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Leek and Reggiano Scromlette

 

This is a fusion between scrambled eggs, fried eggs and an omelette. Kept very slightly on the edge of underdone when removed from the pan you’ll encounter a creaminess and succulence that is more than enough to do away with the need for sauce.

Leek is a truly wonderful vegetable, providing a complex flavour that errs on the side of caution compared with its close relative the onion. Gently sautéed in a good French butter with a hint of sea salt and turn of coarse black pepper the kitchen becomes a shrine to all that is good about food and cooking.

One of the things that excites the palette is the surprise of a burst of flavour that was not present in the previous bite. On this accord ensuring that the Dijon mustard is swirled into the eggs rather than mixed to complete homogeneity ensures that the jewels of surprise will be abundant.

Although there are many forms, Parmesan (Parmigiano) truly comes in only one form, Reggiano, named after the district in Italy. It has a great acidic bite, a creamy under note and distinctive crystals of umami that ‘pop’ in the mouth to reveal a complete taste sensation. The eggs are therefore finished with Reggianio, finely grated and allowed to melt to the point of mild submission before being served.

The egg needs to look like marble – a mottled interweaving of white and yellow streaks. Any more and it is more like an omelette or scrambled eggs, any less it will be more like a fried egg.

 

Serves: 1 – best to make these individually
Preparation: 5 minutes
Cooking: 10 minutes

 

Ingredients:

2  Free range eggs |
20g  Butter | Use a good butter
1  Leek | White to pale green part only – green to dark green is too tough.
1 tsp.  Dijon mustard |
A good grating  Parmesan | Add as per your taste. Remember Reggiano is best.

Sea salt and black pepper for seasoning

 

Method:

Put a small omelette pan (frying pan) over a medium heat and add the butter.

Prepare the leek by removing the root end and then removing the outer layer. Wash thoroughly, dry and finely chop the leek’s white part.

Once the butter is foaming add the leek and a little seasoning and cook gently over a low heat until soft. Now turn the heat up to high and add the eggs. Using a wooden spoon swirl them around in the pan until they create a marble effect. Now add and swirl around the dijon mustard and a little seasoning. Spread over the grated Parmesan. The scromlette is ready when it is only just under cooked on the surface. Serve immediately. Any residual heat will finish off the cooking. Serve with a tasty sourdough. Bon appetit!

Note:

  • When buying a leek look for one that has a significant white to pale green part – the green to dark green part tastes ok but has a tougher unpleasant texture. The discarded green parts can be retained and used in making stock (ensure that all dirt has been removed).

Chile – Chilean Scrambled Eggs with Arepas

Football:

Chile’s World Cup history goes back to the inaugural World Cup in 1930 in Uruguay where it finished 5th out of the 13 teams that competed. It has competed in 8 previous World Cups with a best finish of third back in 1962, the year that Chile hosted the World Cup.

There is usually one player in a team that others fear, or at least have a wary respect for: Messi for Argentina, Neymar for Brazil, Pirlo for Italy, Ronaldo for Portugal, Touré for Côte d’Ivoire; the list goes on. In France 1998, Chile was not expected to do much, but teams were wary of its one outstanding and dangerous player at the time, Marcelo Salas. He was that little bit of class that could elevate the expectations of a nation. Wherever Salas played he won trophies; for clubs in South America and Europe. He had a deft scoring touch and an amazing aerial ability for a relatively short guy, which helped him score 4 goals in the 1998 tournament. The only downside for Chile was that they met a Ronaldo inspired Brasil in the second round and were beaten 4-1, with Salas scoring a consolation goal.

In Brasil, I reckon Chile has done remarkably well to progress through to the second round, given it had the Netherlands, Spain and a tenacious Australia side in its group. And just like in 1998 they face Brazil again in the second round. Even though they don’t have a Salas this time, I still think that they have a chance of beating Brazil – it should be a belter of a game.

 

Dish:

I am delving in to Chilean food for the first time and not to my surprise the cuisine is as diverse as the country is long. With such a lengthy coastline seafood is a big influence in Chile’s choice of food, especially as the phenomenon known as the Humboldt Current (the marine system that flows up the coast of Chile) encourages an abundance of sea life to live in Chilean waters. Some of the standout dishes that I must try at some point are: raw clams with lemon juice (imejas con limón); abalone bread pudding (chupe de locos); scallops in melted butter covered in grilled Parmesan (ostiones a la Permesane); and Chilean crab pie served in its shell (pastel de jaiba).

