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Offally Good Sweetbread Nuggets with Chipotle Mayo

Introduction:

In Yorkshire, as a kid, offal was all the rage. Not because we were fancy-pant eaters with the adventurous tastes of the culinary Bohemian – no, offal was cheap; pig’s liver, lamb’s tongue, tripe (cow’s stomach lining), kidney  and  brains (not for the cholesterol sensitive) were all used. And then there were the lower-end cuts such as shin beef, chuck steak, belly pork, mutton (old sheep) and even a rabbit could be picked up very cheaply.

Roll on to 2015 in Melbourne, and I’m sure Melbourne is not alone here, and those face-screwing inducing cuts of animals are now costing a pretty penny, often in excess of the finer cuts of meat. And I’ll tell you why – because  it has become trendy to use it through the proliferation of both the inspirational and me-too chefs out there.

But for me, off-cuts and offal should be up there with the best because cooked right, and that is vital, they are some of the most incredibly decadent and tasty parts of the animal. That is assuming of course that the animal has been treated with respect and looked after in a great environment whilst alive. Just think, offal accounts for about half of the edible part of an animal and is texturally diverse, nutritious and distinctly favour-some.

When I was younger butchers  would virtually throw belly pork at you to make room for their more elusive and upper-market cuts. Now, people turn a blind eye to it’s sumptuous calorie busting fat content because it is an amazing cut and there isn’t one restaurant that doesn’t have their ‘succulent’ belly pork on the menu…and rightly so. By the way if you’ve never had beef cheeks, another of those ‘in’ cuts, before then check out this smashing little Bourguignon – if you have had beef cheeks then definitely check it out.

 

Today, however, if you’re not already acquainted, and if you are this may be a reunion with a long lost friend, I am going to introduce you to another truly incredible bit of the now trendy but-never-used to-be cut of offal – the sweetbread. My kids were so exited when I said we were having sweetbreads for dinner; the connotation in their minds was that of a great home baked dessert. Alas, when I explained that it was the pancreatic gland or thymus of a lamb or calf their noses screwed up and they walked away disappointed – maybe as you are doing now. Alas, I didn’t sell the dish that well to them but I was about to redeem things.

Bought fresh sweetbreads are plump, firm to the touch and should be pink bordering on white. They deteriorate quickly so they need to be used the same day of purchase to get the best out of them. They have an amazingly nutty creaminess with a soft meaty centre that even when overcooked can remain succulent.  They do take a little bit of preparation, but trust me, please do, when I say that it is worth it. The recipe coming up is for essentially sweetbread nuggets with a chipotle mayonnaise – a brilliant snack, or if tarted up a bit with some cheffy presentation and a little touch of greenery can be used as a starter. Let’s begin.

 

Serves: 4 for a snack  |  Preparation: 1 hour soaking + 1 hour prep  |  Cooking: 40 minutes

 

Ingredients:

1kg  Fresh plump sweetbreads |  Lamb’s or calf’s.
Large bowl  1% Salt solution | Enough to cover the sweetbreads – 10g of salt per litre of cold water – whisk to dissolve the salt.

For the Mayonnaise:
1  portion (About 275g) of mayonnaise | See here for the recipe.
Chipotle chillies | Use the tinned variety with adobo sauce.
2  tsp. adobo sauce | From the tinned chipotles.
1 lime  lime juice | Squeezed.
Pinch  Smoked paprika |

For the Sweetbread Nuggets:
Large eggs | Beaten.
1tsp.  Five spice powder | Recipe here.
150-200g  Plain flour | Enough to coat the sweetbreads
100g or so  Panko breadcrumbs | Enough to coat the sweetbreads.
To taste  Seasoning | Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

Grapseed oil | Enough for frying – any high smoking point non-fragrant frying oil will do.

 

Method:

Preparing the sweetbreads: every sweetbread comes with it’s own natural packaging that needs to be removed . This can prove a little tricky but patience is rewarded.

Firstly, to remove any blood from the sweetbreads soak them in the 1% salt solution for an hour in the fridge.

