Eat Well, Drink Better A No Nonsense Quest for Good Food and Wine in Australia
Braised Lamb Shoulder with Tomatoes, Cumin, Chickpeas and Mint
Posted by Chris on Monday 15 Nov 2010 at 1:10 PM
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Braised Lamb Shoulder with Tomatoes, Cumin, Chickpeas and Mint
A couple of weekends ago I spent a great Sunday afternoon having lunch in the front bar of Four in the Hand in Paddington. This fantastic little gastropub consistently turns out some of the best pub bistro dining in Sydney and that Sunday afternoon was no exception.
On the menu was a 12 hour braised lamb shoulder served in a tomato, cumin, chickpea and mint broth. It was so good I went back the next week just so I could try it again.
Now that spring is upon us and the lamb is at its best I thought it was the perfect chance to try and re-create the dish.
I’ve tried braising my lamb for both 12 hours and 4 hours and to be honest the incremental difference in flavour was not that intense so I would recommend you stick with the 4 hour version.
Try and get yourself a good quality deboned and rolled lamb shoulder that has been really well trimmed of excess fat. 
The slow braising of the lamb will mean that all the connective tissue will break down and you will be able to pull the meat apart with 2 forks.

Lamb Shoulder, trimmed of fat, deboned and rolled
What you’ll need
1 lamb shoulder, deboned, trimmed of fat and rolled
1.5L good quality chicken stock (don’t use stock cubes)
1 medium brown onion, finely diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
1-2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 400g can crushed Italian tomatoes
1 400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
A small handful of mint leaves (6-7), roughly chopped
Salt & Pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
A splash of white wine if you’ve got something open but not essential
How to put it together
First we’ll sort out the lamb.
1.       Pre-heat your oven to 150C
 
2.       Pat the meat dry with a paper towel and liberally season your lamb shoulder with salt and pepper
 
3.       Take a heavy cast iron put with a lid (I’ve used my Le Creuset) and put it over a medium heat on the stove.

Braised Lamb Shoulder with Tomatoes, Cumin, Chickpeas and Mint
 
4.       Add a good guzzle of olive oil and sear the lamb on all sides to give it some good colour and a nice brown crust. Don’t rush this process, give the lamb enough time to brown up.
 
5.       Put the lamb onto a clean plate and deglaze the pot with a splash of white wine. Add 250ml of Chicken Stock and stir to combine.
 
6.       Return the lamb to the pot, cover tightly with a lid and pop it in the oven for 4 hours.
 
Notes:

About once an hour during the cooking process just rotate the lamb to give all sides a chance to soak in the stock mixture. Its also good to spoon some of the liquid over the meat to keep it nice and juicy.
Also keep an eye on the quantity of liquid in the base of the pot. If it starts to dry out just add a little more stock (I’ve put a buffer of 250ml into the recipe).
For the broth …
1.       First, drain your chickpeas into a strainer and give them a good rinse with cold running water. Plunge into a bowel of fresh water and then repeat to remove any of the brine from the can.
 
2.       Next, put a large saucepan over a medium heat and add a good splosh of extra virgin olive oil.
 
3.       Into the pot goes the diced onion, carrot and celery. Stir to coat all the vegies in the oil, lower the heat and put the lid on. Sweat the vegies until they are nice and translucent, depending on how hot your stove is this could take up to 20 mins.
 
4.       Turn the heat up a little bit and add the garlic. Stir to combine and cook for 1-2 minutes.
 
5.       Add the canned tomatoes, 1L of chicken stock, the chickpeas and ground cumin. Stir to combine.
 
6.       Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and let simmer, uncovered, for 40 mins.
 
7.       While the broth is simmering, keep an eye out for any slightly discoloured foam/froth that sits on the surface. This is often caused by impurities in the stock or from the chickpeas - simply skim this off the surface with a spoon and discard. 
 
8.       When the broth is ready, take it off the heat and stir through the fresh mint leaves.
 
9.       Cover it with lid and set aside until the lamb is ready.
To Serve …
1.       After 4 hours, remove the lamb from the oven, cut off the string and shred the meat with a fork :)

Braised Lamb Shoulder with Tomatoes, Cumin, Chickpeas and Mint
 
2.       Reheat your broth/soup
 
3.       Put some of the lamb into a clean bowel and ladle over some warm broth/soup
 
4.       Enjoy with some crust bread!

 

 
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Roast Chicken with Oregano, Creamed Corn and Jus
Posted by Chris on Monday 23 Aug 2010 at 1:51 PM
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Roast Chicken with Oregano, Creamed Corn and Jus

This is without a doubt my absolute favourite way to roast a chook. I know I normally spend a couple of paragraphs waffling on about the how and the why, but this time I am simply going to let the flavour of the dish speak for itself. I promise you will not be disappointed!
What you’ll need

For the Chicken ...
  • 1 decent size whole chicken (1.8kg – 2kg)
  • 1 bunch fresh oregano (leaves picked)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled but left whole
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of duck fat (you can use butter if you can’t find duck fat)
  • 1/2 Lemon         
  • 1 tablespoon Tomato Paste
  • 500ml Chicken Stock
  • 250ml dry white wine (whatever you are drinking)
  • Salt & Pepper
For the Creamed Corn ...
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 brown onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 corn cobs
  • Olive Oil
  • A good pinch of dried thyme leaves (you can use fresh thyme if you have it)
  • 150ml white wine
  • 250ml chicken stock
  • Salt & Pepper

How to put it together ...