Moving away from seafood I wanted to celebrate two ingredients of Chile; chorizo and achiote. Chilean chorizo comes in short fat links and has an amazing amount of luscious red fat. The local Latin American deli near where I live has a range of wonderfully fatty chorizo – every time the El Salvadoran lady goes to cut a chorizo from the hanging bunch drips of red oil splash down on to her face – she laughs and says that she goes home sometimes looking as red as the Chilean home kit.

Achiote, or annatto, is the collective noun applied to the berries gathered in the Amazon rainforests. The native Brazilians that collected them used the red colour from the berries as a dye to paint their bodies. When the Africans arrived in Brazil they found that they could use the dye in food, and missing the food from home they dyed cooking oil to make it look like the dende (palm oil) from back home. The dye, known as color chileno, is today used extensively in Chilean cooking, where the achiote seeds are infused in oil and strained out to produce an intensely red dye.

The dish I have cooked is huevos revueltos con color chileno, or Chilean scrambled eggs, and they are accompanied by some hot freshly made arepas.

 

Serves: 2-4 |   Preparation: 15 minutes + 30 minutes resting |   Cooking Time: 35 minutes

 

Ingredients:

For the color chileno:
70g Achiote seeds | Also known as annatto seeds.
120ml Grapeseed oil | Or other non-flavoured oil. Traditionally pork lard is used.

For the Arepas:
120g Pre-cooked white corn meal |
10g Unsalted butter |
250ml Warm water |
Good pinch Sea salt |
2 tbsp. Butter | For frying.

For the scrambled eggs:
2 tbsp. Grapeseed oil |
100-120g Chorizo | This is about the average weight of one chorizo.
1 small Red chilli | Deseeded and finely chopped.
½ tsp. Color chileno | See above.
6 Free range eggs | Lightly beaten.
Seasoning Sea salt | Take care as the chorizo is naturally salty.

 

How to:

For the color chileno: add the achiote seeds and 40ml of the oil to a small frying pan. Cook on a medium heat for 5 minutes and then drain the red oil, reserving it. Add another 40ml of the oil to the existing achiote seeds and cook for a further 5 minutes. Drain the oil and add to the previously reserved oil. Repeat the process for the final 40ml of oil. Discard the achiote seeds at the end. The red oil is the color chileno.

For the arepas: to a bowl add the corn meal, butter, water and salt and mix with your hands until an even paste is formed. Leave the paste to rest for 5 minutes and then bring it together and knead it in to a dough. Melt the butter in a heavy based frying pan over medium heat. Form thin 15 cm diameter discs with the cornmeal dough (you should get 4 arepas) and fry both sides until golden – about 2-3 minutes each side.

For the eggs: remove the skin from the chorizo sausage and slice the sausage. Heat the oil in a medium skillet and fry the chorizo for about 3 minutes. That lovely red fat should be oozing out. Add the chopped chilli and fry for a further minute. Now add the color chileno and beaten eggs and whilst stirring cook until solid but still a little wet. Season, if required, and serve immediately with the hot arepas.

Algeria – Shakhshūkha

Football:

The World Cup is hotting up now and with only a few hours to Algeria’s first game it seems appropriate to be writing about it now. 1982 was its debut in the World Cup, you know the one I keep harping on about was my first one; but it was a great World Cup. Algeria made a sensational impact in the first game by beating West Germany 2-1; but the group ended with real controversy and outrage by many. Both West Germany and Austria knew that if the Germans won by 1 or 2 goals then both teams would go through, ousting Algeria. If West Germany won by more than two goals, it and Algeria would go through. West Germany scored early on and then both teams just kicked the ball around with no intention of attacking. The result remained and Algeria was on its way home. This display of unsportsman-like behaviour was condemned by the world of football, including West German and Austrian fans. After this it was decided that all final games in each group be played simultaneously.

Algeria is up against the much fancied Belgium first off and will be tested to the max. Algeria does have quite an all-action tenacious style and could well prove stiff opposition. The central cog in the team is midfielder Saphir Sliti Taïder who will be looking to release the three attack minded players Sofiane Feghouli, El Arbi Hillel Soudani and Islam Slimani. It would be great if Algeria could make the second round for the first time in their history, and put a little of 1982 to rest.

 

The Dish: 

When I think of North African cuisine I think of the aromatic fragrances of caraway, cumin, coriander and saffron intermingled with cinnamon, parsley, chilli and nutmeg. The cuisine of Algeria epitomises the culinary magic of this part of the world; characterised by its European and Arabic influence. It is believed that salads, soups and some desserts were from the European influence whereas the foods barrāniyya, couscous, and skewered meat and vegetables were inherited from the Arabs, Berbers, and Turks.

