Sunday, May 31, 2009

Russell's Pizza

Russell’s Pizza in Willunga is rumoured to serve spectacular wood-fire pizza. For over a year now I have been curious about the actual existence of the place and lacking the conveyance to get to Willunga, a historic township on the edge of McLaren Vale, about 47 km south of Adelaide it made my quest all the more impossible. Sydney-sider Heather, a fellow gastro-girl equipped with her Hyundai Hybrid offered Kristina, a Canadian with Estonian heritage (a new student also pursuing gastronomy at Cordon Blue, Adelaide) and me to be the designated driver on a gastro-adventure, all of us keen to investigate the actuality of the infamous pizza parlour in the middle of nowhere.
In the quest of handmade thin crust pizza we set out on our trip. After two hours of driving out of Adelaide we hit picturesque Victor Harbour, stopping at a lookout point to get a feel of the coastline and stretch out feet. Victor Harbour is home to fresh seafood and a number of bistros and cafes that are supposed to churn out notable dining experiences. At some point I hope to return to sample the fare and perhaps even swim with the tuna before it hits your plate as I have been told one can do out in the pristine blue waters.
Port Elliot, is a seaside village close to Victor Harbour. With cafes and antique shops along the strand it offers both relaxation at the Horseshoe Bay, with a large beach and safe swimming conditions that are popular with families as well as action, the surfing fraternity well accommodated at Boomer Beach, which lies on the western edge of the town. Heather mentioned the Cockle Train that goes up to nearby Goolwa or Victor Harbour allowing for night viewing of the penguin parade. I’m afraid my to-do on my list keeps growing.

We made a pit-stop at Port Elliot Bakery eager to sample some of the local offerings and warm up with a hot latte. I was intrigued by their enormous version of the German Bienenstich or Bee Sting Cake, a buttery brioche that derives its name from the glazing of honey onto the top of the cake just before baking. A textural delight, the moist cake is sliced into two, inch and half thick slices and stuffed with sweet, yellow custard, the top half crusted with crisp almond flakes, crunchy rolled oats, a delicate sprinkling coconut flakes (ubiquitous on most Australian desserts – it seems to be an obsession Down Under) and the glaze of honey that seals all the crispy, crunchy goodness into place. As you bite into it, snap, the contrasting textures are an absolute adventure for your mouth and the sweetness of the custard just right unlike the sickly sweet confectioners cream stuffed between the sugar doughnut cream-pie Kristina opted for.

From Port Elliot we drove into Willunga and were looking out for a suitable watering hole to enjoy a pre-dinner drink and kill the forty-five minutes we had to spare before our 6.30 pm booking at Russell’s. We stumbled upon the Alma Hotel an institute within the area having been established back in 1856. After all the driving I immediately located the ladies room before making my way back into the pub to re-join my friends who by that time had found a table and grabbed their drink from the bar. In the midst of deciding whether to opt for a glass of sparkling white or a delicious sounding pinot gris by the glass I was interrupted by a scraggly, grey bearded Alaskan nomadic explorer look-a-like with a sun-baked, leathery face topped with a hobo looking beanie with a surf brand scrawled across the front, a tatty parker, scruffy jeans and worn out all terrain boots begins recommending that I try his friend Trevor’s Riesling for $5 by the glass. After small chit chat about Indian curries and gastroenterology as most conversations with know-it all wierdos go and five minutes of arguing with the bar tender to send the ‘regular’ waitress to take his order he finally got it through his thick, greasy beanie and into his brain that they were either out of Trevor’s vintage or his elaborate story was bullshit. I ended up going with the pinot, paying for it and turning to leave to join my friends when he asked if he could join us. Before we knew it, the Arctic freak wanderer was sitting down with us telling us how he was a winemaker, surfer living ‘down in the scrub near Aldinga’. Well by this time Heather, the no-nonsense mid 60 year old nutritionist, and mother of two full grown daughters was beginning to lose her patience, looking at her watch, weaving a story of having to drive into town ASAP to throw ‘the strange bum,’ off our scent and avoid any potential danger. We downed our drinks and left promptly but not before scrubby arctic wanderer gave us tips on how to mow our way down the freeway using our rubber bumpers or cattle guards and simply removing license plates to avoid chargers, should the express way be closed. Handy tips from the local pub lunatic are always pearls of wisdom eh?

The one and only 'sign' that mentions Russell

While I tucked that information into the back of my mind in the event of a freeway emergency, the three of us turned our attention back to the reason for our adventurous trip, trading premonitions of what the pizza experience would entail, preparing ourselves for the meal we were about to partake of. With no signs whatsoever, Russell’s pizza place is a hidden gem that is booked out months together and requires a strategic plan in order to secure a booking. Further to that a navman and a guide sense of direction is mandatory to ensure you reach the place. We entered the unmarked entrance, the number 13 is the only confirmation you are at the right place.

Fairy lights faintly illuminating darkness welcomes you, rickety chairs and wooden benches surrounding stone hearths breathing bright fires warmed huddled groups. It seemed like we were entering a mysterious, secret world, the setting almost reminiscent of the movie set of End of Days were the few remnants of humanity gather around canisters and open fires, the mood almost solemn. The air of sobriety however is a mood that hovers between 6.30 pm and quarter past seven. After 7.30 the place is infiltrated by large groups armed with eski’s (drink coolers on wheels) since the place is BYO, offering only a house red and white and a raucous crowd takes over the joint. Upon arrival we walked straight into what I assumed was the kitchen, politely asking if I could enter eager to catch the pizza process in action. But in fact it is an ’open kitchen’ cum front office to place your orders, customers reading the menu that swirls around in colourful, artwork upon a blackboard above the wood-fire oven.

Pizza dough is being rolled in one corner, Napolitano sauce smothered on bases in another corner, and assembled with toppings, long paddles shift bases and cooked pizza’s back and forth over and around staff and customers that gaze at the colourful swirl of a menu, hard-pressed to make a decision. The atmosphere is alive and the pizza looks amazing, I am ecstatic about the meal I am about to receive as we make out way to our table outside.

Usually I am fussy about seating outside, (ok, I have to admit I am fussy and uptight about most things when it comes to food) particularly when it is the onset of winter and 10 degrees C. But tucking my sweater over the palms of my hands and doubled over trying to retain optimum body warmth envisioning the pizza it felt like an adventure, having to earn my feed. We opted to go with the two courses, starter and main for $37 per head.

