Thursday, 20 December 2012

Panzanella Style Vegetables

NAME: _Panzanella Style Vegetables

Around 12 Roma tomatoes (depends on your baking dish)
1 - 2 beetroot, uncooked
1 - 2 large red onions
1 red capsicum
1 - 2 tbsp salted capers
1 - 2 tbsp fine chopped oregano
1 - 2 tbsp fine chopped basil
4 cloves garlic
1 cup olive oil
1 tbsp salt flakes
1/2 tbsp fresh ground pepper.
About 1/2 cup haloumi cheese cut into small pieces (see recipe)

Brush the inside of your roasting dish with olive oil, Cut the tomatoes in half, lay in baking dish cut sides up. Peel the beetroot, slice around 1cm - 1.5cm thick, and cut each slice into wedges, arrange between tomatoes. Peel the onion, slice 0.5cm - 1cm thick, cut into quarters, arrange between the vegetables in the dish. Open and seed the capsicum, cut into 1cm by around 3cm strips, and arrange between the other vegetables in the dish.

The ideal roasting dish for this is a glass one. Make sure it is small enough to well and truly crowd the vegetables together, but large enough that you can keep everything level with the tomatoes. If the level of the vegetables comes about halfway up the sides of the baking dish, that's about the perfect depth. Enamel or ceramic might work as well, a metal one would have to be quite heavy to work properly.

Wash salt from capers, sprinkle over vegetables. Sprinkle over the oregano and basil, gently crush the salt flakes and sprinkle about half over. Sprinkle about half the pepper (more or less according to taste) over.

Peel and mash the garlic, mix with about half the olive oil and drizzle over the vegetables. Place pan in an oven set to 140C and leave for around an hour to an hour and a half. (Depends - when the beetroot is somewhat softened, that's the time.)

Add haloumi cheese sliced into 0.3cm slices and cut into roughly 2cm squares. Sprinkle the cheese over. Drizzle remaining olive oil over, and return to oven at 200C for a further half hour, or until the cheese browns slightly.

Use remaining flake salt and ground pepper to season to taste. Serve as a main with crusty bread, or as a side to a hearty dish.

Slow gentle heating is the key, with a nice burst of heat at the end to brown the cheese and tops of the vegetables. It's called "panzanella style" because it's cribbed from a panzanella recipe, but the vegetables, herbs, and cheese used are my favourite variation.


Saturday, 27 October 2012

Improper Passata

NAME: _Improper Passata

Several kilos of firm fleshed tomatoes. I used romas for this one.
A teaspoon or so of salt.

Cut the romas into quarters and scoop out the seeds. (If you want - I tend to scoop because I want mainly the red flesh and skins.) Roughly chop the quarters and put in a large pot. Sprinkle the salt over the top to start the tomato "weeping" and start over low heat. As the tomato breaks down and liquefies, turn up the heat slightly. Keep it on a low simmer for around an hour or a bit more. You want the tomato somewhat liguefying, with soft whole bits still in.

Allow to cool, and blitz in a food processor with the plastic knife until it's the consistency you want. Do this in batches that suit your food processor, mix all the batches back together and then pour into freezable containers. (I used plastic take-away containers that were washed in very hot sudsy water.) Only fill to 2/3 to 3/4 to allow freezing expansion. Freeze.

I use this as a pasta sauce by itself, or make meals using the passata as a base.

You can additionally return the tomato to the simmer after blitzing and reduce it even more, but I find it's almost perfect as it is at the stage required above.

If you leave the liquid and seeds in, you may need to simmer the passata for longer to reduce it sufficiently.

Passata can also be canned into two-part lid canning jars, but I have plenty of room in the freezer - and I'll make a canning batch later in the season... (And post the recipe here of course!)


Egg Cornmeal Pasta

NAME: _Egg Cornmeal Pasta

200g plain flour
50g maize corn flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp olive oil
5 eggs

Sift the corn flour and plain flour together into a mixing bowl, add the salt. Separate the yolks from three eggs, put in the bowl, and add the whites and yolks of two more eggs. Add the olive oil and knead to incorporate.