Shakhshūkha is a classic Algerian dish said to have derived from the Turkish dish şakşuka, and is my chosen dish for Algeria. It has cumin, coriander, thyme, parsley and a hint of hot cayenne in a tomato and red and yellow pepper (capsicum) sauce. The highlight though is the baked eggs within; cooked until just set giving the shakhshūkha a gorgeous and unctuous finish. I have completed the dish with a sprinkling of fresh coriander and feta, which is strictly not Algerian, but does complement it wonderfully.

 

Serves: 4   |   Preparation: 15 minutes   |   Cooking Time: 40 minutes

 

Ingredients:

1½ tsp. Cumin seeds |
150ml Olive oil |
2 Onions | Peeled and sliced.
2 Red peppers (capsicum) | Cored, deseeded and sliced in to thin strips.
2 Yellow peppers (capsicum) | Cored, deseeded and sliced in to thin strips.
4 tsp. Dark muscovado sugar |
2 Fresh bay leaves |
6 Sprigs Thyme | Leaves only.
Handful Flat leaf parsley | Well washed and chopped.
Bunch Coriander | Well washed and chopped.
800g Ripe tomatoes | Diced.
Pinch Saffron strands |
¼ tsp. Hot Cayenne pepper |
Seasoning Sea salt and black pepper |
As required Hot water |
8 Free range eggs |
120g Fetta cheese |

 

How To:

Heat a large heavy based pan on a medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and toast for a few seconds until fragrant and slightly browned. Add the olive oil and onions and sauté for about 2-3 minutes to achieve a little browning. Add the red peppers, yellow peppers, muscovado sugar, bay leaves, thyme, parsley and ¾ of the coriander. Turn the heat to high and cook the peppers and onions until they attain a nice colour – about 3 minutes or so.

Add the tomatoes, saffron strands, Cayenne pepper and seasoning and bring to the boil whilst stirring. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 20-22 minutes. If at any point the sauce looks dry add a little hot water to moisten. The consistency should be similar to a pasta sauce.

Create 8 evenly spread gaps in the sauce and break an egg in to each. Cover the pan and over low heat gently cook until the eggs have just set. This can take anywhere between 8 and 12 minutes.

When the eggs are cooked crumble over the feta cheese and sprinkle on the remaining coriander. Serve in the middle of a table in the pan with crusty white bread.

Note: The sauce can be prepared in advance.

 

Rainbow Trout on Asparagus topped with a Poached Egg and Hollandaise Sauce

Introduction:

I am going to keep this one short and sweet. Breakfasting in Melbourne is a Melbournians pastime. In fact I have heard that more people go out for breakfast in Melbourne than dinner. Chefs’ reputations now hang on perfect poached eggs and the ability to amalgamate a host of ingredients and still be able to call it breakfast. I’m a massive breakfast fan and on weekends my family and I indulge in breakfast either at a trendy little café or by creating something adventurous in the comfort of our humble abode.

This is my contribution from the weekend just gone; it’s inspiration came from the beautiful rainbow trout I procured the other day, the new asparagus season and my other half’s surreptitious predilection for Hollandaise  – then again who doesn’t have one?

 

Serves: 2   |   Preparation: 20 minutes   |   Cooking: 25 minutes

 

Ingredients:

For the trout:    
1 fillet from a 1 kg fish Rainbow trout | Scaled, filleted and pin-boned if you buy the fish whole, otherwise about a 250g fillet with skin on.
2 tbsp. Grapeseed oil | You can use groundnut oil or any oil that has a neutral flavour.
15g Butter | I use Lescure French butter, but any good butter is great.
To taste Sea salt |
To taste Freshly cracked black pepper |

For the asparagus:    
8 large stems Asparagus |

For the poached eggs:    
2 Very fresh large eggs | The fresher the eggs (free range) the less vinegar you will need in the pan. Sometimes I find chefs over ‘vinegar’ the water and the egg tastes acetic.
1-2 tbsp. / litre of water White vinegar | Depending on how fresh your eggs are.

For the Hollandaise:    
30ml Rice wine vinegar | Or white vinegar.
1 tsp. Sea salt |
A sprinkle Freshly cracked black pepper |
1 tsp. Cold water |
From 2 large eggs Egg yolks | Fresh of course. And free range.
150g Butter | Lescure French butter again.
To taste Salt and pepper |

 

 

How To:

Remove the tail from the trout and cut the fillet in to two equal rectangles. Season with sea salt.

