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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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7 day lamb

It looks a bit wrinkly but it's really very good and if you look carefully you can see the adjustment bolts on my hibachi cradle which are not at all a result of poor measuring. It's also a shoulder rather than your classic gigot.

This is a Michel Roux Jr recipe that I’ve removed a couple of minor convolutions from and kept the basic principles. One useful tool is a vacuum sealer because a piece of meat sitting in a bowl in a fridge for a week isn’t ideal for household harmony

- The marinade is your classic French marinade of onion, celery, and carrot (all in big chunks) and then some rosemary, peppercorns, and half a bottle of dry red wine and splash of brandy. Place it in the bad bag with the lamb shoulder, seal and leave in the fridge for a week.
- Separate the lamb, the vegetable and the marinade. Sear the lamb in butter and remove; then brown the vegetables with some chopped bacon; and then return the lamb with the marinade. Top with stock – I used chicken and white verjuice instead of veal. Bring to the boil and skim.
- Cover and cook in a 140C oven for seven hours or until the meat is flaking off.
- Allow the meat to cool in the juices. Here you would let it sit for another day but I just chilled it to the point where the fat had set on top of the liquid and I could just skim it off.
- Remove the meat, carefully strain the liquids and toss the vegetables out.
- Reheat the meat in the liquids, which are by now a lovely rich jus. Once heated the jus can be seasoned and/or reduced to taste.

I served the meat on polenta cooked in half water-half milk and ‘carved’ the meat with tongs.

Fig and Mozarella Salad
This is hiding behind the roast. Figs are gorgeous at the moment – soft, sweet and fleshy – and are quartered and combined with rocket and buffalo mozzarella. I’m not the biggest fan of pre-made dressings but Maloufs Pomegranate Dressing is just brilliant.

Right at the back are some steamed beans with chopped tomatoes, EVOO and sea salt.

Bottle of slightly chilled MyattsField ’08 Tempranillo hit the spot for red meat on a hot day conundrum.

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free-range ham and home made rillettes

from l-r: rillettes, loaf of bread, spencers brook ham (glazed with marmalade)

Request for a recipe so I’d share it with you all/both. Rillettes is a rufty tufty pate that’s basically pork with pork fat and thus a simple pleasure to be enjoyed. It’s been well liked by young and old and the best use to date has been for breakfast on toast with a few bubbles.

It’s best made in bulk so you can either live off it for a couple of weeks or, for that christmas magic, share it around.

500g pork fat – you can use pork lard, I just carefully scraped the fat off a bit of pork skin for crackling (really it’s beautiful stuff – makes me think of soft serve ice-cream for some reason)
700g pork – shoulder, leg, loin … whatever really as long as it’s lean and meaty
500g pork belly – just trim the skin off and don’t worry about the bones.

Dice the meat into inch (roughly) pieces.

1 onion, 1 carrot, 2 cloves of garlic – peeled
1 stick of celery, 10 sage leaves, 3 twigs of thyme
white wine

Simmer the pork fat gently in enough water to cover and drain.
Add everything into a casserole dish and add a big glass of white wine. Cover with a piece of greaseproof paper and simmer at as low a flame as you can. A diffuser is handy. Stir occasionally.
At some stage I decided it as time for bed so I added a splash more wine, put the lid on the casserole dish and put it in the oven overnight at 70C.

Allow the meat to cool, remove everything that is neither meat nor fat, and then break the meat and fat up into small pieces. Disposable gloves are handy for this. The meat, if you’ve cooked it long and slowly enough, should really just fall to bits and shreds. Season generously.

Now you can distribute it into jars or ramekins and seal the top with a little clarified butter. Allow to chill. Enjoy with good white bread and whatever drinks you have handy.

BONUS! Roast Char Sui Pork

Take a piece of pork, make some deep slashes on either side. Put it in a bowl with a cup of Char Sui sauce, several star anise, and a decent splash of Chinese rice wine. Leave for a couple of hours but just turn it over now and then to coat.
Place the meat on a rack over a tray with water in it. The steam keeps it moist and it stops the sugary sauce from burning in the tray. Cook at 150C for about an hour and a half to two hours or until the pork reaches 80C on the meat thermometer.
I’m sure it’d be great in soup but I just had it in nice big slices while enjoying beers with friends.

Do make sure you grab some fruit and veg at some stage.

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crayfish tail

The crayfish/western rock lobster  man of human kindness came last night with two fresh crustaceans. This provided a golden opportunity to do a post that didn’t involve potatoes.

This was very much an experiment that started with the simple technique of en papillote – wrapping in, literally, parchment and cooking. If you can get your hands on a piece of treated goatskin, good luck to you. I used baking paper.

  1. remove the crayfish tail (humane method) and then remove the poo tube by inserting a skewer at a join near the end of the tail and lifting it out. Run some kitchen scissors up the inside to open up the bottom part of the shell – this will expose the flesh (phwoar!)  and make removing the meat easier.
  2. I used a combination of chopped basil, tarragon leaves (handily flowering), butter, wedge of lemon, and a finely sliced clove of garlic. What you do next is wrap the tail around them and then secure it with a wooden skewer.
  3. place this on a piece of baking paper, bring the sides up, give them a twist to seal and tie with a piece of string.
  4. cook in a 170C oven for 20 minutes [ this may of course vary wildly but the paper turning brownish isn't a bad cue for doneness]
  5. cook some pappardelle (always makes me think of this) and mix through a bit of EVOO and basil leaves.
  6. now, plate the pasta, remove the string on the package and then place it in the middle of the pasta.
  7. you (actually since you had two crayfish, with someone you love) remove the paper, dump the buttery herby goodness onto the pasta and get your hands dirty cracking the shell open while you eat the meat with the pasta. It’s fantastic.

