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Posts Tagged ‘dinner’

Twice Cooked Pork Belly

Twice Cooked Pork Belly

The other week I received a rather curious comment from my husband. He said he wanted to learn to make pork belly.

“You aren’t ready.” I told him. I thought that a good pork belly, the one with really crispy crackling combined with melt in your mouth meat and a rich gravy was something only experienced cooks attempted.

But he insisted to make it for dinner and I said, knowing the failure to come, that I would have nothing to do with making the dish.

So off he went to buy the pork belly and every so often I’d get a text asking for advice. “What knife to use to score the pork belly? Knife not sharp enough??” or “Where is the thyme in the garden?” and “How do I turn on the oven?”. The questions were getting scarier and scarier and so I chose to ignore the messages and decided to go with plan B, and buy take away.

I knew I had made the right decision when I got home a few hours later. The kitchen counter was as clean as I had left it that morning and I thought that He must have aborted the project mid-way. I was impressed though that he had cleaned up.

Come dinner time however, he pulled this big slab of pork belly from the refrigerator and started portioning the meat into generous servings, ready to crisp the pork skin in the oven.

“Uhm, where’d you get that?” I asked him. Surely he didn’t make it. Did he?

Turns out, you can pretty much learn how to cook anything from You Tube. He had found a video of Gordon Ramsay making a twice cooked pressed belly of pork and proceeded to make his own. What can I say – I was humbled. It was exceptional. He even made a gravy and cauliflower and apple mash to go with it!

I learned a lot of things from my husband that day. First, when someone says you can’t do something, challenge it. Second, never underestimate a person’s abilities and third and most important lesson – my husband makes a mean pressed belly of pork!

Gordon Ramsay’s Pressed Belly of Pork

  • 1 kilo of pork belly (ribs removed), scored – it is easier to ask your butcher to do this
  • 2 bulbs of garlic, sliced in half horizontally
  • a few sprigs of thyme
  • White wine (enough so that it covers the roasting pan during the cooking process plus a little more to deglaze the pan when done)
  • 500 ml chicken stock
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160c (fan forced, add 20c if the oven is not fan forced)
  2. Season the pork belly generously with salt, pepper and olive oil.
  3. Place the garlic in a roasting pan and the thyme on top of the garlic. Place the pork belly on top of the thyme.
  4. Cook the pork belly for 2 hours. When done, remove and set aside to rest.
  5. Place the roasting pan over the stove top (be careful as the pan will still be hot. Deglaze the roasting pan with a generous splash of white wine and allow to reduce by for around 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and allow to reduce the liquid by half. Sieve the sauce into a pan, making sure to press the garlic through the sieve as much as you can so the sauce is infused with the garlic. Set aside
  6. Place the pork on a tray and place another tray on top of the pork belly. Press down on the top tray and place some weights (i.e. some cans from your pantry) on top of the tray to weigh it down. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours.
  7. When the pork is ready, pre-heat the oven to 240c (fan forced). Slice the belly of pork into 4 to 6 portions of smaller squares and cook for around 15 minutes until the skin crisps. While the pork is cooking, heat the gravy. To serve, place the pork on a bed of cauliflower-apple mash and pour the gravy around the pork.

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Prawn Pasta with Bisque Sauce

Prawn Pasta with Bisque Sauce

This is one of those recipes that wasn’t meant to make it to the blog. On my way home from work tonight I thought that, since my husband was working late, I might kill time by making some fresh pasta. I stopped by the fish monger and found some fresh prawns and thought that a nice creamy bisque sauce would work well with it. I was wrong. It didn’t work well with it… it worked SUPER DUPER WELL with it!

It was so good, I knew I would do you a disservice if I didn’t share it. So – here it is – prawn pasta with a bisque sauce. Have you got a favourite seafood pasta recipe? Well, now you do!

Recipe for fresh pasta can be found here.

Prawn Pasta with Bisque Sauce

Prawn Pasta with Bisque Sauce

Prawn Pasta with Bisque Sauce

serves 2

  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 large carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1 stick of celery, roughly chopped
  • 45 ml olive oil plus another 30 ml to fry the prawns.
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 12 large prawns
  • 100 ml cream
  • salt to taste
  • chopped parsley for garnish
  • 100 to 150 grams fresh pasta per person
  1. In a large pan, heat the olive oil and add the onion, carrot and celery. Cook until the onions are translucent, around 5 minutes, then add the garlic cloves. Season with salt.
  2. Peel and devein the prawns. Chop the meat into large pieces and set aside for use later. Place the prawn heads and peel with the vegetables and saute for around 5 more minutes. Add 750 ml of water and allow to simmer until the liquid havles, around 50 minutes to 1 hour.
  3. When the sauce has reduced, strain the sauce and add the cream, continue to simmer until the sauce thickens. Taste and season as required.
  4. Heat the 30 ml of oil in another pan and fry the prawns until cooked, around 3 minutes. Add this to the bisque/cream sauce.
  5. Meanwhile, heat a large pot of water until boiling. Salt the water once it reaches a boil and add the fresh pasta. Cook until al dente. Drain the pasta and add to the bisque sauce.
  6. Place in serving bowls and sprinkle with parsley.