For the poached eggs: the great thing about poached eggs is that they can be prepared in advance and then warmed up prior to serving. In to a wide deep pan add the vinegar and about 1-2 litres of water (I use 2 tbsp. of vinegar in 2 litres of water). The vinegar is used to help prevent the egg white from spreading (clouding). I am going to write a post about this soon, with a bit of science as well. But for now, bring the water and vinegar to just below simmering – I like to call it a murmur. Gently swirl the water. Put each egg in to a separate cup, making sure to keep the yolks intact. Carefully pour the first egg in to the pan, and then the second, ensuring that the whites encapsulate each yolk. The eggs will take 2-3 minutes to cook – ensure that the white is cooked and the yolk is soft. Carefully remove the eggs from the pan and then dip them in iced water to stop the cooking process. Put them aside for later.

In a pan large enough to hold the asparagus bring water to the boil and then reduce it to a simmer. Break away the woody ends from the bottom of the asparagus stems (they will have a natural snapping point) and then add the asparagus to the boiling water. Simmer until the asparagus is just starting to give way but still shows a little resistance when prodded with a sharp knife (about 5-7 minutes). Remove the asparagus from the water when cooked and place in a small baking dish or on a plate. Cover the asparagus with foil to keep them warm. Take the water off the heat but retain it – we will warm the poached eggs in it.

There are lots of recipes out there for Hollandaise sauce. My advice is to treat it with care and never leave its side and you’ll have a great result.

Start by adding 30ml of rice wine vinegar (or white vinegar) to a small pan with a teaspoon of sea salt and a sprinkle of freshly cracked pepper. Bring to the boil and reduce by half.

Prepare a bain marie or similar. I use a pan of water barely on the simmer and a metal bowl sitting over the pan (not touching the water otherwise the eggs will coagulate and be scrambled).

Add the reduced vinegar to the metal bowl; add the 1 tsp. of cold water and then the egg yolks. Whisk until smooth and then place the bowl over the pan of just simmering water. Now add a cube of butter. Whisk continuously until the butter has melted and repeat this process until all the butter has been added, at which point you will have a thick sauce. Add the lemon juice and stir until smooth and then season with salt and black pepper according to your taste. Remove the bowl containing the Hollandaise from the pan of simmering water and set aside. At the last moment you can put the bowl back on the pan, and whilst whisking you can warm up the Hollandaise before serving (only if you need to).

In a skillet or frying pan heat the oil and butter until bubbling. Place the trout skin-side down in the pan and then fry for a couple of minutes, turn and fry for a further minute . The key is keep watch and feel the texture of the fish until it is only just cooked – no longer. Remove the fish from the pan and drain on kitchen paper (skin-side down). Season the flesh side with cracked black pepper.

Working quickly, warm the poached eggs by gently placing them in the water that the asparagus was cooked in; the hot water will warm the eggs. After about 20 seconds lift the eggs out of the water, drain them and then serve immediately.

To construct the dish, line 4 stems of asparagus side by side on each plate. Place the rainbow trout on the asparagus, and then carefully place the poached egg on the trout. Finally, drizzle the Hollandaise sauce over the asparagus, trout and poached egg. Bon appétit.

Unctuous Scrambled Eggs

Introduction:

My grandma was an absolute card. A cheeky scallywag from Liverpool, she was a real bag of fun that would tell you how it was. I used to love going to the grocers with her where she would pick up a vegetable or piece of fruit push her thumb into it and then throw it back in disgust at the abhorrent lack of quality. Only when the item was right would she then carefully place it in her basket. Despite her complete practical approach to cooking she cared about what her grandchildren ate. Never was this more apparent than when she cooked scrambled eggs. I have vivid memories of delicate, light and airy eggs, perfectly seasoned and served steaming on crunchy toast. There was no technological whizz-bangery going on; just an electric hob, trusty old pan and a wooden spoon that had worn down to about half its original size. But as my childhood memories resurface I remember them being breakfast Utopia.

Over my life I have been served an almost infinite variety of scrambled eggs. From the seemingly ‘gourmet’ ‘sloppy’ variety, which seem to be the trend at the moment, to the overcooked microwaved variety; I never return to a café that has served microwaved scrambled eggs – the notion and the result is nothing short of culinary blasphemy. I have also had incredible scrambled eggs, where the chef has understood and accomplished the balance between being actual scrambled eggs and being light and tasty.

I have tried and tested different recipes over time and this is the one that I am really happy with. I am sure you’ll love this plate of indulgence; they sit on that fine line between being under and over cooked, and they have an unctuous manner about them. Get in your kitchen, crack open those eggs and go and treat yourself, or even somebody else.

