April 29, 2013
What a perfect name for my Octopus Salad
Soft as butter braised octopus, crunchy fresh vegetables, smooth sweet pepper strips and a tangy vinegar dressing- all tossed together to a Glorious Garden Salad with a bit of Extra Excitement!
I used to work at a Greek Cafe that specialised in Seafood
They also owned a fresh seafood market stall in the same complex, so the produce really was quite lovely. One of the many behind-the-scenes secrets of this establishment was the cement mixer that was in constant use out the back of the shop. We sold hundreds of dozens of oysters each weekend, and the main duty of the mixer was to tumble the un-opened oysters around in it a couple of times to knock the sharp edges off the shells so the little man who did nothing-all-day-every-day-but-shuck-oysters didn't have his hands cut to ribbons in the first few minutes. In the odd time in between oyster loads, the mixer would be hosed out and loaded up with octopus. Slosh, slosh, slosh, around and around they would go, all the while breaking down the texture and sloshing away the slime. Much easier than the traditional method of beating the octopus on a rock for ages in a rock pool by the sea- especially in land locked Canberra
I bought some medium small fresh octopus at the markets this morning. Not the tiny little baby ones that you can get frozen, or a Leviathan of the deep either, but nice manageable octopups of about 250 grm each. Now you either need to cook octopus super hot and super fast, or slow and lovingly to have it at it's best. I went the slow way, so start this recipe by braising the octopus the day before, or a few hours earlier than you intend to eat it. If you really want, you can also cook the octopus in the pressure cooker for 15-20 minutes if you're in a hurry
Tangles of Tentacles
Your friendly Fishmonger will be able to clean the little beasties up for you, but otherwise it's fairly easy- just a bit messy :)
Just split open the head carefully and scrape out all the goopy bits. Be careful though, try not to break the ink sac! There is a beak between the tentacles that needs to be cut out, and you can cut the eyes out too if they bother you
For braising I used 1/4 cup of Red Wine Vinegar, 3 Bay Leaves and 3 whole Garlic Cloves- I didn't bother to peel them
Pop the vinegar, garlic and bay leaves in a pot with the octopus and cover with water
Bring to the boil, then simmer away for about an hour and a half to two hours, or until the octopus is lovely and very tender.
You might want to do this with the window open or with the kitchen fan on. The smell isn't bad or all that fishy- just rather pervasive
The water will change colour as they cook, so will the skin of the octopus too- don't worry though it's still OK, it's meant to do that :)
Let the beasties cool in the liquid, then drain well
See how the meat has firmed up and gone a lovely pinky colour? Don't worry about the skin colour- if it bothers you, you can peel it off, but that's a lot of work on the smaller ones
While it cools down, get on with the salad part
I liked the idea of a Greek style salad with capsicum, cucumber, sweet little tomatoes, olives, and I threw in some pepper strips that I had marinating in the fridge too for another texture and more sweetness
Cut the octopus into bite sized pieces, leaving nice sections of tentacles whole to look pretty
Fry them off in some olive oil on high heat until nicely golden on the lighter bits. I like to use some of the oil that the peppers were marinated in to add a bit of extra flavouring
When done, quickly splash in an extra couple of tablespoons of the red wine vinegar and deglaze the pan while tossing the octopus around to coat all the pieces nicely
Pull off the heat and let them rest and cool a tad while you assemble the salad
On a bed of nice crunchy greens, place the olives, tomatoes, cucumbers and capsicums then add the octopus. Drape some bits of pepper strips over it artistically and carefully toss around. Drizzle it all with the pan liquid from deglazing and some lovely extra virgin Olive Oil
A lovely hearty salad for lunch or dinner, or you could use the octopus as part of an antipasta platter or mezze plate instead- yummo!
So Dear Readers, would You Like to be Under the Sea, in an Octopus's Garden with me?
We would be so happy you and me, No one there to tell us what to do, I'd like to be under the sea In an octopus' garden with you :)
(Octopus's Garden lyrics by The Beatles, 1963)
April 23, 2013
This week brings the 25th of April, ANZAC Day
ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, and Anzac day marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War when they landed on the shores of Gallipoli at dawn.
