Archive for the ‘meat’ Category

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All-day luscious lamb

November 22, 2010

If you’re cooking for a crowd, this all-day, slow-roasted leg of lamb has to be just about the easiest – and most meltingly, lipsmackingly good – way to do it. I’ve adapted this recipe slightly from Patricia Wells’ Bistro Cooking, but there are countless recipes around for similarly slow cooked lamb.

For some reason, when I’ve attempted this kind of thing before I have sometimes found that the lamb has been a bit dry and stringy, but this time it was perfect. I suspect in the past I actually haven’t cooked it for quite long enough, but also on too high a heat, so it dried out before getting to the fall-apart stage that makes it so divine. This time, I made sure to use a very large leg – about 3.5kg – and of course, being from Feather and Bone, the meat was top, top quality which I’m sure helped matters. And after an initial blast for browning, I kept the heat very low all day, at about 120 degrees C, and turned off the oven’s fan function.

Circumstances made me start this in the oven an hour or so earlier than I would have – had to go out for lunch, poor me – but in hindsight I think this was very good, because it made sure there was plenty of time. In the end, I cooked this for almost nine hours! The outside of the lamb had a burnished, golden crust, but was incredibly moist and succulent beneath the skin, breaking apart at the touch.

Do try this if you get a chance, and let me know how it goes, because I want to see if this recipe is actually foolproof or if it depends too much on ovens and sizes of meat and so on. For serving, I was going to shred the lamb and serve it in a bowl on a bed of the cooked vegetables, but my guests talked me into simply plonking the whole thing on the table in its baking tray, and we all dug in. The meat was so tender you could literally pull it away from the bone with a spoon, so that’s what we did. Rustic and slurpily good. This fed seven guests who are good on the tooth, with a hefty heap leftover, so I think you could safely say it serves eight to 10 people.

Luscious all-day lamb

  • 1 large leg lamb (around 3-3.5kg)
  • 6 onions, quartered
  • 1 head garlic, cloves separated, peeled & chucked in
  • 6 carrots, quartered
  • 6 bay leaves
  • bunch thyme
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1½ bottles dry white wine
  • tiny chat potatoes, as many as you want

1. Preheat oven to 220°C  (I put ours on the full fan-force setting).

2. Layer the onions, carrots, garlic, bay leaves and thyme over the base of an uncovered large roasting pan (you need one that has a lid – a few layers of foil might work but you need to seal it very carefully at the next stage).

3.  Plonk the lamb on top of the vegetables, rub with salt & pepper and a little olive oil and roast, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

4. Remove from oven and turn the heat down to 120°C. I turned the fan off at this stage, which I think helped keep the meat moist.

5. Pour the wine and tomatoes into the pan, cover with lid or foil and return to the oven.

6. Leave it in there and go about your business, checking from time to time. The first time I opened the oven was after it had been cooking for around four and a half hours. It looked wonderful, but when I prodded it, it didn’t quite yield very easily, so I bunged it back in for another several hours, checking every hour or so. Patricia Wells, who doesn’t turn the heat down, says:

“Timing will vary according to the size and age of the leg of lamb, and type of roasting pan used. But once the wine has been added, it will general take 4 to 5 additional hours of baking. Obviously, it is best to check on the lamb from time to time, reducing the oven heat if the lamb begins to burn or the liquid begins to evaporate too much.”

7.  An hour or so before you want to serve, add the potatoes to the liquid, pushing them down so they are well covered. Cover and return to the oven till the spuds are tender.

There’s no need to rest the meat – to serve, remove the vegetables (now very soft) to a wide, shallow serving dish, pull the meat apart with tongs and pile it on top, and serve the delicious cooking juices separately. Or go rustic and serve directly from the roasting pan as we did, with a green salad on the side, and a good red wine.


