dinners

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It may come as no surprise that pork products are thin on the ground in Turkey, so I was asked by an old friend to make a porky meal and I did.  Three kinds of pork in fact.

Pork in Cider
From Ripailles. A rib roast of pork cooked gently in my Raymond Loewy Le Creuset pot on the stove top in sliced onions and dry cider. Later to be joined by bits of Granny Smith apples, bulbous spring onion, potatoes, and peas. Yes I am shit at crisping crackle but the cooked vegetables were magnificent.

Asparagus and Pancetta
I’m going to tell you it was asparagus and cubed pancetta cooked in a frypan with butter and you’re going to say yeah well I could have guessed that.

Puy Lentils with Bulgarian Sheep’s Feta, Salumi, and Shaved Fennel

Fry up a chopped onion until soft, add 500g of puy lentils, cover with water and simmer for half an hour until cooked (more aldente than soft). Drain and allow to cool a little. Fry up the sliced salumi. Chop up fetta. Shave the fennel bulb. Mix it all together with a slug of olive oil and some lemon zest. You don’t need amounts.

Speaking of Bulgaria, apparently people go to Bulgaria to get their Turkish visas renewed and to buy bacon. I don’t know if this is a visa condition but am a little saddened  of any country that you must travel from to buy pork. I’m no great fan of dietary restrictions in religions. It does push my believing in Supreme Being thing that they’d take time to freelance on food hygeine but still must admit to returning to God’s other pieces on food cleanliness like  ‘ Coloured Chopping Boards – What They Mean and Why We Use Them‘ and ‘Hands – Wash Them and Wash Them Well and Often’

Evening was owned by E, now 4.5 years, who managed to set the table, create a centrepiece, make name cards, create tickets for the dinner that had to be presented before entering the dining room, demonstrate the first three ballet positions, give a ten minute presentation on why the centrepiece was a fountain, magic show, brief rendition of hot cross buns on the Casio followed by free jazz improv, and provide medical assistance to Lewis the teddy.

Nice work.

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avacado soup with scallops

Had a progressive dinner party the other weekend (not the Progressive Dinner Party) and apparently they were the thing when people were kids. In Muntadgin, we had people over for dinner and even then I can’t really remember us having anyone over for dinner. I guess if you have one shop and everyone raising sheep, there weren’t going to be a lot of opportunities to wow people with a persian fairy floss becovered daifukumochi. Actually the collective food effort was always ‘a plate’ and this would be at dances and would involve the same cheese being used in several different ways – free ranging cube, cube on toothpick, square on sao …

Anyway I had the role of entree, which was nice because it restrained me from going batshit crazy and cooking a dozen things. So I need something that was impressive because I’m all alpha like, something that could be cooked in about 10 minutes and still engage people for an hour or so of eating.

So. Soups are great for pre-prep and suffer little for it but then you want a bit more than that and scallops are your perfect bit of quick cooking flash. French Saveur came to the rescue with an avacado ‘velouté’ with scallops wrapped in ham.

The fish stock was made with the standard stocky stuff and snapper fish heads and bones but the helpful tips are to soak the bones for four hours (Michel Roux Jr) and that even if it’s not strong enough, you can always finely strain it and reduce it. I always like it at just the the point where the watery disappears. It’ll keep in the fridge, so I made it the day before. Then it’s just a matter of heating 800ml of fish stock. Adding two chopped avacados and 200ml of creme fraiche,  heating it through and then pureeing it with a stick blender.

The scallops were wrapped in proper speck that I’d gotten with the proper bacon in the previous and lovingly sliced with a sashimi bocho, which worked surprisingly well. As an added bonus, I made a third of them with Irish black pudding. It quickly turns to shit when you cook it in delicate rounds, so I mostly cooked it to make sure it was done enough when served for gentle souls and the kind of patted it onto the bottom of each scallop before wrapping it in the speck.

The interesting part of the recipe is chopped hazelnut, which I supplemented with salmon roe for a bit of colour, a different texture and to remind people of the fishy base of the soup.

The original plan was to serve the soup in a jug so the cutlery and the bowl was in place and then I thought I could put in in a thermos and that’s make a nice travelling theme for a progressive dinner. This led to the toasted ham and cheese sandwich digression. I had these ready-basted with clarified butter and filled with black pig prosciutto and pecorino cheese with the greaseproof paper ready folded and string at the ready. Anyway, I couldn’t find the thermos and went back to the jug but hey, who doesn’t like a toasted sandwich, and toast is great with soup and avacodo is excellent with ham and cheese.

So here’s how it went
-freshly ground pepper, salt and smoked paprika on the table.
-bowl of chopped hazelnuts and bowl of salmon roe. EVOO in little pot thing.
-soup reaheated and transferred to jug
-scallops cooked on hot griddle which was transferred to the table
-toasties toasted, chopped into four and wrapped and tied

Everybody then helped themselves and then bundled off to the next place.

Success.

Yes still alive. I suppose you want a picture of my blog holding up a copy of yesterday’s Guardian. Here’s a meal I made last night.

Pasta with Peas and Bacon.

3 eggs | 300 g OO flour | pinch of salt | splash of olive oil

Hard work done with a dough hook in the Kambrook and then a bit of kneading to get it soft and pliable. Rest in the fridge wrapped in plastic. Roll out to 6 on the pasta roller (dust liberally with flour as you go) and cut into rough triangly bits – no idea what I was doing, I think Matt Stone did this in the mag.

inch thick slice of bacon, cube | cup of peas | 2 cloves of garlic + inch of leek. finely chopped | 1/3 cup olive oil

Bought my bacon from Annie Kavanagh at Spencers Brook Farm. Free-range berkshire pigs make such a lovely ribbon of white fat across the top. Hope I’m not spoiling anyone’s fun by pointing out, you’re not going to get the same result with your one kilo plastic pack of bacon slices. Crisps up beautifully.
Shelled the peas with young E on the kitchen floor. This is a very nice thing to do.
Gently soften the leek and garlic in olive oil, add the bacon, brown a little and add the peas and cook through.
Cook the pasta in lots of salted water – I’m still impressed how it all manages to come apart. Top with the peas and bacon and some grated parmesan.

Really nice. Perfect light intro for a heavier mains.

Roast Pork with Cider, Veg

1.5 kg Rolled roast of pork, skin slashed, truffled honey and fennel seeds pushed into slices with a sprinkle of rock salt on top. Leave for an hour or so.

fennel bulb| carrot | 2 garlic cloves | 2 sticks of celery | leek

Just a bunch of aromatics that would, in theory, fill the roast and the eventually sauce with goodness. Chop into small pieces.
Brown the roast in olive oil in a cast iron casserole pot, add the aromatics and stir and place in a 170C oven. Let it cook down a bit for about 20 minutes. Add a cup of cider, cover and turn the oven down to 160C . Cook for 90 minutes.

parsnip, quartered lengthwise | sweet potato, cut into half rounds | apple chopped

Parboil the parsnip and the sweet potato and add them and the apples to the casserole dish. Check the level of cider and cover. Cook for another half hour and then remove the lid to brown everything up.
Keep the pork warm covered with foil, remove the veggies with a slotted spoon. Skim the fat off the top of the remaining liquids, add half a cup of cider and reduce, then add a half a cup of verjuice and a good splash of apple and balsamic glaze.

Cauliflower Puree
Half a cauliflower, boiled until soft in salted water. Drain and then cook in thick cream and butter. Puree and season to taste. Stir in some bacon cubes

Tuscan Cabbage
Chop into large pieces and sauteed in a pan with olive oil and bacon cubes until soft.

Rocket and Orange Salad
Just in case the pork got a bit much, something peppery and acidic. Segmented orange tossed with roacket and some olive oil.

Rhubarb Clafoutis
I was going to cadge out of dessert but I’d bought some rhubarb so hey. A clafoutis is basically a pancake batter pie or a yorkshire pudding without the dripping and with fruit. All you need to know is here.
Don’t overcook the rhubarb, you want it to keep some form. Rhubarb cooked in butter with caster sugar and orange zest. Splash of vanilla-soaked brandy in the batter and a 1/3 of a cup of almond meal.
Served with whipped Bannister Downs cream.

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smoked duck and plum salad

6 years ago we went out and bought half a dozen bottles of a Katnook Estate ’98 Cab Sav. ’98 because that was the year we got married and half a dozen because I think that’s what we could afford. We enjoyed the last of the six last night and despite chucking a bit of a crust, as they say, it had done nicely over the years. I’m now going to have to trawl the internet auction sites for a replacement (wine that is).

The dinner was a day late because of what we will refer to as “The Gift of the Pixies”, where at one stage I’d unwittingly bought my wife a ticket to go and see a concert with my friend on our wedding anniversary. It worked out well in the end, I was bought a ticket, my Mum looked after young pudding and a complete performance of Doolittle under the stars at Belvoir Ampitheatre with what seemed to be an encore of half of Surfer Rosa was a very.good.thing.

Anyway, recipes …

EntreeSmoked duck, plum and rocket salad with an orange dressing
Easy as it is tasty. The smoked duck breast was from Holy Smoke. I gently warmed it up by frying it skin side down in pan until it browned up every so slightly and released some of the duck fat (more on that later). Slice the duck
Slice the cheeks off the plums – local, fresh and gorgeous – and the remaining bits you can chop up roughly to distribute more finely through the salad.
The dressing was three parts orange juice to one part EVOO and a pinch salt and sugar to taste.

Toss the duck breast and plums in a bowl gently with some rocket and some dressing.

MainsIndividual Beef Wellingtons

Admittedly this does seem like something you’d serve a retired Major but it was a good match for the wine.
It does have additional nostalgic form. We had beef wellington at our first proper, birthday, dinner party; the dessert was done at a catering gig we did, and duck breast is a constant fave.

Season and sear two beef fillets all over and allow to cool. If you tie them in the middle, it serves as a kind of corset, plumping and rounding them up nicely.
Duxelles are a beef wellington must have and you make them by chopping up a good handful of mixed mushrooms, half an onion and a couple of garlic cloves and sauteeing in plenty of butter. Allow to cool.
Roll out the puff pastry, place the fillet in the middle, place the duxelles in any gaps and place a slice of blue cheese on top. Wrap with the puff pastry (I did it with my gift wrapping skills, which are rubbish YMMV) make sure it’s sealed properly. Then brush with an egg wash and cook in a 190C oven for about 20-25 minutes for medium.

Served with brussel sprouts. Peel them back well, as the outer leaves tend to be more bitter. Boil and refesh under cold water and then fry gently in the duck fat you were reading about in the entree. There were baby zucchini which I sliced like a fan and then roasted in the oven with some EVOO.
The sauce was the steak pan deglazed with red wine and then adding some sauteed chopped mushrooms and leaks. A couple of heaped spoons of double cream, stirred in well and reduced.

DessertPuff pastry biscuits with berries
Take a spare strip of puff pastry, sprinkle it with caster sugar, roll it up, slice it in half lengthwise (you should have two spirals rather than a series of concentric half hoops), flatten the pieces gently, and cook in the oven for 7 minutes.
Simmer half a cup of fresh blueberries with a good splash of vanilla brandy (keep a small bottle filled with brandy and a vanilla pod in it – endlessly useful) and a teaspoon or two of sugar to make a coulis.
Biscuit on plate, then dollop of double cream, splash of coulis and a scattering of blueberries.

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obviously a rubbish shot but a startlingly accurate one

You know, you meet at the Subiaco farmers market to select food for the night’s dinner with friends, share in the fruits of the farmers toil by filling your basket with produce and then you go and drink several beers, a couple of G&Ts, a bottle of sparkling red (experimental Myattsfield), a bottle of Riesling (’09 Castle Rock) and a Shiraz (’04 Will’s Domain) [all local and great] and wonder why the room’s spinning while you’re carving the main course.

It’s a valuable lesson against starting early and then waiting for excitable kids to go to sleep before starting dinner but, that said, mission accomplished. Three courses from what we picked up earlier – pecans, snapper, organic sweet potato and potatoes, an eye fillet of beef, rocket and assorted lettuce, field mushrooms, snapper, bread, double cream and, as an added challenge for a nation troubled by fruit/meat combos, a tray of peaches.

So.

Entree
Snapper cooked and tossed in a peach salsa of a couple of diced peaches, handful of coriander, half a finely chopped onion, a finely chopped green chili, a squeeze of lime juice, and a splash of olive oil. Leave salsa for an hour to let the flavours mingle with each other and adjust flavours to taste.
Frozen snapper reacquaints itself with the sea with a sprinkle of salt and left for five minutes before cooking on the BBQ. Try also with frozen prawns.

Mains
Beef fillet seasoned, seared, brushed with eggwhite and truffle mustard and then covered with a mix of ground pecan and fresh breadcrumbs (2:1 ratio). Popped in a baking tray flanked by large field mushrooms cut in half and sprinkled with the pecan-bread mix and all splashed with olive oil. Pop a meat thermometer in the fillet and cook it in a hot lidded BBQ. Remove when the thermometer reads about 55C for medium rare and let it rest.
Jus made in from chopped mushroom stems and red wine reduced [actually I can't remember exactly what happened here]
Potatoes diced and parboiled to join the oven roasting diced sweet potato [slow roasting releases the sugars] and then roasted up with extra olive oil and some salt.
There was also a rocket and peach salad somewhere in there.

Dessert
Slice the cheeks off the peaches, brush with a little olive oil and grill on the BBQ. You can even go that bit further and manage not to cremate the skin. Extra points for crosshatched 90degree rotation on grill.
Serve with double cream and a few wavy lines of cream of balsamic .

I then walked through a screen door, demanded photos of myself, a few other things which I’ll be told in due season and then the autonomic defense system kicked in, found me a comfy chair and sent me gently to sleep. A perfect evening.

Pro Kitchen Drinking Tips!
1. Prep! Get all the tricky slicing stuff out of the way earlier on – nobody loses a finger stirring.
2. Cook and leave! High maintenance dishes take away valuable time spent socialising with a glass of something.
3. Desserts! You’ll be at the lowest level of your skills. Keep it easy.
4. Coffee! You’ll need one to make it from dessert to the cheese platter.
5. Manners! Nobody’s going to pour you a glass of something nice after an expletive filled rant on cycleways.

Public Notice: I’ll be speaking about editing a food mag, food blogging and related interesting things next Thursday as part of the Autumn UWA Extension Course. I believe there might still be a seat or two available. More details.

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slow cooked lamb roast [pending]

Imagine if you could to a full day of driving around visiting wineries and such and then come home to find your roast waiting for you like an expectant puppy. Imagine no more. Enter the amazing world of slow roasting.

I’ve been doing a lot of slow roasting recently as a respite from the ‘is it ready yet?’ world of skewer checking. This particular one was cooked for about 7 hours in a gas-fired pizza oven the lowest setting of around 130C.

The prep for the meat is unsurprising and involves making deep cuts into the lamb with a butchers (or paring) knife to make pockets for a sprig of rosemary, a piece of garlic, and a salted caper. Rub liberally with olive oil and season.

Put a cup of chicken stock and/or white wine in the pan and cover with a lid (or foil). You might like to lift the lamb of the base and out of the liquids with a sliced root vegetable, a leek or a rack, but I didn’t bother. The size of the roasting pan keeps things nice and shallow.

Leave in the pizza oven undisturbed. Keep a lazy eye on the fluid levels but as the lid sealed well and the meat does chuck out a good level of juice itself, it wasn’t necessary.

Allow to rest and then carve. And by carve, I mean flake. It’s more like meat from a confit.

As a bit of a bonus, I made a sort of barigoule with it. About half an hour from finish, I popped in some chunks of fennel, capsicum, zucchini, and whole cherry tomatoes with a bit more EVOO splashed OTT. These cooked away for another half an hour while the meat rested.

Make a sauce with it of course.

Dessert was pears, poached in red wine in the pizza oven while we ate. A good piece of advice for poached pears is to make sure you really do reduce the poaching liquid to a thick syrup for an intense flavour – just keep the pears warm and to one side.

If you were wondering about the trip. I stayed at a friend’s house that he’d just built himself (he’s a builder so it wasn’t like one of the less successful efforts on Grand Designs) in Busselton on a canal. The indoor-outdoor kitchen is a really handy combo and I’m trying to bag myself some more cooking there. I’m sold on outdoor pizza ovens and gas just seems so much less hassle than wood. True, it lacks the wood-fired cred and moniker but gains in likelihood of use. Pizza’s made the night before easily passed the droop test and were churned out in quick succession. Need to see if a goat will fit in there.

A bit on the quiet side in Margaret River for the school hols. Lovely lunch at Xanadu and picked up a great bottle of chardy and one of their catering sized bottles of dry red at the always good Cape Mentelle.

Next day was Pemberton – super good bottle of pinot and a chat about Valiant utes at Salitage, marron dinner at the pub, visit to an espalier orchard being built, bit of German V8 hooning and getting stuck on logging roads. Tasty pork pie at taste of Balingup, a visit to the world’s biggest playground when you’re 18 months in Donnybrook and then back home

ash and moo's pad

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Sincere congratulations to America. Coinciding with the feeling of having an old friend back, I had an actual old friend over for dinner, last week* The main course was a deeply symbolic with the zucchini, freshly flowering, representing birth and growth; the pancetta a tribute to that distinctly Chicagoan measure of value – the pork belly; and in turn the use of pork and shellfish as a triumph over religious constriction; and the linguine as a well-wishing metaphor for long life. I would have had I not simply decided to make this at the suggestion of an Italian chef and student during a particularly quiet and hungry moment.

Broad Beans with Cacciatore
Take the beans out of the pod and boil them in salted water for a minute. Drain and cool under running water. No need for second shelling.
Poach a pork and fennel cacciatore sausage in dry sherry and then slice thinly. Brown a little in olive oil in a pan and then add the broad beans. Stir well until the beans are heated through and the sausage is golden [hello Mark Faga] sausage IS GOLDEN![/hello Mark Faga]. Season and serve.