Keep kneading until it forms a stiff dough, then turn out onto a floured board and keep kneading down hard. You want to make this dough develop some gluten, so fold and press down hard, until it becomes somewhat stretchy. Roll it out into a noodle, simultaneously rolling and stretching, until you have a noodle about 1.5cm - 2cm thick and about 45cm long.

Cut into four sections, and roll out to the second-last setting on the pasta roller, then cut as required into strips, and hang for drying in a warm spot. See notes for more info.

When firmed up, boil in salted water for around 6 - 10 minutes depending on your cut and texture desired.

Serve as for any pasta with the sauce of your choice.

Cornflour doesn't develop gluten as well as plain flour or OO grade flour do, so this needs to be WELL kneaded and rolled, and the drying time is necessary.

The idea of the kneading is to start the glutens joining hands and making the dough stretchy and firm. Since there's not a lot of liquid to begin with, you really have to force the moisture into the flours. Adjust the consistency to a very stiff dry dough by adding plain flour if too wet, or a few drops of water at a time if too dry.

Knead by folding in half, then merging the layers together by pressing and sliding with the heel of the hand. Do this for a few minutes, folding and pressing, until you feel the texture change. At this stage, roll the dough into a ball and then roll and stretch the ball into the noodle shape and roll/stretch as described above.

Cooking the pasta - if you cooked it right away, the surface of the pasta would dissolve, followed by the rest of the pasta... By "drying" it off, the dough toughens up and will hold shape in the boiling water.

Cut the pasta into strips either with a knife or with the strip cutting attachment of the pasta roller. It's suggested to use the fettucine width (wider strips) because as mentioned this pasta has a lot of corn flour which weakens it. (Or use a sharp knife to cut strips around 5mm wide.)

Dry the pasta strips by draping them over chopsticks or thick skewers and balancing them between anything that gives enough height to stop the pasta dragging on the counter.


Saturday, 13 October 2012

Pork n Beef Meatloaf

NAME: _Pork n Beef Meatloaf

250g lean beef
250g lean pork
2 rashers bacon
2 eggs
1/2 cup water
2 or 3 slices white bread
salt to taste

fresh herbs as follows:
a dozen needles of fresh rosemary
two fresh sage leaves
five - ten leaves fresh oregano
one clove garlic

Tear the bread into small pieces and blitz in the food processor. Finely chop green herbs and put in mixing bowl, add the chopped bread, mix briefly. Set aside.

Remove the rind and about half the fat from the bacon rashers, rough chop and place in food processor. Cut the pork and beef into small cubes, chop and crush the garlic clove to paste. Start the food processor and add the cubed meat and crushed garlic. Add the salt, two eggs, and sufficient water to just keep the mixture moving in the food processor. Process on medium to a sticky paste then stop. (This can be about two - three minutes in total, the important thing is to get that smooth sticky paste consistency.)

Scrape the meat paste in with the bread mixture and mix thoroughly, then put in a small loaf tin. I line the tin with aluminium foil but you can butter and dust with flour if you prefer.

Cover with foil, put in 190 degree oven for about an hour, remove the foil, increase heat to 210, and roast for another 30 minutes. Let cool for ten minutes before removing from loaf tin, then unwrap and let sit another ten minutes.

As for any meatloaf, serve with your choice of vegetables and side dishes. However, this meatloaf is especially good when the leftovers are sliced 5mm thick, pan fried, and served with bubble and squeak.

Using lean meat produces a low-fat meat loaf, however that would have little moisture or adhesion, hence the eggs and water. Processing the meat to paste produces meat glutens. Mixing with blitzed bread loosens up the texture and stops the meatloaf being a solid brick. I used home made bread and the slices were a bit thicker than a toast slice as cut by the bakery, so I used only two slices. If you slice to normal thickness you may want to use three slices.


