Thursday, August 30, 2012

Chowder, CHOWDER! Say it SAY IT.

I can't even say the word chowder without this running through my head. I've never made fish soup of any kind but I had to do a knife sharpening demo in a fish shop today. They had a tub of salmon heads and frames which I scored five of for a few bucks. A random and cursory google search and I had a rough idea of what I wanted to get to.

I sweated off a leek, red and brown onion, garlic, added some brown sugar and semi carmelised it to give it a bit of sweetness. In my big pot I dumped the frames, onions, garlic, bay and carrots and simmered it into some fish stock. Smelt fantastic. In with the onions went some stock, potatoes and mushrooms. While that simmered away I made a roux to thicken it up. I was supposed to do that at the onion stage but forgot. I do that.

Once the potatoes were soft in went some of my home smoked salmon. This particular piece had been cured a bit too much and was a touch salty. That's why I had that sweet onion and leek base. Finally I pulled out the big vat of my fresh milk and scooped out all the double cream and chucked that in as well. Oh and some white wine. I put some of that in too. After sampling for quality control.

It was fan bloody tastic. The salmon was nicely salty and it had this real richness, which might have been from all the cream. So for a small amount of cash we had a rich, tasty soup as the wind rattled over the Lantanaland hills.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Bang up meals at fine dining quality

I love when some nights, despite making something that cleans out the fridge, you end up with a meal you would have happily paid for. Tonight was such a night. As the storm rolled in on my way home and I listened to the ABC tell me that there was high wind gusts, my thoughts went to a night two years ago when I lost a tree full of mulberries in a storm. I'd been saving them for a mulberry vodka I wanted to make. Devastating. I still drank the vodka.

So I rushed round and picked every ripe and semi ripe mulberry on the tree. No waste this time. Unfortunately as much as I love mulberry smoothies I'm not a fan of mulberry pie, too much when I was young and I was racking my brains for a good use for the fresh fruit. I thought I'd have a bash at some jelly, there was not quite enough fruit for jam. The fruit got dumped in a pot with a dash of water, stems and all. Once the fruit had gone soft I added some caster sugar. Some is a magical measuring device at Lantanaland, which is very easy to measure and impossible to replicate.

After it cooked down some more I passed the hot liquid through a sieve and added 'some' gelatine, then into glasses and chilled in the milk fridge. Now for dinner. In the fridge I had the following things that needed using, carrots, some roast pork and a capsicum. I also had an onion, potatoes and garlic that were all starting to sprout. The onion, carrot garlic and capsicum were diced and sweated off until really soft, then some white wine, the roughly chopped pork, some frozen homemade pigs trotter stock, more wine, the potatoes and a bottle of sugo.

It was all slowly simmered until the potatoes started to break up, mixed with a dash of sour cream and into bowls with lots of grated Parmesan. Bang up meals have no right to taste this good, I'd happily make that again from scratch and ill definitely be using up roast pork that way again.

The mulberry jelly was served with some yoghurt and mint. It was fantastic. I can't wait for my finger limes to fruit, a few of the bursting bubbles of lime in that jelly and you could serve it anywhere, anytime. The fruit saved and the fridge cleared, not a bad way to eat.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Pie voltage

Hello. Pop quiz, food lovers: pick the deliberate mistake in this paragraph:
While teriyaki chicken sushi and curried goat with feta pies had the 18 judges salivating, it was a delectable and delicate gingered peach and pear with Cointreau pie which really tantalised the judges' taste buds and took top honours in the 2012 Bakels New Zealand Supreme Pie Awards announced last night at the Rendezvous Hotel in Auckland.
That's right, ALL OF IT IS WRONG.

Setting aside the rancidly racist North Island bias of this alleged 'Supreme Pie Awards' which some bunch of industry frauds and idiots has perpetuated upon the fine, heroic and stoically vowel-free nation of Nw Zllnd - what the very merry fark is teriyaki chicken sushi doing in a pie?

This nonsense has to end. Molecular gastronovelty has committed enough crimes against humanity without the humble pie (heh, see what I did there) being dragged into this. There is no place for frou-frou flouncery like this in PIES. None. Bakels New Zealand Supreme Pie Awards, and all who sail in her: go and sit in the naughty corner until you can come up with a decent steak and kidney with a squirt of dead horse.*

*Rhyming slang. Not actual dead horse. Though these tossers would probably endorse such a 'NOW' fusion

Truth is, the pie is - or should be - honest, unpretentious fare. Done well - and by this we're necessarily excluding your Mrs Macs 3am-service-station-thermonuclear-pie-warmer-minced-lips-n-arses-efforts - the essence of a pie should be good, simple ingredients, prepared well.

And if you can't find one, do it yourself.

For this I'm employing the cold-climate-chef's best friend, the slow cooker. Mine gets a hammering year-round - it's a cheap, shabby old pile of crap, with cracks opening up in the crockpot like an Eighties WACA pitch, but it works. There is so much you can do (and do well) in a slow cooker, from lamb shanks to corned beef. In this case I propose using it to make the filling for a huge family pie. We regularly have the in-laws over for a big meal and a few bottles of wine on a Saturday night, so this is tonight's feast: beef, bacon and tomato pie, with a potato top. Because potato top pies are teh shizzle. Fact.