Zucchini Prawn and Pancetta Linguine
Dice a zucchini very finely and then finely grate a couple of tablespoons extra. This will spread itself more widely over the pasta. Cube cigarette packet sized block of pancetta. Chop up about 300 g of prawn meat and leave a few whole tails for garnish.
Heat a generous combination of clarified butter and EVOO. Add the pancetta and cook until lightly browned. Add the prawn meat, toss and then add the zucchini until it’s all cooked through.
Season and serve with linguini. Mix most through and then garnish the top of the pasta with with the remainder and place a prawn tail on top.

The zucchini was provided from the garden of the photographer who does all our wine shots for the mag (his site’s here). He’s also got one of these, which is pretty cool. They were supplemented by a few baby zucchini from my garden – they still have a way to go.

Tarte Fine aux Pommes
It’s my lazy favourite.
If prepping ahead, thinly slice apples and then mix in the juice of a lemon and some sugar to keep them going brown.
Roll out a sheet of sweet and cover with the apple slices.
Mix an equal combo of butter, sugar, and calvados and heat without burning.Pour over the apples.
It is, after all simply an apple pizza.
Cook in a very hot oven.

*[The parallels kind of stop there as I don't think my friend mounted a deceptive hostile invasion of a nation resulting in millions dead, displaced, or wounded; tried to bring torture back; validated gross levels of stupidity and anti-intellectualism; stuffed up an economy; behaved like an ass over international treaty efforts; or did stuff all while people drowned. And its part America didn't start going out with a really nice guy who used to be in cover bands]

venison pate with sourdough baguette and olives

mashed potato and hazelnut pesto with black pig prosciutto, asparagus and broad beans

duck, forest mushroom and chinese greens risotto

2002 Peacetree Cabernet Sauvignon in a Bulgarian crystal decanter

tart fine aux pommes

local cheeses with oatcakes and fennel crackers

laphroaig quarter cask with ice

Further notes:
Duck, being fatty, doesn’t really lend itself well to poaching but I thought I’d try and squeeze out a bit more stock for the risotto regardless. White wine, duck stock, peppercorns and thyme. Duck legs removed and then fried in leftover lard until crisp and then shredded. Using the soaking liquid for the mushrooms also provides additional stock.

Gabrielle Ferron’s risotto packet recommends a no-stir 15 minute technique and I have to agree to the point where I’m convinced that the whole stirring thing is an artifact of Italian patriachy.

Just the shiny green inner pods of the broadbeans. Blanched and then reheated in olive oil with some of the prosciutto. I ended up paying $10 a kilo for them because I was chatting with the farmer and he forgot to give me my change and I was too polite to ask.

nuzzling

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macadamia crusted lamb


Clean-up of pantry (2006 was a busy year for shopping apparently) yielded a bag of macadamia nuts and hence.

Crust is equal parts macadamia nuts and breadcrumbs with some chopped parsley tossed in. Just press on top. You can brown, as I did, the rack beforehand if you like. Marinade is EVOO red wine vinegar, rosemary and smoked paprika.

Minikin is stuffed with couscous, butter, chicken stock, dried raisins, macadamia nuts and pepitas. Mixed together and placed in the cavity. As a handy hint; use a round biscuit cutter to cut a lid out of the minkin.

Underneath the lamb is slices of field mushroom and red onion.

All cooked in 180C oven for 25 minutes*. Rest the lamb rack for 5 minutes. Toss the snow pea shoots in some EVOO and good salt. Serve.

I was really just using stuff I had but it worked together nicely.

*Actually 25 minutes is more of an averaging, the pumpkins could go up to thirty and the lamb could get down to 15-17 if you were after something closer to rare.

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oysters and trout

Can you knock off work, get to the shops, attend to jobs like bathing child, and bang out a very respectable 10th anniversary dinner? Yes you can.

Get oysters from reputable fishmonger (shucked – unless spending that special night with a DIY stigmata is your thing).
Get a lime. Lop the ends off. Segment. And then trim off the central pith.
Buy goat’s cheese and leave to soften on the bench.
Buy reputable smoked ocean trout. (tetsuya has just got some out)
Lay evenly on a piece of glad wrap.
Spread goats cheese over it.
Place it on a bamboo sushi mat and roll. The trick is peeling the glad wrap out of the way, for obvious reasons. Place it in the fridge to chill. And then slice into rounds.

Easy – impress your friends. In fact, if you had a nice bottle of sparkling chilling in the fridge and maybe cooked a few asparagus in butter to have on the side; you’d have a pretty special meal all in itself.

carpetbagger steak

We had a bottle of 1998 shiraz (the fourth of six) so the match was a rib of aged Dandaragan Organic Beef. I stuffed this with few oysters by making a pocket with a boning knife and then sealing it with toothpick. Seared, then put in the oven to cook. Quick wine and cream jus made in pan. Zucchini flowers cooked in a little butter. Green things (radish sprouts? can’t remember) tossed with a little very good EVOO and salt and pepper. And that’s it.

Memo to me for dessert: use foil when blind baking tart shell to avoid having to dig out dried broadbeans.

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steamed buns

Just because I think that a month or so is long enough for a picture of a box of broadbeans.

Here are some steamed buns I made for a dinner party a month or so. They have been on the list of things to make and haven’t been because they’ve always seemed something suspiciously white and fluffy. In Japan where they’re sold as surrogate pies in 7-11′s as nikuman they’re not unlike a meat-filled marshmallow in texture if not sweetness.

They are actually quite easy to make of you’re comfortable with making bread dough. Once risen, it’s simply a matter of rolling out rounds, filling with stuffing and then lifting up and sealing. Much less fiddly than dumpling or spring rolls. The filling is a combination of hard-boiled quail egg, some shredded slow-cooked pork hock from a Kylie Kwang recipe and [racks brains] shiitake mushroom, finely minced ginger and spring onion whites.

This recipe is the one I used for the bun dough.

With the meal was peking duck. I made the peking duck and bought the pancakes but in retrospect I would have been better just to buy the duck [does anyone else habitually type dick when they mean to type duck?] and make the pancakes. Unless you particularly like having a raw duck hanging around the house. It worked but, not enough to justify the effort and I’d happily pop down to a BBQ house and not felt I’d shirked. It’s also a nice idea to wear an apron when carving to avoid hot jets of duck fat.

Dessert was… I can’t remember. No wait it was tapioca with something. Anyway the conversation was good, the wine with fine and it finished with Guitar Hero II being dragged out. Success.

peking duck

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ducklava

Birthday necessitated dinner party as part of week long ‘festival of birthday’.

Ducklava
Don’t know where this idea came from. I guess if you read enough recipes, things start to click together. Ultimately it was the answer to a question that was how do you make one entree for seven people with one duck.
Where to start? The basics of it is that it’s [from bottom] filo pastry; pork rillettes; filo pastry; chopped pine nuts; filo pastry; duck rillettes; filo pastry; chopped pistachios and duck rillettes; filo pastry.
This is all baked in an oven for thirty minutes and then covered with melted butter and truffle flavoured honey. The pork fillet and pork belly and the duck were all cooked together in duck fat as a confit i.e. very slowly cooked submerged in duck fat. Pork and duck aren’t usually confited together but I like the pork and duck meat combo at Chinese BBQ places, so why not?

The pork belly was cubed and the pork fillet cut into one inch pieces. Delimb the duck with a cleaver and remove the breasts with the skin attached with a knife to cut through to the bone between then breasts. You can then work the breast out carefully.
To get the duck fat for the confit place any bits of excess skin and fat in a frying pan to render out the fat (you will be amazed). You can also render the bones (but be less amazed) and then use the carcass to make a duck stock (that gets used for the sauce).
In the bottom of a Le Creuset place a slice of orange, two sprigs of thyme, a star anise, and a sprig of rosemary. Tightly pack the duck peices in the bottom and top with the pork. Add the melted duck fat (or goose fat) and then top up with some vegetable oil to cover. It’s then covered with a sheet of greaseproof paper and cooked very slowly and lowly in the oven – it shouldn’t come to a boil. Once it cooled it’s just a matter of shredding the meat.
Line a small loaf tin with foil and then follow the procedure for baklava, three or four buttered sheets cut to size, topping, and so on up to the top. Cook at 180C for thirty minutes or when the top is nicely browned.
Melt a knob of butter and a couple of tablespoons of truffle honey (a jar from the Manjimup truffle farm that I managed to snaffle) and pour over.
Remove the baklava by lifting up the foil carefully and then slice.

For the sauce, reduce the duck stock down add a third as much port and then reduce down until nice and thick. Serve with grapfruit segments as something fresh and sharp to counter the fat and the richness.

Overall, it worked very well. Crisp, hot, crunchy, ducky, porky, and nutty – presentation could be tidied up a bit as the nuts are a bit unruly. Actually a lot of work for something that’s eaten in a few minutes but hey.

osso bucco ragout


Osso Bucco and Venison Shanks with home-made Saffron Fettucine
Osso Bucco is slices of beef shin and there’s one recipe for it and it seems to be osso bucco. Plenty of recipes out there but basically it’s a combination of diced onion, carrots, celery and garlic; followed by peeled and deseeded tomatoes, orange peel, thyme rosemary and bay leaves; then wine and beef stock. Make sure the meat is lightly dusted with flour (work quickly after you dusted it to keep the flour dry) and seared. Then it’s a couple of hours of tightly lidded cooking.

What results is a nice thick sauce and melted meat that you can shred for the sauce. Lots of shredding for this dinner. Just to loosen up the sauce a bit I cooked some field mushrooms in red wine and stock and the cream and added it to the meat and sauce.

The saffron fettcine is because saffron rissotto often goes with osso bucco milanese. It was only after four minutes of kneading that I wondered why my hands were red and then remebered I was allergic to handling saffron. The vegetable are strips of carrot ,zucchini , and leek; blanched and reheated in butter and then mixed through wth the pasta. It’s nicked form my Michel Roux Jr book as it’s customary to nick at least one thing for it for a dinner party.

It’s really well worth learning how to make your own pasta, if you learn properly then it’s quite straightforward and a good trick when guests arrive. My other trick involves slicing bits of my fingers off.

Apple Flan with Calvados Cream
As you’d imagine, thinly sliced (transverse to stem) apples on sweet shortcrust pastry. Served with cream with a bit of calvados whipped through it.

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lamb roast

Mag’s been put to bed so that means…Sunday roast.

A few helpful things:

Lamb
You can make a nice lamb stuffing with (roughly)
a cup of fresh breadcrumbs, a knob/thumb of melted butter, 1/3 cup of fire raisins, grated lemon peel, and 2 tbs of chopped mint and 2 tbs chopped parsley and a couple of sprigs of thyme.
The shoulder of dorper lamb had already been boned and netted – I carefully peeled back the net, unrolled the lamb, spread it with stuffing and rerolled and netted it. Just let it sit for a while in some EVOO and rosemary before roasting.
You could always debone it yourself or ask a butcher, anyway these are usually called “easycarve roasts”.


Roast Sweet Potato, Broccoli and Leek Pie (not pictured)

Bit like a quichey bastila (No!). Instead of shortcrust get some sheets of filo pastry and a springform tin. Rub the tin down with butter (just the inside) and then brushing one sheet at a time with butter, line the inside of the tin. Work around the tin 3 o’clock, 6 o’clock, 9 o’clock, 12 o’clock, rock. A little tearing is unavoidable but if you layer it enough there should be enough overlap so the filling doesn’t run everywhere when you put it in. You can trim it or scrunch it up for a scrunchy effect – I think I used about 10 sheets of filo pastry.
For the filling – sliced leek sauteed gently in butter, small oven-roasted cubes of sweet potato, chopped broccoli – ever so slightly pre-cooked in butter, goat’s cheese, toasted sesame seeds, some thyme, oregano and salt and pepper. 8 eggs and 300mls of cream (and if you’re using Bannister Downs cream, it’s good, make sure you give the pack a bit of a shake and a squeeze).
Cooks in about 20 minutes.

Potatoes Dauphinoise
Had this at Bouchon Bistro on Friday night (which is really good) so I made it at home. The trick is cooking the potato slices in milk with a bouquet garni and nutmeg*. You ditch the milk when the potatoes have been cooking for 15 minutes. Give the casserole dish a bit of a rub with butter and cut garlic cloves. then layer the potato slices, seasoning as you go along, filling with hot cream, and topping with grated gruyere. Cook in the oven for 40 minutes.

Roasted Beetroot
Roast beetroots until skins peels off by hand. Dice and then serve with sour cream and chopped mint.

Coconut, Chocolate and Vanilla Soufflé
This is close enough to the recipe to save me typing it out. While you’re boiling the milk add a sliced vanilla bean and about 2/3 cup of dessicated coconut.

Drinking notes: Don’t know what it is but Bishops Finger is just so right at the moment.
Possible jingle:
(to tune of “L-A-C-H-L-A-N”, Your Wedding Night)
Well guests they will linger
If you’re giving the Finger

chocolate coconut vanilla souffle


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pork terrine


Duck Liver and Pork Terrine

A terrine is a nice enough way to get back into cooking and it gave me a good reason to give my 70′s moulinex a bit of a run. Porky joy yes and I decided to partner it with apples (sauce) and figs (always nice with prosciutto). Pork belly because it needs some fat. Duck liver because there wasn’t any pork liver available.

mincer

Ingredients are approximate: 500gm of pork belly; 500gm of pork meat (taken from chops); 500gm of duck liver; 1 cup of bread; 2 Granny Smith apples (peeled, cored and finely chopped); 5 dried figs (soaked in 1/3 cup of calvados) – not fresh sadly; 1/2 cup cream; a few chives and a few sage leaves (finely chopped); salt and pepper. 8 rashers of bacon. Sprig of thyme for non sequitur garnish.

Run the meat, liver, and bread through the mincer. Finish with the bread, it doesn’t make cleaning any easier but it does mean you don’t have to scrape out bits of viscera. Actually best keep the whole thing a bit quiet, I had it all packed up by the time Toni got back. Liver looks the mincer had an unfortunate incident involving some surprisingly cheap seafood.
Mix all the ingredients together. Line a bread tin (or a terrine if you’ve got one) with foil and then give it a good oiling. Line the tin widthways with strips of bacon, fill with the mix and then drape the strips over. Cover with baking paper – greased with butter.
Cook in a steam bath in a 180C oven for two hours.
To make a steam bath, get a roasting pan and fill it with warm water so it reaches 2/3 of the way up the terrine. Fergus Henderson has a nice hint to place a teatowel on the bottom of the roasting tin so the bottom of the terrine isn’t in direct contact with the oven heat.
Take it out, place a weight on it and leave for 2-3 days (yes you’ll have to wait).

Very rich, the amount of liver brought it close to being pate. There was room to be a bit bolder with the amount of fig. A very filling entree that will keep guest happy for an hour. Served with local Pickled Pink Apple and Roasted Beetroot Relish, which is very nice and offset the terrine nicely – too nicely in fact, you don’t want the thing you didn’t make outshining the thing you did.

lunch
Arrosto di Agnello al Ginepro

There is lamb and then there’s lamb. According to Marcella Hazan, my 80′s authority on Italian cooking, there the spring lamb, abbachio, taken straight from the teat and the there’s your regular ‘mature’ lamb which we usually have. For mutton, it must feel like not only somebody not knowing your fave ever band but then realising they hadn’t even been born – shoot me now.
So for the mature lamb, it gets the casserole in her recipe for Arrosto di Agnello al Ginepro – lamb roasted with juniper berries. Juniper berries seem quite the thing, or at least they were when I last checked. Anyway, this recipe is, as they say in Italian, unfuckupableio.

1 leg of lamb; 1 tbs chopped carrot; 2 tbs of chopped onion; 1 tbs chopped celery; 250ml dry white wine; 2 crushed cloves of garlic; sprig of fresh rosemary; 2 tsp juniper berries; salt and pepper.

Put everything into a heavy casserole and simmer covered on a low heat for 2 hours. Turn the leg every 45 minutes. Then increase the heat slightly, put the lid askew and simmer for another 90 minutes. The juices should reduce down to a nice thick jus and the meat should be cooked and very tender.
Let the leg rest under foil.
Spoon off as much fat as possible, strain the jus, and then you can extend it a bit by returning it to the casserole after you’ve deglazed the casserole with a glass of red.
Very tender and very understated on the juniper.

Served with sausage and black eyed beans and a salad.
The sausage and blacked eye beans is just the onion/celery/carrot/garlic mirepoix upstairs – sauteed in olive oil in a casserole dish. Tin of tomatoes added with juice and simmered for 20 minutes. Then 4 or 5 pricked continental sausages added and simmered for a further 15 minutes. Then 4-5 cups of black eyed beans. Top up with water, bring to a simmer, cover and leave in a 180C oven for 90 minutes – check liquid levels occasionally. Season.

dessert

Crostata di Uva

Thank you Mrs Medici – my 90′s authority on Italian cooking. A very uncomplicated tart – even the custard doesn’t bother with vanilla. Very dependent on getting beautiful fresh crisp and cool white grapes. Just a sweet shortcrust pastry made with the zest of one lemon and cooked into a tart shell. Then make a three yolk custard, adding a tablespoon of flour to the milk as a thickener. Pour the cooled custard into the chilled tart shell then fill with grapes

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iced berry sorbet

Following on the heels of last year’s New Year’s Eve Dinner party for 11 we thought we’d try again with 16 and a n extra course in there. Sue and Chook hosted and I did the cooking. This took a good two days – the idea was to prep before so I could sit down and enjoy the meal now and then. There was also the essential martini testing. It was a great deal of fun and it’s lovely to have an opportunity to cook for that many friends on an important night of the year. Not all went to plan but ah well. I think what I was happiest with was that there were a few things people hadn’t had before without alienating anybody.

All the photos are here on flickr and many thanks to Kate for taking pics for me.