Out comes a anti-pasti platter of crusty sour-dough bread, roasted veggies: red peppers, carrot, green beans, Kalamata olives, three lumps of feta cheese, liquid gold – a luscious straw hued olive oil with a peppery kick, dukkah with pistachio hints and toasted almonds that were unlike anything I have tasted anywhere else – bursting with flavour.

Having cleared every morsel of the starter platter we sipped on house red taking the place in. Next up three succulent lamb koftas with a fresh mint-yoghurt (could have been punchier with more mint, but hey).

We decided to do one large and one small pizza. The large we did two ways, one half with generous torn basil, Italian herbs, buffalo mozzarella and the other half with fresh, tender king prawns, perfectly cooked squid legs and a single oyster. It came out on a unfolded cardboard box, no cutlery, no plates and we dug in, enjoyed it thoroughly and only realised the former were missing halfway through relishing the squares of pizza and wiping tomato sauce and crumbs from around our mouths. Sometimes going back to the basics makes for a real treat.

The smaller pizza was distributed with chunks of grilled lamb with Mediterranean-Indian flavours cucumber and tomatoes raita adorning the top. Although perhaps the most drastic pizza topping I have ever sampled, and perhaps not a personal choice it was interesting and absolutely delicious.

Having enjoyed Russell’s pizza I can now put the rumours to rest, it is alive and kicking – truly offering a unique experience with top notch wood-fire pizzas. I officially stamp it South Australia’s best place for pizza pie!

Russell's on Urbanspoon

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Crispy Chicken stuffed with Brie and Apple with Braised Caraway Spiced Cabbage and Apple

A trilogy of creamy brie, tart Granny Smith apple and thyme stuffed under chicken skin and baked until golden are a deliciously different departure from bland poultry. The apples sautéed with onions contrast the rich, creamy Australian King Island Triple Cream Brie I used. The stuffed crispy skinned chicken is served with braised cabbage and ample chunks of gala apples, seasoned with caraway seeds that lace this Germanic side dish with a light liquorice flavour. All in all this dish makes for a simple and straightforward celebration of fall.
Australians, obsessed with ‘lean meat’, obsessing over 100 per cent fat free poultry and meat made finding chicken breasts with the skin on virtually impossible. However, I found plump chicken thighs and legs with the skin on, and would you believe it - half the price, so I grabbed those instead. Personally I prefer the thigh when it comes to poultry so it was an easy decision making process. While skinless chicken breasts can be stuffed by cutting a slit at the top of the breast and creating a pocket to fill, without the crisp skin to complement the tender, succulent flesh and contrast the sweet and savoury braised cabbage the dish would simply lose its pizazz.
Serves 4
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Ingredients: 2 Tablespoons olive oil, 1 medium onion, chopped (fennel would work wonderfully here as well), 1 Granny Smith apple, cored and coarsely chopped, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 3/4 cup apple cider, 110 g Brie cheese, cut into slices, 4 chicken breast halves/ thighs (1 kg approx)
Method: Heat oil in a medium sized non-stick skillet over medium heat, add onion; cook until very tender, about 8 minutes. Add apples, 1/2 teaspoon thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 1/4 cup cider; cook until apple is tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; cool slightly. Divide stuffing into 4 equal portions and slice the brie. Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Run fingers under chicken skin to separate from flesh. Dividing equally, insert stuffing and brie slices under skin of each piece. Season chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Place in a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dish. Bake in heated 200-degree C oven 35 minutes or until chicken skin is golden brown. Meanwhile prepare cabbage (see recipe below).
Remove chicken to a platter; keep warm. Skim fat from baking dish. Scrape drippings into a small saucepan. Add remaining 1/2 cup apple cider, 1/2 teaspoon thyme, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook over medium heat to reduce by half. Spoon over chicken.
Braised Carraway Spiced Cabbage and Apple
This is a recipe from Epicurious, by Ian Knauer
Makes 4 to 6 side dish servings
Active time: 15 min
Total time: 35 min
Ingredients: 1 garlic clove, smashed, 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, 2 lb red cabbage, cored and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces, 1 Gala or Fuji apple, cored and cut into 1/2-inch cubes, 1/2 cup unfiltered apple cider, 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds, 2 whole allspice (optional), crushed, 1 1/2 tablespoons apple-cider vinegar
Method: Cook garlic in butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring, 1 minute. Add cabbage, apple, cider, caraway, allspice (if using), 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until cabbage is tender, 15 to 18 minutes.
Add vinegar and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Crab and Squid a la Pesto Risone

This is a simple recipe that I created myself that showcases quality ingredients from the sea, illustrating how freshness and simplicity construct the essence of a tasty dish - you don't always need expensive ingredients and fancy technique. Squid rings and crab meat are infused with basil and lemon. So easy to make, it’s almost quicker to eat than it is to prepare.

When buying squid, a personal tip is to opt for the entire hooded squid, slice it at home yourself, rather than pre-cut rings that while easier, saving time at home often have membranes and spine remaining, the result of fish mongers in a rush! The result awful stringy, chewy bits that remain on the pre-cut squid rings. Cleaning and slicing your own squid rings is simple and eliminates this completely.

Ingredients: 200 g squid rings, 200 g steamed crab flesh, 500 g risone, 200 g pesto*, Olive oil for frying, salt and pepper for seasoning

* Pesto: 125 g (1 bunch) basil leaves, 1 handful flat leaf parsley, 100 g Parmesan, 85 g toasted pine nuts,1 garlic clove, 170 g olive oil, splash white wine, 2 cloves garlic minced, half a lemon/ 1 tsp lemon juice

Method: Bowl the risone in a pot of water with salt, allow approximately 12 minutes to cook completely. Meanwhile prepare the pesto. Then, add a splash of olive oil to a hot wok, throw in the minced garlic, allowing to turn golden before adding the squid that needs to cook through for 5 minutes. Just before taking it off the stove, add a splash of white wine.

For the pesto, blend all the ingredients in a food processor, or use a mortar and pestle, adding the olive oil gradually in a steady stream until you have a spoonable consistency.

Drain the risone to a big bowl. Toss it with the pesto and add in the squid and crab meat, squeeze the lemon juice over and seasoning it with salt and pepper before serving.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sticky Date Pudding drizzled with Butterscotch Sauce

It's simple pleasures that make life worth living. A thick slice of indulgent sticky date pudding drizzled with sweet butterscotch glaze is the perfect ending to any meal. Sweet treats are something I have come to look forward to increasingly, especially during Adelaide's cold, wintry months - the lack of heating facilities in most homes insufficient. A cup of strong, hot coffee and a plate of steaming pudding or cake sliced straight out of the oven is best enjoyed in bed, feet toasty and snugly under the covers, it seems too good to be true!