Make the mayonnaise whilst you wait. To a miniature food processor add two tablespoons of mayonnaise, two chipotle chillies and two teaspoons of *adobo sauce. Blitz until smooth. Add the blended chillies to the rest of the mayonnaise and stir well. Now add half of the lime juice and a little seasoning, stir well and taste. Add more seasoning and lime juice if required. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Sprinkle over the smoked paprika just before serving

Back to the sweetbreads: after an hour drain them and then leave to soak in unsalted cold water for 5 minutes. Now drain again and rinse them thoroughly.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add the sweetbreads and poach for about 4-5 minutes – until they have only just firmed up. Carefully, with a slotted spoon, lift the sweetbreads out of the poaching water and put in to a large bowl of cold water in a sink. If the water temperature in the bowl rises too much run more cold water through until it is cool. Now the finicky bit. Carefully peel the membranes from each sweetbread – there’s no need to remove every single bit, but certainly remove as much as you can without damaging or breaking them. Let the sweetbreads dry out on your kitchen bench and discard all the removed membranes.

In a large frying pan heat an inch (2.5cm) of grapeseed oil to 170 deg C. (340 deg F.)**.

To a bowl add the plain flour, five-spice powder and some seasoning, and mix. To another bowl add the beaten egg. And finally to a third bowl add the panko breadcrumbs.

Now coat a sweetbread in the flour and shake to discard any excess. Dip it in the egg and let any excess drip off. Finally, coat with the panko breadcrumbs and put to one side. Repeat for all the sweetbreads.

Cook the sweetbreads in the hot oil in batches, adjusting the heat to maintain the 170 deg C. (340 deg F.) temperature. Cook for a couple of minutes and then turn over. When golden brown remove the sweetbreads, drain on kitchen towel and serve immediately with that devilish chipotle and lime mayonnaise and be prepared to be an offal convert – or enjoy your re-acquaintance.

 

Depending on the availability of chipotle chillies and your ability to make a great adobo sauce I recommend buying tinned chipotles already in adobo sauce.

** Use a digital thermometer – it’s a great piece of kitchen equipment and can be picked up relatively cheaply.

Slow Braised Lamb with Barley and Black-Eyed Pea Pilaf

Introduction:

It’s been over a week since the World Cup of food ended on this here blog and the little grey cells have been taking a few days off from writing as well as catching up on some long awaited sleep due to the asocial hours that the football was on in Australia. However, the cooking has not stopped, as one must eat.

You are in for a treat with this dish. It has been influenced by the amazing food that I have discovered during those 32 days and 32 dishes. It’s an amalgamation of North Africa, the Middle-East and a touch of the Brasilian.

Firstly, the pilaf combines pearl barley and black-eyed peas (the Brasilian bit). Texturally they are a great combination, but the added bonus is that the cooking times are approximately the same so they can be cooked together. Also, the black-eyed pea is the only legume I know that doesn’t require prior soaking. I wanted a North African/ Middle Eastern feel to the flavour so combined sumac, the wonderfully sour and tangy dried dupe of the same named shrub, cinnamon and cumin. Once the pilaf has cooked coriander, mint and toasted hazelnuts are tossed through and then pearls of pomegranate are sprinkled over to produce random bursts of acidic punch and crunchy bitterness.

The lamb has been marinated with a concoction of Moroccan style spices, the inspiration being ras-el-hanout. The key to a melting pull-away lamb is long and slow braising, in its own braise. Finally, I created a tangy and salty sauce to complement the dish and for this I used a combination of feta and yoghurt spiked with lemon juice, cumin and mint.

I feel like this dish is a story within itself.

 

Serves: 6   |   Preparation: 25 minutes + 12 hours marinating   | Cooking time: 6 hours total

 

Ingredients:

For the Lamb:
1.5kg Lamb shoulder on the bone |
2 medium cloves Garlic | Crushed.
12g Peeled fresh ginger | Minced.
1 tsp. Ground cumin | Toast the seeds and grind.
½ tsp. Sumac |
½ Stick Cinnamon | Toast it and grind.
1 tsp. Ground coriander | Toast the seeds and grind.
3 Ground green cardamom pods | Toast the Pods and grind.
10 Ground black peppercorns | Toast the peppercorns and grind.
2 Ground cloves | Toast the cloves and grind.
1 pinch Crushed saffron strands | Crush between two spoons.
1 pinch Sea salt |
2 tbsp. Grapeseed oil | Or other non-flavoured oil.

