Sunday, August 16, 2009

Organic Lamb

Wednesday was show day in Brisbane, but I have to say it wasn't the hardest days work I've ever done. I took a couple of my customers from Silverwood Organics lamb to lunch at an Italian restaurant at southport, the fantastic Fellini.

Silverwood is run by Andrew and Maree King and if I am accused to giving them a bit more time then I'll happily stand guilty. I've only ever talked to them on the phone but over lunch discovered that they have the same practical approach and attitude to food as I do.

In the middle of the drought things were so bad they had to put down most of their existing Merino stock. The wholesalers were offering to take the sheep at no cost, basically because they knew the primary producers were in such a hard place. Determined to break free of this cycle, they went in to Dorper sheep, a hardier, slightly larger breed that drops it's wool rather than having to be shorn. They also bypassed the wholesaler and sold direct to the public online.

I'm a big fan of this, because you can ask questions of the primary producer that your local butcher in most cases won't be able to answer. It's good gear too, evidenced by their blue ribbon at the Royal Brisbane show.

The lunch went down fantastically well. I've been mining JB for tips for eating out, as I rarely do it and on this he was spot on. I had a crusted rack of lamb, which led to Andrew and Maree striking up a conversation with the owner, which might lead to their lamb making it onto the plates at the restaurant.

So if you live in QLD and you like lamb, check these guys out, because primary producers like these deserve every bit of support we can give.

MF from the iPhone

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Beginner's luck

In keeping with Your Correspondent's theory that cooking is really just experimental science, and with my philosophy that if an experiment's worth doing it's worth doing once, dodgily, and published before anyone asks too many questions, we present a new semi-regular (if not highly irregular) series on the MoFo entitled Beginners' Luck, when unfamiliar dishes will be attempted for the first time and quasi-live-blogged in Almost Sort-Of Real Time so you can watch the disaster unfold before your very eyes.

I've always wanted to have a bash at a paella. As distinct from having a bash at a pinata. Anyway that's a shit joke so I'll move on. Paella is a Spanish rice dish, not too far from a risotto, which originated from the Valencia region which had the key ingredients of (a) nearby ricefields (b) sources of seafood (c) excess cured extract of pig and (d) the intent and willingness to combine the above in the pursuit of Culinary Win. You can make paella out of pretty much anything - other than cardboard or old car tyres, though some Spanish restaurants have presumably tried - but the most familiar form to most folks is the 'mixed' paella of seafood, chicken and pork. This is my shot at it - not necessarily what you should do, but what I did.

Key ingredient: paella rice, specifically known as calasparra or bomba rice, which is a very short grain rice originating from the Valencia region which can absorb three times its own volume in liquid. You'll probably have to go looking for it and it'll cost a bomb, but it's worth it. You could probably try substituting some other form of short grain rice instead, but only if you want to fuck it up.

Key weapon: the paella pan itself, a big fuck-off cast-iron jobbie designed to be fit for purpose. Which you won't have, so substitute any big fuck-off cast-iron pan, whether flat-bottomed or wok-shaped. Or anything big enough to take the volume. The following was attempted using an electric wok. Which limited one's options ref. finishing the bugger off in the oven, but you get that on the big jobs.

As ever, quantities are an estimate, a best guess or just a complete bodge.
500g paella rice (bomba or calasparra)
3 chorizo sausages (~160g) cut into chunks
300g chicken breast fillet, diced
300g bacon pieces - Kiwi bacon is less cured than Aust, any combo of cured oink would do (pork, bacon, pancetta, proscuitto etc)
400g prawns/shrimps, shelled and deveined, preferably precooked
500g (8-10) greenlip mussels in shell, precooked
2 cans whole cherry tomatoes in juice (any canned or fresh tomatoes will do)
1.5-2L liquid - made up (in this case) of:
500mL chicken stock
375mL fish stock
375mL dry white wine (used a NZ sauv blanc)
- plus the various liquid phases of the canned tomatoes, mussels etc
large handful fresh parsley, shopped
1 tbsp crushed garlic (~4 cloves of fresh stuff)
1 tsp crushed chilli (less if cooking for kids)
1 large red onion, chopped
1 each red and yellow capsicum, seeded and chopped into strips
tbsp each of paprika and thyme
2 tsp fresh oregano
100g frozen peas for colour
Vast quantities of GOOD olive oil. Spanish if you want to be picky about it

Battle plan
Panfry onion in decent splash (1/4 cup) olive oil, chilli and garlic until soft.

Add chicken, cook until just no longer pink.

Throw in bacon and chorizo, cook through.

Then likewise with capsicum.

Take this lot out of the pan and set aside. (Not essential, just makes getting the rice underway a bit easier.)

Add more oil (>100mL) and bomba rice. Sautee until rice is coated in oil and translucent.

Then add liquid - fish and chicken stock, white wine, juice from canned tomatoes, liquor from mussels.

Bring to low simmer.

Add meat/onions/capsicum mix, prawns, tomatoes, herbs, peas.

Keep on low heat while rice absorbs liquid. Will take 20-30 mins depending on temp.

Towards end of absorption add mussels and chopped parsley.

Be astonished at how much liquid this stuff can soak up.

Serve with lemon wedges, or if you can't be arsed with that, just whatever's left of the dry white.

Pretty bloody decent. Except the dry white, that was a bit arse. Though what do you want for six bucks a bottle on special at New World. Subbed off for something a bit less astringent.

Seems a pretty simple, robust sort of dish. Ingredients regimen could handle quite a bit of buggerising about with, so off you shoot and let me know how you get on.

The Doctor is OUT to sample more of the proceeds.