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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).

Beautiful Little Barley, Beetroot and Black-Eyed Pea Salad

 

I very rarely make pulse or grain based dishes, yet am always drawn to them when on a menu at a restaurant, particularly any restaurant that offers culinary fare that has its origins in the Middle-East. I love the taste and texture of dishes made with lentils, varieties of beans and in particular pearl barley. In fact pearl barley has always been that homely grain that in my mind always sits wonderfully in a beefy broth. Most of my pulse intake as a kid was limited to a well-known brand of baked bean, although I must say that my grandma and mum did both make a wonderful ham shank and lentil soup, which I absolutely loved and would welcome with open arms (or a dropped mandible) if it was put in front of me now. Black-eyed peas had always fascinated me and hearing of them used in a dish such as black-eyed peas, chicken and stuffing again, I find, has a real family and homely ring to it – actually that dish I’ve just mentioned I’m sure is a lyric in one of the songs from the group  with the same name as the aforementioned pulse.

However, it was during last year’s World Cup that I became more intimately acquainted with the black-eyed pea when I cooked the dish acarajé – a Brasilian deep fried fritter. From there I experimented with a combination of black-eyed pea and pearl barley when I created the dish ‘Slow Braised Lamb with Barley and Black-Eyed Pea Pilaf‘. But I’ve always wanted to do a salad with them and for a while I have envisioned them in combination with fresh mint, olive oil and some lemony zest.

From a preparatory perspective pearl barley and black-eyed peas are one of the few grains/ pulses that do not require an overnight soaking, and can be simmered to a perfect consistency in under an hour. Using them as a base I decided to go with the combination of those aforementioned flavours – you know the mint, olive oil and lemon – but found these alone were not enough to constitute a balanced and hearty salad. I opted on adding an earthy sweetness; roasted red beetroot was a perfect contender. I then added chopped ripe tomatoes for that hit of umami and a crunchy refresher in the form of diced cucumber. Finally, the mint alone, although really good, needed some herby foil, and parsley fit that role to a tee. And there we have it, Barley, Beetroot and Black-Eyed Pea Salad.

 

Serves: 4 as a main or up to 10 as an accompaniment
Preparation: 30 minutes soaking + 30 minutes Prep.
Cooking: 1 hour (most prep. can be done during cooking)

Ingredients:

For the Salad:
200g  Pearl barley |
150g  Black-eyed peas |
1 medium-large  Beetroot | Peeled and diced into 1 cm cubes.
Glug  Olive oil |
Seasoning  Sea salt and cracked black pepper |
Spring onions | Outer layer removed, cleaned and cut into 1cm pieces – both white and light green parts.
Lebanese cucumber | Diced. That’s a small cucumber – if using the larger European variety deseed and use half of it.
2 medium  Ripe tomatoes | Peeled, deseeded and diced.*
1  bunch  Fresh mint | Finely chopped.
½ bunch  Fresh parsley | Finely chopped.

 

For the Dressing:
1 lemon  Zest of | Finely grated.
2 lemons  Juice of |
The tomato liquid  from the discarded seeds | Optional (see below) – but it does add great flavour.
200ml  Olive oil |

Salt and pepper to taste
Drizzle of olive oil to finish

*Preparing tomatoes like this is known as concasse. To peel the tomatoes score the skin at the tomato base with a cross and put the tomatoes in boiling water for about 10 seconds. Transfer them to ice cold water for about 20 seconds. The skins should be easy to peel. Cut the tomatoes into quarters and scoop out the seeds and any hard core. Retain these for a little trick. Dice the remaining tomato flesh.

The seeds and jelly like substance around the seeds contain a lot of tomato flavour and that amazing taste, umami. It’s a shame to waste it so take the seeds, jelly and any other bits of discarded flesh and blitz them in a miniature food processor until a smooth pulp is formed. Push this pulp through a fine sieve and you’ll be left with a fantastic tomato liquid – use this in the recipe here.

 

Method:

In separate bowls soak the pearl barley and black-eyed peas in enough cold water to cover them. After 30 minutes drain the pearl barley and rinse. With the black-eyed peas, gently scrunch them in your hands whilst still under water to loosen the skins. Remove the skins (this is finicky and requires patience but the reward is in the eating) and then drain and rinse the black-eyed peas – it’s nigh impossible to remove all skins, so a few left on won’t spoil your dish.

