Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Third World Goat

An interesting price comparison:  Dave says goat at his local Price Choppers in the USA, cost $2.79 per lb.  Applying currency conversion rates as of about now, and converting that to kilos, that means I should expect to pay about $6.77/kg for goat meat here in Australia.  Since even poor cuts of beef cost about $6/kg at my local fruit veg and butcher co-op (and they are at the low end for prices believe me!) that would make goat a really good alternative meat for me.  Only problem is that the last time I looked at goat meat in a butcher's store, it was nearer $16/kg.  And I can't imagine that prices have dropped since then.

Oh - and the real kicker?  Regarding that super economical goat meat that Mr Dave can get at about one thrid the cost I can get goat meat here?  It comes from here in the first place!

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Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Slime And You

This is an excellent source for information on mold and your food - how to deal with that furry mess in the fridge?  Read this information factsheet and find out.  I just thought the amount of info is useful and impressive.

I still prefer my mold to be in a nice blue cheese.

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Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Dukkah-crumbed Lamb & Fattoush

NAME: _Dukkah-crumbed Lamb & Fattoush

500g diced lamb
3tbsp mild chilli dukkah
150g snow peas
1/2stalk celery
1/2tsp salt
1tbsp olive oil
1 large lebanese bread
1tbsp olive oil
2tbsp olive oil
1tbsp malt vinegar
1tsp salt
1 clove garlic
2tsp pomegranate syrup
1tbsp tahini paste
1tbsp water
6 cherry tomatoes
small quantity of alfa-alfa and onion sprout mix

Mix the sauce ingredients in a blender and blend until creamy. Set aside.

Slice the lamb cubes into fairly thin slices across the grain, roll in dukkah, press down hard to make sure plenty of the dukkah adheres.  Cut snow peas into two or three pieces, slice celery into thin crescents.

Cut tomatoes into quarters and set aside until plating up.

Roll the bread tightly and slice in 5mm (1/4") slices, tease apart.

Heat the first 1tbsp oil in a non-stick pan until smoking, then place the lamb pieces in, sprinkle with the salt and fry until crisp, turn over and fry other side until crisp.  Add the snow peas and celery, toss until snow peas are bright green and almost cooked but still crisp.  Remove from pan and drain on paper towel or another piece of bread. Don't deglaze the pan, go to the next step.

Add the next lot of olive oil to the pan from above, toss in the bread, and toss every few minutes until the bread is golden to brown and crispy.  Put in a large bowl, add the meat and vegetables, and toss together.

Place a serving on a plate, drizzle with the dressing mixture, drop several pieces of tomato and some sprouts on as garnish.  Serve immediately while bread is crispy.

This will make a nice hearty entree sized dish for four people.  Bread goes soggy pretty quickly with the moisture from the meat and the dressing so serving quickly (tossing the ingredients at the table even) is important for a good dish.

I've made this with beef and pork and kangaroo as well, they all work with this mix.  Don't know that fowl would work, but it probably would.  Lamb is the most authentic, in what is otherwise a very non-authentic recipe.

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Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Drag The Food Chain

Are you eating seasonal enough? What IS "seasonal enough?" It's been a question I've been trying to answer since I wrote The Body Friendly Zen Cookbook, and a recent article I found and wrote up has made me think about this even more.

I recommend you to look at any species in the world, and how tied they are to their specific foodstuffs.  Change the temperature of part of the ocean (as we're finding) by a degree and the plankton and krill change, then the balance of different species shifts as species populations change in size.  It's why and how evolution works.  And yet we think we occupy a privileged place in this schema, we are exempt from ill effects caused by rapidly changing (and generally poorer) dietary habits...

No single member of a species "gets used to" a change in the foodstock.  Some individuals may be marginally more tolerant or intolerant of a particular change, but the species as a whole won't be adapted to the change in foodstock for many generations, if at all.  It happens faster for krill since their generations are shorter, but it does slowly happen.

The speed a species evolves in response to a stimulus seems to depend on what the stimulus is.  Some things like intelligence seem to have taken a very very long time generationally, while our adaptation to food sources changing seems to take only (!!!) several hundred generations.  What I think this means for us is that if people were eating certain foods or preparing them certain ways 5,000 to 10,000 years ago and we're still doing so to this day, then that has probably been assimilated into our food regime by now.