For the pilaf:
2 tbsp. Grapeseed oil |
1 medium Brown onion | Minced.
1 medium clove Garlic | Minced.
1 tsp. Cumin seeds |
½ tsp. Sumac |
1 tsp. Ground cinnamon |
2 Pinches Sea salt |
400g Pearl barley |
100g Black-eyed peas | Pick out any erroneous bits.
1.25 litres Hot chicken stock | Use a vegetable stock if just making the pilaf as a vegetarian dish. Chicken stock can be found here.
½ Lemon Juice and grated zest |
1 Handful Mint | Rinsed and roughly chopped.
1 Handful Coriander | Well rinsed and roughly chopped.
50g Toasted hazelnuts | Roughly crushed (To toast, take raw hazelnuts and toast in a 180°C (360°F) oven for 5-10 minutes, until oily and fragrant).
½ Pomegranate Seeds | Cut the pomegranate in half and then firmly tap the skin side to loosen the seeds.

For the yoghurt/ feta sauce:
1 Lebanese cucumber | finely diced.
100g Greek feta |
200g Greek yoghurt |
½ Lemon Juice and grated zest |
Pinch Ground cumin |
10 Mint leaves | Finely chopped.

 

How to:

For the lamb: Combine the garlic, ginger, cumin, sumac, cinnamon, coriander, cardamom, black pepper, cloves, saffron, sea salt and grapeseed oil. Rub this marinade into every nook and cranny of the lamb, put the lamb in a sealable plastic bag with any remaining marinade and leave in the fridge for 12 hours to marinate.

Take the lamb out of the fridge and leave to stand for an hour at room temperature. Preheat an oven to 130°C (270°F). Put the marinated lamb in a roasting tray and create a steam-tight ‘tent’ over it with two pieces of foil. By capturing the steam the lamb will braise in its own juices. Put the lamb in the oven for 2 hours. After 2 hours turn the oven down to 110°C (230°F) and cook the lamb for a further 3 hours.

Remove the lamb from the oven and leave to rest in the covered roasting tin. Increase the heat of the oven to 180°C (360°F).

For the pilaf: In a large heavy based casserole dish heat the grapeseed oil over a low to medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and heat for 10 seconds. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes until translucent. Turn the heat up to high, add the pearl barley and black-eyed peas and toast for 1-2 minutes whilst stirring. Add the sumac, cinnamon and salt, and stir. Now add the hot stock and bring to the boil ensuring that the barley and black-eyed peas are evenly spread across the dish. Cover the dish so it is air-tight (use a piece of foil under the lid if necessary) and put in the oven for 45 minutes.

In the meantime prepare the sauce: blend the feta in to the yoghurt using the back of a fork until smooth. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, cumin and mint and mix well. Set aside in the fridge until required.

To finish the pilaf, remove it from the oven and break it up gently with a fork. Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, mint, coriander and hazelnuts, and mix well.

Remove the lamb from the roasting tin and let it drain for a minute. Pull the lamb apart into various sized strips using a couple of forks.

Put the pilaf in to a large warmed serving bowl. Place strips of the braised lamb over it. Now drizzle over the yoghurt/ feta sauce and finally sprinkle over the pomegranate seeds.

Bosnia and Herzegovina – Burek

Football:

Bosnia and Herzegovina are the babies of the World Cup in Brazil. Considering that their first ever international took place in 1995 in Albania, they have come on in leaps and bounds to qualify for their first World Cup. Although, saying that they have come remarkably close to qualification on two previous occasions missing out only through the heartbreak of a playoff each time.

We are now in to the territory of every team having played a game in the World Cup. Bosnia and Herzegovina have started out with a narrow loss to Argentina. Everyone is talking about how wonderful Messi was and how great the goal he scored against them was. True, he opened up for the shot well, but on close inspection you will see it was a deflection off the shin of the opposition, the original shot looking like it was going wide. I would like to reserve my praise for the way Bosnia and Herzegovina attacked the game and give the team of Argentinian stars a run for their money.

For the next two games against Nigeria and Iran I am looking for Edin Džeko to step up and show the goal scoring prowess he has shown for his club Manchester City this year, having helped them win the English Premier League last month.

 

The Dish: 

I have taken some classic street food for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s dish; food that you could well imagine fans eating at the football in downtown Sarajevo. The börek is a family of pastries consisting of meat, cheese or vegetable fillings parcelled in flaky phyllo pastry; iconic throughout the Balkan nations. The burek is Bosnia and Herzegovina’s take on it, usually in the form of a filled spiralled pastry tube. Thinking about it many nations and continents have their own pastry equivalents; England has the old Cornish pasty, there is calzone in Italy, the kringle in Scandinavia, the empanada in Latin America and the Samosa which can be found throughout Asia and Africa.