Put the pearl barley and black-eyed peas in a large pan together with a couple of pinches of salt and cover with cold water so that the level of water is twice the depth of the barley and peas. Bring to the boil and then turn the heat down and gently simmer for 45 minutes.

In the meantime – preheat an oven to 200 deg. C (390 deg. F). Put the diced beetroot in to a roasting tin and then season with sea salt and cracked black pepper. Drizzle over a glug olive oil and mix until all the beetroot is covered. Put in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes,  or until softened but still having some resistance. Put aside to cool.

When the barley and peas are cooked, drain and then wash with cold water until completely cooled down. Drain all excess water until the peas and barley are dry.

For the dressing, add the lemon, lemon zest and tomato liquid (if your are using it) to a medium sized bowl. Now slowly drizzle in the olive oil whilst vigorously whisking. Once all the oil has been added you should have consistent dressing i.e. not split. Taste and season accordingly.

To construct the salad add the peas, barley, roasted beetroot, spring onions, cucumber, tomatoes, mint and parsley to a large salad bowl. Gently mix with a large metal spoon taking care not to squash the peas or barley (this can be stored in the fridge up until service). Just prior to serving drizzle over the dressing and gently mix. Taste. If you’re elated with it then drizzle over a little olive oil and serve**.

Serve in big portions as a main or in smaller portions as an accompaniment.

 

**If you think it needs a little more then add extra mint, parsley, squeezes of lemon and/ or seasoning according to your taste, gently mix and then add a drizzle of olive oil.

Banoffee Pie with a Twist

 

There’s a knock at the door. As it opens a pretty young lady is stood there with a peace offering and slight protrusion of the mandible,

“Banoffee Pie?”

I’ll leave you to name the film and actress and I’ll embellish you with the edible part of this famous scene – the pie not the actress. And when I say famous, it is in our house anyway as my young daughter does a cracking impression of the actress delivering the pie and the line.

Banoffee pie has to be one of the food pairings where everything just works; it’s as if nature had decided that at some point in the existence of the human race the combination of banana and toffee with cream and crumbly shortcrust pastry  or biscuit base would be discovered, and cherished by many. If you look in to the origins of where this delight comes from you’ll find, and it was to my surprise, that it was invented by a chap named Nigel Mackenzie and his chef Ian Dowding at a restaurant called the Hungry Monk Restaurant located in the village of Jevington, East Sussex – that’s about 60 miles or 100 km south of that little city, London. As the legend goes they were looking at a dessert originating from America called Blum’s coffee toffee pie, and in finding it was lacking a certain something played around with a few fruity ingredients until they hit on banana (and ditched the coffee).

Unfortunately Nigel, who passed away in May this year, and the restaurant are no more, but what lives on are the almost infinite iterations of what can now be classed as a truly global dessert – a true legacy since 1971. (Sounds like an ad agency line – maybe I’m in the wrong business).

So this iteration? Well it’s got toffee, it’s got banana, it’s got cream and it’s got chocolate biscuits. I read that one of the pet peeves of the chef were the versions created with a biscuit base so I thought I’d try it, and that’s where the chocolate biscuits come in; and not bad at all, if I may say so – sorry Ian.

In this one there are a couple little of twists. Firstly the addition of lime to the banana and cream, and secondly a few sea salt flakes to the caramel. Sea salt in caramel is a homage to the wonderful caramels that come from Brittany (salted caramel – that surely is a future post, don’t you think?).

 

Serves: A few hungry souls
Preparation: 20-30 minutes + 90 minutes chilling (longer if you’re chilling out)
Cooking: 15-20 minutes

 

Ingredients:

1 packet (300g)  Crumbly chocolate biscuits | I use dark chocolate Digestives (British). Play around with what’s available where you are.
70g  Unsalted butter |

For the Caramel Toffee:
150g  Light soft brown sugar | light muscovado is excellent.
150g  Unsalted butter |
395g Can  Sweetened condensed milk | About 14oz.
Pinch sea salt |

For the Cream and Bananas:
1 tbsp. lime juice |
500ml Single cream | Minimum 35% milk solids.
½  lime  | The grated zest of
4-5 medium  medium-ripe bananas | You want to catch the bananas whilst they are still firm; riper than the fresh green but not yet reached that soft, cough-inducing stage.

Optional – but looks great – chocolate splinters and curls or grated chocolate.

 

Method:

For the pie I use a 23 cm (9 inch) diameter fluted flan tin with removable base.

