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Chinese Crispy Roast Pork (Siew Yoke) in the Slow Cooker

September 21, 2014

My husband likes it slightly over browned but  it's just as yummy.

My husband likes it slightly over browned but it’s just as yummy.

Do you ever stop and stare at the curious delights displayed in the Chinese barbecue shop window? Drool over the lacquered red Peking ducks, the dripping honeyed char siew pork neck and the trays of braised duck tongues?

I do.

I’m always in awe of the crispy skinned pork belly, with a rind so brittle and crunchy – how do they get it like that? Well, I’m about to tell you how, in a very non-traditional way, which is easy peasy and guaranteed!

Cantonese crispy roast pork, AKA siew yoke, is traditionally flavoured with Chinese 5 spice and fermented bean curd. I have skipped the bean curd part in this recipe as it is not something commonly found in kitchens although it does impart a musky salty flavour of the restaurant dish. I make my own 5 spice blend but you can use a good bought one kind but freshly ground spices add so much more flavour compared to bottled ones which may be months or years old. My recipe is here.

My kids devour siew yoke, typically served on plain rice with some steamed green vegetables and the juices from the pork. Nom nom nom!

I have previously posted about pork here and the process for crackling is just about the same but this time I made my siew yoke in my slow cooker as an experiment and it worked better than I imagined. The meat was moist and succulent as expected, and you could do this step a few days before you needed to serve it as it keeps really well in the fridge. Be aware that you will need to dry out the meat for a few days, uncovered in the fridge.

Start with a 1 – 1.5kg of pork belly that will sit flat in the bottom of your slow cooker. If you are located in Melbourne, I recommend you get your happy free range pork from my old school buddy, Liz here. She raises seriously good pork!

1 tab salt
2 tabs Chinese 5 spice powder
1 teas dried ginger powder
1/2 teas white pepper
1 cup (approx) of bone broth or water
2 tabs apple cider vinegar
1 tab honey

Mix the 5 spice, ginger & pepper in a bowl and rub into the meat side of the belly well. Give it a thick coating of dry spice. Flip the meat over and using a skewer, stab the skin all over (many many times) to perforate it. There is a scary specific tool for doing this in Asian grocers, but I don’t bother, a strong skewer does the trick.

Rub the pricked skin with salt and place in the fridge, uncovered for at least 2 days to dry.

When ready to cook, place skin side up into the slow cooker and carefully pour the stock (or water) around the meat, until it comes up to the level of the skin, without wetting the skin. Cook for about 2 – 3 hours, ensuring that the base doesn’t dry out.

Remove the meat and place on a lined oven tray and brush the skin with vinegar. In the slow cooker, mix in the honey well with the meat juices, adding a little water if the sauce is too strong. Set the juices aside.

Place the meat on the middle shelf of your oven and turn the grill element on high. The skin will puff and bubble in about 20 minutes. Watch carefully as it can catch quite quickly.

porkchinese2

Serve with salad or rice and the meat juices for dunking. My kids love it with homemade hoisin sauce too.

Slow Cooked Moroccan Goat

September 19, 2014
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Serve with cauliflower mash for an easy dinner

Serve with parsnip- cauliflower mash for an easy dinner

If you are a meat eater, which meats would you usually consume?

You might list beef, chicken, turkey, pork, and fish. But what about goat? My husband has always loved eating goat. But I admit that we don’t eat it very often as it is hard to find in mainstream butcheries.

I know a Halal butcher in town which stocks goat, already diced with bone in (the best way for a curry) but I admit that I seldom venture into the city.

But recently I was excited to discover that Danny from my favourite organic butcher stocks goat in all cuts so I bought a lovely leg to slow roast.

I was surprised to learn that goat meat rivals pork for worldwide consumption, with it being more popular than beef, poultry, or fish.

Part of the reason for its popularity is that the goat is a very useful animal that requires relatively little effort to care for. An acre of grass can sustain 10 goats versus two cows. And, we all know that goats are hardy creatures that forage, including washing off the line!

