Thursday, 27 February 2014

Smoked brisket

We've had a 6.5kg packer cut brisket in the freezer for far too long. We bought it with delusions of having many people over for a barbecue, but frankly we don't know many people, and sadly we don't have quite enough temperature control in the Weber to give a piece of meat that large the long (12 hour) slow cook it needs to attain succulence.

So we decided to approach it a couple of different ways. We cut off approximately 1/3, which Paul trimmed up (some fat is good, but we didn't need all of it and it is a very fatty cut) and made into a delicious curry. That curry made a dinner and two lunches for us, and we still had the other 2/3 of the meat.

I tend to do some of my best thinking in bed in the morning, in the gap between waking and rising. And as I lay there I wondered about a sort of hybrid approach to barbecuing the brisket. Starting it in the barbecue to get a good bark and smoke into it, and then moving it into the oven for a long, slow cook to break down the connective tissues and render out the fat. I ran the idea past Paul as we drank our morning coffee, and he thought I was onto something. So we found ourselves at 11 in the morning lighting the barbecue.
I rubbed the brisket with a sprinkle of vinegar, then a mixture of salt, sugar, smoked paprika and garlic powder and let it sit for an hour. Then it went into quite a cool barbecue, with lots of mesquite chips (replenished a couple of times).
Meat thermometer says magic internal temperature of 85C
After two hours, the brisket came into the house. Onto a rack in a roasting tin with some water in the bottom, tented in foil and into a 120C oven for 6 1/2 hours, until it reached an internal temperature of 85C.
That night we had some of it in tacos, with a smear of homemade chipotle paste, a pepper, avocado and tomato salsa and a little grated cheese. So delicious. Really smokey, tender meat and crunchy burnt ends worked so well with the spicy chipotle paste, fresh salsa and the soothing creamy cheese.
The following night I removed most of the visible fat (since it had already done its job of keeping the meat moist through the long cooking time) from the leftovers and cut the meat up into big chunks. I made a batch of this delicious and not overwhelmingly sweet chipotle-maple barbecue sauce and gently reheated the brisket in it.

When I made the sweet and sour pork the other day, I'd had a couple of pork chops left over. Rather than use them all for the sweet and sour (since deepfried food doesn't re-heat brilliantly) I put them in some of our biltong curing mix and left it in the fridge for a couple of days to cure. That cured pork became the main flavouring in a huge pot of spring greens, which then sat alongside the barbecued pork and a pile of creamy grits (and the rest of the greens went into another pot with chicken, prawns and rice for a sort of jambalaya the following night. I love transforming leftovers).
I know grits are divisive, but I really like them. And they really were the perfect accompaniment to sweet, smoky and spicy brisket and slippery, salty greens.

That still wasn't the end of the brisket, of course, so it made its final appearance reheated in a torta, piled with guacamole given crunch with diced cucumber and spring onions. It was a very meat-heavy week for us, so it'll be fish and vegetables for a few days. Although I now have a big pot of rendered beef dripping, so I may have to contemplate Yorkshire-style fish and chips at some point.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Old-school sweet and sour pork

Recently I have been craving vulgar, bright pink, gloopy, old-school sweet and sour pork. We're not eating out much at the moment, so I knew I was going to have to make it myself, to satisfy the craving.

Only trouble is, that most of the recipes that came up in my search were "improved" stirfries of lean pork fillet with a bit of pineapple and soya sauce. Not at all what I was after. It had to be deepfried and probably contain ketchup.

I turned, of course, to the Australian Women's Weekly.

I didn't make it exactly as written - I thought adding mushrooms sounded weird and there was way more meat per portion than necessary, so I increased the red peppers, decreased the meat and added some chilli for a little kick. It was just what I needed. Less pink (I couldn't bring myself to add food colouring) and less aggressively sugary and acidic, it had all the charm and comfort of the gloopy original, but, even though I say it myself, a bit nicer.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Other Blogger's Dishes

While I've not been enormously creative in the kitchen lately, I haven't stopped cooking (or eating). So it's either been tried-and-tested meals (fish tacos, roast chicken) or dishes that I have spotted on other blogs.

