Bread and Butter

No Knead Bread

So I’ve been making Jim Lahey’s No Knead Bread most weekends for 6 or so weeks. I’m not actually sure that we’ve bought bread since I started making it. This weekend’s batch was pronounced the Best!Bread!Evah! by the BF, and I’m not sure if the superiority of this weekend’s loaf is down to some random variable, or the fact that this is first time I’ve use my (new!) digital scales to weigh out the ingredients by mass, rather than measure by volume ( e.g., 400 g of flour, rather than 3 cups). I guess I will have to make some next week and see if I can reproduce this weekend’s results…

Which brings me to the subject of butter. Ever since we ate the Best Butter Ever in France (purchased from some convenience store near our apartment, so nothing super special), I’ve be researching why butter here in Australia is… not the Best Butter Ever. I first wondered if it was the salt content – european butter is generally salt free. But even the unsalted butter here doesn’t have the sweetness of the butter we had in France. Then I found this article,  which explains that up to 10% of Australian butter is frozen, which turns rancid when mixed with fresh butter. Oddly enough this hasn’t stopped me from buying ‘normal’ butter for baking,  but I’ve been trialing more exotic butters for my bread. To date, Girgar Butter has been the best substitute, though still not 100% the same. There are a couple of specialty food places around that do stock the proper French cultured butter too. I’d like to try them,  although that requires planning and breaking my normal shopping routines.  (If only I could buy it online!!)

No Knead Bread  No Knead Bread

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Pasta Porn

Fresh Egg Pasta Fresh Egg Pasta Fresh Egg Pasta

So we brought out the pasta making machine today, after a long break, and within 30 minutes we had sheets and sheets of fettuccine drying on the kitchen bench. Again, I cannot stress enough that fresh pasta is significantly better tasting than dried pasta, and it is *very* straight forward to make, particularly if you have a pasta machine! (To be fair, I wouldn’t bother without one!). It also stores well – either dried in the pantry or frozen in the freezer (funny that). In both cases, you just pop it in boiling water when you want to eat it. It only takes a few minutes to cook through.

Fresh Egg Pasta

I’ve blogged the main recipe I use for pasta before. Today we swapped out the optional oil with about 2 tbsp of finely chopped basil. (We had also to add a tbsp or two of water to get the dough to come together).

Fresh Egg Pasta (Dough)

Note to Self: Nigella’s Onion Mush

Onion Mush

This is really a reminder to myself of the volume of onion mush that is produced from 1 kilo of sliced onions (it’s probably about a cup).  I do know the onions reduce down, and I always think ‘I really should double this recipe’, but, you know, one of the last things you want to do when you’ve peeled and thinly sliced a kilo of onions, is to peel and thinly slice *another* kilo of onions!  Still, when you put in effort to make onion mush, it would be nice to end up with more than a cup of delicious-ness (and it is delicious). Since peeling and slicing is the major hurdle in making mush, it would make sense to use a food processor, like Nigella suggests (the recipe is from How to Eat).

Recipe (more or less).

Peel one kilo of onions, and then slice very thinly. Add your fat (1 tbps of butter or LARD plus 3 tbps of olive oil, or 5 tbsp olive oil) to a heavy based pot over a low heat, and then add the onions once the butter/lard has melted, but has not started bubbling. Pack the onions down with a wooden spoon, sprinke with salt and then add 75 mL of Marsala (or cheap dry sherry in my case), topped up with 100 mL of boiling water.  Take a piece of foil and pack it tightly over the onion, shiny side down, put the lid, and allow to simmer for 2 hours (check after 1 hour to ensure the onion is not browning or sticking to the pan). After 2 hours, take off the lid and foil, increase the heat and boil off the liquid. You will need to keep a fairly close eye on the mush at the point, and stir pretty constantly to make sure it doesn’t stick. A key point is that the onion does not turn brown until you start boiling off the liquid.  I remember feeling quite worried the first time I made mush my onions were so pale at the end of the slow cook stage.  However the sugar doesn’t caramelise until the water is gone – so don’t worry, your onions will go brown!

LARD!

An exciting moment in making this batch of mush, was using my own LARD,  when I rendered off a slow cooked pork shoulder a few days before.  I just poured the fat off the slow cooker and cooled it in the fridge, ending up with a suprisingly pristine white fat that melts beautifully (and I feel good about not throwing it away. go LARD!).  I do think you can cut down on the oil in the onions, though.  I might ignore the addition of olive oil next time.

