“There will always be serendipity in discovery” (Unknown)
About 6 months ago Rebecca and I took a little road trip to the Hunter Valley Wine Region in Australia. It was a gift from her for my 40th birthday and me being slightly obsessed with food, was thrilled to say the least! About a month out I started planning where we could eat along the way. The Hunter is a bit of a foodies mecca these days and there’s some very cool ‘craft’ wineries, brewhouses, markets and food emporiums popping up all over this area. Over the next 10 days we ate, drank and ate some more and visited a lot of these establishments. One thing I couldn’t help notice was all the amazing products on offer for people to take home to extend the gourmet experience that little bit further. Chutneys, jams, fudge, chocolate, cheese and wine; all there and a great way to remember each part of the trip with a physical memento. So apart from the full bellies we also had bags and boxes of all the said goodies. It was a brilliant 10 days but, like all holidays, this one had to come to and end.
As I’m sure people can relate; there’s an awful feeling of dread and emptiness when having to integrate back to the boring old day-to-day monotony of life. Those care free holiday vibes seem to fade into distant memories so quickly…. Often I find that i’m still eating a particular dish that was a holiday fave weeks after being back in the swing of things as a way of holding on to the dream. (After our trip to Singapore I think I ate Char Kway Tao for a month straight!).
Anyway that following weekend I still hadn’t let go and decided to re-create a particular ‘food memory’ from the trip. It was an amazing smoked cheddar we tried in a vineyard at Lovedale. So early Saturday morning I went down to the local market and purchased a really bitey, vintage Maleny cheddar, some wood fired sour dough and rushed home to get my smoke on! Cheese, fish and nuts are best given a ‘cold’ smoke which basically doesn’t involve cooking with a direct heat as such, but more a gentle ‘cool’ smoke that flavours the food instead. So in a rush to flashback to our smoked cheddar memory I also accidentally left a small jar of local, raw bush honey we had bought in the smoker…..
Well it’s a bit cliched but, ‘the rest is history’ as they say and for the last 6 months I’ve been developing this smokey honey further. Its been awesome to experiment with dishes (and drinks) that it’s amazing in. Without bias I think it’s an brilliant gourmet ingredient that, has so many great applications (to-die-for on thick seared bacon) but best of all, reminds me of our brilliant holiday every time I taste it…. enjoy!
The American food trend has now successfully swept its way across the entire country and has become very commonplace in fashionable food hotspots as the ‘in’ thing to do; complete with Hipster beards, drinks served in jam jars and comb over hair do’s, it’s all the rage… Sadly the fashion is all getting too much but I must say that ‘low and slow’ style deep south cooking is finger #uckin’ guud!! Think ribs, wings, pulled pork, corn grits, watermelon… you know what i’m saying’?!!…
This food dates back a fair way and while not the healthiest form of eating, its juicy flavour packed, long cooked meats are to die for! A few weeks back we decided to have a Sunday arvo ‘cook’ as they are simply known as. Secondary cuts of well marinated meats are the chosen victims and any ‘pit master’ will explain the rub (selected spices that are left on overnight) are as important as a 5-6 (sometimes more) hour cook time. The ‘pit’ or ‘cue’ is basically the area that a well maintained low temperature (but humid) charcoal fire is attended and the meat settles in for the arvo as it may be.
Our cook for this event was the ever faithful Beef Short Ribs and a whole Pork Collar Butt. Both these selections require gentle and low temperature to render down the connective tissue and reveal a soft, flavour packed meat festival. Served traditionally with homemade ‘slaw and bbq’d corn on the cob, I felt like i’d just spent the day hunting ‘gators or picking’ cotton or something else I’m sure to offend someone by saying. The sweet smokey smell that continually but subtly wafts through the air is nasally mesmerising and trust me if your neighbours don’t already despise you, they will after this….. Be sure to check on you cook every hour and re-baste your ribs, add some fruity soaked wood chips for smoke or top up the water bath. Remember : Lump charcoal, secondary cuts of meat, low temps and long cook times…. easy.
Anyway if you haven’t tried this style of cooking you can easily achieve similar results in the home oven however the smokey goodness of a Weber or charcoal ‘cue will be missing slightly. Remember 100-120c for 4-5 hours at least. There’s tonnes of info on the net and pretty good video tutorials on vimeo etc so check it out.
ps. If these pics don’t leave your mouth watering stop shaving, sell your car and house, join a hippy commune and eat a bowl of lentils.. PEACE!!
‘Bout a year ago I did a quick blog post on smoking fish. Well it seems like that time of year again when those oily Tailor and Trevally start showing up which are so suited to house smoking!
I won’t re-write the same post but will add how much fun home smoking can be. In the next few weeks I will share some info on my attempts at smoking some other things; hard Cheddar firstly and honey the next (that’s right smoked honey). Wish me luck and will keep you posted…
It’s been a while since i’ve been active on the blog. Work, new boat etc etc has sapped up any spare time and life generally can get a bit busy. Over the weekend I had the chance to have a fish and stumbled onto a lovely school of Watson’s Bonito. Basically a small tuna species that, like most tuna, are superb on the plate! The technique is fairly simple; just some hickory sawdust or similar wood shavings set into a smoker above a clear burning fuel. In this case I used Methylated Spirits. It takes roughly 1/2 hour to smoke through but the end results are really good. It’s an ancient way of preparing/ preserving fish and the flavour is unique. Fish such as Mackerel, Salmon, Tailor, Tuna, Sardines, Herring etc are ideal and I would recommend these over others as the inherent oiliness of these species keeps the end product moist and flavourful. A squeeze of fresh lemon, some sea salt and ground white pepper…. fantastic. Cold, the next morning, mixed through mayonnaise on crusty thick toast is another winner…. Enjoy!!
Some ingredients are really too good to over burden with thick complicated sauces and multiple cooking techniques. A freshly caught Snapper, recently shucked oysters or even a beautiful piece of beef fillet; the trick is not to play around with it too much. Restraint can sometimes be the most important part of the dish. Knowing what goes with something else is also key. Some pairings are matches made in heaven and work remarkably well. Sea Salt and Caramel, Eggs and Truffles, Bacon and everything… “Keep it simple” however (as the old saying goes.)
In the spirit of using great produce I often include this side on my home and work menus. Anybody that is somewhat into their food will know about the awesome and relatively new vege; Broccolini.
This vege is sort of a cross between regular Broccoli and the Chinese version known as Kai-lan. It actually tastes like that too. Its appearance is like Broccoli but with longer thin stalks and smaller florets. It is amazingly suited to asian style dishes; the stalks being about as good as it gets. Sliced thinly and tossed through anything last minute the textural benefits are only matched by the sweet nutty flavor!
This recipe isn’t really a recipe at all but more a series of events. The outcome is a brilliant side to go with pretty much anything.
2 x bunches of super fresh Brocolini. (a good tip is to rub the stalks together and if they ‘squeak’ its a good thing)
1x handful of toasted Pine nuts
30ml Maggie Beer’s Vino Cotto
60ml Pure Hazelnut Oil
25 grms Butter
Maldon Sea Salt and freshly crushed White Pepper
Quickly blanch Broccolini for literally 1 minute. This will heat them through and ever so slightly wilt them while still retaining the essential crunch and brilliant texture. Have some foaming good quality butter at the ready and toss the Broccolini through this. Season with sea salt and freshly milled white pepper, scatter over the toasted pine nuts and plate up. To serve ,drizzle a quick dressing of the Vino Cotto and Hazelnut oil and and a squeeze of fresh lemon. Simple, quick and VERY healthy. What more can you want? Enjoy.