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


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Camping Feasts

Being in the middle of nowhere doesn't mean you should settle for less than great meals. There is nothing better than getting in to camp after a hard days walking, paddling or whatever, and tucking into a good meal. There is nothing worse than getting in an eating a bland, tasteless meal that you only force down because you know you need to. Sometimes camping food can be like the midnight snack while you're on the turps. It tastes fantastic when you’re there, but if you eat it any other time it’s another story. Some camping trips you spend most of your time planning the intimate details of what your first meal back will be.

Its amazing what a little imagination and planning can do for a camping meal. I’m not talking about car camping, I'm talking about walking, cycling touring or kayaking, something where you have to carry it all with you in a bag, where weight and space are major issues. So the challenge is to come up with tasty dinner recipes for two hungry, active people. The criteria are:

1. The ingredients must not spoil without refrigeration

2. Preparation can be done before the trip, but must be minimal when doing the actual cooking

3. No frying, only boiling, or a really bad simmer. Most camp stoves have two temperatures despite any claims, it’s on or off.

4. It must be light, think about carrying it for week. If the ingredients are more than a kilogram then it’s probably too heavy.

5. The food must be able to withstand being squashed, and stuffed into a pack.

6. You can dehydrate things before hand. I can see the recoils in horror now… DEHYDRATE. Yes yes, it’s a necessary evil for this sort of thing though. Its like a lot of things, if you buy store bought dehy food its pretty ordinary, but home dehy stuff is actually not bad…..for camping.

7. You can use a maximum of two small pots to cook

To help give you some ideas some of our camping meals include laksa with noodles, Gnocchi with some dehy veggies and a tomato based sauce. A stir fry that is slightly more boiled than fried, or a home made bolognaise sauce dehydrated. I am interested to see what a bunch of gourmets can come up with, and very keen to try then on our next trip.

Have fun!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Let's talk about vegetarian lasagna.

I have to say I hesitated before writing about vegetarian lasagna. I mean, it brings up images of hippies, living in the country in some run down house on a ramshackle farm, milking the cows and collecting the free range eggs from their chooks and ducks and that's just not me...... Hmm, maybe I could have thought that opening paragraph through a bit more.

See I don't think that vegetarian and normal lasagna should be considered in the same space. I love meat based lasagna, the thick, rich, meaty, tomato sauce and the creamy layers in between. But my vego version comes from a different space. For a start there are no tomatoes. And it's a hell of a lot easier.

When I make a real 'I'm sure I have Italian blood in me somewhere' sauce for a lasagna, I like to cook out the meat and tomato sauce for hours, slowly simmering until my taste buds can take it no more. Of course, I don't always do this, sometimes I brown off some mince, wack in tinned tomatoes and layer up but it's not the same.

With the vego version all I do is throw a bunch of roughly cut vegetables into a roasting dish and slow roast. This time it was squash, garlic, cauliflower, carrot, mushrooms, zucchini and red onion but I also use eggplant, pumpkin, sweet potato, fennel and peas. Takes all of about four minutes to chop up. I'll lightly coat with oil and add some salt and other seasoning, cumin seeds or rosemary or thyme.

While that's roasting I make some pasta. It's not essential, but I have duck eggs and I find that duck egg pasta is the smoothest, silkiest, sexiest thing I've seen outside my marriage. But that's just me. Use the packet stuff if you want. Bash the dough in the fridge and make the white sauce.

I use lots of cheese with this. In this case that means a hunk of homemade camembert that is a bit strong to eat fresh, some homemade mozzarella and some cheddar. The more interesting and varied the cheese, the better the dish. That's one of the joys of cheesemaking, the mistakes you make can usually be thrown into a white sauce or onto a pizza.

Layer it up and bake until the white sauce is golden on top. I traditionally eat it after a three hour yoga session sitting in the lotus position, naked, under a full moon, but it will taste just as good fully clothed in front of the TV.


MF from my iPad


Saturday, April 9, 2011

Bush Fruit

There is a native bush fruit you can get in TAS and some parts of NSW and VIC called the climbing blueberry. It produces little blue berries that look like mini capsicums, are blue to deep purple and no bigger than a small grape. Like a capsicum they have a firm outer skin, are generally pretty hollow (no flesh) and have plenty of seeds inside. They have a pretty bland, some people say slightly apple flavour and the seeds inside make it gritty, so its not really appealing to on its own. As Mick Dundee said "you can live on it but it tastes like shit", but you would probably struggle to find enough to live on. One thing it does do though is make really good jam.