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You borlotti beauty

August 8, 2010

At the risk of having to rename this blog Purely Pulses, I have to tell you about my first encounter with fresh borlotti beans. I am a big fan of the dried variety – and the canned – but until now I’ve never tried cooking fresh ones. But the other day I spied some in the grocery and couldn’t resist their splotchy raspberry-swirl stockings.

Today I did a test run at lunch with buddies – and am happy to say they made the grade and I officially declare them my New Favourite Thing in the World for this week.

After podding (or shucking! can we say that about beans?) the borlottis from their slinky pink sleeves, I chucked them into boiling water for about 20 minutes and drained them. Then, while they were still hot, I bashed them about a bit with a wooden spoon and then tossed them into a pan in which I had just crisped some exceptionally good bacon, plus a good handful of finely chopped parsley and a clove of minced garlic.

Into a bowl they went, with a generous slurp of Moon Over Martinborough‘s  luscious extra virgin olive oil (which I bought online from NZ after reading this lovely post here and am absolutely loving sloshing around in every veg dish I can at the moment), loads of sea salt and juice of about half a lemon.

Seriously good result. The fresh beans have a much nicer texture than the canned ones, which can be a bit sludgy, and I reckon the freshies have a beautifully delicate colour too (the canned ones do tend toward a depressingly old-ladies’-underwear hue, don’t you think?).

And if you think the finished dish rather resembles a great many other legume side dishes you’ve seen on this blog, well – you’re right. But it can’t be helped – too much legume love is never enough round these parts.

Now, while I’m here, I wish to draw your attention  to the lovely folk at Feather & Bone, providers of the above-mentioned free range bacon and lots of other meaty goodies we chomp our way through in this house.

Ever since I bought our divine Christmas ham from them last year on the recommendation of Empress Clifford-Smith, Feather & Bone have basically become the guardians of my conscience when it comes to eating animals.

Until I turn vegetarian (will that day ever come, I wonder) I try to do the next best thing, and support farmers who treat their animals as humanely as possible, as well as doing all they can to care for the land in a sustainable way. And what with the whole free-range/organic labelling confusion and misinformation that goes on, the only way I know that I am really doing the best I can by the creatures is to buy from Laura and Grant at Feather & Bone. They do all the research, all the inspecting of the farms and the buying of produce from very carefully selected farmers, based not only on the ethical treatment of animals but just as importantly, the quality and flavour of the meat – and believe me,  they know their stuff. To boot, the glorious goodies are delivered to your door if you wish. What’s not to love?

But you don’t just have to take my word for it – the great news is that just this month, Feather & Bone have been named Delicious magazine’s Outstanding Supplier of the Year. So congratulations to Grant & Laura from me and all who have dined on your efforts in this house. For readers living in Sydney, I can’t recommend F&B highly enough. And we shall be celebrating tomorrow night by roasting a couple of delectable Feather & Bone chooks for Senor’s birthday dinner. Cheers!

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Purple reign

May 19, 2010

Aren’t aubergines beautiful?

I routinely wish for a luxury garment in that exact glossy colour, and have never found anything near it. The search goes on …

Winter has  finally arrived here. Last weekend while staying at our friends’ cocoonish beach house (thankyou Caro & D…) I revisited Neil Perry’s recipe for ‘Cinnamon Scented Lamb’  casserole, of which eggplant / aubergine is a central ingredient.  The recipe is a corker, from that big fat white book of his (and theirs) called Food I Love. I don’t yet have it, but it does have an awful lot of good things in it and I think it must go on my list.