Things kicked off well with a pre-guests-arrive bottle of Veuve Cliqout, which I could get used to.

quail and chorizo
Apéritifs
Assorted Martinis
Quail Eggs on Chorizo with Aioli

Chook became Mr Martini as guests arrived. They’re a great way to get things rolling. I mumbled stuff about them putting people into a state of deep booze, like REM sleep. The reality is, they’re just a respectable way of drinking straight booze. Oh I couldn’t drink a glass of vodka, oh what’s this? and olive. Popularised in the 50′s as a salve for losing the McClusky Sporting Goods Account and a pot roast not quite up to standards.
Peeling quail eggs is a complete bastard. Boiling them is easy, just pop them in a pan of water, bring it to the boil, and remove after one minute.
As seen at Maggie Taberer’s birthday party.

oysters

Appetizer
Oysters
with
Lemon-Lime Hollandaise
Crème Fraîche and Salmon Roe
Chilli Coriander Champagne Sorbet

Oysters are the best. Lemon-lime hollandaise is the one from summer from Forrest Hill winery. Crème Fraîche and salmon roe is a reappearance from last year.The chilli coriander champagne sorbet is completely made up and I was thinking of a frozen pho with champagne as the sour stock, a bit of sugar for sweetness and then chilli and coriander added. I was ready to ditch it but it actually worked well.
Nice thing was, every one of them was at least somebody’s favourite.

asparagus and gazpacho

Soup
Gazpacho with Crayish Mousse and Asparagus Bavarois


This was my – I will attempt something classically french and overly ambitious thing.
The gazpacho was for summer and was easy (peeling and seeding tomatoes does take time). Because it was dinner, I pulled back on the cucumber, and the capsicum as it didn’t want it too spicy. A few chopped tomatoes mixed in before serving added texture.
The plan for the bavarois was that I’d place a crayfish mousse in the centre. Initially I thought I’d go for a loaf shape and slice it but that shape was taken by the vegetable terrine.
A crayfish mousse is similar in principle to a salmon mousse. Steaming it in a tiny muffin muffin tin, it went to crap, I’m not sure why, maybe not enough egg white. Tasted alright and it would be covered up by the bavarois. Slightly flavoured with a simple bisque made from the head of the crayfish.
The asparagus idea came from dinner at Bouchon Bistro in Wembley, which is extremely good, and I couldn’t believe it’s just down the road from me and I hadn’t been before. A useful guide was in the Age. Gelatine is still a dark art and I feel it may have been a little on the soft side, although a busy fridge is less than ideal for setting. I use leaf gelatine because it’s got German on it.
Very tasty. It’s be a nice thing to master.

table setting

Vegetables
Roasted Vegetable Terrine with Vinaigrette


Sue made this and it was lovely. There’s nothing like the natural sweetness that comes from roasted vegetables.

champagne speck and scallop risotto

Entree
Scallop with Champagne and Speck Risotto


This was going to be a pork cheek and scallop salad after I got Fergus Henderson’s Nose to Tail Eating but Wing Hong was all out so Toni suggested a risotto.
Made my own chicken stock to go with the champagne and it had a slighty smokey taste. It could have been the pork trotters but I think not straining it was have caused a few bits to catch and burn when reducing. No bad thing.

borscht sorbet

Breather
Borscht Sorbet


Beetroot is sweet so it’s not going to freak people out and it’s also savoury. Can’t remeber how I did this. Ahhmmm. Roasted beetroot for sweetness then peeled and grated it. A cupful cooked in some chicken stock, added back and them pureed with cucumber and a splash of vodka to keep it a bit runny and give it a bit of bite.
Remember to remove from freezer a little before serving.

wagyu

Main
Eye Fillet of Wagyu
Several Mushroom Clafoutis
Cannellini Bean Puree
and Jus


This is from down south in WA and I was a bit handy because the Graeme from Dorper Lamb dropped it off at my place. It was a monster piece – 3.4 kilograms. I wasn’t sure quite how to approach it so I divided it into three roughly equal pieces, one slightly smaller for the better done crowd.
I’d sear it and then cook it in the oven at a very high heat. The spell in the oven wasn’t quite enough because I was overly worried about over-cooking it so I sliced it into 16 portions, researed it, and then sliced each piece for serving.
Canellini Bean Puree was from Summer and is beans pureed with sherry vinegar and olive oil.
The clafoutis had field mushrooms, porcini and the ominous trumpet d’mort.It was like the cherry clafoutis earlier but without sugar.
I reserved the soaking water and added a little to the jus, which was a beef stock I made and then reduced with pan scrapings after deglazing with red wine.
A bit of crayfish on top for extra flash.
Time slipped away and thanks to the magic of Time Fixer -always fixin’ time – the clock mysteriously stopped for 20 minutes.
Sparklers, Poppers and Moet. More Martinis!

Cheese

I know french is poor form at New Year but it does make sense in meal sequence.

frozen berry souffle

Dessert
Frozen Berry Souffle


This is a Michel Roux Jr recipe (Le Gavroche is pretty much my where I end up in how to do things these days) and it’s kind of tricky. A kilo of berries pureed with 150g sugar, 80ml of whipped to soft peaks cream folded in.
Tricky bit was the egg whites. They’re beaten to bubbly and then 250g of sugar is boiled with 500ml of water up to 120C and then poured into the whites while the beater is running until the egg white has “cooled”. I had no idea what was supposed to be happening here but it did work. Fold in to mix.
Kind of interesting is that it takes ages to reach 120C. I thought the thermometer had stuck at 100 but realised it wasn’t until the water boiled off that the boiling point could rise – there’s a lesson in there somewhere. Keep in mind it’s facking hot and sticky – proper shoes, don’t lick the spoon etc.
It was supposed to pop up over the rameking with a wrap of greaseproof paper for the purpose but I miscalculated the volume not allowing for the volume of water boiling off.

I drank, bummed cigarettes and chatted to the sound of happy dishwashing before finding a sofa on which to relax and then that was that. Happy New Year all.

souffle finished


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pumpkin ragout


I don’t like pumpkin. The leverage required to slice through one says missing fingers and the name, because of joke I was once told, says hillbilly coupling.
As a result, this recipe has sat in my recipe book, undisturbed, for a good decade or so. It’s quite a good recipe – vegan from when I knew vegans. I’m sure they’re still around, we just don’t hang out anymore. I went my meaty way and they went theirs. Maybe I do know some and they’ve been keeping it from me. I obviously feel quite bad about this and maybe my circle of friends is too narrow. Hello! Vegans! Any of you like to be my friend? Maybe I should settle for pescetarians.
I think the recipe is from a Madhur Jaffrey cookbook, or maybe the Enchanted Broccoli Forest or something.
The dish is a boon for those who would like to practice their dry roasting skills. The total skill set being – the ability to stand at a stovetop for a few minutes without wandering off to check email or see what’s on telly; and gentle shaking (of the pan).

1.5kg pumpkin – chopped into chunks; 1tbs cumin seeds; 2tsp oregano; 3/4 cup peeled almonds; 5tbs sesame seeds; 1 onion-chopped; 2 cloves garlic – crushed; 2 small dried chillies – chopped; 250ml of tomato juice; handful of coriander leaves

Dry roast the cumin seeds in a frypan until fragrant then add the oregano and continue for another minute. Grind in a mortar and pestle.
Sautee the onions in oil until soft, add chilli and garlic, and finally the organo/cumin seeds.
Add the pumpkin and tomato juice, bring to a boil, cover, and simmer until the pumpkin is soft.
Dry roast the almond and sesame seeds seperately, and grind finely.
Leave a little aside for garnish, add the rest with the coriander to the pumpkin, stir and heat through.
Garnish with ground sesame and almond and a little cream (or not).
You can use gazpacho instead of tomato juice if you happen to have some left over in the fridge.

And that’s it.

cherry clafoutis


I’ve always wanted to make a cherry clafoutis. No particular reason, I just like the sound of it. Same reason I’ve always wanted to go to Djibouti. It’s good value. It’s as easy as pancakes. Yorkshire pud without the dripping. You don’t even have to pit the cherries – the French don’t. Take pleasure in the reduction of the workload and that any guest who doesn’t thoughtfully enjoy a slice with sufficient care may lose a tooth or choke to death. A welcome change for the underappreciated kitchen worker. It’s so easy I’m not even going to pretend I did anything other than follow this recipe and decide to use the frypan because I used the pie thingy for the last post.

AND I think you should check out Saffy’s breakfast peach clafoutis .

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and once I got this right the rest was downhill


Mr Chubby d’Hubby of Singapore was in town for a wedding a little while ago and I insisted, *insisted* that he come over to my place for dinner in the spirit of bloginess and a sense of regional friendship that seemed to have been lost since Australia decided we’d be part of the Anglophonic Superfriends. If you haven’t been over to his blog ‘Chubby Hubby’, then off you go now. Great isn’t it? But eeek! from a I’ve got to cook dinner for this person perspective. On top of this the other three guests, his wife and two friends were all heavily involved in food in both work and leisure. The other thing is that Singapore is a very cosmopolitan and outward looking place so there was no – ‘as you may not be familiar with Bulgarian food type’ dodges. (sorry this isn’t making any sense is it?)

To cope with my I’m a bloggin’ fraud angstiness about these things, the plan was to have something which was really good but didn’t look like I’d tried to hard just in case it didn’t work out because I was like being all casual and all in a kind of faded jeans and cowboy shirt way (actually that’s what I wore).

Cold entree prepared in advance, rack of lamb (‘cos it’s Aussie), and rhubarb ice cream for dessert.

Cold entree ended in the bin, lamb rack became pork rack and rhubarb ice-cream became rhubarb ice-cream (but with cardamom – oooeee).

Pains to Spain
The entree was a facking disaster – a combination of orange roughy roe, ocean trout, and crayfish horns. Unfortunately I was working off a few different recipes so it was a cross between a terrine/mousse/parfait. The orange roughie roe did work, it’s not much raw but did make for a very nice pate – cooked in orange juice and then cream. This was the top row.
For the next part I smoked half my stash of ocean trout. Pan fried the other half and pureed them both. It then became apparent I didn’t have a clue what I was doing and ended up making a mousse and had a brief naff sixties flashback. Crayfish horns filled the inside.
Tried it the next morning and realised there is indeed a significant difference between smokey and acrid and this was the latter. Toni concurred and in the bin it went (not something I do lightly).
What to do. I still had some bits of fish and crayfish left and a fish stock I’d made; thinking I needed it for the terrine that became a mousse.

So, a kilo of mussels, and some smoked chilli squid legs and it was a paella with alioli. I’m pretty sure this was my first paella so being all experienced ‘n all – the secret is a good stock, chopping and deseeding the tomatoes yourself, and making sure you sautee them until they’re dryish. Do this and the lady from the cover of Surfer Rosa will appear as if by magic and dance the special dance for your entertainment for making such a fine paella.

The alioli was – one egg, four garlic cloves, salt, 1 tsp lemon juice, 2 tsp hot water – pureed and then EVOO added drop by drop then a stream while the wand is going until the consistency is right.

Mains
Went to Jeremy’s Butchers thinking lamb rack and instead saw a lovely 10 chop rack of Spencer’s Brook Organic pork and was sold. Did I mention butchers were good? Jeremy half cut the chops to allow better cooking, scored the top, and sent me away with the wisdom.
Oil it and salt the skin to dry it out the day before and let it get to room temperature. Raost at 220C to get the crackle crispy and then cook at 160C for about an hour and a half. And then rest in foil for 45 minutes. This seems a long time but it will retain a lot of heat and continue to cook the meat.

The ironic thing, actually more coincidental, but you don’t get a lot of ironic opportunities in food blogging is I swore I’d give the La Gavroche cookbook a rest, but found a recipe for rack of pork ribs that I resignedly followed – accepting the book is stamped on my brain in much the same way that every song I know play ends up sounding like I Wanna Be Sedated.
(And I’ve just realised that I’ve done virtually this whole dinner before *with* rhubarb ice-cream as well. Help! I’ve got dementia.)

The pork is cooked over root veges – in this case – 5mm slices of kipfler potato, parsnip, and white sweet potato. Along with garlic, sliced scallions, rosemary and thyme. The traditional way is to pour a cup of chicken stock as well and baste regularly. You can get the veges up to appropriate crisp while the pork is resting.

Apparently, legend has it, that in olden days, the ladies would use the local baker’s ovens and to save messing about – they’d do it all in one dish. Hence the songs of the time like:

Bad cooking woman
Given’ away her lovin’
That’s mah roots
In another man’s oven

[played to the tune of I Wanna Be Sedated - adagietto ]

The accompanying La Gavroche gravy was a tomato-based Charcutière sauce

Rhubarb on my brain
Rhubarb ice cream was this recipe for the rhubarb:
Rhubarb and cardamom tartlet
and then the rhubarb added to the creme anglais in the ice-cream maker and the juices and sticky used as a sauce.

rack of pork

The Meal
Well the meal was a lot of fun. Excellent wine was brought and the conversation was lively. CH & S actually got married in Perth and have a knowledge of the food and wine here that had me struggling to keep up. There’s something very nice about guests who are simultaneously very serious about their food but also very casual about the whole thing.
The paella was right tasty and the alioli managed to settle down from being like the breath of satan because of the much stronger local garlic – to something a bit more palatable. I was asked for seconds!
The pork was a bit dryer than I would have wanted, having left it cooking a little long, but the pork itself was great and the ribs proved very popular with at least one guest.
And then it was dessert and sticky and the night was over and away they went on their long journey north to Joondalup.

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clear soup mackeral

My significant other-in-law Chris runs a charter fishing boat out of Darwin. He has five top fish and not only refuses to keep any fish outside of the five for himself, but refuses to give them away either. Picky to be sure, but it meant we got five bags of immaculatey packed and filleted pieces of Darwin’s finest when my sister in law came to stay.

Mackeral in a Clear Soup
Mackeral is a strong tasting fish so the idea was to place it in a milder context of the mild fishiness of dashi stock. The dashi has mirin added to it for a bit of sweetness and soy sauce to fill in the gaps with a bit of meaty saltiness. The amounts of the latter two need to be tested with tasting. Dashi has a short cooking time so there’s more variance than with a stock that has a longer cooking time and a greater margin of error.
I was also happy to find katsuoboshi in a pack of 50gm bags at the small Asian deli next to Herdies Grower’s fresh. All that seemed to exist before were two kilogram bags, which is quite an amount of of dried bonito shavings. 50gm is also exactly the right amount you need for 1.5 litres of dashi, along with a 6x4cm square of konbu. Konbu is a large sea grass that contains glutamic acid. Glutamic acid is used as a neurotransmitter but also stimulates the umami receptors of our tongue. Umami is the mysterious fifth dimension of taste, which I find personally relevent as Age of Aquarius was the number one single in the year of my birth. It’s also the source of the much maligned MSG.
Traditionally, dashi is made with the water used to rinse rice but untraditionally, I didn’t have rice so normal water had to do.

Dashi
- Add the konbu to 1.5 litres of water and heat over a medium heat. Just before it comes to a boil, remove the konbu from the pot.
- Bring the water to a boil. Add 50gm of katsuoboshi and just as it starts to sink, strain the stock. I’m not sure of the exact degree of sinking and whether it’s as soon a one flke heads downward. Just don’t go wandering off.

Soup
The soup is based on a bamboo and prawn clear soup recipe from Kosaki and Wagner’s The Food of Japan. Theinteresting thing in this is the prawns are dusted with cornflour and quickly cooked in boiling water and then chilled. I’ve no idea what the cornflour does, it’s usually great for coating chicken for frying though. In this case, it did wrap the fish in an interesting texture.

- Add 5 tsp each of mirin and soy sauce for every three cups of dashi.
- Cut the mackeral into manageable pieces and cook as for the prawns above (there aren’t actually any prawns or bamboo in this in case you’re confused, because I replaced it mackeral didn’t I? And try getting fresh bamboo shoots at 6pm on a Sunday night in Perth).
- Add the mackeral pieces to the soup and heat through.
- Distribute the soup and mackeral pieces to the bowls and garnish with sliced chilli, steamed asparagus, and bean shoots that you’ll have spent 15 minuted trying to tie into four neat bundles with a lightly boiled bean shoot stem.

golden snapper


Golden Snapper with Artichoke Barigoule
Yet another Michel Roux Jnr recipe, I’d explain it in detail but I really think you should just go out and buy Le Gavroche Cookbook and get the Food of Japan while you’re at it. Artichoke barigoule is actually quite an old French dish. This one is best described as a mirepoix of roughly equal amounts of fennel bulb, onion, carrot, and diced and browned parma ham cooked in olive oil with thyme and garlic with two peeled artichokes in sixths added and then simmered covered with greaseproof paper with a glass of white wine, 60ml of warm water, and the juice of half a lemon for 15 minutes. Think of it as a nascent stock.
The fish is cooked in a very hot ovenproof pan in a very hot oven with olive oil, rosemary and thyme.
Serve on mash with the barigoule, garnish with freshly shredded basil leaves, a splash of olive oil and some of the barigoule juices.

Very nice. The snapper is fantastic and the only thing that can be “done” to it is stuffing it up, but a careful eye should prevent that. I liked the barigoule too, the finely diced pieces blended together without any particular one being dominant with the citric aspects of the wine and lemon juice matching the fish.

Bonus Motor Reviews:
00 V6 Holden Commodore Executive
If you’re an executive that makes his or her own cup of coffee and brown bags their lunch then you’ll appreciate the modest touches like non-electric windows and a cassette player. The steering wheel feels surprisingly like a stress ball, handy for times of refuelling, and connects to competent enough if uncompelling handling. The treasure though, is the engine which throttles the loaf-like sedan at a rudely entertaining pace, which, when couple with underperforming tyres allows for many squeal like a pig moments.

’06 620 Ducati Monster
Traditional no fuss naked home of gentler Ducati engines makes for simple biking pleasures accompanied by a beautiful Termignoni note. Sit up and beg riding position with wide handlebars allows for confident drop in cornering. Slipper clutch avoids traditional Ducati requirement on manly bear grip but does make for uncertain starts. Lower power requires more judicious gear selection than with larger torquier twins. Apparently the front shocks can’t be adjusted , so firmer springs and a bikini screen a good accessory choice.

’06 Volvo XC90 D5
Smooth spinning and with a creamily compelling engine howl, it handles as effortlessly as it does seat five with ample luggage space. Quick, quicker with autotronic, but be soothed by Nordic utilitarian design and soft lights.

