Saturday, 13 August 2011

Recipe #28: Petai & bacon omelette in chapati rolls


Ingredients
  • Petai (stink bean)
  • Bacon
  • Egg
  • Milk
  • White onion
  • Garlic
  • Shiitake mushroom
  • Chili paste
  • Sea-salt
  • Par-baked chapati
  • Olive oil

Preparation
In a fry-pan, toss sliced bacon with chopped onions and garlic. Stir-fry in olive oil until they begin to brown. Then add petai with chili paste and continue to fry.
Whisk eggs with a dash of milk and pour over contents of fry-pan. Turn down heat and allow omelette to slowly cook. Add sea-salt to taste.
As omelette is cooking, heat grilling pan. When ready, place chapatti flat and allow to grill. Repeat depending on number of slices of chapati required.
As chapati bread browns, break omelette into slices and place over half of surface area of chapatti. Quickly roll uncovered half over other half then gently press ends together. As egg cooks it should seal ends so you'll be able to turn over the roll and evenly brown all sides.

To serve
Place rolls over fresh lettuce or simply serve on dish, topped with surplus petai and bacon.

Complement with a refreshing light white, such as a Frascati served chilled.

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Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Recipe #27: Wasabi & sambal salmon


OK I was very tempted to add petai to this dish; however, I think that might be over-doing it although I would personally want to try that someday. **Eyeshift**

It isn't as weird as it sounds, as wasabi and salmon complement each other. Sambal is just a chili paste with garlic and prawns. You could prepare sambal with belacan as is done in Recipe #25: Stink bean spaghetti or just find a bottle of pre-made sambal belacan paste since only a very small quantity is required.

Ingredients
  • Salmon fillets with skin
  • Olive oil
  • White onion
  • Garlic
  • Mushroom
  • Chili
  • Sambal belacan
  • Wasabi
  • Parsley
  • Black pepper
  • Sea-salt

Preparation
Sauté chopped white onion and garlic in olive oil until brown, then remove and place aside.
Do likewise with sliced mushroom and chili.
Rub sea-salt over salmon skin, then dry meat thoroughly. Add more sea-salt and black pepper to taste.
Place salmon (skin side down) in fry-pan with simmering hot olive oil. Fry until skin is golden brown and crisp. Turn over and fry salmon on gentle heat until fish is cooked. Remove and place aside.
Toss into fry-pan boiled pasta, followed by sautéed onion, garlic, mushroom and chili. Add wasabi paste and sambal belacan to taste. Mix thoroughly then place on serving dish and top with salmon garnished with parsley.

Complement with a chilled full-bodied oaked Chardonnay.

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Next> Recipe #28: Petai & bacon omelette in chapati rolls

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Recipe #26: Fried crispy skin barramundi with sautéed mushroom, garlic & onion on buttered pasta


The name of this recipe says it all: my favourite fish (together with salmon) with my favourite pasta. Quite an UNweird meal, unless of course stink beans is added (which is what I tried with salmon yesterday), and very easy to prepare. Sublimely delicious!

Ingredients
  • Barramundi fillet with skin
  • Butter
  • Mushroom
  • Garlic
  • White onion
  • Green chili
  • Black pepper
  • Sea-salt
  • Parsley

Preparation
Rub sea-salt on skin of barramundi and then dry fillet with a paper towel.
Boil pasta in a saucepan.
In a fry-pan, sauté sliced mushroom, chili, garlic & onion in butter until golden brown, then remove and place aside.
Place barramundi fillet in simmering butter with skin side facing down, turn heat up then fry. Just before butter reaches browning point, turn heat down.
Flip over barramundi fillet and fry until cooked. Turn over again and fry skin until golden crisp. Remove and allow excess butter to drain.
Toss in boiled pasta, sautéed mushroom, chili, garlic & onions in fry-pan and quickly mix with remaining butter, adding black pepper and sea-salt to taste. Place on serving dish and top with barramundi.
Garnish with parsley.

Complement with a fine White Burgundy such as a Premier Cru Chablis.

<Previous
Next: Recipe #27: Wasabi & Sambal Salmon

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Recipe #25: Stink bean spaghetti


Without a doubt my favourite vegetable, some say stink bean (petai) is an acquired taste. I think I was just born with a natural liking for it... Nothing "acquired" about that. It has a rich, almost opulently aromatic flavour and, because it is rarely fully-cooked, a lovely crunchy yet silky texture. It is known to have many health benefits; it is a natural anti-oxidant and it also has antihistamine properties, something which I appreciated from an early age, as it would relieve my sinus allergies.

This recipe would probably sound better if called, "spaghetti with petai and pork in home-made sambal belacan"; alas, it wouldn't seem as weird.