Sunday, 7 October 2012

Two Dry Marinades

NAME: _Two Dry Marinades

Red Marinade
1 tbsp each of the following
nustard seed
dried onion flakes
paprika powder
2 tbsp each of
granulated garlic
raw sugar

Yellow Marinade
1 tbsp each of the following
granulated garlic
smoked paprika powder
turmeric powder
2 tbsp each of
raw sugar
coriander seed

In each case, put the ingredients in a spice blender or processor and blitz until reduced to powder, then apply liberally to meat and leave to marinate for at least an hour in a cool place or the refrigerator.

not applicable

I recently had a kilo apiece of pork ribs and chicken wing pieces, wanted to just do them up for slow oven baking and frying respectively. I decided to marinate and cook them both, and that way I'd have the meat for two different meals. I used the red for the pork and the yellow for the chicken.

These dry marinades work same as charcuterie marinades, the salt and sugar carry the spices into the meat at a pretty much a known rate, so the longer you leave it (within reason) the deeper the flavour will be. The sugar also helps form a caramel on the meat, hence using it for roasted and fried meat gives a lovely dark colour. Also, the salt and sugar helps break down the meat proteins so the resulting meal is tender, and slow cooking well marinated meat provides the most tender meal. the roasted ribs are to die for.


Sunday, 30 September 2012

Home Made Baked Beans

NAME: _Home Made Baked Beans

2 cups dried beans. I used borlotti but you can use kidney beans or similar
1 dessertspoon raw sugar
1/2 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup water
1 tsp salt
2 tsp mixed spice (equal qty ground clove, ground cinnamon, ground cayenne pepper, dry mustard)
1 small onion
1 tbsp rice bran or grapeseed oil

Soak the beans in plenty of water for half a day to a day. discard the water and any skins that float off. Place soaked beans in a saucepan of water with plenty of water and bring to a boil, simmer for about 30 minutes to an hour, until the beans are slightly softened. (This may vary with the beans you use - aim to get them chewy but soft enough to get teeth into,)

Peel and chop the onion fine. In a heavy saucepan, put the oil and the onion, gently sautee the onion  until it gets to the glassy stage. Add the spice, sugar, and salt, stir to combine, keep sauteeing for another few minutes until the spices become fragrant. Add the drained beans and stir through, sautee for another few minutes. Add the tomato pate and the water, bring to a simmer and allow to simmer for another half hour to an hour, until the beans are soft enough.

Over rissoles or sausages, NOTHING can beat home made baked beans! Or in a toastie, or with eggs for breakfast, or - any of the normal things baked beans are used for. Once cooked and allowed to cool, you can keep this in a sealed container in the fridge for a few days.

Dunno why they call them "baked" beans - almost none of the recipes I've found ever actually put them anywhere near the oven. I prefer these beans. Also - most recipes call for hot or "quick soaks" of the beans and retain the original soaking water. It's crap. Slow soak the beans in the morning before you go to work, drain them right away when you get home, use fresh water to boil them - and get a far "ozone-friendlier" product... %)


Cheat Pretzels

NAME: _Cheat Pretzels


350g baker's flour
210ml half milk half water
half tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp psyllium husk
2 tsp yeast
half tsp bicarb
1 tsp olive oil


Let the bread machine knead it and then take it out stick in a bowl coated in olive oil cover with tea towel leave it to rise. About 30 - 60 minutes. Alternatively, you can use the mixer with dough hooks at low to medium speed for about ten minutes, until the dough goes sticky outside, then put in the bowl and proceed as for bread machine.

Don't bother to knock it down, cos what you'll do now is twist off a bit more than a tablespoonful at a time, roll and stretch it under your palms to make a 'worm" about 1/2 to 2/3 the thickness of a lead pencil and about 8" to a foot long, stick it on an oiled baking tray and make it into the B shape as you go. Leave a bit of room for expansion.

For the bread/cheese sticks, same dough, about one and a half tablespoonfuls so it rolls and stretches into a thing a bit thicker than a pencil and same length, then you roll it in grated cheese and stick it on the oiled baking tray.

Either way, brush with half egg half milk and half a tsp of salt egg wash, sprinkle coarse salt on the pretzels so it sticks in the wash, parmesan on the cheese sticks. Let prove for another 20 - 30 minutes.