The fun in making the burek is in the pastry. Pushing and stretching on an oiled surface without tearing it is an art. It’s messy and creative but done well produces a great flaky pastry. I have seen the experts making and flinging metre diameter paper thin sheets of pastry in the air to create perfect circles. I am afraid that there would be some serious kitchen decoration if I tried – but feel free to give it a go.

The filling is a typical meat one enhanced in flavour through the use of sweet paprika, allspice and a touch of cinnamon.

 

Serves: 4   |   Preparation: 45 minutes   |   Cooking Time: 15 minutes + 30-40 minutes each burek

 

Ingredients:

For the filling:
3 tbsp. Olive oil |
3 Brown onions | Finely diced.
2 pinches Sea salt |
375g Beef mince | Topside or blade.
375g Lamb mince | Shoulder.
1 tbsp. Sweet paprika |
1 tbsp. Allspice |
½ tsp. Cinnamon |

For the pastry:
500g Plain Flour |
Pinch Sea salt |
150ml Cold water |
1 Egg | Beaten.
Non-flavoured oil | For storing and forming the pastry.

 

How To:

For the filling: Heat the olive oil in a heavy based frying pan over medium heat and when hot add the onions and salt. Sauté until golden and then add the beef and lamb mince. Keep stirring and breaking up the mince as it cooks and browns. Once browned add the spices and cook for a further minute. Test for seasoning and then remove from the heat and let the mixture cool.

Pre-heat an oven to 200°C (390°F).

For the pastry: Add the flour and salt to a mixing bowl. Gradually add the water and either using your hands or a food mixer with a dough hook mix until a dough is formed – you may not need to use all the water. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead for 5 minutes until the dough is very smooth and elastic. Split the dough in to 4 portions and press each one in to a 2.5cm thick disc. Put the discs into a small bowl rubbing a little oil in between each so they don’t stick. Now fill the bowl with oil until the pastry is covered.

Rub some oil on to a non-porous surface i.e. not wood, to coat it. Take the first pastry disc and allow any excess oil to drip off. Place the disc on the oiled surface and from the inside out press the disc to increase its size and decrease its thickness. When about half a centimetre thick take the edge of the disc and gently pull it outwards, doing this motion evenly around the disc. Be careful not to tear the thinning pastry. When the pastry circle is about 70cm in diameter place one quarter of the meat filling in a straight line along the edge of one quarter of the circle (on the chord for any geometricians). Now roll the pastry tightly around the filling and keep rolling until you have a tube. Carefully spiral the tube and brush the top with the beaten egg. Place the uncooked burek on an oiled baking tray and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until golden brown. Repeat this process three more times for the rest of the filling and pastry. Eat hot and enjoy the football.

Iran – Chelo Kebab with Tabouleh

Football:

Iran caused one of the greatest heartaches in World Cup qualifying history; at the expense of Australia. I was still living in England and the reason it became so well known in those parts was due to the English coach that took Australia to the brink of the World Cup in 1998, Terry Venables. Iran held Australia to a 1-1 draw in Tehran, in front of over 100,000 fans, and was widely expected to be comprehensively beaten in the return leg in Melbourne. And that beating was on the cards as Australia dominantly led 2-0. Australia then lost momentum and Iran unbelievably scored two quick goals to take the aggregate to 3-3, which it stayed at. Iran went through on the away goals rule; a great comeback that inflicted heartbreak on Australia. Coincidentally, Iran’s only other presence in the World Cup was in 1978, at the expense of…Australia.

Realistically, Iran are real underdogs and are not expected to progress from the group stages in Brasil. However, in qualifying they topped their group ahead of favourites Korea Republic so go in to the tournament confident. I reckon their main strategy will be a defensive wall with quick breaks down the wings and pinpoint crossing in to the box. Watch out for Javad Nekounam, Ashkan Dejagah and Reze Ghoochannejhad.

 

The Dish: 

I was relishing cooking some Persian delights as Middle-Eastern food is generally not something I cook that often; every time I eat it I am astounded as to why I don’t cook it more. Iran has given me the kick I needed and through it I have been able to explore the flavours I love; from ingredients such as cumin, mint, parsley, lemon, sumac, yoghurt and fatty beef and lamb.

