar
half a lemon
  • Macerate the sliced rhubarb with the larger batch of sugar, and leave it for about an hour, or until it has softened and given up its juices.
  • In a pot set over medium heat melt the smaller batch of sugar (with a dash of water) until it has turned a dark caramel and is mere seconds away from burning. Halt the cooking by carefully pouring in the remainder of the water.
  • When the caramel has dissolved into the water, add the rhubarb, juices and all.
  • Simmer over a medium heat until the rhubarb has completely broken down, about 10 minutes.
  • Pass through a cheesecloth lined sieve into a bowl, add the lemon juice and vanilla and stir.
  • Let it cool, bottle, or jar the syrup and refrigerate.
  • Add the syrup to sparkling water, adding more or less of the syrup depending on how much of a sweet tooth you are, a 1 to 5 ratio seems to work well for me

Friday, June 1, 2012

Dashi with Miso noodles and Hamine egg

Sometimes an idea stays dormant in my head for quite awhile, in fact this one has managed to stick around since august last year. I came across Hamine eggs on a post about hacking electric pressure cookers Dave Arnold had written for Cooking Issues, it was a small part of the whole article but something about those light brown eggs drew me in, I knew I had to try them. The idea got locked away into the ‘will try it eventually’ part of my brain, waiting for something to bring it to the forefront again.

We had a long drive to do a little (as possible) work on a farm in the weekend, I took along Ideas in Food to read on the way up. Flicking my way through, reading what caught my eye, I came across a recipe for miso noodles, they sounded delicious, and then the thought popped into my head, I could make a cool miso soup, where the miso is noodles, I had a bit of Kombu in the pantry to make Dashi with, and had just bought some blond miso. But noodles and Dashi weren’t enough for me, so I was thinking what else to have with it, do I want to take hours cooking pork, or some shredded chicken or fish, I could speed up the pork with the pressure cooker, or eggs! Hamine eggs would be perfect to try with the noodle broth.

Hamine Eggs
Boil eggs for 5 minutes and then cook on high pressure for 50 minutes
Let the pressure drop naturally, otherwise the eggs may explode. They can be done traditionally too, but take 24 hours or so.

Shitake Dashi
2 Litres Water
25 gram Kombu
20 grams Shitake
1 bunch of spring onion

  • Bring the water up to 65°C and steep the Kombu for 1 hour, holding the temperature at 65°C
  • Pulverise the Shitake into a powder with food processor.
  • Simmer the Shitake powder and spring onion (whites and roots, reserve the green part) for 60 minutes.
  • Strain, season with fish sauce and light soy sauce.
Miso Pasta (Ideas in Food)
1 egg
55 grams miso (blond)
225 grams flour
75 grams water
  • Mix the egg, water and miso in a bowl.
  • Pour the flour into another bowl, make a well in the centre and pour the liquid in.
  • Mix together, forming a dough, tip out onto the bench and knead for about 5 minutes.
  • Cover and rest for 30 minutes.
  • Divide the dough in two.
  • Roll out one half using a machine, or by hand.
  • Run through a pasta cutter.
  • Set noodles aside and work on the other half of the dough.
Cook the noodles for a couple of minutes and transfer to a serving bowl, top with a egg cut in half and sliced greens of the spring onion, ladle over the Dashi.