Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

08
Jan
2014

Gnocchi with the Papas

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What is wrong me ? Seriously. I have been looking back at photos on my computer this evening and it’s criminal the amount of things I have taken photos of, loved, absorbed as part of my very being, and then promptly forgotten to write about.

One such occasion was a couple of years ago in a small kitchen at my dear friend Alex and Linda’s place in Inglewood. When Linda’s parents announced that they would be making gnocchi. What this meant in reality was a full scale production that would take over the majority of the house and end up preparing enough food to feed a small army.

The menu was simple. Gnocchi, and red sauce. Now I’m not sure Italians are necessary well known for understatement, but “red” was by no means the defining quality of that sauce. Of course the people preparing the mean were no ordinary hosts. Italo and Grazia have a love of food and hospitality engrained into their very fibre. At home in Adelaide Italo makes his own sausages, grows every kind of vegetable under the sun in his backyard, and has a cellar full of wine that he’s made himself.

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I was fortunate enough to be adopted into the family that day, as we fed mounds of freshly boiled potatoes through the ricer and Italo methodically worked in just enough eggs and flour for the mixture to bind into a light smooth dough. Then the real work began. As Italo rolled out long thin logs of dough and swiftly flicked off bite sized pieces for Alex, Linda, and I to roll down the back of the gnocchi board.

All the while Grazia stirred a giant pot of “red” sauce that constantly evolved with each thing added to it. First went in chicken drumsticks, then a rolled fillet of pork (maybe beef), then a deceptively simple rolled egg omelet, then a couple of rolls of thick slices of pig skin with a layer of stuffing on top made from breadcrumbs, garlic, parsley and egg.

The sauce bubbled away for a couple of hours absorbing all the delicious flavours from the meat and then we gingerly slid the now multiple trays of pillowy gnocchi into another big pot of salty water. As they slowly started to float their way to the surface Grazia would scoop them out and into a large bowl ready to be mixed with spoonfuls of the sauce.

Italo fished out the meat from the sauce and sliced it all up and onto a platter. This would be the traditional style of eating, with the first plate being the gnocchi, and the second plate being the meat and a light salad.

I’m going to let the photos do the rest of the work because my meager superlatives can’t really do justice to just how wonderful this meal was.

To make this less of a gloat fest, I may as well include a recipe for the gnocchi themselves. Italo’s basic recipe for the gnocchi dough was 250 grams of flour to 1 kilo of potatoes, two eggs, and salt. Boil the potatoes and then feed them through a ricer, before very gently mixing the flour, eggs, and salt in. Try not to overwork the dough as the more you activate the gluten in the flour, the harder the gnocchi will become. When the dough is smooth and firm, roll it into small logs and cut into bite sized pieces.

The gnocchi board isn’t essential, you could just use the back of a fork if you wanted to. The idea is to give the gnocchi some texture that the sauce will grip onto, but I think most sauces do a pretty good job of gripping on their own.

Most importantly, invite some good friends to help you, don’t attempt it on your own or you’ll wonder what the hell you’re going to all this effort for. Food as good as this deserves great company.

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03
Jul
2012

Pulpo a la Gallega

Pulpo all Gallega

Octopus. The idea of it is so appealing when you see it on a menu… slow cooked, char grilled, tender and fleshy, new born into a sea of olive oil and garlic and Mediterranean fantasy. You could be sitting in a trattoria in Italy, a taverna in Greece, or a whatever they call a place where you get drunk and eat good food anywhere else. It’s a holiday dish, the kind of food you eat when you’re off somewhere else far from home pretending to be young and adventurous and carefree. “I’ll have the octopus and a carafe of the house white” You say with a confidence born from a sun tan you really don’t deserve.

Then long after the memory of the holiday and the tan have faded, you’re back home trying to explain to all your friends just how amazing this octopus dish you had was…So you pick up one up in the local fish monger, and the grim reality of this carnivorous marine mollusk sets in. Octopuses are not pretty creatures. They’re long, wet, slimy, unwieldy things that defy your attempts to nicely put them in a bag, and once you do, more closely resemble the contents of a larger animals stomach, than something you should consider eating.