What I like about goat is that it isn’t a “mass-produced” meat. Rather, it is usually the product of small, local farms which are generally organic and grass fed.  Also, goats are less damaging to the grasslands than cattle, making them a truly sustainable meat animal. From a nutritional point of view, goat has less fat than beef OR chicken and has comparable protein to red meat.

It is an old-fashioned belief that male meat is stinkier than female meat in cooking these days, as goat meat is generally slaughtered for eating when very young, particularly in males before maturity.  (The ‘goaty’ smell is derived from older meat with musk glands and testosterone.) I think it has an even lighter, sweeter, flavour than lamb and understand why my husband loves it!

1.5kg goat leg
1 teas coriander seeds
1 teas cumin seeds
3 cardamon pods
1 stick cinnamon
1/4 teas peppercorns
6 cloves
1 teas salt
3 cloves garlic
1 knob turmeric
1 knob ginger
40g olive oil
2 large onions, quartered
600g tomatoes
3 bay leaves
2 pieces preserved orange or lemon skin, julienned
10 green or black pitted olives
30g currants
100g red or white wine or water
30g slivered almonds toasted
handful fresh coriander, chopped to garnish
 
Toast the spices and salt in the TM for 6 minutes on SP slow VAROMA temp. Mill on SP 10 for 10 seconds. Add the garlic, turmeric & ginger, and chop on SP 6 for 10 seconds. Add the oil and saute on SP 1, VAROMA temp for 3 minutes.
 
Add the tomatoes and turbo once or twice to chop before adding the bay, currants, preserved peel, olives & wine. Stir through.
 
Place the onions in the base of a heavy casserole dish and the goat leg on top. Pour over the sauce mix and bake, covered in a 130°C oven for 4 hours.* Check that the meat is falling off the bone before garnishing with the almonds & coriander before serving.
 
* You can do this in the slow cooker as well. Cook for 6 hours on low, turning over halfway.
  
Isn't this a cute goat?

Isn’t this a cute goat?

 
 

Its a saag!

September 9, 2014

Roasted veges with my saag have a more intense flavour

Roasted veges with my saag have a more intense flavour. I didn’t mix them in for the photo as it wasn’t very photogenic!

I love a good shag, I mean saag, don’t you?!

Unfortunately, it’s pretty hard to find one in my local vicinity. Most are made on canned spinach, stewed until the life force (colour) is cooked out and pretty insipid and tasteless. We have friends whose standard order is Lamb Saag (saag gosht) when we dine at an Indian restaurant so I have sampled enough to not bother ordering anymore! I will always ask if the spinach is fresh before I consider it.

One of my favourite Indian restaurants, Nilgiri’s in Sydney has a lovely one, but it’s not that frequent that I get to visit. And in another of my favourites, all the way in Bangkok, I had the best saag of my life! It was vibrant green, fresh & spicy but not overpowering and interestingly, minty! So I was very excited when my husband and I went there recently to get my saag fix.

Alas……nothing stays the same…..management had changed since our last visit and what we were presented with was pretty much a rendition of the aforementioned: canned, grey, insipid and tasteless….. Oh, what an anti-climax… but it did inspire me to get off my bum and do something about it! MAKE MY OWN!

Saag is typically a leaf-based “gravy” dish eaten in North India and Pakistan with bread such as roti or naan. It is usually made from spinach, mustard leaves, or drumstick leaves and served as a curry with meat, potatoes or paneer.

I like to keep some texture in my sauce and not use too many spices so that the spinach flavour is not overwhelmed. My husband is adverse to cumin so I like to toast a few seeds and sprinkle them on top of mine – not too many though! You could also make a tadka by tempering some ghee with dried chillies, garlic and mustard seeds and pouring that as you serve it.

I also use whatever “green” I have in the fridge: kale, silverbeet, spinach and even lettuce. Try a mix and see what you like.

I make this up and keep a batch in the freezer. The secret to a good saag is keeping it fresh! I don’t cook my meat or potatoes in the sauce because both require long cooking and this destroys the nutrients, colour and flavour out of the greens.

