Sunday, 25 May 2014

Big-Ass Stuffed Mushrooms

NAME: _Big-Ass Stuffed Mushrooms

Seriously delicious!

(Given 'per person' i.e. multiply up for multiple servings. As it is, the quantity is for one.)
1 flat mushroom
1 tbsp finely shredded ham
1 tbsp finely shredded cooked chicken
1 tbsp finely cubed eggplant
1 tbsp finely cubed onion
1 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp concentrated chicken stock
2 tbsp shredded tasty cheese
1 tsp butter

Piquant Cheesy Sauce
1.5 cups water (adjust as per Method)
2 level tbsp all purpose flour
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp sugar (I use raw sugar for preference)
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp grated cheese

Put olive oil, eggplant, ham, and onion in pan, fry until onions are browning, add the shredded chicken, fry for around the same length of time again. Remove from heat, stir through the concentrated chicken stock, set aside in a suitable bowl.

Remove the stem from the mushroom (I find it helps if I quarter the stem with a knife first and remove it in sections) then turn it over and lightly score a criss cross hatching across the skin. Rub the butter in. Heat the frypan and place the mushroom buttered side down, fry quickly until browning takes place. Light pressure applied with a spatula or egg slice can help here.

Place the mushroom on the griller (broiler) tray and fill with filling, top with the shredded cheese, press down smooth with the spatula or egg slice. Grill until the cheese is browned.

Piquant Cheesy Sauce
Warm the butter in a small saucepan, add the flour, cayenne, and sugar. Mix together well, increase heat and add the vinegar and fish sauce, stirring continually, then simmer and add water until the consistency is right, add the shredded cheese and stir to dissolve, then remove from heat. If you allow the sauce to cool before adding the cheese, it may split, so do this all in one go. I used the same cheese for both, so that some continuity of flavours occurs.

Serve immediately. I served mine with mash, a piquant cheese sauce, and a salad. It rocked!

I made a layer type salad with leafy greens, quartered tomato, celery cut to almost julienne sticks, the same shredded ham and the same cheese (also cut into thin sticks) as the main meal, lightly sprinkled with salt and allowed to draw for about ten minutes before service.


Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Green Fig Chutney Relish

NAME: _Green Fig Chutney Relish

1/2 to 1 kg unripe figs (but see NOTES first)
1 medium eggplant
2 brown onions
2 cloves garlic
6 - 10 whole cloves (the spice, not more garlic)
1 level tbsp salt
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp grated cinnamon bark
1 tsp chilli flakes
1/2 nutmeg, grated
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp pomegranate syrup (see NOTES)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper powder
1/2 tsp turmeric or anatto  (see NOTES)
1 tsp hing (assafoetida) powder
1/2 a salt preserved lemon
2 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
2 - 4 very ripe tomatoes
water if and as needed
1/4 cup olive oil

Dice the onion, cut the skin off the eggplant and dice that to similar size, finely dice the garlic. Place them in a heavy saucepan with the oil, cloves, salt, cumin seeds, cinnamon bark, chilli flakes, and nutmeg. Fry gently until the onions begin to soften and turn golden, then add the sugar and allow that to melt into the mixture.

Add the cayenne pepper, turmeric or anatto, hing, and finely chopped preserved lemon peels, and fish sauce, keep frying for another few minutes, then add the vinegar and finely chopped tomatoes. Allow to simmer for 10 - 15 minutes to combine flavours and soften all the ingredients.

Add the prepared figs, as per NOTES below. Add minimal water required to prevent clumping, preferably none at all. Simmer for another 10 or so minutes to make sure the figs are softened, then spoon into sterilised jars while hot, and seal the jars. During the last few minutes, adjust seasonings to suit yourself - this should be pungent with fish sauce, with loads of sweet, sour, and spicy hot flavours. Allow the jars to cool, then store in a cool place. May be kept for a few months, if it lasts that long. %)

As an accompaniment to fish, meats, cheeses, and as part of the condiments with curries and similar dishes. Also good with cold cuts and sandwiches.

First, WHY would you do this? Well, our tree must have stressed and dropped most of the fruit while it was unripe. Not wanting to waste the fruit that could be salvaged, I picked the biggest, softest, the ones with a pink tinge or better, and used those. There is another recipe for dealing with the ones that are still white inside and hard as rocks, but I threw mine in the compost.

Preparing Really Unripe Figs: Cut the stems and end nubbin of fruit off the figs. Bring enough water to the boil to cover the figs, drop in the figs when it's boiling, allow to boil for a few minutes, drain the water, rinse the figs and set aside, boil a second lot of water and repeat.

If using the figs for the recipe above, halve the figs once each way so you end up with eight bits.

If preparing very unripe figs, you'd now halve the figs lengthways, estimate how many cupfuls you have, and add one cup of water, one cup of sugar, and two to six whole cloves per cupful, and bring this to the boil again without burning the sugar but bring it to the syrup stage, then allow to cool, add the juice of about 1/4 lemon per cupful of figs, and bottle.

Sugar / Pomegranate Syrup / Etc: The relish has to be strongly flavoured in each favour. I used some home made plum jam in addition to the sweeteners mentioned in the ingredients, to get a fruitier flavour.

Flavouring: I also adjust (extra salt, cayenne, salt preserved lemon, etc) until the flavours are quite strongly developed. It's a relish, after all, and needs to be punchy.