I baked at around 200 for 25 minutes, took them out and turned them over on the hot tray to dry out a bit - perfect!

No problems serving these, they sell themselves!

Real pretzels are made by boiling the pretzels in a caustic/bicarb/lye type solution to make the crust harder and the centre chewier because it's precooked a bit. I cheat by putting the bicarb direct in the flour and using a glaze.


Thursday, 6 September 2012

Barley Risotto

NAME: _Barley "Risotto"

1 cup dry pearl barley
water to boil barley

1 cup beef stock
200g bacon
200g mushrooms (see notes [1])
2 tbsp olive/grapeseed oil

Boil the barley in plenty of water until soft but not mushy. It will get a touch more cooking in the next step so err slightly on the firm side if you must. When cooked, drain and set aside to dry off a bit.

Cut bacon crosswise into matchsticks and place in pan with the mixed oil, fry at medium heat until just starting to crisp. Remove bacon from pan leaving oil and fat in pan. Cut mushrooms into slices (or if using shinoki, cut from base and separate into individual mushrooms) and dry between teatowels then add to pan. Fry over medium heat.until mushrooms are showing slight browning, [2] then add the bacon back in, fry for a few minutes more, add the precooked barley and toss to mix.

Increase heat and drizzle in the beef stock while tossing, (as for risotto,) waiting for stock to evaporate each time before adding more. Remove from heat and toss one more time.

Serve straight away.

[1] Mushrooms: I've used sliced swiss browns, shinoki mushrooms, and sliced oyster mushrooms at various times, they all taste great in this recipe.
[2] Frying mushrooms: DRY. They have to be dry. And if necessary, do them in batches so there's no crowding in the pan.

This is a robust meal, you can add fried onion and garlic to the basic recipe, or fine shredded fried cabbage, these each complement the flavours.

ENJOY! (for sister Liz %)

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Had To Share Tempeh Marinade

NAME: _Had To Share Tempeh Marinade

1 small knob fresh ginger
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp raw sugar
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1 cup light soya sauce
1 - 2 tbsp fish sauce
1 cup water

wash the ginger, don't bother to peel it, just slice it fine, drop in a container with the water, sugar, and salt. Stir. Cover and leave for a day or so in a cold/cool place. After a day, strain out the sliced ginger and throw away. Add the remaining ingredients and stir. Use to marinate stuff

Not to be served - is a marinade for other produce.

You may get similar results if you bring the water with sugar salt and ginger in it to the boil and then take it off and let it cool down. I haven't tried that method yet.

I used the liquid to marinate thin slices of tempeh before stir-frying. Marinate for an hour at least.


Friday, 27 July 2012

Very Pretendy Chooky Curry

NAME: _Very Pretendy Chooky Curry

200g butter
1 tsp each of the following whole dried seeds:
coriander, fennel, black pepper, mustard, pimento (allspice), 
6 whole cloves
6 - 12 cardamom pods
2 tsp each of the following ground spices:
cumin, turmeric, red paprika, rock salt
1 tsp each
ground cayenne pepper
crushed chilli
ground cinnamon
1/2tsp coarse ground nutmeg

1 clove garlic
1 medium brown onion
1 - 2 fresh limes

500g chicken
1 tbsp plain flour 
1 cup chicken stock

1 sweet potato
1 cup cooked lentils
1/2 cup raisins
2 - 3 tomatoes

Start the butter melting in a saucepan big enough to comfortably hold all the ingredients. Split cardamom pods lengthways, add them, the cloves, rock salt, and all the dried seeds to the butter, cut a thin (1/2cm) wedge of lime and add that, and increase the heat until the spices start to pop.

Chop the onion into strips lengthways and then cut the strips in half, add to the pan, reduce heat a little. Rough chop the garlic, add that as well.

While the onions and garlic brown slightly, cut the chicken into 2cm cubes, add the chicken and the remaining ground spices and stir occasionally, allowing the chicken to brown slightly.