I’m not half loving this food project you know.

So, for Iran’s World Cup food presence I have cooked chelo (Persian rice) kebab with tabouleh and a mint, lime and cucumber yoghurt dressing. Persian rice is something that I have wanted to make for a while, so I’m delighted to have now done it.

 

Serves: 4   |   Preparation: 40 minutes   |   Cooking Time: 60 minutes marinating + 30 minutes cooking

 

Ingredients:

For the kebab:
550g Minced beef and lamb | I minced my own in the ratio of 290g beef topside : 185g lamb shoulder : 75g fat.
1 Brown onion | Roughly chopped.
½ tsp. Turmeric |
1 tsp. Ground cumin | Freshly ground if you can.
1 tsp. Dried mint |
½ tsp. Sumac |
¼ tsp. Bicarbonate of soda |
1½ tsp. Sea salt |
Black pepper to season

 

For the tabouleh:
1 bunch Flat leaf parsley | Finely shredded.
10 Mint leaves | Finely shredded.
2 lemons Lemon juice |
2 tbsp. Burghul |
3 Ripe tomatoes | Finely diced. I used Roma tomatoes.
4 Spring onions | Finely sliced. Use both the white and green parts.
Glug Olive oil | That’s about a tablespoon or two.
Seasoning Sea salt and black pepper |

 

For the yoghurt dressing:
250g Plain yoghurt |
½ Continental cucumber | Finely diced.
5 Mint leaves | Finely chopped.
½ lime Lime juice |
Pinch Ground cumin |
Seasoning Sea salt and black pepper |

 

For the rice:
500g Rice | I used basmati.
A pinch Saffron strands |
3 tbsp. Water |
60g Butter | Cut in to small cubes.

 

How To:

For the kebab: process the onion to a puree and then either squeezed through muslin cloth or pressed in to a fine sieve extract the onion juice. For the kebab we will use the solid onion (pulp) that is left.

To a bowl add the mince, onion pulp, turmeric, cumin, dried mint, sumac, bicarbonate of soda, salt and black pepper and mix thoroughly using a stirring and squeezing motion with your hands. This squeezing aids in binding the meat proteins together so that the kebab does not fall apart. Cover the bowl and put it in the fridge for an hour.

For the tabouleh: Soak the burghul in the lemon juice for 10 minutes, or until it has softened. To a bowl add the finely shredded parsley and mint, burghul and lemon juice, tomatoes, spring onions, olive oil and seasoning. Mix and taste, adjusting the seasoning if necessary.

For the dressing: To a bowl add the yoghurt, cucumber, mint, lime juice, cumin and seasoning. Mix and taste, adjusting the seasoning if necessary.

For the rice: add the rice to a large pan of salted boiling water. Cook until the rice has softened, but still has resistance, and drain. Put the rice in a wok or similar pan and mould it in to a dome shape. Add the saffron to the 3 tablespoons of water and stir for a minute or so. Pour the saffron and liquid over the rice. Now place cubes of butter spread evenly over the rice. Put the wok on a low-medium heat, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes or so. Remove from the heat and leave covered until ready to serve.

Preheat a broiler (grill). Take the mince mixture from the fridge and form long thin sausage-like kebabs. Cook under the broiler for 5 minutes each side (top and bottom) or until done.

Serve the kebabs drizzled in the yoghurt dressing with a side of the Persian rice and tabouleh. Ensure that everyone gets a little of the crusty rice which has formed at the base of the wok.

Everest Inspired Lamb Rogan Josh

Introduction:

Amidst the hustle, bustle and clinking I sit and stare, and stare some more. It pulls me closer and closer but yet I get no nearer; one day I will, I swear.  It is just an image now; an image that hypnotises me every time I visit. But soon it will be real.

Where I am is in a Nepalese restaurant in the Royal borough of Kingston-upon-Thames; where I want to be…Sagarmatha, or Everest.

From the first time I entered that restaurant as a poor student I vowed that one day I would take my own photograph of what welcomed me each time I passed the threshold into that hotbed of stinging and soothing curries. Looking at the landscape photograph of this Himalayan wonder nestled amongst other mountainous peaks used to instil in me a sense of freedom and a respect for what the earth was capable of. Of course, this worked in synergy with the consumption of wonderfully spiced curries.