Ingredients
  • Stink bean, preferably fresh, removed from pods and halved
  • Belacan (fermented prawn paste)
  • Chili
  • Minced pork
  • Garlic
  • White onion
  • Black pepper
  • Sea-salt
  • Spaghetti (thin)
  • Olive oil
  • Parsley

Preparation
Slice a small quantity of belacan into thin pieces and grill until dry. Make sure your kitchen is very well-ventilated (you'll find out why if you don't already know).
Place grilled belacan pieces into a mortar with coarsely-chopped fresh chili and garlic. Pound with a pestle until a think paste is achieved. I prefer to have coarse chunks of chili although if a finer consistency is preferred, pound longer or mix in a blender (the problem with that is that you'll need another blender for fruits/vegetables as this blender would be quite permanently infused with belacan).
Sauté (additional) chopped chili, garlic and onions in olive oil in a large fry-pan.
Add minced pork and stir-fry until it is cooked.
Sprinkle sea-salt and black pepper to taste.
Toss in belacan chili paste and mix in thoroughly, followed by stink beans. Don't overcook them.
In a saucepan, boil water and cook the spaghetti, then drain and place on serving dish.
Top spaghetti with stink bean/ pork belacan chili paste.
Alternatively, you may toss spaghetti into fry-pan and very briefly stir-fry with stink beans and minced pork.
Garnish with fresh parsley.

Complement with a full-bodied, oaky Chardonnay (a strong Napa Valley white comes to mind).

<Previous
Next> Recipe #26: Fried crispy skin barramundi with sautéed mushroom, garlic & onion on buttered pasta

Friday, 24 June 2011

Recipe #24: Baked capsicum stuffed with weirdness


Weirdness begins with an inspiration. This isn't always easy to come by... Begin with a visual image; it should look edible at the very least.

It is quite likely that hardly anyone reads this (*sighs*), so I thought I might as well make it as weird as possible. This recipe isn't as weird as it gets. I plan to go further. However, it is a start...

Ingredients
  • Whole capsicum; large
  • Minced pork
  • Egg
  • Mushroom
  • Garlic
  • White onion
  • Chili
  • Olive oil
  • Black pepper
  • Sea-salt
  • Parsley
  • Za'atar

Preparation
Sauté finely chopped chili, garlic and onions in butter in a large fry-pan. Once they begin to turn golden, remove from pan. Toss in sliced mushrooms and sauté quickly until nicely brown. Then remove and place aside.
In a bowl, whisk eggs and minced pork, adding sautéed chili, garlic, onions and mushrooms while doing so then season mixture with black pepper, sea-salt and za'atar.
Slice base of capsicum so that it is flat and you can stand the capsicum upright. Carve out stem at top and remove seeds so that capsicum is hollowed. Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper or foil.
Stuff minced pork mixture in capsicum, "until she just can't take it anymore".
Garnish with parsley.
Bake in pre-heated oven until pork is cooked and capsicum begins to turn golden.

To Serve
You'll very likely have surplus minced pork, which you could bake on bread or fry as a patty and serve with the stuffed capsicum. In either case, they'll look weird.

Weirdness always goes well with *any* wine; in this case, Riesling is recommended.

<Previous
Next> Recipe #25: Stink bean spaghetti

Monday, 20 June 2011

Recipe #23: Smoked oyster omelette with silken egg tofu & mushroom


So I found this lovely copper pan, with brass fittings, and thought it would be great to cook omelettes. Since copper distributes heat so evenly, it would be ideal. I invented this weirdly wonderful meal because I found this pan, just as I sometimes concoct dishes based on a specific wine in mind.

Although I have called this smoked oyster omelette, it is really the silken egg tofu that imparts a particularly unique texture. In fact, you could omit the oysters in you wish.

Ingredients
  • Smoked oysters
  • Silken egg tofu (usually in a vacuum-sealed cylindrical plastic wrapper)
  • Mushroom
  • Egg
  • Milk
  • Garlic
  • White onion
  • Black pepper (coarse ground)
  • Sea-salt (coarse ground)
  • Za'atar
  • Parsley
  • Celery
  • Capsicum

Preparation
Sauté finely chopped garlic and onions in butter in a large fry-pan. Once they begin to turn golden brown, remove from pan. Place on base of copper pan, spreading them evenly.
While fry-pan is still hot, toss in sliced mushrooms and sauté quickly until nicely brown. Then remove and place aside.
Slice half a block of silken egg tofu into pieces about 1 to 2 cm thick. Gently place in fry-pan and slowly cook until bottom surface turns golden. Turn over and do likewise. Remove from pan and place with mushrooms.
In a bowl, whisk eggs, gently adding milk while doing so. Break remaining half of tofu block into very small pieces then add to egg-milk mixture. Keep whisking until tofu-egg-milk mixture is light and frothy. Add smoked oysters, followed by black pepper and sea-salt to taste. Pour contents into copper pan and spread ingredients evenly. Heat pan gently over low-to-medium heat until bottom of omelette begins to brown.
Place sautéed mushrooms over top of omelette, followed by fried tofu pieces and arrange nicely. Sprinkle a dash of za'atar, finely chopped parsley, celery and capsicums.
Place entire copper pan into pre-heated oven and bake omelette briefly until it turns completely golden brown.