Today we use this day as a day of remembrance, not only of the brave men who fought at that particular time, but for all members of our Armed Forces who have served their country over the years as well.
ANZAC biscuits are one of our Aussie culinary icons. They were included in comfort packages sent to the Boys Over There during the First World War, and have been a legend ever since. So beloved are these biscuits, that despite the name Anzac being protected in both Australia and New Zealand there's a general exemption for Anzac Biscuits as long as they are kept basically true to the traditional recipe and are never named Cookies.
As they're made with hardy ingredients, no eggs, and last well, they were perfect for posting overseas and bringing a bit of love to the troops. My Dad served in Vietnam and Mum would send these across to him, I asked him how this made him feel and he said they made him feel Lonely. There was plenty of company, but these Anzac biscuits made him feel Alone. Homesick is apparently a different feeling, and these biscuits made him feel loved, but also served as a reminder of how far away he was from his family.They bought him real taste of Home.
I realise I'm flying in the face of tradition by naming this cake an Anzac Cake, but Anzac Biscuits are dense and chewy and just not too suitable for dentures and older Veterans teeth. I feel that I've stuck true to the original recipe ingredients, and really the only difference is the addition of a couple of eggs, some milk and the ratio of the other ingredients. The spirit of the original is the same, and I hope all is forgiven. My Dad said it was alright, so I guess it is after all :)
For all of my overseas Readers who might be unfamiliar with Golden Syrup, one of the main ingredients in these biscuits, according to the Essential Ingredient: Golden Syrup is refinery syrup made from raw sugar filtered through charcoal to give it a clear appearance and delicate flavour. We grew up with it slathered on pancakes, toast, and dripping through the holes in crumpets and off our fingers
Anzac Cake for Anzac Day
150gm Butter or lactose free alternative
2/3 cup Golden Syrup
2 cups gluten free Self Raising Flour
1 1/4 cups lactose free Milk or dairy free alternative
1/2 cup gluten free Oats (you can get the Freedom Foods brand at supermarkets)
1/2 cup shredded Coconut
1/4 cup raw Sugar
Pop the golden syrup and butter in a saucepan on low heat and melt until it's lovely and combined well together
It smells so yummy indeed! This doesn't need to boil away or anything, just melt through
Put in all the rest of the ingredients- yep, all of them. Just be careful with the eggs as the syrup mix will be hot and you don't want to cook out the eggs just yet
Mix, mix, mix until it's all a smooth and lovely batter
Pour the batter into a greased cake tin, then bake at about 170* for an hour or until the cake springs back when pressed lightly and a skewer comes out clean
Cool the cake in the tin for about 10 minutes to let it firm up and settle a bit
Then place it on a rack to cool completely
Todays baking efforts- allies side by side!
The cake was just lovely. I had been worried that it would be a bit dense and heavy with the oats, but it was really quite light and surprisingly fluffy given there was no sifting or beating involved. The flavour was certainly true to the traditional Anzac Biscuit, just a bit more delicate, and the cake was certainly more denture and false teeth friendly than the chewy, hardy biscuits!
It isn't a show stopper, but it's not meant to be. It probably wouldn't survive posting overseas either, but it's perfect with a cuppa at smoko, or to warm you up after a cold dawn vigil while you wrap your hands around a thermos and watch the sun rise
Lest We Forget
So Dear Readers, will you be attending the Dawn Service this Anzac Day or going to the march, and do you think this cake deserves it's name or should we stick with the pure Anzac Biscuit?
April 16, 2013
Here in Canberra we are having the most glorious Autumn
The days are cooler, but the warmth hasn't gone out of the sun; the light is softer, but the brilliant reds, oranges and yellows of the leaves add colour everywhere you look. The days are just perfect for long lunches out of doors, and making the most of lighter dishes before the heaviness of Winter meals.
You all know by now My Lovelies, about my love affair with South East Asian food? Well these little fish cakes are perfect for lunch on the deck, with a glass of crisp white wine and soaking up as much sun and vitamin D as possible before hibernation begins.
Fish cakes are one of the must-haves on every Thai menu, but did you know how easy they are to make at home? I don't like using many pre-made products in my kitchen, but I have to say I do make an exception for curry pastes as they are chock full of flavour and usually made up of pretty authentic ingredients.