1.       Pre heat your oven to 200C.
 
2.       Remove the chicken from its packaging and give it a good wash inside and out. Pat it down with some paper towels.
 
3.       Place the 2 peeled garlic cloves and picked oregano leaves into mortar and pestle with a really good pinch of salt and grind everything up into a smooth paste. This will release all the flavoursome oils locked within the oregano leaves.
 
4.       Mix the duck fat (or butter) in with the oregano mixture and put it aside for the moment.
 
5.       Place the chicken on a chopping board with the legs pointing towards you and the breasts facing up. What you need to do is slip your fingers under the breast skin to free it from the flesh and push carefully all the way down to the front of the chicken on both sides. Be careful not to puncture or tear the skin.
 
6.       Using your hands, take a big scoop of the seasoned duck fat and evenly paste it under the skin of the chicken all over the breasts. Its messy work but well worth it :) Make sure you use up all of the mixture.
 
7.       Place 1/2 a lemon up the cavity of the chook giving it light squeeze to release some of the juice.
 
8.       Now what we are going to do is “truss” the chicken by binding its legs together using the flappy part of the breast skin. This keeps the bird nice and snug in the pan, retains juices in the cavity but also means you don’t need to use any string.

To do this, pull the breast skin tightly towards you and using a knife make a small incision at the central point about 1cm from the top of the cavity.

Tuck the end of each leg/drumstuck through the whole so that the legs cross.
 
Trussed Chicken ready to go into the oven
 
9.       Pour the wine into a large baking dish and carefully place the chicken in the dish with the breasts facing up.
 
10.   Whisk the tomato paste into the chicken stock and then pour the stock mixture all over the bird. Season the chicken with a good pinch of salt and some freshly cracked pepper.
 
11.   Place in the oven and roast for approx 1h 10 mins (depending on the size of the chicken but check the packet for cooking times). Rotate the chicken around a couple of times in order to cook evenly.
 
12.   When the chicken is ready, remove it from the oven and put the chicken in a deep dish or on a large plate; cover with foil and a tea towel and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.
While the chicken is roasting, its time to make the creamed corn ...
13.   In a small frying pan, toast the cumin seeds over a low flame until fragrant (you can also put them into a small ramekin and drop them in the oven for 5 mins. Allow the cumin to cool a little then grind them up in a mortar and pestle.
 
14.   Strip the ears and silk from the corn and cut the kernels away from the cob by running a sharp knife down the sides – try to avoid getting any of the tough white husk.
 
15.   Place a small sauce pan over a moderate heat. Add some olive oil and sauté the onion for several minutes until lightly caramelised.
 
16.   Add the corn, ground cumin, garlic and thyme, then sauté for approx 10 minutes until the sugars from the corn just start to catch on the base of the pan.
 
17.   Deglaze the pan with the white wine, add the stock, reduce the heat and leave simmer for a good 25 mins until the corn is nice and tender (stirring occasionally).
 
18.   Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Set aside a large spoonful of the corn mixture and then blend the rest in a food processor. Return the saved corn and re-heat when you are ready to serve.
For the Jus ...
19.    While the chicken is resting you will need to carefully spoon the excess fat from the baking dish. All that duck fat or butter will have dripped through the chicken to flavour it but you don’t want to eat it in the sauce. To do this angle the roasting pan so the liquid flows down to 1 corner – you should see a transparent layer of fat sitting on top of the red tinged stock wine mixture. Use a spoon to carefully remove as much of the oil as you can and discard.
 
20.   Place the baking dish on your stove over a medium heat, add any resting juices from the chicken and let it simmer away until it reaches a sauce consistency. If the pan has dried out while baking you can top it up with a little more chicken stock. 
 
21.   Carefully carve the chicken breast off the bone (skin and all) and place it on top of a large spoonful of creamed corn on a plate. Spoon over some of the sauce and enjoy with some crunchy greens.