So eating foods out of season is generally not something our bodies are well adapted to yet, as we didn't have means of preserving or storing many foods 5,000 years ago.  Exceptions are salting, drying, fermenting, and smoking, provided that's also done to the same kinds of foods and used in much the same way.

In a lot of ways, we are a very experimental generation, our diet has had so many factors added to it in a very short time, and we're still not close to finding all the effects that this will cause.  Some effects seem pretty clear-cut to me, the scientific community may argue back and forwards that it's cellphone radiation or exhaust smoke or pollution in groundwater or additives in food but I'm pretty convinced - we started processing our food differently only in the last few hundred years, and in that time we've seen a surge in a range of illnesses which were never common before.

Hundreds of years ago the noble folk suffered an increase in the incidence of many and painful kidney stones.  Why?  They were living in the same air and water as the less fortunate, under the same sun, among the same animals and plants.  Why did they have this odd disease?

Turns out, the stones were caused by excessive consumption of bicarb and milk of magnesia and other acid suppressing products, most of which have a tendency to build up mineral deposits.  And when you begin to wonder why such affluent people might have needed to take so many products to soothe an irritated digestive system, you don't really need to look far, do you?  This was happening as the wealthiest people found newer and more imaginative ways process foods and preserve them beyond their seasons, were exploring the world and bringing home new foods that had never been part of the diet, and consuming a far richer diet than people had ever had.

I'm not saying that you need to bury your head in the compost heap and only eat what grows in your own garden in the windowbox.  Far from it, I believe that humans came to be where we are because we did adapt to a range of foods and preparation methods.  Don't forget that preparation and preservation methods were originally survival mechanisms, they enabled us to live where other species starved.  But it's always a trade-off, until the species as a whole adapts.

I like being able to grow some vegetables all year around thanks to knowing how and when to plant them, I like having flour and cereals and grains available all year around, and I like having a wide range of meats available pretty much all year around.  I believe that by having small quantities of many foods around all year around, we may have become better adapted to the omnivorous, out-of-sync diet we now have.  I also believe that as soon as the first hunters figured out how to dry meat and smoke and salt it to preserve some for future use, we we began to adapt towards our synergy with a wide range of foodstuff.

But what we're not used to as a species yet, having had only two or three generations to begin changing towards it, is the never-ending list of preservatives and bleaches and additives in our food.  Consider it - we are destroying an ever larger portion of the Earth's resources in order to add "value" to our food chain.  Much of what we dig up and smelt into transportation and refine into fuel is used to ship foods that we're still not used to eating, to places where they'e never been seen before this last few centuries, and we're using up even more chemicals and making even more pollution to make those foods grow where they never would have before, using more chemicals to promote their growth and inhibit local insects and pests, and then adding some more of those chemicals and additives to the food so that we can store them longer to spread them around the world farther...

Maybe the improvement of the species, to the point where we will be able to eat pure chemicals, is a noble pursuit for some.  But it won't help us, our children, their children, or indeed a lot of generations to follow.  maybe we shouldn't, anyway...

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Cheap Tricks

Here's a somewhat startling statistic in this article, although A) it's slightly dated (2007) and B) American not Australian.

$3,300.00USD annually is the grocery bill for the average household.

I tried to think back to 2007, and what our household was spending then - $7,000.00AUD is roughly what I came up with.  Given that in that year I think the Aussie dollar was quite up there with the US dollar, that means either that the cost of groceries in Australia was almost double that of the US at the time, or else that we were buying almost twice what the average US household was.

And we were back then not exactly wasteful, in fact I'd say we were downright frugal about our shopping.  Most of those tricks mentioned in the article, we'd been using for years already.  In addition to counting additives and sugar and fats, since T was/is a type 2 diabetic.

In today's inflated and battered economy, I'm spending almost $3,000AUD just for myself, and can assure you that there is very little ever wasted or thrown out.  And I also have a home garden for some of my supplies.  A typical household in Australia today must be spending close to triple that.  I seem to recall that average grocery bills are around $175/week now, can't remember where I saw that but it's recent.