 

Serves: 2   |   Preparation:  5 minutes   |   Cooking: 15 minutes

 

Ingredients:

25g Butter | French is great e.g. D’Isigny, Lescure or President.
4 Free range eggs | Organic free range give a great  taste.
40g Double cream | Single cream can be used – I just indulge this with double.
1 tsp. Dijon mustard |
50ml Full fat milk |
To taste Sea Salt |
To taste Black Pepper |

 

How To:

Add the butter to a pre-heated medium pan – continually whisk until the butter foams, defoams and then turns a nut brown. Pour in to a small heat proof container and set aside.

Cool the pan which will still have a film of the nutty brown butter. Once cool put on a low heat.

To a bowl add the eggs, cream and mustard. Whisk gently with a fork – there will probably still be large lumps of double cream in it. Add the milk and salt. Scrape any double cream from the fork and add to the egg, and then whisk the mixture. This will help everything to meld together. Don’t worry if there are still small lumps of double cream as these will deliciously melt once cooking starts.

Add the egg mixture to the pan and then continually, and gently,  stir whilst scraping the bottom of the pan with a soft spatula; scraping the bottom of the pan will ensure that the eggs do not overcook on  the pan’s surface. The secret to the lightness is to treat them with kid gloves – keeping a low heat and gently stirring and scraping continuously. When the eggs are looking more ‘solid’ yet still have liquid, add the nutty brown butter. Stir and then remove the eggs from the heat. Stir for another 30 seconds or so (the eggs will continue to cook once off the heat). Serve immediately.

I serve them on wholemeal toast, casa linga or sourdough (no butter required) with a sprinkle of freshly cracked black pepper.

Notes:

  • To get the best results will take experimentation as there are so many variables in your kitchen that will be different to mine, but the key is gentle cooking and continual scraping and stirring.

SMashing Lemon Drizzle Cake

Introduction:

This is a cracking little cake which has not only wowed people at gatherings but is also gluten free, which is a great asset to have up one’s sleeve. The credit for the recipe goes to the River Cottage, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s hugely successful project and television series. However, recipes for lemon drizzle cakes are abound and so one is never too sure where a recipe actually originated.

The secret ingredient for this wonderfully moist cake is mashed potato. This does seems quite an innovative, and dare I say aberrant, ingredient to use in a sweet cake, but when you think about it nobody would blink twice at carrot cake. The potato contributes to the cake’s moist texture, without imparting any ‘potatoey’ flavour. Almond meal is used instead of flour. The lemon syrup that is drizzled over the cake provides a great balance of sweetness and sharpness.

 

Serves: 12 or so   |   Preparation:  20-30 minutes   |   Cooking: 25-45 minutes

 

Ingredients:

175g Unsalted butter | I use Lescure French butter, but that’s just a personal preference.
200g Caster sugar | White or golden caster sugar can be used.
4 large Eggs | Free range.
200g Almond meal | I have used bought almond meal, and also blanched almonds that I have ground myself – either will do.
2 tsp. Baking powder | Baking powder is usually a mix of sodium bicarbonate and an acid. When the baking powder is heated the bicarbonate and acid react to produce carbon dioxide, which is the gas that causes the cake to rise.
250g Mashed potato | Boil potatoes, such as Desiree or Sebago. When soft push through a potato ricer and allow to cool. Don’t add any salt, milk, cream or butter.
From 3 lemons Lemon zest | Finely grated.

For the lemon drizzle
From 2 lemons Lemon juice | Squeeze ‘em well.
75g Caster sugar |

 

 

How To:

I have made this cake using the electric mixer method and the manual ‘by hand’ method. Both produced fantastic results, so the decision on which to use is probably down to whether you have an electric mixer or not – wow, sometimes I feel like the Einstein of the food world.

Firstly preheat your oven to 180 deg C. Line a 23cm spring-form cake tin with baking parchment, and grease the side with butter.

Using an electric mixer: Beat the butter and sugar for about 5 minutes, until soft. Then add one egg with about a tablespoon of the almond meal. When beaten in repeat the process with the other 3 eggs. Now add the rest of the almond meal and the baking powder and beat until mixed. Add the mashed potato, beat until mixed and then finally add the lemon zest, and again beat until mixed.

Using the hand method: Soften the butter slightly and then add to a bowl with the sugar. Beat with a wooden spoon until soft and fluffy. Carefully add one egg and a tablespoon of almond meal and beat really well to prevent curdling. Repeat with the other 3 eggs. Stir the baking powder in to the rest of the almond meal and then fold both into the mixture. Then fold in the mashed potato and finally the lemon zest.

Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and pop it in the oven. Now, I have had variations in cooking time, so check after 25 minutes and then use a skewer to test every few minutes (when ready the skewer will be clean after prodding the cake). It usually takes about 40 minutes for me.