The base is as easy as you like: melt the 70g of butter in a pan and then crush the biscuits to crumbs in a plastic bag with something like the end of a rolling pin. Add the crushed biscuits to the butter and mix till it looks like all the crumbs are coated. Spread the biscuit mix over the base of the fluted tin and then compress it ensuring that the biscuit base is even and that there is a small wedge of biscuit base around the edge i.e. going up the flute sides. Put the base in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to set.

To make the caramel toffee add the light brown sugar and 150g of butter to a medium heavy based pan and over a medium heat keep stirring until the butter has melted and the sugar has completely dissolved. Now add the sweetened condensed milk and a pinch of sea salt and stir. Bring the mix to the boil and then remove from the heat. Pour the runny caramel into the set biscuit base and return it to the fridge for the caramel to set – for about an hour.

When the caramel has set prepare the bananas and cream. Firstly, slice the bananas in to diagonal discs, put in a bowl and pour over the lime juice. Mix gently. The lime will add a little zing to the bananas whilst also delaying any browning. Next, whip the cream to lovely airy peaks and then very gently fold in the lime zest. Lay the banana slices over the set caramel and then gently spread over the whipped cream.

If you want to create chocolate curls or splinters melt about 150g of 70% cocoa solid chocolate to about 50 deg C (120 deg F) and spread over a cold surface – marble is perfect if available. Once the chocolate has lost its sheen but not completely set you can scrape it with a large knife to form those curls and splinters. Alternatively, grate some dark chocolate directly over the pie to decorate it. Bon Appetit.

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.

Rich Rabbit Bolognese

Introduction:

It’s rabbit season, it’s duck season, it’s rabbit season, it’s duck season… as a kid I loved that cartoon and being brought up in Yorkshire also loved rabbit season, which was pretty much all year round. I loved the notion of hunting for food and would wake up at 5am on a Sunday morning in eager expectation for a morning’s shooting. With flasks of hot tea and coffee, snacks and hunting gear in hand we’d head off to the local farmer’s fields for a morning of hunting. The farmer would be happy for us to patrol his hectares of fields in order to remove the ‘peskies’ responsible for decimating his crops, and ultimately his livelihood. We were happy because it was a rich source of Sunday lunch.

Some folks get rather offended when the subject of shooting for food is raised, but if you eat meat I think that it’s hypocritical to bury your head in the sand and pretend that it magically and mysteriously appears from nowhere for purchase. No, from a young age I understood about where meat came from, and distinctly remember at the age of 10 bringing home a wood pigeon, plucking and gutting it and then having my mum roast it for Sunday lunch. Rabbit though was my favourite, and although I never had the rifle power or skill to shoot one at that age, they did adorn our table from time to time.

Roll on a few years, and to last week in particular. I had parked at my local shops, which just happened to be outside the butchers, and on returning to the car found a ticket taped to the side of my window – traffic inspectors are like ninjas in this area, appearing and vanishing in a cloud of smoke, leaving a reminder of your rule-breaking behind, in the form of a fine. Anyhow, on closer inspection the ticket was actually a note from the butcher,

“Nick, Nick, quick come inside before you go”

I have a fantastic local butcher that will move the earth to get me something if I require – the pig’s head was the best one. I knew that this prompt meant there’d be something good inside. Indeed when I walked in, there was a wink and a nod,

“Ah Nick, come over here!”

Presented before me were three perfect young rabbits, plucked, skinned and cleaned, having been shot the previous day up in the bushlands of Victoria.

“There you go mate”, he said.

When I get presents like this I usually just stand there with a massive beaming smile; it takes me back to a kid bringing home that freshly hunted Sunday lunch.

 

So, what did I do with the rabbits? Rabbit can be a tough little cookie if not cooked right, but the wild variety packs bags of gamey flavour so it’s well worth getting it right. To get the best out of it requires slow, low-temperature cooking. You can add some punchy flavours to complement it as it’s flavour can carry it through. Traditionally, in Yorkshire, we’d have rabbit stew, which worked perfectly with mirepoix flavours; carrot, celery and onion. Cooked for long enough the rabbit would fall off the bone and we’d lop up the stew broth with fresh bread.

I discovered a rabbit bolognese recipe about 3 years ago (none other than Jamie Oliver’s), and after a few tries modified it to get the consistency and flavours that launches your palette in to orbit. It involves cooking the rabbit for 12 hours on a very low temperature. You can cook the whole rabbit, but I find it’s better to joint it as some of the small bones can be incredibly difficult to remove from the final dish.