This particular recipe is themed (i.e. stolened) off an excellent beef, bacon and tomato pie which Dunedin's Who Ate All The Pies (shamefully shunned in the Supreme North Island Pie Awards) bust out with regularity. Generally, their stuff is excellent; occasionally they verge on the fringes of frou-frou, but even those efforts (eg their ostrich and black beer or their wild hare, sage and fennel) are usually bang-on. As usual for my MF posts I'm quasi-live-blogging this as a mostly untried recipe, and will update the interwombles with results at a later juncture.

  • Beef. I'm using 1.5kg of fairly ordinary stewing (or 'gravy') beef. Another advantage of the slow cooker which might not be immediately apparent is that it enables you to get the most out of fairly average cuts of meat - in fact the cheaper and tougher the better, as long as you leave it long enough. It'll all come apart beautifully.
  • Bacon. I keep a block of butchers' offcuts in the freezer, and just carve off a few chunks to add flavour. Call it 250g or thereabouts.
  • Mushrooms. 200g white buttons quartered roughly, because I had 'em
  • Couple of diced onions and a couple of cloves of garlic. Don't worry about mincing these too finely as the slow cooker will dematerialise them nicely. In general, bigger is better in the slow cooker game.
Brown all that in a pan (not too much, you want the beef to come apart in the slow cooker) and throw it in. Add about a cup of cheap cooking red wine (remember MF's cardinal rule never to cook with anything you wouldn't drink - if it tastes of arse in the glass, it'll taste of date on the plate), a can of tomatoes (any sort you like) and any herbs that take your fancy - a stalk of fresh rosemary would go alright. You can cheat a tad and use one of those slow cooker meal sachets to add a bit of punch, or simply add the same constituent ingredients individually. One thing to note with beef - it releases a lot of fluid when you slow-cook it so you don't need to add too much additional moisture.

Now the important bit: switch the slow cooker to LOW, and leave it alone. I mean it. Do not touch it. NO I SAID LEAVE IT THE FARK ALONE. CAN YOU NOT JUST STOP FIDDLING WITH IT. JESUS HANDSTANDING CHRIST.

Seriously, the one and only golden rule of slow cooking, as Naut pointed out to me years back: no matter what, don't open the lid. Even if the contents are desiccating, or on fire, or appearing to mutate into a sentient being. Easiest way to screw up a slow cooker meal is to keep opening the lid and fiddling about. If you desperately need to mix things up, pick the entire unit up and slosh it about with lid in place. You'll look like a toolbag but it'll redistribute the contents without your dinner losing a head of steam. Literally.

Low and slow, baby. Low and slow.

Nominally, eight hours is the usual figure you work to, but longer is better if you can jag it. If pressed for time you can do a few hours on high then back to low to finish, but it's not going to turn out as well. Should have just got your shit together earlier in the morning, you lazy git.

So that's the pie filling; for the pie, you can either do it as a pot pie or as a proper quote-unquote 'pie' with a lining of puff pastry. Your choice. (Haven't made mine yet, to be honest). Either way, grease up a big casserole dish, line with pastry (or don't), add filling, then layer sliced potatoes across the top. (Or leftover mash from last night if you have a crapload, for some reason) I'd sprinkle some grated parmesan over the top because that's how I roll, but you don't have to. It's not the law. You have free will. Own your future. Do what you want to do. Be what you want to be. Yeah.

Then bake the bugger until the taters are done, serve it up with something green (probably not gazpacho soup, unless you're into that fusion crap like the Bakels muppets) and a couple of bottles of red. Win.

That's the plan anyway... updates later. Pictures at 11.

******* SEAMLESS EDIT *******

Breaking: it was tops.

Dodgy slow cooker is dodgy

Went with the pastry base after all.

Finished arsetickle.

Pie requires pinot. Scientific FACT.

The Doctor is OUT.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Cream of Something Soup

It's a little cooler and raining at Lantanaland and I was feeling like a bit of comfort food. I felt like lasagna and The Wife wanted a bit more veg in it. I do a great slow roasted veg lasagna but it takes a little time to do and the cooking window is a little narrower with Curtis running around.

The next best thing would be soup I reckoned. I always keep some of my awesome pigs trotter stock in the fridge and I felt like some cream of something soup. I make this soup, or versions of it all the time as soon as the temperature drops below 30 degrees.

Take any combination of leeks, garlic, onion and celery and sweat that off in some butter. Add the stock and a diced potato. Sometimes I add some cauliflower, tonight it was a tin of chick peas. Simmer until the potato is soft then blitz it up into a purée. Add milk or cream or sour cream and blitz till the right consistency. I usually fry up a bit of bacon and sprinkle that on top but tonight all I had was some chorizo so that went on top with a bit of grated parmesan.

