pork

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nice work.

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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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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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pork and fennel[a later reconstruction of the dish]

I found a lovely piece of free-range pork down at the Herdsman. It was a piece of pork belly with the skin removed and then rolled and tied into a roll. Very cute – looked like the kind of roast you could munch on while driving down the road with your elbow out the window.
Lovingly tied as it was, I ended up removing the string and wrapping it in prosciutto – unfortunately it burst its smallgood chains half way through, but no harm done.

6 inches of rolled pork belly
150 g of thinly sliced prosciutto
1 tbs truffled mustard
8 sage leaves
salt and pepper
fennel leaves
EVOO

fennel bulb, quartered and halved
purple-skinned sweet potato, peeled and chopped into bite sized pieces
bunch of broccolini

Rub a line of mustard along the top of the pork. Roll it a quarter and then place the sage leaves on top. Season well and wrap with the prosciutto.
The pork is roasted with the vegetables and I kept them nice and tight in my nice Raymond Loewy cast-iron pot. The addition of ingredients is staggered over the hour or so of cooking as follows
0 min - good splash of olive oil and in with the sweet potato into a 190C oven.
15 min - fennel and pork added with a few fronds of fennel – another splash of olive and a pinch of salt
25 min rotate pork to ensure all-over crispiness
30min turn down to 170C
Cooked minus 10 min – broccolini and another splash of olive oil.

When the pork is done, allow it to rest and then serve on top of the vegetables. Didn’t bother with a sauce.
It’s a lot of oven opening but as the temperature heads down over cooking, no biggie.

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Roast Rack of Pork

It'll Do Natural Raw Honey


Umm last week. There was a tablespoon or so of fennel seeds, a couple of cloves of garlic, a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, a couple of tablespoons of Mallee honey, a few drops of Firehorse hot sauce, a tablespoon of finely chopped orange rind, and half an orange. I used one of them fancy Jamie Oliver flavour shaker thingies, which worked pretty well. First up was to crush the fennel seeds, then the garlic, then the olive oil and then add the rest.

Brush over the rack of pork and leave for an afternoon or so. Roast and baste with a mix of orange, apple and carrot juice mixed with some olive oil and honey.

Good. Really good. The sauce was mashed apple and celeriac parsnip and something else, maybe cream, quite possibly a bit of brown vinegar.

big biker bacon sarnie
enjoy, Don Cake

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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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and once I got this right the rest was downhill


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

rack of pork

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

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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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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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speck and leek omlette

Was going to do the hicken chicken (erk! thanks Santos) post but busy busy busy so here’s the egg one. Omlettes are the traditional food of the busy, yet are notoriously tricky to perfect. This is a shame as they’re the gateway from worthlessness at Le Cordon Bleu. There was something about banging the handle or something that I can’t work out, but I think I’ve done a reasonable job here. As it’s mainly practice with these things, I thought it would be a nice idea to use my small crepe pan so I could make four instead of two. This is the fourth one.

Five free-range eggs, lightly beaten with freshly ground pepper added (you can add salt but the speck is quite salty already). Usually omlettes are just eggs but I had about 2tbs of double cream leftover so that went in too. It doesn’t blend in particularly well but ah well.

Half a leek, finely sliced, about a handful of cubed speck (or bacon or pancetta), and a clove of local garlic. Sauteed in butter for a few minutes and then braise in half a glass of red wine until the wine is absorbed. Reserve.

Melt some butter in the pan, not allowing it to brown, and making sure it covers the pan well. Add a quarter of the mix and work the top with a fork. When it’s still a little runny on top add a tablespoon of the leek and speck in the third closest to the handle. Lift up the pan. Work an egg slice under at the handle and fold over at the one/third point to the two third part. Add some more butter and allow it to run under the rest of the omlette. Put down the pan and flip the other third over and then flip the omlettes onto a plate. You can drizzle some extra melted butter over it if you wish.

Browned on the outside. Runny in the middle. All animal protein and fat, it’s fantastically rich. My heartsie.

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pork belly with cabbage and pears

Poor result with photos leads to a grittier feel and the shift from narrative to character driven food post.

Pork Belly: Porky! Fatty! Schoolyard taunts bounce off this delightful slice of meat. Trim the skin off for crisping later if braising. Chopped in to bite sized chunks and the bones left on, cut through with a heavy cleaver. Sealed in a frypan. Left to simmer for three hours, removed from broth briefy crisped up in the oven and glossed with venison stock and butter before serving. A kilogram.

Pork Crackle: Deeply cut into strips rubbed with salt and a little oil and crisped up in the oven. Chopped into small cubes and added to the cabbage.

Fennel: Suggested matching at time of wine purchase last year at Talijancich. As this dish was put into play, the aniseed flavour became a worry and with excess sweetness in the dish, would it taste of licorice? All other ingredients chosen with this in mind. Stalks removed and the bulb cut into small cubes. Two.

Cider: Substitute form of the ever-present matching of porks with apples. Dry dry dry to combat licorice effect, which it did. 500ml.