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Goat's Cheese Tortellini with Prawns, Pinenuts and Raisins

Goat's Cheese Tortellini with Prawns, Pinenuts and Raisins

Where do I even begin?  We last left of when Bizou died. I never told what exactly happened.  I guess five months ago it was difficult for me to put in in writing.  Even today, I get teary just thinking about it, but hopefully this will explain my absence for so long.

The morning that Bizou died, my friend Calley and I were meant to have a Doggie Donation Day for Monika’s Doggie Rescue.  We were going to have a stand infront of the supermarket to collect old dog toys, beds and other accessories for the event.  We had spent the whole night putting up posters for the event and when I got home, I decided that I was going to make sunflower cupcakes for a gold coin donation.  That morning, as we set up our stand, I had only brought half the cupcakes so I told my husband that we had to go back home to get the rest.  He said that I should just stay and finish setting up while he went back home to pick up the rest.

That’s when it all happened.  As he carried the cupcakes to the car, she slipped out of the gate and was hit by a car.  The rest, you already know.

Not meaning to sound too dramatic, but I truly felt that life was so cruel.  It was ironic that  Calley and I had gone out of our way to do something to help rescue dogs and in the process had lost my own.  When you have something special taken away from you so soon, you want to find ways to explain why it happened.

I blamed it on the cupcakes. If I hadn’t baked them, they my husband wouldn’t have needed to go home and get them and Bizou would have not ran out of the gate.  I couldn’t step into the kitchen without being reminded of Bizou.  And so, as much as I could, I stayed out of the kitchen.

So many things have happened since then that I don’t really know where to start.  I guess it will take a few posts to get you up to speed.

But let me begin by telling you about this little bundle lying at my feet as I write this story.  For the first few months of her life she scared me.  So much so that not a day would pass where I wouldn’t ask myself “what have I done?”  A number of times I thought about giving her back.  I thought that getting a new puppy would make it easier to move on.  Little did I realize that instead, this would be one of the hardest things I’d ever done.

Meet Pash.

Pash

Pash

I ate out a lot over the last few months.  There is a little cafe near where I lived that served this dish regularly and it was one of our favorites. I remember the first night we ordered it, we were going to share a plate, we ended up ordering three plates. It was that good. The original recipe is from Neil Perry – he serves this at his Rockpool restaurant. Making the pasta is not for the faint hearted. It’s not easy making pasta using only potatoes and flour (no eggs to help bind the mixture) but the results are well worth the effort. If you can’t be bothered, feel free to use regular pasta, or otherwise, I suspect wonton wrappers would work as well.

Goat's Cheese Tortellini

Goat's Cheese Tortellini with Potato Gnocchi Dough

King Prawn and Goat’s Cheese Tortellini

From Neil Perry’s Rockpool Cookbook, Serves 6

  • 12 large prawns, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 cup raisins soaked in hot English Breakfast Tea
  • 1/4 cup roasted pinenuts
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese to serve

For the Tortellini

  • 200 grams butter
  • 350 grams floury potatoes (I used Desiree)
  • 150 grams baker’s flour
  • 150 grams fresh goat’s cheese
  • 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. To make the tortellini, boil the potatoes in salted water for about 20 minutes until you are able to pierce the flesh all the way through with a knife.
  2. Place the goat’s cheese, lemon zest, and some lemon juice to taste in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  3. When the potatoes are cooked, drain them and peel the potatoes and push them through a potato ricer. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and the flour. Mix until the dough forms a cohesive mass. Place half the dough in a bowl covered with a tea towel to keep warm. Take the other half and dust with a little flour as you put it through the pasta machine to ensure it doesn’t stick. Run it through the largest setting a few times until the dough comes together. The dough will not look as smooth as pasta made with flour and eggs.
  4. Continue to lower the setting of the pasta, ensuring that you use just enough flour to ensure that the pasta doesn’t stick to the machine. Stop when you reach the third to the last setting (it won’t be as thin as regular pasta). Lay the pasta sheet on the bench and trim the edges with a pizza cutter or sharp knife. Cut the pasta into four inch squares as you will be folding the dough over to make triangles for the tortellini.
  5. Pipe a bit of the goat’s cheese mixture toward the top left hand corner of each square. Fold the bottom right hand corner to the top to form a triangle enveloping the goat’s cheese. You should have the triangles on the bias with the point facing away from you to the top left. Fold the base of the triangle lengthwise so it is level with, and covers, the top point. You will have a long skinny piece of pasta with a bump in the middle.
  6. Pick up the pasta and wrap it around your index finger with the top point of the triangle facing away from you. Squeeze the two ends together where they overlap and remove your finger. Place on a floured tray and continue with the rest.
  7. To finish the dish, place some olive oil in a pan and heat. Add the prawns and cook for around one minute on each side, until cooked through but make sure not to overcook the prawns.
  8. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the tortellini and remove from the pot with a slotted spoon once they float to the top. Set aside and keep in a warm place.
  9. To serve, place around 4 to 5 pieces of the tortellini around the outside of a plate and the prawns in the middle. Sprinkle with the raisins and pinenuts. In the same pan used to cook the prawns, heat the butter until it starts to foam and smells nutty. Spoon the butter over the prawns and tortellini. Finish with grater parmesan cheese.
Goat's Cheese Tortellini with Prawns, Pinenuts and Raisins

