Saturday, October 29, 2011

Char Siu Pork and Roasted Fennel

I remember the good old days when I'd walk to Hurstville shopping centre late in the afternoon in pyjamas and pick up a box of end-of-the-day char siu pork for $2. I like to think I've evolved and matured since I was 17 but that char siu pork is still something I'd happily eat every afternoon.

This recipe is super, super easy. It does cost a little more than $2 but you can definitely wear your pyjamas while preparing it. I used to have this with cabbage, but since I was using the oven, I decided to roast some fennel with it. When roasted, fennel loses its anise flavour and becomes really sweet.

You'll need:

500g pork (I used pork belly rashers but if you don't like fat, you can get a loin fillet)
3 tablespoons char siu sauce (it's a deep red jammy sauce)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
½ fennel bulb
Vegetable oil

Combine char siu sauce, sesame oil and pork and marinade for at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Slice the fennel and lightly toss with vegetable oil and a bit of leftover marinade. Bake for about 30 minutes.

I grilled the pork on a griddle pan (on the highest heat) for a minute on each side to get those delicious char marks but you can also put the pork straight in the oven.

Bake pork on a wire rack. How long will depend on how thick your pork is. Check it every 10 minutes and if it's not ready, baste it with the leftover marinade and pop it back in.

When done, rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Slice and serve with rice, spring onion, chili and cucumber.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Macadamia & Vanilla Poached Meringue

Light, fluffy meringues poached in a vanilla and macadamia infused milk, served with macadamia and strawberry jam
You'll need:

2 eggs
100g castor sugar
400ml milk
15 raw macadamia nuts
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Strawberry jam to serve

Ground 10 macadamia nuts until it's a rough meal.

Combine milk, macadamia meal and vanilla in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil and remove from heat. Infuse for half an hour and strain.

Beat egg whites until medium peaks form.

Slowly add the sugar. Beat until stiff and glossy.

Place strained milk back into the saucepan and bring to a simmer.

Spoon dollops of the meringue into the milk. Turn when the meringues expand. (You'll inevitably get milk skins on the meringues but you get remove them later.)

Remove and drain on paper towels. (Wipe off any bits of milk skin.)

Serve with finely chopped macadamia and strawberry jam. Check out my strawberry jam recipe here.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Gnocchi with Creamy Pumpkin & Prosciutto Sauce

I remember when I was a teenager I made gnocchi from a packet and I found it revolting. I could have just accepted that I didn't like gnocchi and let it go, except it really bothered me that everyone raved about gnocchi. How could anyone like this? I thought. Was I missing something or was it the most overrated pasta? So I cooked it again and again hoping that I'd like it. I didn't and I gave up on it for years.

It wasn't until two years ago that I tried fresh gnocchi in a restaurant and it all made sense to me. It's not supposed to be tough, chewy and gluggy! It's meant to be soft and silky. Because there was such a big difference between bad gnocchi and good gnocchi, I figured that the recipe must be really difficult or the chef must have added some secret ingredient - otherwise, why didn't they have good gnocchi in packets? I was wrong again. Turns out, it's ridiculously simple to make but the key to really good gnocchi (other than a good potato-flour ratio) is freshness.

Click here for a simple baked potato gnocchi recipe. Baking the potato removes excess moisture and makes the gnocchi less gummy.

Keep in mind to use as little flour as possible. You only need enough to hold the gnocchi dough together (between 1 and 2 cups). Otherwise it won't be silky.

My batch stayed perfectly soft and silky in the fridge for two days.

For the sauce, you'll need:

300g butternut squash, diced into 1.5cm cubes
3 slices prosciutto (I used Serrano), plus more for garnish
Olive oil
25g unsalted butter
Salt, to taste
2 French shallots, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 sage leaves, finely chopped, plus more for garnish
Handful of parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon cream
Parmesan cheese

Blanch pumpkin cubes in simmering salted water for 2 minutes. Remove and place into a bowl of iced water.

Fry prosciutto in a bit of olive oil until fragrant and crispy. Remove and leave to rest.

Add half of the butter into the pan. Fry a few sage leaves in the butter until crispy. Remove and leave to rest.

Fry pumpkin in the same pan on as many sides you can be bothered until brown. Season with salt. Remove and leave to rest.

Add the rest of the butter and saute shallots, garlic and sage until the shallots are translucent.

Add pumpkin, prosciutto, parsley and cream. Remove from heat when combined.

Cook the gnocchi in rapidly boiling salted water. It's ready when it floats to the top of the water.

Place gnocchi and a little bit of pasta water into the sauce and stir together.

Garnish with a slice of prosciutto, more parsley, fried sage leaves and parmesan cheese.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Lavender Panna Cotta

There's a lavender bush in a small lane near my place and it gives off the loveliest scent. Even though I felt a little bit naughty about it, I had to bring some home. I've always wanted to make a lavender-infused dessert so I decided to make lavender and honey panna cotta with passionfruit syrup.

This recipe is adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's elderflower vanilla panna cotta recipe on River Cottage Every Day. (Incidentally, HFW makes me want to move to the country, grow my own vegetables and raise a family of lambs.)

So creamy and florally...