1 teas fennel seeds
1/2 teas dried chilli flakes
30g fresh ginger
1 knob fresh turmeric
2 cloves
1 large onion
50g ghee or avocado oil
1 teas salt
15g macadamia nuts
220g fresh spinach, silverbeet or kale (or a mix)
200g water
1 tab brown rice syrup or stevia to taste
large handful mint leaves
 
Toast the fennel & chilli flakes for 4 mins on SP slow on VAROMA temp.
Add the ginger, turmeric & cloves and chop on SP 9 for 5 seconds. Add the onion and chop further for 5 seconds. 
Add the ghee or oil and cook  for 5 minutes on SP 1, VAROMA temp.
 
Add the macadamia nuts and grind on SP 8 for 20 seconds.
 
Add the spinach & water and chop on SP 7 for 20 seconds. Cook for 6 minutes on SP 4 @ 100°C with the MC tilted.
 
Add the sweetener & mint and puree on SP 9 for 30 seconds. Check for seasoning and add a little extra water if you prefer it thinner. If you like more texture, remove a few tablespoonfuls of the mix before puréeing, then add back afterwards.
 
Garnish with some more mint, toasted cumin seeds or fried shallots. Serve with some naan or flatbread or rice.
 

For this dish I like to roast some root vegetables: turnip, swedes, pumpkin & potato and stir through the sauce.

For a lamb saag, slow cook some lamb pieces in a bare minimum of liquid and then stir through the sauce at the end.

For a potato saag, roast or steam some potatoes and then cook in the sauce for 10 minutes to absorb some flavour.

For a paneer saag, heat the sauce and add the cheese just to warm through.

 

It’s a Tiramisu Delight!

September 7, 2014

Almost raw, very vegan Tiramisu cake

Almost raw, very vegan Tiramisu cake

Whilst not a raw foodie, the concept intrigues me. I do believe that we should have a varied diet, both raw and cooked, hot & cold, liquid & solid, fresh & fermented. But all raw? I’m not so sure..

The paradox is that when one prescribes to a particular food choice, they inevitably try to replicate the non-prescribed foods in their way of eating!

I am a perfect example.

In my paleo lifestyle, I see it as a challenge to “paleo-fy” foods that would be otherwise prohibited. Like cake, and bread, and chocolate, and ice-cream, and more cake! I do this to bring awareness to the fact that a paleo diet need not be limiting. I also do it for my own sanity as I would go mad eating eggs and only eggs for breakfast everyday! And I have sweet tooth. But I think this analogy doesn’t quite fit with raw foodism. I understand the concept of enzymes and nutrient viability and I love the fact that raw foodism is undoubtedly whole and nourishing. But a shepherds pie and pizza are COOKED dishes! They don’t translate into raw! Do you disagree? Well, that’s my opinion, I’m not closed to the idea but maybe I’m biased!

This line of thought reminds me of my travels in Vietnam where there is a large Buddhist population who are vegetarians. We were recommended a vegetarian restaurant to dine in but were utterly confused when we saw the menu:

  • Chicken in black bean sauce
  • Pork Rolls
  • Beef with water chestnuts
  • Duck curry

Huh???

This restaurant prided itself on creating dishes from soy protein and konjac fibre to replicate (and very well, I might add) real meat. I thought the idea of being vegetarian was about taste and ecological and compassionate grounds rather than health. Which is a furphy anyway. It was an amusing dinner and quite awe-inspiring too, albeit not very healthy!

Anyway, I digress.

tiramisu2

My interest in raw AND vegan remains constant but not all-encompassing. A recent visit to an AMAZING raw food cafe in Sydney inspired me to make this cake for visitors tonight. It’s not quite raw but definitely vegan and almost positively paleo!

Many raw food cake recipes rely on a gelling agent to set them. Gelatine and agar agar are out as they need to be heated. The next best thing (apparently), is Irish moss algae.  It is better known as carrageneen, which has had a bad rap lately. Read more about that here. Despite whether its good for you or not, carrageneen is bloody hard to find locally!

