After the last of all the summer/autumn vegees were finished, I eventually cleared the space for winter vegees. Of course, all of the dead plants went into the active compost bin, and I emptied out the compost bin that I had left undisturbed for a few months to let all the contents fully break-down. In the end the bin was about half full of dense humus, about 200 L (50 gallons) in volume, which I primarily spread and dug into the garden patch but some also went into the ground underneath the fruit trees. The girls helped out with all the planting, which I’m glad they enjoy. We planted sugar snap peas, carrots, broccoli, brussel sprouts, iceberg and red-tipped lettuce, beetroot and parsely. We also planted some nasturtium and marigolds (to help the soil and attract bees), and in some pots planted thyme and a few random flowers that the girls like the look of!
The original recipe was from the Delicious magazine, but altered a bit by what was available and what I thought would taste better! The result is smoky, rich and creamy, and goes well with crusty bread on a cold day.
1 medium brown onion, finely minced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
250 g (1/2 lb) smoked pork neck (or use smokey bacon, ham hock meat, etc)
500 g (1 lb) chat, desiree or other boiling potatoes, peeled and diced into bite-size pieces
1 L (4 cups) fish stock
1 bunch fresh thyme branches, bundled with a string (about 12-16)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup whole milk
1 cup fresh cream
500 g (1 lb) white fish (I used local hake), cut into large pieces
500 g (1 lb) scallops (or twice the weight in clams or mussels in shell)
In a deep pan, saute the onions, garlic and pork neck in a bit of olive oil until the onions are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the potatoes, stock, thyme and black pepper, and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Add the milk and cream, and bring to a simmer. Add the fish and cook for about 5 minutes. Then add the scallops (or clams) and cook for another 3 minutes. Remove the bundle of thyme branches, and serve with crusty bread and enjoy!
I don’t eat a lot of olives, but I do enjoy nicely marinated olives alongside some cheese, cured meat, fruit paste and bread, crackers/biscuits. At this time of year fresh olives are sold in the local markets, so I decided to buy some and have a go at curing. Marinated olives in delis can be as expensive as $30/kg ($15/lb), where as I bought some nice, medium-small green olives for $2/kg ($1/lb) and some very ripe, large black olives for $6/kg ($3/lb). Fresh olives are very bitter and unpalatable because of oleuropein and other phenolic compounds naturally in the olive. The curing process breaks down and removes these compounds so the olives can be eaten. After the curing process, the marinating process happens. I’ve only started the curing process, and will update accordingly. After the photos some details will follow…
There are a range of different curing methods, some ‘preferred’ for different types of olives, which I followed. For the black olives, there are some different options but I tried the dry salt method. Wash the olives, pat dry, prick with a toothpick or score with a knife*, and then pack them in salt, enough that each olive is fully encased in salt (use a 1:1 weight ratio). You can use a wooden crate for this, or as I did, cheese cloth which I have set on top of a grated pan (for the liquid from the olives to drain), or hang. Place the olive-salt mix outside (12-18 C, 52-65 F; ideal Autumn/Winter) in a dry location and let sit for 4-6 weeks, followed by washing of the salt off the olives, brief boiling, and then marinating. For the green olives, I have used the water method. Wash the olives, prick with a toothpick or score with a knife*, and then fully submerge in water. Change the water daily for 4-6 weeks, followed by marinating. I’ll update this post accordingly…
*The skin of the olive is such a great barrier that it needs to be broken before curing. The options are cracking (smashing the olives with a rolling pin, etc.), pricking with a toothpick or scoring with a knife. The olives will still cure without these techniques, but will take3-4 times as long.
I had some leftover canadian-style bacon, and Madeleine loves carbonara, so the decision was clear. Except I didn’t have cream! But I did have cream cheese, so I improvised. The result was creamy and rich, and perhaps a bit less fat as well!
2 Tb olive oil and 2 Tb butter
1 cup diced bacon (homemade of course! I used my canadian-style bacon which has less fat)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup (100 g) cream cheese
2 cups (450-500 ml) whole milk
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
1 tsp ground nutmeg (I freshly grate mine from whole nutmeg)
1/2 tsp black pepper
Pasta of your choice (I used small penne)
Add the olive oil and butter into a pan on low heat, then saute the bacon and garlic for about 5-7 minutes. Meanwhile, in a separate dish heat the cream cheese and milk in the microwave until warm (to soften the cream cheese), and then mix in the the egg yolk, parmesan cheese, parsley, nutmeg and black pepper until combined. Add that mix to the bacon-garlic mix and heat on low until simmering, about 3-5 minutes. Turn off the heat and toss with pasta. Serve and enjoy!
