Monthly Archives: July 2012

Simon Says…….Disarticulate a Rabbit

Simon Hopkinson influenced, no, let’s say shaped my approach to cooking from his masterful columns in the Independent on Saturday in the nineties. Having picked up a rabbit from the marvelous Jones ‘Eat beef ya bastards’  butcher in Katherine, I felt inspired. I recalled a rabbit article from the Simon archives. Cross referencing to ‘Week in Week Out’ (2007), I find he has a bumper 5 recipes involving Peter R. Annoyingly, they all revolve around the acquisition of two flopsies. On with one.

The first I made was rabbit brawn. First it was necessary to joint the rabbit to have the rear legs and saddle separate. Simon has a lengthy explanation of how to do it which I shan’t repeat, I’m sure a youtube search will be productive. So, everything into the pot (including heart, kidney, liver if present) bar the ample rear legs and the saddle which were for part deux.

  • a large carrot
  • an onion
  • 2 cloves
  • 300g pork back fat
  • pigs trotter
  • large sprig of dried thyme
  • half a head of garlic
  • slug of white wine (Portuguese here)
  • stick of celery

Covered with water and cooked until the rabbit was able to be pulled off the bone. The rabbit I removed and carried on cooking until the trotter was also soft and the liquid reduce to a quarter. In the mean time I removed every scrap of meat off the rabbit, including offaly bits, and set aside. Then the same with the trotter, removing as much gelatinous material and soft skin as possible. Since this had been used for suturing practice I had to remove a few prolene sutures too. Not something to repeat in a restaurant.

These meat and pork fat I chopped to oblivion using my wonderful cheapo cleaver. Simon says ‘roughly’ but his photo looked otherwise. I then incorporated a handful of chopped parsley, a third of that amount of tarragon (grown in Berry springs, remarkably), some grated nutmeg, ground white pepper and a dessert spoon of Dijon mustard.

Into the somewhat tropically underused Le Creuset terrine dish, and the reduced stock poured over. I await with desire to eat this with my toasted rye flour and gherkin juice bread. Slobber…..

Part Deux

OK, next up is a fabulously simple French classic, Lapin a la Dijonaise, and the method I employed was similar to a wet braise as per osso bucco. Having jointed the rabbit as above, the saddle and rear legs remained.

  • 2 large shallots (not the wee Asian jobbies), finely chopped and sweated in butter, then put aside
  • gently fry the meat on both sides until beginning to brown
  • add a splash of white wine, and simmer gently until this reduces to stickiness,
  • cover with a lid on the pan (my lovely Danish Copco deep sided cast iron enamel)
  • add a splash whenever the juices ‘stickify’
  • when the meat has cooked (the meat contracts up on the bone, apprx 1hr), add the shallots and another splash of wine.
  • remove the meat and add 200ml of creme fraiche or plain cream.
  • Don’t fuck around with low fat shit here- 35% fat is a minimum
  • stir and reduce a little
  • add a dessert spoon of smooth dijon mustard, stir in and serve. A little black pepper, though white maybe more in keeping with the aesthetics of the affair. Yard long beans too.

Oh my life, what bliss. I made some mashed potatoes just with milk as the sauce is obviously super rich. Some beans on the side and a pinot noir from Tasmania so supremely good I’m tempted to keep this a secret. But since my readership is similar to the hectarage of the vineyard I will divulge- Two Bud Spur, 2009. Divine.

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Indian Breakaway

No, not a summary of the enormously successful partition of India, nor the reversal of the Indian subcontinental  tectonic plate drift, but possibly the first time I have made chapati.

For the sake of ease, we took away some keema (beef mince and peas) and chickpeas on our camping trip. They were cooked by Shona as per Madhur Jaffrey’s classic, Invitation to Indian Cooking, which is about as old as me, a fine vintage.

We had a chopfest at the sophisticated campsite restaurant instead of Indian delights, so having made a 450km round trip it needed eaten or chucked.

Shockingly I didn’t look up her chapati recipe, but followed ‘Jimmy’ on the packet of the Atta flour.

  • 1 cup of Atta flour, and
  • water to make into a dough.

