Tag Archives: Roast

Stuff it…

It’s funny what subjects get under a persons skin (pun intended), and one of those for me is stuffing.

I love stuffing. As an economical side dish for a deliciously roasted fowl, there isn’t much that can top the humble stuffing.

Unfortunately, it can be fraught with danger.

Cooked inside your bird of choice, you need to over-cook the poultry if you want to cook the stuffing buried deep within the cavity sufficiently to avoid a cross contamination bacterial explosion, and I don’t need to paint that picture for you. The problem with that, is you risk ruining your roast.

So, what is the solution?

Don’t cook your stuffing inside the bird.

Normally, I would cook the stuffing separately in a small roasting dish and serve it with the meal fresh from the oven, however this past Christmas, I had a light bulb moment.

COOK AND SERVE THE STUFFING INSIDE A WHOLE PUMPKIN!

Safer than cooking stuffing in a bird, and easy to turn into a vegetarian delight

Safer than cooking stuffing in a bird, and easy to turn into a vegetarian delight

First, select the pumpkin. I suggest a Kent, or a Jap pumpkin for up to 8 people. Using a sharp thin bladed knife, cut the top off of the pumpkin and mark a notch to help align the lid and base later. Now clean out all of the seeds and fiber…don’t forget the lid. At this time you can choose to scrape flesh out to make more room for stuffing, but don’t make the walls to thin.

Fill with your favorite stuffing, bake, and serve!

What’s that? You don’t have a favorite stuffing recipe?

Well here’s one I prepared earlier…

A good stuffing starts with good bread. Use a nice heavy loaf, like a genuine sourdough or Rye.

Cube it up and toss with oil and salt. I also like to add fresh garlic and fresh rosemary, if I have it on hand.

Cook in a moderate oven until golden brown. congratulations, you just made the best croutons you’ve ever eaten. Put them aside, those you don’t eat immediately anyway, and remember this technique for the next salad you make.

Cook some wild rice, per the directions. You won’t need more than 1/4cup uncooked.

Fry some mushrooms in olive oil, with something porky (chorizo, bacon, etc) and a couple of anchovies. You won’t taste the anchovies, just the seasoning they provide. If you don’t want to, skip it…but add some worcestershire sauce later.

Add some diced onion and garlic, and cook until the onion is translucent. At this point, I also like to add some slivered almonds or Pine nuts.

Add in some rosemary, thyme (not much, it can overpower), and some ground pepper.

Deglaze the pan with a little red wine, Port, or Brandy, and cook it down so there is barely any liquid left.

Now add the rice and mix together.

Take the pan off of the heat, and mix in the croutons.

In another pan, or microwave oven, heat up about half a litre of chicken stock until almost boiling. Pour enough into the mix to make it moist, but not sloppy. Taste and season.

Then bake it in a dish, or a pumpkin like above.

Serve it next to a roast chook or turkey, and lap up the accolades (as well as enjoy the stuffing with the generous scoop of pumpkin).

Curried Balsamic Onion Jam

Ingredients:

Ingredients

  • 5 Large Onions (about 1.3kg or 3 pounds)
  • 1/3 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
  • 4 Tbsp Curry Powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp Salt
  • Chilli to taste (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp Butter

Method:

Beautiful Onion

Peel and slice the onions about medium thickness.  I use a mandolin for speed and consistency, but be wary.  Mandolins can bite.  Always use the guard.

A medium thickness slice

In a large saucepan (with a lid), over medium heat, melt the butter until it starts to become fragrant.  Add the onions, and sprinkle the salt on top.  Then add the Curry powder, and place the lid on the saucepan.

Add the curry powder and salt

Cook, stirring every few minutes, until the onions have broken down, and have become translucent.  You want them cooked, but not caramelized.

Cooked but not caramelized

Add the brown sugar and vinegar, and stir to combine.  Put the saucepan back on the stove, and cook while stirring, until all of the liquid is about gone, and the mix is resembling a sticky jam.  Taste, and season accordingly.