Dates contain a high amount of natural sugar that make them a healthy energy source. The dates combined with a modest amount of brown sugar make for a pudding that is subtly sweet, therefore I highly recommend serving it with the butterscotch sauce as it lifts the dessert adding a rich, velvety sweet lusciousness, as well as moistening the pudding that can be a tad bit dense if eaten alone.

Serves 4
Active time: 20 mins
Total time: I hour

Ingredients: 150 g pitted, finely chopped dates, 1 ½ tsp bicarbonate soda, 150 ml boiling water, 2 ½ tblsp unsalted butter, 125 g soft brown sugar, 2 eggs, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 tsp finely slices glace ginger, 125 g sifted self-raising flour, butterscotch sauce*

*For the butterscotch sauce: 4 tbsp cream, 70 g soft brown sugar, 1 ½ tblsp unsalted butter

Method: Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Butter four 300 ml ramekins. (I used a Pyrex dish instead, since I wanted to cut thin slices.) Put the dates in a bowl, sprinkle over the bicarbonate soda and then pour the boiling water over and set aside for 10 minutes. Beat the butter and sugar until pale and creamy, whisk in the eggs, the vanilla extract and the glace ginger. Finally add the flour, lighly fold it through the batter. Fold the date mixture through the flour batter thoroughly. Spoon the batter into the ramekins or the baking dish. If using ramekins, place them on a baking tray. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the puddings are firm.

Meanwhile make the butterscotch sauce by combining the cream, sugar and butter in a small heavy-based saucepan. Bring to boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and whisk to combine. Remove from the heat and cool.

When the puddings are cooked, remove from the oven and allow cooling for 5-10 minutes before pouring over the butterscotch sauce. Serve immediately, as it best enjoyed warm.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Vietnamese Cold Rolls - Nem Nuong with Nuoc Cham

Nem Nuong are flavourful grilled meatballs made out of minced pork and infused with garlic, fish sauce, sugar and coriander. This recipe is a heavily adapted version of Jill Dupliex that was published in the Sydney Sunday Morning Herald.

“The defining characteristic of Vietnamese cooking is the presence of basket-loads of fresh herbs and salad greens”. These little meatballs are traditionally eaten wrapped in lettuce leaves or rice paper rolls with herbs and rice noodles or put into soups for pork ball broth.

Nuoc Cham is an aromatic traditional Vietnamese dipping sauce paired with cold rolls in particular. The sauce combines contrasting, yet carefully balanced sweet, sour and spicy flavours that Oriental cuisines such as Thai, Cambodian and Vietnamese rely on, using the complex flavours to complement and boast delicate won tons, dim sums and cold rolls. Fresh mint is set off by fiery red chilli and the sweetness of sugar takes the edge of the tart acidity of zesty lemon, the fish sauce and the vinegar add a sharp astringent quality that pulls the flavours together. I also added a serving of kimchee that went well with the cold rolls.

For Nem Nuong: 500g minced pork, 2 garlic cloves, crushed, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp ground pepper, 1 tbsp fish sauce, 2 tsp caster sugar, 2 tbsp torn coriander leaves
For Nuoc Cham Sauce:1 tsp caster sugar, 2 tbsp fresh lime juice, 3 tbsp fish sauce, 1 tsp vinegar/ rice wine, 1 fresh red chilli, sliced, handful mint leaves chopped finely.
For the Cold Rolls: Pack of cold roll wrappers, kettle of boiling water, medium sized heat-proof bowl, 200g dried bean-thread vermicelli, 2 handful of picked mint leaves, 2 handful baby spinach (optional), side plate.
For Nem Nuong: Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees C. Line a baking tray (with sides) with aluminium foil. Combine the minced pork, garlic, salt, pepper, fish sauce, sugar, coriander and knead until well mixed. With wet hands, roll the pork mixture into balls the size of a walnut and place in rows on the lined baking tray. Once all the balls have been formed, place the tray in the oven for 10 – 15 minutes, until golden brown. Half way through, remove from oven and turn with tongs.
For the Nuoc Cham: To make the dressing, mix the sugar and lime juice, then add the fish sauce and chilli. Toss the drained noodles and torn mint and coriander leaves in the dressing.
Assembling the cold rolls: Fill the medium sized bowl with the vermicelli and cover with boiling water. It needs only 2 to 3 minutes to soften, then remove from the bowl, drain and set aside. Re-fresh the bowl halfway with boiling water from the kettle. Take a single cold roll wrapper, dip it into the bowl of boiling water carefully. Slide each side in to the middle so it is damp, but pull it out within 10 seconds to avoid it getting soggy. Shake out the wrapper and place on the side plate, smoothing it out completely. In the middle of the wrapper, arrange 3-4 mint leaves and baby spinach leaves if using, place three meatballs on top, enough vermicelli to cover the meatballs. Pull the wrapper tightly across the meatballs and vermicelli stuffing and wrap lengthwise first, and then pull the sides in tightly, it will fuse with the rice paper at the centre. Lay on a serving platter and complete the rest of the rolls. Serve with Nouc Cham dipping sauce.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Cucumber Kimchee

Raised in Dayton, Ohio Ming Tsai of cooking show Simply Ming spent hours cooking alongside his parents at their family-owned restaurant, Mandarin Kitchen. His passion for food was forged in those early years - gaining valuable experience in both front (house kitchen) and back (restaurant kitchen).

Koreans serve kimchee, a sweet and spicy pickle with almost every meal. Traditionally made with fermented cabbage or turnip and stored in a tightly sealed jar, it lasts forever. I must say that I have tasted cucumber versions of the same at several Korean and Chinese restaurants, and my mother makes her very own kind as well. Tsai’s cucumber kimchi is sweet and spicy with a slight tart pull at the end, thanks to the vinegar and the flourish of fresh ginger. The traditional method involves burying the kimchee to ferment it. With this recipe however you won’t have to dig up the kitchen, since vinegar is used to do the same job.

While Tsai asks for traditional Korean chilli called kucho karu, regular red pepper flakescan be used as substitute, using amounts you are comfortable with. Note: Be very careful about putting unprotected fingers into the mixture, as you can too easily rub your eyes with them, instead, use clean tongs or chopsticks to serve or transfer the kimchee.

