Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Chicken Satay

Mmm... I haven't made a satay sauce in ages, so, having suggested it for a friend's get-together, I thought we'd have some ourselves.

The sauce has more varieties than Heinz, and mine is different every time. Here's what I did this time:

Sweat finely-chopped onion, ginger and garlic in a saucepan with a little oil, and then, when softened, I added a glug or two of Chinese cooking wine, some soy sauce (light and dark), some oyster sauce, chilli sauce (homemade) and some palm sugar. I seasoned with some ground cumin, coriander and cardamon, and salt and lemon juice. Then, after simmering for a minute or two to get the alcohol out of the wine, I added about 2 tbs of smooth peanut butter and stirred the thick mixture. I then added hot water, a little at a time until the sauce was the ideal consistency. I seasoned more to taste, and that's it! Probably a million miles from an authentic Indonesian recipe, but it tastes good to me!

Meanwhile I cut some chicken breast into thick strips and skewered it and then battered it thin under some cling-film. I placed it on the grill pan and seasoned it with salt, pepper, lemon juice and then sprayed some oil onto it. Of course, I was in too much of a hurry to remember to soak the skewers...

Meanwhile, I made some coconut rice. (1 cup long-grain rice, 1.5 cups watered down coconut cream, salt to taste) Simmer for 7 minutes, then lid on and heat off for 20 min (no peeking).

Meanwhile I laid the table.

Meanwhile, I cooked the chicken under a hot grill (only needs 3 min) and served like so: (note the finely-charred skewers).

Delicious! And filling. I made too much satay sauce, so I will freeze the rest.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Tira, and quite possibly, misu.

Yesterday I took part in the second cheesemaking course. As before, it was excellent, and if anyone is contemplating learning how to make cheese, and lives in NZ, you should not go past these courses, run by Jean Mansfield.
Yesterday's course took us through the making of Camembert, Gouda (blue and white) and Marscapone.

Needless to say, the Camembert and Gouda need to be matured, and are doing so in the fridge (which I have had to turn down to the lowest setting so that the bacteria and mold can develop). Apologies to all who wanted a very cold drink...

However, the Marscapone is ready, and I've never made Tiramisu before, so it just had to be done. Especially as my wonderful dental assistant and her husband make their own Kaluha, and have given us a bottle!

So I bought some sponge fingers (Savoiardi) and we had all the other ingredients:

Whisk 4 egg yolks with 200g of caster sugar, then, when the mixture is pale and thick, add the marscapone and whisk till smooth. Add a tsp of vanilla extract. Fold in the beaten whites of 4 eggs.

Meanwhile: soak (briefly) the sponge fingers in a mixture of cold espresso and kaluha,
and make a layer in a bowl/dish/supertanker.
Cover with about half the eggy/cheesy goodness and grate some chocolate over it.
 Then another layer of soaked fingers, and the rest of the cheesy/eggy goodness and more grated chocolate.
Then place in a fridge (or ram into an antarctic glacier if you are using a  supertanker) for about 3 hours.

Then eat. Tiramisu was invented in 1985. So something wonderful did come out of the 80's. I'm amazed that it took so long to be invented, but, perhaps, people made it all the time but never called it that?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Spaghetti with Pippis

Actually, I may have the spelling wrong. Some people spell them Pipi, some spell them Pippi. Who knows? Who cares?

Down at the beach, at low tide, I play with the dogs. It's a simple game, I throw a stick and the dogs rush into the sea to retrieve it. The 1st one there gets the stick, and is hounded (quite literally) by the other 2 who share the honour of returning it to me. Sometimes I throw more than one stick and the process becomes more complicated.

