Archive for the ‘starches miscellaneous’ Category

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Pot, stock (& two smoking barrels)

August 16, 2009

roastvegstockOne of the (let’s be honest, rather many) obstacles to me becoming a vegetarian – as opposed to a passionate lover of all kinds of veg – would be what do to about stock.

I often toy, more than idly, with the idea of abandoning meat for all the good ethical & environmental reasons – but also love the richly layered flavours, velvety texture and million uses for a good chicken stock.

In the past, whenever I have made veg-only stocks, they’ve always been watery and bland affairs. But recently, prompted by dinners for total vego guests, I have begun making a kickarse vegetable stock, given a huge lift in flavour, texture and colour by first roasting all the veg until seriously caramelised.

It’s so simple – chuck whatever veg you have in the fridge into a pan, slather with heaps of olive oil, turn up the heat and blast it in the oven. My latest batch, pictured here midway through the roasting, included pumpkin with skin on, carrots, shallots, red onion, garlic, lots of celery, a bunch of spinach stems and a tomato. Once they’re lovely and roasted almost as dark as you can get them without burning, remove from the oven and toss into a big pot of water with the usual peppercorns, bay leaves, and salt.

I simmered it for a good few hours, reducing by a third and then topping up and reducing again, then straining it. The result is a gorgeously dark golden stock full of flavour and a very light sheen of olive oil.

This stock was perfect for Friday night’s vego dinner for eleven.

The starter, smoking barrel number 1 (stay with me, I’m clutching at headline straws here!)  was a mighty good caprese-style salad with burrata, that decadent mozzarella ball filled with cream, that you break into luscious pieces and plonk down with slices of ripe tomato, torn basil and some salad leaves; I dressed it with the usual balsamic & good oil. SB # 2, dessert, was a high-fat free-for-all known as Karen Martini’s baked lemon cheesecake with pistachio & biscuit base… we’re talking ricotta, cream cheese, goat’s curd – hmm, must add that to the festival of cheesecake from last week.

Returning Now to the point –  stock came in with this pumpkin risotto courtesy of the River Cafe (first cooked for me very recently, like so many good things, by the Empress…). It is delicious and easy. So moreish, in fact, that a guest who “doesn’t eat pumpkin” (and who was somehow swindled by his wife, I believe, into thinking this was sweet potato – a whole other post coming up on food aversions!)  happily hoed into a second helping. The stock, I reckon, certainly helped give it some oomph and silkiness.

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A Persian excursion

July 31, 2009

persianstuffOne of the best reasons for having a proper food writer as a friend is joining them for the spontaneous suburban sojourn in search of a particular dish or ingredient. The Empress took me the other day to Auburn in the mid-west of Sydney, where all things Persian, Afghan, Turkish & Lebanese can be found (and where the Gallipoli Mosque is a feature).

As DrDi wrote recently, it’s very cool for we postcode-centric Sydneysiders to take a trip along the discovery highway to an unvisited suburb – and the Empress is the gal to do it with. Our trip was a short sharp operation but chock full of discoveries for me. First stop was a great restaurant for lunch, where among the delights was an an eggplant dip to die for called Kashk-e bademjan; I devoured the lot and got an extra tub for takeaway.

After that we popped into a Persian supermarket where we filled our shopping bags with these goodies: green raisins, dried sour cherries, barberries and slivered pistachios. The shop guys and we managed to cross the language barrier with the aid of some friendly other customers, which was a very nice part of the encounter.

I haven’t used any of these staples of Persian cooking yet, and have never seen those ruby-red barberries or the chewy black and very tart sour cherries before, but plan to have a go very soon at a polow – a Persian pilaf, basically, which apparently has a lovely crusty bottom.

I’ve checked out some polow recipes with barberries here and with sour cherries here and here and here.

But I’m also thinking that both of these would be delicious chucked into any tagine or, as I found after taking this photograph, just eaten as a little dried-fruit mix from a bowl.

Years ago when making the divine mast-o khiar – a yoghurt & cucumber dip with walnuts, green raisins & rose petals (and another recipe here)  I had the devil’s own job finding green raisins, and now I know they’re everywhere in any Middle-Eastern suburb I feel a bit of a dill for buying them from these elegant and expensive packagers (although their stuff is top quality, so if you can’t get near a Persian supermarket, they are worth a shot online).

And as for my plans for the pistachios, well obviously the list is endless. But apart from Karen Martini’s quite incredible baked lemon and goat’s curd cheesecake with pistachios (from Where the Heart Is, but Stonesoup has an adaptation here – scroll down to find it), I have just come across this delicious-sounding pistachio dukkah which sounds a very fine idea.

Now, off to Culburra for the weekend with a bunch of food-crazy friends. Will return fatter and more recipe-laden than ever next week…

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A corny issue: how I cured my polenta paranoia

July 16, 2009

polentaCulinary confession  #93475 – I have always been terrified of polenta – that lovely-looking bright yellow corn meal that other people cook beautifully.

Before last weekend, the only time I’d attempted it was long ago, trying to make those little grilled-polenta fingers you see about the place. The result when I did, in a word: unspeakable.

Sooo, I have since then steered clear. However, my friend Jane is the queen of supercreamy, smooth-as-silk polenta and serves it with the kinds of slow-cooked shanky, meaty things we’re enjoying at the moment. So I emailed her asking for her secret.

She sent me a very brief reply, headed Piece O’ Polenta (hmm, I guess this means she’s hitherto known as the Potentate of Polenta? I’m running out of p-words…)

I tested it out on some unsuspecting chums last weekend, and it was great! And so simple – a fair bit of stirring involved, but the result, my friends, is worth it. We ate with a delish osso bucco (Karen Martini’s recipe, natch).

Here’s the recipe, short and oh so sweet. My thanks to the P of P for sharing. I doubled this quantity for eight people, and it was plenty, with a smidge left over. I also threw in some grated parmesan at the last minute but it’s completely unnecessary if you’d rather not.

Soft polenta

4 cups milk
1/2 onion
2 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
75g polenta

1. Combine milk, onion, thyme and bay leaf in a heavy-based saucepan and slowly bring to the boil.

2. Remove from heat and stand for 15 minutes. Strain, return milk to a clean saucepan, bring to the boil, add 1/2 teaspoon salt and slowly whisk in polenta.

3. Cook polenta over lowest heat, stirring regularly with a whisk for about 30 minutes or until soft. Season to taste. Should be soft and flowing – if too stiff, add some boiling water.