Two things seem to come from that.  One, our prices in Australia must be quite high compared to the US.  And two, growing stuff takes you out of the loop of paying for processing and pesticides.  Healthier and cheaper.  (And yes, I include the cost of the seedlings/seeds in my grocery prices - because I only have to buy seedlings about every month or so)

Also, I think, growing some of my own vegetables gives me the feeling of having some control over my food intake.  It's a growing trend, with people once again getting back to growing preserving and processing their own foods.

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Monday, 15 June 2009

Cured Pork Sausages

NAME: _Swine Flu Sausages

1kg diced pork (around 1" (2-3cm) cubes)
packet tucino powder (See Notes)
2tbsp psyllum husk
1tsp salt
2tbsp EVOO
more olive oil for casings (See Method)
2 meters sausage casings (See Notes)
5 - 10 litres brine (See Notes)
1/2cup red wine (optional) or 1/2cup water

Take half the diced pork and sprinkle with the tucino powder. Put back in the freezer for a few hours.
Marinate the other half of the pork in half a litre of the chilled brine, put this in the freezer also.

After an hour or two, take out the brined pork, drain and put in a cooled bowl. Add the psyllum husk and mix it through, add the salt, and mince with the medium or fine disk of your mincer. Put back in the freezer for another 30 minutes. (While preparing the casings, anyway.)

Put the remaining brine back on the stove to simmer.

Soak the casings in warm water, use a funnel to fill then with water, which will also expand them. Now tip some olive oil down into the casing. This will allow it to slide easily up the filling funnel. Do this and tie the end of the casing. make a pinhole to allow initial air to escape.

My funnel fits the end of my mixer so at this point I use the coarse mince disk (8mm - 10mm holes) and put the funnel on. If you use some other stuffing method you may just want to coarsely mince the cured pork from the freezer at this stage and mix the two minces roughly together and fill the casing. At some stage here you need to knead the 1/2 cup of water or red wine into the mixture.

In my case, I mix the diced cured pork with the previously minced pork, and then mince the two together into the casing. Twist off lengths as the filling progresses, making sure the casings are not overfilled, especially the collagen casings. Once the casing is all filled, plunge in the simmering brine. You can just scald them at this stage or (my preferred method) let them simmer until gently cooked through. Collagen casings will generally burst with prolonged simmering so I prefer hog casings, as the cooked sausages taste better and store better than scalded ones.

If you've simmered them through, they can be served right away with a german or dijon mustard. Or you can fry them to add crispiness and caramelisation, or boil them later when serving. Go nicely with sliced fried potatoes, sauerkraut, and crusty farm bread.

Meat - Put it in the freezer and let it go "crunchy" with frost. Cold is good. Cold is very good. Also, makes sure there's a percentage of fat in the meat, otherwise the sausages will be very dry.

Tucino powder - a Philipino curing powder used to cure meats, find it in many Asian food stores. You can use any other curing mixture, just don't go over the recommended quantities for the amount of meat you'll be curing. Tucino gives a nice red colour to the meat which shows up in the sausage.

Sausage casings - I went to see the very nice local butcher and got a stick of collagen casings included with my order of meat, you could use hog casings if you can get them.

Brine - around 1 cup of rock salt per 5 litres of water, add anything aromatic you fancy at this stage, bring to simmer, let it cool down to room temperature again, chill the portion you're going to marinate the pork in. (I threw in a few unpeeled but squashed cloves of garlic, you don't have to do anything but the salt.)

Psyllum husk - it's a fibre that gels nicely, and takes up the moisture of the sausages which is why you need a lot of oil and pork fat in the mince

These are best eaten right out of the brine, they have a good strong pork flavour, and frying them after simmering them is good value too. Also, if you used collagen casings and simmered, they may have burst, in which case the sausages will retain their shape due to the psyllum husk fibre. They can still be served skinless, fried skinless, or warmed up skinless as well. They just look more professional with skins on... %)

You can also add things to the basic mixture, but for herbs and seasonings it's best to add them to the brine you're going to marinate the pork in and simmer it for a while, then cool it right off and strain it before using it. One thing that I find is nice is a few tablespoonfuls of finely diced bacon, including the rasher fat. Add this just before filling the casing and roughly mix it in.