Once out of the oven prepare the syrup. Add the sugar to the lemon juice and stir a couple of times ensuring that not all of the sugar has dissolved. Whilst still warm pierce the cake with a skewer, about two-thirds the way into the cake i.e. not through to the base. Evenly pour the lemon syrup over the cake, and watch it seep in. By not completely dissolving the sugar you should end up with some crystalline sugar at the top of the cake, by design. Let the cake cool before removing from the cake tin. Dig in.

Notes:

  • Keep in a sealed container at room temperature to keep in the moisture. Should keep a few days, but in reality will only be in existence for a couple.

American Style Pancakes with Red Berry Compote

Introduction:

Sometimes there’s nothing like a good feed, especially on Saturday or Sunday morning. Today was such a morning, and with hungry family in tow, the young ones decided it was time to progress dad’s training by providing a hand in the kitchen. Pancakes had been doing the rumour rounds all weekend, so as not to disappoint pancakes for breakfast it was. I am a fan of the English flat version, oozing with butter, lemon and white sugar. There’s something very comforting about them, probably associated with the memories of celebrating Shrove Tuesday as a child.

Today, however, was not going to be the traditional household pancakes, but those of the US of A. American pancakes are more cake like in their texture, and certainly pack more sustenance per serving. I do really like them though, especially accompanied with something that can soak in to them, like a berry compote.

The kids were very handy in the kitchen this morning and so in no time at all we were all sat down to beautifully risen pancakes topped with a red berry compote and vanilla yoghurt.

 

Serves: 4 hungry bods   |   Preparation:  20 minutes   |   Cooking: 15 minutes

 

Ingredients:

4 large Free range eggs | Large eggs are usually 58-59g each.
200ml Full cream milk |
300g Self-raising flour | Self-raising flour contains baking powder (approximately 1 tsp. per 150g). This is ideal for these pancakes.
4 tbsp. Caster sugar |
1 pinch Sea salt |
3 or 4 grams per pancake Butter | To cook the pancakes.

For the berry compote
6 large Strawberries | Each cut into 6 pieces.
About 20  Blueberries |
12 or so Cherries | Halved and pitted.
1 heaped tbsp. Vanilla sugar | Adds a warming vanilla nuance to the sweet and tart berries. Of course ordinary sugar can be used instead.
As an accompaniment Vanilla yoghurt | A few dollops of vanilla yoghurt finishes this off wonderfully.

 

 

How To:

There are two methods to make the pancake batter: the short and the long:

Short: Whisk the eggs and milk together in a kitchen mixer. Add the flour, sugar and salt and mix until blended. Easy.

Long: Whisk the eggs and milk in a bowl. In a separate bowl add the flour, sugar and salt and mix well. Make a well in the centre of the flour and then pour in the whisked eggs and milk. Gradually incorporate the flour into the eggs and milk and then beat until mixed.

For the compote add the red berries and sugar to a medium heavy based pan,cover, and put on a low heat. Simmer for about 10 minutes, and the compote is finished. It should have a rich unctuous red sauce, and the berries should be soft but still intact.

To cook the pancakes put a small frying pan on a medium heat and when hot add a knob of butter. Let the butter melt and then add a spoon, ladle or serving spoon’s worth of batter – it all depends on how big or small you want the pancakes. The batter will start to rise. When the base has browned turn the pancake over and cook the other side. Serve immediately with the compote and a dollop of vanilla yoghurt.

 Notes:

  • If I am making a batch I stack them on a plate, each layer covered in foil. This keeps them nice and hot.

Squid Ink Fettuccine

Introduction:

I remember seeing black pasta for the first time and being enchanted with the look of it. I was particularly taken with the contrast of the black against the pink hue of king prawns, the deep red of red pepper (capsicum) and the green of freshly hand-picked green beans. As I learnt how to make my own pasta, I also learnt about squid ink, the colouring used to blacken pasta, and how it also provided a very subtle ocean saltiness to the pasta.

If I’m feeling fruity I will buy a whole squid, clean it and extract the ink from the ink sac. Otherwise I buy pre-packaged squid or cuttlefish ink, which is equally as good.

 

Serves: 4   |   Preparation:  40 minutes   |   Cooking: 90 minutes standing time

 

Ingredients:

3 large  Eggs | Organic free range eggs are by far the best.
300g  00 plain flour | oo is a much finer flour than standard plain  flour and is a ideal for pasta.
8g  Squid ink | Alternatively, I use 2x4g sachets of nero di sepia, cuttlefish ink.
A pinch  Sea salt  |
About 1 tbsp.   Olive oil  |
For dusting  Flour | Plain flour can be used.