I opened up a bottle of McHenry Hohnen 3 Amigos 2007 Marsanne, Chardonnay, Roussanne. It sounds like it should be layered in a shot glass but is, in line with their track record, very good. It’s got that fine dining feel of a chardonnay but a lot of freshness built in and some lovely aromatics. If I were pushed I’d say it’s like a nice sofa made of lemon and soda water but that’d be nonsense so I’ll settle for – was perfect with a monday night bit of seafood slap-up fancy.

cray plated 2

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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]

First in a series of recipe cards from around the world - the souffle


Keith Floyd – he’s alive! ALIVE!! Sure we were curious as to what happened to that large boulder and were dead impressed when he offered us to pop our fingers in the wounds all the while casually emptying a couple of bottles of Pouilly Fume but really we were just happy to have him back. What we really liked about him (apart from being the only person apart from Mark Oliver Everett that can wear a bowtie and not look like a berk) was his humanity. A weakness for booze, rubbish at finances, and a deep and sincere need to be loved. He also had the improbably rock star name shared with greats such as Keith Richards, Keith Moon and Keith Urban.

So the Keith Floyd tribute dinner of Smoked Trout and Cucumber Souffle with Rice Pudding based on second-hand Cornish scuttlebutt was not so much a time for mourning but celebrating. He had, much more so than my souffle, risen. While the miracle of birth is one thing; forgetting what it was like being a kid and being genuinely surprised when you actually woke up is another; it’s to have, to lose and to get back that’s the real trick.

Here’s his Real Rice Pudding recipe – it’s simple so don’t skimp on the vanilla pod, the milk or the cream. It’s an unseemly luxury for its simplicity.

3tbs short-grain rice; 600ml full cream milk; 1 vanilla pod; 25gm caster sugar; 150ml of double cream – whipped until softly peaky

Bring all the ingredients, except for the cream, to the boil and then put in an ovenproof dish with a lid and cook at 150˚C for 2 hours. Remove the pod, allow to cool slightly and then fold in the cream.

UPDATE

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veal cooked in milk

I’ve just been painting the nursery (no not the one with the lamps) with this natural paint that’s entirely mineral based and cuts down on the associated non-biodegradable toxic waste. Unfortunately it’s like painting with coffee. It flies everywhere and after two coats it still looks like an undercoat (it takes three). I’ve often wondered what painting in the 17th century was like, now I know. On the plus side it avoids the speckled history of the paint industry, washes off easily enough, and doesn’t smell.

Much easier is this veal dish I made a couple of weeks ago. Not only is it easy, but it’s about as close to a perfect meal you could hope for. It’s a big call I know, but it uses a few simple ingredients that compliment the feature ingredient, is unfuckuppable and you get that elusive feeling of a really special meal without having tried to hard.

There was one minor hitch. It was in a French magazine that I get every quarter in a swap with Gracianne. It means bodgy translation from French by me and this time I found out that Cocos de Paimpol, wasn’t ‘something coconut’ but a kind of white bean from Paimpol and my friends were saved from veal cooked in coconut milk.

The veal is non-bastard veal from White Rocks Veal and cooked as one piece.

two onions
one stick of celery
six button mushrooms
1 litre full cream milk
600ml cream
rack of four veal chops

250 gm dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight
three sprigs of thyme and a bay leaf

Brown the veal in a little hot oil – to the brown that you’d like to serve it at..
Sautee the onions, celery and mushrooms in a little oil in a heavy casserole. Add the rack of veal and then filled with the milk and the cream to cover. Allow to very gently simmer, covered for one hour.

Take out the veal to allow it to rest. Strain the cooking liquid and then reduce it to a sauce/one-coat roll on paint like consistency. Reducing in a wide frying pan will hasten things.

The recipe suggests cooking the beans in water for about half an hour. I thought of adding them to the casserole dish at the 25-minutes-from-finish point but ended up finishing the beans in some of the cooking liquid.

Carve the chops and serve on the beans with the sauce. See if you can manage, unlike me, to get the garnish in the middle.

Tastes fabulous, cooks perfectly, and is really only about half and hour of actual kitchen work. Don’t forget the bread.

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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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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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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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croquembouche


Back when I was catering in the early nineties, my business partner Nic would always talk about making a croquembouche one day. “It’s gonna be three feet high,” he’d say. “Yeah Nic, it’s going to be three feet high and sparkle like gold,” I’d respond knowing there was no way we’d ever be able to afford to make one with the money we had. But I didn’t want to to crush the dream that kept him going.

After a while it was all he talked about, croquembouche this, croquembouche that and it all got too much and I just had to tell him straight that there was never going to be a croquembouche. I’d never seen him so angry as he pushed past me and ran out the door, grabbing the keys to the limited editon Group A Walkinshaw Camira I’d been working on to try and raise some more money. He was half was down the street before I could get my shoes on. Back then, during the recession and before flexible home equity financing, there was only one way you could get your hands on money quickly – speedway racing.

I must have used all 10 speeds on my bike getting to the track, only to hear the sound of metal. Pushing my way through the pits, I got to Nic just as they were pulling him out of the crushed body of the Camira. “I guess I screwed up pretty badly this time,” Nic whispered, trying not to put pressure on his broken ribs. “No Nick, you did great. Now try to relax.” “It’s gonna be three feet high…” and with a smile Nick said his last words. And in the middle of the track I cried hot tears that day, fifteen years ago – so this one’s for you Nic, we finally made it.