Of course, we are in the fortunate position in 2012 of knowing that millions of people have gone before us to both cook and enjoy this wonderful creature, and the advent of modern fishing has made it’s capture and transportation to our homes much simpler than bygone eras where you had to wrestle with one yourself. Risking life, limb and ink-eye to get your evening meal.

So in true “What I did on my holidays” fashion, here is a dish that I came to love while traveling around the north of Colombia. It is of course of a classic Spanish dish from the North West region of Galicia, from which it’s name is derived Pulpo alla Gallega (Galician Octopus).

Now there are many areas of conjecture as to which approach to take to cooking the octopus, so I’m not going to go out on a limb and say that my way is the right way, but it worked well for me the few times I’ve made it, so let your conscience be your guide as to how you do yours.

Ingredients

  • 1 large fresh octopus (~1kg in weight)
  • ~1kg potatoes (waxy ones like Ruby Lou or Kipfler work well)
  • The best Spanish sweet paprika you can find
  • Good quality olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Fresh flat leaf parlsey
  • 1 bay leaf

How I made mine

Gingerly take your octopus by the top part, which hopefully has the head and beak removed, and is comprised of a ring where all the legs are attached. In a large bowl in the sink, wash the octopus well in cold water. Some people say you should freeze the octopus before you start, as that helps to tenderise it, but I haven’t felt the need to do that (it gets perfectly tender when it’s cooked for long enough).

Then in the biggest pot you can find (the Spanish say it needs to be a copper pot, but I think you can do just fine without), fill with water and a bay leaf and bring to the boil.

Once the water is boiling carefully dunk the octopus into the water and leave it there for 30 seconds. You’ll see the water stops boiling as the cold octopus lowers the temperature, so after 30 seconds, take it back out and let the water come to the boil again. This process of dunking into boiling water is supposed to set the gelatine in the legs and helps to preserve the texture you want.

Dunk the octopus back in and out of the water 3 more times and then leave it in there for around 40 minutes on a high simmer until you can pierce it with a knife and it’s soft inside with some resistance outside.

About 20 minutes into the cooking processes, peel the potatoes and drop them into the pot with the octopus whole. They’ll cook along with the octopus and absorb all that briny flavour. They’ll also turn a slightly alarming shade of red, which you shouldn’t be scared by.

Then when the potatoes and octopus are cooked, take them out and let them cool down on a board, before cutting the octopus into round slices along the leg, and slicing the potato into slightly larger rounds. The arrange the potatoes on a plate or board, season liberally with good sea salt and olive oil, and then add a layer of octopus to the top. Season again with more oil, a healthy sprinkling of paprika, and some finely chopped fresh parsley.

Serve it on it’s own, with some crusty bread, or as the first course in a Spanish feast. Make sure you have plenty of crisp white wine, invite a few people who understand what it’s all about, and enjoy the satisfaction that you can bring the best of the world to your door step if you really want to.

Pulpo all GallegaPulpo all GallegaPulpo all GallegaPulpo all GallegaPulpo all GallegaPulpo alla gallega
29
Jun
2012

Colombian Sancocho

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I recently traveled to Colombia with my beautiful wife for the first time. It was a journey of discovery and adventure, great food, cheap rum, and quite a lot of time spent riding horses. In short, it was amazing.

I’ve been married for almost 2 years now, and with Marcela’s patient teaching, my Spanish is slowly getting better. But it’s safe to say that I was as out of my depth in Colombia as a cruise ship giving a drive by to a Mediterranean island (ie: run aground on a frequent basis).

Nonetheless I did my best to persevere and communicate with my mother in law, sister & brother in laws, and my niece as best I could. Which was entertaining for them if nothing else. But after a while the ¿Cómo amaneciste? and ¿Esta cansada? started to come as easily as “tengo hambre” (I’m hungry) and fragments of words and ideas slowly started to meld themselves into something that could vaguely be called communication.

I was introduced to many of the great things that make Colombians love their country. The food, the music, the dancing, the drinking, the family, the football, the landscapes and the zest for life that people have despite a vast majority of them being very poor.

