Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Clarified Ginger Syrup

There is a glut of ginger root in our house, it’s stupid cheap at the moment and well I’m going through a phase, delicious Pho noodle phase so no complaints, and well one morning when getting a the stock pot on and filling it up with bones and the like for ramen that night I spied the ginger and had a hankering for ginger soda, I thought about a couple of ways I could tackle it, grate a bunch of it and squeeze it through a cloth, juice it (but I lack a juicer), then I thought of the ol’ kava trick, blend it with water until liquid and strain, best way to prep kava for a good kick. Half the problem solved, just as with kava root I was left with a liquid with a lot of suspended sediment, not really that pleasant to drink unless you’re going to get a face numbing out of it, and it would do it’s best science fair volcano impersonation if added to soda.

So I was left with a liquid which was pretty useless, thought about a coffee filter but that would clog up too quickly to make it practical, but then I remembered reading a while back on Cooking Issues about quick agar clarification, and thankfully I have a copy of Dave Arnold’s book Liquid Intelligence where he covers the process, saving me time trolling through old posts to find the relevant one. So the agar was whipped out from the pantry. It’s a pretty simple process, as about whiz up ginger and water, boil up some agar in water, combine the two, place in an ice bath, break apart and strain.

500 ml water
250 g ginger root

Blend until the ginger root is completely obliterated. Pass through a cloth and measure the liquid, I ended up with 650ml.

250 ml water (or roughly half of the above amount)
2 % agar agar (by total weight, above + 250g for this water, about 2g)

Put the water in a pot and and sprinkle in the agar whilst whisking, do not add the water to the agar it will clump. Bring to a boil while whisking. Keep at a boil for 4 minutes to hydrate the agar. Remove from the heat and add the cold liquid to the pot, the combined liquid should be slightly warmer than body temperature.

Set up an ice bath with a bowl in it and pour the liquid into the bowl. Set it aside to set, do not stir, swirl or interfere with it. It will set up pretty quickly. You can test by gently touching the top, and slightly tilting the bowl to check.

Using a whisk gently break the set gel apart, run the whisk through to cut it apart not mix it up, it should resemble curds.

Strain through cheesecloth, gently, gently massage the sack to expel the liquid, take care not squeeze any of the gel through. Be patient and you’ll end up with a good yield.

Weigh the liquid, pour into a pot and add an equal amount of golden caster sugar, heat gently until all the liquid is dissolved.

Store in a jar in the fridge, serve with ice cold soda/carbonated water and a squeeze of lime or lemon.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Pho Bo, fo sho

Having only just written about pho I thought it highly appropriate and relevant to write another post about the subject, Pho Bo this time, and well we had guests so what better time to try out something new and untested, no pressure at all, and it’s not like it’s a quick process, only a few hours, not standing in front of the stove though. That wasn’t enough pressure for me though, I also decided it was a great time to wire in a panel heater, I didn’t electrocute myself and I learned how to wire up a loop switch and install a power socket. I don’t want to make it sound hard, it’s not, it’s not even that time consuming, pretty much set and forget for an hour, add something, wait an hour, repeat a few times, so I broke the recipe down to a pretty manageable timeline which I’ll outline below. Adapted from Lucky Peach, which they adapted from somewhere, I forget and I don't have the issue in front of me.

3–4 kg Beef bones
500 g Brisket
200 g Fillet or topside, something lean and tender
3–4 Brown onions
Ginger, a hand sized root
1 Tbsp White Pepper
30 g Palm Sugar
2 Star Anise
2 inches of Cinnamon
4 pods Cardamom
2 Cloves
Fish Sauce

Day before
  • Season the brisket with a tablespoon of salt and place on a rack over a sheet pan and refrigerate.

  • Set oven to 180ºC
  • Get a large stock pot full of water and bring up to the boil.
  • Arrange onions and ginger on a sheet pan.
  • Blanch bones in the water for 3 minutes.
  • Dump bones into a clean sink.
  • Clean the pot.
  • Rinse the bones thoroughly with cold water and add back to pot.
  • Fill up the stock pot with enough water to cover the bones by an inch.
  • Put the pot on a high heat and bring to a simmer.
  • Skim off any scum that forms.

Hour 0 (Start)
  • Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, add 1 tablespoon of salt. Skim off any scum that forms.
  • Put the onions and ginger in the oven.

Hour 1
  • Remove the brisket from the fridge.
  • Remove the onions and ginger from the oven. Remove the skins from the onions and slice the ginger into 1 cm slices.