Some notes:
- choux pastry is, funnily enough, like a roux but with egg yolks incorporated.
- crème pâtissière uses milk rather than cream. For this one I flavoured it with passionfruit pulp passed through a sieve to remove the seeds and dark chocolate.
- if the chocolate isn’t melted properly it will block the pastry bag and cream will come out the other end, onto the bench and cookbook and then floor.
- melted sugar is facking hot so wear shoes
- for fine golden threads, put a little of the hot caramel on a puff and pull the spoon back and stretch the thread.
- you don’t need a cone, although it helps
- I’d like to try a savoury one with pate.

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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happy birthday to me


Well yeah it was my birthday weekend. I’d tried for birthday week of celebration to get make all sorts of unreasonable demands but no such luck. I am a birthday princess.

Saturday was spent making a cassoulet for a surprise birthday party for a friend. It’s not technically difficult but it does require your attention for the good part of an afternoon. The finished product is the combination of six different manifestations of pork and a duck. It’s pork and bean casserole but then The Crucible is about witches ‘n stuff. Fabulous middle of winter party food for a party of 20 and you get to find out what a pureed half a kilo of so pork fat and skin and 15 garlic cloves looks like. Here’s an explanatory flowchart I made two years ago which kind of makes sense.

cassoulet map


Sunday was my birthday and I decided that people could bring an intrument along and mess about. The garage was dutifully tidied and after a slow nervous start it all became magnificent. Quality playing but I think putting the cello through a wah wah pedal via a big muff (no not that) to a Fender Bassman was particularly inspired. So impressive I didn’t get to play the opening bit of Iron Man for several hours. Total instruments were two electric guitars, two acoustic guitars, one bass, a cello, those little hand cymbal things, a shakey basket thing, maraccas, a tamborine, a didgeridoo and a harmonica. I’ll have to make this a regular thing at Maison Floreat, there’s much to be said for this eating, drinking, music thing.

Oh food – I spent most of the time faffing around in the kitchen making steamed pork ribs, pork belly, san choi bow, and fried rice vowing that I wouldn’t mess about in the kitchen so much next time. Helpful hint – don’t defrost packets of dumplings before you need them.

A good swag of pressies, apparently I’m a discerning alcoholic and foodie. Somebody was asking before about ceramic knives. I got one from Toni and they do look like some kind of ‘safety knife’ for special little cooks but they are facking sharp and my lacksadaisical attitude meant trimming a bit of nail and skin off my index finger. Bottles of stuff to go in the ‘save for nice’ department, objet d’art, flip flops, and bric a brac, a handmade beanie from Kate which you’ll no doubt be seeing, and a late arrival in the handmade department from Crafty (you should check it out)

37. Friends, they age with you.

porc a l'orange with braised fennel


Obviously I don’t blog everything I’ve cooked for the past week but in this case, apart from poached eggs, this is everything I’ve cooked. A stretch of long days getting the mag ‘to bed’ (sounds more romantic than it is) haven’t been very helpful to fixing dinners (or a general sense of calm, for that matter). Anyway, winter’s been bedded, more news on that later, and I could get back to messing about in the kitchen. Sorry for the average pic but the meal was much enjoyed.

The recipe is taken from these French recipes that pop into my email box each day. It’s a nice way to pick up some French cooking . You just go to Cuisine AZ and then, and then I’m not sure what you do, you’ll have to ask a French person, but eventually you’ll get a pork recipe from someone called Emmanuelle and that’s good, no? So the recipe:

300 g of pork fillet, sliced into 2cm medallions; 3 oranges – one with the rind grated and juiced and the other two segmented ; one leek, cut into 1cm lengths (the recipe calls for small white onions); butter; salt and pepper

For some nice prep practice, instead of of grating the peel, peel it without the pith, slice it into fine strips and finely chop it. Chop the ends off the other two oranges, remove the peel with a knife and then segment it by slicing between the membrane, avoiding any pith. Segmenting an orange is one of the three things you have to be able to do well before you can be considered able to do anything in cooking school. I forget the other two. Ah well.

Sear the pork in butter until it’s golden and then add the leek and the juice and the peel. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, season, then add the orange segments and simmer for another eight minutes. Remove the pork, the oranges and the leek and keep them warm and reduce the cooking liquid into a sauce – glossing it up a bit with some whisked in butter.

Found this Donna Hay recipe to go with risotto while looking for a way to slow-roast fennel. This recipe calls for braising. A few changes – I replaced chicken stock with beer, vinegar with white verjuice and dropped the amount of sugar back a bit.

2 fennel bulbs, trimmed and quartered; 1 cup of Bitburger; 1/3 cup of raw sugar; 1/3 cup of white verjuice; 4 sprigs of thyme.

Then, in an eerily familiar fashion. sear the fennel in butter until it’s golden and then add the other ingredients. Cover and simmer for 8 minutes. Eight minutes isn’t enough for tender, so possibly go for at least 15.

Plate it and that’s it. The citrus cuts nicely against slightly sweet and fatty pork and braised onions and fennel are your winter heartiness right there.

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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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terrine de mère et de fille


Sunday was the Fremantle Family Food Fiesta and Jeff the photographer and me decided to make an appearance with our loved ones on behalf of the mag. For those that like their fun highly organised, this was a treat with rules stretching to over two pages. The theme was the family’s favourite dish and this, with both of us having fairly bog standard Australian food childhoods, left us non-plussed. Unlike other foodies who could successfully write an essay within the given 50 minute period “Becoming a foodie was inevitable, discuss, giving examples with special emphasis on the period leading up to the event”. Pens down. My home food was neither especially bad or especially extraordinary, just food to feed a family with some variety with a supermarket 30 miles away. My mum though would always make a platter, or “plate”, for local dances and as these became kind of signature dishes for each family, I thought I’d recreate it, but in aspic. Not that it ever was in aspic but it’s a tasty enough allusion to the way we suspend and organise our memory.