I prefer to use konjac or guar or xanthan gum instead as they are much easier to find. I have spoken about konjac powder previously here and buy it from here. But guar gum works just as well, or xanthan gum works a bit better. It’s not a make or break ingredient in this recipe but it will improve the mouth feel and texture. The addition of coconut oil and cacao butter along with the xanthan gel gives this cake more substance rather than a moussey texture. You will need to make the gel the day before so it is completely smooth and absorbed. And soak your cashews at least 4 hours beforehand.

1/2 teas xanthan gum or konjac flour
120g water
 
Whisk the gum & water together in a cup and leave to gel overnight

The sponge in my tiramisu is actually based on a pancake batter. I didn’t want to use an excess of starch in the cake so I thought that a pancake would be easier to achieve than a thin genoise. It was! This recipe might sound a bit complicated but all of the components are very easy, start by melting the coconut oils before making the pancakes:

90g coconut oil
40g cacao butter
 
Melt on SP 2 @ 50°C for 5 minutes, or until combined. Set aside for the cake.
 
Sponge
75g rapadura or coconut sugar (I used Natvia)
150g gluten-free self-raising flour – I was lazy and used this soy free one instead of making my own
180g nut milk – I used homemade almond milk
40g macadamia oil
1 teas apple cider vinegar
pinch salt
1 teas baking powder
vanilla to taste
 
Mix all of the ingredients in the TM for 20 seconds SP 5. It should be a thick batter. Add a little water if too thick. Pour a 22cm pancake into a greased frying pan and cook on medium heat until the top is dry and bottom golden.  Do not attempt to flip – the pancake will be very fragile and will firm up on cooling. Turn out onto a baking paper lined plate and make the next one. You should get about 4 pancakes. Turn each one out onto a new piece of baking paper as they will stick together if stacked.
 
Filling
120g cashews, soaked in water overnight or at least 4 hours
240g homemade nut milk (I used almond)
100g coconut sugar
1 teas apple cider vinegar
1/4 teas salt
1 tab vanilla extract
50g maple syrup or brown rice syrup
40g xanthan gel – see above
90g coconut oil & 40g cacao butter melted – see above
40g cacao powder or cocoa
2 teas instant coffee
 
60g made up espresso coffee, cooled (I used strong dandelion tea)
1 batch of dairy-free whipped cream or coconut cream
40g dark chocolate, grated finely
 
Grind the soaked nuts for 10 seconds on SP 8. Add the milk, sugar, vinegar, salt, vanilla and syrup and blend on SP 9 for 2 minutes. Add 40g gel and the combined oils and mix on SP 6 for 20 seconds. It will be very smooth and glossy.
 
You will have about 760g of filling. 
 
Pour out 380g filling into a bowl and add the cacao to the remaining mix. Mix to combine well for 10 seconds on SP 7.
 
Grease and line a 20cm square or round cake tin. Using the tin as a template, cut the pancakes to fit. It doesn’t matter if they break. You will need 3 pancakes.
 
Line the bottom of the tin with a pancake and brush with the cooled espresso (or dandelion tea)
Pour in the chocolate mixture and smooth over. Top with another pancake.
 
Without washing the TM bowl, return the remaining mix and add the instant coffee. Mix to combine well for 10 seconds on SP 7. Pour over the second layer and top with the remaining pancake. Brush with any remaining espresso. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours to firm up before spreading the top & sides with cream. Decorate with grated chocolate if desired. 
 
 
To reiterate –  prepare the day before:
Soak the cashews
Make the gel
Make your nut milk – you will need about 600g (including what you will need if making the whipped cream)
 
To make this legally raw – omit the pancakes and layer the filling in a loaf tin.
To make this legally paleo – make the pancakes with almond flour.
To make this legally vegan – use whipped coconut cream instead of my dairy free cream.
 

 

 

 

 

JERK!

September 5, 2014

Jerk sauce on my chicken, served with a tomato pilaf & salad.

Jerk sauce on my chicken, served with a tomato pilaf & salad.