Monty’s was a curry institution in this part of the world, and one that was frequented by me and my university mates, during our studies and long after graduation. It was a Nepalese restaurant but its fare was not limited to the Nepalese region; it catered for everyone. On one hand they produced a phall (incredibly hot British-Indian curry) for the lager induced daredevils; I tried it once and feel myself still fortunate to have an intact palate. At the opposite end of the scale was the diminutive but nonetheless tasty mild chicken korma; an immaculate and delicate blend of spices with juicy and tender chicken breast, finished with delicious almondy creaminess. One of my go-to curries, however, was the lamb rogan josh. There was just something about tender lamb in a curry that took me to another plane. I think it’s the strength of flavour of lamb which competes with, but with parity, the spices. I also loved the acidity and tartness of the yoghurt that was used in this particular rogan josh, and as such this dish has remained a favourite of mine ever since.

Rogan josh is believed to have originated with the Persians. The history can be traced back to the 14th/15th century when India was invaded by Timur Lang, the great conqueror, and as a result Mughals of varying skills, including cooks, began to influence this South Asian land. The Mughals would often retreat to the cooler climate of mountainous Kashmir, and it is here that the dish rogan josh was perfected.

Its name? Well there is no definitive answer. For example, there is the theory that the name of the dish came from the Persian for clarified butter (rogan) and hot (josh), implied by the popular meat stew dish that came from there. Another idea is that the name rogan was a derivative of words such as rouge (red in French) or even the Kashmiri word for red, which is, I am led to believe, rogan.

The dish itself has many variations, a lot of which are family secrets; similar to spice blends. As the Kashmiri Brahmans didn’t eat onion or garlic, their rogan josh was often flavoured with fennel seeds and the lamb seasoned with asafoetida. The Muslim version, however, uses lots of onion and garlic. The redness of the dish can be attributed to Kashmiri chillies; a deep red-coloured chilli with a milder spice to the usual Indian red chillies. The colour is also attributed to the addition of the indigenous Kashmiri plant, mawal (cockscomb flower).

So, now I present you with another version of this classic. The lamb is marinated in yoghurt and asafoetida. The yoghurt helps tenderise the meat whist the asafoetida adds flavour. Harold McGee refers to asafoetida as:

one of the strangest and strongest of all spices

of which I wholly agree. We also have garlic and onions, and bags of wonderful Indian spice, including Kashmiri chilli.

 

Serves: 2 to 4   |   Preparation: 30 minutes   |   Cooking: 1 hour + 1 hour marinating

 

Ingredients:

150g Plain yoghurt |
½ tsp. Asafoetida | Dissolved in 2 tbsp. of water.
700g Boned leg of lamb | Trimmed of fat and diced into 2cm cubes.
2 large Ripe tomatoes | Roughly chopped – note: I used a few ripe organic miniature cherry tomatoes which worked really well.
2 Brown onions | Roughly chopped.
2 Hot green chillies | With seeds if you’re game enough. Roughly chopped.
1 tbsp. Grapeseed oil | Or other non-flavoured oil e.g. groundnut.
3 tbsp. Grapeseed oil | For frying.
2 Fresh bay leaves |
1 Cinnamon quill |
1 tsp. Fennel seeds |
6 Cloves |
2 Brown cardamom | Gently crushed to split them.
3 Green cardamom | Gently crushed to split them.
½ tbsp. Garlic paste |
½ tbsp. Ginger paste |
1 tbsp. Ground coriander seed | Toast in a hot frying pan for 30-40 seconds and then grind to a powder.
½ tsp. Ground turmeric |
1 tsp. Kashmiri red chilli powder |
1 tbsp. Tomato puree |

 

 

How To:

Put the diced lamb, yoghurt and dissolved asafoetida in a non-reactive bowl (important because of the acidity of the yoghurt) and mix well. Cover the bowl and leave to marinate in the fridge for an hour. Meanwhile add the tomatoes, onion, green chillies and 1 tablespoon of grapeseed oil to a food processor and blend to a paste-like consistency.

Heat the 3 tablespoons of grapeseed oil in a large heavy based pan until hot. Add the bay leaves, cinnamon quill, fennel seeds, cloves, and brown and green cardamom to the pan. The brown cardamom is particularly fun as it doesn’t half spit and crackle – I recommend covering the pan momentarily so you don’t lose any of the spices. Once fragrant, add the garlic and ginger pastes and stir for 20 seconds. Now add the blended tomato/ onion/ chilli paste and a dash of salt, and stir. Cook this on a medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. The onion should soften without browning too much.