Goat's Cheese Tortellini with Prawns, Pinenuts and Raisins

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Chicken and Egg

Chicken and Egg

I’ll be the first to admit, I am a gadget junkie.  This weekend I stepped inside the mall and stepped out with an electric groom tool and a soft serve ice cream maker.  It really didn’t matter that even the salesman tried to dissuade me to get the groom tool or that I had previously bought two ice cream makers (which I had each used once).  My desire to have a soft serve ice cream party during the summer (only six months away) was enough to cloud my normally better judgement.  The truth is, most of the gadgets would be lucky to be used twice… Like my coconut grater, express pizza oven, and smoker (oh actually, that was only used once!).

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Chicken in Garlic Sauce

Chicken in Garlic Sauce

Many many years ago a large Philippine newspaper asked my Mom if she wanted to be featured in their food column.  Despite my lack of food knowledge I volunteered to take her place and be interviewed.

So I made my signature dish of chicken with 40 cloves of garlic.

The lady who interviewed me must have thought it strange that not once during the interview did I enter the kitchen.  After we chatted for twenty minutes or so, my Mom brought out a large platter of a juicy roast chicken adorned with a generous amount of garlic which I claimed I had made earlier.  The interviewer raved about how delicious the chicken was, how the garlic was not too strong and how the chicken was simply cooked to perfection… the best she ever tasted.

I think it’s only right to once and for all set the story straight.

The truth is, all credit for that dish should have gone to my Mom who spent the better part of the morning marinating, stuffing and roasting the chicken, plus making a strawberry cake for dessert.  I, on the other hand,  sat back, basked in the limelight and answered the interviewer’s questions.

So I’m coming clean with my version of a roast chicken in garlic sauce.   This chicken is first pan fried and then finished off in the oven with slow roasted garlic and chicken stock which is then reduced into a sticky, garlicky sauce.  Finally, a sprinkle of parsley to finish.

And, if you’ll take my word for it, this recipe is just as good as the one I didn’t make many years ago.

Chicken in Garlic Sauce

Serves 2

  • 8 cloves of garlic
  • 2 chicken quarters (your choice of supreme or marylands)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 200 ml chicken stock
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon chopped parsley
  1. Place the garlic on a piece of foil and season with salt and pepper and drizzle a tablespoon of oil over it. Wrap the garlic cloves with foil and bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 c for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and unwrap the foil
  2. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and heat a pan with oil until very hot. Place the chicken pieces (skin side down) on the skillet and fry the skin until nicely browned, around 5 minutes. Turn the chicken pieces over and place the garlic cloves in the pan.
  3. With the back of a fork, press the cloves of garlic to remove the flesh of the garlic from the skin and add the 200 ml of stock.
  4. Place the skillet in the oven (which is still at 180 c) for 15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.
  5. Top with chopped parsley and serve immediately.

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Beef ribs with chorizo

Beef ribs with chorizo

They say, necessity is the mother of invention.

These last few weeks, I would say that moving is the mother of improvisation. As we countdown to moving homes, I find myself limited as to what I can cook because I’ve either packed something away or I’m trying to use up miscellaneous ingredients that have been hiding in my freezer or pantry.  I had some friends over for dinner a while back and I discovered some chorizos and beef ribs hibernating in my freezer and an almost empty tin of paprika and decided that I would make a Spanish inspired beef stew.

I mentioned in a previous post that I learned to brown tough cuts of meat in the oven rather than frying over the stove top – after trying it again for this recipe I have to say, this is definitely my preferred method – it’s less messier and healthier because some of the fat is rendered from the meat using this technique.

I love the beef and chorizo combination – this is dish is so hearty and so easy to put together.  Many stews taste better the next day as all the flavours develop overnight…I wish I could say the same for this dish – I suspect it would, but I wouldn’t know as we finished it in one sitting.

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Chicken with Pine Nuts

Chicken with Pine Nuts

I got the good news last week that my parents managed to book a flight and are coming to Australia for Christmas.  While I’m feeling very excited for their visit, I’m also a bit apprehensive as I start to imagine the tug of war that’s probably going to happen in the kitchen while my Mom, the Blog Monster is around.  We’re moving  homes this coming Monday and there’s a brand new kitchen to play with.  Given my Mom’s penchant for taking over all the cooking while she visits, I’m pretty sure she’ll want to keep me away from the kitchen.

Of course it’s great coming home to a meal cooked by my Mom everyday… but sometimes I just want to scream “Please!  Let me cook this time!”

A typical conversation when I tell my Mom I want to cook dinner.    “Of course!” she said, then adds “Can I help you prepare?”

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