Thursday, July 26, 2012


I have been meaning to turn my hands to puffed snacks for a very long time, a good few years, but it always seems to slip my mind, but no more, I finally had a packet of tapioca flour, which I had picked up when buying supplies for kim-chi, I had oil for deep frying, and I could jury rig a steamer big enough for my purpose.

The process of making a puffed snack is pretty simple sounding, a little less so in practice I found. Basically, you mix together tapioca flour and a liquid (flavour), then roll it thin, steam it so the starch gels, dehydrate it, finally deep fry it and it should puff up.

I had a few problems, but they all stemmed from the fact that liquid + tapioca = Non-Newtonian fluid, so rolling out the dough, or in fact handling it at all, was problematic to say the least, I could form it into a shape to start rolling out, but as soon as pressure was released it behaves like a liquid, try to roll it thin and it’s hard as a rock, so more work needs to be done to solve the rolling out problem. Not being able to roll it it evenly and thinly enough, led to uneven dehydrating and some of the puffs, when deep fried, had a chewy centre.

Somewhat disheartened by the difficulties, and less than stellar flavour, I am still resolved to figure this one out, and have fun experimenting with flavours, different starches possibly too. Perhaps, my next puff should be Chicharrón, nothing beats puffed up, crispy pork skin.

Roasting pan, with steamer and dough.

Steaming for 15 minutes.

Ready to go in an 80°C oven.

Couple of hours later, dehydrated and brittle.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Bacon bone soup

It’s been a little longer than normal since my last post, but with work being crazy busy at the moment, and me going ever so slightly mental over the upcoming Visa Wellington on a Plate, The City Market: Pecha Kucha presentation, nothing like deadlines to bring out the best in you, maybe. But I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and the pressures are slowly abating, plus I’ve got four days to unwind, de-stress and really put my thinking cap on.

In my ever humble opinion, and I know the better half very much disagrees, nothing beats split pea and bacon bone soup, rich, salty, thick, soupy goodness that warms the very soul on a dark winter's night. However as I mentioned, the better half ended up being tortured with the luscious aromas of simmering bones and split peas, and boy did she let me know she was not happy, a pity too, seeings as I made a five litre batch, oh well more for me, and anyway it was her fault for buying me a 16 litre stock pot for my birthday, what was I meant to do?

The quantities in this recipe is for a rather large batch soup, but should scale down (or up) pretty easily, and if you don’t have access to bacon bones a bacon hock should suffice. I know the vegetable quantities are rather vague, I didn’t take very good notes on this one, but just add to your own tastes.

1.5 kg Bacon Bones
4 cups Green Split Peas
1 Large bouquet garni of fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, oregano etc)
1 Tbsp Caraway seeds
4-5 Juniper berry
3 Bay leaves
Even quantity of Celery, Carrots & Onions diced
5 Litres Water

Get a pot with enough water to cover the bacon bones on to boil. When the water is at a roiling boil, blanch the bacon bones for 3 minutes, to remove any excess salt. Drain.

Add everything to the pot and bring to a simmer, cook for 2 hours.

Now the next part is a bit tricky, probably a lot easier in smaller quantities, you need to remove all of the bones. So with a combination of straining and scooping, remove all of the bones to a bowl, ready to have the meat picked off. You’ll need to let the bones cool down a little before you attempt to pick them over, so while you wait, return everything else (apart from the bouquet garni and bay leaves) to the pot and with an immersion blender, purée the soup. When the bones are cool enough to handle, pick the meat off and place back into the soup, discard the bones. Taste and season.

Serve it up nice and hot with some crusty bread, even better, crusty bread slathered with garlic confit. Unless you’re going to make it through five litres of the soup, wait for it to cool, portion it into containers and freeze.

Head over to Urban Harvest and check out my Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts recipe.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Creaming soda syrup

As I have mentioned in a previous post, I am a convert to the flavour of creaming soda, and have set about trying to make my own homemade version of the syrup. It’s a strange flavour for a soft drink, a lemonade ice cream float/soda/spider, whatever you want to call it, minus the dairy. I think that’s why it took me so long to warm to it, along with the substandard brands I had previously tried.