The bolognese uses a classic blend of mirepoix flavours with tomatoes and a good light ale. For enhanced flavour you can use herbs such as thyme, rosemary, parsley or oregano. The rabbit will also take the flavour of nutmeg or mace to add a little twist. This recipe is easy to set up, but a little finicky to finish. Stick with it, however, and you will be in for an incredible treat.

 

Serves: 8-10 portions  |   Preparation: 1 hour   |   Cooking Time: 12-13 hours

 

Ingredients:
Small rabbits | or 2 medium rabbits.
1 tbsp.  Olive oil |
3 rashers  Long middle bacon | Roughly chopped. This bacon has a nice ratio of fat and meat.
1 bulb  Garlic | Outer skin removed.
Red onions | Wash them, but leave the skin on.
1 Stick Celery | Washed and cut in Half.
2 Large  Carrots | Wash and remove the tops and tails. Cut in half. No need to peel.
200g  Swiss brown mushrooms | Wiped clean (not washed) and left whole.
1 Large  Leek | Remove the outer layer, top and tail. Wash to ensure there is no grit.
2 sprigs  Fresh thyme |
2  Fresh bay leaves |
1 Sprig  Fresh oregano |
1 Sprig Fresh  rosemary |
750ml  Light flavoured pale ale | In Australia I use a Coopers pale ale – Avoid high IBU (bitterness) ales.
800-880g  Tomatoes | Chopped tinned tomatoes are great – ripened fresh ones are equally as good.
1 tbsp. Tomato puree |
2 tsp.  Mace or nutmeg | Freshly grated is best.
2 tsp. Celery seeds |

½ – 1 Squeezed lemon juice| Adjust to your taste.
A few Fresh thyme leaves | Added at the end.

Your choice of pasta – a good spaghetti or penne works really well.

Freshly grated Parmesan (Reggiano).

 

How to:

Heat your oven to 110 deg. C (230 deg. F).

Joint the rabbits into five pieces each; the forelegs, hind legs and saddle (on the bone). Discard the rest or use for stock.

To a large, deep, flame-proof casserole dish over medium-to-high heat add the olive oil and the chopped bacon. Stir fry until the bacon just starts to brown. Now layer the rabbit on top of the bacon and then add the onions, celery, carrots, mushrooms, leek, sprigs of fresh thyme, bay leaves, oregano, and rosemary. Next, carefully (as it will vigorously froth) pour in the ale and then add the tomatoes and tomato puree. Sprinkle over the mace or nutmeg and celery seeds, and finally add enough water to just cover everything. Bring the liquid to the boil, cover the casserole dish with a tight lid and put it in the oven for 12 hours.

After 12 hours, remove the casserole dish from the oven, and with tongs and a slotted spoon carefully lift the rabbit pieces out of the liquid and set aside in a large bowl. Once the rabbit has cooled down enough to handle, but is still warm, pick the meat from the bones and shred it between your fingers. Take your time with this as there will be small bones amongst the larger ones. Once the meat has been picked and shredded go through it again as I guarantee not all bones will have been removed from the first picking.

Now for the remaining stew in the casserole dish. Firstly, squeeze the onion from its skin, taking care as it will be hot. Discard the skin. Remove the bay leaves, rosemary stalks and any rabbit bones that you may have missed. Now mash the vegetables with a masher to break them down. Using a hand blender, blend the liquid and vegetables until you have a smooth pulp (alternatively do this in a blender or food processor, in batches). Now it’s time to push the liquid pulp through a fine sieve, one or two ladles at a time. It may seem a little labour intensive but the results far outweigh the effort. Retain the strained liquid and discard the solids in the sieve. Clean your casserole dish and then put the strained liquid in. Put on a medium to high heat and reduce the liquid by about half, stirring occasionally. You want a thick liquid, but enough left to coat the rabbit meat and create a sauce. Once reduced, season with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper and then add the shredded rabbit meat and bring back to the boil. Add the fresh thyme leaves and remove from the heat.

Squeeze in the lemon juice according to your taste, season if required and serve immediately with pasta and freshly grated parmesan.

If you don’t want to serve right away hold back on the lemon juice, cool the bolognese and either store it in the fridge for up to a couple of days or freeze it in batches. To serve, warm the bolognese up and stir in the lemon juice just prior to serving. Definitely rabbit season.