I learnt a couple of things writing this post. The first is that it is very hard to photograph jerked chicken! Alongside curry and mole, dark saucy dishes are not very photogenic. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t smell or taste fantastic!

Another thing that I learnt is that there are lots of variations of what “jerk” actually is. I always though it was the name of a film….or another word for idiot…. but Jerk is a style of cooking native to Jamaica in which meat is dry-rubbed or marinated with a very hot spice mixture called Jamaican jerk spice. It is cooked on either a barbecue or stew and is traditionally applied to pork or chicken but I don’t see why it couldn’t be used on seafood either. My recipe below is made as a braise but traditionally the meat is marinated and then grilled on a barbecue which produces a blackened dish. And a dirty barbecue!

Why “jerk”? The word is said to come from the word charqui, a Spanish term for dried meat, which we know as jerky in English. Jerk spice refers to the spice rub for jerky and has since been applied to other methods of cooking.

Folklore has it that the sauce originated from the slavery days in Jamaica  where Coromantee slaves found themselves using the local spices available to them. It has been adapted and modified over hundreds of years as various cultures added their influence.

Wikipedia says that jerk seasoning principally relies upon two items: allspice (pimento) and Scotch bonnet chillies (habanero). Other ingredients include thyme, cloves, cinnamon, onion, nutmeg, garlic, and salt.

I have never been to the Caribbean or South America where this dish is famous but I have endeavoured to try as many jerk dishes that I can find whilst dining out. And I’m confused! It seems that most of the dishes I tried were honeyed and ranged from sickly sweet to fiery hot. There were only few which had the signature allspice and thyme flavours evident so my recipe here is more or less a guess of what a true jerk should be like. And not in the form of Steve Martin!

 22 allspice berries
1 teas salt
1 teas black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick, broken
4 dried bay leaves
1/2 fresh nutmeg
 
Place dry spices into the TM bowl and mill on SP 9 for 10 seconds. This makes enough for 2 batches so remove 1 tablespoon for another batch. To the remaining mix add:
 
1 bunch thyme, woody stalks cut off but stems OK
50g spring onions
handful parsley
1 knob ginger
4 cloves garlic
1 habanero chilli or – 2 fresh green chillies, depending on taste
 
And grind on SP 9 for 10 seconds. Then add:
 
70g olive oil
40g wine vinegar
40g dark rum
1 tab honey (or more to taste)
30g tamari or soy sauce
 
Mix on SP 8 for 20 seconds until smooth. 
Pouring the sauce for a braise.

Pouring the sauce for a braise.

I used this sauce on a butterflied chicken which I placed in a casserole dish with some sliced lemon. I poured over the sauce and braised for about 40 minutes in a moderately hot oven until the chicken was cooked, basting a couple of times.
 
Alternatively you could marinate some chicken legs in the sauce overnight then roast or barbecue. I think that a good meaty fish like swordfish could work well this way too.
 
Chillies vary greatly on heat, so be cautious at first. You can always add more spice afterwards if you prefer.
 
 
 
 

Hoisin Braised Chicken with Eggplant

September 1, 2014

Comfort food

Comfort food

This is an oldie but a goodie! I haven’t made it in a while as I don’t buy hoisin sauce any more but now that I make my own, this recipe has had a resurgence. It’s one of those meals that you can whip up quick smart. It’s a “low energy, get something on the table” dinner – especially if you serve it with noodles!

Typically a provincial dish, it is a variation of a previous post where the pairing of hoisin and eggplant is a perfect match. My kids love it – well, they love anything with hoisin sauce, and it is a great way to get them to eat eggplant which they could easily give a miss. Feel free to substitute the eggplant for zucchini or even celery* for an interesting variation.

Toss your leftovers with some noodles for another meal - if there are any!

Toss your leftovers with some noodles for another meal – if there are any!

The dish works well served with rice, cauliflower rice or noodles and I often mix the leftovers with noodles (shiratake or kelp) to stretch it out. I like to mince my own meat as I can regulate the texture, bought mince tends to be a bit fine. Boned pork neck or turkey can be substituted for the chicken also.