Roast Chicken with Oregano, Creamed Corn and Jus

 
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Big Winter Vegetable Soup Recipe
Posted by Chris on Friday 04 Jun 2010 at 11:44 AM
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Big Winter Vegetable Soup Recipe
Now that the cooler weather is upon us its the perfect time to break out the stock pot and make some bit hearty soups.
After a couple of weeks holiday I was in need of a serious detox so put together this very satisfying vegetable soup to help my body recover. Of course I had to include some bacon not just for flavour, but to man the soup up a little :)
I keep seeing people at the office bringing in their cans of “Country Ladle” microwave soups and it just makes me shudder. Those things are full of salts and artificial additives and contain hardly any meat or real vegetables.
I’ve started making some big batches of soup on the weekend and freezing it for lunch during the week. You get a far superior product and you know that its full of fresh ingredients with actual nutrients.
This has got to be one of my all time favourite soups. The chunky vegetables and the tomatoey broth just go down so well with some toasted Turkish bread dressed with olive oil and fresh rosemary leaves.
I started with one of the soup packs you get see in the fruit shops (they are pretty economical), but added some extra ingredients as well. The soup pack had some fresh parsley which I didn't need for this recipie, so just save it for something else.
Soup Pack from Harris Farm Markets
What you’ll need
1 soup pack which contained
  • 1 brown onion, diced
  • 2 celery sticks, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 potato, diced
  • ½ Swede, diced
  • ½ parsnip, diced
To this I added
  • 2 rashers of bacon, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • a big handful of green beans, topped and tailed and cut into 1-2cm lengths
  • 6 cauliflower florets (about ¼ of a head of cauliflower), diced
  • A big handful of baby spinach leaves
  • 1 500g bottle of tomato passata / sugo
  • 1.5L chicken stock, vegetable stock or water
Chicken stock will give your soup a lot more body than just using water. This is actually one of the rare occasions where you will hear me say that you can get away with using stock cubes to save having to buy a big quantity of fresh chicken stock.
How to put it together
1.       First, take a big stock pot and put it over a medium heat. Add a really good glug of Olive Oil (make sure the whole base of the pan is covered) and fry off the bacon until nice and crispy.
 
2.       Add the onion, celery and carrot and cook for 5 minutes or until transparent. Give it a good stir every now and end.
 
3.       Add the garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes until fragrant.
 
4.       Throw in the Potato, swede, parsnip, zucchini, beans and cauliflower and stir to combine.
 
5.       Add the tomato passata and stock. Give it a good stir to combine.
 
6.       Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer (uncovered) for 90 mins.
 
7.       If the soup starts to get too thick, just top it up with a little more water until it reaches your desired consistency.
 
8.       When you are ready to serve, stir in the baby spinach leaves and let them heat through for 2 minutes until wilted.
 
9.       Serve in big bowls with some crust bread and enjoy!
 
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Slow Cooked Lamb Shoulder Braised in White Wine with Fresh Peas
Posted by Chris on Monday 22 Mar 2010 at 11:35 AM
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Slow Cooked Lamb Shoulder Braised in White Wine with Fresh Peas

A couple of years ago I had a dish at a restaurant in the Hunter Valley where the chef had taken a lamb shoulder still on the bone and had his butcher saw it into chunks.
The chunks of lamb were then slowly braised in white wine and herbs and by cooking the lamb on the bone instead of using cubes added a greater level of depth and intensity to the dish.
By slowly braising the meat it becomes so tender that you only need a fork or a spoon to help peel it away.
People often use lamb shanks for this type of dish, but the meat from the shoulder is a little bit sweeter and goes really well with the fresh peas.
Here is my reverse engineered interpretation.
Serves 4
What you’ll need
1 lamb shoulder, on the bone. Ask your butcher to saw it into small chunks for braising.
2 medium brown onions, diced
1 medium carrot, sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely diced
6-8 chat potatoes, halved
250ml white wine, something dry
1L good quality Beef Stock (don’t use stock cubes)
1 cup freshly podded peas (its really worth using fresh peas not frozen ones for this dish)
A good pinch of dried thyme leaves (or 2 sprigs of fresh thyme)
Olive Oil

How to put it together
1.       Pre heat your oven to 140C.
 
2.       Take a large Dutch oven or cast iron pot with a lid and place it on the stove over a medium heat. Add some olive oil and brown off the chunks of lamb in batches. Reserve to a bowl.
 
3.       If there is too much residual oil from the rendered lamb fat in the pot, pour some off and then add the onion and carrot and stir for a 4-5 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic and stir for another 1-2 minutes.
 
4.       Return the lamb to the pot, add the white wine and bring to a boil. Give it a good stir to coat the lamb and let it simmer for 5 minutes to reduce the wine and intensify the flavour. This will also burn off any harsh alcohol flavours.
 
5.       Add the stock, bay leaf, thyme leaves and some freshly cracked pepper. The stock is pretty salty, so no need to season. The liquid should cover most of the lamb.
 
6.       Stir to combine and bring the mixture to the boil. You may see some froth/scum developing on top of the liquid, just skim this off with a spoon.
 
7.       Put a tight fitting lid onto the pot and place in the oven for 3 hours. Then add the potatoes and put back in the oven for a further 30 mins or until the potatoes are nice and tender.
 
8.       Remove from the oven and stir in the fresh peas, they only need to be poached for a minute before serving.
 
9.       Ladle into big bowls with lots of the broth and serve with a bowl in the middle of the table for the discarded lamb bones.
 