Maple Syrup Salmon Jerky – Wonderful Vancouver

If San Francisco and Melbourne decided to get friendly and produce a child then I reckon Vancouver would be it. I spent 4 days in San Fran. a few years ago and it has long been etched in my travelogue of memories as one to return to for a much longer period. Melbourne is the city I currently reside in and is rightly voted as one of the best cities in the world to live in. Vancouver was a recent discovery of mine a few months ago.

On first arrival, I remember walking through San Francisco and having that feeling that I was in America even though I had never previously been. It was the little things like the yellow traffic lights (which were a novelty), grates emanating steam from the middles of roads, the nuances of accents from the melting pot of migrants that has settled over the years;  I loved Big Trouble in Little China in the 80s and this walk through the city brought what I remember from that movie to life. Walking through Vancouver reminded me of a lot of San Fran. I also loved the bay, and of course the Golden Gate Bridge, and when I walked under the Lions Gate Bridge in Stanley Park – it’s the bridge that connects the main city of Vancouver with North Vancouver – it reminded me of the connection between the main city of San Francisco and Marin County.

Lions Gate Bridge 1

And Vancouver has many similarities with Melbourne. It’s Vancouver’s laid back feel, the amazing craft brewers in little nooks and crannies, the obvious love and knowledge of food – both in eating out and cooking at home. There was just a really positive vibe and pride which is inherent in Melbourne and it emanated eclecticism and artistry intermingled with modern technology (I had to go and see the site of a certain sporting video game company).

Living in Melbourne is an incredible experience for those that love food; it is a food oriented city that buzzes with the cascading colours of a multiculturalism. It has the largest Greek community outside of Athens and Thessaloniki, a vibrant Italian community, a bustling Chinatown , an iconic Little Vietnam, A huge Middle Eastern community, an active North African community, and of course its fair share of fair dinkum Aussies. Can you imagine the food you can get here? It’s immense.

And Vancouver reminded me of this. As a cook, chef and food lover it possessed  some magical food experiences.

The Grouse Grind is famous in Vancouver as the torturous (for the unfit) hike up Grouse mountain – a slog up 2,830 steps over 2.9km. At the top is the magnificent Observatory Restaurant with its incredible and intricate tasting menu and magnificent views of Vancouver. There is an easier and preferred way (cable car) to get there, so if you are going to eat at the restaurant it’s not recommended to do the Grouse Grind just prior as sweaty messes (as I was the first time) would surely be turned away. But just the idea of a fantastic restaurant at the top of a mountain thrilled me – and when I returned the second time, less of a physical wreck, I ate there and the food was really, really good.

Observatory Restaurant 1

Observatory Restaurant 2

Observatory Restaurant 3

I had some of the best oysters I’ve ever eaten at a great seafood restaurant I stumbled upon in North Vancouver – Kusshi oysters; plump with a clean, salty creaminess that defied belief.

Kusshi Oysters

Downtown enlightened me with another highlight that was the local poutine; essentially chips (fries) with cheese curds and gravy. Not the best looking of dishes but an incredible indulgence. The best poutine was one with confit of duck and duck gravy, cheese curds, chips and all adorned with fried eggs.

Duck Poutine

Washed down with a local craft ale made for the most delightful lunch – and one that required more than a Grouse Grind to work it off.

I loved the Granville Island Market, a true food lovers heaven. What struck me was how much care was put in to the presentation of the vast array of fruit, vegetables, fish, seafood, meat, cheese and delicatessen style comestibles.

Granville Island Vegetables

Granville Island Gourds

Granville Island Fruit

Granville Island Sockeye Salmon

Even after the poutine my hunger returned with a vengeance. And it was at this market that I made one of the greatest discoveries of the trip – candied and spiced salmon jerky. An amazing intensity of salmon flavour offset by sweetness and spice. The texture was amazing; the salmon had a jerky-like chewiness with a sticky coating of viscous maple syrup. I bought a bag of the jerky and spent a whole afternoon walking around this wonderful city, discovering, observing and chewing on my new-found delight.

Once back in Melbourne it was time to get down to some creativity in the kitchen and try and replicate this delicacy.

I often salt-cure fresh Tasmanian salmon fillets with a hint of citrus, coriander seed and star anise. I decided that this would form a great base for the jerky. The key to getting the textural consistency was to reduce the moisture content of the salmon to a level that induced chewiness but didn’t go too far as to render the salmon inedible. In addition I wanted to reduce the moisture in the maple syrup to increase its viscosity and thus it’s stickiness – but not take it too far so that it dried out.