200 grams sugar
200 ml water
5 ml vanilla extract
Juice of half a lemon

Take 50 grams of sugar, a splash of water and place in a pot over a medium heat. You want the sugar to caramelise and almost burn, get it to the point where you see a small spot or two, turn a bit too dark and give off a puff or two of smoke, when it’s at this stage, immediately pour in the remaining water. When the caramelised sugar has dissolved, add the remaining sugar and stir to dissolve. Stir in the vanilla and lemon juice, remove from the heat and let cool.

I use the above syrup at a ratio of 1 part syrup to 3 or 4 parts carbonated water.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Shrimp tortillas

I have posted this recipe before, but after making it again recently, I thought it deserved another outing, and with pictures this time. It is really simple to throw together as a last minute meal, well throw together if you happen to have some frozen prawns, otherwise you may need to plan the fish ahead. Apart from the fish, you’ll need to have some Gram (chickpea) flour, which should be a staple in the pantry, it’s inexpensive, and you can’t make onion bhaji without it.

I used prawns again, but don’t feel constrained to only use prawns/shrimp, any sort of fish would work, or even a mixture, just take into account that the tortilla will cook on a medium heat for about 3 minutes aside, so use appropriate sized pieces of fish, you don’t want to overcook it. The batter can be personalised as well, add a little heat with cayenne, or load it up with herbs, just keep in mind how all the flavours will work together.

The below quantities are enough to make two 21 cm tortillas.

1 cup water
1/2 cup chickpea flour (besan/gram flour)
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup sliced shallots/spring onions
2 doz prawns
3 tbsp chopped coriander (or other leafy green herb)
1/2 tsp baking powder
Olive Oil

Mix the dry ingredients together, add the water to make a thick batter (like double cream), and stir through the shallots and coriander.

Place a 21 cm frying pan over a medium-high heat, pour in about a tablespoon of oil, ladle in half the batter. Push half of the prawns into the batter, haphazardly or with OCD precision, up to you.

Cook for 3 minutes, then flip, using a chopping board or plate makes this a bit easier, cook for a further 3 minutes.

Serve hot, with a wedge of lemon, and top with a sprinkle of slice coriander and chilli.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Grapefruit marmalade

Having a pressure cooker comes in handy sometimes, from speeding up cooking times, eliminating the need to soak dried legumes, meaning you can whip up a batch of hummus from dried chickpeas in no time at all, or braising meat, wonderful pulled pork without heating up the house and not taking hours on the stove or oven, it makes congee a effortless affair, it’s ideal for medium sized batches of stock, and you can take advantage of its unique cooking method by making things like caramelised carrot soup or hamine egg.

Recently I’ve added marmalade to the list of things to use the pressure cooker for over the traditional method. The most time consuming process of this recipe is slicing the fruit and removing the seeds, the total cooking time should be around 20 minutes, depending on the amount of sugar and liquid used, maybe another 5 minutes if you want to process your jars to make them shelf stable.

The quantities below, are enough for two 500 ml jars. Another advantage of this pressure cooked method is making small batches, or experimental batches more viable time-wise.

750 g Grapefruit (about 3 medium)
1 kg Sugar
2 cups Strong brewed Earl Grey Tea

Slice the grapefruit thinly, about 2–3 mm, a mandoline is invaluable for this. When the grapefruit have been sliced, pick out the seeds from the slices, piling them in stacks as you go. Cut each stack into four so you end up with piles of quarter slices of grapefruit.

Scrape the grapefruit into the pressure cooker, making sure to get as much of the juice from the board as possible. Add as much tea as your pressure cooker needs to get up to pressure, at least one cup, I used two, but keep in mind how much liquid you add now will increase the amount of cooking time after you add the sugar. Cook on high pressure for 10 minutes.

Remove the pressure cooker from the heat and let the pressure drop naturally. When the pressure has equalised, remove the lid, and pour in the sugar, stirring until dissolved. Place the cooker back on a medium heat, and simmer until the temperature reaches 104°C, about 5–10 minutes. If you don’t have a candy thermometer you can drop a small spoonful of the mixture into a saucer of ice-cold water, if it gels up, it should be ready.