Makes 6 cups
Lasts 2 weeks, refrigerated

Ingredients: 6 medium cucumbers, halved lengthwise, and seeded, Kosher salt, 6 cups rice wine vinegar (I substituted with white wine vinegar that I had on hand), 2 cups sugar, 10 garlic cloves, thinly sliced, 1/4 cup fresh ginger matchsticks, 3 medium red onions, halved and cut into 18-inch slices, 1 cup shredded carrots, 4 tbls Korean chilli flakes (kucho karu), or 2 tblsp red pepper flakes, 1/2 cup Thai fish sauce (nam pla)

Method: Place the cucumbers in a colander set in the sink. Sprinkle the cut side of the cucumbers generously with the salt. Allow to rest at room temperature until the cucumbers have exuded liquid, about 2 hours. Rinse the cucumbers, dry them well, and slice them into 1/4-inch-thick half moons. Set aside. (I preferred cutting the cucumbers into thin, long strips which were prettier in terms of presentation.)

In a large, nonreactive saucepan, combine the vinegar and sugar and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add the garlic, ginger, and onions, bring to a simmer, and remove immediately from the heat.

In a large, nonreactive bowl, combine the cucumbers and carrots. Pour the vinegar mixture over them, add the chilli flakes and fish sauce, and toss well.

Correct the seasoning with salt. Let the mixture cool to room temperature and cover with plastic wrap. With a paring knife, punch a few holes in the plastic wrap and place the bowl in a cool, dark place. Let the mixture pickle for 24 hours. Transfer the kimchee to a tall glass jar or jars and seal tightly. Use or refrigerate.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Tale of Despereaux

Dustin Hoffman, Matthew Broderick and Emma Watson have lent their voices to the three central characters, and Sigourney Weaver as the narrator seems to reveals too much, too soon.

If you haven’t seen the film, you’re probably wondering why I am discussing an animated film on my food blog. Well, the story unfolds with soup, in the not so magical kingdom of D’or that celebrates Soup Day in a big way. An unfortunate incident lands friendly rat Roscuro (Dustin Hoffman) in hot soup and a series of nasty things follow – the King bans soup, rats and manages to make the sun disappear as well as the rain. More details and information on the annual soup festival in Lille, France are included at the end.

When it comes to rats and cooking, comparisons with the brilliant Ratatouille immediately spring to mind. While The Tale of Despereaux is enjoyable it lacks punch, wit and humour of the well scripted plot and narration of the former to even deserve to be mentioned in the same breathe.

On the whole the ingredients for this cinematic soup are far from cohesive, the attempt to fuse humour, fantasy and drama together far from effortless. On the whole, the film is ‘cute’, failing to cross the barrier from a feel good, forget fast flick to one that deserves acclaim by delivering a tasty treat.

The Golden Ladle Soup Festival takes place at Wazemmes, Lille, France as an annual event. The next one is scheduled in May 2010. Lille's Golden Ladle Soup Festival (La Louche d'Or) brings soup connoisseurs together each year in the Wazemmes quarter of the city. The marketplace and bistros are the focus, with local bands performing and cooks rustling up delicious soups all day.

Lille Tourist Office:
Palais Rihour,
BP 205, 59002
Lille Phone: +33 (0) 3 59 57 94 00
Fax: +33 (0) 3 59 57 94 14

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Beef Goulash with Champ

Goulash is a traditional Hungarian stew, with origins dating back to the 9th century and the Magyar shepherds. The stew was prepared as a portable stock of food by slowly cooking cut-up meats with onions until the liquids had been absorbed and then dried in the sun and packed into bags made of sheep’s stomachs. At mealtime, water was added to a portion of the meat to reconstitute it into a soup or stew.

Champ is an Irish side dish, traditionally consisting mashed potatoes mixed with scallions, peas, nowadays given way to variations of root veggies such as turnips, parsnips, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and carrots as well as cabbage and kale. During the historical periods of financial struggle, champ became the champion Irish dish – cheap, nutritious and filling.

Most European countries rely on potatoes as a main starch or staple, and have some variation of the same, the English with their world-famous potato mash, Dutch with their stamppot boerenkool and Danish with their parsillia kartoffel mousse.

I have used Tara Harris’ winning recipe from UK TV reality show, Chefs and the City, it makes a fiery stew that is sure to warm you up, champ the perfect winter companion, the combination of desiree potatoes, carrots and parsnips makes for an extremely creamy mash.

Serves: 6
Prep: 25 min Cook: 1 hr 20 min


For the goulash: 500g beef skirt steak, cut into cubes, 500g beef brisket, cut into cubes, 2 tbsp plain flour, seasoned, 4 tbsp Olive oil, 2 large Onions, 2 red chillies, seeds removed, finely chopped, 2 tsp Paprika, 1/2 tsp Chilli powder, 1/2 tsp Nutmeg, 5 cloves Garlic, 2 tsp tomato purée, 400g tin chopped Tomatoes, 500ml beef stock, 2 Bay leaves, 2 sprigs Oregano, 2 sprigs Thyme, 1 x 330ml can Beer, 3 red Peppers (Roasted red peppers add an extra depth of flavour, and I highly recommend doing this.)

For the carrot, turnip and potato champ: 6-8 Potatoes, 4 Carrots, 1 Turnips, (I substituted with 5 slim parsnips instead) drizzle Olive oil

To serve: Sour cream, to taste, finely chopped Thyme and to taste


For the goulash: dust the cubed meat in the seasoned flour. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the onions until they’re softened and just beginning to brown. Add the cubed meat and fry until the meat is starting to brown on all sides. Sprinkle the chopped chillies, paprika, chilli powder and nutmeg into the pan. Stir to coat the meat in all the spices. Add the garlic, tomato purée, tinned tomatoes, beef stock, bay leaves, oregano, thyme and beer to the pan. Simmer for 1 hour over a low heat. Preheat the oven to 190C/gas. Put the whole red peppers on a roasting tray and transfer the tray to the oven. Cook until the peppers are blackened. Once the peppers are black, remove them from the oven and cover with cling film. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, discard the cling film and peel off the pepper skins. Remove and discard the seeds, as well as the skin, slice the flesh and add the slices to the goulash.