My partner and I were at festival a couple of years ago and tried some blueberry jam. It was really different, very subtle flavour. We liked it so much we went out and bought some seedlings in the hope we could grow them ourselves and make our own jam. Unfortunately the local wallabies like the plant more than we do so they never grew big enough to fruit. a few weeks ago we saw a few plants on the side of the road so we went berry picking.

I went searching for a recipe but couldn't find anything, people didn't even realise you could eat it. Because the fruit was quite unusual I wasn't sure how the lack of flesh would effect the consistency, how much sugar to put in or if it would set on its own. So when I started I had a lemon and some jam setta ready. I added a couple of grated apples, mostly to bulk it out. The lemon juice was mostly for a for a bit of acid and some extra zing. I got lucky and the lemon juice was enough to set jam. I did have to use the stick blender as the fruit weren't falling apart.

The end result was lovely, very sweet (it is jam), with quite a subtle flavour. You can taste the apple, almost too much. As nice as it is though, it probably needs something else. For a first try with no real recipe to follow I was pretty happy. We tried another recipe with no apples, a teaspoon of vanilla and half a teaspoon of cinnamon, but the cinnamon was a little overpowering.

We'll have to wait until next summer to try again. The funny thing is we don't even eat jam. We did keep a jar but that will last us all year. Our mates liked it though. The plant is Billardiera longiflora or the climbing blueberry for those that want to know. The recipe is below. Enjoy!!!

450g Blueberry fruit
2 regular apples, peeled, cored and coarsely grated
450g sugar
Juice of half a lemon
1/2 cup of water

Sunday, March 27, 2011


I spent all weekend making cheese so I was pretty shagged when it came to Sunday dinner. Try this for a simple meal. Serves two, tired, not that hungry people.

Get a batch of ricotta, I used inari, a traditional Cypriot cheese made from whey, very similar to ricotta. I hade made it last weekend after making my best batch of haloumi, using the leftover whey.

Mix two eggs into the ricotta with a handful of finely grated Parmesan. I didn't have any, so I threw in some marinated feta for a bit of extra flavor. Whisk that up till it's smooth, adding a bit of salt and pepper to your tastes.

Get a sheet of puff pastry and quarter it. Spread the mix over each square leaving a 1cm border around the edge, about 1-2cm thick. Sprinkle over some sliced leeks and brush with melted butter. A few stripped thyme leaves and more cracked pepper and bake until the edge is nicely brown. Tasty.

I've been making more and more cheese for my Herdshare and for myself, learning along the way. But this was the real deal, a two day intensive course learning to make ricotta (whole milk and whey), cheddar, brie, chabichou, cheddar, mozzarella and quark. It was run by Graham Redhead an ex DPI guy who was raised on a dairy farm, has worked for a lot of big dairy industry companies and just, loves, cheese.

I was there thanks to The Wife, gorgeous creature that she is and the generosity of her family and one of my best mates who all chipped in for a Xmas present for me.

I was using a bit of Lantanaland milk so I was even busier than everyone else, as I was doing my thing and also helping out my partner on a lot of the cheeses. If definitely helped that I was the only person there that had made cheese before. I still had a lot to learn, especially about process and ways of getting stuff wrong. There are margins of error and there are definitely ways to err on the right side and it was good to know.

The cheddar and the mozzarella were the best. I'd made brie/camembert to a half decent level before, but had not really been that keen on cheddar, mainly because of the long aging times. But when you see the cloth bound wheels, you start dreaming of creating big ten kilo wheels of cheese that you can roll out at your leisure. I'm definitely investing in a cheese press.

Mozzarella was all about the confidence in the process. There are things that can go wrong pretty easily in the making but now I'm sure I can replicate a pretty good pizza cheese. And stretching and shaping the cheese is awesome fun.

All in all a great learning weekend that my herd sharers will appreciate for years to come I reckon. I am also going to hold a mini Cheesemaking day down here, to show off what I can do!

- MF from my iPad

Location:Some tafe training kitchen.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


I like sausages, I don’t care what people say they put in them, lips and a$%^holes as one colleague puts it, not too mention the jokes that even if you’re a vegetarian you can still eat sausages because there is no meat in them. I think it comes from a childhood of going to BBQ’s and getting steak that was so over cooked it was impossible to cut let alone chew. When I am at a BBQ I still always go for the sausages first, I’ll still get steak too, but sausages first. Luckily I have the stomach to match my eyes.