Cooked and ready to bottle

Put the mix into sterilized jar, and keep in the fridge for use.

Finished, and ready for the Steak Sandwich

Best uses?

  • Hamburgers/Steak Sandwiches
  • A great topper for Roast Pork or Lamb
  • Serve with your favorite Chop
  • A spoonful on top of Mashed Potatoes
  • Serve alongside a piece of fried cheese, like Haloumi or Saganaki

This is probably close to a chutney really, but it doesn’t have any of the fruitiness that most chutneys have, by virtue of the fact that it is only made from onions!  Still, it packs a huge hit of sweetness, which is nicely balanced by the spice of the curry and the acidity of the balsamic vinegar.  Without any chilli added, it is as mild as the curry powder you choose, but I would recommend you choose the best curry powder you can find.  It will make a difference.  I added about a teaspoon of cayenne pepper powder at the end, and it has a small kick that would be mild enough for all but those really sensitive to the heat.

The inspiration for the jam came from tonight’s dinner menu.  Having got my hands on some Eye Fillet steak, we had steak sandwiches with salad and chips, and the onion jam was outstanding on the sandwich.  It’s not always that the reality lives up to the inspiration, but tonight it did.

Enjoy!

Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf – Version 1

As a kid my favourite meal was Meatloaf and BBQ sauce.  The thick sweet glaze surrounding a rough log of savory beef, and served with a steaming pile of mashed potatoes…It was what MY birthday meal was, year in, year out.

Behold the lovely Loaf

As I’ve grown, my sweet tooth has somewhat disappeared, but my love for the loaf remains unabated.  Over the years I’ve also learned that a great meatloaf comes in many guises. The meatloaf of my childhood was a beef meatloaf, as is the recipe on this post, but I’ve learned that the humble loaf is more versatile than just a log of ground steak baked in the oven.

I’ve developed recipes for beef versions , chicken meatloaf, pork,  game, exotic meats (kangaroo, as an example), and sometimes combinations of these beasts (often you HAVE to combine them, to get a great result).  In fact, the only thing I’ve not made is a vegetarian or seafood meatloaf, and mostly because I’ve never thought of it…until now!

So, this may be my first recipe and post for meatloaf, but it almost certainly won’t be my last.  Please feel free to change the ingredient list as you way see fit, you may have a great recipe for your meatloaf already at hand.  But take note of a few tricks and techniques that I use, and think about adapting them to your own recipe.

Ingredients:

The Meat

  • 500g Chuck Steak
  • 500g lean Minced Beef
  • 14 Strips Bacon (Streaky)

A carnivores dream

The Mix

  • 1 egg
  • 3 Carrots
  • 1 Medium Onion
  • 2 Sliced Bread (any)
  • 1/4 Cup Red Wine
  • 1/4 Cup Tomato Paste
  • 1 Tbsp mustard
  • 1 Tbsp Garlic

Most of the mix...minus onions, carrots, and an egg

The Herbs & Spices

  • 2 Tbsp Dried Sage
  • 1 Tbsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Ground Pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Oregano
  • 1/4 tsp Thyme
  • 1/2 tsp Cumin
  • Red Pepper Flakes to Taste

Spices for the Meatloaf

I make no apologies for the 18 ingredient list, for what is a simple comfort meal.  Nothing is complicated here, but every flavour is a note to this symphony.

Step 1, the meat.

Like my burgers, previous post here, I like my meatloaf to carry some texture.  I am not after a consistent grind in the beef, because I like the additional interest that a surprise chunk of beef makes in the meatloaf as a meal, but I also want to reduce the fat in the end product and this still needs to be a loaf…so I blend my self chopped chuck steak with some low fat mince.

Cube up the chuck steak into medium cubes, and chop them in a food processor in 2 equal batches.  Pulse for 10 x 1 second pulses (full second pulses…one thousand one, one thousand two…etc) and then for 1 x 4 second burst.

Dump the chopped chuck into a bowl, along with the mince.

Step 2, the mix.

Using the food processor (again), chop the bread slices until they become bread crumbs.  Tip the contents onto the meat.

