Monday, August 30, 2010

crispy, crispy duck

I know I'll not replicate the delight of the crispy roast duck that good chinese restaurants do so well, but I've got a bit of a hankering for something like that, so I'm doing a simple version of the dish for LW and I. In my version, the duck is scored, seasoned with salt and 5-spice mixture, and then placed on an "onion rack" of quartered onions in a roasting dish and roasted for about 2.5 hours at 170 degC.

just ready for the off...

Every so often the rendered fat needs draining off (and keeping for roasting potatoes) to allow the air to get to the skin as much as possible.

2.5 hours later. That skin is crispy!

Once the duck is tender enough to pull apart, I will do so. And I'm going to serve it with a hoisin kind of sauce, with shredded cucumber and spring onion. I'd love to serve it in little steamed pancakes, but I haven't found any to buy (I totally forgot when we were in Auckland last week- I was even at an Asian supermarket) so I'm going to use Iceberg lettuce leaves instead.

I've a little salad left over from last night- carrot, cucumber and toasted sesame seeds and peanuts with a sweet and sour dressing, so I might rejuvenate it and serve that with the duck. We won't need anything else and I may even get a duck stock out of the bones!

shreddy, ready and delicious!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Slow-cooked stew

I love slow-cooked stews. I love the simplicity of the preparation, the suitability of cheap cuts of meat that often taste the best, but need ages to break down the collagen in them, and the results! I love the falling-apart, unctuous, makes-it's-own-gravyness of the slow cooked dish. However, LW doesn't share my delight in these foods. I think she may be recalling, only too well, the school dinner stews where the cooking process seemed to turn meat into gristle, and the veggies all took on a uniform grey starchiness. And if that's correct, who can blame her?

So here I am making enough stew to feed a family of 8, and we'll just have to see how things work out. I may be in the doghouse, or I may end up changing LW's mind! The challenge is on! And so is the slow cooker.

I'm starting with a kilo of cubed shoulder pork and 1.5 kilos of stewing steak. I wanted to see how the tang of the pork goes with the deep meatiness of the beef; rather like the combination that works so well in a good meatball. The meat is all batch-fried to brown & caramelise it, and then put in the slow cooker with a couple of glasses of red wine, a similar amount of chicken stock, 2 tbs of dijon mustard, loads of herbes de provence, a splash of light soy, a glug of red wine vinegar, and a generous pinch of chinese 5 spice for the indefinable, and a tsp of paprika for redness. I also added about 15 whole cloves of garlic and 2 finely diced onions. This all covers the meat (just) and is allowed to seethe for about 6 hours. I'm not there yet, so I'll write about what happens next as I go...

...I just tasted the liquid in which the meat is cooking, and it was tasting a bit "thin" so I've added a generous glug of oyster sauce, about a tbs of worcester sauce and a squish of anchovy paste. Now it has a much deeper taste.

I do have my work cut out for me though: LW's just wandered into the kitchen and pronounced: "It just smells like stew in here." Oh, the humanity! Will she like it, will she change her mind? Will anyone care?'s 4 hours into the cooking time and the meat is still not nearly as tender as I would wish. The stock is very thin, so I thought: "should I thicken this towards the end of the cook by reduction, or by making a roue and adding it?" So I went for neither option, and, instead, I made some dumplings to soak up some of the juice. Herb dumplings: Flour, baking powder, salt, grated cold butter (I'd have preferred suet, but there was none to hand) and chopped spring onion & coriander. All mixed together until a breadcrumby texture is reached, then a couple of tbs of milk to make a dough. Then rolled into little balls to put on top of the stew when the guests arrive. (And I'll put the whole lot into the oven to give it a bit more heat).

dumplings, newly rolled, and rather sputnik.

nearly ready...

...6 hours of cooking and now the meat has become tender enough to cut with a spoon. Time for the dumplings to go in and a wee visit to the oven:

and my, the dumplings have puffed out

I'm serving this with a creamy mash, some glazed carrots and sauteed leeks. I'm not adding these to the stew, though, because I suspect that there's a good chance that this will return LW's default setting to "school dinner" and that's what I'm trying to avoid.

I have to say, this barely does the meal justice.

It tasted great.

And...p.s. The poor dogs. We have a load of out-of-date, freezer-burnt stewing steak. It's not fit for human consumption, but some creatures have no sense of taste:

This was going to be tonight's meal for us, but it wasn't.

mmm. Steak tatare for dogs.

Monday, August 9, 2010


We now have eggs in abundance!
Some eggs. In abundance.

some more eggs.

At least 6 per day, and some of the youngest chooks are showing all the signs of being ready to lay too. In fact, we have so many eggs, that LW has plans to sell them from the farm gate. Here's proof!
LW's Lovely sign, to go at the end of the drive

We don't make mayonnaise nearly often enough. I still am in the habit of buying my favourite brand (It was Hellman's in the UK, here, it's called Best Foods'). So, to get out of the habit, we made some today to remind us what a superior version the home-made one is.

3 Egg yolks, a tsp of Dijon mustard and a pinch of salt, whisked up until thick, and then the oil (90% Rice bran oil, 10% extra virgin olive) dripped slowly into the whisking mixture with the occasional tsp of lemon juice every so often, to add sharpness and to thin the rapidly thickening emulsion.


It's ready!

It's ready when you say it is. It can be thinned with warm water, and more salt and lemon juice added to taste.

No, I won't buy the manufactured version again.