Next Week! 240 series redux

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trout bound in pink


Four caught trout given to me by a friend on return from a trip down south, wrapped in silicone ties sent to me by a Flickr friend in California in return for sending a song with the same name as her by a Japanese punk band which was downloaded by shareware from somebody with that particular song on their computer somewhere. Eaten with friends who bought beer and wine while we faffed around with a guitar that had been given to me in Japan with a distortion pedal that my brother in law loaned to me when I had birthday breakfast with my Dad who had given me two boning knives previously, one of which I gave to our guests at the end of the evening.

trout


Trout rubbed with ras al hanout and stuffed with almond, date and orange couscous. Served with an orange and fennel salad, and kipfler potatoes with fennel and mustard mayonnaise.

And speaking of good stuff, Chika reviews my ahmmm house さようなら、おうちレストラン. Kind of like Hello! magazine but not naff.

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beef wellington


Ha! The French, inventing a dish that used the favourite meal of the English, the rosbif, and then naming it after
a waterproof boot. Touché! as they say

This is an exercise in deciding how much faffing around you want to do with a meal, and in this case I had a day to idle away. Busier folk could simply wrap a log of spam in store bought puff pastry and then place it in the bin.

The recipe is a combination of a few recipes from my handy Le Cordon Bleu at Home and on the internets. This was actually one of my first fancy dinner party meals when I was at uni and for some reason I decided to make it in the middle of summer. Moving the table out to the back garden helped matters. Although I managed to offend two guests by describing new railway stations their friend has designed as “a large superphosphate shed and a greek temple for the gods of suburban blah”. Would I offend again? The weather was better though.

Features!
-homemade puff pastry (not something I do often/ever)
-shiitake duxelles
-a herb crepe wrap

welly wrap


I’m not going to tell you how to make puff pastry, I just diligently followed a cookbook but it is doable and give yourself a fair amount of time as it needs a couple hours of refrigeration in the process of making it. What is made is a large number of buttery layers with six rotations of a triple fold. So I guess it would be something like- three layers, nine layers, 27 layers, 81 layers, 243 layers, 729 layers.

Beef
I got the beef eye fillet (1.2kg for seven people) from Jeremy’s (and nice it was). Tie it in five places to keep its shape and sear on all sides for about five minutes. Place it on a chopped carrot and a sixthed onion and cook in a 200C oven for 20 minutes. Remove the fillet and allow to cool and then cool in the fridge. Roast the carrots and onion for another twenty minutes and then deglaze the tin with brandy and port. Keep the liquids and the solids to make the sauce later and scrape off any fat that appears on the surface.

Duxelles
I used a combination of 300gm of fresh shiitake and fresh field mushrooms and cooked in a pan for 15 minutes with two finely chopped scallions. Add half a cup of cream and a couple of tablespoons, chopped, of fresh herbs – parsely, sage, rosemary, and thyme (stoppit) . Puree to smooth. It ends up looking like a pate which is interesting because one alternative to duxelles is to coat the fillet with pate (as in the liver paste) or fois gras and then warp it in pastry. Chill in the fridge

Crepes
I saw this on the net and then couldn’t find it again but then I found another recipe which suggested using rice paper so the pastry doesn’t get soggy. So I thought the crepe would do the same trick.
Just your basic crepe batter with the aforementioned herbs mixed in. I was going to add porcini dust but they didn’t have any at Herdies so no to that.

Assembly and Cooking
Remove the string from the beef fillet.
Roll out the pastry to 3mm thickness and trim. Place crepes in the middle and spread a layer of the duxelles and place the fillet on top. Spread duxelles over the fillet. and top with a crepe. Fold the pastry over lengthwise. Seal the ends with a roller and fold the ends over. Turn the beef wellington over with the seal down and brush with egg wash. You can decorate with strips of spare pastry if you like and brush again with egg wash.
Allow to cool in the fridge for at least half an hour.
Place a metal cone (from a pastry bag or bong) in the middle to allow steam to escape and prevent it going soggy.
Place in a buttered baking tray. Cook in a 180C oven for 40 minutes and then allow it to rest for 15 minutes before carving.

Sauce
Strain the deglazing liquids and then reduce in a pan with beef stock and red wine.

Parsnip, Sweet Potato and Leek Cake
A large roti that seemed to resemble coleslaw. Not as successful as I’d hoped as a cake tin dooesn’t allow for the right amount of crisping without burning that a pan does.
Julienne the sweet potato and the parsnips and parboil for a minute. Julienne a leek and cook in goose fat until soft and then add the parsnip and sweet potato. Mix through and season and add to a cake tin and cook along with the roast.

welly stovetop


Tasty although I don’t know what I was thinking with the application of the jus, Decided to go all Jackson Pollock, who liked a drink or two I hear.

Topless Seafood Pies


seafood things


These came to me in a dream. Not a very well detailed dream with a complete recipe and I can’t remember if in the dream the shortcrust shells were supposed to look like an ashtray made in year 3 art class. But the idea was pastry in a dariole mould and filled with prawns and scallops. The prawns and scallops and red emperor fillets were chopped into bitey bits.
Wan’t sure about the sauce but I found a crayfish head in the freezer. I removed the shell and the legs and crushed them. The flavour of the shells isn’t soluble in water, only alcohol and fat (mmmm) so the shells were sauteed with some celery as an aromatic, flambeed with brandy and then simmered in cream for 40 minutes.
I then added a few strands of saffron and seasoned. A small amount kept as a sauce and with the rest, an egg yolk and some finely chopped parsley and then poured over the seafood in the shells.

Rice Pudding
rice pudding

The rice to milk ratio is very small 4tbs of short grain rice to 800ml of full cream milk. Bring to a boil in a Creuset dutch oven with a vanilla pod and 2tbs of caster sugar and cook in a 150c oven for 90 minutes. Keep an eye on it or you’ll, as I did, run out of milk and scald the pot.
You’re supposed to then stir in some whipped cream but I forgot that bit at this blurrier end of the eveing but did manage to remember to mix in some fresh passionfruit pulp and decide to caramelise some caster sugar on top with the kitchen torch.

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scallops and beef with beer

I’m doing a cooking workshop next month on cooking with beer and have been doing a bit of experimenting to find something that’ll work. This is an attempt at something simple. The steak sauce being not dissimilar to the 60′s bachelor piece d’resistance Steak Diane with a deglazing fluid having cream added. I don’t know how impressive beer being that fluid would be, personally I think the retrograde element would have been as impressive to potential dates as a quick tour of the Chiko Roll poster collection but who knows, maybe we’ve moved on.

The steak is a bit of beef fillet, seasoned and seared on all all sides then popped in a hot oven until medium-rare. The cast iron pan is deglazed with a glass of Emerson’s Oatmeal stout with some chopped spring onions and some rosemary and reduced. It was reduced by a about half but still a bit gappy and the rosemary didn’t fill so much as kind of loiter there wondering what was going on. Strained and then 100ml of cream whisked in and simmer for a couple of minutes. Much nicer but still I feel it’s a bit of a creamy cheat. The mushrooms we’re already in the oven, doused with a bit of stout, waiting for the steak to join it.

The cabbage is steamed until soft in a saucepan with a glass of Jarrah Jack’s Pale (a new local brewery down in Pemberton). A bit of crisped up speck mixed in and a sprinkle of carraway seeds. The carraway seeds weren’t all that helpful, amplifying the bitterness that was already there enough with the beer.

The scallops, and I like putting scallops on things, were the nicest surprise. I reduced down a little rasberry lambic and before it was about to vanish, put the scallops in. There’s that nice red caramelised look and the sharp sweet matches well with the fleshy sweetness of the scallops.

Dessert was (summon the insirational powers of Le Gavroche) a rhubarb compote made using Leffe Blonde and a vanilla bean and topped with a raspberry lambic sabayon. Sweet, tarty and luscious with a faint whiff of beer elements – go you 60′s bachelor!

AND: Steph is entirely not happy at the fact that only two blokes have shown up at the last 10 parties. I know the internet is the last place you’d find single guys but come on fellers. With the above and the fact I drank the uncooked beer in a fancy glass, it’s not strictly within the rules but this post is indisputably – Man Food.

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curry buffet


Friday bring-a-curry dinner for six. Rude amounts of food, if we’d ended up having the naan bread as well, we would have come close to meeting the entire calorific consumption of Bangladesh for 1973. Bloody marvellous with each dish having the full attention of each maker so there was no can’t-be-arsed fade off for dishes four and five. I made a Charmaine Solomon curried duck with potatoes and cabbage (I subbed the cabbage for silverbeet leaves for a bit more oomph) as well as a mint and spring onion chutney and half a litre of cucumber raita – bringing the total up to 1.5 litres. Strategy of eating a bit, waiting, and going back later, proved most successful in making a dent in it all. Passing the time was our host’s very good idea of everybody bringing a CD with their ten favourite songs on it, loading them all up, and then putting it all on random. Guess the person’s song was fun and it there’s much pleasure in listening to music that’s outside your regular tastes but carefully chosen and an education. There was no Jive Bunny, nor were there 60 Pixies songs.
Dire Straits appeared and that was AOK by me. Verse/Chorus/Verse/Chorus proved rarer towards the end of the evening in favour of fade out/in/out and through composed bits of Eighty’s epicdom. No fights either. Something very Rawlsian about it but I’m not sure what. Not an easy thing to pick 10 and I ended up with an undecisive set with a few hybrid songs to fill a few gaps and round it out a bit.
My eventual top 10 were AC/DC-Ballroom Blitz; Groove Armada – I See You Baby; Shake – Kristin Hersh;
Sonic Youth- Kool Thing ; Queens of the Stone Age – First it Giveth ; Butthole Surfers – Sea Ferring; The Stooges – I Wanna Be Your Dog; Pixies – Here Comes Your Man; Anthrax and Public Enemy – Bring the Noise; Matthew Sweet – Evangeline.
No arguing.

eating

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wagyu beef with a red wine and shiitake jus, roasted sweet potato, fried crab claws, asparagus and greenything

Hello. Yes I’m in Japan and my first night didn’t end up at an izakaya or shouting at people but since my friend Andrew had a nice new apartment and Danny promised he’d bring a bottle of French Sparkling Rose, and Uyen would talk loudly and keep us amused and I had a litre bottle of Laphroaig Quarter Cask, perhaps I could dinner and I did. A stop in a Tobu Department store got us a fillet of katsuo, a slab of squid, ten crab claws, and four 50gm steaks, a sweet potato, some shiitake and a few greens. The katsuo was seared just on the outside and sliced, the squid scored and lightly cooked and then that went on a bed of lettuce and spanish onion with a dressing of soy, mirin, cider vinegar, ginger, garlic chives and sesame seeds.

wagyu with the thoughtfully added lumps of lard


The sweet potato was diced and slowly roasted with olive oil and rosemary. The asparagus and the nanohana(?) was boiled and tossed with a little seasoning. The crab claws were dipped in milk and then dredged in flour with salt pepper and togarashi and then deep fried. The wagyu steaks handily came with cubes of lard and it was cooked in that a bit close to medium than medium rare. Sauce was a jus made by sauteing spring onions and two finely chopped shiitake mushrooms in butter and then reducing some red wine and straining. To bring up some bite and for a geographical nod I grated a little fresh wasabi in there and glossed it up with a little butter. Assembled as above and it was quite lovely. The nanohana had a slight bitterness, the sweet potato was, well sweet, from slow roasting and crunchy, the steak was unspeakably tender and the crab lifted it all from being meat and three veg. The steaks sizes weren’t going to impress anybody at Sizzler but you have to wonder if we couldn’t just eat less and enjoy it more. No? Uyen has great fractal eating habits and would reduce the plate to ever decreasingly sized but equally proportioned servings which was impressive.

tastiest strawberries ever


Dessert was perfect strawberries with a splash of balsamic and yes well it was an evening without fault. Andrew captured it better than me and he’s got a few lovely pics amongst many here, here, here, and here.

It’s a good thing, and it’s all good, and it’s a good to have friends, and its good to enjoy good things. But you know this.

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tain provencal

Fack! A perfectly good post down the cyberhole after a frozen firefox. I think I’ll go and sulk and fill in the bits later when I get a moment/cheer up.

Scallop and asparagus tart with saffron sauce


Scallop and Asparagus Tart with Saffron Sauce


Leg of lamb medallions with garlic and tarragon cream sauce

Butterflied Leg of Lamb Medallions with Garlic and Tarragon Cream Sauce.
Served with a Tian Provençal (up top)

This was going to be a saddle of lamb trimmed into noisettes but a “didn’t have” became a “how about” and and I came back with a large piece of butterflied leg of lamb (the bone is cut out and the meat opened out, great for quick cooking after marinating). I trimmed it a bit and made some O in an OK sized rolls which I tied up with string. Seasoned, seared in a pan, cooked in a very hot oven to rare, and rested.
The sauce was made by roasting two heads of garlic then adding the pulp to double cream in a saucepan and reduced with fresh tarragon added. Roasting removes much of the garlic’s pungency and accentuates its sweetness.

This was served with a Tian Provençal which is kind of like a rataouille pie but without the capsicum, which is fine by me. It is also completely vegan, which is rather special. The eggplant is peeled into strips and blanched to make the lattice and fried strips of eggplant make up the sides of and the base. The filling is small cubes of zucchini sauteed with finely chopped onion, garlic and mint. A bit of baking paper in the base of the cake tin (or a tian if you’ve got one and then cooked covered with foil, like a creme brulee, in a water bath for 20 minutes in a hot oven. For a cooking note you might want to consider the effects of having a water bath while roasting something else. No? Inverted onto a plate. The topping is skinned and deseeded tomatoes and finely chopped spring onions cooked in a frypan until thick with the liquid gone. It looks a little like a chocolate cake which makes it perfect for disappointing children.

pear tart with fig and brandy ice cream

Red Extravaganza Pear Tart with Fig and Brandy Ice Cream

Jules in comments asks how I did the ice-cream. Righty ho then, by the looks of it, Jules knows her way around a kitchen but I’ll make a kind of general publicky kind of explanation. Custard was never meant to be the lumpy shite from a packet that you had on apple turnover but the starting point for ice-cream.

Creme anglais + ice-cream maker = ice-cream.

The inspiration for this came from J and her Macadamia Tart. As is quite clear, I wasn’t inspired, obviously enough, to make an immaculately presented dessert but noticed that if I made a batch of custard, I could use it for the the tart and then use the rest for the ice cream and save myself a valuable bit of arsing about time.
To make a creme anglais you split a vanilla pod down the middle, let it simmer in a cup of milk in a saucepan. Meanwhile whisk two egg yolks with 100grams (yeah yeah I bought a scale) of sugar until “it forms ribbons when lifted”. Take out the vanilla pod and then add the milk to the yolks in a steady stream stirring constantly. Put it all back in a saucepan and heat gently until it thickens “until you can draw a finger down the back of a spoon and leave a clean line”, stir constantly. If you don’t, and it never ever has, and you get some lumps, just run it through a sieve. That’s your custard/creme anglais.
Add a cup of thick cream and put in the fridge. If it’s cold it’ll work more quickly in the ice cream maker. Now for the brandy fig bit. Chop up two ripe figs and macerate them in enough brandy to cover for a few hours. You can then work off the alcohol by bringing the mix up to the boil in a fry pan. Add this to the creme anglais in the ice cream maker and watch it go round until ice creamy. You don’t have to watch it, but it is kind of compelling – more so than Dancing with the Stars.

The tarts… ahh pate sucree, bit of custard, chopped pear, in the oven blah blah blah.

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Mille-feuille of mussels and baby spinach roasted pork belly with charcutiere sauce rhubarb ice cream with ginger peach compote


I love this book. Le Gavroche is the London restaurant started by the Roux brothers and now run by Michel Roux Jr. After a couple of months staring googly eyed at it, I thought it would be a good candidate for a straight up no messing about recipe following. It’s good to experiment but it’s also good to find out how things are meant to turn out.

Saturday dinner for my sister, who’s batching with her husband away in Quebec, and my neighbourhood doctor, who keeps me supplied with anti-reflux pills and Papua New Guinean savoury biscuits. Seafood and meat. Albany mussels were looking great, I’m always happy to have pork belly, and I was keen to try a new ice-cream. So,

Mille-feuille of mussels and baby spinach


Mille-feuille of mussels and baby spinach

A good way to fancy up mussels. A step up from the shells and the finger bowls – not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s a shame to see a food typecast as casual.
Cooked in white wine, cooking liquid gets added to a finely chopped onion sauteed in butter with two teaspoons of marsala curry powder and bouquet garni herbs. Reduced by a third. Double cream is then added and then reduced to a “light sauce”. It’s always very important to taste. For some reason the sauce was very salty so I added a little more cream to adjust.
The spinach gets washed carefully and dried – I cut out all the stems. Softened in olive oil and seasoned.
The Mille-feuille is an easy way of stacking. Stab a sheet of puff pastry all over with a fork and then cook until golden in a hot oven. The stabbing will stop the sheets puffing up. You then just cut them up into equal rectangles.
No picture in the book so I made the stack with two layers of mussels and spinach and then made a ring around the stack with the extra mussels and poured source on the layers, on top of the stack and then over the mussels.

roasted pork belly with charcutiere sauce


Roasted Pork Belly with Charcutière sauce

It’s actually for a rack of pork but I didn’t read the recipe carefully before I headed off to the butchers. Ah well.
The pork is roasted with potatoes, whole garlic cloves, thyme, and bay leaves. I used kipfler potatoes and cut them into bevelled rounds for practice. The pork belly is scored, rubbed down with butter, and jusy before it’s put in the oven, given a rub with sea salt. Leaving it to the last minute will stop the salt drawing out the moisture and then not crackling properly. At least this is what I was led to believe, the book recommends leaving the salt on for 90 minutes and brushing excess salt off. Another thing realised after the deed.
The cooking sequence is interesting, 30 minutes at 190C; 15 minutes at 150C; and then rested for 45 minutes.
The pan is deglazed with white wine and a little vinegar and then cooked with veal stock, shallots, and cracked pepper. Reduce by two thirds and then finish with whisked in butter and mustard and diced peeled and deseeded tomatoes.
Again no picture in the book so I placed the pork belly in the middle and had the potato and garlic kind of loitering around it.
Instead of the traditional cornichon, I fried up some scallops in the roasting fat and placed one on top of each serve of pork belly.