To Serve
Remove from oven, allow to cool slightly and serve meal in the pan!

Complement with a light, zesty white wine.

<Previous
Next> Recipe #24: Baked capsicum stuffed with weirdness

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Recipe #22: Deliciously Weird Beef Custard


Beef custard? OK that sounds weird. Actually, it is inspired by Asian-style pork custard. Relatively easy to make, it is quite delicious and can be eaten with rice or just on its own.

Ingredients
  • Minced beef
  • Eggs
  • Cornflour
  • Water
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • Black pepper
  • Sea-salt
  • Garlic
  • Mushroom
  • Onion
  • Potato
  • Carrot
  • Celery
  • Chili (red or green)
  • Broccoli
  • Capsicum (red or green)

Preparation
Heat butter in a fry-pan.
Slice garlic, mushroom and onions then sauté in butter until golden brown. Place aside.
Chop vegetables into fine slices or cubes.
Add a little olive oil into heated fry-pan.
Toss chopped vegetables into fry-pan and turn up heat to high. Briefly stir-fry vegetables, then remove and place with sautéed garlic, mushroom and onions.
Dissolve a little cornflour in water.
In a large mixing bowl, beat up eggs, adding dissolved cornflour while doing so. Follow-up with coarse black pepper and sea-salt to taste. Remove and place aside about a cupful of mixture.
Add minced beef into mixing bowl, followed by vegetables, and mix ingredients thoroughly.
Empty contents into a casserole, making sure ingredients are evenly spread and smooth top with a spatula.
Pour remaining egg-cornflour mixture over top and allow to soak into meat and vegetables. There should be a thin layer of mixture over entire top.
Place casserole into a pre-heated oven. If it isn't fan-forced, turn heat to high and bake until top layer begins to turn golden. Then turn heat to low and bake for another hour or until custard is golden brown.
Allow to cool, then place custard in refrigerator and allow to set overnight.
When custard has set (the following day), cut into slices or as you would a cake. Reheat slices as required in a microwave oven or bake in very low heat.
I find that if kept a couple of days, it gets better!

To Serve
Have it with rice or on its own, accompanied by a mildly-oaked Chardonnay or a light red Burgundy.

<Previous
Next> Recipe #23: Smoked oyster omelette with silken egg tofu & mushroom

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Recipe #21: Grilled Ciabatta with truffle paste & extra virgin olive oil

So I wasn't intending to blog this; in fact, I wasn't hungry, nor was I in the mood to cook today. I rummaged my fridge and found half a loaf of par baked Ciabatta bread and an almost-empty bottle of truffle paste. What could I do with them?

Well, the result of my experiment was so surprising that I decided to include it here. Even though it isn't really weird, it is so simple and delightful I don't know why it hasn't been done already (perhaps it has, but I haven't seen anyone do it this way).

Ingredients
  • Par baked Ciabatta bread
  • Truffle-infused extra virgin olive oil or concentrated truffle oil
  • Truffle paste

Preparation
Slice Ciabatta loaf into diagonal pieces (like bruschettas).
Dip in truffle-infused olive oil or concentrated truffle oil.
Place slices on a grilling pan. Grill until golden. Then turn over and grill other side.
Remove from pan, then spread a little truffle paste.

To Serve
This makes an excellent base for bruschettas or enjoy on its own as an appetizer. I simply had mine with organic burgers (yes, they were delightful) and a love red Rhone.

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Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Recipe #20: Fried vegetables with spiced beer batter


Beer batter is light and crisp. It is very easy to prepare; spices can be added to it to give it greater complexity. When it is fried, it seems much less oily than normal batter.

Ingredients
  • Potato
  • Carrot
  • Onion
  • Capsicum
  • Long beans
  • Broccoli
  • Cup mushroom
  • Chili (red and/or green)
  • Japanese tofu (white or yellow; firm)
  • Olive oil
  • Flour
  • Egg
  • Beer
  • Za'atar
  • Black pepper (coarsely cracked)
  • Sea-salt