The recipe for these little sweeties doesn't change much between chefs or cookbooks.
Traditional recipes don't need fiddling with, generations have honed these down to the best possible outcome for us already. The only difference is now and then picking up an extra special tip along the way. David Thompson is THE go-to guy for Thai, so of course I followed his recipe and guidelines- and was surprised to find a technique that made quite a difference to the final delicious result....read on....
David Thompson's Thai Fish Cakes
300g White Fish Fillets- David recommends Whiting or Orange Roughy
*my special ingredient a 1:4 ratio of prawns for a bit of extra seafoody sweetness*
4 Tab Red Curry Paste (gf)
3 Tab Fish Sauce
1 tsp Castor Sugar
5 Kaffir Lime Leaves- shredded
2 Tab Snake Beans- I used just plain beans- finely cut
Combine fish, curry paste and egg in a food processor
Blend up well until nice and smooth
Add in fish sauce and sugar
Blend again until really well combined
Now this is the Special Trick from David: In a LARGE bowl, gather the fish puree up into a ball and throw it back into the bowl. Keep up this slapping until the mixture becomes firmer and stickier as it aerates the ingredients and makes the cakes puff up when deep fried.
I haven't done this step in the past, and while my cakes have still tasted quite nice they certainly didn't have the light texture of these cakes. All the fish cakes I've had before have had a trademark rubberiness to them that I didn't know you could change. It's up to you, but I definitely think it's worth the hassle
Mix in lime leaves and beans
Nice and pretty isn't it? See how the texture is definitely different than before the Slapping Step
Form the paste into small discs- I used 2 oiled soup spoons to shape the mix, dip the spoons into the oil each time so the sticky mixture slips off easily, and then deep fry on medium heat until golden brown.
The cakes will puff up nicely, but deflate very quickly as they cool down.
I like to place anything deep fried on a rack to drain and to allow a bit of airflow around the items to retain crispness, if you just drain them on some paper they tend to steam and go a bit soggy
Serve quite quickly as these little cakes tend to toughen as they cool
I made a very basic sugar, vinegar, fish sauce dipping sauce with a bit of chilli heat and cucumber to go on the side
So my Dearest Readers, are you enjoying the waning days of warmth or is it Winter with you already, and what is your favourite Thai dish?
April 9, 2013
In My Kitchen...
Is still my old kitchen. We are getting a Whole New Look later this year- it was supposed to be early this year- but it will happen....eventually! So far we have chosen a nice tealy colour glass splash back to replace the tiles, and a darker wooden bench top. My big appliances are still just hanging in there waiting to be built in, but I know it will be a job worth waiting for :)
This is such a fun way to catch up with some other Bloggy Buddies and find out what's happening in their kitchens around the Blogisphere and around the world.
Bought to us all as usual by Dearest Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, check out all the other IMK posts at her blog here:
In My Kitchen... is a beautiful box of Capilano Honeyfusions that I used to make the Honey and Lemon Lamb Tagine from my last post http://intolerantchef.blogspot.com.au/2013/04/honey-and-lemon-lamb-tagine.html Isn't it packaged beautifully? Like the gorgeous gift that it is, not just another box of ingredients- Thanks Emma and all the guys at Capilano
In My Kitchen... is yet another new cookbook- Jerusalem by Yotham Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. Full of amazing flavour combinations from both Jewish and Palestinian recipes- Yummo!
In My Kitchen... are some gorgeous blue ceramic Punnets given to me by my Bestie, Pony. They are so cute, and look lovely and fun filled with bright red cherry tomatoes and strawberries!
In My Kitchen... is an embarrassing amount of chocolates left over from LAST Easter. I really just don't have that much of a sweet tooth
In My Kitchen... is also another stack of chocolates from THIS Easter. I can't give them to the kiddies as they don't like dark chocolate, I will just have to work my way through them slowly....
In My Kitchen... is a jar of Black Sesame Spread that I bought at Woolies. I can hardly wait to make some rice dumplings with it!
In My Kitchen... are some more ingredients from the dark side- Black Garlic. A present from BigJ, much nicer than chocolate :) Full of wonderful healthy properties and more importantly, full of flavour!
