Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Jaime's Wild Mushroom and Venison Stroganoff

Jaime Oliver, from his early Naked Chef days won my heart over instantaneously thanks to his witt and his down-to-earth simplicity. From his silly little lisp, blond baby curls that frame his face to his enthusiasm for life and celebration of food he is a personality that is incredibly infectious and absolutely impossible to ignore.

Apart from resonating vivacious character and imparting a sense of culinary adventure in his viewers world-wide, knitting together people from Birmingham to Bombay, his simple yet brilliant recipes are easy to follow, reliable and oh-so-good!

While mushrooms and stroganoff are synonymous with each other, venison being a game meat, and mushrooms predominantly growing on the forest floor, the substitution of beef fillet with venison loin takes the satisfaction of a good dish to being great, no correction - to a higher plane of superior awesomeness!

Ingredients: Extra virgin olive oil; 1 medium red onion, peeled and finely chopped; 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely sliced; 300g venison loin, fat and sinews removed, trimmed and sliced into finger-sized pieces; Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper; 1 tablespoon paprika; 250g mixed exciting and robust mushrooms, wiped clean, torn into bite-sized pieces; Bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and finely chopped, stalks finely chopped; Knob of butter; Good splash of brandy; Zest of 1/2 a lemon; 150ml crème fraîche or soured cream; Few little gherkins, sliced
Method: Heat a large frying pan on a medium heat and pour in a glug of extra virgin olive oil. Add the onions and garlic and cook for about 10 minutes until softened and golden. Remove from the heat and spoon the onions and garlic out of the pan on to a plate. Keep to one side.
Season the meat well with salt, pepper and paprika. Rub and massage these flavourings into the meat. Place the frying pan back on a high heat and pour in some more olive oil. Add the mushrooms and fry for a few minutes until they start to brown. Then add the meat and fry for a minute or two before adding the parsley stalks (you can do this in two pans or in batches if your pan is not big enough) and the cooked onion and garlic.
Toss and add the butter and brandy. You don’t have to set light to the hot brandy, but flaming does give an interesting flavour so I always like to do this. Once the flames die down, or after a couple of minutes of simmering, stir in the lemon zest and all but 1 tablespoon of the crème fraîche and season to taste. Continue simmering for a few minutes. Any longer than this and the meat will toughen up – it doesn’t need long as it’s been cut up so small.
Serve your fluffy rice on one big plate and your stroganoff on another. Simply spoon the remaining crème fraîche over the stroganoff, then sprinkle over the sliced gherkins and parsley leaves. Eat at once!
More Venison Recipes?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Week 9: Select, Prepare and Cook Poultry

Cleaned and prepped poultry: Supreme`, Marylands, Skin and Frenched Thigh

If an animal has feathers and a beak it is classified as being a bird – duh! In eating terms this converts into the broad poultry classification. Although personally speaking chicken is the most boring, bland meat of them all, it is chicken that springs to mind for majority of the world in conjunction to the word poultry, defaulted by its widespread popularity both in the East and the West.

Classical French Chicken Stew: Coq au Vin

Chicken’s popularity and its huge fan following can basically be blamed and summed up by three main factors. One, that today chicken is the cheapest meat to buy both cooked and uncooked. Two, chicken production is on such a mass scale it has managed to attain a manufactured standardised quality reminiscent of a processed, packaged food, thus its characteristic institutionalised flavour is hardly a surprise.
Three, chicken is largely sold in prepped, cut and trimmed pre-packaged pieces, whole chickens prepped, trussed and ready for roasting or boneless strips and dice – all of which feeds into the 21st century mechanical and sterile mindset – one where we are so far removed with the fact that we are in fact consuming an animal, that we rather pretend meat comes from a packet rather than what was not long ago a living, breathing animal.

Sesame Chicken Tenderlions with Corriander-Tomato Salsa

Although today many people would be surprised to learn the poultry extends far beyond the sterile, bland production line chooks (Aussie term for chickens) encompassing ducks, pheasants, poussins (young chickens about 4-6 weeks old), quails, pigeons as well as wild or game birds such as emu, ostrich and guinea fowl.

Roasted Poussin seasoned with sage and bacon, Jus Lie, roast pumpkin, zuchini and fondant potato

Pan-seared quail dressed with balsamic vinegar, watercress, tomato, finsished with green peppercorns and olive oil

Chicken is always cooked until well done – completely through to 75 degrees C, while on the contrary duck and quail breasts may be served medium-rare so the interior is moist and pink. The tougher legs resultant from the development of thicker, developed muscles however is always served well done as in the case of chicken.

