Monthly Archives: August 2011

Porterhouse blues

The only blue issue here was the fact it wasn’t grass fed/ organic, but hey, it was an obscenely well padded chunk of cow, so I couldn’t resist. Hugh FW doesn’t know the origin of the name, and a quick internet trawl didn’t help either. Whatever the etymology, it’s somewhere between the wing rib and surloin. I’m not even sure we’ve had this cut before, possibly on a barbecue in California?  I portioned this joint up into 3 one inch thick beasts. I felt compelled to remove a little of the fat, save that for another outing. Hugh likes his steaks fried, and on this occasion, I followed suit, mainly due to the fact that the copious fat would just flame and soot the steak, not a good look or tatste.

Firstly, I lined up all the steaks fat side down onto a frying pan to melt some of the fat. Then, some fresh Asian shallots with a few inches of stem. Meanwhile the chips (desiree and purple sweet potato) on the go, in the MI inducing hardened coconut oil, copha. Then fried some bread in the beef fat with a little olive oil to help counter the only mildy atherogenic beef lipid. When golden, these came off and up went the heat. Three big steaks was a bit much for my burner, but we all needed to eat. Anyway, they didn’t stew. Some fresh rocket, tomato and cucumber salad, and in a effort to recreate home grated horseradish sauce, some Keen’s mustard powder and wasabi powder mixed together. 

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Chuck over the grass

It’s odd that beef here is often sold with the declaration of ‘grain-fed’. I’m not sure this is something I would go shouting about. So, it was great that Shona found some grass fed organic beef at the rather good Meat Direct in Rapid Creek. They specialise in large lumps of quality  meat, which is clearly, is a fine thing. We had a 2.7kg slab of chuck steak, which is from the shoulder. Mum made a very good red pepper stew when she was here and then I minced some. Hugh Fearnley is correct in his ‘River Cottage Meat’ book,  they were average burgers. However, it really shined in tonight’s slow cooking feast. I picked up some lovely looking local tomatoes from the market. In fact, I bought three types as the season has really taken off here, which is a bit weird, as it parallels the season back home in Blighty. That’s the wet season for you, tomatoes just rot.

So, a kilo or so of cubed chuck steak, browned in olive oil, and then deglazed the pan with cheapo balsamic vinegar, and into the slow cooker. Tomatoes halved, in ,and then five deseeded and chopped narrow curly green capsicums, with just a hint of heat. In the slow cooker for about 8 hours until the tendinous parts were soft. Actually, that was yesterday, so by  tonight the flavours had married. I made some mash with desiree potatoes, putting an elephant garlic clove in to boil too, though three might have been a bit more gutsy. Olive oil and butter, and the choppped shoots from the Asian shallots, which interestingly, seem to also be in season now too- I will have to stock up.

Now to salt some lemons.


Crimson flavas for an aprosoponarian

Shona made a very fine vegetable stew in the slow cooker a week or so back, with butternut squash, chick peas and saffron as the backbone (sorry for the anti-pun). This seemed an entirely appropriate dish to serve to someone who doesn’t eat anything with a face. So, would that be an aprosoponarian? I’m easy.

This was better in the slow cooker, the vegetables kept their textures better without the disintegration into soup. I can’t remember where Shona found this recipe. For 4 adults and 4 kids we doubled the quantities.

  • Roast and grind 2 tsp cumin and 2 tsp corriander
  • Fry 1 onion, chopped and 2 garlic cloves in 2tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp butter
  • Add 1 cinnamon stick, 1/4 tsp chili, 1/4 tsp saffron threads (soaked), 500g cubed butternut squash, 1 cup soaked chickpeas, 2 cubed potatoes, and 150ml passata
  • Cook untill the potatoes are soft
  • Add 2 chopped courgettes and 1/2 a preserved lemon, chopped and cook a further 5 mins.
  • Chopped parsley to serve.

So whilst Shona got on with the vegetable knife work, I prepared the garnish- leg of lamb on a spit. I haven’t been down to the Fannie Bay butcher for a while; they do sell a very good organic salt bush lamb. Instead I bought a half leg from the local nettle knitters grocers, ‘Greenies’. Other than the waft of incense from the clientele, it’s really very good. So, some sweet smoked paprika , a tight little fire in the clay bbq inside the Weber, a foil catcher to divert the oil from the flames, and wham bam TQM. As a condiment, I went all fusion and mixed some apple cider, chopped mint and rosella jelly. Very good indeed. Raita and couscous to serve. Oh yes, and some barbecued aubergines.

The previous night I had finally gotten round to preparing my superbly aromatic quinces I had also bought from Greenies maybe 3 weeks ago. A number of membrillo recipes suggest cooking the quince in water first then pulping it and then adding a certain proportion of sugar to the pulp. I’m always concerned that the amount of water will vary, so I cooked the quinces whole in a little water to steam through and then took the quincies out to pulp through a mouli legumes. One recipe suggested 450g sugar to 600g fruit. I had 1.8kg of pulp- joy. Sugar and pulp cooked until red, and at this very moment, it is now baking in an oven dish attempting to firm up- it is very easy to burn this on the stove top, a heart breaking event indeed.

On the hunt for quince puddings, I came across a recipe in Elizabeth David’s classic ‘French Provincial Cooking’ for ‘Gallette aux fruits’. She suggests any seasonal fruit such as quince, cherries, apricots can be baked on a rich yeast dough. I’m not sure mango or papaya would work. So with quinces firmly in mind, off we set, bike trailer in tow.