Put the onion in the food processor and puree it.  Tip it onto the meat and breadcrumbs.

Everyone into the Pool!

Grate the carrots, and add to the meat mix, along with the rest of the mix ingredients.  Add all of the herbs and spices, and mix using your hands until well combined.

OK, so maybe I'm getting carried away with the photo's...
All mixed together...check out the texture...hmmmm

Step 3, Construction:

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F)

Lay out a large square of plastic wrap or baking paper.  Construct your bacon weave on the plastic film, one strip high by one strip wide.

Here begins the weave...just like a reed basket, only porkier

Baby blankets should be this awesome

And the plastic magically appears. Don't forget it on the first loaf, like I did.

Shaping the mix into a log, place it on the bacon weave, ensuring that it comes to the end of the weave, but not beyond.  Then lift the plastic wrap and use it to roll the bacon up and over the log.  Keep rolling until the entire loaf is covered, then remove the wrap.

Dressed for the ball. Prom King, no doubt

Step 4, Cooking

Place the meatloaf on a wire rack that fits in a backing tray.  Slide it into the hot oven.  Place a loose piece of foil over the meat loaf, so as not to overcook the bacon.

After 40 minutes, remove the foil and drop the temperature to 160C (320F)

Continue to bake until the internal temperature hits 66C (150F).  Remove from the oven, and cover again with foil, letting it rest for 20 minutes.

If only you could smell this...OH MY GOD! Look at the pink ring just under the bacon.

Slice and serve with some of your favourite BBQ Sauce, and a couple of sides.  Mashed potatoes is a match made in heaven.  As for another side, well, I’ve gone for some fried cabbage this time, but a nice salad would work just as well.

The moment of truth...enjoyed with a lovely Cab Sav.

The magic of Meatloaf is the leftovers.  It’s almost as easy to make 2, as to make 1, so double the mix and make 2 loaves (as I have).  Think of all the meatloaf sandwiches…nom nom nom

Enjoy the meal!

Roast Potatoes – Don’t hassle the hasselback!

Rather than make my Roast Beef meal post longer than War and Peace, I decided to break the posts up into two parts.  The first half contained my super secret method for creating a great Roast Beef, which I admitted was my deathbed meal.  This post will cover the creation of the most amazing Roast Potatoes you are ever likely to have.

Roast Beef - Prime Rib...click the picture to take you to the post "My Deathbed Meal"

For the meal itself, I decided to take matters a bit further than normal and make my Roast Potatoes Hasselback style.  Whilst the method is pretty, and if you are planning a formal dinner party or just want to present something different I would highly recommend it, it isn’t absolutely necessary.  This post will talk about how I roast my spuds, and then give you some ideas to make them your own.

Sometimes it's worth taking the time to do something out of the ordinary

The first thing to take into consideration is the type of potato.  Now, any potato is going to give a good result, but a starchy potato will give you a great result.  When shopping for a spud to bake with, look for a variety that has a high starch content.  Because different regions have different varieties, and often different names for the same varieties, I am not going to tell you which specific type of potato you should get.  Just research the ones your store sells, and choose the variety that is considered starchy.   As a point of interest, these also tend to make the best chips (as in fries), and fluffier mash…though I like my mashed potatoes to have a mix of types, because I like a bit more texture in my mash.

The next thing to know about killer roast potatoes, is that you have to cook them twice.  I prefer to steam them, though you can boil them the for the first cook if you insist (see my previous post on why boiling is evil).  You will want to cook them all the way through, and if they are breaking up slightly, that’s all the better.  The loose bits of potato are going to get all crunchy and really make them stand out.

The third “tip” I will give about beautifully roasted potatoes, is the choice of fat.  This decision will take the dish from the great, to the sublime.  Sure, you can use oil…but for sensational Roast Potatoes, use animal fat.  Goose or Duck fat is recognized as the lard of choice, but I would suggest using the fat from the same beast you are roasting.  If you recall from the Roast Beef post, I had a collar of fat which I set aside in the fridge, covered in wrap…well, not for long.