Now add the ground coriander seed, turmeric and Kashmiri chilli powder, and stir (maybe adding a little water if too dry). Stir in the tomato puree and another dash of salt. Turn the heat to high and carefully place the lamb in the pan, retaining any residual yoghurt in the bowl. Sear the lamb so that it browns nicely on all sides. Add the residual yoghurt marinade and stir, then turn the heat to low, cover the pan with a lid and cook for 40 minutes.

Taste, and then season if required; the rogan gosh is now ready to wow you. Serve with fresh yoghurt, and coriander if your taste buds desire.

 

Notes:

  • Goes great with hot Basmati rice and/ or roti bread.

 

Lamb Stock

Introduction:

Making stock can be a right royal pain in the derriere – the concept I initially struggled with was spending hours cooking something that was not going to be eaten straight away. The roasting, boiling, skimming, simmering, filtering, chilling, skimming, filtering… and for what? For liquid gold, that is what. And that is why the struggle was only initial because when I discovered the potential of home-made stock it became a culinary pleasure; a necessity; a vital part of flavour in the kitchen.

Lamb stock is amazing. Reduced down to a glace (when a stock is reduced to 10% of its original volume) or demi-glace (stock is reduced to 25-40% of its original volume) you end up with a wonderfully rich sauce which can transform the nice into the incredible; something I believe is used in the armoury of good chefs to elevate their food into the heavenly.

I really like to understand why things happen and what happens when cooking and have recently been interested in stocks. Have you ever wondered why red meat stocks are cooked for much longer than chicken or fish stocks? Why does the fat that aggregates at the surface of a stock have very little taste yet we know that the fat in marbled steak contains a lot of flavour? What is the initial foam that accumulates on the surface and why should it be skimmed?

 

Quick answers to these questions:

Red meat bones are more robust than chicken, which are more robust than fish. Apart from compounds that are easily extracted from the connective tissues in red meat when making stock there is another process that occurs. This process is the break down (hydrolysis) of collagen, the main protein of connective tissue, to components such as gelatine. This break down requires prolonged exposure to heat (simmering), usually for a few hours. Apart from the other ingredients, such as herbs and vegetables, this breakdown of the connective tissue is what imparts the wonderful flavour to stock. In addition, the browning of the bones prior to simmering promotes the Maillard reaction (breakdown of surface proteins) which adds significant flavour to the stock.

Regarding the tasteless fat on the surface of the stock – usually flavour components are fat soluble or water soluble (there are chemicals to help components dissolve in both, but that’s getting too much into chemistry!). It is believed that the compounds that are extracted during the simmering and breaking down of the collagen in stock are water soluble so dissolve in the water and not the fat; hence tasteless fat. When cooking steak the collagen and fat is not heated long enough to break down so the flavour remains in the fat.

And that foam at the surface of the stock – these are proteins that broken down and then coagulate and form the foam. They don’t add any value to the stock, and need to be removed especially if you are making a clear stock, such as a consommé.

There is a whole science around what happens when making stock which I have only just scratched the surface of. However, the bottom line is that whatever wizardry happens during the cooking, a great stock should be on hand…and here’s your chance now to make yourself a super little lamb stock.

 

Serves:  2.5 litres   |   Preparation:  1 hour + settle overnight  |   Cooking: 5 hours

 

Ingredients:

2.5kg Lamb bones | Cut into 10-15cm pieces.
2 Carrots | Peeled and roughly chopped.
2 Celery sticks | Roughly chopped.
2 Brown onions | Peeled and roughly chopped.
½ kg Tomatoes | Nice and ripe – you can use Roma, as an example.
1 Bouquet garni | See Bouquet Garni for Chicken and Meat – substitute rosemary for tarragon.

 

 

How To:

Preheat oven to 180 deg C (350 deg F). Put your lamb bones in a roasting tin and roast in the oven for about an hour. We want to see some lovely browning and great lamb aromas emanating. Put the roasted bones in a stock pan with 5 litres of cold water. Discard any lamb fat from the roasting tin. Add 100ml of water to the roasting tin, heat it on the stove top, and using a wooden spoon deglaze the tin. Pour the deglaze into the stock pot.

