Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Roasted venison served with herb and garlic infused potato au gratin

Something different tonight, thanks to my father in law coming home with packs of venison for dinner and it was very nice too, very easy to cook also, which is always a bonus!
To compliment the venison I prepared a potato bake consisting of both nadine and sweet potatoes, these were baked in a creamy sauce infused with thyme, rosemary, garlic and roasted pine nuts, and I also served the meal with green beans.
The meat was taken from the rump of the deer, and it was very lean and dark red in colour.  Before cooking I patted the meat dry with paper towel to remove any excess liquids.

The creamy sauce for potato bake takes about an hour to prepare, and then a couple of hours to bake the completed dish, though you can do this earlier, and then reheat as when you need it.  To make the sauce combine 2 cups of milk, a cup of cream, 6 garlic cloves (bruise them first), a sprig of rosemary and a couple of sprigs of thyme and a quarter cup of freshly roasted pine nuts in a saucepan. Cook over low heat for twenty minutes, and then set aside for 30 minutes to allow flavours to infuse.  The creamy sauce smells fantastic at this point, it had my mouth watering!  Whilst the flavours infuse, slice the potatoes thinly, use a mandolin if you have one, I don’t so I just sliced as evenly as I could.  I almost forgot, you must remove the solids from the sauce before using in the baking dish.

Prepare the baking dish by greasing it with butter, then layer with potatoes alternating with the nadines and sweet potato, adding a little of the cream sauce to each layer and seasoning as you go with salt and pepper. I used 4 large nadine potatoes and 1 large sweet potato, which gave my about three layers of each.  Cover the dish with foil and bake for 90 minutes in an oven preheated to 180C, then remove the foil and bake a further 30 minutes.

Once you have removed the foil from the potato dish, it is time to boil the water for your beans and heat you ovenproof pan with a tablespoon of olive oil and 50g of butter.  Once the butter begins to foam in the pan, add the meat cooking it 2 minutes each side, and only turn it once.  When the second side has been cooked place the pan into the oven and roast for 5 minutes, then remove from the oven, cover and rest for ten minutes.  Whilst the meat rests add the beans to the boiling water and remove the potato bake from the oven, allow to cool for a couple of minutes before plating up.
Slice the meat on the diagonal and place on a warm plate with the potato bake and beans, spoon a little of the buttery sauce over the top and sprinkle with a few pine nuts.

Bon appetite! 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Roasted capsicum and tomato antipasto salad

In 2007 Jo and I hosted Christmas Day for the Murphy clan for first and only time, it was also the first time we had invited the entire family to our new home, which had just turned a year old the month before.
Now the Murphy clan is large, well huge in fact, in 2007 we numbered around 96 including Mum, her 12 children, their spouses, children and grand children.  As luck would have it, there were only 30 unable to attend lunch that day, leaving 66 of us to share in what we all hoped would be a lovely and memorable day.
I don’t think I need to explain the amount of work and preparation needed to go into hosting lunch for 66 people, to make matters worse, I let Jo talk me into having her traditional roast lunch, which meant having both the oven inside and the BBQ outside fully cranked churning out roasted meats and vegetables, nothing like a hot lunch on a summers day, right!
As it turned out, this Christmas Day 2007, turned out to be Perth’s second hottest on record at 41 degrees, it felt more like 46 with the heat generated by the oven and the BBQ , it was insanely HOT, we sweltered as the air-conditioning could not keep up inside and with so many people, we had tables set up outside on the patio for lunch, the heat all but ruined the day, it was dreadful.
Being as hot as it was, as well as the roasted vegetables, we had salads mostly brought along by my sisters and sisters in law, but there was one that I recall making myself that was so popular I have been requested to make it each Christmas since, as well as for other family gatherings we have enjoyed.  And really it is not meant to be a salad at all, but an antipasto dish which is meant to be eaten with crusty bread and sliced ham or salami, but I make it as a salad to complement both roasted and BBQ’d meats, as well as hams and salami’s, it is my roasted capsicum and tomato antipasto salad and it truly is to die for!
There are so many layers of flavour in this salad, the way it is put together ensures a good combination of flavours, so when you are spooning some onto your plate, take that second spoonful you were thinking to take, just to ensure you get to experience all of them.  The following makes a large salad so if there are only a few of you half the quantities, but then again there is nothing like tasty leftovers is there?
For salad
4 large red capsicums
2 large yellow capsicums
4 vine ripened tomatoes, the riper the better
6 semi dried tomatoes, patted dry of oil and thinly sliced
1 tbsp pine nuts
2 tbsp capers
4 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
1 garlic clove very finely sliced
A bunch of basil, try and get young leaves