Not only because I love pictures of aubergine, but also because it is a very good recipe, I’m sharing here a very slightly adapted version of Mr Perry’s dish, which is full of those irresistible Middle Eastern flavours. This quantity is quite generous for seven or eight, I’d say.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 kg lamb shoulder, cut into chunks
  • 2 solid small aubergines, cut into large chunks
  • 6 baby aubergines, thickly sliced into rounds
  • salt
  • olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons currants
  • 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 brown onion, halved & then sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 can diced tomatoes & juice
  • 1 small red chilli, split
  • 1.5 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • juice 1 lemon
  • ½ bunch chopped mint
  • ½ bunch chopped coriander

Method

  1. Sprinkle the aubergine generously with salt and leave for half an hour. Then rinse salt and any liquid away, and dry eggplant with paper towel or clean tea towel.
  2. Soak currants in vinegar in a cup or bowl.
  3. Using a cast iron cassserole or heavy pot, fry eggplant in batches in hot olive oil until golden on both sides; remove & drain on paper towel.
  4. Add lamb pieces to the pan in batches over high heat till lightly browned; set aside.
  5. Fry onion & garlic  till soft, then add tomatoes, currants, chilli, spices & stock, return lamb to pan and bring to the boil, then simmer gently for 1 to 1.5 hours or till lamb is very tender.
  6. Return cooked aubergine to pan along with lemon juice & seasoning, and stir to combine. When well combined, remove from heat and add herbs.

This dish is great served with plain couscous (or rice) and steamed green beans.

While winter evenings are fab for cooking, not so great for photography – but here’s a pic of the casserole anyway to give you an idea. Shame about the lack of natural light … it actually looks much more luscious than this in real life.

Anyhoo, if you’re a meat eater, I urge you to have a go with this one. And I think I might have a crack at a vegetarian version too, with chickpeas – do you think that would work?

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Merry Christmas, peace & goodwill

December 25, 2009

To all visitors to this blog over the past year, I wish you a peaceful, happy Christmas. As I write, our (formerly) happy free-range ham from www.featherandbone.com.au is glazing in the oven, and it smells delicious.

The glaze is made from some gorgeously lustrous Seville marmalade made a couple of months back by the Parsnip Princess, mixed with orange juice, Dijon mustard and white wine vinegar.

I wish you a happy day, wherever you may be and whatever your festivus for the rest-of-us may comprise. Thank you for all your visits here, and especially all your comments and suggestions and cooking ideas.

It’s all given me much more pleasure than I can say, and I hope you come back again in 2010.

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Fear of tofu

November 20, 2009

Don’t get me wrong, I love tofu. In good Thai and Japanese restaurants, or when somebody skilled cooks it for me. Agedashi tofu is one of my favourite things in the world. And at our favourite Thai, the beloved Ploy, there are a couple of tofu dishes to die for – one stir-fried tofu with bean sprouts, and the other a divine larb tofu salad.

Tofu should be on our home menu more often as we are trying to cut down on meat for all the obvious and much-discussed reasons.

But when it comes to cooking with tofu, I am filled with anxiety. Which one, for starters? What is the difference between ‘silken’ and ‘firm silken’ and ‘firm’, for example? Recipes tend to say ‘firm’  or ‘soft’ but the shops seem to have zillions of different kinds. I am way too confused to master this stuff, and always expect it to fall apart, so have generally just steered clear.

However, yesterday I decided to feel the fear and do it anyway (which reminds me of stonesoup’s excellent post on that subject recently).

I decided to have a crack at a very delicious looking Karen Martini recipe that appeared in the Sunday rag a little while ago. But as hers had salted black beans and various other bits and bobs in it, and I couldn’t be bothered hauling myself to the Asian supermarket to get such things, I just bastardised our usual basil and chilli stirfry taught to me many years ago by our Asian gourmand friend Ricardo, the lunging latino.

The first thing I did was buy the wrong tofu. ‘Firm silken’ is not the same as ‘firm’, I discovered as soon as I unwrapped the former (pictured above, at rear). Lovely soft, wobbly stuff – but even getting it out of the packet made it start to crumble and collapse, and I had visions of a wokful of sloppy custard. So back to the grocer for a block of the hard stuff, easily chopped into pieces (foreground).