Rhubarb Ice-cream with Ginger Peach Compote

This has nothing to do with the cookbook but just a thought that since ice-cream is just frozen custard, and rhubarb and custard is a a classic combo, then rhubarb ice-cream would be good. It turned out there was a recipe for Rhubarb Parfait with Ginger Apricots.
The ice-cream was the standard recipe for vanilla ice-cream and the rhubarb was a compote. To make a compote, you chop up 5 stick of rhubarb (the leaves are poisonous so, no) and then add it to a fully dissolved cup of water, half a cup of sugar, and the juice and zest of one lemon. Bring to the boil and allow to cool, covered. Add as much to the ice-cream maker to get the ice cream as rhubarby as you think you’d like it.

Ginger apricots, became peeled and finely diced peaches, enough white wine to cover, sugar to taste and because I didn’t have any preserved ginger, four slices of peeled fresh ginger. I left it to simmer in the mix until there was the right amount of ginger tatse.

Nothing fancy. Ice-cream in the middle, and the excess rhubarb compote and ginger peaches around.

Meal

Mussels were great, although the appeance of the mille-fieulle reminded me a little of when I’d have smoked oysters on crackers as a kid. No bad thing. Toni liked the stack and the spinach with it. The curry was very mild.

The pork was typically tasty and crackled up nicely. The garlic mellowed and the potatoes were crisp. The sauce looked a little thin, actually near translucent. I should have reduced it by the recommended two thirds, but the taste was robust enough as I’d already reduced the stock I used.

Dessert was great. Nice matching with the ginger apricots. Adulty.

Could I live with a car like this?

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bound


I’m backtracking here [cue waviness] but I should keep the recipe count up a bit and, as I didn’t get much of a chance after the New Years Eve dinner, I thought it’d be worthwhile going over the dinner in a bit more detail.

Chook and Sue and us decided two weeks before to have a proper dinner party for New Year at their place and the numbers were going to be from four to sixteen. They ended up being 11. The main concern was to allow the dinner to stretch through the evening so midnight would be part of it. This would be achieved by increasing the number of courses and this isn’t necessarily a hard thing to do. A cold soup can be made in advance. Seafood entrees are best left simple. Vegetables can be their own course. A sorbet isn’t too hard. A cheeseboard is just shopping and arranging, leaving only dessert and mains as the main concern. So seven courses isn’t much more of a stretch. They were:

Vichyssoise with a crayfish bisque base
Oysters with crème fraîche and salmon roe, ponzu sorbet, and champagne and chives sorbet
Sue’s Vegetable Terrine
Pear and limoncello sorbet
Spatchcock marinated in pomegranate syrup stuffed with lemon and thyme with poached baby pears, fig, and rosti
Cheeses
Gummo Trotskies – champagne zabaglione on pannetone with persian fairy floss and berry coulis


Chicken too dull, quail too small, pork too feasty, lamb too sunday, seafood too entree, venison to medieval, rabbit too pricey, pigeons too feral, steak too pubby, so this kind of left spatchcock. Spatchcock, poussin, is really just a young chicken and is a perfect size for mains with a surprising amount of meat. They’re also very reasonably priced at around $7 each. I thought I’d approach their cooking from a quail perspective and drew from a couple of recipes. I also decided to debone them, which was a considerable amount messy work, but good practice and it saves the guests from the pile of bones that shouts they’ve eaten a whole animal. And I then stitch them up again as if nothing had happened. The bones, handily become part of the stock. To compensate for the moisture giving properties of the bones, I bought some backfat and stuffed each one with half a lemon – and basted well. The only hiccup was the impossible task of finding kitchen string on NYE, which we ended up finding in a hardware store.

Spatchcock
Debone. This involves slicing down the backbone, working around the rib cage and dislocating each joint so there’s only one bone in each limb. If you come over to my place I can show you. The marinade is from a Moroccan recipe in the Delicious-let’s entertain (or just drink enough to give a semblance of) book that called for rose jam and since I couldn’t find any or had the disposition to make any, I used pomegranate molasses instead (sadly it was a month or so before pomegranates are in season). The amounts are for 11 spatchcocks: 6 crushed garlic cloves; 1tbs ground cumin, 1 tbs ground cumin; 3tbs pomegranate molasses; 1/3 cup of lemon juice and 1/3 cup of olive oil.

Once they’ve marinated for a few hours, stitch them up and truss them. You need half a lemon, a twig of thyme and a piece of backfat inside, and a piece of backfat over the breast.

Place them in the oven at 220 for 10 minutes and then lower it to 180 until cooked. I can’t recall how long exactly they took but I’d be surprised if it was as much as 30 minutes. Keep a sharp eye on them and give them a baste. They were done before the skin could brown which was a shame. In hindsight I could have browned them in a pan or given them a blast with the kitchen blowtorch.

Cherry Sauce
A Keith Floyd sauce and apparently good for all non-piscean white meat.
The chicken stock was already made so to complete the sauce: 250gm of pitted cherries, 3tbs chopped parsley, 1 tbs chopped dill, one glass of white wine and enough chicken stock to cover. Simmer gently for 15 minutes. Thicken with mashed together 25gm of flour and 25gm of butter. Add bits of it gradually, stirring constantly. Boil rapidly for two minutes and then puree.

Poached Baby Pears
These were a great last minute find at the Innaloo fruit and veg shop. Peel the pears, slicing the end off to allow it to stand, and rub with lemon juice to prevent discolouration. Poach a saucepan in white wine and chicken stock covered with a sheet greaseproof until they’re tender without being mushy.

Figs
Slice vertically, just there for looks and vitamins.

Rosti
aka Potato Cakes. I saved myself a lot of bother by finding a kind of blini pan – looked like a very shallow muffin tray. I could then cook them all at the same time rather than cook each one in a frypan.

Grate the potato into fine strips. You’ll have to use the mandolin for this job so mind your fingers – losing half a spud is better than several stitches. Once grated you need to get rid of the excess water and this can be done my sandwiching it between two boards with something heavy on it, harmless depleted uranium shells for example.

Shape them it to the pan (must get very small frypan too) and roast in the oven with a generous dollop of goose fat on each one. You can heat the fat beforehand to give it a bit of a head start.

spatchcock marinated in pomegranite syrup stuffe with lemon and thyme with poached baby pears, fig, and rosti.

Arrange nicely on a plate, spatchcock on the rosti, a tasteful drizzle of cherry sauce, pears in three, and a slice of fig. Tasty. Very easy to prepare during the meal as it’s just stuff in and out of the oven and would make for a very neat small dinner party.

Oh and you may have noticed the green ingredients. I found a cookbook with someone else who just puts the ingredients in mid-dialogue but distinguishes them by doing them a different colour. He’s this mad wild haired speccy English guy who lives on a farm and goes on about back to basics produce. He’s got this fantastic big book out but I can’t remember his name. Anybody know?

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Lamb Rack with potato salad, slow roasted tomatoes, onion jam, and jus


Fucking great, really great. Yes it was.

There’s not anything particularly original or new here but I liked how a lot of different things came together making it a very personal dinner party menu for two good friends from England. Tasty too.

dhufish in phyllo


This is the dhufish wrapped in phyllo pastry. Jo gets Gourmet Traveller and didn’t know what dhufish, which is a great shame, so I chose this for the entree. I like it with just butter but this recipe fancies it up without overwhelming the fresh sweet taste. The recipe is pretty much taken straight out of the Second Simple Cookbook by Athol Thomas. The book has been a great help in cooking Western Australian seafood.

Make a herb butter out of 125gm of butter with one tablespoon of green peppercorns and the juice of one lemon. Place the butter on each fillet and wrap each one with a sheet of phyllo pastry, sealing underneath with some melted butter. Put in a well buttered baking tray and cook for 15 minutes at 200C.

The sauce is a reduction of white wine with a tablespoon of tarragon and then whisked some cream in. I’d made a bisque earlier that day (like you do) and added a tablespoon to the sauce and then added a few small pieces of butter.

Lamb Rack with potato salad, slow roasted tomatoes, onion jam, and jus


I revisted this recipefor the lamb rack. I left out the mushrooms as being summer something cooler would be nice. To accompany it I made a warm pea and potato salad with a tarragon, parsley, and chive two yolk mayonnaise. Thinking of bernaise sauce, I briefly boiled the vinegar for the mayonnaise with a tablespoon of tarragon before adding it to the egg yolks. Once the mayonnaise was made I added a tablespoon of the parsley and the chives. The kipfler potatoes were cut into small cubish shapes, they do this at Jacksons with a higher order of precision but it’s a good idea. Several smaller pieces will have more surface ares than one larger area [I'm sure there's some way of working out how much more but ermm help - no wait if it was four cubes it would be the existing area plus the addition of two sides of area for the horizontal and vertical cut so additional area=a x (n-2) where a=the area of one of the original sides and n=the number of new pieces] and this means more area for the mayonnaise to rest on. The size also balances nicely with the peas. Peas are in season at the moment so I shelled and cooked them until cooked without being soft and refreshed under cold water. [ Slight digression I made a nice pasta sauce for rigatoni the other night with freshly shelled peas, pancetta, EVOO, asparagus, garlic, and plum tomatoes] Alll Mixed together with a couple of chopped spring onions.

Instead of cooking the red onions with the lamb, I made a relish out of it. Cook the onion until golden and add 3tbs of raw sugar and 3 tbs of white wine vinegar and cook, stirring, until thick.

The cherry tomatoes were cooked with EVOO, salt, and rosemary in a 200C oven for 10 minutes and then cooked at 150c.

The sauce is a mix of beef stock, red wine, and a little cream whisked in for colour.

For cooking the rack, sear the sides in duck fat and then roast in an oven at 180C for 12 minutes on each side. This allowed it to be cooked evenly through but cut back to maybe 20 minutes for a rare finish. Allow to rest in foil for 10 minutes.

Watermelon Mojito Sorbet


A break from ice-cream due to non dairy dessert preferencing guests. Get about four cups of watermelon, puree it and take a cup and heat it with a third of a cup of sugar and a tablespoon of basil. Heat until the sugar had melted and strain. Add to the rest of the puree with the finely chopped rind and juice of two limes and a third of a cup of white rum (I’m not sure how much exactly – just what was left in the bottle). Popped in the ice-cream maker until nice and frosty. You can alternatively use the freeze stir and bash method. The alcohol is what gives it a bit of mushiness, maybe a little too, no just right.

Apparently in England, if you hit an animal with your car you can’t claim it, but the following car can.

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confit of rabbit with beetroot wontons, rabbit liver pate, celeriac mash, parsnip, and a mustard cream sauce.

This is the main course for An Extremely Good Dinner Party

Let’s get the bits I didn’t like out of the way. Technically it’s not much harder to assemble than a double cheese burger and looks like it. Not happy with the bits hanging over the side, the mash is hard to see because the wontons are too large, what you can see looks too lumpy. The strips of parsnip could have been much crispier – temperature was too low. The chops also look a bit pale and more of a zap with the blowtorch could have helped. A little more consistency with the shapes of the pate would have been better too.

In the end that didn’t matter too much because within a few minutes it was in bits over the plate. There was a lot I liked about it. Firstly there was about three days of idle thinking about it in order to get a cohesive dish out of a number of factors hinging around a rabbit carcass. This is why there was an eep and, apologies in advance, when guest number five was going to be a vegetarian and a huzzah when they weren’t coming. There was also a good measure of serendipity in having stuff around like chicken stock and pasta dough. The other good thing was every last bit of rabbit that I had was used in some way. If I’d skinned it myself, I could have made an attractive hat.

Just to make things more logical in a Cooking For Engineers kind of way, I’ve done a flow-chart to simplify things [see also: Cassoulet de Castelnaudary flowchart]

rabbit confit map

Cutting up the Rabbit
Four is a difficult number for a rabbit as about 60% of the meat is in the hind-legs, which leaves an unbalanced serve if leeping it in pieces and two rabbits are to many. I decided to shred it. Stuffed was too wintery and boning it is too fiddly. To dismember a rabbit:
-remove the forelegs by cutting where you think the “shoulder” would be. There isn’t one.
-the rabbit has a kind of double backbone, so run your knife down either side of the middle. Then start trimming off the skin to get to the fillets, you should get four of them.
-dislocate the hind-legs and cut them off. You can shorten the excess bone at the end.
- for this I kept the rib cage intact and worked out double ribbed chops with a cleaver. You can french the ribs, which I believe is to work the meat off.

Marinate the legs and fillets overnight in EVOO, parsley, marjoram, thyme, salt and pepper. The rest gets saved for stock- including the kideys but not the liver, this becomes pate.

Confit of Rabbit
A confit is poaching meat in oil or fat. Originally the confit would have been preserved after being salted but these recipes are hard to find. More common are the unsalted recipes which will keep sealed in the fridge for a month. I was thinking a possible Christmas present but nah.

You’ll need:
1 onion (minced); 3 garlic cloves (minced); sprigs of thyme, marjoram, and rosemary; some sage leaves (chopped); two star anise; 10 peppercorns; white wine; 150ml of goose fat; and enough olive oil and vegetable oil to cover the rabbit.

Get a casserole dish or a dutch oven. Brown the rabbit pieces in goose fat, remove, sautee the onion and garlic and deglaze with a splash of white wine. Add the herbs and spices and place the rabbit pieces on top. I added a chopped stalk of celery form the celeriac as an aromatic. Cover with vegetable oil and olive oil and bring to a very slow simmer (i.e. a couple of lazy bubbles) and then place in a 150C oven.

The exact amount of time varies but mine took 40 minutes plus the time it took to cool. The goal is to get it cooked to the point where it will flake off and shred. Drain the oil and reserve and put the meat to one side and shred. Ideally you’d leave it to the last minute but I reheated it before serving in a little of the oil.

Mustard and Cream Sauce
Make a stock with the rabbit leftovers, bones and kidneys. Usual chopped carrots, onion, celery, parsley, peppercorns and white wine. Add a cup of chicken stock and cover with water. Simmer for a couple of hours. Strain. Refrigerate the stock and scrape the fat off the top when chilled. Reduce and season.

Add a heaped teaspoon of dijon mustard to the stock (adjust to taste) and then whisk in about half as much double cream. Allow to simmer for five minutes, stirring.

Rabbit Paté
Luckily the carcass included a bag with the liver in it. Trim the liver. Sautee half a chopped onion and a couple of chopped cloves of garlic in 50gm of butter and put aside. Sautee the livers until pink inside, add to the onions. Grind 6 cloves, 10 peppercorns, a teaspoon of ginger powder, and a teaspoon of szechaun pepper. Deglaze the frypan with a splash of tequila (no brandy) and then heat the spices though and add it to the liver and onions. Puree. Season to taste. I thought it was a little lacking so I added a splash of port which added a small amount of sweetness and filled in a few gaps.

Celeriac and Parsnip Mash
Boil one celeriac cut into pieces. The pieces should be the same size as the ends of the parsnips*. When soft, mash the celeriac and the parsnip and stir in about a cup in total of milk and butter. Season to taste.

*The remainder of the parsnips can be peeled into strips with a peeler and deep fried in the oil as a garnish.

Wontons
It’s not really a wonton but it also got the name pink pappadam which it isn’t either. All it is, is the other half of the beetroot pasta dough that I had sitting in the freezer, rolled out to a “7″ and then cut into circles. The they’re deep fried individually in the oil and fat from the confit. I used a potato masher to hold them flat while frying.

Assembly
I think that might be all of the ingredients. The timing meant I cooked the confit before leaving and taking it in the pot to Andrea’s place, leaving it to sit. The wontons can be done and kept warm once the oil is drained and it’s best not to leave the mash sitting around. All a bit hard to keep them all together and hot and that’s why it’s handy to have a few trays to pop in the oven.

Make a ring with bits of paté. I diligently tried to shape them with two teaspoons but ran out of time so just shaped them with my fingers. Wonton in the middle, top with wash, another wonton, then the shredded rabbit meat, another wonton, then the parsnip strips, then the rabbit chop (just cook them in the oil), and top with a thyme flower (which happens to be happening in my garden). Pour the sauce along the ring of pate, take a piccy, and serve.

Eating
Very good, once the niceties of presentation had been smashed it was all scraping up bits of rabbit and mash, catching some crunchy wontons and a little bit of pate with the sauce. I couldn’t have been happier with it. A lot of work but mucho satisfaction in thinking about how it all came together.

Also
A rocket salad and spinach made with a vinaigrette of EVOO, red wine vinegar, dijon mustard, and red horseradish (found it at Elmars).

Ahk that’s it. I’ll proof this later.

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tuna swordfish and a mango salsa

This is the entree for An Extremely Good Dinner Party. I left Andrea to decide on the seafood for the entree so I could do a daring last minute menu decision. The sheer drama. Actually I’ve decided that the less done to seafood the better and it was unlikely it was going to be geoduck. After much no I’m not telling you what to buy to and fro text message around four said “bought nice pieces of tuna and swordfish”. Can’t think of a particular reason I chose a mango salsa to make but mangoes are just in season and it would go better with both the swordfish and tuna. The combination of cooked and raw was a daring riposte to food hygiene and a combination only previously possible in microwave pies. Make your own:

Salsa:
1 mango chopped (it’ll mush anyway); juice of 1 lime and half its peel very finely chopped (no pith); half a red chilli finely chopped (no seeds); small handful of coriander leaves; half a red onion finely chopped; one spring onion white finely sliced; and a large splash of EVOO. Mix to blend but retain some ingredient integrity.

Slice the tuna steak and the swordfish steak into equal sized cubes. Mine were a bit over half an inch. Swordfish mixed in with some olive oil. Technically the proper word with tuna is seared but the pan wasn’t hot enough because I was showing off by taking the wok off the heat and giving it a flick. The tuna was left raw and as was.

Spead some salsa around the plate in a circle, reserving a little. Stack the tuna and the swordfish, pour the remaining salsa over and garnish with coriander.

Looks real purty with a nice mix of colours (the tuna and the swordfish are matched in the red onion) and I really did enjoy the contrast of the two fish.

champange and a celeriac

I’ve had bigger, messier, unlikelier, more fractious dinner parties but this one, and Toni will back me up on this, was the best one ever. Not in the world mind, although the cheese board was voted best on globe at 1:30am – in Perth of all places, who would have thought? But the best I’ve ever done. So I’m just basking at the moment and grateful that a shitty, rotten week for a friend gave me this opportunity – so hooray for misfortune.