Meanwhile, as I tire the tireless dogs, LW and, in this case, LW's Mum dig for Pippis. There are 100s of them and it doesn't take long to get the 30ish required per person to make this dish. So, bucket full of clams, boot full of dog-tired dogs, we head home for the freshest seafood dish:

The Pippis are washed of any grit and sand, and then covered in fresh water for an hour or so. then I fry some onion and garlic, add a little herbes de provence and some dried chilli and when it's all softened and starting to engolden, I add about 2 cups of white wine and simmer for 10 min until the wine has lost its sharpness. The smell should be amazing by now. I then add the drained Pippis and steam them in the pan until they open.
The dish is finished with some cream and a handful of chopped parsley. I then mix in some cooked spaghetti and serve.

Pippis are tiny, bright orange/red and have a mild, sweet and slightly nutty seafood flavour. They are plentiful, easy to catch and some of the best kaimoana* I know of.

*kaimoana- A Maori word meaning seafood. I used it because collecting seafood in this way is a Maori tradition.

Biryani too. The sequel.


I didn't win. The standard of curries was, as anticipated, very high, and Bart made the most well-balanced and delicious chicken Thai Green Curry. I know that it's an old favourite, and a curry I have eaten often, but, truthfully, it was the most fragrant, excellent version of this dish I've ever eaten. It's not pictured here, but it is in the white ceramic pot. Lurking. Smug. About to win.

The other curries were also amazing and diverse. We had a Malaysian pineapple curry, beautiful, sweet and almost a dessert,
a Chicken curry with cashew nuts and blackened spices that was very lovely and very different from the heavyweights of Indian cuisine,
and a spinach and paneer curry that was just lovely.
And, just to prove that it wasn't just a competition, we had rice, poppadoms, an amazing aubergine raita and a banana and coconut salad.

And plenty of wine and chat!

What a good night.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


This afternoon a few friends are getting together for a curry cook-off. Last year was the inaugural event (we didn't know it then, we just got together to compare our favourite curries). I think 10 different dishes were made, all of them excellent, and a brilliant time was had.

So this year I suspect that the standard will be pretty high, and I haven't made a Biryani in ages, so that's what I'm doing. There are 100s of variations on this dish, as it's celebrated from the Middle East right across to the Philippines. The version I'm making owes more to India, but I suspect that I'm bastardizing several cultural standards in the process. Call it a fusion biryani. Actually, call it whatever you like; I'm sure you will.

Here's a brief rundown of what I done did:
I browned off a kilo of diced shoulder lamb in some ghee, and then fried a couple of chopped onions in the oil.
I made a very rich gravy with ground cumin, coriander, cardamon, garam masala, tamarind, ginger, garlic, chilli, prawn paste, mustard, coconut cream and chicken stock. I added so many little bits of things that I can't remember if that list is complete. Just keep tasting, and adding stuff until it has that balance of sweet/sour/salty/hot that seems right. I made about 3/4 litre of gravy like this.

Meanwhile I cooked some Basmati rice in stock with a few cloves, some saffron, and some bay leaves.

Once the onions were cooked, I used the same oil to cook some prawns adding some stock and some lemon juice.
I then removed them from the pan, and mixed the reduced gravy, the onions and the browned lamb and simmered the whole lot for about 40 min.
Meanwhile I took a good handful each of cashews and almonds, and dry roasted them in a pan. Once brown, I added salt, sugar and pepper and some stock, and reduced it until dry, whence all the seasoning had stuck to the nuts.
Oh, and I hard-boiled 5 eggs.

So now I have all the various elements of the biryani ready. I next made a layer of half the rice in a baking dish, and on top of that placed a layer of the meat and onions, leaving the gravy in the pan.
I then added a layer of nuts
and a layer of prawns.
On top of that, I added the other half of the of rice,
topped it with halved eggs,
and poured the gravy all over the top.

The whole thing then goes in the oven at about 150degC for 45 min with foil covering it so that it doesn't (hopefully) dry out. Ideally it should be a better fitting lid than that (tradition suggests a clay pot with a lid sealed with dough, but I'm using crossed fingers instead).

It smells wonderful and fragrant, so we shall see...

