Monday, February 15, 2016

Odd flavour sauce

I try hard not to post recipes from books or that others have created as I feel it is important to keep this site my own content as much as possible, in saying that anyone who follows me on Instagram will see I am going through a bit of an Asian phase at the moment, I blame 101 Easy Asian Recipes by the good people behind Lucky Peach, it’s truly an awesome book that has certainly educated me, the section on pantry staples has certainly made trips to the local Asian marts a lot more enjoyable, I actually feel like I know what I'm seeing on the shelves now. Aside from the chineasy cucumber salad, cold spicy celery, and my now go to chicken dish, Adobo chicken, I am obsessed with the Odd Flavour sauce contained within the pages, it goes with friggin everything and makes a dish taste better than the sum of it’s parts. Lacquered Roast Chicken with the above sides, rice and this sauce is heaven, a perfectly cooked pork chop with rice and the sauce is a quick throw together meal that certainly punches above it’s humbleness. The sauce has a good chilli kick and numbing heat from Szechuan pepper, just the right balance of sour and salty, and that nutty sweetness you get from tahini.

So a recipe entirely not by me but from the pages of 101 Easy Asian Recipes by Peter Meehan, go buy a copy.

Odd Flavor Sauce
3 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp tahini*
1 Tbsp Chinkiang vinegar
1 Tbsp sesame oil
2 tsp sugar
¼ tsp kosher salt
3 Tbsp neutral oil
1 small spring onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp Ginger, minced
1 Garlic clove, minced, 1 tsp
½ tsp chilli flakes**
½ tsp Szechuan peppercorns, crushed

* Sub in peanut butter if you don't have tahini.
** More if you desire, but don’t go crazy

In a heat proof bowl mix together the soy, tahini, vinegar, sesame oil, sugar and salt. You’ll want the tahini to be pretty well mixed through and the sugar mainly dissolved, I find a fork better than a spoon.

Heat a small pot over a medium heat and add the neutral oil. When the oil is shimmering hot remove from the heat and add the spring onion, ginger, garlic, chilli and pepper, stir for about 10 seconds until aromatic. Tip into the bowl. Mix together and transfer to a jar.

Will keep a few days in the fridge.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Season your steel

I've just recently picked up a new wok for home from the local Asian mart, a decent pan shouldn't set you back too much, I paid NZ$20, my other steel sauté pans have cost a similar amount from a hospo wholesalers. These pans are the work horses of the kitchen, meant to take abuse and do the heavy lifting, but there's no such thing as a free lunch and a little bit of effort has to be put in before you reap the benefits, and a maybe little on going care, mainly don't scrub the shit out of them with steelo and avoid soap, hot water and firm scrubbing brush are all you need, if it's really caked on crap—which if seasoned properly shouldn't happen—pop it in a moderate oven to soften before scrubbing.

This is by no means meant to be a definitive expert guide, this is how I season my steel pans. A few things before we get started, don't do this on a still day, there will be smoke, a lot of it, good air flow is a must, don't rely on your range hood it's a piece of crap, all domestic extraction systems are, deal with it. Flax seed oil is the best option for seasoning, there are many articles of the web about why if you're interested Google is your friend, if you don't have or want to use it use something neutral, grape seed or rice is fine. Finally give yourself a bit of time, I'm not talking all day, but a good hour or so.

First things first, wash the pan you're going to season, I mean get in there with hot soapy water, a scouring pad and a whole heap of elbow grease, more likely than not the pan is going to have a pain in the ass to remove plastic type coating inside and out, get this off or it will smoke and send noxious nightmarish fumes everywhere.

Fill up the sink with cold water, this is important for two reasons, you're going to shock the pan after getting it white glowing hot, and well if you burn yourself you have a big ol' sink of cold water to dunk into.

Get a rag or cloth, something that won't melt and you don't care too much about, an old cotton tea-towel is ideal, roll it up and fold it in half, you'll use it a bit like a brush to apply oil, which you should also put a few slugs worth in to a bowl, you can always add more.

Place the pan on a high flame, you want to get it hot all over, you may need to move the pan around, the metal will begin to change colours, darkening, turning red, then blue, finally becoming white hot. Don't rush this, you want it to be uniformly "white hot" all over. When ready dunk it in the water.

Dry the pan off. Use the rag to apply a thin layer of oil all over the inside of the pan, put it back on the heat, again you may need to move it around as you want it to get uniformly insanely hot all over.

When the oil has finally stopped smoking, use the rag to apply another thin layer of oil to the pan, leave it on the heat when applying, it will be very hot so be careful, and as above get it as hot as it will go and when it stops smoking apply another layer. Repeat this step five or six times, you want it to be black all over.

You can either leave it to cool down naturally, I don't, or dunk it in the sink of cold water, weirdly satisfying, dry it off and you're done.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Cold tofu snack

With the mercury, here in the capital, heading up past 31ºC today, it's already well past that at home in Karori, something cooling, refreshing and tasty is in order. Quick and easy is a must too, it's not too much fun being stuck in the kitchen on a stinking hot day, I mean stand in the garage because it's the only cool spot in the house kind of day. Well this scores on all points, it's super simple (slice some tofu), packs a flavor punch, and it's cooling to boot.

Silken tofu (cold from the fridge)
Soy (Japanese)
Lime juice and zest

Slice the tofu and arrange artfully on a dish. Pour over the soy sauce, about 2 tablespoons, letting it pool underneath. Zest the lime over top, and squeeze the juice violently over the tofu letting some of the flesh escape and scatter across the soft pillows of soy curd. Sprinkle generously with Togarashi. Devour with abandon, chopsticks are your friend and will make you look less like a brute as you scoff it down.

* If you don't have any Togarashi you could do what I do in a pinch, zest a tangelo (or orange), toast some sesame seeds and chilli flakes and mix together.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Courgette and mint salad

One thing we are never short of in the garden is mint, we have two plants, a standard mint and a basil mint, and they just grow grow grow, you can cut them back, abuse and misuse them but they just keep growing and if kept unchecked I'm sure would take over the garden. This salad will take good advantage of a glut of mint, and add a good zing to fresh crisp courgettes, we got ours in the garden a bit late, but buds are coming so hopefully we’ll get a late crop. The salad is bright and zingy that really highlights fresh courgettes and is perfect on a hot summer's day.

4 decent sized courgettes
Handful of mint leaves and tips
1 Lemon
Olive oil
Chilli flakes
1 Garlic clove
Flaky Sea salt (or kosher)
  • Get a griddle pan on a high heat.
  • Slice the courgettes as thin as you can, or use a mandolin (I used the second thinnest setting).
  • Griddle the slices on one side until charred.
  • Arranged cooked slices on a board in a single layer, don’t stack them or they will steam.
  • As they are cooling sprinkled with salt.
  • (Optional) Slice the lemon in half and griddle until caramelised.
  • In a large bowl squeeze in the juice from the lemon and add olive oil, I like a 2 parts oil to 1 part juice but do it to your own taste.
  • Finely mash or grate the clove of garlic into the bowl, and add chilli flakes to taste.
  • Take the larger mint leaves and thinly slice and add to the bowl.
  • Toss the courgettes through the dressing, use your hands, taste and adjust the seasoning.
  • Let it rest 10 minutes or so before plating up.
  • Arrange on a plate and sprinkle over the mint tips.