28 February 2011

Roasted Beet Salad & some Spicy Kumura Fries

Everything still feels a little surreal here in NZ, every day the enormity of the situation in Christchurch sinks in a little more.  It feels quite strange to be able to go about one's daily life as normal when only a few hours away peoples lives have been turned upside down...loved ones lost, homes destroyed and no end in sight to what will be a very long journey to a return to some sort of normality.


It feels somewhat inadequate to be writing about a weekend BBQ, but that is what I love about food...it is for sharing and bringing people together, it does provide a little comfort, and given recent events coming together and providing a little comfort is more important than ever.



Summer officially comes to an end today here in NZ, however the weather seems to have other ideas and it still feels like the height of Summer.I want to make the most of these balmy evenings and brought a few friends together over the weekend for a BBQ. I was on the look out for something different on the side.  In my veggie box red and gold beets and some kumura...sweet potato for you non Kiwis.

For the main event I thought I would share the wonders of brining with another batch of brined free range Freedom Farm pork steaks.  Sweet goes well with pork so the beets were roasted and then tossed with a little lemon and thyme.  Also grilling on the barbie some venison burgers and you can't really have burgers without fries so enter kumura fries with a little chilli lime and coriander salt to spice things up.


Roasted Beet Salad

Serves 4-6 as a side dish

Ingredients

500g / 1lb beets
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp thyme, roughly chopped
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste


Directions
Preheat oven to 190C/ 375F degrees.

Wash and trim the beets and place on a large piece of tinfoil.  Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.  Wraps the beets up in the tinfoil, seal tightly
but leave a little room in the tinfoil parcel. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour until the beets are tender.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool until they are cool enough to be handled.

Peel and chop the beets in to bight size pieces.  If you don't want crimson stained hands wear some gloves.  Place the beets in a bowl and set aside.  In a jam jar combine the olive oil, thyme, lemon zest, lemon juice, a little salt and pepper.  Shake well to combine.

Drizzle the dressing over the beets and toss everything together until the beets are evenly coated in the dressing.  Serve immediately or chill in the fridge until ready to serve.


Spicy Kumura Fries

Inspiration for these came from over at the Smitten Kitchen and Giada.  Both sound quite delicious and will definitely need to be sampled but for today I felt like a fairly serious chilli hit and I love the combination of a fiery chilli  with the sweet kumura.  And then I remembered a chilli lime salt from somewhere.  It finally came to me...Annabel Langbein's chilli lime salt that she sprinkles over grilled steaks in The Free Range Cook.  It also sounds delicious but I like the idea of adding an aromatic hit of fresh coriander to the mix.  So by a fairly circuitous route I came up with this...


Ingredients

For the chilli lime and coriander salt
1/2 cup sea salt
1-2 red chillies, the chilli component will really all depend on the heat of the chilli and how hot you like it.  I still have some of the off the scale Indian chillies so I used half.  Seeded or deseeded - again depends on your desire or not for heat.
Zest of 2 limes
1/4 cup loosely packed coriander leaves

750g / 1.5lb kumura or sweet potato, cut in to long thin fry like wedges
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper 

Directions

Preheat the oven to 190C / 375F

For the flavoured salt place everything and a food processor and whizz together.  It will be like wet sand at this point.  Spread the sand like mixture on a baking tray and bake in the over for 5-10 minutes until it has dried out to a more salt like texture.

Place the kumura fries on to a baking tray and toss with the olive oil. Bake until golden and crisp, about 45 minutes. As soon as the fries come out of the sprinkle over the chilli lime and coriander salt.  Serve immediately with some garlic mayo.





The pork steaks went down a treat and I am fairly sure I have converted a few more people to the wonders of brining. The pork was tender, juicy and just full of so much flavour.  The brining just ensures the meat is seasoned perfectly.  The beets provided a little sweetness and I think a little crumbled feta would elevate this little salad from good to great, the soft, salty feta playing against the sweet, earthy beets.

The roasting brought out the sweetness of the kumura and the chilli lime coriander salt added a sharp chilli kick.  I really do love the sweet combined with a little heat.  Dipped in to some garlic mayo...no other words other than delicious and terribly moreish will really suffice.


Enjoy!

25 February 2011

The Wonderful World of Brining & Some Delicious Pork...


Sunday dawned with blue skies and sunshine, it now seems an age ago given recent events here in NZ, so much has changed since I began writing this post. Fortunately all of my friends in Christchurch are OK, shaken and devastated, as you would expect, but thankful to be OK. Even though I am not in Christchurch the number of messages and well wishes from everywhere has been touching, so thank you to friends, family and newly found twitter friends across the globe. Day 5 and the sheer gravity of the situation is evident. So thoughts and prayers remain with Christchurch. If you are reading this I hope any friends and family you have in Christchurch are also safe and sound.