It’s not an overly intimidating thing to make. All the work is creating the aspic. Unless you’re happy with commercial stocks, you’ll be making your own chicken stock. I ended up making a consomme and a good explanation of the hows and whys is here. A few things to think about. I used three teaspoons ofgelatine for 500ml of stock and added an extra teaspoon for hot weather. This balanced well – you don’t want it turning into chum but then again you don’t want something with the consistency of silastic. The stock should have its own gelatine from the bones and a good one gels in the fridge. If I’d done the chicken stock again, I would have a added a veal bone or tried to track down a calves foot. Failing this, maybe given a pig’s trotter a bit of a look.

As for the interior bits, I roasted a whole free-range chicken with sage, lemon, and butter. Butter and sage under the breast skin, lemon up the jacksie, and a good butter and seasoning all over. Shred.
Boiled four free-range eggs for 9 minutes and then refreshed in cold water to stop the cooking process. Working from memory, the fresher the eggs, the more likely you’re going to have a nice sharp junction between the yolk and the white.
Chopped up a small jar of gherkins and a small jar of small red cocktail onions.

I use a sharp rectangular bread tin-no need to oil or line with wrap. Pour a thin layer of aspic on the bottom and allow it to set (in the freezer if you keep a sharp eye on it) and then decorate with three egg halves and assorted shapes of gherkin and onion. Top with more chicken and chopped egg gherkin, chicken, and onion mix. I let it set again at the half way point to keep it all a bit loose and have a greater proportion of jelly. Fill again to a smidgen below the top and cover with aspic.
Get a piece of box the size of the tin, wrap it in foil, and place on top with a weight (eg bottle of beer) leave for 12 hours. Wipe fridge clean if you didn’t leave a smidgen of space on the top.
Cut around the sides with a sharp paring knife and if it doesn’t come out, just heat the top a little with some warm water.
Served with a surrounding salad of lettuce, carrot, gherkin, cheese cubes, cocktail onions, and flicks of pate. The best thing for cutting is a serrated cheese knife and if you make slow careful stroke, you should get a nice neat slice. Good stuff. The terrine is now my new official vehicle of food innovation.

250 people showed up for the lunch and there were some pretty speccy efforts with people bringing their finest for dining. I went along just to have fun and be there and then vowed revenge for next year – I’m thinking pig . Kudos to Jeff’s sausage rolls and chutney . Charmaine Solomon was there!

terrine de mère et de fille

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Faux-Filet Henri IV

This is straight offa page 266 of the Cordon Bleue at Home. It seemed like a nice idea at the time for Sunday dinner but it took forever because of poor planning and timing and a desire to keep the number of pots and pans to three. You’ll notice that the béarnaise sauce has de-emulsified because I had to reheat it and wasn’t paying attention – tsk.

The artichokes were prepared as per The Tart Heart of the Artichoke Folk and boiled in salted water for 20 minutes. The potatoes were parboiled and then roasted in a very hot oven in preheated vegetable oil and goosefat. The steak was scotch fillet and you can make the marks by cooking it on a very hot grill plate and then turning it 90 degrees and that’s it.

It’s actually called Coeur de Filet Henri IV. I would tell you what the name would be in French for using a scotch fillet but it was all too hard and frankly (if you’ll excuse the pun) Henry IV of France was much more interesting. Twice the man Henry VIII was and, in addition to helping end the religious war with admirable tolerance and dedicated to public works, was quoted as such:

Si Dieu me prête vie, je ferai qu’il n’y aura point de laboureur en mon royaume qui n’ait les moyens d’avoir le dimanche une poule dans son pot.
(If God allows me to live, I will see that there is not a single labourer in my kingdom who does not have a chicken in his pot every Sunday)

Huzzah!
Sadly, killed by a loon.

pizza

A voice in my head said “make a pizza” on Friday night while driving home from Fremantle. It also said “make your own dough too“, “sleep no more” and “look out that car’s braking in front of you” as well as “mmm mmm black betty bambalam, mmm mmm black betty bambalam“.

I’m afraid you have to make your own pizza dough too. It’s not that hard: Basic Pizza Dough – Recipe Pizza Dough. It’s really good and you’ll never want for a prepared base again much less something on a piece of pita bread. Lovely little airy bits all the way through it. Make it nice and thin while you’re at it. Four a sauce I just used a jar of pasta sauce with some onion and garlic and marjoram. Toppings were mozzarella, basil, proscuitto, tomato, field mushrooms, eggplant, and anchovies in various combinations.

The trick, and this is why people use wood-fired ovens, is to get the base nice and crispy without overdoing the top. This requires a very hot base. What I do is use a cast iron bessemer pan that my Mum bought in the seventies from a woman that was convinced she was reincarnated from Mary the Queen of Scots that I get really hot* on a wok burner to get it crisp and then finish it off in the oven as hot as it goes.

Reviews are in: “delicious”

*the pan, not Mary Queen of Scots, or the woman.

Henry IV en admiration devant le blog de épice

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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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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lemon and garlic chicken


As a child in the Eastern Wheatbelt, we would get up early to milk the cows, running home with the still warm cream on our lips, checking our geese for eggs on the way back. Walking to school we would greet the baker and, if we were lucky, he’d hand us some warm buns, fresh from the ovens, which we’d eat with hand-made sausage from the butcher. Mother would pick us up and we’d visit the market, offering our advice as to which were the ripest pears and the juiciest oranges.