For dressing
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
5 tbsp quality extra virgin olive oil
1tsp lemon juice
Some chopped fresh herbs
Salt and pepper

To make, start by roasting capsicum in an oven set to 200C for 40 minutes, I make it with 4 large red and two yellow, you can use green to, but the flavour is a little on the bitter side.  Once the capsicum is roasted place them in a plastic shopping bag, tie the handles off and set aside until they have cooled off, once cool remove the skins and break the flesh into ¼’s removing the seeds as you go.
Whilst capsicums are roasting prepare all other ingredients, the herbs I use for the dressing include 1-2 teaspoons each of fresh oregano, basil, mint, chives, sage all of which are finely chopped, it is best to put the dressing on an hour or two before serving, this allows he flavours to intensify throughout  the dish.
Now everything is ready it is just a matter of putting it all together, in the past I have just combined it all in a bowl, mixed and then spread out on the serving plate, but I find it is better for both presentation and flavour development to layer the ingredients starting with a row of tomato, then red capsicum a little bit of this and a little of that, then a row of tomato, followed by yellow capsicum and so on.  If you make the salad early, leave adding the dressing until a couple of hours before serving.
Be warned, once you make this for family and friends, they are going to want it again and again!

The Murphy Clan since 2009, celebrate Christmas as a family the week before Christmas Day, gathering at one of the siblings houses, this year we are celebrating at my sister Cecilia’s and her husband Tony’s home, this evening in fact, we are expecting a small gathering of 73, yes I am taking my roasted capsicum and tomato salad, just hope I get some before it all goes!
Merry Christmas

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Hoi sin pork salad

Driving home from work on a Friday evening when my wife rings to see where I am and to inform me she still has to shop for dinner and is not sure what to have, just by the tone in her voice I could tell she really did not have her heart in preparing the meal, it has been a long week after all!

So much so that I really was not in the mood for spending a lot of time in the kitchen either, but I offer to do the shopping and see where we go from there. Walking around a well stocked grocery store full of the freshest vegetables and a great variety of quality meat selections, it was not hard to find some inspiration and in a matter of a few minutes I had shopped and was on my way home with all the ingredients I needed for a very easy Friday night meal, which took 40 minutes to have on the table, the oven done all the work and I was left with only one pot to clean and a couple of plates, way to go Jack!

Preheat oven 200C
500g pork fillet
6 chat potatoes
4 ripe vine tomatoes
A bag of mixed salad leaves
Salt and pepper
1-2 tbsp good quality hoisin sauce

Cut and quarter the potatoes length wise, pat dry with paper towel and coat with olive oil, spread out evenly on baking paper in a roasting dish, place tomatoes in corners of the roasting dish, then place on middle rack of the oven for 10 minutes.

During this time lay the pork fillet out, pat dry with paper towel and brush with hoisin sauce, bring the pan out of the oven add the pork and cook for 12 minutes, then turn pork coat with a little more hoisin and return to the oven for 12 minutes. Rest pork for a few minutes whist you place the salad leaves on the plates, crush and spread roasted tomatoes over the top then the potatoes, finally slice the meat and pour some of the pan juices of the top, bon appetite!

Tomato Frittata

Best thing about Saturday morning is having the time to potter around the garden doing a bit of watering, then coming in to make a scrumptious breakfast that is just what I did this morning, very lay back and relaxing and a great start not only to the day but to a five week break from work!