On Sunday after a quick walk come jog round One Tree Hill I thought I would check out the local community garden farmers market for some foodie inspiration that seemed to be a little lack lustre this weekend.  These are local organic community gardens and every few months they have a market to sell any excess harvest.  What a little find tucked away at the end of a street in the middle of suburbia.  Not only were there freshly picked organic fruit and veggies but also several artisan stalls.


Sugary, flaky pastries which I managed to pass on but I couldn't go past these "cigars", little filo parcels filled with potato, feta and spinach.

So I came away with quite a haul.  The most fragrant basil, apples, purple potatoes, bay leaves and nectarines from the gardens and some seriously spicy Serbian sausage, hand made sourdough and cheddar and cardamom biscuits.

Handmade German Style Sourdough

Spicy Serbian sausages & other cured delights.

The nectarines provided the necessary culinary inspiration for dinner by way of the thought of a spicy salsa to go along side some pork steaks.  Not just any pork steaks. While February was a month of bacon, the March challenge for Charcutepalooza is brining.  It is a simple process that will deliver the most flavourful of meat.   A briny bath of salt, water, sugar, spices and herbs will infuse the meat with seasonings and flavours.  For all things bacon, brining and much, much more check out Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman.




For my first foray in to brining I chose pork steaks.  One because I came across some lovely looking organic free range ones in the supermarket and two because they only required an hour or two in their briny bath and would be ready in time for dinner.  Brining does take a little time, however the old adage that good things comes to those who wait is also true.  It really couldn't be easier.  Simply throw salt, sugar, herb and spices of choice in to a pot to dissolve the salt and sugar and to allow all the flavours to infuse the brine. Let it cool completely, very important!  Pop in to a zip lock bag for about 2 hours with the pork and you have successfully brined! Let the meat rest a little to ensure even distribution of the salt and seasonings.  Sear stove top and then pop in a medium high oven for 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the pork chops or steaks.

Still high Summer here in Auckland so I wanted to keep dinner light and fresh.  Nigel Slater helped out here with a spicy peach salsa.  I simple substituted the peaches with my freshly harvested nectarines.


Nectarine Salsa,from Tender Vol II by Nigel Slater

The only change being I had nectarines rather than peaches.

Ingredients

2 spring onions, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped, seeds and all if you like a little fire.  For a milder flavour deseed
3 peaches, finely diced - I used nectarines
8 cherry tomatoes, diced
small bunch coriander, roughly chopped
juice and zest of 2 limes
3 tbsp olive oil

Directions

Mix together the spring onion, chilli, nectarines, cherry tomatoes and coriander.  Add the lime juice and olive oil and mix well to combine.


With some freshly dug potatoes tossed in a little butter and mint a fresh, light dinner perfect for a hot Summer evening. The pork was sublime, tender with subtle layers of flavour from the brine. The salsa provided a fruity alternative to apple sauce. Such sweet nectarines, heat from the chilli offset by the zing lime and aromatic coriander.


Or as an alternative serve with a little pesto.  My recipe below.  Feel free to tweak to suit your own taste.  It is argued that if you chop everything by hand it will be brighter, tastier, fresher but you can also whizz everything up in a food processor for a speedy verdant green pesto that still delivers that burst of fresh basil.

Pesto

Ingredients

Makes 1 cup

2 cups basil leaves
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
1/4 cup Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Place all the basil, pine nuts and Parmesan in to the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse to combine.  Don't over work as you do want to have a little texture.  Personally I like mine quite rustic and not too much Parmesan.  While pulsing, drizzle in the olive oil until you have a rough paste. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Place a good dollop on to each pork steak and serve.  I served this with crispy purple potato chips for a little crunch and on the side a little roasted zucchini and fennel with a little mint to freshen things up.I love pesto with all that green basil melded together with the sharp Parmesan and mellow pine nuts.  The crispy potatoes added the requisite salty crunch.  The roasting intensified the sweet aniseed flavour of the fennel and enlivened zucchini a little. The little hint of mint added a fresh light note.

Enjoy!

21 February 2011

A Lovely Lunch, Jellies & Jam


As we head towards the end of summer I wanted to start bottling a little of it to brighten up the cooler winter months.  Last weekend I caught up with some fellow Auckland food bloggers for lunch.  Myself, Alli (Pease Pudding)and Alessandra all headed out in to the Waikato countryside to Arfi's at Homemades, place, each with a plate in hand for a little bit of a foodie lunch.  It really was a treat to spend time with these lovely ladies over some delicious food and nice to move from tweeting to actual face to face conversation.  We also got the chance to have a walk through Arfi's wonderful orchard which is just laden with all sorts of fruity delights, pears, apples, nectarines, peaches, plums and damsons.  We all left with a bag of beautiful dusky damsons and a fair amount of orchard envy.