For the carrot, turnip and potato champ: peel potatoes, carrots and turnips, cut into cubes and add to a pan of boiling salted water over a medium heat. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until tender. Drain the vegetables and tip them back into the pan. Place the pan back over the heat to remove any excess moisture. Add a drizzle of olive oil and mash the vegetables with a masher or ricer until smooth. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Serve the goulash and mash with soured cream on the side and sprinkle over finely chopped fresh thyme and oregano, to taste.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Sweet-Potato Ravioli with Sage Butter Sauce

Seduce your senses with the sweetness of the yam stuffed ravioli, juxtaposed with the subtle and elegant herbaceous sage butter sauce. At the risk of sounding horribly cliched, the combination of sweet-potato, sage and shallots are a match made in heaven. This recipe from Bon Apetit is sure to knock your socks off as it did mine. While the recipe calls for a couple of cumbersome steps, this dish is absolutely spectacular, making the dicing, slicing, pulsing, sauteing and assembling that is requires well worth it.
This recipe uses wonton skins as a substitute for the ravioli - which is a clever idea that worked wonderfully. However, watching an episode of Masterchef Australia on television last week where ravioli was prepared from scratch, it did not seem all that daunting. Unfortunately, currently lacking a pasta rolling machine, my pasta making days will have to be put on hold until further investments are made.


For the ravioli: 500 g red-skinned sweet potatoes, 2 tblsp golden brown sugar, 2 tblsp (1/4 stick) butter, room temperature, 340 g wonton wrappers, 1 large egg, beaten to blend
For the fried shallots and sauce: 1 cup vegetable oil, 4 large shallots, cut crosswise into thin rounds, separated into rings, 6 tblsp (3/4 stick) butter, 8 large fresh sage leaves, thinly sliced, 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper, 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted


For the ravioli: Preheat oven to 400°F. Oil rimmed baking sheet. Cut sweet potatoes in half lengthwise; place cut side down on baking sheet. Roast until tender, about 35 minutes; cool. Scoop potato pulp out of skins into small bowl. Spoon pulp into medium bowl, add sugar and butter; mash well. Season filling with salt and pepper.

Line large baking sheet with parchment paper. Place wonton wrappers on work surface. Using pastry brush, brush wrappers with beaten egg. Place 1/2 tablespoon sweet-potato filling in center of each. Fold each wrapper diagonally over filling, forming triangle. Seal edges. Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet. Let stand at room temperature while preparing fried shallots and sauce. (Can be made up to 5 days ahead. Freeze, then cover and keep frozen. Do not thaw before cooking.)

For fried shallots and sauce: Heat vegetable oil in heavy small saucepan over medium-high heat. Working in two batches, fry shallots until crisp and dark brown, roughly for 3 - 5 minutes on medium heat. Using slotted spoon, transfer shallots to paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Cook butter in large pot over medium heat until beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Add sage and red pepper.

Meanwhile, working in batches, cook ravioli in pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 3 minutes. Drain well. Add ravioli to pot with butter sauce; toss to coat. Transfer to plates, drizzling any sauce from pot over ravioli. Top with fried shallots and pine nuts; serve immediately.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mrs. Hockmeyer's Banana Bread

Perfect as a tea-time or after school snack for the kids, this is a deliciously easy recipe for fantastic springy Banana Bread. The only change I have made to this recipe is the addition of cinnamon powder. I feel that it added a little spunk to the the overall taste. Next time I will try throwing in a handful of chopped walnuts as well, as that would give it a lovely nutty flavour and add contrasting texture.

Ingredients: 3 or 4 ripe bananas, smashed, 1/3 cup melted butter, 1 cup sugar (can easily reduce to 3/4 cup), 1 egg, beaten, 1 tsp vanilla essence, 1 tsp cinnamon powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda, pinch of salt, 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour

Method: There is no need to use an electrical mixer for this recipe as that will put too much air into the mixture and make the batter heavy and tougher once it cooks instead use a wooden spoon . Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Mash bananas in a large mixing bowl and add melted butter to the bananas. Mix in the sugar, egg, cinnamon powder and vanilla. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last, mix. Pour mixture into a buttered 4x8 inch loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour. Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and slice to serve.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Perhaps Adelaide's most popular Chinese restaurant, T-Chow specialises particularly in Chuichow cuisine. Their menu is extensive and has three banquet dinners that one can choose from, each consisting several courses. Specials are sprawled over colourful posters on the walls in a combination of English and Chinese characters. Where value for money is concerned this place offers sizable portions, fuss free food and you are sure to leave sated with a full belly as well as satisfied with the bill.

This one outing though, my dearest friend Jackie treated me to a mother's day banquet. (Lucky me!) We started off with a big platter of deep-fried Chinese finger foods.

Spring rolls, fried won tons and dumplings

Lightly sauteed prawns in a oyster sauce
Fried rice with egg, pork and prawns

Delicately honey-ginger infused tender strips of chicken with crispy, deep fried spinach

Serving of soy-flavoured duck and honey-ginger chicken over fried rice

Salt and pepper squid

We also enjoyed Morton Bay Bugs, which unfortunately I have no picture of.

The best dish of the entire meal - pork ribs in a sweet, thick Chinese barbecue style glaze with hakka noodles

Sweet endings are customary - banana fritters with vanilla ice-cream and caramel sauce - surprisingly good

Or the Ice-cream sundae, very popular with the kiddies!

On the whole, after a year in Adelaide, having eaten at Ding How, Mongkok (both located on Gouger Street) and T-Chow on repeat visits I have to draw a comparison of the general grade of Chinese food served up at these Chinese institutes to the popular fusion creation of Indian-Chinese cuisine. Three characteristics of Aussie-Chinese and Indian-Chinese are commonalities - heavy use of deep-frying, an affinity for thick sauces coating meat dishes and menu card featuring a regimental two to three sweet and sour dishes as well as lemon chicken.

Of all the Chinese restaurants in Adelaide, Ying Chow (also located on Gouger Street) offers Chinese food that tastes most 'authentic' to me. Having yet to visit China (this is one culinary destination I can't wait to pack me bags for), my perception of authenticity is based on interpretations of Chinese food served in restaurants in Singapore since the Chinese influence has a strong tie historically, translating into culinary heritage. This is further compounded by the calibre of restaurant authenticity in the city of the Merlion considered both on a personal scale as well as critically acclaimed as 'reliable' authentic.

T-Chow on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Crab Mayonnaise

One of my sister’s all time favourites is Crab Mayonnaise Croissants. Here I have used mini baguette rolls, but you could very well use croissants, foccacio or paninni if you prefer. While this recipe is a simple construction of mayonnaise and steamed crab, the taste is so sophisticated – it is sure to impress those you are serving.