Chop up the fat collar finely, and heat it over a medium low heat until all the fat is melted and you are left with some brown crispies.  This process is called rendering.  Strain the fat, and pour into a bowl.  I usually pour it through a fine mesh, and find that the metal reusable coffee filters are the best for straining oil (whilst they absolutely suck at making coffee).  Toss the crispy bits (or sprinkle with salt and enjoy in moderation…just don’t tell my cardiologist).

"Hello Lee...this is your cardiologist calling..."

If you don’t want to bother doing this, you can buy animal fat from the mega mart.  It’s better than oil, and remember “all things in moderation”.

Ingredients:

  • Starchy potatoes
  • Rendered fat
  • Salt

Optional:

  • Pepper
  • Crushed garlic
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Chili Flakes
  • Marjoram
  • Parmesan cheese

Method:

As I have stated on a previous post, I like to have my potatoes skin on, so I just scrub them with a nylon scrubby under running water.  If you wish to peel them, go for it.  Peeled, they will probably crisp up better anyway.

Cut your spuds up in the desired fashion.  This means either quartered (which is self explanatory), or Hasselback them.

  1. Slice your potatoes length wise.  Insert a bamboo skewer into the end, about 1cm above the cut side, and push carefully through so it pokes out the other end.  Hopefully, if your aim is good and your hand is steady, it pokes out about 1cm above the cut side on the other side of the potato.
  2. Place the potato flat side down on the cutting board, and slice down keeping the blade horizontal to the board, and across the length of the skewer, until the blade hits the skewer.  Repeat this cut every 1/2 centimetre or so (see the attached image).  Repeat with all of the potatoes, and then REMOVE THE SKEWERS.

No idea why they are called Hasselback, but here is a picture of how they should look cut. Now, REMOVE THOSE SKEWERS!

Place your potatoes (however you cut them) in a steamer (or a pot of salted water if you insist on boiling them).  Cook them until they are just done.

Remove the potatoes to a large bowl, and drizzle the fat over them.  Then season liberally with salt (and your choice of optional herbs and/or spices), and toss the potatoes around to coat.  You want to be a little rough, as you want them to scuff up.  This scuff will turn to toasted gold.

You can also toss some of your other favourite roasted veggies in this mix.  Here’s I’ve used carrots, but I would also toss pumpkin, or even Brussels sprouts.

Here are the veggies dressed and seasoned, ready for the hotbox.

Bake in a hot oven, roughly 200C or 400F, until crispy and golden brown.  Should take about 30 minutes, and you might want to toss them around a bit after 20 minutes to ensure they are not sticking.

Potatoes and Carrots...roasted in Beef drippings....mmmmmm

Serve with your favourite roast, and enjoy the meal.

My Deathbed Meal – Rib Tickling Roast

If you’re even remotely a foodie, you have considered the answer to the following question:

What meal would you want on your deathbed?  Your last ever meal?

Invariably it’s a throw-back to a childhood comfort classic, something that mum used to make on a Sunday night, and something that brought the whole family together around a dinner table where civil conversation replaced the usual bickering and complaining.  Food excites us in a very primal way, and it’s one of those triggers that releases memories that we might have otherwise thought of as long lost.  At least to me, it does.

As with most foodies, the last meal quandary is something I have mulled over at different times, in conversations involving different people, but it always seems to come back to one meal.  The simple Roast.

Who can resist the allure of the Roast Beef? Probably my deathbed choice.

Of all of the roasts available to choose from, i would more than likely choose the Standing Rib (Beef) roast.  I think it has a perfect blend of flavour, tenderness, visual appeal, and good memories of childhood and adulthood alike.  In fact, as much as I love the Hindu religion, the Standing Rib Roast alone makes being a practitioner simply not worth it.