Venison Stock: No particular reason other than I’d made a reduction of it last weekend. Bold and meaty. 1 cup.

Onion:
Finey chopped and sauteed. One

Rosemary, thyme, peppercorns, bay leaves
First two from the herb garden and are common pork accompaniaments. Peppercorns for bite, and bay leaves for bitterness. A few sprigs, a few sprigs, 12, and two.

Pears: Taken from a recipe from ¡Delicioso! The man at the shop assured me the Beurré Bosc were firm for cooking and none too sweet, whipping out a slightly menacing pen-knife to slice me off a bit. Peeled, rubbed with lemon juice to prevent browning and left to simmer for twenty minutes in their height in red wine and two cinnamon sticks. Left to sit. Heated through in with the pork for the last 30 minutes but taken out and kept warm in the oven, sadly giving it a dry faded exterior. Two chopped up into small cubes and added in with the dish. The other four, trimmed at the base and placed on the plate. Six.

Walnuts, Garlic, Thyme:
Also cribbed and modified from ¡Delicioso! Brown the walnuts in the oven. Mince with the garlic and thyme. Added 30 minutes before finishing adding a somewhat murky effect to the broth. One cup, three, and two teaspoons.

Savoy Cabbage: Driven by the past. Chopped finely yet never finely enough. Blanched and then cooked in a little of the broth with the pork crackle. One.

Talijancich 2003 Viognier: A local. Clear and crisp but with a sweetness that reached the sweetness that the dish never made on its own. 750ml.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

dinner party seating

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

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gnocchignocchi

Noel Malcom’s not especially short but very informative Kosovo: A short history has put me in a Balkany mood. I remembered my grandmother, Dorrie (Dragica actually), telling me about her friend’s excellent “Yugoslav” gnocchi. It actually sounded remarkably like Italian gnocchi but I wasn’t going to push the issue. I got a request to cook something with noodles or rice for dinner for my sister-in-law – in from Darwin – and gnocchi seemed to fit the bill.

My last gnocchi meal was an exceptional sweet potato gnocchi with bacon, pear, and chicken at the Inglewood hotel 3 months back. I was impressed by the combination of textures but had no idea of how to make it, but I’d attempt something similar anyway. I had a few things to think about.

Gnocchi
I looked up my current love, The Classic Italian Cookbook by Marcella Hazan. Uncompromising and wise, here’s another quick sample for you:

We have all heard about the decline of the tomato. To judge by the plastic-wrapped examples in the supermarkets not even the worst reports are exaggerated.

Sweet spiky music. I followed her recipe but added sweet potatoes.

Boil an equal quantity of starchy potatoes(boiled in their skins and then peeled) and sweet potatoes and then mash. She recommends not adding egg yolks to keep them lighter and fluffier, but  I wanted a more robust gnocchi so I added one egg yolk.

Then mix in the plain flour – as an approximation use between a 1/5th to a 1/6th of the weight of the potato. The goal is to be able to knead it to “smooth, soft, and slightly sticky”.

Roll the gnocchi out into thumb-width cylinders, dusting with flour if it gets too sticky, and cut into 18mm pieces. To get the sauce grabbing ridges and the even cooking indent, place the piece on a fork and then press down in the middle with your finger and then let it drop off. They got better with a little practice.

Boil up a big pot of salted water, toss some in, and when they float to the surface, give them a few seconds grace, and scoop them out. Line the bottom of a baking diah with them.

The completely amazing thing about gnocchi is how a dish which comprises of two ingredients can involve so many factors influencing the outcome. Molecules eh!

porkgnocchiwok

Pork etc.
Pork and apples is an obvious choice but pears aren’t so different and juicier, nashi apples have the best of both. Just to make sure there was a completely crunchy fourth element, I thought of walnuts and the use of a walnut in devil’s on horsesback confirmed the relationship.

Small cubed four pork chops, and cooked in a frypan with butter and half a chopped chilli. Tossed in a tablespoon combined of fresh sage and thyme. The sage came about because of the tasty prosciutto and figs I had at Crafty’s.

A splash of white wine to get things moving along, then I decided I needed more room and moved to the wok. Lightly toasted a cup of walnuts and then added the contents of the frypan. Next was a diced pear and two diced nashi. Leave dicing of these to the last minute to avoid discolouration. Cook over a high heat to a stir fry ideal of hot and crisp, and then pour over the gnocchi.

Place it in a 180C oven while you make the sauce. The goal was to get everything a little crunchily roasted.

Sauce:
A few options, I toyed with a cream sauce for a while but remebered a recipe I cooked ages ago – quail with grapes and this convinced me of the merits of a chicken stock reduction. A cup of chicken stock into the frypan with another cup of white wine and a little more sage and thyme, scrape and stir until reduced by a half, and season to taste. Place the gnocchi mix in a plate and pour some of the sauce over it.

Eating
Toni and Vic were very happy with it. For me, I found the gnocchi a little gluey, and the pork and the pears a little overcooked. Omitting the oven stage and serving straight from the wok might have improved matters. The flavours were well balanced on the mild side but maybe a little more chilli for some bite would have added bite.