Ingredients: 500 g crab meat, 6 lille pain rolls, 2 egg yolks, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon, powdered mustard, 1/8 teaspoon sugar, Pinch cayenne pepper, 4 to 5 teaspoons lemon juice or white vinegar, 1-1/2 cups olive oil, 4 teaspoons hot water

Method: Steam the crab. In the meanwhile prepare the mayonnaise. Beat yolks, salt, mustard, sugar, pepper and 1 teaspoon lemon juice in a small bowl until very thick and pale yellow. (Note: If using electric mixer, beat at medium speed.) Add about 1/4 cup oil, drop by drop, beating vigorously all the while. Beat in 1 teaspoon each lemon juice and hot water. Add another 1/4 cup oil, a few drops at a time, beating vigorously all the while. Beat in another teaspoon each lemon juice and water. Add 1/2 cup oil in a very fine steady stream, beating constantly, then mix in remaining lemon juice and water; slowly beat in remaining oil. If you like, thin mayonnaise with a little additional hot water. Cover and refrigerate until further use. (Do not keep longer than one week.)

When the crab has been steamed, remove the flesh from the shell (body and claws) and set aside in a bowl. Add enough mayonnaise to coat the crab completely.

Scoop out about one inch deep of bread from the lille pain rolls and spoon enough crab mayonnaise mixture into the roll. Season with sea salt and pepper and serve with sliced tomatoes.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

$50 really stretches at Central Market

The international economic recession has hit hard. Lately American day time television shows as well as Australian current affair programmes and magazines have been buzzing with shopping smart tricks to save big bucks. Aussie celebrity chef Curtis Stone of Surfing the Menu fame amongst others was recently part of Oprah's Celebrity Chef Recipe Roundup geared to promote quality meals that guarantee savings at the check out. Listening to all the tips recommended by experts, I realised most of the advice they were doling out was already part of my grocery shopping regime.

A big believer in fresh food, I prefer shopping at Adelaide’s Central Market rather than Coles, Woolworths or Foodland (grocery stores that are conveniently located in every suburb). The produce is simply gorgeous – local, fresh and in fact cheaper than grocery store prices. The only downside is transporting everything home - usually a back-breaking load and bussing it! Oh, well it can’t all be easy right!
Adelaide's Central Market - view from Grote Street

The key to smart shopping is preparing a shopping list of everything you need. This helps you to stay focused and avoid impulse buying. Usually I plan three dishes I am going to prepare for the week, (since I live alone I make enough of each dish for two portions) note down the ingredients needed, checking my pantry and fridge for stocks before-hand. Prior to my shopping list days I would regularly be enticed by all the wonderful looking produce, often returning home with things I would not use that would eventually make their way to the trash, because they went bad (waste of money and waste of food).
The second important thing to cut down on shopping costs is keeping your eyes peeled for marked down items, specials etc. I prefer purchasing fruit and veggies loose – picking them myself to ensure they are not bruised or damaged, ripe to my liking etc. Sometimes, opting for pre-bagged fruit and veggies however is ok, especially if you can see through the plastic and examine the contents of the bag. You can often ask your fruit and veg vendor to have a taste if you want to be sure of sweetness etc.
Cooking seasonal produce is another way of ensuring your dollar really stretches, and while seasonality may be irrelevant in today's globalised world of abundant availability - food miles accumulate costs for both the planet as well as your purse. Replacing items that a recipe calls for with seasonal produce or something that is on offer is smart. For example if a recipe calls for turnips but parsnips are on a special, simply interchange the two - no one is going notice the difference and it surely won't be missed!
Central Market tends to throw their fruit and veggies into baggies as the afternoon wears on, slashing prices to attract customers, and the entire market atmosphere gets rather chaotic (not my favourite time to shop). While shopping at the market just before the shutters close ensures the best bargains, it often results in taking home dodgy produce – bashed pears, mangled capsicums, tasteless grapes and the fish monger and butcher are usually sold out of their catch of the day and prime cuts. I prefer heading to the market around 11 to score the freshest produce, (Saturday’s the market closes at 2.00 pm, Tues, Wed, Thu till 5.00 pm, and Fri till 9.00pm).
With $ 50 in my wallet (plus some spare change) and my shopping list this is what my environmentally friendly green grocery bags were filled with this Saturday:
500 g minced pork $ 4.50
50 g pancetta $1.20
220 g venison loin $ 8.50
1 kg beef skirt steak cubed $ 8.00
400g vongole (clams) $ 6.00
500 g parsnips (bagged) $ 1.00
1 kg carrots (bagged) $ 1.00
1 kg red peppers (bagged) $ 2.00
Bundle of red, long chillies (4-5) $ 1.00
1 kg brown onions (bagged) $ 1.00
3 shallots $ 2.50
3 Desiree Potatoes $ 1.50
500 g cabbage $ 1.50
Bunch mint $ 2.00
Bunch coriander $ 2.00
750 g Italian passata $ 2.50
3 Large Bananas $ 0.99
750 ml Mt. Hurtle, Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre, SA $ 9.00

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Roasted Kumara and Squash Crab Bisque

This recipe by Syrie Wongkaew, a graphic designer from New Zealand with a ‘passion for food’ is the perfect recession buster bisque, swapping lobster for crab! The kiwis refer to sweet potato commonly as kumara, thus the name of recipe. With the Australian winter coming on I am exploring the usage of Australian root veggies like sweet potato and pumpkin which are extremely versatile. This is a hearty recipe, a contemporary twist on the classic lobster bisque. The velvety roasted sweet potato and squash puree complimented the clean, sweet flavours of the steamed Australian blue swimmer crab I used, a drizzle of freshly made pesto with extra virgin olive oil lifted the dish by adding bold contrast. Although this dish presents beautifully as an appetiser, it can be served on its own as a main course, a big bowl with generous helping of crab on top is sure fire way of comforting chilly winter nights in style!

Ingredients: 1/2 large butternut squash, cut into chunks, 1 white kumara (sweet potato), peeled and thinly sliced, 1 orange kumara (sweet potato), cut into chunks, Olive oil for drizzling, Honey for drizzling, Pinch of sea salt, pepper and paprika, 1 large white onion, chopped, 1 tbs of olive oil, 1 tbs of butter, 6 cups organic chicken stock, 1.5 tsp of sea salt, 1 cup of cream, A handful of basil leaves, 1/8 cup of freshly grated parmesan, 8 pinenuts, 1 clove of garlic, 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil, 1 kg crab, quartered

Method: Pre-heat the oven to 375F. Using a really sharp knife finely chop half the basil leaves and garlic clove together. Add the rest of the basil and pinenuts and keep chopping. Add the freshly grated parmesan and continue to chop until it's incorporated with the basil mixture. Once the pesto is really finely chopped, add the 1/4 cup of olive oil and stir well. Set aside.
Lay the squash and orange kumara out on a baking tray fleshy side up. Drizzle with olive oil and honey. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and paprika. Cover with foil and cook for 1 hour or until soft. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, add the remaining olive oil and butter to a large stock pot. Add the onions and sweat for about 25 minutes on a low heat. Stir regularly to stop the onions from caramelizing. Add the white kumara and 1 tsp of salt to the pot and stir well. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Next add the chicken stock and stir. Add the pumpkin and orange kumara pieces to the pot. Bring to the boil for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, steam the crab until done (about 10 minutes.) Remove flesh from crab and set aside.