Preparation
Beat egg in a bowl then add flour and mix. Keep adding flour until a very thick pasty (dough-like) consistency is reached. Then pour in beer, very little at a time so that it froths and mix thoroughly. The beer will thin the mix; if it gets too thin, sprinkle more flour while mixing until it is viscous enough to nicely coat a spatula without dripping. Add za'atar, black pepper and salt to taste.
Slice vegetables into chunky pieces about 5 cm by 1 - 2 cm each.
Boil water in a saucepan and cook slices of potatoes and carrots. Peel a few small cloves of garlic and boil them as well. Don't overcook or they will become too soft. Once ready, allow to cool then dip them in batter mix.
Heat olive oil in a fry-pan. You'll only need just enough oil to cover base of pan.
Gently place battered potatoes and carrots in simmering hot oil. Allow bottom to brown then turn over and brown other side. When ready, remove from pan and place on a plate lined with paper towel to absorb the excess oil.
Do likewise for other vegetables, cooking them in small portions without overcrowding.
As for mushroom: stuff small pieces of boiled garlic cloves in between veil and stem then dip entire mushroom in batter. Cut protruding stem down so that it is level with veil. If mushroom is large (over 5 cm in diameter), ensure that there is enough oil in which to immerse it (otherwise tilt pan at an angle so as to allow more oil to cover mushroom). Also, ensure that the oil is hot enough to quickly brown the batter covering the mushroom into a thin crust without allowing the moisture inside it to escape, thus sealing its flavour.
Japanese tofu is easily obtained in blocks the size of a block of butter with a cross section of around 5 cm x 4 cm. Slice block into pieces about 1 cm thick. Allow to drip dry, then gently immerse in batter completely before placing into fry-pan. You'll need a flat spatula to lift and turn over the tofu to brown both sides. When golden brown, remove and place on plate with other cooked vegetables.

To Serve
This makes a complete and balanced meal on its own. A dipping sauce such as mild chili or sweet chili makes a good accompaniment. Or yogurt chutney. Otherwise, just have it plain as the spiced beer batter is already delicately tasty!

Complement with a pale ale, or if wine is preferred, a light Frascati or Muscadet.

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Next> Recipe #21: Grilled Ciabatta with truffle paste & extra virgin olive oil

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Recipe #19: Crispy baked black pepper Tasmanian salmon


The inspiration for this recipe comes from a Japanese restaurant in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia where, as an appetizer, crispy fried salmon skin is served.

Asians have a long fascination for making crispy skin from almost all sorts of meat: in Bangkok, you can get crispy fried chicken skin on its own as an appetizer; Thai and Hong Kong suckling pigs have rich tasty crispy skins, and the Cantonese are famous for their crispy skinned ducks and chicken. Above all, my favourite is a Cantonese roast pork with crispy skin that really gives German pork knuckles a run for their money.

Most of these are fried, roasted or baked in high temperatures; some are coated with flour, then fried.

Although some consider fried skin unheatlhy; in fact, in moderation, and if prepared properly, they're no more unhealthy than most food you find these days. Some are actually lower in trans fat, and the skins of some meats can be rather nutritious. Of course, I am no expert in this, and will not state anything other than they can be extremely delicious when prepared properly and washed down with warm sake or red wine, which really makes an uplifting combination. I would advise against cold drinks when eating any sort of fatty food, as cold liquids coagulate fats in the body, which I am sure isn't a very healthy thing.

Anyway, back to salmon skin. It is not only richly nutritious; it is also very tasty. It doesn't have much fat underneath, and when baked properly, turns into a lovely golden crisp layer beneath which are rich, juicy and very tender layers of meat that almost melt in your mouth.

Ingredients
  • Tasmanian salmon steak/fillets, with skin on
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse ground black pepper
  • Sea-salt
  • Spring onions

Preparation
Dry salmon steak with a paper towel, then rub some olive oil and salt over the skin. Sprinkle a layer of coarse ground black pepper. Coat baking dish or aluminium foil with a thin layer of oil, then place fish on dish and bake in pre-heated oven. Turn heat to high until skin begins to crisp, and the black pepper begins to exude a lovely peppery fragrance. Be careful that skin doesn't get charred; if necessary, turn heat down a little and bake until fish is fully cooked. This could take up to an hour depending on thickness of fish; less if fan-forced.
When cooked, remove and garnish with fresh spring onions (these are excellent for balancing the oil from the salmon skin).

To Serve
I prefer very simple buttered pasta, peppered and lightly salted with finely chopped spring onions.

Complement with warm sake or pinot noir.

<Previous
Next> Recipe #20: Fried vegetables with spiced beer batter

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Recipe #18: Australian lamb shank stewed with veal, pork spare ribs, wine & herbs


A hearty, wholesome and comforting stew for a cold winter's night (which is what the weather's been like over here).

Lamb shank is such a lovely meat when stewed; the meat is so tender and just melts in your mouth. I have, in this recipe, combined it with veal and pork spare ribs, prepared exactly the same way as the stew in Recipe #15. Just replace the topside beef with the lamb shank. The bacon can also be omitted. With lamb shanks, the longer you stew, the better. Even a small piece would need at least 2 hours, maybe 3 or more. Just make sure it is simmered very gently.

A note on the veal: as it is a very tender meat, be sure to sauté it properly. The oil must be sufficiently hot, and the meat must be dry. What sautéing, don't overcrowd the meat. Make sure it browns properly so that the moisture and tenderness of the veal is sealed inside.