Once the salmon had been cured I prepped it into strips, brushed them with a maple syrup and hot cayenne pepper mix and then laid them out on a Silpat (silicon mat).

Salmon Jerky Strips 2

I put the strips in an oven at 60 deg. C (140 deg. F) and left them to dry out for 12  hours. Every 3 hours I brushed the strips with the maple syrup and hot cayenne pepper. After 12 hours the oven was turned off and the salmon was left in there for another 12 hours. The result was pretty amazing – so much so that on munching on the first piece I was instantly transported to Granville Island Market.

 

Serves: Few for a snack   |   Preparation: 30 minutes + 10 hours for citrus cured salmon   |   Cooking: 12 hours + 12 hours resting

 

Ingredients:

Portion  citrus cured salmon  | recipe is here.
180ml  maple syrup | don’t use a maple syrup flavoured substitute it’ got to be the real deal.
1 tsp.  ground hot cayenne pepper |

 

Method:

Prepare  the citrus cured salmon.

Preheat an oven to 60 deg. C (140 deg. F) – some ovens have a ‘warming’ setting so do go as low as 60 deg. C. Use an oven thermometer to check.

Cut the citrus cured salmon in to strips – about 1cm square and 5-8 cm in length.

Distribute the strips on a silicon mat (or a baking sheet lined with baking parchment) so that they don’t touch each other. Mix the ground hot cayenne pepper with the maple syrup and brush the strips with the mix, ensuring to also do the underside of each strip. You will have some maple syrup mix left.

Put the salmon in the oven for 12 hours. Every 3 hours carefully brush the strips with the maple syrup mix ensuring that you don’t break the strips as they do become more delicate and brittle.

After 12 hours, turn the oven off and let the salmon jerk dry and cool in there for another 12 hours. At last it is ready!

 

Notes:

Your can store the jerky in a plastic snap-lock bag or something similar – As the salmon has been cured the strips will certainly keep for a week or two in the fridge. Eat as a snack – amazing with a glass of Prosecco.

Hey Pesto – Brilliant and Vibrantly Simple Salad

Introduction:

This is a stunning yet simple salad that can lighten up any barbecue and guarantee to wow your guests; it’s even better if you’ve been assigned to ‘bring a salad’ and you rock up with this. The beauty is in its simplicity, if quality ingredients are used. I have made this a few times and the platter it has been served on has almost been licked clean every time.

The design of the salad began with a star ingredient, in this case pesto. Every pesto I make is slightly different, based on how I’m feeling: toasted or natural pine nuts for more or less nuttiness; varying levels of Parmesan (Reggiano) or Pecorino (if I want a lighter flavour), 1 or 2 cloves of garlic depending on whether I want a big garlicky bite or something more subtle; and more olive oil for a wetter finish or less for something more paste-like. Regardless, fresh, vibrantly green and highly floral basil is essential. If I can’t find that I don’t make pesto. Where times permit I manually grind the ingredients in a mortar and pestle. For other times I use a food processor, with great results.

Pesto has a slight acidity from the Parmesan/ Pecorino so in creating this salad I wanted to introduce more. Roll out the red carpet and royally welcome some ripe, umami rich tomatoes and a piquant raspberry vinegar. The bite and acidity is then beautifully contrasted with cucumber and a soft milky buffalo cheese or a sheep’s milk based bocconcini. And finally, the star pesto is drizzled on top.

 

Serves: A few as an accompaniment   |   Preparation: 10-20* minutes   | Cooking time: n/a

*Dependent on how you make the pesto.

 

I am not going to provide exact measurements here as there are none. Play around with the quantities of the following ingredients until you’ve hit your flavour nirvana.

 

Ingredients:

Ripe, sweet and tasty tomatoes | Ripe tomatoes are essential and must be at room temperature.
Raspberry vinegar | Or a good aged red vinegar.
Lebanese cucumber |
Extra virgin olive oil | Light and fruit works well.
Seasoning – sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper |
Drained bocconcini or buffalo milk cheese |

A portion of homemade pesto Pesto recipe here. This one contains Pecorino, but Parmesan (Reggiano) should be used for a pesto with a little more bite, as I do with this salad.

 

Method:

Remove the core of the tomatoes (the hard bit at the top of the tomato) and then slice in to 1 cm slices, cutting across the tomato to reveal the tomato’s natural pattern. Lay out on a platter/ plate and drizzle over a little raspberry vinegar (or similar). Slice the Lebanese cucumber and lay over the tomato. Drizzle with olive oil and lightly season with salt and pepper.