 
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Recipe: Chateaubriand - Slow Roasted Whole Eye Fillet of Beef with Bearnaise and Red Wine Jus
Posted by Chris on Friday 26 Feb 2010 at 12:41 PM
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Recipe: Chateaubriand - Slow Roasted Whole Eye Fillet of Beef with Bearnaise and Red Wine Jus
I’ve always been a fan of the eye fillet/béarnaise sauce combination, but last year I was having dinner at a little French bistro in the Blue Mountains called Le Gobelet. On their menu is the Chateaubriand, a thick cut from the tenderloin of the beef carefully prepared and served with BOTH a red wine jus and a béarnaise sauce, designed for 2 people to share.
It was a sensational feed. The tenderness of the eye fillet, the intensity of the red wine jus and the decadence of the béarnaise makes this dish one truly worth savouring.
So here is my reverse engineered recipe with great thanks to the husband and wife team who run Le Gobelet!
Serves 2
What you’ll need
1 Whole Beef Eye Fillet, about 500-600 grams, enough to feed 2 people
For the Red Wine Jus
500 ml good quality Veal Stock*
1 teaspoon of sugar

300 ml red wine, whatever you are drinking
1 sprig of fresh rosemary (optional)
Moredough Kitchens Veal Stock
* For the Veal Stock, I highly recommend the Moredough Kitchens Premium Veal Stock which you can get from David Jones Food Halls, Harris Farm Markets, some butchers and delis. If you can’t find Veal Stock, you can use 250ml of good quality beef stock mixed with 250ml chicken stock (don’t use stock cubes).
 
 
 
 

For the Bearnaise Sauce
½ finely chopped eschalot (the small pickling onions)
80 ml water
20 ml tarragon vinegar**
a pinch of cracked black pepper
A good tablespoon fresh chopped tarragon leaves
2 egg yolks
125g butter
**You can get tarragon vinegar from Harris Farm Markets, David Jones Food Hall and some Delis. If you can’t find it you can easily make it yourself, just follow this recipe.
 
 
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Flathead fillets cooked ''Cartoccio'' Style (in a bag) with Lemon, Butter, Cherry Tomatoes & Parsley
Posted by Chris on Monday 15 Feb 2010 at 10:31 AM
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Flathead fillets cooked ''Cartoccio'' Style (in a bag) with Lemon, Butter, Cherry Tomatoes & Parsley
Cooking “Cartoccio” style, or “in a bag” is a great way to prepare fish. Sealing the juicy fillets in foil or baking paper with herbs and other aromatics means the fish steams and cooks in all the juicy goodness.
The flathead fillets were looking nice and fresh at the fish markets this weekend so here is what I came up with.
Serves 1 (Just multiply the recipe by the number of people you are feeding)
What you’ll need
2 medium sized flathead fillets (skinless and boneless) about 250-300 grams all up
½ lemon, sliced
4-6 cherry tomatoes, halved  (depending on size and how much you love tomato)
20g good quality butter
75ml white wine, whatever you are drinking
A few leaves of fresh flat leaf parsley
A good length of quality aluminium foil
Olive Oil, Salt & Pepper

How to put it together
1.       First, preheat your oven to 200C
 
2.       To make the foil bag measure out a length of foil long enough to hold your fillets and other ingredients with a good border (5-7cm) around each side, then quadruple the length.
 
3.       Fold the foil in half lengthwise to double the thickness, the fold it in half again and re-open. One half is the bottom, one half is the top.
 
4.       Fold up the sides of the base of your foil to make a protective wall, we don’t want all the liquid and ingredients dribbling out.
 
Flathead fillets cooked ''Cartoccio'' Style (in a bag) with Lemon, Butter, Cherry Tomatoes & Parsley
 
5.       Drizzle a little olive oil over the base of the foil and place 3 or 4 slices of fresh lemon on top
 
6.       Place your flathead fillets on top of the lemon slices and pour over the white wine
 
7.       Cube up your butter and place dots of it all over the fish
 
8.       Strategically place the cherry tomatoes around your fish and sprinkle with some fresh parsley leaves.
 
9.       Give everything a good season with salt and pepper
 
Flathead fillets cooked ''Cartoccio'' Style (in a bag) with Lemon, Butter, Cherry Tomatoes & Parsley
 
10.   Now, fold the top half of the foil over the fish and fold the edges over to create a nice tight seal.
 
11.   Place on a baking tray and pop it in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it rest on the counter for 4-5 minutes.
 
Flathead fillets cooked ''Cartoccio'' Style (in a bag) with Lemon, Butter, Cherry Tomatoes & Parsley
 
12.   Place the foil bag on a plate, cut the top open with scissors and eat direct from the bag

Serve with some roasted kipfler potatoes and steamed greens.

 
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Australia Day Damper Recipe (Camp Oven Style)
Posted by Chris on Tuesday 26 Jan 2010 at 8:37 AM
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 Australia Day Damper Recipe (Camp Oven Style)

This year for our annual Australia Day BBQ I was put in charge of the bread, and what better way to celebrate all that is Australian than with a good chunk of damper.

The history of damper goes back to the early settlement of Australia when people would travel in remote areas for weeks or months at a time with only basic rations. The damper was normally cooked in the ashes of the camp fire but you can get good results using the “Camp Oven” technique of baking the damper in a cast iron pot in your home oven.

The combination of both white bakers flour and wholemeal flour gives this bread a more “rustic” feel.

Makes 1 Loaf

What you’ll need ...

375g white bakers flour
125g wholemeal flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
375ml milk, plus extra to glaze
30g unsalted butter

How to make it ...