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Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Home Made Cheese

NAME: _Home Made Cheese

Milk (3 litres = about 200g cheese!)
citric acid (or lemon juice)
OPTIONS (See Notes)
plain yoghurt
turmeric or anatto powder (If you want some yellow colour in your cheese.)
flavouring, optional

Read Notes first - there are so many things you can do or try or leave out.

Warm milk to body temperature slowly (over low heat) and add a tablespoon or two of yoghurt (if using) and a merest pinch of the turmeric or anatto if you want to colour the cheese. (It will concentrate in the curd so really - use only 1/4 of a teaspoonful in this much milk.)  Keep at skin temperature for an hour or so, up to four is the longest I've tried.  (See Notes)

Now add lemon juice or citric acid liquid a teaspoonful at a time, stirring constantly.  As soon as milk develops little flecks, stop.  If after five minutes it still hasn't formed a curd (lumps) then add another teaspoonful, stir it in.  (I realise this is rough but this is only a really basic homemade soft style cheese and is still damn nice despite the rough handling.)

Once milk starts, don't touch it again for about ten minutes.  It should have separated quite well into a lot of curd and some clearish whey.  Place a clean handkerchief in a strainer or colander and slowly pour your stock into it.  I save the whey for use in the bread, used instead of water.  You can save it or drain it, but if you do use it, make sure you use it the same day.  I don't know what it would do if it spoiled, but I assume it wouldn't be a pretty sight...

Lift the corners of the handkerchief and let the whey keep draining out.  You can help it along by closing it into a bag and twisting a bit.  Once the curd is like solid custard, put it in a glass or plastic bowl, sprinkle on about half a teaspoon of fine cooking salt (not iodised salt) and fold it in, then microwave on high for several one minute bursts, with a two minute rest in between bursts.  It should become hot to touch, but not boiling.

Put the handkerchief back in the strainer and pour the heated curd (and puddle of whey) back, let it cool to skin temperature again, and once again lift the corners, form a bag, and squeeze a few turns.

You can now continue twisting until no more whey seems to come out, then press the cheese (still wrapped in the handkerchief) under a few kilos of weight. (See Notes)  After a few hours (overnight is ideal) there should be no more whey coming out.  To be sure, lift the cheese out of the press, turn upside down, and press for another hour or two.

Take the cheese back out of the press, unwrap the handkerchief from the cheese, and rub it with more plain fine salt.  You can now eat it pretty much right away, or wrap it back up in a clean handkerchief, cover with plastic wrap, and store in the fridge for a week to develop a little bit. This is a very simple cheese and aging it more than a week doesn't do much for it.  You can also marinate it in a brine of salt, water, and white wine or white wine vinegar for the week instead, but it'll still be a pretty simple cheese. (Marinated like this it becomes very like a ziegerkaese, which is a ricotta style cheese marinated in a similar brine mixture.)

It's a soft crumbly cheese, serve with water crackers or crumbled on salads or dishes, etc.  It will keep a few weeks if salted enough, and will stay moist enough to eat if you keep it wrapped.

Milk: I used 3litre jugs of milk I buy at the store - maybe a bit expensive, but short of making friends with a dairy farmer that's what you'll have to work with too.  It does work, although I've never tried skim or enriched milks.  Stick to plain old milk I think.  I also imagine that if you get fresh milk you may get a bit more cheese out of it, as commercial milk has permeate in it, which is basically the whey the dairy creamery had left over after making cheese...

Yoghurt: This just adds a bit of flavour.  Letting it sit in the milk begins to form more yoghurt in the milk, and the flavour carries through into the cheese.  You can leave this out and save the one to four hours's sitting time before curdling the milk - flavour is only slightly affected.

