Monday, 16 January 2012

Aquarian Capretto con uva

NAME: _Aquarian Capretto con uva

500g of capretto (young goat) - leftover forequarter pieces or similar (see Notes)
several potatoes, whatever you have (see Notes)
1 turnip
1 small swede
2 medium carrots
1 large brown onion (see Notes)
500g red seedless grapes (see Notes)
1 tin chopped tomatoes (or chop up a tin's worth of fresh, discarding the liquid and seeds)
2 tbsp EVOO
1 tbsp grapeseed oil
2 tbsp grape molasses
2 tbsp zartar (see Notes)

Peel the vegetables and cut into slices about 1cm - 2cm thick, boil in barely enough salted water for about five minutes.

In the meantime, slice the onion into rings about 1cm thick, put both the oils in a frypan, heat to smoking, and add the onions. Fry until the onion is cooked brown. Brush a casserole dish and its lid with some of the oil on the insides, then layer the onions on the bottom.

Drain the vegetables, rinse, add the tomato and return to medium/low heat. You may add salt to taste.

Fry the pieces of meat over high heat until browned evenly all over, take out with tongs and arrange in a layer over the onions, then sprinkle the zartar evenly and fairly thickly over the meat.  The vegetables can now be removed from the tomato sauce and arranged in a layer over the meat, then the tomato sauce poured over.

Strip the grapes from the stem and cut them in halves or chop/crush them so that all grapes are split at least once. Arrange them on top of the vegetables, and drizzle the grape molasses over.

Cover the casserole dish with the lid and put in an oven at 160 - 165 (low heat.) Check occasionally that it is slightly simmering, leave in oven for at least two, preferably three hours. After three hours, check that the grapes have begun caramelising, and remove the lid for a final 30 - 60 minutes, during which time you raise the heat slightly to 170 until done.

(Check once or twice to see if the liquid is all absorbed and evaporated, and when it is, leave for a further fifteen minutes, at which point the dish should be finished. What you're aiming for is slightly caramelised grapes on top, and the same for the onions and juices that ran to the bottom of the dish.)

Serve right away, with or without a side of crusty bread and butter.

Meat: I got a forequarter of capretto the ribs cut for chops, shoulder for a small roast, and other pieces cut about 5cm square by 2cm thick, bone in and not trimmed up too much - this dish is ideal for tougher cuts, bits that are left over from preparing fancier (but not tastier!) meals, etc. You can also use lamb or mutton for the dish. I prefer the taste of goat.
Potatoes: I had a Kipfler, a Nadine, and some unspecified pink potato, and just used them all. Use what you have to hand.
Onion: Prefer onions with thick layers for this - you're going to fry them brown, then slow roast them for a few hours, they need some body to them,
Grapes: I found red seedless to be the best because there'd be a LOT of seeds otherwise. But any deep red sweet grapes will do in a pinch.
Zartar: is a Middle Eastern mix of wild thyme, sumak, and sesame seeds. Any dried thyme or oregano would do if you can't get the zartar.

This is a dish I developed because I don't have much of a liking for older lamb and mutton, and what I had were zartar, grapes, and the vegetables. Much to my delight, the very first one worked perfectly and I just stuck to the same recipe.

The long slow cooking time in the oven on low heat makes the meat fall off the bones, while keeping the temperature low means the vegetables don't overcook. You can't hurry this dish - three to five hours is a good point to aim for.  You have some control over the timing by leaving the lid on the retain the liquid longer, but it can't really be done faster.

When the casserole dries off, the onions on the bottom and the grapes on the top will brown and caramelise, and the flavours develop.  Surprisingly enough, the process kills most of the wild thyme flavour, so don't be afraid of well and truly covering the meat.

The flavour is well worth the wait!


Thursday, 12 January 2012

Risoni Carbonara Style

NAME: _Risoni Carbonara Style

500g risoni or orzo pasta
1.2L chicken stock
2 tbsp butter
2 tsp dried wild oregano (or dried wild thyme)
250g (1 small pack) bacon
1 egg
1 cup milk
2 tbsp natural yoghurt
about 1/2 cup shredded mild cheddar
about 1/2 cup grated parmesan
about 1.5 cups sliced mushrooms (if wanted)
about 1 cup peas

Chop the bacon crosswise into 5mm (1/4") strips, then cut the strips into 1cm length. Roughly enough will do, some size variation lends a bit of texture. Fry this in a pan over medium to high heat until the bacon starts to brown, take it out (leave the grease behind though) and drain on a slice of bread or paper towel.

Add the butter to the bacon grease, wait until the butter's stopped frothing and is starting to turn brown a bit, generally takes three minutes or so. Put the pasta in and toss to coat in butter. Add one litre of the stock, and the dried herb, bring to a fast simmer and leave it simmering until almost all the stock is absorbed. Stir it a few times as it simmers.

Meanwhile mix the egg, milk, and yoghurt in a jug and set aside. Divide the parmesan cheese into two even portions.

Test the pasta, it should be just done (al dente) - if not, add a bit of water and keep simmering until it's all absorbed and the pasta is al dente. Add the mushrooms and peas, add the milk/egg/yoghurt, add all the cheddar and one of the parmesan portions. Reduce the heat and stir until the cheese has melted through the pasta and the milk mixture has incorporated.

Put into serving bowl and top with the remaining parmesan. Serve immediately.

This is not a full-on carbonara but it's delish, I've heard of people seasoning it with salt and pepper during cooking but I let diners season it for themselves - most don't, it's just got that much flavour.

Risoni (and orzo) are small pasta shaped like long rice grains, and they must be made of pretty tough durum or semolina because they seem to take longer to cook than other pasta. They also hold their shape and texture better, which makes them so good for this dish - they don't melt into the cheesy sauce as much.

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