Lunch at LamontsAlright, alright that’s crap. The Eastern Wheatbelt was pretty rubbish for food. I think the most exciting thing to come to town was pressed chicken. I’m sure things have picked up but when Mon (on the right in the middle at Lamonts with Wozza, someone called Toni, and a couple whose wedding I went to a few years back) asked me to do a hearty rural dinner for farmers wives that didn’t involve lamb or potatoes, I imagined the worst case minimalist shopping scenario. As military strategist von Rumsfeld might have put it “you go to the kitchen with ingredients you have, not the ingredients you might want”. So don’t blame me if it all goes all pear shaped.

The first thing I’d do would be to get a bunch of plastic containers, make a bunch of stock and pop it all in the chest freezer. This is already culinary gold. Stock. Stock. Stock. Did I mention this before? Stock. Stock. Stock. Stock. Then I’d get some wine, great for cooking and it makes me happy. I’d have a herb garden. Lots of butter. Meats in the freezer. Ingredients that have a shelf life of more than a few days. And a copy of Richard Olney’s Simple French Food (he bags the city a lot). What’s for dinner? Provincial French cooking.

This is another recipe that takes a while but is reasonably straightforward. I’ll explain what happens to each ingredient separately.

Chicken Stock- three chicken carcasses, a couple of chopped carrots and celery sticks, half a chopped leek (or a couple of onions), a handful of parsely, half a dozen peppercorns, a bay leaf, .and a glass of white fine. Cover with water and simmer for at least two hours. Strain, pressing out the solids and put the stock on the boil until it reaches the strength you like. Remove any fat on the top. You can use a paper towel but the easiest way is to let it chill and take the congealed fat off the top.

Garlic- peel 20 pieces of garlic, keep their shape. Cook in boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove and then let them simmer for 40 minutes in chicken stock.

Chicken – the recipe uses the legs, which is the drumstick with the thigh attached. I got a whole free-range chicken. Removed the frame, which I used for the stock. And detatched the chicken legs and wings and put the breasts in the freezer for another time. You can cut the knobbly end off the drumstick and the tips off the wings.

Brown the wings and the legs in some butter, remove them and drain the pan, leaving two tablespoons of fat to make the roux.

roux


Roux – add two tablespoons of plain flour to the leftover fat and stir in well over a low heat. Add a half a glass of wine* and stir over a high heat while scraping the bottom of the pan. Add 600ml of chicken stock. And then (this is the Richard Olney hint) – transfer it to a small saucepan as “the small surface permits a more rapid skimming and degreasing of the sauce while preventing an exaggerated reduction”. Skim off any fat or particles with a paper towel for 15 minutes.

*The recipe recommends white wine but I had some light red wine handy so that would do. It says the French Catalan’s use fortified wine like port so there’s a bit of flexibilty.

lemon and garlic chicken


Assembly-place the chicken pieces at the bottom of a casserole pot, add the garlic, and one peeled and finely sliced lemon, and the cover with the stock. Place in a 170C oven for 40 minutes and serve.

I served this on some pasta (rigatoni). Very enjoyable from ingredinets not very different to what you might use in a Sunday Roast. I’d like to try it again with white wine and one mistake was to place the lemon on top of the chicken rather than in the stock so it didn’t blend as well as it could have (it should dissolve). The garlic is the best part, soft and creamy and not at all garlicky like you’d imagine. Oh and the garnish was done with a lemon zester. If you press hard and run it along the side you should get some nice lengths. Otherwise slice the peel thinly and put in ice cold water.

And there you go, hope this is what you’re looking for. I’m actually a bit out of touch, not quite imagining everybody sits around making billy tea in akubra hats out of touch but well. A good chance to say hello in the comments lurking wheatbelt readers (yes you in Belka, and you in Hyden) and maybe suggest a fave.

lemon and garlic chicken


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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

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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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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abcradio

Gah! On the radio yesterday and given my state beforehand, I was amazed it worked out to more than 6 minutes of

meep…Anthony are you OK?…meep.

Room, other person, yellow foamy thing in front of me, and the invisible audience. Settled after a minute or two, garnering reviews from family members of “polite!”, “well spoken!”. Bernadette Young, the presenter, was very kind. Had it been Liam Bartlett , I may have run off in tears as he probed further into the feasibility of my bold plan to pipe sunshine from Madagascar. The interview was: Sting fades out; what’s a blog, what’s on your blog, lamingtons, what are the bloggies, good luck see you if you win, fade out to Neil Young (which isn’t bad, had the music been the other way round…).

Now there was probably a hundred other things I could have mentioned but given it’s a local radio program what I regretted most was not mentioning the local blogging commmunity. They’re all on the Perth Blogs Wiki and those involved in the marvellous initiative the Perth Blognite last year, and not forgetting my fellow WA nominees Karen Cheng and Nikita Kashner. This still leaves a wealth of talent sitting on the right column there, so go have a look. And if you haven’t tried this blog thing before, give it a go.

Now, on to more familiar ground. Since the ABC continues to get the squeeze, I thought it’d be nice to take some food along in case they were hungry. I chose another slight variation of this Chicken Liver Paté recipe.

mushroomchickenliverpate

Paté is good. It uses the bits that other folks leave behind (too good for cats), it’s usually just bought but home-made tastes so much better, and it’s easy. If you can use a frypan and make a smoothy, you can make pate. It’s also a good platform to test minor variations in flavours and there’s something special in the way the onions collapes into golden softness, the way the livers dissolve in the blender, and the release of freshly ground spices. Three parts-

Onions

One white onion, the whites of two spring onions, and one garlic clove all thinly sliced and fride until soft with 40gm of butter. This time I also added a chopped field mushroom for a different flavour in stead of green peppercorns. Add it all to the blender but don’t blend yet.

