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I’ve been eating a fair bit of natural yoghurt recently, mostly because it’s quite healthy, and I tend not to consume much dairy. I also love it for being incredibly versatile – it works so well with many different flavours and in various preparations. One of these preparations is labne, a type of yoghurt cheese, and after having some at a Mediterranean restaurant recently I decided to make some myself – as it’s dead simple – and create a dish that is built around it. So, after lots of thought and a bit of tweaking, I came up with this, Labne with carrot, beetroot and pumpkin. I was quite pleased with how it turned out actually, lots of complementary flavours, with saltiness, sweetness and sourness all represented, as well as some nice textural elements.

Spiced Carrot Puree:

2 carrots, grated

50g butter

Oliver Oil

100mls heavy cream

Pinch of ras el hanout

For the carrot puree, add the grated carrot to a saucepan with a little bit of oil and the butter and sweat down, on a low heat, until softened. Add the cream and heat for another couple of minutes. Season with salt and the ras el hanout and blend to a smooth consistency.

Beetroot Paper:

2 Beetroot

2 eggs

30g sugar

Pinch of salt

For the beetroot paper, cut the beetroots into quarters and roast in foil in a hot oven for an hour or so, or until tender. Once cooled, blend with the whites of two eggs as well as the sugar and salt, and spread the mix very thinly with a palette knife on some silpat. Place in a dehydrator or an oven on its lowest temp setting (around 50 degrees) for about 2.5 hours, until the beetroot paper is crisp and dried.

Crumbly stuff

1 tbsp pearl barley

1 tbsp hazelnuts

1 tbsp walnuts

Pinch of ground cinnamon

Pinch of icing sugar

Pinch of salt

In a saucepan, dry roast the pearl barley and the nuts until browned. Remove.  Chuck it all in a mortar & pestle and pound it a little. Add the cinnamon, sugar and salt and mix everything together.

Charred Pumpkin

Cut the pumpkin. Saute in a saucepan with some butter and oil until caramelized.

Labne

Spoon a few hundred grams of natural yoghurt into a sieve lined with muslin. Place over a bowl, place in the fridge and leave the yoghurt to drain for a couple of days. At this point, the yoghurt should be quite a bit firmer and you’ll be able to shape it into balls. In oil the labne will keep for a few weeks at least

Put everything into a bowl and chuck some sorrel leaves around. Done!

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Chicken Feet

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I still remember the first time I ate chicken feet. I was 17 and was dating a girl of Chinese heritage. One Saturday morning her family invited me out to yum cha and proceeded to order, in Mandarin, a variety of dishes. Upon the arrival of a particular wooden steamer basket the family became visibly excited, passing it over to me and observing, with obvious enthusiasm, how the Gwai Lo would react. Peering inside, I was greeted not with the usual dumplings or pork buns, but with a pile of dull, flaccid chicken’s feet. Noting the family’s eyes upon me, and not wanting to give them the pleasure of seeing me squirm, I declared: “delicious, my favourite!” and tucked in with glee. The chicken feet were quite good, but seeing their disappointed faces was the sweetest of all. Later that day I convincingly beat my girlfriend’s mahjong-loving grandmother in my first ever game. I don’t think her family liked me very much.

 Anyway, walking through chatswood the other day, I passed a butcher, and saw a big stack of chickens feet lined up, and as is usually the case, I simply couldn’t resist the chance to cook up some random bullshit.

500g chicken feet

Char Siu sauce

5x Star Anise

Light Soy Sauce

300 mls Shao Xing wine

Grated ginger

SAUCE:

200g Black bean chilli paste

Reserved cooking liquid

Char siu sauce

1 tsp sugar

Grated ginger

The first step is to marinate the chicken feet overnight in char siu sauce. Chop the claws off the end of each foot, coat with the sauce, and leave overnight. The next day, give them a rinse, pat dry and deep fry in batches until golden brown. Leave to drain on kitchen towel, and when cool submerge in a bowl of iced water for a couple of hours. Apparently this makes the skin ‘puff up’ and is a necessary step.