Thrifty Specials Stuff

NAME: _Stretched Chicken And Steamed Asparagus

I've enjoyed getting things on special, and either processing them right away, or else freezing them and processing when needed. It's one of the best things about living here and now - despite Big Food trying to inject "convenience" into our food chain and making us their customer for life, it's also easy to get hold of good local whole foods and fresh foods.

An example was a local meat processor letting slightly undersized chickens go, two to a tray, for less than the price of one normal bird. Apparently these are that small because they are pretty much organic, but the idea didn't take off. Into the freezer they went, for dealing with another day...

Living where we do, we're under an hour away from the biggest asparagus growing region in the state. I always have two bunches or more frozen fresh, the equivalent of two bunches chopped steamed and pureed in a ziplock baggie frozen, and sometimes a few bunches just steamed and frozen in plastic wrap.

Herbed light gnocchi are easy to make with a bit of butter, flour, and eggs, but when they go on sale special, easy to keep a few packs in the freezer against lazy days.

And so on - I never miss a chance to put aside stuff. The coming few weeks, I'll try and write up the recipes that I concocted to make use of all the bounty that's available.

Recipes include Chicken Stock Broth, Chicken Veg Gnocchi, Green White Fig Chutney Relish, Chicken Rice Parcels, and whatever else I remember.

The nice thing about many of these ways of dealing with food, are good for meals at times when there may be no refrigeration or electricity. Pretty much "prepper" meals.


Chicken Veg Gnocchi

NAME: _Chicken Veg Gnocchi

200g chicken meat (see NOTES)
2 brown onions
2 cloves garlic
1 stem celery
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp all purpose flour
2 yellow button squash
1/4 small cauliflower
500g potato gnocch
chicken stock and fat (see NOTES)
2 tbsp oil
1/2 litre water
2 litres salted water for gnocchi

Dice the onions, finely dice the garlic, slice the celery thinly. Fry these in the oil, adding the salt to draw moisture out. Add fennel seeds at this time.

Using fingers or a fork, shred the chicken meat coarsely.  Once the onions take on a slight golden hue, add the shredded chicken, fry for around five minutes then sprinkle the flour over, and stir in to coat the pieces as you keep frying. (See NOTES for why)

Dice the squash and pull apart the cauliflower, both into about gnocchi-sized pieces. Add these to the pan, then add the chicken stock and fat, stir through, then immediately add the water and reduce heat to simmer while preparing gnocchi in boiling salted water.

When they float to the surface, boil for a further few minutes to ten minutes, (depends on your particular gnocchi, they should be light and fluffy but not dissolving) then drain gnocchi and allow to dry slightly (toss often to prevent sticking at this stage) and then add to the chicken veg.

Serve immediately with crusty bread.

Chicken Meat: I'd roasted some undersized birds together in a pan for making stock and having some meat for other meals, this is a good way to process several birds at once. Don't crowd the baking dish, and make sure there's a few cups of water under the chickens, and baste them with it often during a slow roast. This is also a good way to use odd chicken parts, actually. I set the meat aside for other dishes, and put the bines and roast skin into water with vegetables to make a stock. (Separate article on stock coming soon.)
Chicken Stock and Fat: I set the roasting dish on top of a burner and reduce the water that's left after the chickens have been roasting, quite often I'll have rubbed the chickens with salt and crushed garlic so there's a lot of flavour in this stock base. About two tablespoons of the concentrated stock and a dollop of the fat is generally enough to impart HUGE flavour to the dish above.
Why Use The Flour: The chicken shreds would dry out pretty quickly in the hot oil and fat. Adding the flour and coating the chicken pieces retains some moisture (don't ask me how, it just does) and then thickens the gravy.
What This Dish Isn't: It's not quite a soup with gnocchi dumplings, not quite a dry braised chicken meal. But it's delish, and warming.


Thursday, 15 May 2014

Improving A Stew

Bestest way to get F-L-A-V-O-U-R into your stew:

(I've had a few good stews at cafes and restaurants, they've always had a flavour that I couldn't quite reproduce. Until now.)

The secret is to fry the onions first, in beef dripping or lard. Then add your barley, and drizzle a few tablespoons of water in to help the barley expand a bit, and fry until most of the barley has a slight tan, then add beef dredged in flour, and then build your stew on that.

Roasting / frying the barley makes all the difference. Who knew?


Saturday, 3 May 2014

Beef Barley and Vegies Broth

NAME: _Beef Barley and Vegies Broth

1 -2 kg beef spare ribs
1/3 cup wheat
1/3 cup pearl barley
1/2 cup dried peas
1/2 cup red kidney beans
1/2 cup faba beans or black eye beans
1 swede
1 carrot
several stalks celery
2 tsp salt
2 tsp peppercorns
2 tsp cumin seeds

Put 4 litres of water in a large pot, add the salt, pepper, cumin seeds, and the beef, bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for around two hours, until the meat is soft. Meanwhile, soak the dried grains and pulses in a few litres of water.

After two hours, remove the meat from the broth and set it aside, strain the broth and discard the solids. Skim the fat, and return to the stove. Drain the grins and pulses and add to the broth, along with enough water to make up 4 litres again. (Generally around 1.5 - 2 litres will have evaporated.) Bring back to the boil, and simmer, covered, for another two hours, then check.

When the beans and other ingredients are soft, peel and dice the carrot and swede to about 1.5cm cubes, cut the celery stalks to about 2cm slices, add to the pot. Strip the majority of the meat from the ribs, cube to around 3cm, also return that to the pot, bring it back to the boil again, and simmer until the vegetables are soft.

It's soup. Put it in a bowl and eat it. Maybe with crusty bread.

Beef spare rib meat wins, hands down.



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