I have also added potatoes although it isn't necessary as lamb shank is traditionally served with mash.

Ingredients
  • Lamb shank
  • Strips of pork spare ribs
  • Potato
  • Carrot
  • Mushroom
  • Tomato paste
  • White onion
  • Garlic (whole bulb with top cut off, or entire cloves)
  • Bouquet garni comprising dried parsley, thyme and bay leaves
  • Dried ground oregano
  • Sea-salt
  • Cracked pepper
  • Plain flour
  • Red wine (preferably a good Côtes du Rhône or, even better, Châteauneuf-du-Pape. If affordable, a fine Burgundy that's just about to peak. Wines from renown villages in the Côte de Beaune such as Puligny-Montrachet or Aloxe-Corton would be sublime.)
  • Beef stock
  • Parsley (fresh)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil

Preparation
Refer to Recipe #15.

To Serve
Since I have included potatoes in this stew, I decided to serve with buttered pasta with mushrooms and cracked pepper.

Complement with a soft red Burgundy or Bordeaux. A fine Pomerol would be ideal!

<Previous
Next> Recipe #19: Crispy baked black pepper Tasmanian salmon

Monday, 9 May 2011

Recipe #17: Truffled barramundi sautéed in olive oil on macaroni


This is a remarkably simple dish combining some of my favourite ingredients: barramundi, truffle and mushroom, resulting in a meal that is subtly complex with delicate, mouth-watering aromas.

Ingredients
  • Fillet of barramundi
  • Black summer truffle paste or sliced
  • Mushroom
  • Extra-virgin olive oil infused with truffle or concentrated truffle oil
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Spring onion
  • Sea-salt
  • Black pepper
  • Macaroni

Preparation
Boil water in a saucepan then add olive oil, salt and macaroni. Simmer until macaroni is cooked, then drain water.
Heat truffle-infused olive oil or concentrated truffle oil in fry-pan.
Sauté chopped garlic, onions and mushrooms until golden brown, then place aside on a plate.
Place barramundi fillets in fry-pan. Be sure to dry meat with a paper towel; otherwise, they won't brown properly. When bottom of fillets turn golden, turn them over and cook other side. Gently spread a generous layer of truffle paste or sliced truffles over top of fillets. Allow fish to fully cook.

To Serve
Toss sautéed garlic, onions and mushrooms into saucepan with macaroni and mix ingredients. Place on serving plate, then top with fillets of barramundi.

Complement with an aromatic complex white such as a Condrieu.

<Previous
Next> Recipe #18: Australian lamb shank stewed with veal, pork spare ribs, wine & herbs

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Recipe #16: Osso bucco stew in red wine with pork spare ribs, bacon, Szechuan pepper, aromatic spices & vegetables


Here I am again, with my favourite Dutch oven, (one of my new best friends), inventing another stew: osso bucco with a twist.

Conventional Italian osso bucco is stewed in white wine; I have opted for red. A strong robust red. To add a richness of texture and complexity of flavour, I also added pork spare ribs. Then to balance the oiliness of the pork, I included Szechuan pepper and fennel. The result, a rather complex dish that is neither overpowering nor over-the-top. Instead, gentle stewing in a Dutch oven makes it simultaneously complex *and* subtle, and the end result is something so upliftingly delightful that you'd never guess what went into it...

Ingredients
  • Osso bucco cuts
  • Pork spare ribs
  • Bacon
  • Red wine ( a young robust Bordeaux or powerful northern Rhone)
  • Beef stock
  • Szechuan pepper
  • Fennel
  • Carrot
  • Potato
  • Celery
  • Parsnip
  • Red capsicum
  • Concentrated tomato paste
  • Bouquet garni
  • Oregano
  • Whole garlic
  • Onion
  • Mushroom
  • Sea-salt
  • Black pepper

Preparation
Prepare meat in the same way as in Recipe #15.
Heat a small amount of olive oil in casserole and add sliced bacon. Sauté until bacon turns golden brown.
Move bacon pieces to side of casserole, or if there isn't enough space, remove them and place aside. Add pork spare ribs, sliced into pieces around 2 - 3 cm wide, and sauté until they begin to brown. If necessary, dry them with paper towel; otherwise they won't brown properly.
Remove pork spare ribs from casserole then add osso bucco. As with the pork, make sure they're dry and sauté them until they brown evenly.
Next, remove beef and add chopped carrots, celery, parsnip, potatoes, fennel, capsicums and onions then sauté in similar manner.
When vegetables are ready, combine with bacon, pork and osso bucco and stir ingredients in casserole over low heat, adding sea-salt and black pepper to taste.

Unlike Recipe #15, baking in flour is omitted.