I, like most people loved Saturday mornings as a kid, at the time there used to be a song played almost religiously by most radio stations it had line that went “It's a Saturday morning confusion, If you think you can sleep, it's an illusion”

That song pretty much summed up my childhood home in East Perth, a very averaged sized house which bulged at the seams on Saturday morning with 12 kids running riot, playing the Stones on the record played, jumping and yelling and dancing and fighting, dogs getting underfoot, Mum yelling from the kitchen that breakfast was ready, trying to get her voice over the record player and now the TV that someone has just turned on, total mayhem, chaos in fact, but oh so much fun.

All the same, that said, I am so thankful for the easy going, peaceful Saturday morning such as the one I have enjoyed today, even the bloody dog over the back fence has been hushed, hopefully for good!

Frittata, for the uninitiated is basically an omelette that has savoury stuff in it which is baked in the oven, it is very easy to make and so very yummy to eat. Obviously the main ingredient is egg, then after that you pretty much throw in whatever you like or have on hand. I threw in whatever I had on hand this morning which include a French shallot, ½ a red capsicum finely sliced, a tablespoon of fresh oregano, all of which I cooked in a little olive oil until soft, I then added six tomatoes which I had cut into quarters and a tablespoon of chives. I cooked the tomato until it started to breakdown and lay a little flat, at this stage I plucked the skins away from each quarter and added a good sprinkling of salt and ground pepper and a little more oil. Whilst the tomatoes were cooking I prepared 6 six eggs whisked in a bowl with a ¼ cup of cream and a ¼ cup fresh chives, after spreading the ingredients in the pan out as evenly as I could I poured the egg mix over the top and cooked that on the stovetop for about a minute, then the pan went in the oven for 7 minutes, just long enough to set the egg and make it golden on top. Served with toast and coffee, it is a great start to any day!

Funny thing that happened at breakfast today, I always cook Jo 2 slices of toast and she always eats one and puts the other on my plate, which I usually don’t want, today I did however and I even went to the point of asking for it, only to be told “no you can’t have it, these tomatoes are so yummy I want the toast for myself!”, they were good!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Caramelised pork with five-spice broth

There is something about Asian food that heightens the senses, walking down Williams St in Northbridge or any other area where there is a high density of Asian peoples and restaurants, gets the old tastebuds going and has my mouth watering.  The aromas and sights, the people moving hurriedly along the streets as they go about their business of sourcing the best products for the evening meal, men on the sidewalk calling the price of broccoli and onions at a yell, cars parked haphazardly along the street and in driveways, all of this just adds to the experience of eating and enjoying good quality simple food, so full of flavours.  These are some of the memories that I enjoy when I cook something like caramelised pork with five spice broth, one of the simplest meals to prepare, but one where all you can think of is sitting down to eat it each step of the way.  Pork basted with hoi sin sauce roasting in the oven, whist ginger, garlic and five-spice are sautĂ© on the stovetop herald the senses into expecting something good, something special, it is time to eat!
Caramelised Pork fillet is the champion of this dish, the hoi sin caramelised outer and juicy succulent flesh is superb, then that simple broth adds so much more depth, the fresh spring onions, coriander and chillies round the meal out as they add a bit of crunch, spice and flavour.  Just sitting here writing about this dish makes me want more, but then it really is one of those meals, that will always have us come back for more.
For 2 people you’ll need
300g pork fillet
1 ½ tbsp hoisin sauce (Lee Kum Kee brand is the best!)
Brush pork all over with hoisin sauce and place in oven which has been preheated to 220C, bake for ten minutes, then turn over, brush a little more hoisin and bake a further ten minutes, rest for 5 minutes in a warm place before slicing.  Prepare 100g flat rice noodles as per packet directions.
For the broth, heat a teaspoon of sesame oil in a pan, then add 20g sliced ginger, a crushed clove of garlic and a ¼ teaspoon of five-spice, cook for about a minute.  Add about 50g of coriander stalks along with 1 litre chicken stock and 2 teaspoons of soy sauce, bring this to the boil and simmer for five minutes.  Strain the broth to remove ginger, garlic and coriander stalks, return broth back to the pan and add a bunch of baby bok choy and cook a further two minutes.

Divide the noodles, bok choy, broth and pork between two bowls, top with coriander leaves, finely sliced spring onions and sliced chillies, then enjoy whichever part of the world the wonderful flavours and aromas take you too!