Pan-Seared Duck Rose, steamed Brocollini and Bok Choy with Confit Citrus Zest and Orange Segments

Confit Duck
Confit Duck with Buttered French Blue-Eyed Lentils
In this module we learned how to identify fresh birds, check if they had been thawed and re-frozen by looking for signs of freezer-burn, pools of water in bags etc as well as breaking down the carcass into restaurant pieces/cuts, frenching bones into smooth presentable tips, skinning poultry and of course employing several traditional as well as contemporary cooking methods and techniques to achieve a range of dishes and options.
Cajun Spiced Blackened Turkey on Grilled Pineapple and Beurre Blanc
Ironically, while my days were busily spent skinning, boning, trussing, filleting, roasting, frying and baking chicken, my evenings were filled with the reading of Jeffrey Steingarten’s, It Must Have Been Something I Ate, specifically the chapter entitled Birds of a Feather. The following is an interesting excerpt that deals directly with the lessons I learned and the far reaching implications of globalisation, one of my favourite subjects.
Stuffing and sewing a balottine of chicken
“Its name is Turkducken, and it is a creation of the Cajun people of southern Louisiana, who take a chicken, a duck, and a turkey, remove most of the bones and then stuff the chicken into the duck, and the duck into the turkey, and tuck savoury stuffing’s in between. The entire thing is roasted for quite some time – as long as 13 hours. Then, being boneless, it is simply sliced crosswise, each slice revealing six concentric rings of juicy goodness…. So, what is an authentic Turkducken and when did they do it? Who made the first Turkducken and when did they do it?
… I will admit I had already formulated a theory. The Cajuns descended from French settlers who in 1604 had immigrated to the maritime provinces of Canada, which they called Acadie, or Acadia in English. During and after the French and Indian Wars the victorious British expelled the Acadians, many of who were drawn to Louisiana, still largely French….

Pan-fried Ballottine with rice and Jus Lie
…. So here is my theory: The French have many recipes in which fowl are boned or skinned, stuffed with their own meat or that of other creatures, and roasted or boiled. These are called galantines and ballottines. Are they the ancestors of the Turkducken? Did the Cajuns bring the recipe for galantines from southern France to the New World?”

Galantine of Chicken - roasted Nori, Chicken farce and tenderloin served with Watercress and pickles

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Indian Prawn Curry

Most people find it strange that being from India, Indian food is not second nature to me – I seldom eat nor cook Indian food. Part of the reason is that growing up in a household dominated by my Anglo-Indian mother, majority of home-cooking were non-descript Anglicised Curries – be it Chicken Curry, Liver and Heart Curry, Vindaloo, Mulagtwani to a series of British-Americanised comfort classics like Mixed Grill Dinners, Shepherd’s Pie, Spaghetti Bolognaise, Mac & Cheese and Fish n Chips. Because of this amalgamation of ‘mixed-cuisines’ that I was brought up on, Indian food is very much a dining out cuisine, that I relished on visits to restaurants or friends houses. While my mother is a fantastic cook, her Indian food leaves a lot to be desired and said (let’s just leave it at that!).

Living in Australia the last year and a half, has made me aware of my foodways, because of curious friends as well as a response to identify, associate and align oneself in a sense. In fact so much so that it propelled an investigation into the nuances of regional cuisine of India. Recently I made use of the talent of Arya, a Tandoor Chef and fellow classmate who studies with me at Regency, TAFE Cooking School. He helped me whip up several kinds of kebabs, (appetiser bites of chicken, vegetables and minced each flavoured with several different spices), biriyani (layers of fluffy white, Basmati rice and mutton spiced with a fragrant, robust and pungent masala) and bengan saalan (spicy eggplant curry).

Eight weeks in the commercial kitchen whipping up classical French cuisine day in and day out I figured it was time to try my hand at something Desi. So here it is my first attempt at Indian with a little recipe guidance by Alfred Prasad, Head Chef of Tamarind, London's only Michelin starred Indian restaurant. Robust flavours meld together to create an overall mellow masala. Neither too hard to follow nor top spicy to handle, this step-by-step recipe yields a satisfyingly piquant prawn curry.