Simmer ingredients very gently while adding a very generous amount of red wine, followed by beef stock. Ensure that wine totally immerses ingredients (but not by too much). Then place a sachet of bouquet garni & oregano. Add a generous amount of Szechuan peppers; however, if it is your first time cooking with them, start with a little to see how it suits your palate.
Continue to simmer then place covered casserole in pre-heated oven at low- to medium heat for 2 to 3 hours. Check regularly to ensure that it is simmering very gently and doesn't overheat.
If necessary, remove casserole from oven and gently stir ingredients.
While waiting for meat to stew, prepare mushrooms and sliced onions. Dry them thoroughly then sauté in butter until golden brown. Place aside when ready.

To Serve
When stew in casserole is ready, remove from oven, place on stove-top, over a very low heat. Extract bouquet garni, and if whole bulb of garlic is used, squeeze it before removing what's left of the bulb from the stew. Add mushrooms and sliced onions and stir in gently.
Garnish with chopped spring onions and parsley then serve with buttered pasta or bread slices pan-fried in concentrated truffle oil.

Complement with a red Bordeaux or northern Rhone, similar to what was used in cooking.

Leftover stew, if any, can be kept refrigerated then re-heated before eating. It might be necessary to add a little water and simmer very gently over a low heat. The ingredients will become more concentrated and in fact improve in flavour when kept overnight.

<Previous
Next> Recipe #17: Truffled barramundi sautéed in olive oil on macaroni

Monday, 2 May 2011

Recipe #15: Aromatic Dutch oven stew!


This is such an awesome dish; I just don't know how to describe it... Hence the openly suggestive recipe name. (Pun *not* intended... well... um...) Seriously, though, I have had stews of a great variety and this one possibly tops them all.

Inspired by the French boeuf à la bourguignonne, I went out and bought myself an enameled cast-iron casserole, also known as a Dutch oven. Although it only cost AUD$25, it is of exceptional quality and served its purpose very well.

My recipe isn't just a beef stew; it combines topside beef, pork spare ribs, bacon, carrots, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, garlic and a smooth yet robust red wine and integrates them all so harmoniously; while at the same time the pork and beef retain their rich succulence. Prior stews I have tried often end up with the meat cuts disintegrating into the stew (which can be lovely too); however, in this case, the meat cuts retained their shape but when eaten just melted like butter in my mouth.

Ingredients
  • Topside beef cut into cubes
  • Strips of pork spare ribs
  • Bacon
  • Carrot
  • Mushroom
  • Tomato
  • White onion
  • Garlic (whole bulb with top cut off, or entire cloves)
  • Bouquet garni comprising dried parsley, thyme and bay leaves
  • Dried ground oregano
  • Sea-salt
  • Black pepper
  • Plain flour
  • Red wine (preferably a good Côtes du Rhône or, even better, Châteauneuf-du-Pape. If affordable, a fine Burgundy that's just about to peak. Wines from renown villages in the Côte de Beaune such as Puligny-Montrachet or Aloxe-Corton would be sublime.)
  • Beef stock
  • Parsley (fresh)
  • Spring onion
  • Extra-virgin olive oil

Preparation
Heat a small amount of olive oil in casserole and add sliced bacon. Sauté until bacon turns golden brown.
Move bacon pieces to side of casserole, or if there isn't enough space, remove them and place aside. Add pork spare ribs, sliced into pieces around 2 - 3 cm wide, and sauté until they begin to brown. If necessary, dry them with paper towel; otherwise they won't brown properly.
Remove pork spare ribs from casserole then add beef cubes. As with the pork, make sure they're dry and sauté them until they brown evenly.
Next, remove beef and add chopped carrots and onions then sauté in similar manner.
When vegetables are ready, combine with bacon, pork and beef and stir ingredients in casserole over low heat, adding sea-salt and black pepper to taste. Continue stirring as a thin layer of flour is added and mixed with ingredients.
Place casserole without cover in pre-heated oven. Bake in high temperature for about 5 minutes then remove from oven, add more flour and mix with ingredients before placing in oven again for another 5 minutes. The flour creates a thin crust over the meat and vegetables which seals in the flavour and juices of the ingredients.
When ready, remove casserole from oven, place on stove-top, over a low- to medium-heat. Pour a generous amount of red wine, enough to submerge more than half of the ingredients. Then pour the beef stock until it just covers all the ingredients.
Add chopped tomatoes, bouquet garni, garlic and oregano, then allow to simmer while stirring gently.
Cover casserole with lid, then place in oven, turn down heat to low, and allow ingredients to simmer for about 2 hours. If necessary, check to make sure ingredients don't dry up. If they get too dry, just add a little more beef stock; otherwise, allow to simmer until stew reaches a slightly viscous consistency, or if a drier style is preferred, until it is thick enough for small pieces of onions or carrot to stick to the spatula, which is ideal for a taste check.
While waiting for meat to stew, prepare mushrooms and sliced onions. Dry them thoroughly then sauté in butter until golden brown. Place aside when ready.