Roughly slice the cheese and spread over the cucumber. Finally drizzle over a good quantity of pesto – enough so it becomes very friendly with the ingredients below, but not too much that a nuptial ceremony occurs.

Enjoy.

 

Notes:

Any left-over pesto can be whacked in to some hot pasta (penne is good) with pan-fried bite-sized chicken breast pieces, semi-dried tomatoes and some little young spinach leaves.

Poached Eggs with Sautéed Mushrooms, Jalapeño and Olives drizzled with Truffle oil

Introduction:

I am going to show you how you can put together a stunning breakfast in 10 minutes; 15 minutes if you want to take your time. This was not planned but a breakfast borne from gut instinct and using the method of produce, technique and harmony.

Sometimes it is necessary to remove the shackles of conservatism in the kitchen and just open yourself up to a challenge. Let that gut instinct take over once in a while – and start by seeing what’s in the fridge. It is fair to say that if all that it contains is ‘one dried potato’ (Faithless fans will get this reference) then there will be little for the gut to react to. But a few edible items can lead to some great possibilities. Remember, select the produce, choose a technique and then find some harmony.

This breakfast dish is a result of just that. The produce that inspired it were the Swiss brown mushrooms, Kalamata olives and the jalapeño pepper that was sat there on its lonesome looking up at me for a bit of ‘arriba, andale, andale, yiihah’. The technique chosen was a simple sautéing in a little butter and oil. The harmony came from the adding of onion to the sautéed mushrooms, pepper and olives; serving it on poached eggs and a slice of toasted framer’s rye cob; and the drizzle of truffle oil to bring it all together. And all done in 10 minutes.

 

Serves: 1   |   Preparation: 2-3 minutes   | Cooking time: 6-7 minutes

 

Ingredients:

2 litres Hot tap water | For poaching the eggs.
2 tsp. White vinegar| For poaching the eggs.
2 large  Free range eggs | The fresher the better and the less stringiness they will produce in the hot water.
1 tbsp. Olive oil |
15g Butter |
6 Swiss brown mushrooms |
1 Jalapeño pepper |
6 Kalamata olives | Freshly pitted. If they have been pitted for some time they tend to go a little limp.
½ Red onion |
A slice or 2 Good bread | I used a locally made farmers rye cob.
10g Butter | To finish off the mushrooms.
A drizzle Truffle oil |

 

Method:

First thing; put the grill on for the toast (unless using a toaster), put a pan of hot tap water with the vinegar on high heat (cover it to bring it to the boil quicker) and put a small sautéing pan on medium heat.

Add the olive oil and butter to the small sautéing pan. Wipe the mushrooms with damp kitchen roll to remove any erroneous dirt (washing removes flavour and nutrients, so best avoided). Slice the mushrooms, jalapeño pepper and onion and when the butter starts to foam add them to the pan and sauté for about a minute, tossing the pan frequently.

The water should now be boiling. Turn down to a rolling simmer, stir the water gently so that it swirls. Add each egg gently to the water and set a timer for 3½ minutes.

Put the bread under the hot grill to toast, keeping an eye on it. When done cut it and place it on the serving plate.

Put a lid on the sauté pan and over low heat cook the mushrooms for a further 3 minutes. Remove the lid, turn the heat to medium, add the olives and a little more butter, and toss and cook for a minute.

After 3½ minutes individually remove the eggs from the pan using a slotted spoon. Allow each egg to drain and then carefully place kitchen towel under the spoon to soak up any excess water. Place the eggs on the toast.

Remove the mushroom and olives from the heat and drizzle over some truffle oil (or a little olive oil if you don’t have truffle oil) and season with black pepper (there should be enough salt from the olives).

Gently place the mushroom mix over the poached eggs and eat immediately.

 

Notes:

  • For 2 or more serves just increase the ingredients proportionally.

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.

Spain – Mixed Paella

Football:

Finally, we reach number 1 in the World Cup countdown and instead of talking about Spain in the semi-finals, something its ranking would have made most of us predict, I am trying to remember them actually being in the World Cup elimination was so far back. It’s incredible to think that the lowest (Australia) and highest ranked teams were the first to be eliminated from the competition. As the current holders of the World Cup and Euros, a lot was expected of Spain. Maybe a little bit of complacency set in and also because Barcelona and Real Madrid -where many players ply their trade – had very long seasons players’ tiredness may have contributed to their below par performance.