1.       Take cast iron pot (with a lid) such as a a Le Creuset or Le Chasseur. Put it in the oven and pre-heat to 220 Celsius

Cast Iron Pot

2.       Sift together the flours, baking powder and salt in a large bowl

3.       This stage calls for you to “rub” the butter into the flour with your fingers, but its easier to cheat and put the flour mixture in a food processor. Cube the butter and give it a couple of wizzes and the mixture should resemble fine bread crumbs. Return this to the bowl.

4.       Make a well in the middle of the flour and stir in the milk and give it a good mix until well combined. The mixture should be quite sticky.

5.       Turn the dough out onto a well floured word surface and give it a good knead for 2-3 minutes until nice and smooth.

6.       Form into a tight ball and cover with a clean tea towel. Let it rest for 20 minutes.

7.       When your oven it nice and hot and you are ready to bake gently brush some milk over the loaf as a glaze.

8.       Use a sieve and gently dust the top of the loaf with some extra flour

9.       Take a serrated knife and score the loaf (do something decorative) about 2 cm deep

Australia Day Damper Recipe (Camp Oven Style)

10.   Now ... BE VERY CAREFUL as the cast iron pot will be VERY HOT.

11.   Carefully (use oven mits) remove the pot from the oven, take off the lid and gently slide the loaf into the pot (use a big spatula).

Australia Day Damper Recipe (Camp Oven Style)

12.   Put the lid back on and pop it in the oven for 20 minutes

13.   Remove the lid, drop the temperature down to 180 and bake for a further 20 minutes

14.   Remove the cast iron put from the oven and use a spatula and tongs to remove the loaf without burning yourself.

15.   Put the loaf on a wire rack and let cool for 40 minutes before carving.

16.   Serve with extra butter or golden syrup and enjoy!

Australia Day Damper Recipe (Camp Oven Style)

 
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Roast Lamb Loin with Rosemary Jus and Baby Broccolini
Posted by Chris on Wednesday 09 Sep 2009 at 12:22 PM
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Roast Lamb Loin with Rosemary Jus and Baby Broccolini

This is such a simple recipe and great if you are feeling like something a little bit fancy mid week as it takes very little time and effort to prepare.

A quick note about the Jus
Jus has to be a chefs best friend. It instantly adds a flavour boost to any meat dish but you have to make sure you use a good quality stock as your base which means no powdered stock cubes :)

For this dish I have used Moredough Kitchens Veal Stock. It costs about $6 for 600ml and you can get it from Harris Farm Markets, David Jones Food Hall an most good delis.

Roast Lamb Loin with Rosemary Jus and Baby Broccolini

This recipe will give you enough jus for 4-6 servings but you can freeze any left overs and keep it for up to 3 months.
What you’ll need
Serves 2 people, but you can double it up

1 small lamb loin – boneless and rolled.
1 bunch baby Broccolini
600ml good quality veal stock
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 ½ teaspoons sugar
OPTIONAL: A splash of red wine (whatever you are drinking) – about 50ml

You can ommit the red wine all together if you want and still get great results but a little splash ads some extra oomf :) If you put too much in you will overpower the dish.

How to put it together

1.       Preheat your oven to 220C

2.       In a small saucepan place the stock, sugar and leaves from 1 sprig of rosemary.

3.       Bring the stock mixture to a boil over a medium-high heat and leave it bubble away for about 20 minutes. This will reduce the stock and concentrate all the flavours. Remove from the heat when finished and heat it back up when you are ready to serve.

Roast Lamb Loin with Rosemary Jus and Baby Broccolini

4.       Take your loin of lamb, rub some olive oil into the skin and season with salt and pepper. You can also sprinkle some fresh rosemary leaves over it.

5.       Place the lamb in an oven proof dish and roast for 25 minutes, turning it over after 15 minutes.

Roast Lamb Loin with Rosemary Jus and Baby Broccolini

6.       Remove the lamb from the oven and cover loosely with foil. Leave it rest for 15 minutes.

7.       Wash and trim the broccolini and steam until tender, or you can cheat like I do and place it in a microwave proof bowl with a splash of water. Cover tightly with a lid and zap for 2 minutes.

8.       Carve your lamb into thick medallions, place on top of the broccolini and spoon over some jus.
 
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What to do with a soup pack?
Posted by Chris on Wednesday 02 Sep 2009 at 3:03 PM
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What to do with a soup pack?

So far this year I’ve managed to avoid being struck down with a man-flu ... that was until yesterday when I felt absolutely abysmal.

We all know that chicken soup has magical restorative healing powers but as my friends will tell you I can be a bit of a food snob and really don’t care much for the canned variety. In fact I do pretty much everything in my powers to avoid it.
Why avoid canned soup? Have you read the ingredients list on the side of those cans? The meat content would struggle to break the 2% mark and they are off the scale in terms of artificial flavours, preservatives and sodium levels.
My tummy was telling me it was time for some Potato and Leek soup, my favourite of all soups and some real comfort food so I rugged myself up and wandered down to the fruit market in search of some leeks.
As I made my way, bleary eyed, down the aisles I was caught off guard by a pre-packaged “Soup Pack”. Mabye it was the cold and flu medication talking but I felt a brief moment of inspiration and thought I would see what could be done.
At $2.99 it is perceived as reasonable value to the consumer but I am sure Harris Farm are making a killing on the margin. At least, as a consumer, I don’t have to spend $1.50 on an entire bunch of celery only to use 2 stalks and have the rest rot away in my kitchen.