So Dear Readers, what would you make with the black sesame paste or the black garlic, and what's going on in your kitchen this month?
April 5, 2013
You might remember Dear Readers, that a few months ago I wrote a post about the lovely people over at Capilano Honey and their delicious 100% owned and grown Australian Honey.
While celebrating their 60th anniversary this year, they are still certainly committed to coming up with exciting and yummy new ideas including the latest Honeyfusions- delicious pure Australian Honey with unique flavours including Honey & Vanilla Bean and Honey & Lemon perfect for cooking and baking, in tea, on top of desserts and ice-cream, or pancakes and crumpets. Yummo!
Let me tell you- they are GOOD! The Honey and Vanilla was the pick for my family, and I have hidden it just to make sure that I can get some before they scoffed it all, but the Honey and Lemon is lovely as well. There were some gorgeous sounding recipes on the Capilano website and all, but I really like to use honey as a savoury ingredient so decided to use it in something just a little bit different.
Lemon and honey to me speak of a lovely sweet/tart middle eastern type of cooking. Lamb is a good match for the flavour combination, and using fruit is the perfect way to pull all the flavours together into one glorious whole. I decided to make a Honey and Lemon Lamb Tagine.
A tagine is a slow cooked type of stew that is traditionally cooked in a domed vessel that's also called a tagine. It uses very little liquid because the steam is trapped inside the dish and creates it's own delicious sauce. I don't have a real tagine to play with, so I used a cast iron casserole dish with a tight fitting lid instead, but you could also slow bake this in the oven or use a slow cooker or pressure cooker instead if you like. I promise I won't tell :)
Honey and Lemon Lamb Tagine
1kg Lamb- I used lamb steak
Chickpeas 1 tin, rinsed and drained
Prunes, about a cup or so to taste
1 big Onion
3 or 4 fresh Tomatoes
inch of fresh Ginger
2 Cinnamon sticks
pinch of Saffron
1/4 cup Capillano Honey and Lemon Fusion
(or 1/4 cup honey and juice and rind of half a lemon cut into strips, or some slices of preserved lemon instead)
splash of Oil
To make a lovely smooth sauce base for the tagine, grate together the onion, tomato and ginger. Of course you can chop them up, but this is just a bit nicer and more refined. You don't want there to be a lot of liquid in the dish, the end result should be just nice and moist not swimming in sauce
Place the saffron in a tablespoon of warm water and let it infuse while you get on with the rest of the prep. Saffron is such a lovely ingredient with a sort of musty, honey scented hay vibe going on. That doesn't sound very appealing, but it really tastes quite lovely- I promise! Oh, and just bragging, but this is my very own homegrown saffron BTW :)
Brown off the lamb in a splash of oil to seal in all the lovely juices and make it look appealing too
Time to add in the rest of the ingredients now
Dollop on the tomato mixture, scatter on the chickpeas, dot the prunes around artistically, pour over the saffron and water, and tuck the cinnamon sticks in too
Now the star ingredient, drizzle the honey evenly all over the tagine ingredients
It will infuse the mix with a lovely mix of sweet and tart, and help turn the sauces nice and glossy in the finished dish
Simmer gently for about 30-45 minutes, or until the meat is lovely and tender and just starting to fall apart. Of course if you're using a secondary cut of meat or chunks it might take longer, so just check on it from time to time and make sure that there is just enough liquid in the pot to stop it sticking and drying out.
About half way through the cooking time, turn the meat over and just sort of poke the rest of the ingredients about a bit. If you give it a good stir the prunes and meat will break up and the dish will look messy later on, so be gentle
I served my tagine on quinoa instead of gluteny cous cous, but you could use rice instead if you like.
The meat was so tender it could be cut with a fork, the chickpeas had become nice and creamy, and the sauce had become glossy and syrupy and sweet.
Just before digging in, I drizzled another little teaspoon over each plate to freshen it up a little and just reinforce the flavour profile of sweet and tart all in one. Yummo!
So Dear Readers, what's your favourite Honey recipe, and would you prefer Honey and Lemon or Honey and Vanilla?
Disclosure: Honey was gifted by the lovely people at Capilano. Thanks guys!