To Serve
When stew in casserole is ready, remove from oven, place on stove-top, over a very low heat. Extract bouquet garni, and if whole bulb of garlic is used, squeeze it before removing what's left of the bulb from the stew. Add mushrooms and sliced onions and stir in gently.

Garnish with chopped spring onions and parsley then serve with buttered pasta.

Complement with a red Burgundy, similar to what was used in cooking.

Leftover stew, if any, can be kept refrigerated then re-heated before eating. It might be necessary to add a little water and simmer very gently over a low heat. The ingredients will become more concentrated and in fact improve in flavour when kept overnight.

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Saturday, 30 April 2011

Recipe #14: Truffled "bruschetta" with assorted mushrooms, rockmelon (cantaloupe), tomatoes, spring onions & more!


This, first and foremost, is a meal inspired by bruschettas: with a difference. Truffles.

I first cooked with truffles on Christmas 1999. Since then, I rarely have truffles since it is so costly and difficult to obtain.

Today, I was feeling inspired and went looking for truffles. I found a bottle of concentrated truffle oil (with chunky slices of truffles in olive oil) and a rich truffle paste containing coarsely chopped black summer truffles in olive oil. That bottle cost me AUD$35 and the truffle oil cost half of that, which when totaled, really annoyed my wallet.

Meanwhile, a friend of mine remarked that he hasn't found a great recipe combining mushrooms and fruits. I know of Asian salads that combine both to produce a tangy, spicy and zesty dish. However, I wanted to try something new: a marriage of mushrooms and fruit in a way that is good enough as a meal on its own.

So here it is... And, might I add, I have never enjoyed truffles this much in my entire life!

Ingredients
  • Black summer truffle (finely chopped)
  • Concentrated truffle oil (sliced truffles in olive oil)
  • French loaf or bread roll
  • Assorted mushrooms (flat, button, oyster, porcini, shiitake)
  • Rockmelon (cantaloupe)
  • Mango (optional)
  • Tomato
  • Spring onion
  • Sea-salt
  • Ground black pepper

Preparation
Chop rockmelon, mango, tomatoes and spring onions and place them aside.
Slice french loaf/bread roll into thick diagonal slices.
Heat fry-pan with concentrated truffle oil until it begins to simmer then keep heat low.
Place bread slices in pan and gently allow them to soak oil and turn golden brown. Turn over and do likewise.
Remove bread slices from pan, spread chopped truffles or truffle paste, then place in pre-heated oven and keep on low heat while preparing rest of meal.
Chop assorted mushrooms into coarse slices and place evenly over a large fry-pan with heated truffle oil. Cook mushrooms very slowly until they turn golden brown. Add sea-salt and black pepper to taste. The more types of mushrooms, the better. I recommend a combination of flat mushrooms, button mushrooms, porcini, shiitake and oyster mushrooms. The porcini and shiitake can be obtained dried, so need to be soaked in warm water then rinsed out before cooking.
When ready, remove sliced bread from oven, top with mushrooms, fruits, tomatoes and spring onions. Then enjoy!

Bruschettas are traditionally served with red wine; however, due to the delicate complexity of the truffles, I preferred a nice Gerwutztraminer from Alsace.

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Recipe #13: Baked whole rainbow trout stuffed with chili, garlic, onion & mushroom


I wish I had a better picture of this; it was incredibly difficult to photograph.

Rainbow trout is like a mild version of salmon; trout and salmon share similarities in the colour and texture of the flesh, the richness of flavour, and the incredible ease with which to cook in a variety of ways.

A small trout is inexpensive, and when cooked whole, is very easy to serve and de-bone, leaving a lovely pink, rich, succulent flesh that tastes great on its own. Its skin is also very tasty, especially when baked to a lovely golden brown crispness.

Ingredients
  • Whole rainbow trout
  • Fresh mushroom
  • Garlic
  • White onion
  • Mild to hot chili (Mexican is ideal)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Za'atar
  • Sea-salt
  • Coarse ground black pepper
  • Parsley

Preparation
Rinse whole trout in salt water, dry thoroughly, then sprinkle and rub some salt over skin and allow to stand for at least half an hour.
Prepare chopped chili, garlic, onion and mushrooms. Stuff ingredients into fish and place over aluminium foil (triple layer) that's been shaped to envelop entire fish. Spread excess filling around fish. Add za'atar, sea-salt and black pepper to taste.
Place fish in foil on a tray in a pre-heated oven and bake for at least half an hour or until it turns golden brown. By now, the aromas of the garlic and onions would fill the oven and you know the fish is cooked.

To Serve
Remove fish in foil from oven and place on a heat-resistant plate. Serve with a simple pasta combining left-over ingredients quickly pan-fried with vegetables and garnish with parsley.