Eatori's "slow carb" toad in the hole, featuring chickpea flour. Couldn't get cevapci, so used venison sausages instead. Tasty and extremely filling
Easy Korean beef on rice, from Juanita's Cucina, with quick kimchi from Use Real Butter. A bit too salty, even though I didn't add any extra. Very tasty meal though!
Meemalee's Burmese-style gong bao chicken. This was SO delicious I am recommending it all over the place. The spinach and mushroom side dish was her idea too. I added a handful of cashew nuts which weren't in the recipe but added a nice extra crunch.
Citrus & Candy's Assam laksa.
I had to make a few modifications, because I couldn't get dried tamarind peel, laksa leaf or prawn paste, and it turned out we didn't have quite enough tamarind paste. But this soup was so delicious - and much lower in calories than the more commonly found coconutty version.
A Southern Grace's raspberry coconut slice. This is another one that I have been recommending all over the place. Do try it, as a special treat.
I used some lovely Artisan Kitchen raspberry and chocolate jam, which Paul got for his birthday, although there wasn't quite enough of it. And because the sweetened moist coconut that the recipe calls for is hard to come by over here I just used desiccated - next time I'd add an egg to help bind the base, I think. It'd also be delicious with fresh raspberries or sour cherries added at the same time as the condensed milk, I think.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Meat-Free Monday: Smoky chilli macaroni cheese

The Sri Lankan family who run our local corner shop have recently expanded their range and started stocking a selection of fresh vegetables. It's a great idea - it's lovely to have somewhere to turn when you run out of garlic at 9pm. This dish was partly inspired by their slightly idiosyncratic selection.

The first day I noticed that they had fresh veg, my eye was caught by a punnet of something labelled "hot peppers". Now, they didn't have a variety on them but they appeared to be of the habanero, scotch bonnet type. I bought them and approached with caution. Which turned out to be a very good idea - we've been using about 1/4 of a chilli per dish and they have been plenty hot enough. In fact, my eyes burned after rubbing them 2 days after deseeding one of these chillis. I hope it goes without saying that I had washed my hands several times in that period.

A couple of days later I went back into the shop and saw polystyrene trays of long sweet peppers, the sort that are good for stuffing, only these were curled into little scrolls. For some reason this reminded me of the incredibly hot mixed chilli quesadilla I had at Wahaca a couple of years ago. I knew I wanted to eat chillis and cheese together.

In the end, I brought the long sweet peppers and the ridiculously hot peppers together in a macaroni cheese, with smoked cheese and homemade chipotle paste tying them all together. Because macaroni cheese sucks up so much seasoning, I braved using a whole hot chilli, which turned out to be the perfect level of spice for us. 

Smoked chilli macaroni cheese (serves 4-6)

500g macaroni
75g butter
75g flour
900ml milk
250g smoked cheddar, grated
1tsp minced chipotle in adobo
2 sweet red peppers, roasted, peeled and skinned
1 very hot chilli, finely sliced (more or less, depending on your chilli tolerance)
1tbs dried breadcrumbs
2tbs grated parmesan cheese
1/2tsp sweet pimenton (or sweet paprika)

Preheat oven to 160C

Boil the macaroni, leaving it slightly underdone, and drain and set aside. In the same saucepan, melt the butter, add the flour and cook to a smooth roux. Gradually add the milk, stirring constantly, until it forms a smooth, thin sauce. Cook for a few minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste. Add the chipotle in adobo and then the cheese. Stir until the cheese melts. Taste for seasoning - it shouldn't need any extra salt, but I don't know your palate.

Add the drained macaroni (which will probably have set into a bit of a cake while it waited for the sauce, but will loosen up quickly when it meets the sauce), the sweet and hot chilli and stir well. Spread into a large baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with the breadcrumbs and then the parmesan, then a little paprika or sweet pimenton.

Bake for 35-45 minutes until bubbly around the edges and crunchy on top. Serve with a green salad or some fruit.