Anyway, the mush (or relish) is very delish and worked well on our umami burgers (which I essential followed this recipe, but replaced the applesauce with  1 tsp sugar and grilled in a frying pan). If only there was more…

Spiced Mango Chutney 2011

Christmas Gifts: Mango Chutney
So two years ago I made Spiced Mango Chutney, got very positive feedback from those I gave it to, and I’ve been fondly thinking of it ever since. Time to make some more! This year we elected to cook it in the slow cooker on low heat, for about 10 hours, used dark brown sugar instead of light brown (it’s what we had),  and tried adding some mustard seeds in pace of the nigella. We still had some of the plastic preserving jars last over to use,  but this time we didn’t try sterilising them (which lead to jar melting last time), but just spooned it in once it had cooled a bit. To be honest we eat the chutney so quickly,  you don’t really need to preserve, just keep it in the fridge.

And it’s still fabulous with sharp cheddar cheese on a corn thin. Mmmm… corn thins…

Carnitas (aka 16 hour slow cooked pork)

CarnitasWe use our slow cooker a lot – mostly for stews and curries.  However, once I saw nomnompaleo’s Slow Cooker Kalua Pig recipe,  I had to give it a go (particularly given our Hawaii trip last year!).

Now the Kalua pork was fantastic, but it occured to us that with a slight adjustment of spices,  this recipe would also make a fantastic carnitas for burritos and the like. So we put together a spice rub including coriander, cumin and – most importantly – chipotle chillie, and we have not looked back (although admittedly we’ve eaten a heap of slow cooked pork!).

~*~

The Spice Rub

2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoon ground chipotle chile pepper
2 tsp coriander leaves dried
Carnitas Spice Rub

What To Do

This amount of spice rub is good for 2-2.5 kg of pork. We typically buy a boned pork shoulder, take off any webbing or binding and then liberally rub the spice over all surfaces (although less usually ends up on the skin).  If you do this in the early evening, you can put it straights into the slowcooker pot and store in the fridge until later that night.  Just before bed,  I’ll get the pot out and set up with slow cooker with a timer to start at 2-3 am (depending on when you want to eat the next day). It is rather thrilling to be woken up by delicious pork smells in the morning,  though I do recommend cooking this dish on a day you will be mostly out of the house, as otherwise you will be distracted by pork for the rest of the day!   Once you reach 6-7 pm,  you take the pork out (usually in pieces by this time) and place it in a serving dish.  Separate off the skin and fat (which normally comes off very easily),  and then shred the meat using two forks.  You can spoon the juices at the bottom of the  slow cooker, to give an extra bust of flavour to the shredded meat, though be careful not ot make it too salty.  The meat is then good for tacos, burritos or just by itself….

Ravioli et al

I always forget how much better fresh pasta is than it’s dried counter parts – and really doesn’t take that long.  We made some on the weekend,  using the recipe below,  but substituting some of the plain oil with some sun dried cherry tomatoes and the oil that they’re preserved in.  It gave the past a lovely colour.  We made some fettuccine and lasagna sheets, and brought out the ravioli making machine for only the second time ever (I’ve probably had it 14 odd years) for some stuffed pasta.  It worked ok,  but to be honest I think it’s just as easy to make them by hand ( though cranking them out is kinda fun!)

Pasta Pasta Pasta

Egg Pasta Dough
3 cups bread flour
4 eggs
1 tsp salt (optional)
1 tbsp olive oil (optional)

Sift the flour onto a smooth work surface. Hollow out a well in the top of the mound like a volcano.  Crack the eggs into the well and add salt and oil if desired. Gradually combine with the surrounding flour until all combined. Knead the dough with the heel of your hand, adding more flour if the dough is sticky.  Knead for 5-10 minutes, or use your pasta machine on the widest setting to knead it, by passing it through the rollers until smooth.  (I use the pasta machine – seems much more efficient!!)

Pasta Pasta

Final note:  the most useful book I have on pasta  I bought from Target from the bargain book bin – ‘Pasta:  Sauces and Fillings for All Shapes and Sizes’ by Constance Jones.  (1993 paperback – seems to be out of print now)

 

Hey Pesto!

I just thought of that 🙂

Basil Basil Pesto!

I came home tonight tired but energised, and so I decided to make pesto from the large (relatively speaking!) amount of basil in the garden. It’d been on my mind of a couple of days so I’d made sure to get some parmesan on the weekend and I was set for all the other ingredients.

While I didn’t actually measure anything, the recipe I followed was essentially this one from Simply Recipes: http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/fresh_basil_pesto/

The lemon basil gave the pesto a real pepper-y flavour and it was really good over (store bought) ravioli with some steamed veges mixed in.  Best of all,  there’s still more left!