Citric acid/lemon juice:  I make up citric acid of about two teaspoonfuls of citric acid powder to a cup or two of warm water, stir well, then let it cool before using it.  I dilute lemon juice 75/25 with water so I can add a teaspoonful at a time until the milk begins to turn, if it's too strong then the risk is that the curd will form in a snap, and be all tiny crumbs, which makes for a very powdery textured cheese.  Ideal curd lumps in this recipe form at about "teaspoonful" size.  If your curd forms one solid mass, pat yourself on the back and slice it roughly into 1/2" cubes with a skewer or knife.

Press: I made a press out of a 500ml tin with one end removed with one of those sideways can openers and a few holes pushed outward through the bottom end, and a jar that was a sliding fit into the tin.  I put the press into a large saucepan, resting on an upside-down saucer, and laced rubber bands from one handle of the saucepan to the other, going over the jar and pressing it down onto the cheese.  I pulled up on the jar and "guesstimated" the number of rubber bands to apply a few kilos of pressure, you can of course just put weights on top of the press.  The saucer just lifts the press and the cheese out of the way of any more whey that will squeeze out of the cheese and pool in the saucepan.

You can also just hang the curd in the cloth for a day or two, put something under it to catch the whey drips, and that will form a softer smoother cheese I believe.

Cloths: I go to the discount clothing store and buy a pack of large cotton handkerchiefs for a few dollars, and keep them just for cooking and cheese experiments.  Don't use a used hanky because it will have all sorts of nasty bugs that will thrive in the cheese.  And wash the cheese handkerchiefs well, rinse in mild bleach, and then rinse well and dry well.  You can also use cotton cloth, cotton tea towels, or butter cloth, as long as it's fairly fine weave so the curds don't squeeze out, has no dye to leach out, and is clean.

Salt: is king - it adds flavour, and prevents rapid deterioration due to bacterial or fungal action.  Too much salt will destroy the experience of eating, but too little could leave you with a nasty food poisoning.  And it never hurts to store the cheese in a cooler place like the refrigerator rather than on the sideboard.  Salt on the outside of the cheese will encourage a harder outside.

Anatto: is used commercially to colour cheeses golden yellow, while turmeric imparts a greener golden tinge.  Either should be added in tiny quantities as they concentrate in the curds.

Other flavourings:  Should be added after the curd is salted and cooked and before the pressing/hanging stage.  Ground / cracked black pepper, mustard seed, paprika powder come to mind - experiment, it's bound to be fun.

Real cheesemakers will shudder - curds should be smooth and undamaged, like medium custard.  My method makes crumbly stringy curd lumps, and I use turmeric to colour what should be a white cheese.

To make it more like a haloumi cheese, don't use colouring agent or yoghurt, and use lemon juice to start the curd. Once curds have had whey squeezed out, salt with a whole teaspoon of salt, mix that in.Tie the handkerchief off with string, flatten out into a rectangle about 1/2" thick, place on an upside-down plate, put another upside-down plate on top of that, and weigh that down to press it for about six to twelve hours, then unwrap, salt the outside, lay some mint leaves on one half and fold over, re-wrap and leave to set for a day in a cool place, pressure optional.

It's all experimental.  I read a book on simple cheese making, read a few sites online that have instructions, asked a friend of mine who'd made haloumi, and then worked off an idealised set of instructions.  (these instructions...)  It's worked for me three times now, producing a nicely-flavoured cheese with reasonable texture and firmness.  That doesn't mean any of it is gospel - feel free to experiment a bit.

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Monday, 13 April 2009

Aussie Cooking Herb For Sale

Just a note - I was experimenting with local foods and I found out that syzigium leaves (lillypilly by common name) have a quite distinctive flavour and can be used like bay leaves in cooking, and especially they are GREAT in brine and vinegar pickled foods. 

I found by trial and error how to best preserve and dry the leaves, and if you contact me I'll send a small sample out for you to try.  You pay postage/courier and the cost of a thick envelope and I'll send you a half dozen to experiment with.

I've used black peppercorns, salt, and syzigium leaves to pickle beetroot, and the flavour is quite unique, and very Australian.

And yes, I've checked bush food analyses on government websites and they unanimously say the leaves are safe and have not been found to contain any toxic alkaloids or anything nasty.  They do impart a bitter flavour if you use too many and/or they aren't prepared properly.  But as I said I've found the way to prep them and the first batch has seen steady use here in marinades, pickles, and cooked in various meals instead of bay leaves.  It's unbeatable in anything with kangaroo, too...