I often braise pork neck to the point that it falls apart, and then pull it with a fork and cook it down more with the braising sauce for ‘pulled pork’. I decided this time to cut the pork neck in 1 inch (3 cm) steaks (sometimes referred to as pork scotch fillets, which is different from a beef scotch fillet, or ribeye) and braise the neck until very tender but still retaining the ‘steak shape’. The pineapple provides the acidity to cut through the fat of the pork, and the coconut milk (and some added brown sugar) balances the acidity. The result was very good!
6 pork neck steaks (1 inch thickness, about 750g, 1.5 lb in total)
1 small pineapple, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 medium onion, minced
1 medium piece fresh ginger, minced
250 ml (1 cup) coconut milk
500 ml (2 cups) chicken stock
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tb coriander seed, ground
1 tsp cinnamon, ground
1 tsp allspice, ground
1 tsp black pepper, ground
1/4 cup fresh coriander (cilantro), to serve
Rice, to serve
In a deep pan over medium heat using a bit of oil, brown the pork neck steaks on both sides, then remove and set aside. Saute the onions and ginger until softened, then add the coconut milk, stock, brown sugar and dry spices. Mix well, add the pork neck steaks, bring to a simmer, cover the pan and braise for about 1.5 h on low heat, or until the pork is very tender but not falling apart. Serve on rice and top with fresh coriander (cilantro).
We were going to our friends Andrew and Sarah for dinner on Saturday, and wanted to bring a snack to precede dinner. So I decided to grill and marinate eggplant and red bell peppers. It’s so quick and easy, and so rich and tasty. Cut 2 eggplants lengthwise in 1/2 inch thickness, and grill on the BBQ about 10-15 min, until golden with grill marks, tender but not falling apart. Remove and set aside. For the bell peppers, grill until charred on all sides, and then place in a plastic bag or in a bowl and cover, and let sit about 15 minutes. Remove the charred skin and then cut the peppers lengthwise in quarters. Place the eggplant and the peppers in a container with enough olive oil to cover, add a handful of fresh rosemary and thyme, 2 finely minced or grated cloves of garlic, black pepper and salt to taste, and store in the fridge if not serving the same day. Serve with nice cheese, biscuits and/or bread. Enjoy!
I’ve been curing pork belly for ‘American’ style bacon for over a year now, and thought I would make some ‘Canadian/British/Australian’ style of bacon, which consists of the loin. Over here, you can get either ‘long-cut’ or ‘short-cut’ bacon, which essentially refers to whether the bacon consists of the loin and belly connected, or not, respectively. I just got the loin only, which would be ‘short-cut’, and I took the skin off beforehand, so it would also be ‘rindless’. When using the belly, I’ve always used a dry cure (no liquid), but this time I made a curing brine solution.
2 kg (4 lb) boneless pork loin, skin, fat and sinew removed
4 litres (1 gal) water
350 g (1.5 cups) salt
225 g (1 cup) sugar
42 g (1.5 oz; 8 tsp) pink salt
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 Tb juniper berries, crushed
2 Tb coriander seeds, crushed
4 long branches of fresh rosemary, roughly chopped (~1/2 cup)
Combine all brine ingredients and bring to a simmer in a large pot. Allow to cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until chilled. Place the pork loin in the chilled brine and cure for 48 h. The pork must be completely submerged, so either use a deep dish with a bowl to keep the pork submerged or use a large zip bag and seal it with no air space. Remove the loin from the brine and rinse under cold water thoroughly. Ideally, you would leave the loin to dry a bit in the fridge for 24 h, then hot smoke, but I just patted the loin dry and then cooked it in the oven at 95 C (200 F) for about 2 h, or to an internal temperature of 65 C (150 F). Allow to cool and then refrigerate. I’ve recently been alternating between friend bacon or corned beef served with eggs for breakfast recently. Not sure which I like more!