If there is one dish that perhaps can sum up my experience in Colombia, it would have to be Sancocho. Sancocho is somewhere between a soup and a stew (depending on how you make it). But what is perhaps more important about Sancocho than what goes into it, is where you make it.

Sancocho’s home is the street. When Christmas time and holidays come around, Colombians take to the street with a bottle of aguardiente (the local spirit of choice), a blackened old pot, a bucket of water, and as many ingredients as they can get their hands on. A makeshift fire is lit on the sidewalk, and the pot lowered onto it, propped up by bricks, rocks, or whatever spare car parts can be found lying around. Then someone takes on the all important job of fanning the flames while the water starts to boil and the soup is built.

Into the soup goes pork (cerdo), chicken (pollo), oxtail (cola de res), potato (papas), green plantain (platano), cassava (yuca)
onions, garlic, mazorca (big corn that isn’t sweet), coriander (cilantro), and spices like cumin (comino), and paprika (pimenton).

Then the long slow process of the cooking begins. Each vegetable or meat being added at just the right time so that the end result is a deep rich stock (caldo), falling off the bone soft meat, and veges with just the right level of give. It should all hopefully coincide with the point where everyone is drunk enough from aguardiente and tired enough from dancing, and just before someone starts a fight over who gets to choose the next song blasted out into the street via the speakers that have been dragged outside. This is when the soul and body restoring qualities that only a great sancocho made on the street can provide are needed most.

I got to make sancocho twice in Colombia. Once on the street in San Antonio de Prado, Medellin, with my brother in law Hamilton (that’s him fanning the flames in the video), his friends, and all the family. And once just outside the small town of Andes, Antioquia in the heart of a coffee growing region, next to a river, after walking down a hill for a kilometre to get there. Some local kids managed to goad me into jumping off a bridge 3m above the river, and though I thought I was going to at one point, I didn’t die, and there’s nothing like escaping death to bring about a hunger. Sure as hell made the walk back up that hill more bearable anyway.

You can, of course, order this dish in many restaurants in Colombia (or make it yourself at home), but it will never be quite the same as this one.

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21
Jul
2011

Faux Risotto of Squid

Squid "Risotto"

I headed out to the suburbs recently to watch a cooking demonstration inside a big fancy kitchen store.

Not being averse to buying multitudes of shiny expensive things at various times in my life, I find myself naturally at home in kitchen stores. Perusing the many isles and fondling crockery. Asking the difference between all the different pressure cookers, running my fingers across the knife blades to feel how sharp they are, and making a coffee on whichever mostly automatic machine they have setup on a bench, just to marvel at how bad it is.

The main reason I was there though, was that the cooking demonstration was being given by Hadleigh Troy, head chef of Restaurant Amuse, and not your average chef. So when I saw “squid risotto” on the menu, I knew it wasn’t going to be the kind of squid risotto your Nonna might have made.

Hadleigh takes an approach to his cooking that borders on the experimental. His use of sophisticated techniques and a focus on textural elements means his food is always unconventional, but always within the bounds of good taste. This “risotto” was no different.

The idea being that instead of cooking rice, you’re actually *making* rice out of squid. Boom. Mind explosion.

Ok, so it may not be the craziest thing you’ve ever heard (I did in fact see Mark Best from Marque Restaurant in Sydney make a similar dish on the Martha Stewart “Australia Week” show last year), but it was novel and delicious, and so I just had to try it myself.

Of course squid is not the same as rice. Arborio or Carnaroli rice commonly used for risotto is a starchy grain. over the period of time you cook it slowly in stock it releases the starch into the liquid which creates the beautiful creamy texture. We need to fake that with the squid version, and so the base “stock” we’re using is actually a cauliflower puree.