The deal was a sweet one. I’d come over and cook and bring mains and dessert and she’d provide the nibblies, the seafood for the entree, the cheese and the booze. The resulting menu was this:

Apéritifs
Dolmades, stuffed peppers, baba ganoush, marinated artichoke, and pickled onions (really good, from the Boatshed) with Champagne and Lillet (never had it before but it’s quite lovely and looking like number one sunny afternoon refresher-nicer with a bit of lime, is this wrong?)

befores

Entree
Tuna and Sashimi Tuna with a Mango Salsa
paired with a Beaujolais which didn’t quite work but was interesting and the Louis Jadot was tasty enough for me not to care less)

Main
Confit of Rabbit in a stack of beetroot wantons/pink pappadams with celeriac and parsnip mash, fried parsnip, and a rabbit paté with a mustard cream sauce.
There was a Chianti there but I can’t remember which one, and a Spanish wine and a local Harewood 2002 Pinot Noir.

20 Minutes of Clubbing and a Double Espresso

quick boogie

Dessert
Pistachio and Rosewater Crème Brûlée
with a Vasse Felix Semillon Dessert Wine

stickies

Cheese Board
I’m struggling here – a blue, a goats cheese, quince jelly, dried grapes, a brie, chocolately pistachio things, a Capel something and bottle of Miranda Golden Botrytis.

messy cheese platter

This was my first real attempt at full blown foot to the floor fancy and it’s rewarding that it worked out, especially after a day moving furniture. The entree and the dessert were pretty straightforward, the mains a little more complex but I’ll post the recipes over the week.

pork crackle and asparagus souffle


Soufflé
, for those who don’t know, is the French word for breast. A fact I constantly marvel at. Who can look at these delicate treats without recalling Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People with Lady Liberty’s soft orbs swelling out of their restrictions? Who indeed? And who also would have thought that me, a man of 36, had not yet mastered such delights. It is true.

Now I’m not going to tell you how to make one. You should have a cook book that explains how to make a savoury one and if you don’t, then I can’t, in good faith, be an enabler.

The idea was to go to the grower’s market and see what was fresh looking and use that as a base. In the mean time I’d bought some pork belly for the mains, and left with the skin, thought I could do something with it. What goes nicely with pork? Asparagus. Think of asparagus wrapped in bacon. Yes.

The skin gets scored and then covered with oil and salt and crisped to a crackle. Then it’s chopped up into small pieces. I was thinking here of the nice Turkish Delight souffle they do at Jackson’s but instead have little bits of crunchy porky interest. Marking, in a way, the transition of pub snacks, as a marker on the road of life.

souffle ingredients

Things to know about this base. Seven thick asparagus are trimmed at the tough end and peeled. I removed and set aside the top parts as a garnish . Boil the asparagus in salted water until soft without being soggy. Chop into small pieces. Cook further in butter and a splash of walnut oil. Add this to your base, which should be a well combined white sauce of butter, flour, milk and the eggs yolks. In the interests of time, this can be made earlier and reheated when needed. Season with salt and pepper.

Whisk the 5 egg whites. Lots of things can go wrong here. Make sure there’s no yolk in there. Cracking the eggs into one container and then transferring to another will save you having to chuck out five eggs and starting again. Use a bowl that is immaculately clean. Ive heard talk of copper bowls preventing over-whisking but you have to ask yourself, treat the cause or treat the symptom? It should go nice and glossy and if there’e the slightest trace of graininess. Stop. Working quickly, mix a third in with the base to loosen it and then carefully fold in the rest of the whites to get a good mix without losing volume.

The ramekins need to be rubbed thoroughly with butter, refrigerated until hard, and then rub with more butter. Fill to within a finger’s breadth of the top, drop some pieces of pork craackle in, and place in a 210C oven.

The recipe I had was for one large souffle and the total time for this would have been 30 minutes. I stopped at 20 but it was a little overdone. The bind is that if you open the oven too early to check, the souffle can collapse. I’d estimate around 15 minutes for single ramekins.

Rush to the table, save one for a super quick pic, and serve with the ends cooked in butter.

It was nice. Taste a little on the subtle side and maybe it needed a little something else. The porkiness of the crackle, provided localised interest, but didn’t travel far. It was nice and airy but really, I’d enjoy well made scrambled eggs better.

braised pork

The rest of the meal, for the visitation of his purpleness of Brisvegas, was a pork belly/pork-chop and cabbage braise served with celeriac-potato-sweet potato-jerusalem artichoke mash. Maybe I’ll explain it all later. It was topped with deep fried strips of parsnip. A trick I nicked from work. To finish, Kate took time out to redeem herself of her murdacious evilness to make a deeelicious rhubarb and apple crumble.

Thank you hosty: Kitchen Chick: IMBB 20: Has my blog fallen?

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lamb and risotto

This is post number 502. This would make number 500, me eating a frozen dinner. How auspicious, ah well. Doesn’t time fly.

Dinner for six on the Sunday was going to be a lasagne, being inspired by an emailed recipe from the Flute (been on the telly ya know). Not to be, I saw myself messing about with a pasta maker and settled for the thirty or so minutes of careful stirring of a risotto. It’s still seasonal for root vegetables and I’ve been impressed with celeriac of late, Brussel sprouts are also out and they were chosen for: I was shown how to remove and cook the leaves; they add a bit of colour; people don’t like them so I could set myself up for one of those magic “don’t usually like “X” but” moments and so huzzah!

Salmon Mousse:
Entree was a salmon mousse which I was happy with as it requires no gelatine, just whipping up some cream and then refrigeration.

1 salmon cutlet – the u-shaped one, fried or grilled until cooked. Let it cool and flake it apart, removing bones and skin. Add 4tbs of EVOO, juice of one lemon (actually have a bit of a taste on this and add as necessary, I may have overdone it a smidgen); a bit of rind scraping; a shake of chilli powder; and a dozen capers. Puree.

Take 300ml of chilled cream and before it sits out too long, whip it . Whip it good, until firm and then carefully fold in the salmon. At this stage I put it into 6 dariole molds but you don’t have to. I did it because I’ve just bought them. In reality they didn’t come out very cleanly so you could just make quenelle shapes with a couple of spoons. Or pop them in glasses maybe. Or serve them on a spoon. Or get yourself a fish mold. Anyway put it in the fridge for at least two hours. The flavours will mingle over time.

It was a bit lemony so I thought a tomato and basil sauce would be nice. Skin (hold the tomato over a flame) and deseed (scrape out) two tomatoes. Puree with a handful of basil and enough EVOO. To get it nice and runny. If you’re going to pour it in a piping bag, be sure to close the other end and ensure that end isn’t near an opened drawer.

Good good good. Creamy, fishy, tarty, and sweet.

Celeriac and Brussel Sprout Risotto with Lamb
Make some chicken stock – it’ll be better than anything you can buy. Go on make some. This weekend. It’ll take you 30 minutes of messing around, tops. Then you can freeze it. The kitchen will smell nice. Here’s a recipe, you might want to chuck a bit of white wine in there too. Free range chicken wings are a cheap way of adding more meatiness to the bones as well. You can use the celeriac stems instead of celery as an aromatic. They are a bit stronger so do lessen the amount accordingly.

Cooking: 1 cup of finely chopped leek, eschallot, and onion. Sautee in EVOO until soft, add 500gm of aborio rice and stir until it’s starts to go a little golden. Pour in a glass of white wine, and stir until absorbed, add another glass of white wine and stir until absored, add a glass of red wine and stir until absorbed, and then move on to the stock a cup at a time until the rice is cooked. It should still have a little bit of bite. This slow process coats the rice and makes it creamy.

Additions: Chop the ends off a dozen brussel sprouts and remove the leave. The outermost leaves are the bitterest so you can get rid of them, and you can toss the white bits too. Soften a little in a frypan with some oil. Reserve some of the leaves for garnish.

Peel one celeriac and chop into small cubes. Parboil then roast until soft. Mash a little. You want some mashy bits and some pieces.

Add these in about 5-10 minutes before the risotto is ready.

Lamb:
The lamb chops were in a rack and it’s lovely way of doing them. There’s a really nice feeling as you slice through it when it’s done. Shame mine weren’t as pink as I like them but, well, guests. Simply done. Marinated in some chopped rosemary, red wine, EVOO, and garlic and roasted on a couple of rounds of leek. Rest for 10 minutes before cutting.

Stir a large dab of butter through the risotto, top with a chop, garnish with some brussel sprout leaves and serve.

Very nice. I had wanted to add walnuts but celeriac already had that nutty taste so not necessary.

That’s it. Just make sure if your jeans are a bit low, to bend at the knees when reaching down for the warming tray in the oven.

fini

And: hello and welcome to the good people of Sadly, No!

Also – how does it feel? A waffly defence of this dish in the moral realm to prove why I don’t write about these issues much – Veganism and civilisation


green tea ravioli with red bean paste

A quick apology for the rather low standard of presentation but I really can’t be arsed by the end of a dinner. Not that this is any excuse for a lack of skills in this regard. I should learn to do the swirly thing with the satay stick or something.

chotda pack uh oh

A little while ago I was lucky enough to receive a package from kindly Santos of Guam. Her generous efforts at a stretching my parameters were sadly confounded by our strict quarantine laws. I’m happy to announce Australia is still free of the scourge of banana flowers and medicinal bark. Apparently if you want to get food past customs you tell them it’s delicious with mayonnaise. Don’t bother with a Bhudda statue. The lesson is – send cash. Anyway I was left with rice paper and Korean green tea flower (which given my current embarrasing social habit, I was surprised I didn’t start chatting in Japanese with it). I could have combined the two but had a different plan.

My first one was to make green tea beignets and then stuff them but I thought the red bean paste I wasn’t to use wasn’t fluid enough for the task. Instead I was inspired by the fried chocolate ravioli I helped with on Thursday and thoought I’d go with a variation of that.

eggs and green tea flour green tea pasta roller ravioli cutter

The green tea pasta was your standard pasta recipe but with the addition of a tablespoon of sugar and the use of green tea flour. I’m not going to tell you how to make pasta, instead you can go here. The green tea flour wasn’t totally amenable but the pasta maker takes a bit of practice and I don’t think I’ve used mine more than twice this century. Ruggedy ragged edges aren’t too much of a problem if you’re just going to stamp it out anyway. Run it through to a 5 thickness.

The red bean paste – an freezes quite happily and was left over from IMBB#15 Mizu Youkan – detailed making instructions to be found there including showtunes.

Well then it’s rather easy. Cut out enough pasta for the ravioli stamp to fit comfortably, add a teaspoon of the bean paste, place another piece of pasta on top and, after squeezing out any excess air, stamp. Repeat. Deep fry until crisp at 180C and serve.

It was served with a gamache mix of half cream/half dark chocolate melted over a double boiler. Some cream for the plate and a slice of frozen custard apple as an afterthought. Santos has the goods on custard apple aka atis.

Well it was good. I would have liked a little more bean paste in my mine but it’s not to everyone’s liking. The green tea flavour was quite mild and the ganache nicely in unsweet unison. The custard apple, which I’ve never had before, and suspect it may not have quite been right.

Now as for the rest of the meal. I’d asked a couple of friends and a bit after 4 Toni asked me what I was making and I realised I had no idea. So a quick trip to the shops just before they closed at 5 had me sorted for guests at 6:30.

spanish mackeral

This is the spanish mackeral caught by Local Man Catches Large Fish who would be joining us for dinner.

The spanish mackeral was in cutlets and it’s just a matter of removing the skin. Using my tip from the Kaiaseki workshop, I coated it in salt for half an hour and rinsed to remove some of the fishy smell. Cooked in nice hot slab of butter with the addition of flat leafed parsley and tarragon and a splash of vinegar and served with aparagus mixed after cooked with lemon peel、parsley, tarragon, and butter.

A lovely piece of fish it was.

chicken and walnut fettucine with chilli pesto

Since the pasta maker was out, I made some plain fettucine as well. Not too hard but I hanker for a plastic pasta hanger as it was a bit of a tangle. Actually comes apart quite nicely when cooking which happens in about four minutes.

For the pesto – one chilli, deseeded and chopped; two crushed cloves of garlic; pinch of salt; handful of toasted pine nuts; and handful each of parsley and parsely; process, adding EVOO until it gets to the right pasticity. Stir in some grated parmesan cheese.

Chop us some chicken thighs, marinate in pepper, lemon juice, and olive oil and cook in a pan. Toast handful of walnuts. Add to the pasta and the pesto and serve.

A swell mix of textures and home made pasta really is better.

So that’s WTFDYWMTDWT kinda done for now, lasts month’s IMBB-fried has been done but a bit late; and with green (carbohydrate subjected to heat) eggs and an, I’ve done EoMEoTE#10.

Goodnight.

Hey! check out what’s at An Electronic Restaurant by Masterchef “Noodle Cook” and Oslofoodie has made pancakes.

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kingfisher sashimi and seaweed salad

A bit of photographic redemption here. Had Kate and Jon over for dinner last night and made a nabe. You can read about them in a bit more detail in this post on Red Emperor Nabe. This one was a slight variation using chicken stock and gyouza as the main addition. Entree was kingfish sashimi with a seaweed salad – bought at the Innaloo fish markets. Main was the nabe with – gyouza, chicken dango, choy sum, tofu, bamboo shoots, and daikon. Dessert was the chai panna cotta. Mucho beer and wine to ease the anxiety of having guests from Sydney but they’re both from the country too so we sat around and said yip, yeah, and bewdy.

nabe greens

gyouza and chicken dango

The idea for this nabe came from the small and very beautifully presented いまどきのなべ (right now nabe?) by 松田(Matsuda)美智子(beautiful something girl’s name) here.

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lychini pork bean curd wraps crayfish and spring onion
szechwan pepper chicken garlic beef and tofu unsuccessful dessert

I like Chinese. The problem is that it’s an open ended dinner that doesn’t necessarily have to stop at three dishes, particularly as I usually decide that all major meat groups must be addressed, so it became five. They were:
Pork and Mushroom Steamed Bean Curd Rolls; Crayfish with Spring Onion; Szechwan Red Pepper Roast Chicken with Chinese Sausage Stuffing and Chinese Greens; Slow Cooked Beef and Tofu with Fried Rice; Unsuccessful Annin Dofu.

Afraid I won’t be listing all the recipes (I do have a life you know, no really, well lazy’s a bit harsh, I did make a garden bed the other week, no I know it’s not finished) but would like to point you in the way of Yan-Kit’s Classic Chinese Cookbook. It’s comprehensive, well detailed, and most of the recipes follow similar principles so it’s easy to adapt and improvise to use what you have. This allows you to have a rough idea of what you want to cook, go shopping with a bit whimsy, and nlow you’ll be able to make something. A few points.

Tapioca chips are great for pre-dinner snacks as an alternative to prawn crackers. All natural Maxi from Indonesia.

The pork and bean curd rolls were my own creation after I noticed some sheets of bean curd at the Asian grocery store and thought I could do something. It was pork cut into “matchsticks” and marinated in rice wine-splash, peanut oil-splash, sesame oil-teaspoon, soy sauce-splash, and potato flour-teaspoon. Next was a couple of sliced chinese sausages. They come in plastic packs and are sweet and tasty. Very roughly chopped Straw mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, water chestnuts and spring onions. All ingredients cooked together in a wok with some cooked glutinous rice mixed in for volume. Now lightly steam or moistened the bean curd sheets and cut into 15cm x 15cm, place a heaped tablespoon of the mix in the middle and roll like a very fat spring roll. Steam in a steamer for 10 minutes and serve. Very tasty but the mix of chewy, crunchy and soft textures is marvellous.

Hmm think I’ll finish this later. Tata! back later
….
Ah yes. The Szechuan chicken recipe is here. However this time I kept it whole and gave it a stuffing of chinese sausage, shiitake mushrooms, glutinous rice, garlic, and spring onions. Cooking it flat seems to get a better response but the stuffing was good. Forgot to put oyster sauce on the bed of steamed chinese greens which made them a little dry.

Glutinous rice is great but needs to be soaked for the good part of a day so keep that in mind. Otherwise leave to soak in hot water. I cooked one lot in the steamer to go with the beef and tofu, just wrap it in a towel. After drying a batch out on a tray and stir-fried it with garlic and spring onions in the fat from the chicken’s roasting tray. Yum. Beef cooked slowly with garlic for two hours, well you can imagine how good that was. And the fried tofu held up well.

Crayfish (from Rottnest from Doctor A) matched well with the spring onions, ginger, and rice wine and I like the idea of deep frying the crayfish pieces for 10 seconds before stir frying them.

Finally the Unsuccesful Annin Tofu started as a simple condensed milk and almond essence “tofu” became coconut milk thanks to the free banana giving shop lady’s persuasive powers. Then layers of kiwi fruit and passionfruit but I read that agar agar gives a tougher jelly so I backed off a little and ended up more on the soup end. Ah well.*

As for the dinner, well it was fun. Chris and Crafty came along. As did the doctor and Anna. A thank you to them all for the drinks, gifts and company. A diverse night of chat, neighbourhood yoof threatening (bone tweezers!), and an altercation with a coffee plunger.

dinner party seating

* feck!
Note: Those paying attention will have noticed that many of the ingredients are remarkably similar. Hey? Hey? See what I’m getting at here?

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lapindinner

Rabbit as meat evoke a number of different responses but my position is this, they are furry vermin and I have no qualms whatsoever about eating them. In fact, I looked forward to it.

The opportunity was number four (previously: Cassoulet de Castelnaudary; Bouillabaisse; Canard laqueau miel)of our reasonably regular French Dinner Party series on Saturday. I was to make the main again and Veronique would do entree and dessert. I chose a rabbit and tapenade recipe from Provence in the Culinaire Francais. The accompanying vegetables were left a little later being distracted and all by afternoon adventures with Robbie with a quick-cut saw and a sledgehammer. At the mercy of the half an hour til closing supermarket, working through budget shoppers, I had a rough idea and it obliged. Baby carrots, stuffed zucchini, and mushroom pouches.