Next, drain the chicken feet, reserving the cooking liquid, and in a saucepan combine 2 litres of water, the shao xing wine, the star anise, a splash of soy sauce and some ginger. Bring to the boil, add the feet and simmer for 1-2 hours or until tender.  To make the sauce, combine the chilli bean paste with a good splash of the cooking liquid, a couple of teaspoons of char siu sauce, the sugar and ginger and reduce to a nice thick consistency. Add the feet, stir through and serve

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ROAST GARLIC CREAM

200 mls chicken Stock

1 bulb garlic

2 brown onions, sliced

Butter

Cream

Thyme

To make the roast garlic cream,  sautee the onions and thyme in some oil and butter for about 40 minutes or so, until deeply caramelised. In the meantime, roast the garlic in a hot (about 200 degrees) oven for about 15-20 minutes. Next,  squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of their skins, add to the saucepan with the onions, and add the chicken stock. Reduce by half, then add a few tablespoons of cream and blend to a smooth consistency.

CHICKEN JUS:

 1 chicken carcass, or ½ kilo chicken wings

1 carrot, chopped roughly

1 brown onion, cut in half

4 cloves garlic

2 bay leaves

Pinch of salt

Preheat an oven to as hot as hot will get, then add the chicken, carrot, onion and garlic, coat with oil and roast for 20 mins or so, or until everything’s a nice golden brown. Transfer to a saucepan with about 2L of water, the salt and bay leaf and simmer, uncovered for about 2-3 hours, skimming as necessary. When reduced to about 100 mls, sieve and set aside.

CHICKEN:

2 chicken breasts

Sous vide them in a vacuum sealed pouch at 62 degrees for 70 mins. Remove from the pouch and sear on a high heat to crisp up the skin.

BRAISED LETTUCE AND PEAS

 1 cos lettuce, chopped

1 cup peas

Add the lettuce and peas into a pan along with half of the chicken jus. Cover the saucepan and cook on medium heat for a couple of minutes, until the lettuce is warmed through and wilted slightly.

Spoon some of the garlic cream on the plate. Arrange the lettuce and peas on top, then add the chicken and pour the remainder of the jus over the dish. Delicious!

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Cereal Prawns

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INGREDIENTS

 1 kg green prawns, unpeeled

Egg yolk

Flour

Curry Leaves

Salted duck egg yolks, chopped finely

Butter

Red chillies

Vegetable Oil

Cereal prawn mix

 

 

METHOD

 One of my favourite things that I ate in Singapore, along with the mud crab, chilli frog, popiah, carrot cake, bak kut teh, sambal stingray, laksa, roti, and chicken rice, was cereal prawns! And yes, as you can probably tell, I absolutely do make it a mission to stuff myself silly when in Singapore.

For those of you who may not have tried, and for whom cereal prawns conjures an image of a bowl of cornflakes with prawns sticking out of it – haha, well, you’d only be half-right. In fact, this dish does indeed use cereal, specifically, a type of cereal called Nestum, which doesn’t appear to be widely available in Australia. The cereal gives the dish a wonderful crunch and a touch of sweetness, while the duck eggs lend saltiness, and the curry leaves an overall depth of flavour. It’s a great dish, and not something you come across frequently (or ever) in Sydney. Making it myself, then, meant I had to take some shortcuts.

 

Enter cereal prawn mix:

 

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This stuff, from what I could tell, was the cereal flakes, along with a shit-ton of salt, and perhaps some flavouring.

 

Making the dish itself is extremely easy – first of all, dredge the prawns in egg, then flour, and drop into oil, heated to about 180 degrees Celsius. Once crispy and golden, remove and leave on some paper towel to drain. To make the sauce, melt some butter in a saucepan and add the chopped egg yolks. Cook for a minute or so on medium heat, then add the curry leaves and cook until the leaves have crisped slightly and are fragrant. Add the cereal prawn mix and cook until it turns golden. Add the prawns and mix everything together, garnishing with chillies.