Use a hand blender directly in the pot to blend the soup until completely smooth, to avoid having to strain and transfer back and forth. If you prefer use a food processor to do so. Re-heat the soup in the pot and add the cream and 1/2 tsp of salt. Once ready to serve, ladle soup into bowls and top with crab meat and drizzle with pesto.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Orange and Almond Cake

Flourless Orange and Almond Cake is a classic Passover dessert drawing on the Shepherding traditions of Morocco, the Mediterranean and the Middle East where citrus is widely available.

The first time I tasted this cake was at the Producers of McLaren Vale served by Tori Moreton herself, on a visit my gastronomy class made to her vineyard last winter. The combination of zesty orange and rich nutty flavour of the almonds burst with beautifully fragrant, bold flavour, perfect with a cup of strong coffee. The following recipe is by home-cook Batia Slater, who was a guest on SBS's show Food Safari, the link provides a video of the cake being prepared.

Ingredients: 2 oranges, 6 eggs, 250g caster sugar, 250g almond meal, 1tsp baking powder, Extra caster sugar for dusting before baking, Icing sugar for dusting after baking, Margarine or oil spray (for greasing the pan)

Method: Wash oranges and place unpeeled, in a pot of boiling water for 2 hours. Drain the water and allow the oranges to cool. This can be done ahead of time. Preheat oven to 190°C.
Break 6 eggs into a mixing bowl or blender. Add caster sugar and beat or blend together.Place the two oranges into the egg mix. Break up the oranges and then blend together to a smooth consistency. Add the almond meal and baking powder and blend.

Grease a 20 cm spring form baking pan with margarine (or vegetable oil spray) and dust with caster sugar. Pour batter into the pan and sprinkle caster sugar on top and bake for 1 hour to an hour and a half or until the top is golden brown. Dust with icing sugar to serve

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Beef Braciole served with Orecchiette

Braciole is a classic Italian-American dish as well as a family favourite. You just can't go wrong with double meat, minced sausage or bacon wrapped in beef sirloin steaks stuffed with Parmesan cheese, Italian herbs and flat leaf parsley. The braciole is served with orecchiette which is a Puglian type of pasta, from Southern Italy. Shaped like little ears the texture is rather chewy on the outer rim and softer towards the centre.

Ingredients: 1 kg round steak, 650 g Italian sausage or 2 thick rashers of bacon, 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley (or 1/4 cup dried parsley), 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp dried Italian seasoning, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp lemon-pepper seasoning, 2 tblsp olive oil, 1 large onion, chopped, 1/2 cup chopped carrot, 1-1/2 cups Burgundy wine, 1 450 g can Romano tomatoes, 1 170 g can tomato paste, 1 tsp salt, 1 bay leaf, 250 g orecchiette
Method: Trim all fat from the round steak, cut the meat into eight equal pieces, then pound until fairly thin with a cooking mallet. Remove the casing from the Italian sausage break the sausage up in a medium-sized bowl add parsley, Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, 1 teaspoon salt, and the lemon-pepper seasoning and mix thoroughly by hand (the mixture is too moist an thick to use a spoon or spatula so just get into it the good old fashioned way). Spread each steak with roughly 1 heaped tablespoonfuls of the sausage mixture then roll up, jelly-roll fashion. Fasten each roll with wooden toothpicks. Brown beef rolls, 3 or 4 at a time, in hot oil in a hot pan/ oven. Remove rolls and place on plate or waxed paper. Add onion and carrot to pot. Cook until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes or so. Stir in wine, tomatoes, tomato paste, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and bay leaf. Bring the tomato sauce mixture to the boil, then lower the heat and add the beef rolls. Cover and simmer on low heat for 1 hour, stir occasionally to prevent the sauce from sticking to the pan at any time. Remove from heat allow and to cool slightly before remove the toothpicks. Cut the braciole into diagonal slices and serve atop a bowl of orecchiette tossed with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, half a tsp of dried Italian herbs and a few tablespoons of the tomato sauce the braciole was cooked in.

Step 1: Put the steak between cling wrap and flatten with a mallet

Step 2: Combine the bacon if using or remove the Italian sausage from casing and combine with flat-leaf parsley, Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, 1 teaspoon salt, and the lemon-pepper seasoning

Step 3: Spread each steak with roughly 1 heaped tablespoonfuls of the sausage mixture

Step 4: Brown beef rolls, 3 or 4 at a time, in hot oil in a hot pan

Step 5: Bring the tomato sauce to the boil, then lower the heat and add the beef rolls, simmer for an hour

To Mama, With Love

Aged five, relishing mama's cooking ... evidence of home-made tomato sauce all over me!

I’m not afraid to admit that I’m a hopeless romantic, terribly gullible, unbelievably sentimental and extremely emotional. While people may perceive some or all of these qualities as weaknesses, over the years I have learned to embrace them all, as each has taught me the importance of family and friends, and the biggest lesson, never taking them for granted.

As a little girl mother's day meant waking up extra early, my sister and I arguing about measuring ingredients and fighting over who got to pour the waffle mixture into heart shaped waffle iron. Vying for my mother’s attention both of us would fight over who would get to serve mama breakfast in bed. From day one my mother has been the central piece holding our family together and I have to thank her for making me the person I am today, daring me to dream, encouraging my every ambition and always behind me one hundred percent in anything I wanted to try my hand at, motivating me, challenging me, and all the while ready to catch me should I fall. It was just a few days ago when I sat down to write her a mother’s day card that I was overwhelmed by the prospect of the enormous shoes she would one day leave me to fill, when I become a mother myself. And when I say big shoes I mean that completely figuratively, since my mother, sister and I manage to squeeze, stretch, borrow, beg and steal our way into each other’s shoes. Anyways, I digress.

As I have mentioned before my mother’s cooking and her unbridled experimentation with new ingredients and exotic dishes is the inspiration of my long time love affair with food. As a child although never an eager cook, I was very curious, enjoyed sitting in a high chair observing mama prepping the meat and veggies and then putting them all together in no time. One thing is a wonder to me, while a great cook, mama never spent hours toiling in the kitchen, in fact got in there, did her thing, pulled off her apron and rushed out as soon as possible, the queen of multi-tasking both in and out of the kitchen. For mama cooking was a necessity, not something she particularly enjoyed – however, a woman that prides herself on a job well done, cooking was just another domain she conquered.