Now add the plain flour, stir well, and add the chicken stock and two cups of water. Add the juice of the remaining limes (more or less according to taste) bring to a fast simmer and keep simmering for around 20 - 30 minutes.

Peel and cut the sweet potato into 2cm thick slices and quarter them, keep under water. Dice up the tomatoes, discard the seeds and liquid if desired.  At around 20 minutes, drain and add the sweet potato, lentils, tomatoes, and raisins, bring back to a simmer until the sweet potato is cooked through. You may want to add a bit of water so as to barely cover the ingredients, and season with salt to taste, at this stage.

Serve with pilaf rice or plain basmati, and side dishes as desired.

None, really - it's not all that pretendy, it's actually just a fairly standard Indian spice mix and as such, will only taste good if your spices are fresh - you can vary things a fair bit to suit your tastes. But damn, it tastes good!


Sunday, 3 June 2012

Red Red Wine Sauce

NAME: _Red Red Wine Sauce

1 - 2 cups red wine
1 cup tomato paste
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp pomegranate syrup
1 cup water
1 chicken stock cube (or replace the cup of water with chicken stock)
2 tsp raw sugar
3 tbsp basil
1 clove garlic

Heat the oil in a saucepan, finely chop the basil and add it. Crush the garlic clove and add it (with skin) to the oil. Heat gently for five to ten minutes, then add the balsamic vinegar, raw sugar, pomegranate syrup, and tomato paste, stir together and allow to warm together for another five to ten minutes. Add the red wine and chicken stock and bring to a slow simmer, let simmer for as long you like. (I leave mine until 30 minutes total time has elapsed.)

Pass through a strainer and use as required.

I've served poultry, pasta, and rabbit with this sauce. Use your imagination!

The sauce should be a bit sweet and the red wine should come through strongly - the pomegranate syrup picks up and strengthens the wine flavour beautifully. Good basil (fresh, or that you've dried for yourself) is another important component.


Friday, 25 May 2012

Secret Corned Beef

NAME: _Secret Corned Beef

Hunk of beef brisket or similar
1litre water (maybe up to two if needed)
1/2 cup rock salt
1/2 cup raw sugar
1 tbsp green peppercorns
5 - 10 pimento seeds
2 - 5 whole cloves
1 cup red wine vinegar with a dash of Balsamic

(I used a pressure cooker, you can just cook it on the stove but your cooking times etc will vary.)

Put about a third of the water in a small saucepan, add all the seasonings and bring to a boil, allow to simmer for 15 minutes, topping up water if needed to maintain level. After the ingredients have perfused the water and the salt and sugar have dissolved, strain the water into the pressure cooker vessel through a sieve, throw away all the solids.

Allow to cool for 10 - 15 minutes and add the beef, rolling it around to baste all over with the strong brine. Keep turning the beef every 10 - 15 minutes for about an hour, then add the rest of the water (making sure it just submerges the beef, hence the need for possibly a bit of extra water) and bring the cooker up to pressure, then cook for 30 - 35 minutes. (Don't release the pressure all at once, as the reduced pressure will lower the boiling temperature of the water, which will then boil faster, leading to a steam runaway.)

Lift the beef out and let it rest in a bowl under a teatowel for an hour or so - it's easy enough to reheat when you need it.

Traditionally served with boiled/steamed cabbage, mashed potato, and a white sauce. I serve it with quartered butter-fried brussels sprouts, mash, and a cheesy bechamel style sauce.

As I said, the meat needs to rest anyway, so you have plenty of time to do other things. It's also good cold in sandwiches and cold cuts plates, and can be fork-shredded and added to a bubble and squeak or red flannel hash.

As I said, you'll take longer if you use a standard saucepan on the stove, also you can marinate the beef in the brine for up to four - six days in the fridge before going on to the cooking stage, if you put it in a plastic bag and seal the beef and brine in that - I'm just impatient and like my beef to still taste beefy. %) The longer you marinate it (within reason) the more the brine will penetrate the beef and the more like corned beef it will taste.