Liver

400gm of chicken livers, connective tissue cut off and marinated in brandy for an hour. Fry in another 40gm of butter, turining often until just pinkishly cooked in the middle. Add to the blender. Add a splash more brandy to the pan and deglaze the residue by scraping with a wooden spoon over heat. Add to the blender.

Spices

A scaled back quatre epicés of 2tsp parts peppercorns and 2tsp of cloves – ground and one tsp grated nutmeg. Put this in the blender and blend until smooth and refrigerate for at least two hours.

The taste is a little muted and those not enamoured with liver could, easily double the spices. Delicious with James Squire Pilsner, medicinally administered once safely home to sooth jangled post-interview nerves.

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Ahm it’s Galette des Rois today and I’ve just had a few whites and a couple of beers and apparently it took the the three wise kings 12 days to find the baby Jesus so they eat a cake made of puff pastry with a tiny wine taster* in it and then the youngest person hides under the table and the cake is cut but under a tea towel and then the youngest person has to choose the piece for each person but it’s rigged because only French people win and I didn’t get to be King for the day. So anyway I think they’re making this up, are there any French people out there that can confirm this?

*Oh apparently it changes all the time. Bus Driver! Ambulance Man!

pig

A pig. A whole pig. Actually a kind of omniswine as it had been boned and filled with pork fillets. A long crackling wrapped pork cigar. Seafood should condition one to things cooked with heads but there were a few guilty twinges amongst eaters which I consoled by asking how much amonymous faceless meat they’d consumed in the year. Free range. it had a better life and here it was, guest of honour.

The party was planned of sorts a few weeks back by Brendan, the local freelancing GP and artist with a house and pool. I showed him a Mondo Butchers catalogue and offered to help with the food. Done. Last pig in shop ordered for NYE.

First stage was to ask the father-in-law Bruce to build a 44 gallon drum BBQ. Bruce is a master of rural construction improv – built a 200 litre fuel tank for his Landcruiser. The BBQ was done by morning tea, with removable lid, handle, and lift out grill. Tops. All I had to do was go away on holidays for a fews days and come back and work out exactly what I was going to do.

On the Day

Due to the heat and the pool, it would have to be a fauxCific Luau type thing. Though I’m reluctant to claim it as such. Gone are the days when you could whack a pineapple on something and call it Hawaiian and nobody’d be any wiser. I felt the disembodied presence of Reid looking over my shoulder. Ostensibly the theme was Lord Of The Flies but I think the general advice was not to be podgy and wear glasses and that the book did not include a professor or a movie star.

30 or so guests anticipated. Not too hard, the pig was the food rather than being a festive hub of gluttony. All that was needed was a couple of snacks and accompaniment. The final decision came down to the two standards of pineapple and sweet potato. A bit of driving around getting food, prepping and then picking up the pig from Inglewood. Drop cold pre-cooked pig off at 5:30 and head back home for more prep. Call at 7:15 to ask about the fire. Fire? Head over. Get fire going 8:30 after a little gilling of the BBQ with an angle grinder and a chisel. Guests arrive.

The wood was wandoo which is a hard local eucalypt which burns well. It took over an hour to die down to a bed of coals. I just wanted to reheat the pig and imbue it with a little smokey authenticity. Placed the pig on the grill on banana leaves which I’d soaked and left it, basting with the orange and garlic.

Meanwhile the snacks ticked along nicely. I had planned to do them on the Webber but it was another thing to have to worry about so I settled for the oven with no ill effect. The biggest challenge was coming to terms with a counter intuitive microwave matching 80′s user interface with the instructions hidden on the griller door. The prosciutto and pineapple with sweet potato chips was well received and remided me that one good thing will take the place of many.

As 11 o’clock approached it was clear the pig wasn’t heating up as much as it should. Actually it was pointed out to me by a helpful guest, I was in lalalalalala everything is fine mode. No big deal just carve it up and give it a quick heat in the oven. Come back to snap alpha male style at guests heating up some crackle and the rest of the pig with a hissy “we make crackle by rubbing it with salt and roasting it carefully in the oven not by chucking a couple of bits of raw timber in a fire“. My best effort since shouting at a colleague for pricking sausages with a fork. BBQ’s – infernos of rage, cauldrons of control.

Easy bit from here. Meat goes in bun with applesauce and everybody grabs a roast sweet potato and banana. The pork was exceptional. The sweet potatoes very pleasant and better with resting. 20 minutes until midnight, time for some mingling, drinking, smoking, reflecting, and looking forward to the next round of the spiral.

Happy New Year. 今年もよろしくね。

(recipes below)


Pork Baste

Started with this cuban base and modified it as Seville Oranges were out of season. 6 navel oranges, one grapefruit – both juiced, 8 cloves of garlic, 1tbs of oregano. All blended together in a food processor. I tried a bit of the orange juice and garlic as it would be pretty healthy but the raw garlic just rips. Not for drinking.


Apple Sauce

Easy. 6 Fuji and 6 Granny Smith apples, cored and cut into bits. Mixed with a cup of water and the juice of one lemon and then to stew in a crock pot for three hours. Pureed in a blender. I added a tbs of concentrated beef stock. The sweetness would match well with the rolls so the stock added a balance of meatiness.