The soup pack itself contained:

What to do with a soup pack?

·         2 small stalks of celery
·         ½ parsnip
·         2 small carrots
·         2 small brown onions
·         1 potato
·         ½ swede
·         Fresh parsley

So here is my recipe for a quick restorative chicken noodle soup.
What you’ll need

1 x Soup Pack (see ingredients above)
1.5L good quality chicken stock (not powedered)
1 chicken breast, finely diced
50g angel hair pasta or spaghetti broken up into 3-4cm pieces (about a large handful)
olive oil

There is no need to peel the vegetables (except the onion) - just trim the tops and bottoms, then dice.

How to put it together

1.       Finely dice the onions and put them in a bowl.

2.       Finely dice all the other root vegetables (celery, parsnip, carrots, potato, swede) and put them in a separate bowl.

3.       Remove half of the parsley leaves and finely chop. You want about 1 tablespoon worth – keep these to one side.

4.       If your soup pack has a celery tip like mine did, take the tip and the rest of the parsley and stalks and tie them together with kitchen twine. We’ll use this to help add flavour to the stock.

What to do with a soup pack?

5.       Put a large stock pot over a medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

6.       Throw in the onion and cook for 3-4 minutes until softened.

7.       Now add the remaining root vegetables and cook, stirring constantly for a further 5 minutes.

8.       Add the chicken stock and celery tip/parsley thing and stir to combine.

9.       Cover with a lid and bring to the boil.

10.   Reduce heat to low, keep the pot covered and simmer for 15 minutes. Give it a stir every 5 minutes.

11.   Add the diced chicken breast and pasta, cover again and cook for a further 10 minutes.

12.   Remove from heat and use a pair of tongs to carefully remove the celery tip/parsley thing.

13.   Stir through the diced parsley leaves and ladle into big bowls – enjoy!

What to do with a soup pack?

 
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Recipe: Chicken, Prawn and Chorizo Paella
Posted by Chris on Monday 31 Aug 2009 at 12:35 PM
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Recipe: Chicken, Prawn and Chorizo Paella

Paella is a wonderful rice dish from Spain that is traditionally made with snails and wild rabbit. My palette can’t quite handle that so I have modified it to use Chicken and Prawns instead :)

A quick note about making your paella
The Pan
I have never been able to get good results making a paella in anything other than a proper paella pan. You can pick them up in varying sizes from Simon Johnson, Torres Spanish Deli or Online.
A true paella pan is wide, round, and shallow and has splayed sides. It does not have a lid. It has two looped handles and may dip slightly in the middle so the oil can pool there for the preliminary sauteing. The shape of the pan helps ensure that the rice cooks in a thin layer.
The key is to maximize the amount of rice touching the bottom of the pan because that’s where the flavor lives. For that reason, paella pans grow in diameter rather than in height.
The Heat Source

The trick to making a perfect paella is to keep the heat even across the large surface of the pan. Coming into the warmer months one trick is to simply pop your paella pan onto the grill of your BBQ – just make sure you keep rotating it around to spread the heat evenly.

The Paprika

Don't skimp on the paprika and use dodgey stuff from the supermarket. Get the proper spanish stuff.

What you’ll need
This recipe serves 2 people but feel free to double it up
Olive Oil
1 chicken thigh fillet, cut in pieces
6 large green prawns, peeled and deveined (you can leave the heads on for presentation)
1/3 of a dried chorizo sliced
salt and pepper
1/2 brown onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/2 red capsicum and 1/2 green capsicum, diced
1 roma tomato, skinned and finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon saffron
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
500ml chicken stock
80g flat green beans, sliced into 1-2cm pieces
1 sprig rosemary
200g Calasparra rice (you can get this from your local deli)
1 lemon, cut into wedges
How to put it together
 
1.       First, to de skin your tomato, fill a small saucepan with water and place over a high heat. Bring to the boil. Slice a thin “X” in the pointy end of your tomato and carefully place into the boiling water with a slotted spoon for 60 seconds. Remove and plunge into a bowl filled with iced water for 2 minutes. Be careful not to leave the tomato boil for too long otherwise it will turn bitter. Remove the tomato from the iced water and the skin should have blistered at the tip where you cut the X – you can now peel the skin off and finely chop.
 
2.       Heat the paella pan over a medium heat and add 1-2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the diced chicken and chorizo. Season well with salt and pepper and cook until brown all over. Remove the chicken and chorizo to a bowl.
Now we will make the Sofrito – a slow cooked concentrated flavour base of onion, capsicum and tomato. It is important to cook for a good length of time as this removes the acidity, resulting in a smooth, sweet, concentrated sauce.

3.    Add a little more olive oil to the pan and add the diced onion. Stir to coat and continue to cook until softened and golden (about 3-4 minutes).