Saturday, 14 April 2012


NAME: _Pie'n'Poutine (Pie and chips, luv!)

A couple of meat pies (Sargents is good)
5 potatoes
2 tbsp of white plain flour
2-3 cups chicken stock
1 tbsp of white wine vinegar
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
100g butter in two portions
about a cupful of olive oil

Peel potatoes and cut into fries. Place on low heat in salted water for about 20 minutes, or until the water temperature reaches about 80C - 90C. Bring to a rapid boil, then drain, spread out, and allow to cool and dry, about an hour. (I do mine this way - you may have your own way, or even -erk! - buy chips from the local chippie... This IS a slap-up meal, after all.)

Put the pies in the oven according to manufacturer's directions. Generally 30 minutes at 180C.

While the pies are heating, make the poutine gravy - heat the butter in a saucepan until clarified, add the plain flour and make a light brown flour roux, add the chicken stock and allow to thicken, then add the vinegars for a bit of tanginess. Adjust the seasoning as required, and thicken with cornflour or dilute with water until you have a smooth velvety sauce that will coat the fries nicely without being gluggy.

While the pies are heating, put the olive oil and half the butter in a pan you're going to do the fries in (or do them your way...) and start doing those suckers. You should just about finish by the time the pies are warmed through.

Serve fries in a bowl topped with crumbled cottage cheese and then the sauce. Serve the pie also covered in the poutine sauce. Real rebels might serve both on the same plate...

This is a rough and ready dish. Proper poutine should be done with French fries that are double-fried with magic incantations and the breath of a goat, and cheese curds rather than cottage cheese. And the pie would no doubt be some craft creation, specifically made to complement the flavours of the double dipped cream sauce with left-handed swirls and ten secret herbs.

My dish is tasty and filling and doesn't take much actual preparation time or skill.

Your choice...


Friday, 2 March 2012

Caramelised Brussels

NAME: _Caramelised Brussels

12 brussels sprouts
100g butter
1 tbsp onion
1 tsp garlic
heavy bottomed small saucepan that will the at least half filled by the brussels

Begin by melting the butter in the saucepan, over low heat on a small burner. Finely chop half a brown onion and keep a tablespoonful. Roughly chop one clove of garlic and keep a teaspoonful. Trim stalks and hard/weathered leaves off the brussels, cut into quarters. Rinse under running water and drain but don't dry off.

Put the onion and garlic in the saucepan and keep warming until onion is beginning to go transparent, add the quartered brussels and increase the heat until moisture has boiled off, then reduce the heat to around 100C.

Brussels are done when they are all beginning to brown, and are soft to pierce with a wooden skewer.

Serve as a side dish.

The idea of this and the Honey Caramelised Carrots recipe are to use almost confit style cooking, but whereas confit requires the cooked food to be immersed in a fat, this is a compromise between shallow frying and confit.


Honey Caramelised Carrots

NAME: _Honey Caramelised Carrots

2 carrots
1 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp salt
100g butter
heavy bottomed small saucepan that will the at least half filled by the carrots

Begin to heat the butter in the small saucepan on low heat on a small burner. Peel the carrots or brush well, slice into 3mm thick rounds. Wash under running water and drain but do not dry off. Place in the pot with the butter, drizzle honey over, sprinkle with salt. Increase heat temporarily until moisture has boiled off, stirring gently several times.

Reduce heat to the slow simmer, and check from time to time, stirring if necessary. Carrots are done once a few caramelised spots develop, or you can keep going until the slices are quite reduced. The important thing is to keep a low level of heat that's just around the boiling point of water so that the carrot slowly cooks and the sugars caramelise without burning.

Serve as a side dish to many meals, where the sweet caramel taste would be suitable. I serve it with things as diverse as bangers and mash, roast and veges, and when cooked a bit longer to almost crisp point, as a garnish floated on top of chicken and noodle soup.

The idea of this and the Caramelised Brussels recipe are to use almost confit style cooking, but whereas confit requires the cooked food to be immersed in a fat, this is a compromise between shallow frying and confit. 


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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