Pour the marmalade into sterilized preserving jars, screw on the lid, but not too tightly. Place a trivet on the bottom of the pressure cooker (now clean), or other pot big enough for the jars, pour enough water to come a few centimetres up the side of the jars, bring to the boil, place on the lid (if using a pressure cooker, make sure the valve is open so pressure DOESN'T build up), simmer for five minutes. Carefully remove the jars and leave them to cool on bench. The lids should ping, and become concave, if this doesn’t happen by the time the jar is cool, reboil the offending jar(s) for five more minutes.

The processed marmalade should last years in the pantry, and once opened a good month or two in the fridge . If you don’t want to boil the jarred marmalade, it should last about a month in the fridge.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


I had an urge to make some kimchi, fiery hot fermented cabbage, and as it happens, I had been working my way through Ideas in Food recently, and there is a recipe for their version of kimchi in the book, which I did make, but I’m not posting about that batch, I wasn’t a hundred percent satisfied with it, don’t get me wrong it is tasty, and will get eaten, it’s just a bit on the fishy side for my taste. So back to the drawing board.

So less than satisfying kimchi behind me, and taking up a good portion of the fridge, I set about gathering the required information to try another lot, more traditional this time. In the search for a recipe, I came across a great blog, Maangchi, it has a lot of good information, recipes and discussion on kimchi, so do go and check it out.

Here’s a handy tip, if you want to piss off your partner and make your house stink of cabbage, make kimchi, twice in a row!

1 Chinese cabbage (Napa cabbage)
1 Medium sized Daikon peeled and julienned
1 Cup garlic cloves
1 Tablespoon minced ginger
1 Cup fish sauce
2 Cups hot chilli flakes (Asian supermarkets are a good place to get large packs cheap)
1 Bunch spring onion (about 7) thinly sliced
½ Cup Glutinous rice flour (also called sweet rice flour)
¼ Cup sugar
3 Cups water
Enough 5% brine (50 grams of salt per litre of water)

  • Cut the cabbage into quarters lengthwise, remove most of the core, and then slice each segment into four crosswise.
  • Submerge the cabbage in the brine and weigh it down with a couple of plates.
  • Leave overnight (12 hours).
  • When ready, drain the cabbage, and spin dry.
  • Heat the rice flour and water over a medium heat, making sure to stir constantly, when it comes to a boil add the sugar and cook until dissolved. Set aside to cool.
  • When cool, transfer the rice mixture to a food processor along with the fish sauce, garlic, and ginger. Process until smooth.
  • Pour it into the container that you’ll be fermenting in, add the daikon, chilli flakes, and spring onion. Give it a good stir.
  • Add the cabbage, and using gloved hands make sure all of the cabbage is thoroughly coated.
  • Cover the container and let it sit in a cool dark spot.

The mixture should start fermenting after 2 days, but don’t worry if it doesn’t, it can take up to 6 days, it all depends on how warm it is. It should give up quite a bit of liquid, and have lots of little bubbles. The Lactobacillus bacteria present in the cabbage produces lactic acid which lowers the pH of the mixture, making it acidic and inhospitable to other nasty microorganisms, however, if you think something has gone awry, err on the side of caution and tip it out. Although, as long as it’s not slimy or fuzzy, it should be fine. The bacteria grows best in low-oxygen conditions so it’s important to keep a lid on your container.

When the kimchi has begun fermenting, transfer it to jars and refrigerate. I filled up two 1.5 litre jars from one cabbage, so unless you have a huge fridge, don’t make too much. How long will it last? I couldn’t find a straight answer on that one, some people recommend to keep it only for a month, others say it’ll last a year, I think it’ll last till it’s gone, but a bit of commonsense is in order, when it starts to smell and taste bad, then I’ll know it’s had its time.

With a lot of kimchi in the fridge, what to have it with? Everything! Well maybe not everything, the successes so far are: a sticky roasted pork belly with pickled mustard greens and kimchi; it makes and excellent topping to a hot dog; and tasty with just a plain old bowl of rice. Even the other half with her nose screwed up at the idea enjoyed its fiery heat.