The other night one of my mates who makes his own sausages brought over some home made salmon sausages. There were a couple of types on offer, a teriyaki salmon and plain salmon. Using a thermometer we poached them until the salmon was 60c (140 f). The plain salmon was nice, beautiful flavour but a little dry. It really needed something just to give it that moisture to really let it melt in your mouth. The teriyaki sauce gave the sausage the right amount of moisture to really set it off. It had the lovely taste of salmon with the spices really enriching the flavour without overpowering it.

The recipe and notes from the creator.

Teriyaki Salmon
1kg salmon offcuts from local salmon farm
1.5 meters of hog casings ~ 30mm diameter (doesn’t matter)(soaked)
Medium to large onion
Medium to large red pepper (capsicum)
Half a Small onion
Good chunk of ginger (thumb size?)
Several cloves of garlic
Soy sauce
Rice vinegar
Corn starch (corn flour)
White pepper

Dice the large onion and red pepper and then sauté in a pan with a bit of oil until cooked to your liking. Chill.

Dice small onion, ginger, and garlic, and sauté in a small sauce pan until the edge is taken off. Add soy sauce ( cup???), mirin, and a bit of water. Simmer for a couple of minutes. Taste and adjust as needed with rice vinegar and sugar. . .likely will need some of both. The mirin is not essential and can be replaced with more vinegar and sugar. When happy, strain out chunks and save. If already happy, strain it when you like the flavor. Thicken sauce with corn starch until quite thick and then chill.

Sausage: Combine and mix everything (plus add some white pepper and green onions if you like!) in with salmon meat cut in chunks suitable for the grinder. Grind. Knead ground mixture with hands for a couple of minutes to develop some stickyness. Cook a bit in a pan and test flavor. . adjust ‘til happy. .. but don’t eat too much of it.

Stuff it! Or make a log and wrap in several layers of plastic wrap. This you can then poach.

Have only made this once with, making it up as we went. The texture, especially when poached in plastic, was a bit crumbly. I’d possibly add an egg white to the mix, or mousseline a portion of the salmon.


Monday, January 3, 2011

Oysters at ten AM

Even for someone who doesn't 'get' oysters like me, I recognize that a culinary adventure that starts with starts with 12 super fresh oysters at ten AM is probably going to end up being a good day

This was our trip to the beautiful island of Bruny, postponed for a day so I could battle a dose of super mutant Tasmanian flu and it actually started with my first caffeine in 72 hours at the ferry terminal. It was like giving the biggest coldest beer in the world to a man who'd been lost in a desert where the pubs only sold VB.

Straight off the ferry the first stop was Get Shucked. The Wife had declared them the best oysters she had ever had at Taste so a stop was seen as compulsory. We were the first customers of the day, she was still opening up and the oysters were again declared delicious. The way they were inhaled certainly seemed positive.

Next stop was my personal goal, Bruny Island cheese. We got to taste a fresh 'young' hard cheese, a smoked hard cheese, which they claimed was smoked for three months, but I think the girl at the counter was a bit confused. We also tasted their brie/camembert soft cheese, their one day old fresh cheese in olive oil and a raw milk cheese flavored and colored with saffron. All very tasty. I was entranced with their aging room, which is at 12 degrees. I should be able to replicate that with the second hand fridge I hope to score soon. Fired up about making some soft cheese.

After the cheese we did a bit of sightseeing to keep The Wife happy before stopping for lunch at the Hothouse. We shared a smoked salmon and salad wrap and a beef and guinness pie. Both very nice. Hothouse was a real homestyle cooking sort of place, great friendly staff, lots of fruit trees and veggies around the grounds. The girls had this great herb damper with butter and cheese, salmon and salad on the side. Yummo!

After lunch we struck out, food wise for the first time this trip. The berry farm had no berries! All the vine berries were done and we were too early for the strawberries. We skipped the fudge and headed back to pick up some cheese on the way home.

The day was completed with a nice free range roast pork and these great strawberry cream potatoes which I tried earlier in the week and had not gone great as mash. No matter, they made fantastic roast spuds, tinged pink all they way through. I used a trick a mate of mine had told me about the crackling, pouring a kettle of boiling water over the skin before oiling and salting it. It worked a treat, best crackling I've had in ages. Thanks Spud.

All in all a great day for those of us who travel through our stomach and a mixed berry crumble is being assembled as we speak!

MF from my iPad

Location:Bruny Islands