Pineapple Wrapped in Prosciutto

prosciuttopineapple Two large pineapples top and bottom removed and then the core cut out leaving a wall of a little under a centimetre. Pineapple chopped into bite sized pieces and then wrapped in a piece of finely sliced prosciutto, placed on a skewer and dipped in the pork baste (above). Cooked in a 180C oven and then served in the hollowed pineapple surrounded with sweet potato chips


Sweet Potato Chips

Sweet potatoes very thinly sliced with a mandolin. Rinsed and then dried. Fried in canola oil in a wok. To get the temperature right (my thermometer has gone elsewhere – no not where the sun doesn’t shine) I tested with a few pieces, they should be crisped without retaining excessive oil (too cold). Drained and then reheated in the oven before serving.


Candied Sweet Potatoes with Banana

sweetpotato6 large sweet potatoes boiled in their skins for 25 minutes, drained, left to cool, peeled and then cut into 15mm pieces. Then it’s two thirds of a cup each of melted butter, palm sugar, and water. Mixed together then the pieces added coated and placed in the oven to glaze a little. Each piece wrapped in foil with a slice of banana (tossed in a little lemon juice), a sprinkling of dessicated coconut, and a little of the glaze. Heated in the oven at 180C and then served.


Editor’s note: Long lunch. Asahi good. Spell check can wait.

pigroasting

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poachedtrout

From two trout comes this Monday night fanciness. I relied heavily on James Peterson’s Essentials of Cooking. An excellent buy if you’re interested in learning the basics to mess around in the kitchen.

Poached Trout

The trout were cleaned and some chopped parsley and fennel put in the cavity. Tied up with a softened shallot (you can wrap them in cheesecloth). The poaching liquid was half semillon, half water with a bouquet garni of thyme, parsley, a bay leaf, and a shallot. Brought to a very gentle simmer and then the trout added and poached for 7 minutes. Removed the head and tail and peeled off the skin. It would have also been a good time to remove the bones.

Beurre Blanc

2 chopped spring onions with white wine and white vinegar and reduced to a near glaze. Add some cream – simmer and then whisk in cubes of cold butter. Don’t let it boil and whisk constantly until it’s smooth and creamy. Season. I added some fennel but saffron is a possibility.

The snake beans were steamed and the artichokes were boiled and went through the whole elaborate artichoke preparation routine which I can’t be bothered to explain. Am I missing something but are artichokes overrated?

A success. Poaching is easy and the beurre blanc can be done and adapted for future variations.

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frenchtoast

One of the many permutations available of egg, bread, and milk, French Toast is the business. Couple of free range eggs, cup of milk, splash of vanilla essence. Chop up the rest of a loaf of white, soak for 15 minutes, and then pan fry in butter.

Served with strawberries, freshly whipped cream (melty heaven), maple syrup, and some cinnamon powder. Big cup of freshly brewed coffee with a spoon of cream on it and that was Sunday morning.

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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{Sigh}

Crème Brûlée has always had me reaching, not for the whisk, but my copy of Dirty by Sonic Youth. The song is a curiosity but Kim Gordon has the right elements of a female vocalist and this custardy confection – hard candy with a soft under. As a stretched out large sunglassed beatnik on the back cover, it would have a single me crawling across broken caramel to get to her. As shock art, the album fails only for the sumptuousness and beauty of the guitars, but the tray liner photo in the Japanese release is ummm well lets just say don’t look Big Ted (you’ve been warned).

Stretching the associations, 1992 would have been the year where, cooking for my then girlfriend and now wife’s 22nd birthday, I had my stepping out of the cave moment with a Crème Anglaise. Institutionally fed, custard had always been a flavourless yellowly liquid made from rehydrated powder. Slicing open my first vanilla pod almost had me running over to my neighbour’s house to say “Oi! Sniff this”. Creme Anglaise, along with the magnificent Italian Zuppa Inglise, may be a generous tribute or international baiting, is perfection. It also taught me two important lessons: better food was out there; and it was within my reach. Out of the cave and over the bridge I went.

Sweets are still my weak point but I was given a prod by Guamand Santos at the scent of green bananas. and her very excellent thing ch-ch-cherry bombs . The Rock Dinner steps a little further forward and I’m tumbling towards turning into a conceptual foodist.

Experimental Notes

To make Crème Brûlée properly you need a blow torch to caramelise the top. I didn’t get one for three reasons; they are very pricey, I’d be off scraping paint before you could say Australian Dream, and I wouldn’t have been happy with anything less than this.

My plan was to, instead make a flambe hybrid. Sugar on the top, soaked in brandy, and then up it goes. Fortunately, in a rare flash of common sense, I tried it out with some yoghurt in a ramekin first. A damp squib, so plan abandoned. A shame, it would have been spectacular, so if anybody has any better ideas on sparking this up, get back to me (and no dishwashing liquid and petrol is not going to happen).

Crème

Usual trick of using a few sources to come up with something. I went to this Recipe for Creme Brulee Recipe and this Creme Brulee » Recipe (which just seems wrong on a few points), and fudged around and came up with this

8 free-range eggs yolks; 3/8 cup of caster sugar; 1 vanilla pod (you could use vanilla essence but you wouldn’t would you? No didn’t think so); 500ml of double cream.

Egg yolks and sugar whisked until pale and creamy.

Vanilla pod spilt carefully with a knife, the innards scraped into the cream and then the pod put in as well. Gently heat the cream, just until bubbles start to form around the edges. Don’t boil.