I shall have to add a comment as to how it tasted, and, if I remember, I'll take some pics of the other curries. Wish me luck!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Kauri Cliffs

LW's Lovely Mum is staying with us from Scotland. Last time she was here, we took her to Kauri Cliffs, a beautiful and luxurious hotel and golf course on the coast near Matauri Bay, which has a restaurant that's rightly famous for its fare. The food was superb, but the weather was so appalling that we couldn't see out of the windows, so fierce was the driving rain.

So, yesterday we decided to go back. I'd met the executive chef, Barry, before, and he's a really good guy, and he's agreed to put on something special for us.

The weather was spectacular. The sky could not have been bluer (unless you live in Rio, apparently), and we arrived at the front door to be greeted with a glass of champagne to sip on the deck, looking out, over the golf course to the sea.
We were then presented with a tasting menu that Barry had devised, and off we went, with 5 courses of really amazing food.
"I'll have the scallop, please"
"and then the salmon?"
"followed by the beef- medium rare"
"and then the lemon tart and the sorbet?"

The service was impeccable, the food light, fresh, and delightful, we had a couple of excellent wines, and hours to eat, chat, and relax. Even so, I was amazed that, at the end of the meal, when Barry came and said hello, and I had a quick wander around the kitchen (really amazing setup) I realized it was 4 hours later!

I won't do a breakdown of the various courses; they were all good, well balanced, beautifully presented and absolutely delicious. (At this point I may as well announce my aversion to the word "flavorful", along with "healthful" it is one of the most nauseating words to have been made up in the last few years. There. I've got that off my chest. Sigh.)

Suffice to say, we had a brilliant meal, and will happily go back another time to do that again. Thank you Lovely Mother in Law (she paid the bill!) and thank you Kauri Cliffs!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

the pizza oven awakes...

No rain: check. Light winds: check. Good visibility: check. Looks like the gods are with us and, at last, it's time to light the pizza oven.

starting to heat up, run away, you ducks!

When we cook pizza in the kitchen, we put the oven up to max; about 240 degC, so, knowing we would be eating at about 6.30, we lit the oven at about 4.30. By 5 it had already got to 250 degC and was heating up fast. We put the pizza stone bases in the oven to warm up, and waited.

Our friends, N&S came round at 6ish for drinks and, by then, the oven had reached 350 degC. Amazing! I took one of the stones out, and nearly burnt myself as the oven gloves (LW's prize Cath Kidston mitts!) became blackened and singed.

The dough was risen, the passata had been reduced and the tomato and mozzarella had been sliced, so here goes with our first attempt:


The pizza stone came out of the oven, the dough put onto it, and, before we could even get the ingredients onto the dough, it had started to burn! So the first pizza was a failure; beautifully cooked top, perfectly cremated base.
perfectly cooked top...

...perfectly cremated base lends anonymity to celebrity pizza-eater

So the next pizza required a cooler stone. We loaded it up cool, (added a few slices of chorizo too) and I sprayed a little olive oil on the top as well. Then placed it in the furnace of hades, currently running at a cool 300 degC and, voila! 7 minutes later it was done. This time no charring, but the top was just slightly undercooked. A 3rd and final run (we were starting to get full) and 8 minutes in the oven, and this one was just right! Oh how we laughed. Hahaha!

Now twilight was upon us (not the books, thankfully) and we retired indoors for the dessert, apple and rhubarb crumble cooked in the slowly cooling oven. It still took a scant 20 min and the top was staring to carbonise!

As an accompaniment to the pizza I made a caesar salad: I stole an idea from Masterchef Australia and roasted some bacon drenched in Maple syrup. It was superb! To this I tossed some freshly picked cos leaves, croutons that had just cooled and a dressing with anchovy & garlic that had been battered to a paste, olive oil vinegar and seasoning, thickened with finely-grated parmesan. Yum.

In the end, the pizza oven is a roaring success; not only a really useful 2nd oven and outdoor heater, but, because it imparts some smokiness into the flavour of the food, a really lovely way to cook all manner of roasts and things over the summer. I will keep roasting and posting...