Rabbit:

lapin filletWorking with a whole rabbit, the challenge is to get it into four fillets and a sheet of thin torso meat to wrap them in. The remaining bones become stock. I can only advise what I did and that is to work under the meat in the parts closest to the bone, popping bones at the joint to work the meat out. You should eventually get four largish pieces of meat from the hind legs and the side (the saddle). The sheet of meat around the torso require care so it doesn’t tear or pierce. Trim at the front and back and slowly work it off. It became two sheets as I couldn’t detatch it cleanly from the spine. It slow and fiddly, the bones are tiny and the sinews are like parcel twine. Any meat left will flavour the stock and you can also add small pieces to the fillet roll.

Season the sheets with salt and pepper and spoon tapenade over them (I used a local Wyening Mission Farm kalamata olive tapenade). Place the fillets inside and roll it up and secure with string.

The rabbit stock is much like any stock with carrots, leeks, and celery as the aromatics and a bouquet garni of bay leaf, rosemary, thyme wrapped in the green part of a leek. In this a glass of white wine is added to the ingredients, reduced and then water is added to just cover. Cook for 20 minutes and then strain. Reduce to taste, this will become the sauce.

sofacentral

Vegetables:

The stuffed zucchini were based on a recipe in the Cordon Bleu at Home and making an effort for visual presentation, they added a vertical element. Slice the zucchini into 5cm lengths and hollow out a tunnel that leaves about 7mm of wall. Keep the leftover bits for the stuffing and the ends to top. I made the stuffing by cooking finely chopped bacon, leek, parsely, chives and celery with the leftover zucchini and pumpkin seeds in butter and mixing it with fresh breadcrumbs and an egg. Parboil the zucchini in salted water for 5 minutes, rinse under cold water, and fill with the stuffing. Place vertically in a buttered bread pan and cover with foil.

The carrots were part elgiacally inspired by Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn:

Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal yet,

and part me being a vindictive bastard. Peeled with a few cm of the the greens left on. Traditionally cooked in Vichy water, I susbsituted with a suitably interesting Italian sparkling mineral water.

The mushrooms pouches are flash and easy. They would have to be considering the state I was in when I successfully made them at The Dinner Party that was a Complete Shambles about 12 years ago. Soak the dried porcini mushrooms in warm water and then mince with field/portobello mushrooms. Cook in butter with chopped chives and drain out the excess moisture. This will prevent the pouches from breaking. Cut filo/phylo/phyllo pastry into bread plate sized rounds. I used three sheets to get the required amount of strength. Fiddly stuff, my kitchen looked like writer’s block circa 1950. Place a spoonful of mix in the middle, gather the edges around, and tie with string. The string will be replaced with the green part of chives quickly softened in boiling water. Liberally brush with melted butter and place on a baking tray.

Bundle everything into the car with camera and tripod and off you go

Cooking:

The times all fit together nicely for minimal stress
-Bake the zucchini for 45 minutes, removing the foil to baste and finally brown.
-The rabbit is quickly seared on all sides in olive oil and then roasted for 15 minutes at 190c, basting regularly, and allowing to rest for 10 minutes.
- the mushroom pouches cook in the oven in 15 minutes
- the carrots take about 10 minutes to cook in the boiling mineral water.

Slice the rabbit into equal portions, place on the plate with the vegetables and pour the stock over.

Dining:

cheese-BEFORE-dessertVery civilised. Seemed to be a much shorter aperitif time so the poonk CDs stayed in their cases. I really enjoyed Veronique’s entree of pesto of flat leafed parsley and roasted garlic on toast. Should get the recipe. I was very proud of my mains. The vegetables rewarded me for the attention I paid them and after my misgivings about the doneness of the duck at the last dinner party, I was thrilled that the rabbit was cooked to juicy perfection. Given it takes about 30 minutes to get from bench to plate, it’s a good choice for a low stress dinner meat. Cheese followed, as is the custom I was told, then finally Veronique’s pear cooked in a vanilla sauce with double cream. My only regret was the Barwick Estates Pinot Noir, only made it as far as the entree. Light and tasty, it would have made for a great pairing with the rabbit. Ah well, I’ll just have to do it all over again.

poirelapin

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daikonsalad

Precision is a bad thing. Unless specifically stated, I wouldn’t trust any of the measurements I give. Not that I said there was garlic when there wasn’t, but two teaspoons could have a margin of error of +/-1tsp. Can’t remember the last time I leveled a spoon. And it’s not that I’m cavalier about the whole thing either, but I don’t want to convey the impression of great science. If I say 1¼ cups of something, then it says that 1 cup was too little and 1½ is too much and because of the accuracy you’d think it was. “One and bit” and the authority dissolves and you can make your own mind up.
This frees us from the dictatorship of the recipe.
So, next time you’re at a friend’s house, take a marker pen and block out a few measurements in their favourite cook book. They’ll be angry at first, people fear autonomy and are reluctant to trust in themselves, but they’ll thank you later.

A few people turned to nearly a dozen on a Friday night I’m back catch-up. That was OK because I had an an easy prep in advance grazing plan. Charcoal burner in the middle of the table, pile of meat, guests cook it themselves, no problem.

Buy some Korean pork and beef marinade and then marinate some pork ribs and finely sliced matchbox sized pieces of rump. This left the chicken and an extra pile of beef that I’d bought as numbers grew.

The beef marinade was a combination of Korean chilli bean paste, vegetable oil, soy, and sake. The chicken was the same but with a splash of sesame oil and two crushed cloves of garlic. I bought one meat dipping sauce and made another of a simple ponzu by mashing in a mortar a couple of limes in 2 parts soy sauce and 1 part sake.

For vegetables, I thinly sliced some pumpkin and made a salad out of daikon. The daikon was thinly sliced on a mandoline into thin rounds with a dressing of rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame seeds, and a small amount of the chilli bean paste and sesame oil.

Home straight. Cook up some koshi hikari short grain rice in the rice cooker. Put some kim chee and nori on the table and then fire up the charcoal. Leaving just drinking, chatting, and the steady cooking of small bits of meat.

koreanbbqtable

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figssageprociuttoSaturday night dinner invite from Craftapalooza in a kind of Perth handfertigkeit blogger conference. Unusually, I had no cooking to do. Nothing, not even a salad. Instead, Toni and I went wine shopping with the nice idea of finding a wine of the same vintage as our wedding anniversary, getting half a dozen and enjoying them over the next 6 years, after which we would divorce amicably. ’98s aren’t the easiest to get a hold of so I went back to the bottle shop at Steve’s, Nedlands and its amazing cellar do see what could be found.

I honestly had no idea, so asked the manager – cabernet, aging potential, light, fortiish. He wandered off to the computer and came back 20 minutes later with a dozen pages of print out puts with likely suspects marked with a biro. Not a good year for Maragaret River but a good one for the Coonawarra region in South Australia. Came down to the Katnook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon or the Majella. 20 minutes of searching yielded 6 bottles of the former so we went with that. Well recommended for their range and their help, a few more occasional good bottles might be in order though it’s hard to just get one with the lure of a 10% discount for half a dozen. Will be trying out the first bottle next week. Hope we like it.

nutbowl

A quick stop at Maison Perry of Dalkeith (actually broadway Nedlands) for the rare Perth treat of a savoury brioche. Handsome looking petite fours but bought some micro-eclairs to take along to dinner. The rest of the afternoon was spent cleaning out the pantry and marvelling at the natural wonder of weevil colonies (apologies to anyone whose had a red lentil curry over at ours).

kormasauce

The Japanese are great avoiders of socially awkward moments and usually avoid eating at the houses of people they don’t know particularly well in favour of restaurants. I’m a little bolder but always make sure to follow a few basic principles. Check for exits – is the front door locked, is there a back door, what do you land on on the other side of the window. Check the kitchen – are the knives on a rail, you’ve got two seconds; in a block, a couple more; in a draw, probaly five or six and they’ll be in the second draw. Household items – sure it doesn’t look like much, but a French Knitting Santa could be your best friend in a tight situation. Be aware – does your seat face the kitchen, good, but is there another way to the dining room behind you. Be prepared – always have a drink in your hand, momentary blinding gives you valuable seconds.

lambkormaDinner. Dinner was wonderful. I’m a big fan of figs and prosciutto but grilling them with a sage leaf and drizzling with burnt butter sauce made all kinds of porky sense. Mains was the barbecued lamb cutlets with the nice touch of being able to do the korma dipping and crushed almond encrusting ourselves. Crunch from the shoot salad and tasty carbos from the Aloo Gobi (yes, yes aloo to you to too). Handy hints were heating the roti in the frezer and keeping flour in the sandwich press. Good stuff. Chris was responsible for these and aptly got them from Delicious magazine. Apparently he’s also a dab hand with pastries and can crank out home made pasta in under 20. I don’t doubt this, I had no here-let-me-do-that-pangs whatsoever.

licoriceicecreamNicole borrowed an ice-cream maker and treated us to home made licorice ice-cream with honey biscuit. I’m usually a bit iffy about aniseed and licorice but this was excellent, creamy without being overly sweet. A perfect finish. I was amazed how smoothly dinner prep went. My own dinner party kitchen efforts usually look like a one man version of Das Boot to the tune of a klaxon.

viellefermeDrinks we’re my responsiblity and went with a Ninth Island Reisling for starters which I found pleasant enough, if a little lemony insipid. Kingfisher lager was to go with the curry and did its job well. Finally I picked up a bottle Perrin 2000 Cotes du Ventoux La Vieille Ferme at Steve’s to try. I love it. LOVE. Australian wines can be all “and on the trombone” but this French wine plucked away at my tongue like a koto. I drank most of it. A grenache I’m told. Under $15 dollars. I would like must have more.

eclairman2The last of the red saw the end of an evening. Quality chat based around a common friend, food, knick knacks, Jawbreaker, and me knowing roughly what a Toyota rokuhachi is (rear wheel drive four significantly lighter than the Volvo) and does (slides). We were seen off with CDs and chutney. A lovely evening, and thanks greatly we’ll reciprocate soon. Forgot the micro-eclairs, bugger.

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duckwithhoney

The description “pure honey” is illegal in France, because honey must always be pure as a matter of course.

A quote from the Culinaria France where the idea for this Provence dish came from. Canard laqueé au miel is a return to the supposed to be monthly classic French dishes dinner parties. Last week’s scallopini and mousse combo took up the 70′s quotient so Duck a L’orange will have to wait.

duckfilletting

Something very satisfying, even when done slowly and clumsily, about cutting up your own meat. Duck is a matter of removing the wings and the legs – a pop of dislocation then cut around. And then removing the breasts by following the backbone closely on either side. This leaves the carcass and a pile of peices of fat and skin that can be rendered down for later use.

The skin and the breast of the limbs was brushed with unprocessed jarrah and banksia (both natives) honey instead of the suggested lavender honey. The carcass becomes a stock. Joining: one carrot; an inch of leek; a stick of celery; and a bouquet garni of rosemary, thyme, 2 bay leaves wrapped and tied with the green part of a leek. Left to simmer for an hour and a half. Let me know if you know of anything that smells better than duck stock. The stock becomes the sauce for the duck, which I’ll return to.

The duck breasts were cooked skin side down in a dry pan until golden, then moved to the oven at 190C for 10 minutes with the limbs, before being allowed to rest for another 10. The pan is deglazed with the duck stock, reduced and then a dab of butter added for gloss. The breasts are, having rested for 10 minutes sliced and the reduction poured over.

potatocakes

Expecting a rich taste, I balanced with stodge of potato cakes with a little bite of added chives and the acidity of tomatoes. The potato cakes were made from grating Royal Blue potatoes, squeezing the moisture out, and then mixing in finely chopped chives. The starch holds them together and they were nicely browned on a stoevtop griddle cooked in the fat of the excess skin. The tomatoes were cooked slowly in a saucepan with butter, leek, rosemary, and thyme. I skin my tomatoes by cutting a cross in the end and then holding them over the burner. I then cut the end off and squeeze out the seeds.

eggplantgratin

The Dinner
Dinner started well with Rob’s dish [pictured] of home-grown eggplants with tomatoes, olive, ham and breadrumbs. For something so rustic is had a very sophisticated combination of salty, sweet, and acids with the creaminess of the eggplant offset by the breadcrumbs. The flavours of the main were good with the tomato and the potato being just right. The duck was a little too cooked for my liking, and as this was my first time, doneness could do with more practice. Veronique pays enviable attention to the presentation of her desserts and her passionfruit mousse with mango coulis was typically superb fare.

Joining us was a ’98 Penfold’s Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz and my wine writing can’t do it justice, while I strain to pick the bouquet in most wines, this one overwhelmed. Very quality. Vodka in the freezer and a lime made for an impromptu palate cleanser between main and dessert.

A good week for food.

passionfruitmousse penfoldsbin3891998 vodkalime

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morgenhofcheninblanc2001

I know it may seem , having got past the initial step of being able to identify wine as wine, that I stumbled at the next stage of distinguishing between red and white. I could ask for pity as I suffer from the debilitating genetic illness of partial red-green colour blindness and subsequent humiliation at the hands of Ishihara test administrators. I’m also prone to the “hardware store effect” as well double-entedric distraction. As a result, I humbly submit to Wine Blogging Wednesday #6 heads down south – South African Reds, a chenin blanc.

The occasion was Greg Manthatcatchesgreatfish was bringing over some dhufish fillets from said great fish for cooking. Joining us was Anonymous of Floreat, glorying in topping the sales figures for Supermart and handily bringing an Australian chenin from a winery bought by a South African. How apropos.

halinabrookchenin

First off was the Halina Brook Estate 2003 Chenin. Unusually north for a West Australian wine with a vineyard near Bindoon. I can only tell you what I wrote on my kitchen whiteboard and that was “densely packed citric bite in an oily enteric coating“. Thinking back it was better than that sounds, a sharp hit that grabbed the tongue with a heavyweight refreshing linger.

Unusually further west was, from Stellenbosch South Africa, the Morgenhof Estate 2001 Chenin Blanc (or “Steen” as they say on the veldt). Immediately noticeable, even to me, was the richer gold colour of the wine. A shade over $20 a bottle, it’s midplaced between equivalent budget bests and lower premiums in price which sets up certain expectations. It has a simple trick and I fell for it. Like any song with a cow-bell, any wine that can tranport its flavour across my tongue in a sherbety fashion will have my love. And it does. Nothing else interfered with it, not the stone fruitiness or the warm nose. If you like this effect I don’t need to tell you any more, in fact I can’t. Thank you South Africa.

dhufishfillet

As for the meal. The dhufish fillets were cooked on a stovetop griddle just in butter. They are not to be messed around with. I found “done” occurred just as the fillet looked like it was going to flake. For a simple match I had Pommes Veronique without the garlic and good dab of goose fat; oven roasted asparagus; and a bernaise without the sorrel tarragon sauce on the side. It’s a magnificent piece of fish, sweet and unfishy without being bland. A West Australian must have.

Egg whites to be rid of led to the soufflé omlette. The combination of 4 egg yolks with 115gm of caster sugar, whisked until pale and creamy with 30ml of Cointreau added once done. Egg whites whisked until stiffly peaked with a little extra caster sugar added slowly for extra hold and gloss. A third mixed in with the yolks and then the rest folded in. Baked in a long baking dish in the oven at 150C for 10 minutes, some strawberries dropped in and then warmed brandy and Cointreau poured over. Light the match and ….. oh well, must have gone straight to the bottom. The dessert that wasn’t there, sugar and booze mysteriously appears in the mouth.

Rest of the meal spent with readings of The Philosopher in the Kitchen. Hilarious. Best thing since the Scarlet Pimpernel.

dishes

Typically well written red round-up from Jeanne at A barrel of South African reds – WBW#6 round-up, Part I and Part II

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021405dinner

Avatar’s saved me having to bag Valentine’s day with a marvellously offensive spray. Yes Valentine’s Day is crapalapdap but it did get me thinking about chocolate and then that I hardly ever make any desserts, and how all this time I’ve been cooking for me, my wants, my needs, my ambitions, and leaving Toni to fend for herself with some Neopolitan ice-cream and tinned fruit salad that I’d nick the cherry out of…

So a mousse recipe I found it was. Doing this I thought dinner should be a wee bit special but still light and Veal Scallopini came to mind. Veal Scallopini made me think of Ruffino Chianti and as I pull out a couple of old champagne(?) glasses for the mousse, I realised the unifying theme was – romantic evening out circa 1972 extraordanaire. All I needed was an excuse to slip into my silky thigh length kimono with the tiger on the back.

lemonscallopini

Veal Scallopini with a Lemon Sauce

Two veal scallopini steaks (ask your butcher) pounded thinly then lightly coated with flour. Fry on each side in a heavy pan in 2tbs of butter and oil. Quick and hot! Remove the scallopini, and the deglaze with 2tbs of lemon juice and 1tbs of butter. Add a little chopped parsely. Return the scallopini to the pan to quickly reheat (don’t cook it) on both sides with the sauce.

Served on bought Cappelleti di Pollo with a simple white wine and cream sauce with a little of the lemon sauce and some lemon zest.

chocolatemousse

Chocolate Mousse with Strawberry Marinated in Port

Oddly more like creamy chocolate crunch as the chocolate turned into crunchy little bits. May have been my losing patience with incremental microwaving. Any idea people?

Melted 100gm of Cocolo Fairtrade milk chocolate with just under a tablespoon of butter until smooth (ideally). Allow to cool.

Whisk two eggs yolks and 2tbs of sugar whisked together over the improvised double boiler of a bowl over a saucepan of boiling water. After four minutes it should be thick so remove and continue to whisk until pale and cool. Add to the chocolate and then mixed in with 100ml of lightly whisked King Island Pure Cream.

Added one strawberry marinated in port to each glass and then filled with mousse. I sliced the strawberries horizontally and the put it back together again so it didn’t have to be eaten in one go as slicing with a spoon in a champagne glass invites danger, no? A splash of port to fill the slight indent around the strawberry.

chianticlassico

Ruffino 2002 Chianti
Chianti so rarely disappoints me. Slightly chilled.

And?
The chianti had the filtered through a bag of socks taste that I love for some reason (repressed foot fetishism?). The mousse was not the saccharine fluff I’d had ages before but a solid amalgam of milk products and chocolate and a crunchy delight, an unwitting success. The veal and pasta was a little too lemony. I should have kept the pasta sauce just plain cream and wine to balance. Toni though, said that the lemon taste was just the thing to offset the humid weather. That and the 6-pack of Beck’s, what a doll.