Warmed cream slowly mixed into the egg and sugar and then the whole lot put into a ceramic bowl and heated over a saucepan of simmering water. Non stop stirring until the mix is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Ramekins (8) 7/8th filled with the mix and then put in a roasting tin, half filled with hot water. Covered with foil and cooked in a 170C for 40 minutes. Taken out and left to cool in the fridge.

Brûlée

Tricky bit not least for the fact the this was well into beer tasting over at a friends house. Each ramekin is topped up with a 5mm level layer of caster sugar. Friend’s oven was smokier than a Japan Tobacco conference room so I put a dish of water in there in the hope that it would absorb some of the smoke. Top element nice and hot and slid the ramekins under it, keeping a sharpish eye on them, moving them around to compensate for the irregularity of the heat.

And?

The caramel crust is a very fine balance to get and I had mixed results. The photo of the two leftovers represent the Diamanda Galas and Little Nikki Webster ends of the spectrum. A blowtorch would have helped a great deal with consistency. Enjoyed it but detected a tiny degree of tooth edginess of caster sugar and wondered if better results could have been had with normal sugar. The sugariness did seem to settle down from between off the stove and the finished product. Any ideas?

As for female vocalists, ichiban is Aiha Higurashi of Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her and while I’m at it Mayumi Kojima. If you’re interested, mail me and I might just brûlée you a sample.

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?

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Quick crisper tray job this one.

Filling

one small onion -chopped, one clove of garlic-minced, 1 Zucchini -cubed, one tomato-diced, 5 mushrooms-sliced

In that order in some olive oil onion and garlic sauteed in a saucepan until soft, then zucchini and tomato. Cooked a little over a medium heat, finish with the mushrooms and season.

Omlette

6 free range eggs, 1 tbs of fresh tarragon – minced, pepper

Tried to beat a few egg whites for fluffiness but was having issues keeping the yolks out – poison for decent volumed whipping. I got them to a limp froth and folded in the remaining yolks and white. Added the tarragon and left for 20 minutes.

The tarragon was left over from the bernaise sauce. I’ve not had it in omlettes before but knew it was good for chicken so, well eggs, No? This may be a genetic fallacy.

The filling was added and covered with a single fold of the omlette. It was far better than I expected – best yet says in house critic. The tarragon added an element of unfamiliar familiarity which is no bad thing in food.

Went to Kitchen Essentials in Subiaco today, it seems to cater for people who find things not quite expensive enough at other stores.

I think it was in the short lived but brilliant satirical magazine Might. They noted that consumption for the nineties differed from the eighties in that all consumption would be ostensibly humble but essentially extravagant. A $2000 bike, a $5 coffee, and a $7 loaf of bread. And so it comes to Perth and I bought a 500gm packet of puy lentils for $6.50.

To put this in perspective, a ton of wheat works out to about 15c for the same amount. On the other hand, puy lentils are hard to find and have the quality of not turning to mush after being cooked. The could be called the Rolls Royce of pulses but let’s keep in mind we are still talking lentils here

Anyway, bought they were and then I had to work out what to do with them. I had a bad case of the illusory choices. This is where I have a clear idea of hundreds of options which promptly disappear when I try to access them. This has often occurred at a video store, and if I remember correctly, every time I made the transition to singledom. I could have sworn there were hundreds of recipes for them in my cookbooks and I found about 7. Most for lentil salad – joy.

Time considerations led me to compromise so I modified a very simple recipe from The Cordon Bleue at Home that I’d be meaning to try. The most counter-intuitive thing is the amount of garlic needed. It seems a lot but from experience with a Chinese beef dish, slow cooking mellows things considerably. I also substituted chicken breasts for chicken pieces which cause problems later. The lentils would be experimentally integrated into the dish.

All I needed

2 free range chicken breasts, 2 whole heads of organic garlic – separated but not peeled, 1tbs olive oil, small bunch of sage -finely chopped*, glass of white wine, salt and pepper

Season the chicken and heat a casserole dish to a high heat on a burner with the olive oil. Brown the chicken breasts, then add the garlic cloves – reducing the heat. Stir the cloves for 5-7 minutes – softening but not browning. Season again, add the sage, and stir in the wine. Bring to a boil and put in a 190C oven uncovered for 25 minutes stirring occasionally.

Put the lid on and cook for another 15 minutes.

After this, keep the chicken warm, and run the liquids and garlic through a fine sieve, working the garlic through. This will become the sauce.

Lentils

This was where the recipe diverged. I was going to cook the lentils in the dish but the requirement of straining, led me to try something else. The lentils were actually called French Green Lentils, but I was promised they were 99% the same as puy. Is this a “Sparkling White” thing?

Put a cup of lentils in plenty of boiling water, let simmer for 12 minutes, and drain.

Now,return the lentils to the saucepan and add the strained sauce. Let them cook together for about five minutes and pour over each chicken breast. Serve.

And?

Well we learn. The lentils were enjoyable the texture made me feel less like an invalid but they’re a pleasure that craves company. The garlic didn’t overwhelm, just subtle notes. The chicken, unfortunately, was dry and this shouldn’t have surprised me. The meat is lean, there were no bones or fat, and the largish casserole dish and my drinking needs meant they were awkwardly half poached, half steamed. A reduction in the cooking time would have helped and this may be time to time to buy that larding needle I’ve always wanted.

Were the lentils worth it? Well if you’ve aspired to a better lentil, then this is an opportunity to realise your dreams more cheaply than many others.

* I’ve learnt having dry (not dried) herbs assists in finer work as the bits don’t stick together – a quick shake over a burner after rinsing helps, though some could feasibly argue that it destroys the delicate taste but well…