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NAME: _Khushari

1/2 cup rice
1 cup risoni or macaroni
1 cup lentils
1tsp ground cumin
1/2tsp ground cinnamon
1/2tsp ground cardamom
1tsp salt
1tbsp sugar
1/2cup vinegar (see notes)
1 tin crushed tomatoes (see notes)
1 small chilli
2 small onions (see notes)

Cook each of the rice, pasta, and lentils until done.  Slice the onion to thin rings and fry or oven roast to crispy brown.  Mix rice and pasta, put in a heatproof dish and keep warm in over.

Mix 1/2 of the tsp cumin, the vinegar, the lentils, and the garlic powder, spread in an even layer over the rice/pasta, return to oven.  I also like to add 1/2tsp of the salt to this mixture.

Now mix the tomato, herbs, chilli, salt, and sugar in a saucepan, bring to a simmer, at which time you should pour this over the mixture in the dish without disturbing the layers too much.  See notes for what to do with raisins.

Top with the crispy onion and serve.  This will feed two quite handily, and can be used as a side or entree for four.

I've hacked this recipe a little bit to reflect what I remember it tasting like when I was in Arabia as a kid.

You can use tinned chopped tomatoes or (as I prefer) about two or three cups of chopped fresh tomatoes and a tablespoon of tomato paste.  If you do, you'll need to simer this sauce for about 15 minutes.  Either way, add the rasins about a minute before you're ready to take the sauce off and pour it.

Try rice vinegar and palm vinegar instead of white vinegar - surprising how much difference it makes to the end flavour.

And I've used Asian fried red onions as a topping for this and it's just as nice as fresh.

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Sunday, 22 February 2009

Just Imagine If You Ate Them Close To A Fire!

Just been doing some research into Australian bush foods and herbs/spices as part of something new I'm experimenting with, and came across this in some Government research into bush foods:

Name: Entada phaseoloides (matchbox bean) 
Part used: seeds 
Effect: Toxic if untreated, and if baked may explode (Dick 1994b)

What a dangerous world food can be sometimes...

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Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Simon's Seafood Restaurant Has "Unqualified" Diners

I'll make my comment on Simon's Seafood Restaurant treatment of diner complaints and say that I will not be dining there now, either. Word of mouth has removed any desire on my part to see the inside of Simon's.

I say of Mr Ferrante that his actions in abusing a diner have not endeared him to myself - nor probably to anyone else reading that article.  Mr Ferrante, I may not be a "qualified" person in your eyes but I bet I've dined at more places than you've personally served meals at, and I will now not be dining at yours because I'm afraid that I won't measure up to your exacting standards of a "qualified" diner.

Quite frankly, your extremely vain and quite rude display of poor manners has not stood you well in my opinion.  And while I may not be "qualified" as you so smugly put it, I'm now one of the people that in future WON'T be putting $100 in your pocket for a seafood platter nor indeed for any other meal.  Along with everyone reading that news article, that's a sizeable chunk of Perth's loose pocket change you've just alienated.

I will also add that only twice in over 25 years living in Perth have I ever had experiences similar to that described in that article, and both of those places went out of business in under four months - not from my words or actions, but from the poor word of mouth they received generally - because obviously my dining companions and I weren't the only ones abused and/or dismayed.  You still have time to make good Mr Ferrante, but once you start something like this you'll find it difficult to repair.  It's a slippery slope you have started down...

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Saturday, 14 February 2009

Mediterranean Style One Pot Meal

NAME: _Mediterranean Style One Pot Meal

(See Notes - quantities are quite flexible)
500g beef or lamb, sliced about 1cm - 2cm thick
1 medium brown onion
handful fresh basil, say about 1/2 cupful to one cupful when chopped coarsely
250g - 500g string or runner beans
1 to 3 sticks celery
1/2 a medium green capsicum, give or take.
1 can chopped roma tomatoes (or 6 - 8 fresh roma tomatoes)
1/2 small green apple
2 tsp cornflour
1 tsp raw sugar
1 clove garlic
salt to taste
1 tbsp olive oil/grapeseed oil mixed


Cut sliced meat down to about bite sized pieces.  Slice onion into thick rings, slice the half green apple into very thin slices.  Remove centre and seeds if desired.  If using fresh tomatoes chop finely.  Put the meat into a heavy saucepan or slow cooker or crockpot along with enough oil to wet the base of the pot, then layer onions and apple slices over, sprinkle with salt, and cover with chopped tomato.  Cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes then reduce to lowest simmer.  Go away for about two hours.