Complement with a zesty Marlborough (New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc or a mildly oaked Chardonnay.


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Saturday, 23 April 2011

Recipe #12: Trevally in "weird" 1940 vintage port with baby bok choy & caramelised mushrooms sans cream


My experiments with fish continues, this time with trevally, a medium- to firm-fleshed, flavoursome fish.

I have been fortunate enough to acquire a bottle of 1940 vintage port. Matured in wood for 32 years before being bottled in 1972, then allowed to age in the bottle. Unlike tawny port, vintage port does improve significantly with bottle ageing. While I have mentioned before that Australia's tawnies are amongst the best in the world, the finest vintage port without a doubt comes from Portugal. The port I acquired (pictured) comes in a really weird-looking bottle; hence the nickname I gave it...

A great thing about buying foreign wines in Australia is that it is quite easy to obtain aged wines cheaply at auction as they don't seem to attract the same degree of interest as say, premium Australian wines. At least, this is my experience when bidding at a particular auction house that specialises in a variety of collectables.

This particular port is soft and mellow, and when decanted, didn't have very much sediment or encrustation. Because it is sweet, cooking mushrooms in it caramelises them, turning them deep golden brown. However, the sweetness doesn't overpower at all; in fact, it complements the fish really well.

Of course, you don't need a 1940 vintage; any good vintage port will do as long as it isn't overpowering or too sweet.

The key here is experimentation. Feel free to try different things, be intuitive, and avoid being restricted by what others say. I have never been one for prescriptive cooking, which is why I don't specify measurements or quantities. I realise that this is a contentious matter amongst cooks and especially food critics. However, I am not a food critic. I just enjoy eating!

Of course, it is very important to cook ingredients in the right proportions and combinations to get the right chemistry. However, what is right for me may not be right for you. Which is why I feel that the best way is to do frequent taste checks, be open-minded, and, above all, trust your intuition.

Perhaps I really should call these "food suggestions" instead of "recipes" as that is what they really are: suggestions that you can try at home and feel that you're having gourmet meals at a fraction of what they would cost in a high-end restaurant.

Ingredients
  • Fresh trevally fillet with skin on
  • Vintage port
  • Fresh mushrooms
  • Baby boy choy
  • Creamy butter (less salt or unsalted)
  • Sea-salt
  • Black pepper

Preparation
Rinse trevally fillets in salt water then dry thoroughly. Rub some salt on skin of fillet and allow to stand for a few minutes.
Heat butter in a fry-pan, toss in sliced mushrooms and allow to simmer until mushrooms turn slightly golden. Sprinkle salt and black pepper to taste.
Place trevally fillet in fry-pan, skinned side facing down then turn heat up slightly until skin begins to crisp.
When skin is crisp and golden, turn fillet over and allow other side to simmer until cooked. As simmering butter starts to brown at edges of pan, quickly toss some port over fish and mushrooms.
Mix in port thoroughly, stirring mushrooms continuously until they become caramelised.
Remove cooked fish from pan, then turn heat to high very briefly, toss in baby bok choy, turn off heat completely, then quickly remove vegetables to serve with fish.

To Serve
Place caramelised mushrooms and baby bok choy around trevally fillets, then garnish with parsley.

Complement with a zesty Sauvignon Blanc or if you prefer, a lightly oaked Chardonnay. Avoid overpoweringly oaked whites.

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Recipe #11: Happy onion mushroom macaroni in spodumene casserole topped with pastry


If you're wondering why this is called "happy", it's just a private joke: spodumene stoneware is all the rage these days, especially the tajines (which I have yet to acquire); few, however, know that spodumene is rich in lithium (which in its carbonate form has been used as a treatment for depression/bi-polar for ages).

Anyway, I think this spodumene casserole looks so attractive and easy to cook with. It can be cooked on range-tops, as well as convectional and microwave ovens.

Ingredients
  • Macaroni
  • Mushrooms
  • White onion
  • Garlic
  • Butter or margarine
  • Parsley
  • Sea-salt
  • Black pepper (coarse ground)
  • Plain flour

Preparation
Boil water in a pot, add butter or margarine, mushrooms, chopped onions, parsley and garlic. Allow to simmer for half an hour. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Then add macaroni and boil until pasta is nearly cooked. Avoid too much macaroni as it will absorb water and expand further when in casserole.
Pour ingredients of pot into casserole. Don't overfill.
Mix flour with a little water, salt and butter or margarine until a thick dough-like consistency is achieved. Flatten and cut a round portion with a diameter that matches that of the casserole. Place dough over top of casserole. Ideally, it shouldn't be submerged by the soup.
Bake in pre-heated oven until dough turns golden brown.

To Serve
Place casserole on a heat-proof plate and serve!
The macaroni can be omitted if you just wish to have onion mushroom soup.

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