What to with these dusky blue hued damsons that was the question.  Gin seems to be a popular choice at present but I felt the urge for some jelly. If you follow this blog you'll know I love to make jelly. The patience to just let the jewel like liquid drip, drip, drip through the jelly bag to then be boiled up with sugar to be transformed into a jelly that is completely infused with the very essence of the fruit, I just find it so appealing.



So on to the damson jelly which resulted in a jar or two of the darkest purple jelly that is full of the flavour of damson and sweet with a little tartness.  Perfect for me as not a fan of an overly sweet jelly.  A treat for breakfast on hot buttered toast with a nice cup of tea. For a more savoury version I think it would complement some roast pork instead of the usual apple. The sweet and the tart would also be a friend to a creamy Camembert or Brie.

Damson Jelly

Ingredients

1kg damsons
Juice of 2 lemons
150ml water
Sugar, amount dependent on juice from damson


Directions
Wash the fruit and place it in a preserving pan with the lemon juice and water.  If you don't have a preserving pan use a large heavy based saucepan.  Bring the fruit slowly to the boil and allow it to simmer for 30-40 minutes, until the fruit is soft.


Pour the fruit into a jelly bag with a large bowl placed underneath it to catch the juice.  Allow the juice to drip through for several hours or overnight. Measure the juice and pour it back into the pan and add 100g of sugar to every 100ml of juice. Stir over a low heat until the sugar has completely dissolved and then raise the heat and rapidly boil until setting point is reached.  So see if the jelly has reached setting point spoon a little on to a chilled saucer.  Let it cool a little for a moment and then push with your finger - if it wrinkles it is ready. If not return to the heat, boil for 5 more minutes and test again. Pour the jelly into warm sterilised jars* and cool before sealing. The damson jelly can be eaten straight away, but it will keep for up to a year.

*You need to make you sterilise the jars properly.  Preheat the oven 120C. Wash the jars in hot soapy water, rinse well and place on their sides in the oven for 15 minutes.


Another gift that came my way were chillies, thanks Kristen. Plump, fat, round red chillies, allegedly fiercely hot according to my Kristen's Indian neighbours who grow them.  Right enough just a tiny nibble will set your mouth all a tingle.  Quite a treat given that all that is usually available are nondescript long, relatively mild chillies and I do love a little bit of heat.  I also had a large bag of red peppers that needed using and was fortunate enough to come across a recipe for a fiery red pepper jelly. 


Red Pepper Jelly, from Jams & Chutneys - Preserving the Harvest by Thane Prince


Ingredients


6 large red peppers, deseeded and halved
12 red chillies, halved - or more or less depending on how much heat you are looking for.
600ml red wine vinegar
1.25kg (2.75lb)granulated sugar*
2 sachets jam setting mix*


*Next time around I will just use the pectin sugar.


Directions

Place the peppers and chillies on a food processor and give them a good whizz.  It won't take long at all and you'll have rough paste.
Place the paste in a heavy based saucepan and add the vinegar.  Bring to the boil and let boil away for 5 minutes.  Place the mixture in a jelly bag and let it drip overnight.


Pour the liquid in to a heavy based saucepan and add the sugar.  Bring the mixture slowly to a boil and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Add the jam setting mix and cook at a full rolling boil for 2 minutes and test for a set.  Once the jelly has reached setting point pour it in to sterilised jars and seal.


I just couldn't get this to set quite as much as I would have liked, however taste is what really matters and this jelly is sweet with good hit of heat from the chilli and went perfectly with a little round of Camembert.



And then yesterday I came across something new to me; red tinged greengage.  Not something that I have had before so I couldn't resist grabbing some and besides they were just too pretty in their shades of green and gold with random tinges of red.







Greengage Jam, from Jams & Chutneys - Preserving the Harvest by Thane Prince


Ingredients

1kg / 2.25lbs greengages, stones removed and quartered
750g / 1lb 10oz granulated sugar


Directions

Place the fruit and water in preserving pan or heavy based saucepan.  Cook gently over a low heat for 10 minutes. Stir every now and then until the greengages start to soften and release some of their juices.


Add the sugar and continue to simmer until the sugar has completely dissolved.  Increase the heat and bring the mixture to a full rolling boil.  Cook for about 5 minutes and skim off any scum that rises to the surface. Once the jam reaches setting point in to hot sterilsed jars, seal and label.


This jam has a lightness and is full of sweet, mellow pluminess.  And as a result of almost burning the jam there is an after note of caramel, which I think makes this potentially a favourite jam of mine.  I do love when kitchen mishaps deliver something more than what would otherwise have been achieved.  So go on, and give bottling a little of Summer a go.