Chop celery and capsicum into strips about as wide as the beans, and then chop the lot into quite small cubes, maybe 1/2cm (1/4") or so.  Crush the whole clove of garlic with the back of the knife, once.  Place all into a small saucepan, barely cover with water, and sprinkle with a bit of salt and sugar.  Bring to a fast simmer, let simmer for 5 minutes, then strain the vegetables and keep the water.  Once water has cooled, beat in the cornflour and slowly bring back to heat until it thickens.  Set both aside.

By now the meat should have been simmering for 2 - 3 hours and be very tender.  (Test with a skewer or fork, should be very soft.) Add the vegetables and stir in as much cornflour paste as needed to make the gravy to your preferred consistency, then let is simmer for another 30 minutes or so.

When it's done, cook up some pasta or gnocchi, serve meal over pasta.  Side of salad optional; but a nice touch.  Depending on quantities and pasta etc, this can serve up to four people.

Did I say "fresh basil?"  I did of course mean FRESH basil - preferably "grow your own and pick it a minute beforehand" kind of fresh.  All quantities in this are a bit flexible - but the fresher the vegetables, the better.  The meat is best if it's aged a little bit - buy it the day before and let it age loosely covered in the refrigerator or a cool place in the kitchen - it's just the flavouring, so make it good flavouring.

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Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Squirrel In Your Pie?

How times and tastes have changed!  I kind of like this recipe, and yet some of it makes me wonder - would I eat squirrels if the recipe called for it?  I think I would, if there were a need to.  And this recipe from 1867 will give me at least one recipe for the little rodents:

"Boil two calf's feet; take the feet out when done; reduce the broth to a quart. The feet may be fried and used, first removing the bones. Let the broth become cold in an earthen vessel; scrape off all the grease; wipe the top of the jelly with a coarse towel; put the cake of jelly into a kettle lined with tin or porcelain; season it with two lemons cut up (removing the seed), fine blades of mace, a stick of cinnamon, pepper (white pepper is best), and salt to taste. Beat to a froth the whites of six eggs; stir these to the jelly just as it melts; it must then be left to clarify and not stirred again. When it simmers long enough to look clear at the sides, strain it through a flannel bag before the fire; do not squeeze the bag. Suspend it by running a stick through a loop made by tying the bag; rest each end of the stick upon a chair, and throw a table-cloth over all to keep out the dust. If the jelly does not run through clear the first time, pour it through the jelly-bag again. Set this aside. "Prepare the meat and seasoning for the pie. Put into a stew-pan slices of pickled pork, using a piece of pork four inches square; if it is very salt[y] lay it an hour in tepid water. Cut up two young, tender chickens--a terrapin, if it is convenient--two or three young squirrels, half a dozen birds or squabs. Stew them gently, cutting up and adding a few sprigs of parsley. Roll into half a pound of butter two tablespoonfuls of flour; add this to the stew until the meat is nearly done. Line a fire-proof dish, or two fire-proof dishes (this quantity of stew will fill two common-sized or quart dishes;) with good pastry; mix the different kinds of meats; put in Irish potato dumplings; season to taste; pour in the gravy and bake. When done, remove the upper crust when the pie is cold and pack in the jelly, heaping the jelly in the middle. Return the crust and serve cold or hot. The jelly will prevent them become too dry. They are good Christmas pies and will keep several days. Very little gravy should be used, and that rich. Should there be too much, leave the stew-pan open until reduced sufficiently. This kind of pie keeps well if made in deep plates, and by some is preferred to those baked in deep moulds."

One day I may let you know how this turns out...  Who knows...

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Tuesday, 20 January 2009

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