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I love this dish – it’s inspired by the caramelized pork hock served at longrain, and this recipe works equally well with pork belly, but personally I just love the combination of star anise, cinnamon and beef.

 

INGREDIENTS

1 kg beef short ribs

50g palm sugar

Cinnamon sticks

Star anise

Shao xing wine

1 knob ginger (apprx 5cm), sliced

3 cloves garlic

Light soy sauce

1 bunch coriander

Roasted peanuts, crushed in a mortal and pestle

Fried shallots

 

Begin by coating the ribs with flour and frying on a high heat, until browned and caramelized on all sides. In a saucepan, to the ribs add about 250 mls of the shao xing wine, a good glug of soy sauce, the ginger, garlic, 4 or so star anise anise and a couple of cinnamon quills. Add enough cold water to cover, and if you have a pressure cooker, bring to the boil before dropping the heat, bringing to pressure and cooking for an hour. Leave to cool slightly in the stock

To make the star anise caramel, combine the palm sugar with a splash of water and cook without stirring until the sugar has melted and the caramel has begun to turn golden. At this point, add a cup  of the stock from the ribs and cook down until it’s a nice sticky consistency. Remove the beef ribs from the stock and cut into portions if you like. The bone should slide out easily. If not, you haven’t cooked them long enough, you’re a failure and nobody likes you. Toss the ribs in the sauce and place in  a warm bowl. Top with some chopped coriander, peanuts and fried shallots and serve a bowl of brown rice. Yum!

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Sunday Lunch

So I’ve recently moved into a new apartment. It’s fantastic – after years of living in what has to be one of sydney’s quietest and dreariest suburbs in Waverton, a move to crows nest feels like a sprawling New York-esque metropolis. Just having cafes and restaurants within a stone’s throw is a novelty that I’m still not yet tired of. It’s not all sunshine and lattes though, moving in was a backbreaking chore, coupled with the expense of having to purchase an array of appliances and furniture. Of great help in this regard was my dad and stepmum, who bought lots of lovely items to help me furnish my apartment.

As a thank you gesture, I offered to head over to their house on a Sunday afternoon and prepare them a lunch. I was originally considering making a Turkish feast, it being a cuisine I’ve really come to love, but then the world cup came around, and being a huge football fan I got the idea to cook something inspired by the two teams contesting the final – Germany and Argentina.

BLUTWURST

1kg pork back fat, diced

2L pig’s blood

Natural hog casings

1 kg brown onion, chopped

50mls calvados

1 tsp salt

1 pinch pepper

2 tsp fennel pollen

500g lean pork, minced

500mls cream

Begin by sautéing the onions on a low heat in some oil for approximately 40min-1 hr, until they’re deeply caramelized. Deglaze with the calvados and set aside. In a separate pan, sautee half of the diced pork fat until the fat has begun to render. Add the minced lean pork, the rest of the diced fat and sautee on a low-medium for half an hour or so. Add the onion and the cream along with the seasoning and combine. Take off the heat.

Sieve the blood into the saucepan, roll up your sleeves and mix everything together with your hands.

Now comes the fun part – stuffing the sausage casings! The mixture should be very loose, so the best approach I found was to cut the casings into manageable lengths – perhaps 50cm to 1 metre each- tie one end and fill the sausage casings using a funnel over the sink. Don’t think there’s any chance you’ll come out of it without being covered in blood however, it’s a very messy affair.

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Once the casings have been filled and twisted into links, gently poach them in water on a low simmer for approximately half an hour. You’ll know they’re cooked when red blood doesn’t run out of them when pricked. Once cooked you can vacuum seal them and keep them in your fridge for a few weeks. I’ve heard they don’t freeze very well, but I made way too many to eat anytime soon, so I intend to find out for myself.