Standing Rib Roast - AKA Prime Rib

Ingredients:

  • Bone-in Rib Roast, minimum 3 bone
  • 2 Tbsp Oil
  • 2 Tbsp Cooking Salt
  • 1 Tbs Fresh Ground Pepper
  • 1 Tbs garlic Powder
  • 1 Tbsp Mustard Powder
  • 2 Tsp Ground Sage

Carefully run a sharp knife between the bone and the meat, to separate the tines in one single piece.

You don't have to be a great butcher to do this. A bit of patience, and a little practice, it's a lot easier than de-boning a chicken!

Cut the collar of fat off of the roast, wrap it, and put it in the fridge.  We wont be using this for this recipe, but you will want it for the roasted potatoes.

Using kitchen twine, tie off the roast to make it more compact and uniform.  It will help the to cook the meat more evenly.

From butcher to surgeon...cooking is multi-faceted. Again, it's a good technique to learn, and this is the best time to practice...when there's no filling to leak out, lol.

Blend all of the spices/seasonings in a small bowl and rub the beef with the oil.  Then season all parts of the beef, including the bones.

By cutting the meat off the bone before cooking, you will be able to easily slice the hot roast. You still get the delicious ribs, plus lifting the main roast from the bottom of the pan is a great idea.

Preheat the oven to about 150 degrees Celsius (300f).

Place the bones in a greased roasting pan, and put the roast on top, using the bones as a trivet.

Refer to the chart below, and cook until internal temperature is about 20 degrees short of target temperature (35 degrees short if using Fahrenheit).  Push the heat up to 200 Celsius (400f) and cook until internal temperature is about 8 degrees short of target (15 degrees short if using Fahrenheit).

What target temperature, Celsius and Farhenheit, for what doneness.

<WARNING:  SCIENCE CONTENT>

This is a bit of a reverse method to the most common thinking, which is to start the meat off in a hot oven and reduce.  What happens, however, is that the more gently build up tends to shock the meat less, which results in less moisture loss.  Contrary to popular belief, searing meat does not seal in the juices.  In fact, it does the opposite as the meat fibers contract and squeeze out internal juices.

If you have the time, try this method with an oven temperature closer to your target temp (30C/50F above target, or even closer if you have more time) and cook for longer…following the same rules in respect to boosting the temp and resting the meat.

Once thing searing does do is create a Maillard reaction, which gives a lovely flavour and crusty texture.  We can get this by bursting the heat at the end.

Remove the roast portion, wrap completely in foil, and let is sit for 25 minutes.

Can you wait the 25 minutes? Well you need to, your patience will be rewarded.

Wrap the bones in foil and return them to the oven.  Back the oven off to about 150C again (300f).

After 25 minutes, remove the bones from the oven and unwrap.  Hide them for yourself to eat later.  Unwrap the roast, and reserve any juice to add to the Au Jus.  Slice and serve with your favourite roast vegetables.  This time I chose Hasselback Potatoes and Roasted Carrots (with a green salad).  You will see from the picture below the result of tying the roast.  A nice round evenly cooked presentation.

At medium, it's probably a tad over-cooked (for me), but for the kids and guests, it made a good balance. Ends for well done fans, centre for medium to medium rare.

Watch for a future blog on Hasselback potatoes, they were truly to die for.

I would love to hear from you about your deathbed meal.

Eat and enjoy the meal.

Char Sui – Chinese Barbecue Pork

One of my favourite things to do, as a cook, is to make a delicious meal out of ordinary ingredients.  It’s easy to make a delicious meal when the budget is not a great concern, but making a memorable meal with pantry staples and cheap piece of meat is where it’s really at…at least for me.

Given Australia’s proximity to Asia, our pantries and spice cupboards are usually stocked with staples you’d find in China, India, or Vietnam (as well as other Asian countries), so it is not unusual for an Australian meal to be heavily influenced by Asian flavours, even if the techniques are decidedly Western.  To compare to a US larder, Asian is our Mexican (if that makes sense).

I was walking through our small locally owned grocery store the other day, and I came across a couple of heavily reduced boneless pork shoulders.  It’s a bit of an addiction of mine to snag anything like that I come across (which is why my wife hates sending me to buy milk and bread), and so I loaded all they had left (which was only 2, thank goodness) into my shopping basket and began to think about a meal plan.  Almost immediately, Char Sui came to mind.