A couple of days ago I talked about the Portuguese player Eusébio. Today I am going to mention another incredible player from the past, an Argentinian-born striker that was the heart of a great Real Madrid team, and an international for Spain. His name was Alfredo Di Stefano and he passed away on Saturday at the age of 88. Alfredo was nicknamed ‘La Saeta Rubia’ – the blond arrow – and his goal scoring record for Real Madrid was phenomenal with 307 goals during an 11-season period; a period when Real Madrid dominated the European game. He had great skill and presence on the field and even recently was quoted as saying that Zinedine Zidane was the modern-day player most like him in his prime.

He actually never got to play at a World Cup but did play for three international teams; Columbia (which FIFA never recognised), Argentina and Spain (once his Spanish citizenship had come through). He was revered throughout the footballing world and in the words of Brasil legend Pele:

He was a trailblazer, and most of all, he was a legend of the game. God rest his soul.

 

Dish:

Tortilla da patatas or potato omelette was going to be the final dish of this magical World Cup food project. However, a last minute rethink suggested that I throw off the shackles of caution and go for something big, something luxuriant and something so synonymously Spanish that one can almost be forgiven in thinking that it preceded the creation of the country; of course it is paella. And just like how I started this World Cup food countdown with the controversial selection of Pavlova for Australia (ask a Kiwi where it originated) I know that my paella will ruffle some feathers amongst the purists and aficionados.

In researching paella I have seen so many aggressive arguments in forums and recipe websites slamming anybody that dare call a version of paella true paella. You should have seen it go off when someone suggested adding chorizo to paella. I think that taking tradition as an absolute can hold back the evolution of food. What gets me is that even a traditional dish came from somewhere, usually from the evolution of eating practices at the time. I am happy to call a dish a traditional one, or an evolution of a traditional one, if there are components within that dish that others can identify as congruous with that original dish. I think the magic in traditional food is the story of how it came to be.

My paella is a paella, but it may or may not (even I am not quite sure) fit in with a purist’s definition. But alas, I cook food for pleasure and nutrition and so whether it is or isn’t doesn’t matter that much to me. What does matter is that as I bring this World Cup project to an end I can strut forth and declare this dish for Spain as one big knees-up celebration of its cuisine and what has been so far an incredibly exhilarating FIFA World Cup.

 

Serves: 4-6   |   Preparation: 20 minutes   |   Cooking Time: 50-60 minutes

 

Ingredients:

10 Raw king prawns |
2 tbsp. Olive oil |
1 medium Garlic clove | finely diced.
1 medium Squid tube | Cut open, scored diagonally and cut into 1cm strips.
8 large Scallops | Roe removed.
1 Chicken breast | Cut into bite-sized pieces.
1 large  Red onion | Finely diced.
2 medium Garlic cloves | Finely sliced.
½ Red pepper | Diced. Also known as capsicum.
½ Green pepper | Diced. Also known as capsicum.
4 medium Ripe tomatoes | Peeled and diced.
~20 Broad beans | Blanched for 30 seconds in boiling water.
500g Paella rice |
100ml White wine |
600ml Chicken stock |
2 Pinches Saffron strands | Soaked in 50ml of hot water.
850ml Hot water |
Seasoning Sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper |

 

How to:

Firstly devein the prawns by cutting down the back shell of the prawn from the base of the head to the tail. Next using a small sharp knife cut through the back flesh of the prawn, deep enough to reveal the vein. With the end of the small knife pick out the vein and then very carefully pull it out of the prawn – this way you can keep the whole shell on the prawn.

In a large paella dish heat the olive oil until very hot and then add the prawns and the finely diced garlic. Sauté for a minute each side and then remove and set the prawns aside. Now add the squid and sauté for a minute or so on high heat and then set aside. Now repeat for the scallops and then the chicken breast pieces.

Reduce the heat to low-medium and add the onion, sliced garlic cloves and red and green peppers to the paella dish. Cook for about 5-7 minutes until soft and fragrant. Now add the tomatoes and cook for a further two minutes. Add the broad beans and rice, turn the heat to high and cook and stir for 2 minutes. Add the white wine, chicken stock, hot water, the saffron and hot water and seasoning and bring to the boil. Now turn the heat to low, cover the dish and cook for 30 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed – stir occasionally. Let the paella rest, covered, for 5 minutes once the heat has been turned off.

Serve hot with a squeeze of lemon.