OK, this isn’t exactly it, but it’ll do, and I’m tired.

Mix until it comes together in loose bundles. Leave to rest 10 mins. Knead for a minute or so, and leave again. When it is smooth and becoming elastic, chop into six small balls. Roll these out into flat circles. This is easier said than done.

I’ve seen my pal Jules’ Pakistani mum-in-law do this with the flick of a wrist. Easy.

I squashed a lightly floured ball down with the base of my hand, then used my lovely Huon pine rolling pin to roll out from the centre to the edge in quick strokes, moving the dough around a few of hours (on a clock) each time until 6-7″ across.

I have a cast iron griddle which I heated until the bread pretty much instantly cooked on one side. I found if you turned it as soon as you had a couple of charred craters or starts bubbling, that the thing would puff up wonderfully when you do the 2nd side. Magic.

I imagine you could deep fry these*……

Anyway, the ‘break away’ was cooking eggs on top of the keema, so the meat stuck to the base of the half fried/ poached eggs. This went down rather well with the beasts who devoured an almighty helping. The chapati made very fine vessels for the chick peas (Maseladar- heavy on the garam masala, yum).

Washed down with an incongruous Timothy Taylors, this was the end of a rather fine day.

*of course, having looked in the ‘Invitation’ this is of course a ‘poori’.

And the chapati method she describes is pleasingly close to what I ended up doing. High five to me.


Reflective Practice

It is a fantastic thought to put food in a solar cooker at night, point it to the heavens, and it will cool. There is something beautiful about this. Perhaps it is the ‘of course’ moment you have when the basic physics dawns, i.e. everything radiates heat (except a blackhole?). If you direct as much of that away from itself and stop any coming in, that body will cool. And we’re not just talking a wee chill here, according to one solar oven inventor who appears to be a physics professor, we are talking a 10C difference between contents and ambient temperature, astonishing. Maybe with the passing of Venus, I, and indeed the family, are just caught up in the wonders of all things cosmic this week.

Well, being housebound with an infected and inflamed knee led to significant boredom, and therefore the construction of a solar oven, obviously.

There are a lot of designs, but I made a box oven as shown from this now ancient link.  A fine use for left over bike boxes. There is a most elegant way of achieving an angle of 67 to achieve the necessary reflection into your black box, please read. No protractor, and no iPhone.

We modified the original by utilising the insulating power of an Esky, which would be lunacy (i.e. it would melt) if you didn’t line it with plenty of cardboard. A bit of glass we picked up from the recycling dump over the top and away we go. It got to 140C when I decided to wipe the surface with a damp cloth. Well, the glass looked toughened, but moments later a wonderful curved pattern of fractures appeared. Doh.

Once we did get our piece of ordered glass, in went the first dish. I had a turkey leg which needed using. There are very few recipes for turkey leg. HughFW recommends cooking as Coq au Vin, and Alastair Little has one stuffed in the Umbrian style- apparently those Umbrians use it a lot, particularly in place of veal.

In the end I went for a Chinese recipe (no recipes in Ken Hom or Kenneth Lo). Well, a Chinese ‘concept’, no recipe.

  • 1 turkey leg (with thigh)
  • A big Slug of soy sauce
  • chunk of ginger
  • half an onion
  • a carrot
  • 2 spokes of star anise

I think this went in at 10ish, at a significant angle as even the winter sun here will have a 30deg incidence at midday. The boys loved it and even more bizarrely, Rory loved fresh cloud ear fungus cooked with bok choi and the stock from the turkey. Odd, since he usually won’t touch a ‘room.

Note to self- buy turkey chicks to fatten for Christmas.

Now, we’ve had a few problem with our glass. It keeps breaking. Bizarre curvy fracture pattern result, toughened or not. And since turkeyville, we’ve broken two more bits.

Anyway, I have made a version of the superbly simply, no, mindblowingly brilliant windshield funnel shown below from the solarcooking.org website. By curious coincidence, it hails from Oaxaca, Mexico, home of one of the finest dishes known to man, the Oaxacan Mole.

We’ve just got some roasting bags this week, so presuming they don’t frigging melt, here goes…..