 

 

How To:

There are two methods that I use. The first is by using a mechanical device such as a food processor or food mixer with a dough hook (like a KitchenAid) where you can add all the ingredients and let the machine do the work. Here I will describe the more traditional method. The advantage with this method is twofold. Firstly I find that manually making the pasta works the dough a little less which leads to a more delicate pasta. Secondly, I find making pasta by hand very therapeutic and it just feels like real cooking.

On a clean bench make a mound with the 00 flour and within the mound make a well. In the well add the eggs and squid ink and a pinch of sea salt. Now with a fork carefully whisk the eggs and squid ink until well mixed, without incorporating any flour. Once mixed start flicking the flour into the egg mix and ‘cut’ the mix with a palette knife. Keep introducing the flour and ‘cutting’ it in to the egg mix until you have a large breadcrumb type consistency.

Now get your hands in there and bring it all together. Pour over the olive oil and then start working the dough gently until you have a smooth and shiny dough ball. Wrap the dough in cling film and put in a fridge to rest for about 30 minutes.

For the next part I use a pasta roller, which is where I break away from the tradition of manually rolling the pasta with a rolling pin. Cut the dough ball into quarters. Take the first quarter and on a floured surface flatten it with the palm of your hands until you have a rectangle. Roll the pasta through your pasta roller on the widest setting. Once rolled, fold the rectangle 1/3 third in from the left and 1/3 in from the right. Turn 90 degrees and roll it again on the widest setting. Repeat this process. Now, ensuring the pasta is well dusted with flour start rolling it through the pasta roller.

Start with the widest setting and then work towards the narrowest setting. I like a thick fettuccine, so out of the 6 settings that my pasta roller has, with 6 being the narrowest, I roll the pasta to setting 5. Once rolled, dust the pasta with flour again and then cut using the fettuccine cutter on your pasta maker. Of course you can cut it and roll it to whatever shape and thickness you want.

Leave the pasta to rest at room temperature for an hour or so, and then it’s ready to cook.


Notes:

  • If your pasta dough ball is still a little dry after kneading you can add a little more olive oil (but not too much) to moisten
  • You can leave out the ink for regular pasta.

 

Basic Mayonnaise

Introduction:

After learning how to make mayonnaise I have seriously never bought mayonnaise since. Firstly, I have yet to taste any bought mayonnaise that can compare with the flavour and freshness of the homemade version. Secondly, I really enjoy making it.

The first time I made it, meticulously following the recipe I had, it seemed like an adventure in to the big big world of cooking; now it’s something that I can whip up – or whisk up – in no more than 3 or 4 minutes. The secret behind a good stable mayonnaise is getting the right proportion of egg yolk to liquid, and of course the whisking action. Egg yolk is the most magnificent of natural foods – it has an incredible emulsifying power; that is the way it can cause liquids that do not normally mix to come together as one.

Just as an aside it is believed by some that the word for mayonnaise came from the old French for yolk, moyeu, meaning the centre hub. It certainly has logic to it.

Back on track, can I honestly say that I have not yet had a mayonnaise split on me; a girlfriend or two maybe, but not a mayonnaise. The reason I believe is the quality of the whisk I use and the size of the mixing bowl. I use a large whisk and large metal mixing bowl.

The requirement is to smash the oil in to droplets so that they can then be emulsified by the egg yolk. The large mixing bowl and structure of the large whisk enables vigorous beating, and hence a beautifully constructed creamy mayonnaise. If you have never made mayonnaise before I reckon you should approach this with a sense of adventure and excitement, and not in fear or hesitancy – somehow I reckon what’s in the mind has a significant bearing on what ends up on the plate – or sandwich.

 

Serves: A few sandwiches over a week   |   Preparation:  5-10 minutes  |   Cooking: No cooking required

 

Ingredients:

From 1 large egg  Egg yolk | Free range, organic and fresh eggs for the absolute best results.
1 tsp.  Dijon mustard | Dijon is a must staple in my kitchen – it can be used in so many dishes.
~250ml  Grapeseed oil | A non-invasive oil is required. Grapeseed has a subtle flavour and is perfect. Also, groundnut oil is great. The measure is not exact as I add the oil until I have a great consistency, but 250ml is a good start.
1 tsp.  Rice wine vinegar | Any white vinegar will do; rice wine vinegar is just my preference.
A pinch  Black pepper | Freshly cracked and cracked finely.
To taste  Sea salt | 

 

 

How To:

To the mixing bowl add the egg yolk and Dijon mustard and whisk until blended.