3 cloves garlic
1 large knob ginger
400g chicken thighs, in pieces
400g eggplant, cut into finger size batons
2 tabs oil or ghee
200g bone broth or vegetable stock
120g hoisin sauce
50g rice wine or sherry
pinch dried chilli flakes (optional)
Spring onions for garnish
 
Chop the ginger & garlic on SP 9 for 10 seconds. Add the meat in 2 batches and pulse until minced using the turbo button. Set aside.
 
Without rinsing the bowl, fill with 1500g water & 1 teas salt and bring to the boil for 10 minutes on SP 3 at VAROMA temp.
When the water has boiled, add the eggplant and close the lid so that all of the eggplant is submerged to blanch. Let sit for 5 minutes then drain well. If you are serving rice, start making your rice now in the Thermomix.
 
In a heavy based frying pan or wok, heat the oil until hot and stir-fry the meat until just turned colour. Add the drained eggplant, stock rice wine and hoisin sauce and braise for about 15 minutes until the sauce has thickened and the eggplant is tender. Taste for salt and chilli and serve with rice or toss through some noodles. Garnish with spring onions if desired.
 
*If using celery, slice finely and stir-fry with the chicken.

hoisinpork

Creamy Tomato & Cauliflower Soup with Crunchy bits!

August 25, 2014

Creamy Tomato Soup with no cream! How can it be?

Creamy Tomato Soup with no cream! How can it be?

Oh my gosh, in contrast to the humid weather of Bangkok, where I was holidaying last week, the weather in Brisbane is freezing!!

Definitely soup weather, me thinks! And seeing that I am doing a whole30 detox from my culinary indulgent holiday, I am looking for easy, simple, fresh & nutritious foods.

Detoxing is a bit of a furphy really. The main reason why you have a liver is to help detoxify the body, and so as long as it’s working well, you are already detoxing as you read this!

The liver (and other organs too) process everything you put in your body and decide what they can use and what they don’t. If you have been putting lots of rubbish sugar, alcohol, preservatives or chemicals in your body, the liver will have been working overtime!

Detoxing usually produces connotations of fasting & purging and copious herbal supplementation. Detox proponents say that periodic cleansing is needed to flush toxins from the body that if left to accumulate will lead to health problems such as headaches, sluggishness and chronic diseases.

But the body already has systems in place that protect us from potentially harmful substances. The liver, intestines, kidneys, lungs, skin, blood and lymphatic systems are all designed to work together to ensure any dangerous toxins are chemically transformed into less harmful compounds that are then excreted from the body.

Those who normally eat an unhealthy diet will naturally feel better when they start eating properly and this is where whole30 comes in! It’s just a reminder  to eat more fresh vegetables and fruit, fresh meats and eliminating processed foods. This includes paleofied cakes & treats too!!!! (Arrggghhhhh!!!)

Whole30 is a great program and is detoxing in the true sense of the word. Find out more about it here. I generally live by these rules except my paleo-baking has gotten a bit out of hand!! So I am thinking real food when I make this soup.

1 carrot
1 stick celery
400g tomatoes
200g cauliflower
1 clove garlic
400g good bone broth or vegetable stock (500g if you prefer it less thick)
1 teas turmeric
60g butter or tallow (90g if you’re brave!)
handful of basil
1 teas Himalayan salt or more to taste
 
1 rasher streaky bacon, julienned and sautéed for garnish, omit if vegetarian
1 teas tallow or fat of choice
1 tab fried shallots for garnish
4 green olives, chopped finely
1 tab chopped fresh parsley for garnish.
 
In the TM, chop the vegetables on SP 5 for 5 seconds. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook on SP 3 for 25 minutes at 100°C.
 
While the soup is cooking, sauté the bacon with the fat in a pan until crispy. Mix with the shallots, olives and chopped parsley as set aside.
 
When the soup has finished cooking, blend on SP 8 for 20 seconds before topping with the garnish. As with most soups, this tastes better the next day!
I love topping my soups with an egg for a complete meal!

I love topping my soups with an egg for a complete meal!

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