It's a simple soup but with good stock it becomes something fantastic. Lantanaland's sometime boarder Uncle Ryan thought it was the best soup he'd ever had. I'd hate to think how much I'd make it if it actually got cold.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Beeso Curry

I love it when you are confident enough in the building blocks of cooking that you can go 'off the reservation' and cook something delicious without following any recipe at all. I have a small amount of this knowledge I guess, mostly from Italian or French style cooking that allows me to just throw stuff together along those lines. Asian flavours and ideas though are my kryptonite.

I don't mind Indian food but lack the confidence to do it from scratch, relying on a tinned or bottled sauce on the rare occasion I cook it at home. I'm not a massive fan of premade sauces so we don't have much curry. The other day I felt like one though and had a bash at something completely unauthentic. Normally I would look up a recipe and get a feel for ingredients and rough amounts but I just threw some stuff together.

In the fry pan went cumin seeds, a bit of cardoman seed, coriander seed and bit of cinnamon stick. Once warmed it was bashed up with salt and turmeric. Meanwhile in the blender went three different types of chilli, lemongrass, garlic and ginger and some olive oil. The fact that I had all these ingredients in the kitchen or garden might have influenced the list a little. I pulsed all the fresh stuff up, adding a little oil to loosen then added the spices and one brown onion in chunks. I ended up with a highly aromatic paste.

Into my highly expensive Aldi French oven went some diced lamb and once browned I added the paste and cooked it off. Then I added some tinned tomatoes, coconut cream, diced potatoes and for the hell of it, sultanas. Topped it up with a little water, lid on and in the oven for two hours at a medium low heat.

Served up, with papadums and lots of yoghurt, it turned out to be bloody delicious. The Wife was most appreciative.
"This is good, what is it?"
"Beeso curry"
"Yes I KNOW that, but what type is it supposed to be, korma, rogan josh, what?"
"No, that's what I meant, it's Beeso curry, from Beeso"

Of course I'll never make it that way exactly again, not in a million years, but it was good!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Baking, the hidden art.

I don't bake much. Something about having to measure things out just doesn't seem like cooking. So I've steered right clear of it. I don't eat bought biscuits or cakes much anyway. Since Curtis has been born there has been lots of sitting around watching him (and cricket) and lots of cups of tea and for some reason I have been craving biscuits.

Last week I had a bash at some Anzac biscuits, replacing the coconut with chopped mixed nuts as I had no coconut. They were surprisingly good. So much so that yesterday I had a craving for some biscuits with sultanas. So a quick request of twitter I had a recipe (thanks Zoe!) and I had a go today.

They are a touch crumbly, but maybe I haven't let them cool enough. Pretty bloody good for me though. I now have two strings to my baking bow, scones and biscuits! Now for cake.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Lamb and Harissa 2.0, now with extra lamb.

I love me some lamb. And when I started to realize that I couldn't put something with butter in it on every meal if I wanted to stay off biggest loser I became a fan of yoghurt on my lamb. Then I discovered harissa. Man those Tunisians know their shit. A teaspoon of that through some yoghurt on a lamb cutlet is about as close to heaven as this non believer will ever come.

The problem with harissa, for those of us that do not enjoy the inner city lifestyle is that it is about as easy to source as a (insert stupid sponsors name here who do not own the team) wallabies win at Eden Park. When you do find it you'll need that second mortgage because it sells for about $10 for a teaspoon.

I'm addicted to the stuff and yesterday it struck me that it can't be that hard to make, especially as there had been a fair chunk of difference between the bottles I had bought at various small boutique delis in Brisbane. So I fired up the magic intergoogle and found that it was actually ridiculously easy.

Take even amounts of chilli, dried and reconstituted, or fresh and garlic. Whack them in a food processor with a squeeze of lemon juice and pulverize. Toast off some cumin and caraway seeds, grind them up with a little salt and add them in. Pulverize more. Add some olive oil to loosen the paste. Done.

Because I have an inbuilt talent to avoid following a recipe, I added some lemon zest and a pinch of coriander powder, but from the reading I've done on harissa, I don't think it matters as every region had it's own little twist.

The reason for the harissa was the the Neil Perry slow cooked lamb shoulder. All it takes is a bit more of those same spices smeared over the lamb with oil, then put in a roasting pan with foil tent or do as I did and use my awesome Aldi French pan. A dash of white wine in the bottom and a cup of water then go away for seven hours. Three at 130 deg and 4 at 110 deg. I now have a new favorite way to eat lamb. The meat was so tender, lifting off along the muscle.

Served with some mashed potato and peas and covered with that harissa yoghurt, mixed with a dash of lemon juice, it was one of the tastiest bits of lamb I have had in, well almost forever. If only the rugby had been that good.

Just an little extra. We had a big day Sunday and I didn't feel like cooking much. So I whipped up a small batch of Maggie Beers sour cream pastry and lined a small pie tin. While that was happening I quickly boiled some potatoes. In a small frypan I threw in a couple of chopped handfuls of the cold lamb with a dash of butter. Once warmed through I sprinkled in a teaspoon of cornflour and cooked for a bit. Then I threw in some white wines and harissa for gravy and cooked it down a bit, threw it in the cooked pie casings and covered in mashed potato. Back into the oven and once there were little crunchy bits on the mash lid, out came possibly the greatest pie I have ever eaten.

- Lantanaland from my iPad