You'll need:

100ml milk
250ml double cream
30g castor sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Some lavender heads (I used 8)
2 teaspoons gelatine powder
150ml natural yoghurt

Place milk, cream, sugar, honey, vanilla and lavender in a small saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat as soon as it bubbles. Leave to infuse for half an hour.

Strain through a sieve and place back into saucepan. Warm over low heat.

Mix gelatine in with a third of the mixture. Stir into the whole mixture. Cool completely.

Stir in yoghurt.

Pour into 4 moulds. I used ramekins, lightly greased with vegetable oil.

Set in fridge for at least 2 hours.

When you're ready to serve, dip each mould into hot water for 10 seconds and then flip out onto a plate.

Drizzle with passionfruit syrup (combine 1 passionfruit, ¼ cup sugar and 1 tablespoon water in a saucepan over low heat and simmer for a few minutes).


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Apple Pie

I always find myself with an obnoxious surplus of apples in the fruit basket. Dan loves having them in the house and will bring bags of the stuff home. Me, I'm a slow eater and I can never finish an apple before it turns brown. So at the end of the week, instead of letting it go to waste, I make something with it that I can eat as slowly as I want.

Sometimes I put slices of green apple into cocktails and sprinkle with sugar; sometimes I cover diced apple with custard; but apple pie is the most gratifying. It's so simple to make as well. All it takes is a bit of love and some handiwork.

Check out my post on The Curry Tiger (a curry beef pie with mash, peas and gravy) for the pastry recipe.

Apple filling

You'll need:

5 large apples
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup white sugar
¼ cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (never essence!)
1 teaspoon cornflour

Peel and cut apples into 1cm thick slices.

Place apples, sugars, water and vanilla in a small pot over low heat.

Simmer until the apples are just cooked through.

Remove apples and mix cornflour into the syrup.

Place apples and syrup into a shallow dish and cool completely in the fridge.

Put the filling in the pastry and create a lattice lid.

Fold down the edges to make a crust.

I glazed the top of the pastry with a ginger sugar syrup (thinly slice a 2cm knob of ginger and simmer gently in ¼ cup sugar and ¼ cup water for half an hour) and sprinkled it with demura sugar for a nice little crunch.

Bake at 220°C until golden brown (my oven took 40 minutes again).


Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Curry Tiger

Every Tuesday, I have the pleasure of volunteering at a legal centre in Woolloomooloo, located fortuitously opposite the original Harry's Cafe de Wheels. All I have to do is sigh, "Pie," on a Tuesday and Dan will know what I'm talking about: chunky beef, spicy curry, pastry with a perfect balance of flaky and soggy, mash, peas and gravy. Thus is the Curry Tiger for $5.80. Genius.

I decided to make it at home with some personal touches: shredded slow-cooked beef, creamy curry, homemade pastry (the best!) and lots of creamy, buttery mash.


250g plain flour
200g unsalted butter, chilled and diced
½-¾ cups iced water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar

Dice the butter and chill in the freezer for a few minutes.

Combine flour, salt, sugar and butter in a large bowl.

Cut the butter into the flour until you have pea-sized pieces of butter (these will melt in the oven and make the pastry light and flaky). You can use a food processor or a pastry cutter for this step. I have neither so I used a mezzaluna and it worked a treat.

Add the water little by little and mix in with a plastic pastry scraper. Stop when the dough just comes together.

Turn out onto a floured surface and split the mixture into two (one for the base, one for the lid). Mould each dough with your hands and knead two or three times so it all sticks together. Wrap with cling wrap and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour.

You can keep the dough for up to two days in the fridge, which is great because you can make the dough and the filling the night before.

Curry filling

500g osso bucco, washed, dried and salted generously
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 onion
5 cloves garlic, peeled
5cm parsley or coriander stalks, roughly chopped
Chilis, halved (add as many as you'd like)
1 litre water
400ml coconut milk
Curry powder (add to taste)
2 tablespoons plain flour

Heat oil in a deep pot over a medium-high heat.

Sear the meat and remove from pot.

Reduce heat to medium and saute the vegetables.

Add water, coconut milk and curry powder (the instructions on mine recommended 4 tablespoons to a litre of water). Bring to a boil.

Place meat into liquid and simmer gently for at least three hours.

Remove meat and shred with two forks.

Add flour to the liquid and stir in. Strain so you get a smooth sauce.

Place the meat and 500ml of the sauce in a container and chill in the fridge. If you're making the pie on the same day, wait until the filling is completely cool. Otherwise, you can fridge it for about three days.

Note: You'll have a lot of curry sauce leftover. It's infused with delicious marrow and beef fat which you can enjoy with rice or bread.

Making the pie

Preheat the oven to 220°C.

Technically you don't need to line the pan because there's so much butter in the pastry, but I like to be safe. I lined a 20cm springform pan with butter then baking paper.

Roll out the first piece of dough on a floured surface until it's about half a centimetre thick. Gently line the pan with the pastry.

Fill the base with the curry filling.

Roll out the second piece of dough and cut out a circle about 3cm bigger than the pan.

Place the lid on the pie and trim the edges.

Fold down the edges and cut a few holes in the lid to let the steam escape.

Bake until golden brown (my incredibly slow oven took about 40 minutes).

Rest for at least 20 minutes before taking it out of the pan to avoid the pie collapsing.

Serve with mash, peas and gravy.