Happy Mother’s Day, I love you!

In honour of mother’s day I would like to resurrect one of the dishes mama lovingly made for me growing up. After sifting through a couple of childhood classics, braciole came to mind and the excitement of double meat – bacon rashers wrapped in thick beef sirloin steaks stuffed with parmesan cheese, Italian herbs and flat leaf parsley, made my mouth water - I knew I had found a winner.

Typically and Italian-American dish, somehow braciole has long been a family favourite. My mother recalls her mother making the dish for her family when she was a little girl. Oddly enough this dates the family tradition of braciole back to the kitchens of my grandmother who interestingly enough is half Portuguese. My grandmother, from a family of lace merchants that sailed from Portugal to the coastal southern Indian city of Kerala in the early 1900’s to trade lace ended up making India their home. I wonder is braciole’s part Italian hereditary has any connections to my grandma’s Portuguese ancestry.

While that may forever remain a mystery, one thing is for certain, braciole is simply delicious and after much googling I finally found a suitable recipe reminiscent of the ingredients my mother used. The reason I am not using her recipe is because she doesn’t have one. Indians love to store all vital information in their head and this means accounts, taxes and yes recipes. And even if she were to jot it down, her instincts guide her – throwing in a handful of parsley here and a pinch of chilli there, making her measurements highly unreliable.

However, this said, my time in Adelaide has made me appreciate the food I have always taken for granted, my mother’s cooking as well as my paternal grandmothers Kerala cuisine. Next time I am back in India it will be my mission to make sense of the obscure measurements and exotic ingredients often only known in regional dialects, and note down the recipes myself before I lose my familial foodways.

As mentioned earlier my mother would stuff the sirloin steaks with bacon rashers. After some research I have discovered that it is commonplace to stuff the beef steak with a mixture of breadcrumbs, egg, parsley, Italian herbs and sometimes pine nuts or raisins and even boiled eggs (eggs - strange, very strange) rather than more meat, how absurd! Like I mentioned in my piece Bread and Water meat is a very serious part of being an Abraham, we seize every opportunity to swap using bread or any other ‘pansy’ stuff with macho meat!

Broadening my search, since I found it hard to believe that bacon is not customarily used, (hello, bacon makes everything better, so much better) I stumbled onto a select few recipes that used bacon, pancetta or Italian sausage instead of the breadcrumb mixture. I used Italian sausage that worked really well since the sausages are made from minced pork flavoured with red wine, fennel, Italian herbs and garlic.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Portuguese Stew, Chorizo & Mussels with Periwinkles

Periwinkles are gilled sea snails that are classified as marine gastropod mollusks, found on seashores around the world. Their shells are typically mottled gray, white, and black and taper to a straight-sided or rounded cone with an obtuse point. Periwinkles inhabit the littoral zone - the region between low and high tides. Although to survive they must live near the ocean and spend part of their time underwater, they prefer to be partially exposed to air.

Periwinkles have been gathered from the shore for food by people for hundreds of years, usually picked off the rocks by hand or caught in a "drag" by fishermen in a boat. In Britain and Ireland where they are commonly referred to as "winkles" they are sold in paper bags at Irish beaches, usually salted, with a pin attached to the bag to assist extracting the winkle from the shell. In Belgium, they are also eaten, and referred to as "crickles". In African and Asian cuisine they are considered in certain parts to be a delicacy. The meat is high in protein but low in fat content - the raw snails generally made up of 80% water, 15% protein, and 1.4% fat.

Washed and cleaned periwinkles ready for cooking

My first encounter with the strange snail looking mollusk was at Adelaide's Central Market two weeks ago. Overwhelmed with curiosity I was on a mission to find periwinkle recipes, however I found that it is not a mollusk that is commonly eaten. I did find a Portuguese style stew with chorizo and pork that sounded interesting on a blog called Three Tastes. This recipe is an adapted version of the same. I did not use pork with all the recent news reports blaring swine flu epidemic, although I am sure it would have added more flavour to the stew.

Ingredients: The Sauce -2 chorizo (200g), cut into diagnoal slices, 450g pork tenderloin or shoulder, cut in 1-inch cubes, olive oil, 1 large onion, diced, 3 cloves garlic, minced, 2-3 small bay leaves, 3 tsp. sweet or hot smoked paprika, 340-420g chopped and seeded tomatoes, 1- 1.5 cups (240-350ml) dry white wine, (Sauvignon Blanc or Pinto Gris), 1/4 cup (10g) minced flat-leaf parsley, divided, sea salt (depending on the saltiness of the chorizo)

The crustaceans - 1-1.5kg Manila or littleneck clams or Mussels, scrubbed and rinsed (throw away any that do not close when tapped), 450g periwinkles, cleaned, Lemon quarters

Method: In a large skillet over medium-high heat, fry chorizo in a smidgen of oil, until browned. Remove to bowl. Tip out oil in pan, but do not wash. In same pan, add 2 tblsp olive oil and brown pork in 2-3 batches, removing each batch to the bowl with chorizos to keep warm.In the same pan, turn heat down to medium-low and saute onions until translucent (about 8-10 minutes). Add garlic and bay leaves, and cook until garlic is fragrant. Add paprika and peppers, if using, stir through and cook 1 minute. Turn heat back up to medium-high and add wine, tomatoes and half the amount of parsley. Bring sauce just to the boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes while you prepare the crustaceans.

Taste sauce and adjust seasoning. Bring heat up to medium again, return chorizos and pork to pan, and add clams, stir through and cover. Cook for approximately 10 minutes. Add periwinkles, cover again and cook another 8 minutes. To check if mollusks are cooked, wait until all the mussels have opened their shells and for the periwinkles a little shell that looks like a circular plug should pop off, once this happens they are ready. If the little shell lid does not pop off you cannot extract the meat from inside.

Without opening cover, turn off heat and keep pan covered while plates/bowls are warmed and table is set. Just before serving, add last of parsley and squeeze lemon juice over.

The periwinkles removed from their snail shaped shell

My verdict, the shells looks pretty but as far as flavour goes, there isn't anything to write home about. The top fatter 'head' of the periwinkle is slightly chewy and rubbery in texture, while the curly lower portion or 'tail' is comparatively softer, a few chomps and it becomes a smooth paste reminiscent of fish roe. While its worth a try, periwinkles proved to be hiding nothing unique nor interesting flavour within it's coiled shell.