4.    Now add the garlic, cook for a couple of minutes then add the capsicum and cook five minutes more until lightly coloured and softened.
 
5.    Add the chopped tomatoes, season liberally with salt and pepper and cook slowly until the sofrito has reduced and there is no liquid left. This should take about 15 minutes.
 
6.    Now add 50ml of water to the pan and continue to cook until all the liquid again has reduced. This should all take a further 30 minutes.
 
The result should be an intensely concentrated flavour and pulpy consistency. You can prepare it up to a day ahead.
Now to make the paella ...
7.    Place the saffron in a small mixing bowl and add 2 tablespoons of hot water. Let it steep for 5-10 minutes so the water can turn a lovely golden colour.
 
8.    Put the paella pan back on a medium heat. Add the chicken, chorizo and paprika and cook, stirring for a couple of minutes.

9.    Add the chicken stock, beans and rosemary and bring to the boil.

10. Put in the saffron and sprinkle in the rice - bring to the boil.
 
11. VERY IMPORTANT – now that you have added all the ingredients, give it a good stir to combine, reduce heat to LOW and then DO NOT STIR IT AGAIN. Just let the paella sit :) Trust me, resist the urge to stir.
 
12. Place the prawns on top and push them down to make sure they are submerged in the rice mixture.
 
13. Cook the paella 15-18 minutes or until the rice is plump and almost soft - it should be a little resilient. Turn the heat to high and cook for a couple of minutes. Any remaining liquid will boil away and a crust will form on the bottom of the pan.

14. Remove from the heat and cover with a clean tea towel for 10 minutes, then uncover and leave to rest for another 5-10 minutes before serving.
 
15. Squeeze over the lemon juice and serve directly from the pan.
 

Recipe: Chicken, Prawn and Chorizo Paella

 
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Peter Lehmann The Futures Shiraz 2006
Posted by Chris on Monday 31 Aug 2009 at 11:45 AM
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Peter Lehmann The Futures Shiraz 2006So here I have 2 wines back to back from 2 large producers and neither of them have really done anything to make me rush back for more.
This time around I had the Peter Lehmann “The Futures” Shiraz (2006) from the Barossa Valley.
Crimson in colour with a strong white pepper smell this wine is well rounded but not exceptional. It’s got character but is lacking any real depth.
I certainly have no complaints about this wine and happily finished the bottle but I think you can find better drops for the same price.
 
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Wolf Blass Presidents Selection Shiraz 2006
Posted by Chris on Wednesday 05 Aug 2009 at 11:37 AM
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Wolf Blass Presidents Selection Shiraz 2006I’m normally pretty wary when it comes to wine from big name labels and tend to avoid them, instead preferring to spend my money on wines from smaller vineyards where there is true passion for the craft rather than the corporate profit driven mentality.

I was however talked into trying a bottle of the Wolf Blass Presidents Selection 2006 Shiraz ($16) after they had it open for tasting at my local this weekend.

Shiraz grapes are sourced from all over South Australia. I’m pretty sure this bottle was made for the export market but is probably being sold locally due to the current state of the economy in the US and UK.

I let it sit in the decanter for about 20 minutes before taking my first sip and ... a little disappointed. Very flat taste, quite non descript really and very thin on the tongue.

Won’t be going back for more.

 
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"Cartoccio" Whole Line Caught Snapper, fennel onion compote, steamed in a paper bag
Posted by Chris on Monday 03 Aug 2009 at 12:30 PM
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I ventured down to the Fish Markets on the weekend and could not go past these fantastic looking whole snapper.

Cooking them in a paper bag helps the fish retain moisture and locks in all the flavours. The Italians often bake fish like this in a wood fired oven which is absolutely sublime but the home brew version comes out pretty good as well :)
Serves 2, but feel free to double it up.
What you’ll need
2 whole Snapper
1 small white onion, peeled, halved and cut into thin strips
1 baby fennel bulb or ½ a big fennel
1 lemon, halved lenghways and sliced into thin strips
3 - 4 sprigs fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
70ml extra virgin olive oil
70ml white wine, whatever you’re drinking
sea salt, pepper
a roll of Baking Paper
How to put it together 

1.       Preheat your oven to 180C

2.       Remove the fennel fronds and finely chop. Core out your fennel bulb and thinly slice.

3.       In a large non reactive bowl, combine the fennel fronds, sliced fennel, onion, lemon, rosemary, garlic and olive oil – toss to combine. Don’t worry if this looks like heaps, it will cook down.

4.       Take your snapper and give them a quick rinse under the tap, inside and out. Pat down with paper towels.

5.       Take a good length of baking paper long enough to comfortably fit your fish on and place a quarter of the mixture in the middle. Place your fish on top and spoon some more of the fennel onion mixture on top – make sure you stuff some down the guts as well.

6.       Drizzle with white wine and season well with salt and pepper.

7.       Take another length of baking paper, same size and place it over the top. Start in one corner and gradually crimp the paper over to create a nice tight seal all the way around. Carefylly (use a spatula) place on a baking tray.

8.       If you can’t get a tight seal, once you have wrapped it in the baking paper you can coven in tin foil.

9.       Bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until the fish is nice and tender and just flakes away from the bone.