Friday, 14 February 2014

White chocolate coeur à la crème with cranberry syrup

I actually made these for our anniversary earlier in the week, but I'd be a bad, bad blogger if I didn't make some effort to mark Valentine's Day in a culinary way.

It's Molly Wizenburg's coeur à la crème recipe (which I made for Cook the Books a couple of years ago), served with Nigella's cranberry syrup - although I reduced the amount of sugar in the syrup because I wanted to have an extra tart contrast to the rich white chocolate and cream cheese.

Very delicious - although not completely appropriate for Valentine's Day if you are an example of monogamous romance, because it makes 4-6 generous portions. So spread it out over a few days, or share one with each of your lovers, with plenty of exercise in between.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Coconut pandanus no-churn ice cream

I like having some ice cream in the freezer. I don't need lots of different flavours; just one, for when the urge strikes.

This one is based on Nigella's one-step, no-churn coffee ice cream, which is the perfect recipe to produce a fairly small quantity of ice cream without much in the way of fancy equipment. The coconut cream gives it a harder texture, as it sets into flakes that give it a sort of stracciatella mouthfeel. If I'd had some rum I would have added it, but I didn't, so there you are. The pandanus extract is what gives it the lurid green colour, but also adds a rich vanilla-y, coconutty flavour, complementing the coconut cream and coconut chips. I just ate it as-is, but it would be brilliant with some warm chocolate sauce, or with grilled pineapple chunks.

Coconut pandanus no-churn ice cream

300ml double cream
175g condensed milk
1 tsp pandanus essence
100g coconut cream (I've found buying coconut milk & cream in the UK bothersome. Nearly all of the supermarket brands are only about 60% coconut & the rest is stabilisers, whereas in Australia it's mainly the reduced-fat, or the really cheap ones that have that sort of dreck in them. For this you want a 100% coconut cream product)
25g sweetened coconut chips

Whisk the cream, condensed milk and pandanus essence to soft, billowy peaks. Fold in the coconut cream and coconut chips , scrape into a plastic box and freeze. Take out of the freezer a couple of minutes before serving to ripen.
No idea why the colour intensified like that on freezing.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Cassia-smoked pork for Chinese New Year

Kung hei fat choy! To welcome the Year of the Horse, we'd decided to make a sort of Chinese meal. Which ended up turning out so well I thought it was worthy of sharing.

We'd done another lunchtime barbecue (sausages), and since we already had the charcoal going we decided to do the cha siu pork for dinner at the same time. It was pork shoulder steaks, not the tenderloin we'd normally use, and it had been marinading for an hour or so in garlic, soy and a bit of sugar and bicarbonate of soda. I don't know what the bicarb does but the recipe that uses it has always worked well for me.

Just before the meat went on the grill I had an inspiration - what if we used some sticks of cassia bark as the smoking wood? You see, we bought a HUGE bag of cassia at a Chinese supermarket last year, so we're in a position to be profligate with it. So we just fed chunks of cassia onto the hot coals, and covered the barbecue to let the meat smoke. The smell was wonderful - really pungently spicy.

Then we just let the meat cool until dinner time, while we ate our sausages.
I made noodles in a sesame dressing, stirfried a pile of veg with chilli, garlic and soy sauce, and then just sliced some of the pork on top. Because the noodles and vegetables were hot, the fact that the meat was at room temperature was hardly noticeable. The smoke flavour was subtle but there was a definite spiciness to it, almost like the tingling flavour from Szechuan pepper.

The following day, of course, we had leftover pork for lunch. I made some not-entirely-successful steamed buns (recipe said steam for 15 minutes, these steamed for 55 minutes and weren't quite as done as I like. A woman could have starved). I split the buns, spread them with hoi sin sauce and a bit of cucumber and spring onion, and the warmed-through pork. You can see the smoke-ring on the slices. Such a delicious sandwich! And it will be even better when I get the steamed buns right.
I'm going to share these sandwiches with Deb, for her Souper (soup, salad and sammie) Sunday event.


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