Hour 2
  • Add the brisket, onion, ginger, sugar and white pepper to the pot.
  • Half cover with the lid.

Hour 3
  • Add the cinnamon, star anise, cloves and cardamom.

Hour 4
  • Get an ice bath set up.
  • Remove the brisket and put in the ice bath for 20 minutes. Pat dry and set aside until ready to serve.

Hour 4.5 (4 hours 30 minute)
  • Remove the bones with a strainer, and pass the broth through a sieve.
  • Adjust the seasoning with salt and fish sauce, I like to go in first with the fish sauce, pretty heavy I must say and then tweak it off with salt.
  • Either let it cool and refrigerate until you’re ready, which makes removing excess fat easy, or serve straight away. If the later just keep the broth on a low heat while you get everything else together.

You can build up bowls of soup for each person, or, as I did, have everything central on the table and have each bowl just contain rice noodles and broth. In either case, Make sure the bowls are HOT and the broth is HOT, lukewarm ain't gonna cut it.

Rice Noodles: I like the medium thickness rice noodles. I put them in a pot, roasting pan for a large crowd, cover with boiling water, put the lid on and leave for 5–10 minutes.

Rare Beef: Slice the topside or fillet as thin as you can, freezing it for 15 minutes or so to firm it up can help, arrange on a plate.

Brisket: Slice thin, arrange on a plate.

Other fixings you can and should have on the table:
Hoisin Sauce
Vietnamese mint
Regular Mint
Spring Onions
Chillis, sliced
Mung Beans

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Pho real

Pho has always been a favorite, usually post work stop offs at the locals to get my fix before heading home. Not really quite nailing it at home and feeling dejected and disappointed at my futile attempts which rather left me with a why bother it’s cheap enough to buy out anyway attitude. Homemade isn’t always best, but there is a certain satisfaction in creating something yourself, so it was with much joy I received the latest issue of Lucky Peach, which is dedicated to all things Pho, and recipes to boot. So here is Pho Ga, adapted from Lucky Peach.

1 Chicken, size 16
1.5 kg of chicken necks or carcasses
3-4 Brown onions
1 piece of ginger, about the size of your hand
1 piece of ginger, about the size of your thumb
1 stick of cinnamon
2 cloves
3 cardamon pods
2 star anise
1 dried red chilli
1 Bunch of scallions
White pepper
Fish sauce
Pho rice noodles (I like the small sized flat noodles, not vermicelli, but each to their own)
  • Rub the chicken with salt until the skin is taught and refrigerate overnight, or a couple hours at least. Remove half an hour before cooking.
  • Preheat the oven to 175ºC.
  • Bring a large pot of water to the boil, you need enough to submerge the chicken and cover it by an inch.
  • Slice the thumb of ginger and scallions and add to the pot, also add the dried chilli.

  • Lower in the chicken and bring back to the boil, cook for 15 minutes then turn off the heat and cover, let it sit for 30 minutes for a 1.6kg (size 16) bird.
  • Slice the onions in half and arrange on a sheet pan with the hand of ginger, place in the oven for an hour.
  • Get an ice bath ready. 
  • Gently remove the bird from the pot and place in the ice bath. Let it sit for 20 minutes.
  • Strain the solids out of the cooking liquid and put it back on the heat.

  • Remove the meat and skin from the cooled chicken and put the remains and juices in the pot.
  • Take the onions out of the oven and peel, remove any overly burnt bits, slice the ginger in half. Add to the pot along with the necks or carcasses, cardamon, cloves, cinnamon, and star anise. If there is not enough liquid to cover the bones by about an inch add some water.

  • Bring the pot to a simmer, add a teaspoon of salt, reduce the heat to low gentle simmer, cover and cook for 4 hours.
  • Shred the meat and skin into long pieces, refrigerate until needed.
  • Strain the broth into a clean pot. Simmer uncovered for 10-15 minutes, adjust and season with salt, white pepper and fish sauce.
  • Place the noodles into a bowl and cover with boiling water, let them stand for 5 minutes, or follow the instructions on your packet.
  • Place a portion of noodles into a hot bowl, top with a handful of the shredded chicken, sliced scallions and fried shallots. Serve with the fixings below arranged on a plate or two so you can dip into them as you need.

Sliced fresh chillis
Fried shallots
Sliced Scallions
Vietnamese mint
Bean sprouts