And in the spirit of things, Santos has valentine’s music if you’re quick.

[I don't think I've had the "post as a redemptive journey" yet, so there ya go genre buffs - collect the whole set]

coldsoba

Let’s see if the reviews are in. Oh good a generous one, but then again, I do know where she lives.

As slow and easy a Japanesey dinner party as there could be. The starting snack was edamame, boiled and salted soy bean bean pods, which were bought ready to defrost and go. An excellent summer snack if you remember not to eat the pod.

bluemanna

Next was a few blue manna/ blue swimmer crabs detopped, delimbed and cut in half and then cooked at the table over a charcoal burner. Cooking this way with the shell makes for sweeter taste and the the flesh is cooked in its own abundant juices.

Finally a classic summer matching of tempura and zaru soba (cold buckwheat noodles). The two use the same dipping sauce so this saves time.

1 cup of dashi*, 1/3 cup soy sauce, 4 tablespoons of mirin, and 2 tablespoons of sake. Brought to the boil and allowed to chill. I use instant dashi as it’s very much in the background but do add to the quality by placing a piece of konbu in the water. You place a mobile phone sized piece in the water, bring it to a near boil, and remove and discard the konbu. Konbu imparts the enigmatic 6th metaflavour umami, artificially associated with MSG powder.

The zaru soba was cooked, ran under cold water and then placed in a bowl with ice. Some of the aforementioned dipping sauce is placed in a bowl, with crushed nori, wasabi, and chopped spring onions. The noodles are dipped in and eaten – it’s not a soup.If the sound of cold noodles doesn’t do it for you, this may change your mind.

Also dipped in the sauce was the tempura. I used a Japanese premix tempura batter for the combination of wheat and rice flour and used very cold soda water instead of water and added a couple of drops of tabasco. The key to making tempura instead of fritters is to ensure that the mix is very cold, I add some ice. And keep the mixture lumpy. These make for an impact with the hot oil and a much more textured and lighter batter. It’s also good to make small batches so every piece is eaten hot. Getting the oil temperature right is difficult but I find it easiest just to do a test piece, too hot and it will burn quickly, too cold and it absorbs too much oil. Under a minute seems about right.

The tempura ingredients were thinly sliced sweet potato, sliced baby eggplant, swiss brown mushrooms, scored baby squid hoods, and spring onions with scallops. The last were my favourite and you can by putting some chopped spring onions and scallop meat in a chinese soup spoon, covering it with batter, and then easing the mix into the oil. It’s a perfect amount of time to cook scallops.

Thanks to Natalie for coming over, being an anvil for my culinary hammer, keeping a cracking conversational pace, and making all the right compliments. I look forward to cashing in my Melbourne dinner credit.

tempura

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nurnbergerrye

Can’t be arsed with pubs sometimes so summer brings beers at ours. Minimal fuss.

A kilo Elmar’s nurnberger sausages, a loaf of rye, some mustard and saurkraut – Hollywood!

A few pickles to kick off with then pop the sausage on the charcoal burner placed in the middle of the table. No dictatorship of the propane master here. Just cozy communal woody smoke warmth. Magnificent.

bicksbabydill

Just in case you were wondering, the table you see is made of Jarrah weatherboard salvaged from a mate’s shed and the centre-piece is an old 3 lidded stainless steel ice-cream freezer top I found on the farm. Just remove the lid and pop in the charcoal burner. Too easy.

Weihenstephaners and Löwenbräu all night finished with Seven Hills (South Australia) Sweet White Sacramental Wine (copy line ahhmmmm Sunday’s Best, Seven Days a Week!). Sweet.

Funny night. Best was the story of house sharing and finding a pat of butter in the fridge with ridge in it and a poil pubien. Ladies, if you find somone claiming “I can’t believe it’s not butter!” mid-congress, tell him Jean says Hi.

germansausages

Handy Hint! If you must use the same tray for uncooked as cooked, line it with a piece of alfoil then chuck it before returning the cooked meat.

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Beer Dinner

About to party like it’s Chimay ’99

A beer dinner party sounds novel or sends predictable signals: curry, counter lunch, pork scratchings. It shouldn’t. Beer has sophisticated and distinctive taste characteristics and is a liquid that has long been used in cooking. I have no idea why but it may have something to do with localised beer dominance or the fact that countries that excel as beer producers have relatively poor cuisines and vise versa. Not naming names here.

The dinner (held on the 13th) was a great food and drink pairing exercise, putting the beer minds of Robbie and Graham to busy work. This was the result.

Following starters of Blue Cheese and Hoegaarden White Dip served with Hoegaarden White by Rhonda. Followed by (pictured) Fullers ESB Onion Soup served with with Bitburger by me.

Aventinus Scallop Coins served with Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier by Sonya.

Vension Shanks cooked in Rodenbach Grand Cru with a Barley and Mushroom Timbale served with 3 Monts by me.

Walnut Aventinus Ice Souffle with Crème Anglais à l’Orange served with Swan Stout by Veronique

Cheese Platter had with 1999 Chimay Grande Reserve by Rhonda with the cellaring discipline of Graham.

Comments

Well to get the mea culpa out of the way, the weak link was the shanks which were mostly undercooked – an overcrowded roasting tray, an insufficiently hot oven, and a tight schedule. My fault entirely and were it not for the lure of the Chimays, I would have offed myself there and then. The rest were excellent. You may have tried most of the beers and the ones you haven’t, do so. None are more expensive than a very very average bottle of wine. I was too busy fussing or drinking for tasting notes so you’ll just have to trust me on this one.

It’s a very heavy evening. We tried to hold it back to around 5% earlier one but from the 3 Monts on, it was serious booze territory and the men folk were dropping like flies. Smaller glasses maybe.

Homework

Try at least one course with a matched beer and consider using beer as a key ingredient in a course. Identify the model plane in the picture and discuss its contribution to ending WWII.

Thanks

To Rhonda and Graham for hosting and to Mark at the International Beer Shop for his enthusiasm and wisdom and an apology for calling him Rob for the past 6 months.

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A pleasantly calm and warm spring evening had my sister and brother-in-law over for a BBQ. Feeling low maintenancy after discovering why I never make terrines, I thought I could give my charcoal burner a go and sit around and have some satay chicken. Still impressed by the Melbourne Gado Gado I was made, I thought I’d have that too.

I was going to just have bought sauce but I found this recipe on the net and the writer shamed me by regarding even using peanut butter as a “so-called shortcut”. Bastard. There are bits of peanut everywhere now but it was good. Pretty much as the recipe says but one lime instead of lemon and sambal olek instead of the chilli powder and shrimp paste.

Chicken Satay

3 Free range chicken breasts cut into bite sized pieces with the following marinade one small onion, knob of ginger, 4 garlic cloves – finely grated; juice of one lemon; 2tsp sambal olek; 2tbs brown sugar; and

1/3 cup of soy sauce
. Served with a sauce of equal parts Hogan’s Satay Sauce and a small can of coconut cream simmered for 8 minutes.

Sat around the table and cooked the satay sticks and ate the gado gado with rice and then moved on to some top notch beef and bacon and then chicken kebabs made by Jean. Finished with a bottle of Krinklewood 2002 Botrytis and a rowdy game of Pop-Up Pirate.

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Bouillabaisse

‘allo can you go

Much discussion about authenticity on this one but authenticity is a much more contrary beast than some would have you believe. There is petty authenticity and great authenticity. Wear the right mirkin buckle at a Mediaeval Fayre and it’s bouquets. Run a sword through Sir Gallahad, brickbats.

I’m not channelling poor Marseilles fisherfolk here so it’s what looks good at the fish shop in the three categories of shellfish, firm fleshed, and soft fleshed. Had in my company, authentic French woman, Veronique, who had the requisite three categories of a french name; the ability to pronounce rouille; and willingness to put up with me going haw haw haw haaaaw. We chose

Blue Manna crabs and Crayfish legs

Fillets of King Snapper and Mangrove Jack

Whole Whiting and Garfish

Dinner would be good. At Tate Estate on newly upholstered chairs and Kiwi Robert was going to the International Beer Shop to get a selection of fine beers.

C’est une tables

6 seeded and chopped tomatoes; two chopped onions; half the whites of a leek; 8 small cloves of *pounded* garlic; a sprig of fennel; a bay leaf; three sprigs of *bruised* parsley; three sprigs of thyme; and a piece of orange peel.

On top of this goes the

Crustaceans

Then with the firm fleshed fish on top of this and a cup of olive oil; salt; pepper; and crumbled saffron. All covered with the quick and easy fish stock I’d made with the whiting and garfish bones. Extra water to cover.

Strategy

We had about four cookbooks open but settled with the Larousse Gastronomique version. I’ve got 643 recipes requiring the aromatics to be sauteed first so this wouldn’t be 644. Just cover, turn the heat on and get it boiling. The boiling is important as it blends the oil in properly. After 9 minutes put in the soft fleshed fish and cook for another 7 minutes. It should take no longer than 15 minutes in total.

Served in bowls with simple bread and rouille.

The meal

Great mussel starter. The bouillabaisse’ stock was superb, especially with the hint of saffron. The crayfish legs were no great shakes but the local crabs topped it. Heavy duty beers were in action all evening. A Spanish beer, Alhambra Reserves 1925 that was more Belgian than Belgians – 6%. Hoegaarden’s as breathers, and the Leffe Brune and the Leffe Radieuse. A great Spanish Basa 2003 Blanco – no citric stilettoes here, smooth with a hint of olives. Hey, how tight are the Dead Kennedys? Didn’t make it to the other one – off my game.

Next Month: Duck a L’orange! Rescued from the 70′s.

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Tagine

What you see above is the Le Creuset Moroccan Tagine. It was a wedding present to two friends for reasons of it being a very cool looking thing and low likelihood of them already having one. As knives are bad luck, finding well established 30 somethings a wedding present is no easy task. Since I liked it† there was a bit of vicarious pleasure to offset the sadness of having to give it away. They were nice enough to invite me to its christening so how could I refuse.††

Tagines are functional to boot, slow cooking, the water rises to the top and cools and then falls back into the dish. You can of course appreciate how this would be important in a desert area. As an added bonus, the very top doesn’t get hot so you can lift it off with bare hands (yes I tried).

Dinner was greatly enjoyed to the fill with a beef and a chicken casserole (forgot to get the official names) and couscous. Worked through a few bottles of Samson Budweisers (round the corner from Budvar); a bottle of 2001 Howard Park Leston Shiraz; and the, must be the zeitgeist that someone else had brought along a couple of bottles of Skuttlebutt Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot .

Finished the evening with cognac and a nasty battle with two engineers in that masterful game of changing conditions, friction and gravity – Jenga.

†something about the tagine that I can’t quit put my finger on

††though due to a scheduling clash I’m now down for 6 dozen fundraising Caramello Koalas to help the fight the forces of darkness.

You’ve been here.

Stir, stir

You remember. You’re staying in a strange house and you have to cook dinner. Numbers go from 4, to 6, to 9 in an afternoon. You visualise the forequarter of lamb in your head. Enough? Risotto for entree, straightforward enough – there’s chorizo in the fridge. The one guest you haven’t met is the chief wine-maker at Vasse Felix. Now the forequarter, is it going to be able to be made into a rack. Chorizo and, and, and, mushrooms should be a safe enough bet. Vegetables with the main. The usual jus should do the trick – shouldn’t have left the bag of dried forest mushrooms back in Perth. Shallots would be nice in the risotto, forget and just get onions.

Stir, stir

Get back with a few hours before dinner. Lamb has defrosted, simple pestled marinade of nuovo olive oil, garlic and rosemary, crushed together. Open an MB. Try to tidy up the forequarter but bone structure unfamiliar. A simple clean up with one of the shanks taken off, remember to keep the offcuts and put them in the bottom of the roasting tray for a better gravy. Rub the marinade over and decide to add some olive tapenade. Cover and leave. Chop up vegetables, thinking small cubes, end up with the usual chunks

Stir, stir

Look for a saucepan for risotto. Find a seventies jobbie that looked ceramic but probably isn’t and has a solitary millimetre of metal all round. Have a sneaky peak in a Jamie Oliver cookbook to make sure you know what you are doing. Sautee the field mushrooms with butter. Crisp up the slices of chorizo with olive oil. Nicely done, set aside. Add the chopped up onion and garlic, sautee until soft in olive oil, add a bag and a half of risotto, stirring until it colours. Ask if anybody wants a glass of white (A Kalgoorlie Childcare Centre Fundraising Chardonnay I think), then chuck a couple in with the rice and stir. Open up the packs of chicken stock, spill half of one over the bench. Heat up in another pot. Open another MB. Go back to veges, dodge Mum making noodles, return to risotto. Keep stirring until wine is evaporated.

Stir, stir

Add the stock and return to vege prepping. Look for a rack ,there is none but settle for propping on veges. Go back to risotto. Rice has stuck ever so slightly, you work it loose with more stock and realise that if as much as one grain of rice sticks and burns, the dish is useless and it’s fish and chips for dinner. Toddler one discovers unstoppably noisy fire engine. Microwave vegetables. Another ladle of stock, more stirring, saucepan is filling in volume. About 30 minutes until ready if I take it easy. Toddler two eyes off my bright green portable stereo with destructive fascination. Return still firm vegetables to microwave. Phone rings, guests will be half an hour late. Turn heat down to murmur. Get given a Slovakian Nude Scratchy Beer. Add another ladleful and keep stirring. Turn away to put roast in the oven and veges underneath.

Stir, stir

Stock running low. Look at beef stockcubes, you decide against it and go for subtle over harsh, dilute stock with water. Nick another glass of wine. Look down to see how the oven is going and it’s slow. Last of the guests arrive. Think you can politely stretch the risotto out for another 15 minutes. Your arm throbs. Check the roast, it’s slow. Turn up head. Field a question about which wine to serve, you shrug shoulders and send out an order for plate and grated pecorino. Down to the last few drops of stock. Give the roast and the veges a quick basting. Look up people still sitting there, gesture to eat. Go back to basting, take a guess on time and back the oven off. Join the table and scoff down the risotto, not bad, someone says creamy, that’s good enough…

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We’ll get the winning score,

Oh hear our mighty roar.

Roar!

Rosbifs

There is the very specific male fantasy of being “called-up”. “Yes Batman, Robin’s sick, right”. The Japanese refer to it as:

small-boy-chosen-by-scientists-to-defend-nation-kon. When I was a complete bastard schoolboy we’d write notices up on the message board for a Claremont Football Club obsessed target of bile that, “Graham Moss called, you’re needed for the match this weekend” or just “Mossy’s on the phone”. I’d like to apologise for this. Anyway, where was I.. oh yes a French friend asked me to cook the main course for Bastille Day.

She lent me two books for inspiration Culinaria France and the

Roux Brothers Good Tastin’ Country Kitchen. The cassoulet I made is based mainly on the former but cross-referenced with the latter. It’s quite a process and I often can only get my head around things pictorially so here’s the flow chart that I scribbled up and gave to my friend. Have a look for the process, recipe, and a glimpse into what goes on in my head.

The cooking is quite simple, if lengthy – two days. The real task in making this classic French peasant dish is getting everything. The meat was no problem, I called Mondo Di Carne in Inglewood and they admirably got everything for me. The real problem was the Confits de Canard (preserved duck/goose legs). I tried Kitchen Essentials and got the very men’s boutiquish – “they are $120 a kg and we don’t have them”. With that and the $50 a kilo haricot beans, I decided a foodie values utility over extravagance and looked elsewhere. I tracked back to the Pressure Cooker Centre to ask the chatty French lady there if she knew. She pointed me to Herdies Fresh where I settled for a jar of duck fat. This jar has one of the most impressive Nutritional Guides I’ve ever seen.

Per 100gm serving

Kilojoules – 3724.38

Fat – 99.8gm

Sodium

Calcium

Cooking was easy, only danger was of passing out from pork and garlic fumes as I drove to the host’s house.

Our host’s Roquefort Soufflé served with lettuce with New Zealand dressing was exceptional, as was the chocolate mousse.

As for the cassoulet. It plays a mean trompe l’oiel*. It looks like sausage and bean casserole but tastes otherworldly. Try it. The humble becomes the exalted – revolutionary in fact.

Vive La France!

FootnoteHistory buffs, and I do mean buff, can research further at Angelina Jolie and the French Revolution where “the tedious soup-plate symmetry of artificial enhancement” meets “St Just invoked the “male energie” of the republic”.

*eggcorn?

Had the local winners of the Spiceblog Name that Obscure Reference and Suggest a Nice Dessert to Bring Over competition over last night . I was going to just give them their free small sized coke vouchers and send them on their way but they charmed their way inside with Erdinger beer and a home-made Chocolate and Berry pavlova.

Request was for curry, but put research project Lamb and Spinach Curry on hold to use the shotgun approach. Had

  • Tandoori Lamb Chops
  • Beef Curry with Coconut and Almonds
  • Pork, Lentil, Spinach and Sweet Potato Curry
  • Aloo Sag
  • very small chapatis – had a “that’s inches moment”.
  • Cardamom Spiced Pistachio Pilaf
  • Cucumber and Yogurt Raita
  • Tomato and Mint Sambal

Good luck if you think I’m going to type up the recipes for all those up – but you can try. I’d like to say it came from a ghee flecked copy of a Madhur Jaffrey book, but it was almost all from religously following one of those little $4 Women’s Weekly supermarket cookbooks that are unfussily tried and true. Not something you’d have sitting on the recipe book holder when guests come round but they worked well.

Massively impressed by the Pavlova itself and the logistics – being brought ready for assembly with berries, cream, and chocolate shavings. Cream was even in a pristine 1970′s green Tupperware container. Serves 8-10 size too.

A few puzzles came up-

1) Our kind Pavlova bringer had trouble keeping it from getting huge air bubbles, cracking or both. Any help?

2) Is clarified butter the only way to make ghee, are there vegetarian versions out there?

3) What’s a good use for brown butter?

I found out the answer for 3) because it seemed familiar

- brains.

Next clever people that come along…