It’s an interesting dish because you could spend a long time trying to get it just right. Kneading though, hard to love. Interesting think piece¹, and tasty.

gnocchipork

¹ Speaking of which, a tale of everyday heroism and pig-headedness I’ve been following at apple of my eye. [via pixellated proveditor of fine things BARISTA]

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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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Is there something about “trembling swords of pork” in Shakespeare or did I just imagine it in a quiet moment in Lit. class? Unlike over there we have one kind of pork in WA, and that’s pork. Nothing like the organic beef farms and free-range chicken farms. Any venture capitalist want to fund a wild pig farm – speak to me.

Still had a jar of the Grapefruit Marmalade I’d made when Skippy was just a wee lad and I thought it’d be just the thing for a Sunday roast. Bought a 1kg rolled pork roast at the butchers and then unrolled it (a shame, they’d done a nice job) and then marinated it with 2/3 cup of marmalade; 1tbs of grated ginger; 1tbs honey .

Meanwhile I made a stuffing out of a cup fresh breadcrumbs; 2 grated apples; 1tbs fresh sage; 2tbs butter; salt & pepper and rerolled the pork, securing with a skewer and tying with string. Wiped the skin and rubbed it with salt . Stuffing was maybe a bit much but when you’ve seen a band with a trombone and a glokenspiel xylophone the night before, why skimp?

20 minutes at 200C then down to 180C for another one hour and 10 . Now obviously you don’t want some nasty parasitical infestation if you don’t cook it right but that’s no excuse for cooking every last drop of juice out of it. Keep an eye on it, pierce with a skewer. Does it run clear? Does it feel cooked? Does its seats fold down? Give it an extra safe side 10 minutes, take it out and rest it for 10 minutes.

Joined in the roasting pan were kipfler potatoes and two apples cored with a paring knife and filled with the leftover stuffing.

Gravy made of scrapings and equal parts dry cider and chicken stock. Reduced and thickened with cornstarch.

Ahmmm good, like it should be, pork was moist, not salt-cracker dry buffet style. Marmalade taste hangs around for a while, like Stereolab sustains. Some left over for a sandwich tomorrow and that’ll get me through Monday.

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I was sucessfully badgered to join three friends doing this year’s Avon Descent to do a paddle through the “Tea Trees” – a 20km stretch of an immature river winding sharply through pointy branches and rocks.

3 hours in the middle of winter paddling, head butting my way through branches and falling off a log-like surf ski that eventually filled up with water. I had two things on my mind, a Weezer song and healing winter dinner.

I was going to do a bastardisation of a cassoulet but it was all too hard in my state. Instead I settled on pork and decided to braise it, inspired by something tasty I’d had at the Subi Pub and constant recent socio-political pinging. Went to the butchers and was getting the “we’ve got fillet” and “not much left” routine. Persisting, I said it was going to be braised with beer and there was a “why didn’t you say so” moment. We ceased being client/merchant and became equals – he told me he had some pork belly out the back. Out it came – “with or without bone?”, “With bone” – approving nod. He told me, lovingly, how he was going to trim it. For good measure I told him the rabbits looked great and I’d be back for one later.

The meal was based around a standard braising technique plus a quick skip around the net to see if I was on the right track. I chose Little Creatures Pale Ale as it’s a relatively sweet beer and I’ve been enjoying bacon with maple syrup a lot of late.

Pork

The pork was scored with a bit of salt rubbed on the top. I largely chopped a few aromatics – 1 leek, 2 carrots, and a stick of celery put them in the cast iron casserole dish with a little butter and put the pork belly, cut into two pieces, on top.

This went into a 190C oven until the pork was lightly browned on both sides. Then it was back onto the burner. 1.75 bottles of Pale Ale went in. Don’t worry, my wife (bless) knew I might be sad, so she got me a 6 pack rather than just the two I asked for. And added half a cup of chicken stock to bring the liquid half way up the meat. I added a bouquet garni and filled the pot with thinly sliced cabbage. Bought the pot up to a simmer, reduced it to an ever so gentle simmer, placed the lid on, and came back two hours later.

Took the pork out of the dish. I was unhappy with the “crackle” so I put them under the griller while I did the rest of the preparation. Cabbage and leek was taken out and kept and the rest was strained with the carrot and celery binned. The broth was kept on the burner in very token gesture to reduction.

Stoemp

I was disappointed that this is just a fancy Belgian way of saying mash – as a noun it would make a great verb and Wrestlers who dig exotic wordplay should take note. The mash was just boiled Royal Blue potatoes with buttermilk. According to the very useful Essentials of Cooking byJames Peterson, which I also used as a guide for the braise, it shouldn’t be done with a processer as it glugs up the starches, so I went back to old masher.

Serving

Stoemp as an island surrounded by a sea of broth with a sea pasture of cabbage and leek…that’s enough of that…pork on top. Fair compensation for a grim morning but would recommend reducing the broth a little further and darts as a sport. The flavour was strong enough and made a soup with the potato – beer soup, ponder that.

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