July 2009

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slow cooked lamb roast [pending]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make a sauce with it of course.

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

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

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

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

ash and moo's pad

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I popped into 399 yesterday, while Toni was having emergency dentistry from an aggressive piece of walnut bread. I’d heard nothing but good things and wanted to try their mulled wine for a Tiger Tiger comparo and it was very good.

The interesting thing though was the bartender was laboriously making an Old Fashioned. So given they haven’t been done properly for ages, would this make it an old fashioned Old Fashioned? And if they updated it in a decade’s time, would it be a newly fashioned old fashioned Old Fashioned? Also, if Ray Davies died around that time and they made a tribute drink, would it be a newly fashioned old fashioned Old Fashioned follower of fashion?

Vince Garreffa tells us that you should cook every dish twice; once for yourself and then for your guests. Such careful hospitality is lost on me. I’m a ‘sharing the journey’ host.

Plan
One large salmon. Instead of merely poaching it, I’d make a court bouillon, freeze the court boullion, place the frozen boullion in a vacuum sealer bag with the whole salmon, vacuum seal the bag and then cook it sous vide. Remove gently cooked salmon from bag, remove skin and cover with cucumbers to resemble scales.

The logic was impeccable. The salmon would be gently poached in water but trapped in a sealed bag with a smaller volume of flavoursome stock. The genius part was freezing the court bouillon so it didn’t end up being sucked into the pump of the vacuum sealer. It also meant it could be done well ahead of time without the fish marinating.

salmon sealed

Reality
In retrospect, when the salmon was sealed in a bag with what looked like a pink urinal cake, it should have been a sign of trouble to come but it all came with sound reasons. The carrots, red onions and the white wine turned the court boullion into a pinkish shade. It was just unfortunate that I chose a flat bottomed pudding bowl to freeze it in.

Moving on. Three kilogram salmon are long. Long than any pot or dish you’ll own and longer than any commercially available disposable roasting tray. I used the disposable roasting tray and it looked like a tall man who’d mistakenly booked in for a night at a hobbit bed and breakfast. The weight of the salmon slowly pushed down the sides and simmering water would leak out onto the burners until they filled with water and made a sad gurgling sound.

At this point I realised I had to either change tack or accept the fact that guests would have to suffer food poisoning. It was a tough call but I eventualy wrapped the half poached salmon in foil and tried to fit it in the oven to finish it off. It fitted at an angle, once I snapped the tail off and was eventually cooked at a gentle temperature.

Redemption
The good bit was that I sliced a whole burpless cucumber on a mandoline without losing any bits of fingers. Skin taken off the salmon and the grey bits gently scraped off and the cucumber ‘scales’ added – they hid the ‘join’ on the tail.
It was also damned tasty.
poached salmon

Notes: the court bouillon I used comes from here and adjusted – half a bottle of Semillon Sauvignon Blanc, a cup of water, a handful of parsley, a twigs of thyme, half a dozen peppercorns, 2 bay leaves, a chopped red onion, one sliced carrot, one sliced stick of celery with leaves, juice of half a lemon and a tsp of salt.
Simmered for half an hour and then strained.

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A story that goes nowhere

Back when, I found an apple so I wents to my my mom and said “hey mom, I’s got an apple.”
And so she says, “apples are for hogs and you ain’t no hog.”
“That’s true,” I says. “But I ain’t no hog and if I eats it, then it ain’t so that apples are for hogs.”

The End

I think this meal would take approximately one hour and a half to two hours to serve and eat, allowing for conversation.
While the hostess tidies the dining-room and kitchen the guests will have time to collect their coats and prepare to leave for the dance at approximately 9.30 pm

Mrs Roseann Johnston The Australian Hostess Cookbook (1969)

melton mowbray pie
The good thing about Melton Mowbray is not only that it sounds like a place in Leicestershire, it actually is a place in Leicestershire. It’s also modifies the noun ‘pie’ to make a pie from said town that uses fresh rather than cured pork. The addition of eggs makes it a ‘gala’ pork pie and if the first thing you thought of was Dali’s wife, you’ll probably enjoy this.

Melton Mowbray pie has EU Protection of Desginated Orgin protection so this, technically, isn’t that.

The model recipe I used is the V-Tol Veal Ham and Egg Pie Recipe, which was made by Gordon Bedson, who also designed aircraft and the Mackson. Anyone like to drive a car built by Nigella Lawson? Didn’t think so.

The recipe isn’t hard but it does require doing several different things correctly. They are – making a hot water paste, boiling some meat, boiling eggs and making a jelly. The V-tol recipe explains the technical details well.

As I was using fresh pork (a bit of fillet) rather than ham, to bump up the flavour I marinated it for a few hours in white wine and a mix of bay leaf, thyme, parsley, rosemary, juniper berries and peppercorns.

The pork went into a saucepan with the marinade and herbs along with a small rack of veal and a pig’s trotter. It was then filled with water to cover and simmered for 30 minutes – skimming as necessary. After removing the pork, I kept the veal bones and the pig’s trotter in there to make a heartier stock and boost the natural gelatine. I let it simmer for another 30 minutes before filtering the stock in a seive with some paper towel in it and then reducing the filtered stock to just two cups.

By this stage you should have a pile of cubed pork and veal. Allow it to cool.

Take the reduced stock and add a leaf of gelatine that you’ve dissolved in a little heated sherry and white wine (actually it might have been calvados and white wine but I can’t remember).

Make the hot paste. It’s actually very similar to a choux pastry but with lard instead of butter, and no eggs in it. The boiling water/lard combo smells, but kneading the warm fluid dough to smoothness is surprisingly relaxing. Roll out and line a greased springform pan with it – reserving some dough for the top of the pie.

Boil the eggs – 10 minutes in boiling salted water and cool them under cold running water to stop the cooking.

So… a covering layer of meat, then encircle the eggs around the middle and fill with meat. Place pastry on top, seal the edges with a back of a spoon. Decorate suitably with the excess pastry and brush with an egg wash. It’s important to make a couple of breathing holes. Put a foil trumpet in them to allow steam to escape while cooking. These holes become useful later.

Place it all in a 200C oven for 80 minutes – just keep an eye on it to make sure the pastry doesn’t burn.

Now you just need to pour the stock into the pie via the breathing holes. It’ll take a couple of goes as it settles. Leave the pie in the fridge to cool and then serve as part of a low maintenance all meat cold buffet as illustrated below.

cold buffet

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