Now start adding the oil. Here is where the large bowl and whisk come in to play. When I first made mayonnaise I studiously added the oil drop by drop and then in a very steady stream. If it’s your first time then I would recommend this. However, I can pour in 50ml at a time and then vigorously whisk and I get a perfect emulsion. So add all the oil, in your chosen way, and you will get a thick and creamy emulsion.

Now whisk in the vinegar and pepper. If you think the mayonnaise is a little too ‘wet’ then whisk in more oil to slightly thicken. Taste and add salt as required.

Notes:

  • I very rarely add the salt as I find there is enough salt in the Dijon mustard to give the desired flavour.
  • The mayonnaise can be, and I have, made in a food processor. In this case add the oil in a steady stream. I must say that the manual method produces better and more consistent results, for me anyhow.

Taking a Recipe with a Pinch of Salt

During this wonderful journey of learning to cook there’s one thing that I have learnt – not all recipes work. In fact, I have been tearing out my hair over the years wondering why the results I have are nothing like the photograph in the recipe, and certainly nothing like the descriptions and ramblings the chef uses to introduce the dish. There was a saying that an old professor of Chemistry used to deliver at least once per week in his organic lectures: if it’s biology it breathes, if it’s physics it moves, and if it’s chemistry it doesn’t work. After a semester of fervent rib tickling with this gem of comedy genius I realised that there indeed may be some truth to it. Effectively, cooking is edible chemistry, and I know from my chemist days that to replicate an experimental result required the exact materials, ambient conditions, processes and energy (such as stirring or heating). Bearing this in mind, in a cooking context all these same principles apply.

Let’s take a really simple example. I want a soft boiled egg – nice and oozy yolk, with the white cooked properly. You are provided with one recipe that says place eggs in cold water, bring to the boil and then boil for three and a half minutes, after which immediately run the eggs under cold water for 20 seconds, and then serve. What could possibly go wrong? First off the egg type; is it small, medium small, medium, medium large, large or dinosaur? Is the egg free range, organic or from a caged bird?(Please whatever you do, if you are not already doing it, use free range eggs – the taste and texture is infinitely better). Is the egg at room temperature or cold straight from the fridge? How many eggs are you cooking at the one time? The choice and number of eggs has a huge influence on whether this recipe works.

Next, how cold is your water when you start? Is it iced, cold or tepid? What method of heating are you using? On a high gas powered ring the water will come to boiling point much quicker than on a small electric powered ring meaning the egg will be exposed to the warmer water for less time. If the heating method is really slow then the egg may be cooked before you even reach boiling point.  Have you ever heard of the 63 degree egg? This is almost a sous vide method where the egg cooks in its own shell for 45 minutes at 63 deg C. The story goes that in ancient Japan the ladies would take the eggs down to the hot springs where they would bathe with their eggs. The eggs would cook over a period of time until perfectly soft and luxuriously runny – ready in time for lunch. I have tried this as a cooking method and the result is quite astounding (note: I didn’t bathe like the Japanese ladies as the visions of me with half a dozen eggs in a bubble bath is not really that conducive to appetite). So back on track, the heating methods, the temperature of the water and the ambient conditions all have a part to play in determining whether the recipe will work.

What I am trying to convey here, is that there are so many variables and conditions when it comes to cooking that it is no wonder that recipes usually don’t work out the first time. The first failure should be inspiration to refine a recipe according to your produce, cooking equipment and environment. I try and get an understanding of what is happening when I cook so I can then best work out by judgement or experience a way to great results. For example, macarons are the most temperamental of existences, and still after 2 years of trying to perfect them I have still some way to go. However, over those two years I have learnt a lot about meringues, such as why they collapse (fat from any residual egg yolk, over working or humid environment) to understanding the levels of protein and sugar required to stabilise the meringue. As I say it’s still a work in progress, but the more we cook and understand about the produce and our own individual kitchens the greater the chance that recipes will work. And it gets to the point you are so culinary savvy that you end up creating the recipes!

One of the drivers behind Duck and Roses is to present recipes in a clear and concise way. There are some pretty badly written recipes on the internet – and I am not only talking of amateur or hobbyist cooks, I am talking about on the websites of very well-known chefs. This is not an indictment on those chefs, as most of the recipes are probably written and posted by a third party, but I have come across even in expensive books, a lack of detail here and there that has a profound effect on the outcome. I will endeavour to write out the recipes on this blog with clarity and in fullness. However, these are recipes that have worked in my kitchen with the particular produce I have used, so am sure that they will need tweaking to suit your environment and tools. A recipe should only be taken as a guide and not an absolute – the absolute is the exciting part of discovery and creativity. I am just off now to take a shower with my eggs.