Bring the water and bones to the boil and then reduce the heat until the water is simmering. Skim away the foam that congregates at the surface. The best way to do this is to take a small ladle or tablespoon, swirl the water until the foam moves outwards and then skim. When the water is clear add the vegetables, tomatoes and bouquet garni. Bring back to the boil and then put on a very low simmer for 4 hours, leaving the pot uncovered.

When the four hours are up strain the stock through a fine sieve and then allow the stock to cool. Put the stock in the fridge overnight. The fat will rise to the surface and solidify. Remove the hardened fat and then strain again through a fine meshed sieve.

 

Notes:

  • The stock keeps for about a week in the fridge; otherwise freeze in portions.
  • Lamb stock has a very distinct flavour and is therefore mostly used in lamb based dishes.

 

…Dinner for 8 – Insanely Great

The title says it all. What an absolutely insanely great success the dinner party was on Saturday night. There were many factors that contributed to this. The company of course (for anyone that went and is reading this 🙂 ) was fervent and lively with an appreciation for food, life and of course liquid refreshment. There was an eclectic mix of music ranging from some golden oldies to up-to-the-minute dance and pop tunes. The mix of pinot grigio, shiraz, champagne, beer and stickies (dessert wines) meant that this was more of a sit down, stand up, dance around, sit down kind of dinner party. But of course for the two chefs of the night it was a wonderful mix of team work and skill to deliver the seven courses on time and wonderfully presented, whilst also being able to sit down and enjoy them. I have to say that towards the end trying to present became a little precarious as the jumping grape and carbonated hops were taking effect, but nonetheless all was great.

To backtrack a little, the success of the dinner party was down to careful planning and a couple of days of mis-en-place. The first elements were the stocks; in this case lamb stock and chicken stock. These were made first, as a lamb stock for example takes about 5-6 hours to prepare. Then you have things like preparing sauces, the base for the dessert, sorbet, and other components that can sit in a fridge or freezer for a day or so. The real fun bits were some of the creative elements. For example, I played around with the idea of a tomato based shooter which I can tell you morphed from gazpacho jelly spheres suspended in a thickened tomato water through to a gazpacho sorbet with tomato foam. I really love playing around with things like this, and was extremely happy with the final version.

 

Tomato Cappucino Shooter

Tomato Cappucino Shooter

 

Irene (the co-chef) played around with elements of the starter which she had invented; a magnificent and stunning looking pepper (capsicum) lasagne. Also, there was sugar work going on, ganache being made, lamb being marinated, vegetables prepared, chestnuts being peeled (which I have to say is the most painful and laborious of all the preparation), mousse being set, racks and racks of dishes being washed and much toing and froing across the street from one kitchen to another.

 

Mushroom Soup and Truffle Oil

Mushroom Soup and Truffle Oil

 

As a team we worked incredibly well, and because everything was planned there was no stress or pressure whatsoever; even through service everything just seemed to run a like a finely tuned Swiss watch.

So here is the final menu from the night:

Bite Sized Aperitifs

Slow cooked salt marinated pork

Porcini mushroom soup with marscapone, truffle oil and croutons served in espresso cups

(to drink: Sieur d’Arques Grande Cuvée 1531 de Aimery)

Soba noodles with sesame oil and salmon roe served on spoons

(To drink: Asahi beer)

 

Entrée

3 colour pepper (capsicum) lasagne with candied smoked pancetta crisp, yellow pepper puree and parsley oil.

(To drink: Tar & Roses Pinot Grigio)

 

Refresher

Chilled tomato cappuccino: gazpacho sorbet with Smirnoff topped with tomato water foam and smoky paprika, served in a shot glass.

 

Main

Lamb shanks marinated venison style with redcurrant sauce and Jerusalem artichoke puree, braised chestnuts with double smoked Kaiserfleisch lardons, braised baby onions, peas and broad beans, and pea mousse.

(To drink: Tar and Roses Heathcote Shiraz)

 

Dessert

Chocolate ganache delice and praline crunch with raspberry coulis, raspberry vinegar marinated raspberries, black pepper sugar decorations and a caramel and crackle surprise.

(To drink: in a true un-sommelier type fashion I don’t have the name other than ‘dessert wine’ – however, at this point I think we were all not too fussed what the name was)

I will start to post recipes on the blog over the next couple of weeks. I hope it can provide you with inspiration and ideas. Ps. Sunday was a rather slow day.