10.   Remove from the oven and tear the paper to release the steam. Serve with baked chips and lemon rosemary salt.

 
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Baked Chips with Lemon Rosemary Salt
Posted by Chris on Monday 03 Aug 2009 at 11:55 AM
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Baked Chips with Lemon Rosemary Salt

I love chips but always feel guilty when I indulge. This recipe bakes them in the oven using good quality olive oil and the lemon rosemary salt is a cracker. The result is not exactly super healthy but a much better and I think tastier alternative to the deep fried variety.

The Lemon Rosemary Salt will keep for months in an air tight jar.
What you’ll need
1kg brushed/washed potatoes. Leave the skin on, halve them and cut into thick wedges
3 bulbs garlic, unpeeled
Olive Oil
40g good quality sea salt – Use Maldon or the pink Murray River Salt Flakes
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
Zest of 1/2 lemon

How to put it together

1.       Place a baking tray in the oven and pre heat it to 230C – you want the tray to be nice and hot.

2.       Put the chips into a large saucepan and cover with boiling water from the kettle. Place on the stove and boil for 8-10 minutes until par cooked.With the brushed potatoes you want to shock them with the hot water from the kettle rather than bring to a gentle boil.

3.       When the potatoes are just tender, drain them in a colander for a couple of minutes.

4.       Place a heavy based fry pan on the stove and heat up a good glug of olive oil (like 3-4 tablespoons).

5.       Bash the garlic cloves with the flat side of a knife and toss into the oil along with the potatoes. Give it a good mix and make sure all the potatoes are well coated with the oil.

6.       Put the potato garlic oil mixture onto your pre-heated oven tray and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

7.       Meanwhile, to make the lemon rosemary salt – strip the leaves from the rosemary and place in a motar and pestle with the lemon zest and salt. Give it a really good bash to break down the salt and all the flavours. You should end up with a fantastic green looking salt.

Baked Chips with Lemon Rosemary Salt

8.       When your chips are done, put them in a large bowl with a good pinch of the salt and toss to combine.
 
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Recipe: Slow Roasted Lamb Shoulder (on the bone) with Garlic and Rosemary
Posted by Chris on Friday 31 Jul 2009 at 2:37 PM
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Recipe: Slow Roasted Lamb Shoulder (on the bone) with Garlic and Rosemary

The Sunday Roast has started to have resurgence in popularity of late. While hidden gems such as Bar Mattino have been embracing it for ages some heavy hitters in the Sydney dining scene such as The Berseford Hotel, Forbes & Burton and even Kingsleys are starting to get in on the action.

I absolutely love a good roast dinner, be it Sunday or not and my favourite roast of all time would have to be lamb.
This recipe uses a lamb shoulder, still on the bone. The slow low temperature cooking causes the connective tissue in the meat to break down to a point that you won’t even need a knife to carve it. Simply pick up the bone and the meat will literally melt off.
The lamb shoulder is also a very economical cut. You can pick them up from the butchers at David Jones for around $15.
What you’ll need
For the lamb

1 lamb shoulder, on the bone
2 bunches fresh rosemary
1 whole garlic bulb
Olive oil
Salt + Pepper

For the Gravy
1 tablespoon plain flour
500 ml good quality chicken stock
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Serve with roasted root vegetables – potato, pumpkin, parsnip and carrot. This should comfortably feed 4 people.

How to put it together

1.       Pre heat your oven to 160C

2.       Take your lamb shoulder and carefully score the top at 1cm intervals on the diagonal.

Recipe: Slow Roasted Lamb Shoulder (on the bone) with Garlic and Rosemary

3.       Rub the meat down with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper

4.       Take your whole garlic bulb and with a sharp knife slice off the top and bottom. Break up into cloves.

5.       In a heavy based roasting tin scatter half the garlic gloves and line with half the rosemary sprigs.

Recipe: Slow Roasted Lamb Shoulder (on the bone) with Garlic and Rosemary

6.       Place the lamb on top of the rosemary, then put the remaining garlic/rosemary on top.

Recipe: Slow Roasted Lamb Shoulder (on the bone) with Garlic and Rosemary

7.       Cover with a tight fitting lid or seal with tinfoil.

8.       Whack it in the oven and leave it there for 3.5 – 4 hours.

9.   When the meat is done, remove the baking tray from the oven and VERY carefully (remember the meat will just fall off the bone) transfer to a large serving platter. Use a spatula and a pair of tongs.

10.   Cover with tin foil and a tea towel and leave to rest for 10 minutes.

11.   Discard the rosemary and garlic (it has done its job) and pour off most of the fat left in the bottom of the pan (all but about 2 tablespoons).

12.   Place the baking dish on your stove over a medium heat and stir in the flour.

13.   Pour in the chicken stock and bring to the boil. Drop the heat and let simmer, stirring constantly for 10 minutes to thicken up.

14.   Remove the gravy from the heat and stir in the red wine vinegar.

15.   Use a couple of forks to peel the meet away from the bone and serve with some roasted root veg and a nice Cab Sav. 

 

 
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