Enjoy!

15 February 2011

Manuka Bacon, Apple & Goat's Cheese Salad with Honey Lemon Dressing


February marked the start of my Charcutepalooza adventure.  Charcutepalooza is a year long challenge, a year of meat, cooked up by Mrs Wheelbarrow and the Yummy Mummy.  It is a celebration of charcuterie and I am looking forward to mastering salting, smoking and curing skills, with the help of Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman.  I highly recommend it for the bacon making recipe alone! I missed the January challenge of duck prosciutto but will pick that up later as little too hot and humid here in Auckland at present to be hanging meat, actually sweltering. I need some cooler climes to avoid any potential health hazards!

So the February challenge was bacon.  All that was required a little pink salt, herbs and flavourings of choice and a zip lock bag...yes as easy as that.  Well, easy once you have located pink salt, and not the Himalayan pink variety, (thanks everyone that responded to tweets and calls for help to locate some) but salt with sodium nitrite to banish bacteria and preserve the colour of the meat.  A local butcher came to my assistance with the pink salt and large slab of pork belly.

I couldn't decide between sweet and savoury so in the end I made a batch of each.  My penchant for having a little of everything.  For the sweet maple syrup would be the classic but I felt the need for a little Kiwi infusion and rubbed one all over with a generous dollop of manuka honey and salt.  For the savoury a combination of garlic, bay, juniper berries and a black peppercorns.



My first memory of bacon is from my Gran, oddly enough most of my memories of my Gran revolve around food!  She was a lover of dark chocolate and of very good red wine.  Even at over 90 at a wine tasting she would always prefer the most expensive tipple on offer.  Her potato soup is legendary and sadly no one can seem to quite replicate it.  She also loved sausage rolls and a good pie.  She was also quite the glamour girl and always liked to look her best.  She definitely passed on the love of dark chocolate and red wine.  I only hope I can try to look as fabulous as my Gran as long as she did.


Many a summer holiday was spent on the Isle of Skye off the West coast of Scotland where my Gran ran a B&B. Once all the guest were fed we would get our very own bacon sandwich.  Toasted plain white bread, a lot of butter, (and I mean a lot, way beyond a good slathering, as my Gran was never one to scrimp on butter)and crispy fried bacon. To this day it is just such a comfort food for me, taking me back to those early summers spent at my Gran's.  Fantasy worlds created in the field next door, picking wild flowers, swimming in icy cold fresh water pools, wondering whether I would get to stay in the blue room or the pink room, being allowed to stay in the caravan which was like having our very own little home, and apparently some dressing up...

Me & my sister playing dress up.

Homemade bacon is a revelation and the first thing that had to be done was to have a bacon butty.  One of life's simple pleasures.  The freshest white bread, butter and crispy bacon.


The savoury bacon was meaty and the fat crisped to perfection.  The garlic, bay, juniper berries and black peppercorns delivering punches of such savoury flavour, quite unlike any bacon I have ever bought. Really, just so much more taste and texture, I don't think I will be buying bacon any time soon.

For the manuka cured bacon I came up with this little salad...


Manuka Bacon, Apple and Goat's Cheese Salad with a Honey Lemon 
Dressing


This is a really simple salad the takes only as long as it takes to fry the bacon.  The first incarnation was with pear and little lardons of bacon, which was good but just not as good as it was with the crunchy tart apples freshly picked from a friend's garden and crispy shards of bacon.  The crispy shards allow the bacon to be the star of this little concoction.  The dressing started out with extra virgin olive oil and was more of a vinaigrette but it just wanted to overpower and quieten all the fresh bright flavours of the salad.  The honey lemon dressing is lighter and complements each layer of flavour in the salad. The honey coaxing out the manuka flavour in the bacon and the lemon adding a bright, light, lemony lift to the apple and goat's cheese that only lemon can. A little lemon zest would not go amiss here either.



Ingredients

2-3 rashers of bacon per person, cut into strips
olive oil
2 handfuls mixed salad leaves per person
1/2 an apple per person, sliced
1/4 cup goat's cheese per person

For the dressing
Equal parts honey and lemon

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and fry the bacon over a medium heat until crisp.  Toss together the salad leaves, apple and bacon with a little of the dressing.  Just enough to lightly coat all the leaves.  Crumble the goat's cheese over the top and serve immediately.




Fresh and lively this salad deliver layers of flavour and texture.  Fresh, crisp lettuce, the bacon subtly infused with the manuka honey pairing with the bright, white, tangy soft goat's cheese.  Plus the tart crunch of a freshly picked apple and all bound together with the honey and lemon dressing, the honey lending a little sweet mellowness to the lemon but leaving behind a little citrus zing.

And March's challenge...well all is yet to be revealed...

Enjoy!