Every culture has a dish involving meat cooked over a fire and lathered with a sauce.

Chinese BBQ Pork is a traditional Cantonese preparation, and is easily recognizable by it’s red ring around around the outside, similar to a BBQ smoke ring.  Unfortunately, most Char Sui you find in the Western World is dry and lacking in the bold punch and richness of the real stuff, and misses the sticky marinade and fatty unctuousness of the original.

Cheap and very simple to make, this is one of those meals that will impress, and cost just a few dollars per person to deliver it to the plate, especially if you can find the pork shoulder on sale for $4/kg.

The Recipe:

  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon five-spice powder
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic (fresh is best)
  • 2 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 6 tablespoons ketchup
  • 6 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoon Chinese Rice Wine
  • 4 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 8 tablespoons honey
  • 2kg boneless skinless pork (belly, neck, shoulder, or leg)

You’ll also need:

  • A container to marinate the pork.
  • Skewers (optional).  Steel is best, but bamboo is fine.  Soak them first
  • A basting brush (I use a heat-proof silicone one so I don’t singe the hairs)
  • A red hot BBQ or Hibachi.  Cooking with charcoal is best, but gas is better than frying these on a stove.
  • Something to serve on the side.  A nice noodle dish, or salad and rice is great.  Even a vegetable stir-fry is brilliant, with a bit of steamed rice.

Whisk all of the ingredients together, with the exception of the pork.  If you want the bright red colour, you can add red food dye to this mix.  Traditionally, fermented red soy-bean paste is used, but I do not have this at hand so I omitted it.  I chose not to use the colouring at all, mostly because it really does nothing for me.

Trim the pork of excess fat, and slice it into long strips about 4cm x 4cm square.  Think in terms of sliding a long skewer into them before barbecuing them, and you’ll get the idea.

Marinade the pork in the sauce mix for at least 2 hours, and up to over-night.  Make sure you get good coverage on the pork, and turn them at least 3 times whilst soaking.

The making of magic. Marinade meets meats. mmmmmm

When ready to cook, get the fire going and get it nice and hot!  Shake off the excess marinade and skewer the pork.  You can skip the skewering and just flip the meat using tongs, which is what I have chosen to do.  Pour about 2/3 of the left over marinade into a small saucepan and put a medium heat to it.  You want to reduce it a little, but mostly you want to heat it to sterilize it after having the raw pork in it.  Be mindful of the high sugar content in this sauce, which means it will easily burn if left on the stove without watching it carefully.  You’re going to use sauce this as a dipping sauce, or to pour it over the steamed rice.

Take everything else to the BBQ, including the left over 1/3 marinade and basting brush.  Put the pork on the heat, and turn and baste often.  Again, be really careful with the heat.  It will burn very quickly if you are not careful.  When done, and the outside is a nice rich caramelized colour, take it from the BBQ and place on a serving tray.  Baste each side one last time, this time with the sauce from the sauce pan, and cover with foil for about 15 minutes.

Get closer to the screen and smell the delicious aroma...no, closer...

After 15 minutes, remove the skewer and slice diagonally.  Serve however you wish to serve it.  Tonight I have chosen to serve it with a Grilled Peach and Roasted Tomato salad.  It’s a bit of a cultural mish mash, but the peaches work really well with the pork, and the bright salad dressing cuts through the sweetness and richness of the Char Sui perfectly.

Mesclun, Rocket (Arugula), Spinach, Grilled Peaches, Roasted Tomatoes Onions and Garlic, Prosciutto, Feta and a nice dressing

The beauty of Char Sui is the uses for it.  Once you have the meat itself, you cam make a number of dumpling dishes, or slice it up to add to a fried rice, or a nice noodle soup.  All of this is a great bonus for such a budget cut of meat, if you can stop yourself raiding the fridge at midnight to eat just one last piece before bed.  Good luck with that.