No quinces were to be found. Balls. Well, it is well into late winter down under. Instead I bought some Granny Smith apples (who the hell was Granny Smith?). So, in the event of a very fine discovery, here’s the recipe.

  • 3 Granny Smith apples- peeled, cored, and cut into 8
Lightly fry these in butter and a coating of sugar, set aside.

For the dough

  • 5oz flour
  • 1.5oz soft unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp yeast
  • 1 egg
  • water
I cheated, and made the dough on the pizza setting in the bread maker. It needs a little water as suggested by ED. Leave to rise to double in size then knock back. Not specified from ED, but I melted a little butter in a cake tin (about 9″), and then a little sugar too. Press the dough to cover the bottom of the tin. I spread some rather loose quince paste on the dough, and then on went the apples- I made pleasing spoke pattern. Baked at 175C for 30-40mins.
The touch of French genius (I presume it is not from M. David), is the addition of a small quantity of custard mix to the top 5 minutes prior to completion.
  • 2oz cream mixed with
  • 1 egg yolk
When this has set, serve at once with more cream. It was.

Baked Apples, quince puree, yeast bum


Pizzocheri and pseudo-soba

This is one recipe which I often repeat unchanged from Ferdinand, my university gastronomic accomplice and guide. Saying that I rarely have the necessary
buckwheat pasta (pizzocheri), so that statement is actually shite. In fact I often bastardise the whole thing. What I mean to say is that I often do this recipe not with pizzocheri, but with orrecchiete if available, or other chunky pastas. The elements from that originally served are; fried fatty meat, I often use beef and lamb offcuts in the absence of pancetta, garlic fried to golden, potato, though again, I have used other solid veg like butternut squash, and finally, cabbage. The meaty fat I fry with the garlic. Meanwhile boil the cabbage and potatoes. Fresh pasta goes in for the last minute or a minute after the veg if dried non-egg variety. Drained and tossed with the fat and garlic, truffle oil and. Parmesan at the table. Alchemy.

Today however, I decided to actually make the pizzocheri. With my boys.

A recipe on the rather fine blog FXcuisine, suggests mostly buckwheat flour and no eggs, but I couldn’t fail to use our growing egg mountain. I stick to 100g flour per egg, so 300g buckwheat, 100g semolina and four eggs. I’m out of practice with this, so ended adding water prematurely thinking it was too dry, then having to add buckets of semolina to get back to a manageable dough. This is somewhat testing when being ‘assisted’ by two tiring bockles, and possibly even less wise after completing a paediatic trauma simulation course.

However we got there. Felix was patient and helped cut the sheets to strips. Due to the amount of dough I ended up making some pseudo-soba noodles, using the angels hair setting on the pasta machine with a fairly thick sheet. I might try the Japanese method as shown on the FXcuisine website, though I might need some nunchaka type rolling pins.

Traditionally this alpine pasta is actually served with a lot of Taleggio and cabbage. The former is somewhat tricky to acquire in the tropics. Next time.

Finished product


Spudulissimo

I’m not sure which is my favourite pizza, mozzarella and tomato or potato. The potato has the advantage of being endlessly variable. Tonight I roasted thin slices of the wondrous tuber with olive oil and pancetta cubes, then tossed on some parsley and finally capers to serve. Beef marrow is very fine, as is pesto smeared over the potatoes as it exits the oven. Anchovy fillets hidden under the potatoes with a few slices of onion. But the very finest buffalo mozzarella and home made tomato sauce is difficult to beat. Hence we usually have both. For an attempt at departing from the norm I put four eggs on top of the classic, but it wasn’t great, just a bit soggy and, well, not right. I do like eggs on a pizza, and I remember having my first pizza with eggs in Norwich Pizza Express circa 1989. That was with spinach I think, although Shona thought a red pepper sauce might be the way to go next time. Hum.


Urchins for urchins

Flor De Calasparra

I’ve had the little urchins in the freezer.  Like snakes,  it takes the edge off their aggressioin.

OK, not Willspawn, but the spikey sea critters. Shona bought me these for a birthday which was overshadowed by post wisdom extraction hell, so they’ve been waiting for an outing. Also in the freezer was some of prawn stock, made with left oververy gorgeous prawn feasts, and in the absence of North Atlantic lobster stock, this makes an epic base for paella.

I don’t really have a regular recipe for paella, the essential elements are of course rice, saffron and the sea, but I have made some meaty bastards just with prawn stock and chunks of animal, chorizo and recently beef rib.

On this one I fried some onion and garlic in olive oil with some sweet smoked paprika and a pinch of some deeply crimson and mind blowing saffron (Baby Saffron brand) til translucent, then the rice (250g of Flor de Calasparra paella rice), a chunk of frozen passata, and the stock (about 5-600ml plus some water). As it neared completion, I scattered in some cooked Jewfish- a delicious and firm NT local fish, then some frozen peas and chopped parsley. As the base nicely crusted, I placed some of the urchins around the edges with some not too hot fresh chili on one half for the grown ups and let them gently warm through before serving. The boys loved it though like magnets, the urchins repelled each other.

The iodine hit from the urchins is pretty unique, possibly similar to that you get with oysters. Is there is something like synesthesia here? Maybe not quite, but occasionally food has a profound sensory evocation, maybe like looking at the ocean on LSD? Every now and then this strikes, and it’s great.