I dried and fried the tofu cubes first, then drained them on kitchen paper – then did the rest of the stirfry and then tossed the tofu back in at the end with the fish sauce and basil. The result? Pretty damn fine! So here is the befuddled recipe, which can obviously be mixed and matched and altered as you wish.

But before my next foray into tofuworld, I would love to hear from any aficionados who may be lurking here – I need your advice! Tips, tricks, which is best for what, other easy recipes, how to buy, store, etc. Come on: spill.

Pork & tofu stir fry with chilli & basil

  • rice bran / peanut / vegetable oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • small knob ginger, julienned
  • 1 block firm tofu, cut into 1.5cm cubes
  • 150g pork mince
  • 1/3 red capsicum, cut into sizable chunks
  • handful green beans, halved
  • 2 birdseye chillis with seeds, split lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce, or more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar, to taste
  • 1/2 bunch basil
  • steamed jasmine rice, to serve
  1. Heat a little oil in wok or other pan to smoking point, then toss in garlic &  ginger for 10-20 seconds.
  2. Add tofu cubes and fry for 2 minutes, turning so all sides are golden.
  3. Remove wok from heat while you remove tofu pieces & leave to drain on kitchen paper.
  4. Return to heat and add pork mince to pan, stir frying for a few minutes.
  5. Remove pork and set aside. Either wipe out pan or continue with pork juices.
  6. Add chilli, beans, capsicum and cook on high heat till just tender – a little water added to the pan can sometimes help cook more evenly.
  7. Return pork and tofu to pan and stir to mix, keeping heat high
  8. Add fish sauce & brown sugar, adjusting each to taste.
  9. When you are happy with the seasoning, tear basil leaves from stalks and toss through.
  10. Serve on a bed of fluffy rice.
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The temperature and the times

October 25, 2009

thermometerAs you will have deduced, I am quite the fan of a big lump of roasted red meat, a deep and abiding love that I regret persists despite the fact of its ethical and environmental indefensibility. I know not how it will end, except it’s clear this affair cannot last forever if I’m to live with myself …

But until the break-up, let’s talk about roasting. If you are a meatlover like me, but have been frustrated by uneven results in the roasting department – is it cooked through? is it wobblingly raw? is it charred on the outside but inedibly cold and raw in the middle? – I have two words to say to you, Kimmie: meat thermometer.

I was first introduced to the joys of the thermometer by chefbro Hamish, who, being a restaurant guy, is all about consistently perfect results in the kitchen. He gave me a nifty little digital thermometer, needle-thin, which you stick into the meat at intervals through the cooking. I loved and used this little red rocket of a thing until it fell to bits. I then bought a fancy Zyliss digital thingummy with a silicone thread and a metal probe, which involved the magnetic digital dial and timer bizzo sticking to the outside of the oven while the probe stayed in the meat and the silicone cord went, umbilically, from one to the other. Then I lost the instructions and have never been able to figure it out since. It just lights up and beeps and makes me crazy.

All of which led me to my trusty, daggy, oldfangled  Acu-Rite thermometer, pictured here. I love it to pieces. I believe it came from a kitchenware shop but I’m sure I’ve seen them in any old daggy supermarket. Cheap – and how cheerful. You simply shove it into the thickest part of the meat before cooking, and leave in for the whole time. If you position it right, often you don’t even need to remove the pan from the oven to check the temp, but just peer through the open door or even the glass with the light on.

As everyone’s definition of ‘medium’ and ‘rare’ seems to differ (there’s no problem really with ‘well done’ – just ruin the meat by cooking it to buggery and you’re sorted), it might take a little time to work out your own preferred temp.

But as I like my meat red-to-pink, generally with a sizable piece of meat (e.g. leg of lamb or whole rump /Scotch fillet of beef, enough to feed six or more) I take it to around 60-65°C for both lamb & beef. This is generally medium-rare in the centre, while allowing any well-done eaters some cooked-through bits on the ends.