SCALLOPS AND BLACK PUDDING

 ½ a head of cauliflower

200mls milk

50 mls cream

20g butter

Scallops

1 pinch fennel pollen

Blutwurst, or any form of blood sausage

Peas

Micro lemon balm

1 cup fresh breadcrumbs

This dish was an experiment with some classic flavours – scallops, blood sausage and cauliflower. The cauliflower puree involved simply chopping it into florets and cooking with the milk, cream and butter until tender, at which point it was blended with a stick blender and seasoned. For the blood pudding crumb, I sautéed the sausage and crumbled it with a wooden spatula, and in a separate saucepan fried some breadcrumbs in oil, before incorporating both together with a pinch of fennel pollen. I then garnished the dish with some peas and lemon balm

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GRILLED HANGER STEAK WITH CHIMICHURRI

1.5kg hanger steak fillet

Olive Oil

Garlic

Salt & pepper

For the beef, I removed it from the fridge and rubbed it with olive oil, chopped garlic and salt and pepper and left it for an hour or so while it came up to room temperature.

Cooking the beef involved a two step process – barbequing on about 8 minutes on each side before finishing in the oven – depending on the thickness of the piece of meat and how you like it cooked, timing will vary, so it’s a huge help if you have a thermometer. Personally, I like it rare/medium-rare, so a temperature in the low 50s is an ideal point to stop cooking, cover with foil and leave it in a warm place to rest – remember to let it rest for at least half as long as the cooking time.

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BRUSSELS SPROUTS SALAD

100 mls vino cotto

30g butter

Mint

1 kg Brussels sprouts

200g puy lentils

Begin by chopping the Brussels spouts in half, rubbing with olive oil and salt and roasting in a hot oven for about half an hour, until golden brown. Cook the lentils in boiling water, and make the dressing by heating the butter and vino cotto and whisking to combine. Chop some fresh mint and toss everything together, adding salt if necessary. Done!

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CHIMICHURRI

100mls grapeseed oil

20mls extra virgin olive oil

Juice from 2 lemons

Pinch of dried oregano

1 bunch parsley

Pinch of chilli flakes

2 cloves garlic

Pinch of salt

 Blitz everything together. Easy

 

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Hey, Jerk‏

To me, jerk chicken is one of those great, exotic-sounding dishes of the Caribbean and Southern US, like Gumbo and Jambalaya, that you’ll hear about in the course of watching US sitcoms, but are difficult, or impossible, to find on the menu of your average Sydney restaurant.  To whit, after being reminded yet again of jerk chicken (I believe while watching Futurama), I decided to get a recipe and take it on. The results were delicious.

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INGREDIENTS

8 chicken maylands

COCONUT AND GREEN APPLE SALAD

 1 tbsp honey

Flesh of 1 small coconut, roughly grated

1/2 green apple, peeled, cored and cut into julienne

Juice from 1 lime

2 tbsp coconut cream

Pinch of salt

 JERK CHICKEN MARINADE

 2 tbsp cayenne pepper

2 tbsp smoked paprika

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp allspice

3 tbsp brown sugar

2 tbsp honey

2 long red chillies (cayenne), chopped

1 red onion, chopped

Pinch of salt

 Begin by dry-frying the spices in a pan for a couple of minutes, until fragrant, then transfer the spices along with the rest of the ingredients to a food processer and blend to a paste. Rub over the chicken thighs then leave, covered, in the fridge for an hour or so. To cook, simply place under a hot grill for a few minutes on each side, until cooked through and the skin is a bit charred.

For the salad, in a small saucepan, combine the lime juice with the honey and coconut cream and whisk over low heat until combined. Toss with the rest of the ingredients and set aside.

Serve the chicken on top of the coconut salad and garnish with thinly sliced spring onion.

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