Monday, October 18, 2010

Trade School Day 3

I thought rice would be a fairly boring class, and even though the recipes were fairly ho-hum, and I'd cooked them all before, it was actually good fun.

First up was wild mushroom risotto.  We finished this off with cream, which I don't normally do.  Usually I add shaved Parmesan to help it get a nice consistency.  However it turned out quite well, and left the dish with a great consistency.

We followed this up with a quick rice pilau, topped with hard boiled egg, crispy onions, and toasted almonds.  Not as bland as it sounds, it would definitely make a good side to a spicy meat dish.

Paella was very tasty, although we needed a bit more saffron.  Also, some more seafood, like mussels and calamari would have made it truly amazing.  It was also missing the poultry component, due to some questionable chicken!

Finally, we pulled our now frozen rice out of the blast chiller for good ole' fried rice!  I tried to dry mine out in the oven a bit, which helped I think.  Upon removal from the freezer, the rice had basically frozen into frosty rice cakes!  

Cornbread, with avocado and poached egg

This is the next installment in the cornbread obsession that is currently happening in this household.  It started after seeing 'Cornbread Muffins' in the Food Safari cookbook.  We have cooked quite a few batches of these (probably too many to be healthy), and it has now evolved into a more savoury cornbread loaf.  The original recipe is quite sweet, and although very yummy, I thought it could be improved by the addition of some more flavour, and the reduction of the sugar content!  So below is our modified cornbread recipe.  By the way, every time you say cornbread, it has to be in a weird, southerner accent, as it is in this house.

Cornbread (adapted from Food Safari)

½ cup polenta
3/4 cup self raising flour
3/4 cup stoneground corn (available from Casa Iberica)
1 tbsp castor sugar
1/2 tsp of salt
½ cup melted butter
3 eggs
1 cup of creamed corn
1 cup full cream milk
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
3/4 cup corn kernels (frozen is fine)
1/2 bunch parsley, finely chopped
1 handful tasty cheese, grated
1.5 tsp baking powder
Cracked black pepper to taste

Mix polenta, baking powder, stoneground corn, self-raising flour, salt, melted butter and eggs.

Add creamed corn, corn kernels, seeds, parsley, pepper, cheese and milk. Mix until you just combined.

Spoon the mixture into a greased loaf tin and bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for around 40 minutes or until golden brown in color.  Check that is cooked by seeing if a skewer comes out clean

Remove from the tin, and cool on a rack.

(I will update this recipe soon, after I test it out using yeast as the raising agent)

Avocado Salsa

2 avocadoes, roughly diced
2 tomatoes, roughly diced
1/2 spanish onion, very finely diced
A few shakes of tabasco sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp caster sugar
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 handful mint leaves, torn
1 handful coriander leaves, torn

Whisk tabasco, salt, pepper, sugar, lime juice and vinegar together in a bowl.  Add the other ingredients and gently toss to coat.

Toast the cornbread, spread with some avocado salsa, and top with poached eggs (and crispy bacon). Yum!

This would work just as well with guacamole, secret recipe below...

My Guacamole

2 avocados
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp lime juice
1/2 spanish onion (very, very finely diced)
1 tomato, concasse
1/4 tsp white pepper
Tabasco, a few shakes
1/2 bunch of coriander leaves, very finely chopped

salt to taste

In a bowl, mash the avocadoes with a fork.  Gently stir through the other ingredients, and season to taste.  

DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES ADD SOUR CREAM - or else the guacamole gods will smite you!  You can however optionally add some finely diced red chilli for some extra heat.  

A few things we've had lately...

K's Rhubarb and apple crumble tart - it was to die for!

Chicken Caesar Salad

And of course an 'Ella-sized' one...

Ricotta served with berries, toasted almonds, and drizzled with honey:

Trade School Day 2

This was a great class, as we got to make one of my favourite things - pasta!  We learnt about all thing farinaceous, and then got to put it into practice by making agnolotti, gnocchi, cous-cous, and carrot and chive polenta chips.

Below is my spinach and ricotta agnolotti, finished with a beurre noissete and sage sauce.  I was very happy with the way these turned out.

And here is my potato gnocchi, which also turned out well - however they are a little misshapen.

You may have noticed that I have not posted anything about Day 1 - this was an interesting class, however I didn't feel that honey glazed carrots, spinach mousse, and braised red cabbage warranted photographing.