The beauty of the thermometer is that it takes into account the coldness of the meat before you begin. I try to get meat to room temperature first, but most of the time that’s near impossible, by the time it comes from the butcher’s cool room, and so on.

I haven’t paid too much attention to the recommended cooking temps on Acu-Rite’s dial here (cute name, huh), although they roughly correspond to what I do. But my advice comes from Stephanie Alexander, every Australian gal’s kitchen matriarch, who provides cooking temperatures in The Cook’s Companion sections on beef (rare = 60°C, medium = 70°C, well done = 75°C), lamb (rare = 60°C, medium = 65°C, well done = 80°C) and pork (“…one does not have to cook pork until it is dry and splintery as a precaution. The safe internal temperature for pork is in fact 76°C. At this temperature the meat is both safe and juicy.”)

One thing to remember is that the internal temperature keeps rising after you remove the meat from the oven – I believe Hamish told me it “rests up” 5°C; Stephanie A says it rests up 2-3 degrees, so the message is you need to take it out a little before you reach the desired temperature. (I find this whole thing puzzling – how does this happen? – but it’s true.)

And, as always, the final secret to tender, juicy roasted meat is to rest it for as long as you can before carving. Keep the roasting pan on top of the stove or in another warm place, very loosely covered with a double layer of foil, for up to an hour.

If you do all this – and so long as you’ve bought decent quality meat in the first place – I guarantee it will be good, and stress-free, every time.

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The platters that matter…

October 13, 2009

4candlesMenu for a 40th birthday lunch

My absence here over the past week has, till now, been almost entirely food-related. Well, celebration-related anyway – and in my family that means food. My sister’s 40th birthday on the weekend involved a bunch of us staying in houses on the coast just south of Sydney, and a few others popping down for the day. The main event was a birthday lunch for 25.

All our old family favourites (both human and culinary!) came to the table – a table groaning with platters of lovely food, it must be said, and as the last stayer at the coastal house I am the beneficiary of my sister’s generosity, still chomping my way through the leftovers.

Sadly I was too busy on the day to take pictures, which is a shame cos it looked beautiful. But nevertheless thought I’d share the menu with you here in case you ever need some stalwart standouts to cook for a crowd – everything on this menu is low-stress, almost all of it can be made ahead of time, every dish can be served warm or at room temperature, the platters set down a long table create an impression of great, colourful generosity and luscious diversity, and with a couple of vegetarians and one coeliac among our guests, this menu makes everyone happy. I’ll gradually add these recipes to the blog down the track – right now I’m still in culinary recovery – but let me know if any strike you as desperately urgent to have now.

  • Oysters – of course! – freshly shucked, with a squeeze of lemon
  • Rare rump of roast beef, according to Stephanie Alexander’s instructions
  • Poached whole salmon (with a horseradish cream for both this and the beef)
  • Zaatar chicken – from the fab Ottolenghi lads
  • Green beans braised in olive oil, garlic, tomato & dill
  • Roast carrot salad with mint & balsamic
  • Citrus couscous salad
  • Fennel, feta, tarragon & pomegranate salad – another Ottolenghi fave
  • Chickpea, roasted red pepper & marinated feta salad (all from jars & cans, but it looks and tastes fab)
  • Lentil, sundried tomato, parsley and Balsamic salad (ditto)
  • Crisp roast potatoes with minted creme fraiche dressing
  • Dessert, made by sweeter cooks than me, was an incredibly good chocolate and coffee birthday cake (Alice, we’ll have the recipe for that, please?) and the Manna from Heaven chocolate crunch made by Miss Jane; this is a lusciously dastardly version of the old fave hedgehog cake, updated into an utterly irresistible  death-by-chocolate experience.

Lunch went on for hours, the birthday girl looked a million bucks, the speeches were lovely, the wine flowed and the love goes on. Thanks Lou and J&B for a great weekend.

And thanks for the leftovers…