Nautilus Sauvingon Blanc Squid "Risotto"

And so the recipe goes a little like this:

Recipe: Squid “Risotto”

Ingredients

  • 4 x squid tubes
  • 1 x onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 x clove garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1 x cauliflower
  • ~ 1/2 Litre of milk
  • 1 x small bunch dill
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Jamon Serrano (Cured Spanish ham – to garnish)

Instructions

  • Put the squid tubes into the freezer til they are partially frozen, this makes it much easier to cut them up
  • Cut the squid tubes open, lay them flat, and using a sharp knife, very finely slice each tube into tiny “grain sized” pieces.
  • Cut your cauliflower into pieces and put it into a pot with enough milk to cover it, and simmer it gently til soft (I actually used a Thermomix to heat mine, but the concept is the same).
  • Once the cauli is cooked til soft, drain most of the milk and blend it til it’s a very fine puree. Keep the milk and add it slowly til you get a smooth consistency that’s not too runny.
  • In a hot pan with some olive oil, quickly fry your garlic and onions til soft and golden, then add the squid “rice” and fry over a high sheet for about a minute, until it’s just changing colour.
  • Pour the cauli puree into the rice, and stir through, seasoning with salt and pepper, and a little butter.
  • Finish the dish on the plate with a healthy sprinkling of dill (or other fresh herbs) and a slice of jamon serrano.

Serves: 4

And there you have it. From the shoulders of giants… I served this dish up to some seafood loving friends and it got a great response. I’m not sure I’d go through the pain of cutting squid into rice grain sized pieces on a regular basis, but the textural “crunch” of the squid, and the richness of the cauliflower puree was a great combination that was definitely worth the effort.

Squid "Risotto" riceifiedNautilus Sauvingon BlancThermomixed Cauliflower pureeSquid "Risotto"Squid "Risotto"Squid "Risotto"
31
May
2011

Tea Smoked Trout

Home Smoked Trout

This is one of those lazy posts that I’ve had sitting in my drafts folder for about 2 months now. I have lots of others too, in various forms of shabbiness that will hopefully one day see the light of day. This however sparked an interest in smoking (insert joke about which end of the fish do you light) in general that has opened up a whole new world.

Since realising how easy it is to do some casual smoking at home with nothing more than a gas burner, a wok, and a steamer of some description, I’ve turned my hand to many different things. Smoking onions, garlic, capsicum, and soon plan to get a slab of beef brisket in there and made some home made pastrami.

Fish though, are a great thing to smoke. It’s been done throughout the years to cook and preserve food in lots of different cultures, and adds a richness of flavour that works so well. Trout I think is one of the best fish to smoke, and these rainbow trout I picked up at Kailis in Leederville are great value too, at around $12 per kilo.

Incidentally, if you’re after smoking wood, I just happen to know a guy (aka Dad) who has a business selling saw dust and wood chips for smoking, and if you were after serious quantities you should get in touch

Without further ado: here’s the technique – possibly also called Hunan Style – Tea Smoked Trout.

Recipe: Tea Smoked Trout

What you Need:

  1. 2 x whole rainbow trout
    1 cup jasmin tea leaves
    1 cup white rice
    1 cup brown sugar
    Salt

How I Made Mine

  1. Dry the fish thoroughly with absorbent paper, and then rub salt all over each of them. Leave the skin on, and the fish intact, as this will provide a barrier for the smoke, and is easy to discard afterwards.

    Find a deep wok, and in the bottom put down a few layers of aluminium foil.

    In a bowl, mix together the tea leaves, rice, and brown sugar, and then place the mixture onto the foil in the centre of the wok.

    Place the wok over heat and wait for the tea to start to smoke.

    If you have steamer inserts for the wok, then put them in and lay the fish on top and cover the top.

    I had a bamboo steamer, so I lined the edge of it with more foil and positioned it on top of my pan, then put the fish inside and closed the lid.

    Smoke the fish for around 15 – 20 mins or until it’s starting to turn a golden brown colour.

    Take the fish out of the smoker and let it rest, then carefully remove the skin and flake the flesh away from the meat, being sure to get rid of the small bones at the edge.

    Smoosh the smoked trout onto bread with some good butter and enjoy.

Oh, and if you’re a vegan, don’t leave comments about how much more beautiful this fish would be if it were swimming free. Do I come to your blog and leave snide comments about tofu and wheatgrass and how plants have feelings ? No, no I do not.

$20 from any asian supermarket = portable cooking bargain.The home smoking setupTwo rainbow troutThe smoking mixHome Smoked TroutHome Smoked TroutHome Smoked TroutHome Smoked TroutHome Smoked TroutHome Smoked TroutThe finished product