Project Bacon - Phase 1

.... And Project Pancetta, Project Prosciutto... and so on.

Click here for some very easy instructions on curing your own bacon!  I have sourced the curing salt, and look forward to receiving it in the mail so I can begin.  If successful, I will follow it up with these instructions for pancetta.  I also look forward to getting this book, Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman, apparently a bible for those interested in smoking and curing their own meats

Applications now being taken for the tasting panel!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pork belly with apple, fennel, and crisp potatoes

Pork belly, my favourite kind of meat!  As much as I like it, the actual star of this dish was the fennel and apples which cooked merrily away under the pork belly.  I couldn't believe how much I enjoyed them - they flavour was nothing short of sublime!

This recipe I borrowed from a Jamie Oliver book (you can find the recipe online here), and as per usual, as much as he annoys people, this recipe is a winner.  Look out for his pork shoulder recipe with balsamic potatoes and onions, it's another great one.

I cooked it basically as per the recipe, and it came out almost perfectly. Make sure you top up the liquid in the pan during the last hour of baking as it does reduce down.  I did however prepare the meat a little differently before it went in the oven.  I salted and seasoned the belly with fennel as per the recipe after scoring it, however I then refrigerated it, un-covered, for two hours.  I then poured boiling water over the belly, which actually bought some of the slits I had cut earlier closer together, as it slightly rendered the fat.  I then patted it dry, allowed to air dry for around ten minutes, and then re-seasoned with the salt and fennel powder, before putting it (finally) in the oven.

Salmon en papilotte, with cracked wheat and herb salad

I knew it was an old, and popular method for cooking, but imagine my surprise when I found out that cooking things in paper bags was a classical French method.  This dish is a kind of mash up, as it features middle eastern flavours, with classical french cookery.  The result was fish cooked to perfection.  I have never had fish cooked as delicately as this.

Yoghurt and spice crusted salmon, with cracked wheat and herb salad

Yoghurt marinade

2 salmon fillets
1 cup greek yoghurt (Chris' brand Greek yoghurt is great)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp smokey paprika
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 bunch of coriander, finely chopped (include roots)

Cracked wheat salad

1/2 bunch each of parsley, mint and coriander
1 tomato, concasse
1 handful sultanas
1 cup of cracked wheat
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt to taste

Mix all the marinade ingredients together, and coat the salmon.  Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 170 deg celcius.

Put the cracked wheat in a small bowl, and cover with boiling water.  Top with foil and leave to stand for approximately half an hour.  Once softened, drain, and squeeze out any excess water.  Combine the cracked wheat in a larger bowl with the other salad ingredients.

Wrap the salmon fillets skin side up in baking paper envelopes, and scoop in as much yoghurt marinade as you like.  Seal the edges of your paper envelope by folding them over and place on a baking tray.

I think typically you cook fish in the bag until the bag puffs up, however I decided I wanted a bit of a crust on the fish.  I cooked them in the paper for around ten minutes, at which point I then opened up the top of the envelopes, and switched the oven to the 'grill' setting to form a slight crust on the top of the fish.  This only took around 2 minutes.

My Thai-inspired beef salad

This dish just makes you feel good after you eat it.  It contains no unhealthy ingredients, and there is just something about all the crunchiness that makes it feel 'right' - like it's really good for you.  I swear it makes me feel better... really!

Thai Beef Salad

1 medium piece of rump steak, thinly sliced
1 carrot, peeled
1/4 red cabbage
1 handful bean sprouts
1 cucumber, deseeded
2 spring onions, trimmed
2 tbsp crushed peanuts, un-salted
2 tbsp fried shallots


1 red chili
2 garlic cloves
2 inch piece of lemongrass
2cm piece of ginger
1/4 bunch of coriander (roots and leaves)
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp palm sugar or brown sugar

Salad dressing

1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Smash up the marinade ingredients in a mortar and pestle, and transfer to a large, non-reactive bowl containing the beef strips.  Stir to coat the beef, cover, and leave in the fridge for at least an hour.

Whisk the salad dressing ingredients together in a small bowl.

Thinly slice the carrot, spring onion, cucumber, and cabbage.  Add the bean sprouts.

Quickly stir-fry the beef in hot oil in a wok, until cooked medium-rare.

Dress your salad.  Serve on plates, and top with the beef, then sprinkle with crushed peanuts and fried shallots.