Ingredients: 600 g prawns, shelled and de-veined, (I like to leave the tails on for presentation); 2 medium onions, finely diced; 4 medium tomatoes, finely diced; 4 tbsp vegetable oil; 2 cinnamon sticks; 4 cardamom pods; 4 cloves; 2 green chillies, finely chopped; 2 tbsp ginger and garlic paste; salt to taste; ½ tsp turmeric powder; 1 tsp red chilli powder; 1 tsp coriander powder; 1 tbsp cumin powder; 1 tbsp tomato paste; 2 cups (500ml) hot water; ½ tsp garam masala powder; ½ bunch coriander leaves

Method: Put a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Add 3 tbsp vegetable oil, 2 sticks of cinnamon, 4 cardamom pods and 4 cloves. Fry for about 30 seconds, stirring continually. Add the onions and green chillies to the pan, and fry for about 5 minutes or until the onions are a light golden brown. Stir frequently to stop the onions burning.

Add 2 tbsp ginger and garlic paste. Stir well for a couple of minutes. Add in the spices: ½ tsp turmeric, 1 tsp red chilli powder and 1 tsp coriander powder; ½ tsp garam masala and fry for 5 minutes over a low heat, stirring frequently.

Add the finely chopped tomatoes followed by 1 tablespoon of cumin powder. Then stir. Add 1 tablespoon of tomato paste and stir it in. Add a cup of water and keep stirring until the water is absorbed. Turn the heat down, put the lid on, and leave to simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the oil separates from the dish and rises to the top.

Turn the heat back up to high and add the prawns to the pan. Then stir in a generous pinch of salt. Stir, then put the lid on and bring the heat down. Leave for about 10 minutes or until the prawns are cooked. check occasionally. The prawns are done when they turn pink and opaque. When they are ready, turn the heat off.

Finely chop the coriander and save a couple of good leaves to garnish. Now stir in the coriander to finish the dish. Lay the coriander leaves onto the curry, and serve.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Week 8: Seafood: Fish, Molluscs and Crustaceans

Seafood Cleaned and Prepped, ready for cooking

This seafood module went above and beyond simply learning how to cook with seafood, but into the nitty-gritty of how to purchase fresh, quality produce including storage – from freezing to thawing.

Whole Barramundi and Plaice

Fresh South Aussie Oysters with Shucking Knife

Given that Australia is home to a diverse array of sea creatures, as well as fabulous markets where they can be sourced fresh, paired with my adventurous spirit the varieties of seafood we used in the kitchen last week were far from strangers to me.

Seafood Salad with Thai Inspired Sweet-Sour-Chilli Dressing

Barramundi, the quintessential Australian eating fish made several appearances throughout the week – since it is an extremely versatile specimen – a fleshy round, white fish.

Delice of Barramundi with Oysters and Sauce Vin Blanc

Fillet of Barramundi, Prawns doused with Sauce Americana
Salmon, Ling, Leatherjackets, Gummy Shark and Plaice were also used. Apart from fish per say, we got well acquainted with squid, mussels, scallops, prawns and oysters in terms of their culinary uses and applications, learning about their unique tastes and their varying textures that can be induced via particular cooking methods.
Crispy Deep-fried Leatherjackets in robust Thai Green Curry

Fish 'n' Chips with Fries, Garden Greens and Tartar Sauce

Fillet of Australian Salmon with Cucumber Noodles, Carrot and Fennel Stack avec Beurre Blanc
The basic foundation for this one week hands on practical learning session about fish entailed scaling, skinning and filleting a whole fish, that is both flat and round, white and oily flesh fish, depending on the diameters of the fish and the cooking demands, extending to molluscs and crustaceans.

Barramundi, Sauteed Onion, Red Pepper Brochette with Steamed Rice, Crispy Skin and Beurre Blanc

Barramundi Meuniere with Nut Brown Butter Sauce and Lemon Segments

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Meyer Lemons and Green Olives

A soulfully satisfying quick-fix apt for a rich, robust Sunday dinner minus all the fuss, this chicken scented with turmeric, thyme and preserved lemon dish literally requires less than 30 minutes preparation, whilst filling your home with the irresistible, exotic scents of Morocco. This dish is guaranteed to transport you on a colourful, flavourful fiesta replacing the usual, been-there-done-that weekend roast with pizazz and panache. Don't take my word .... try it to believe it!

Serves: 4
Active time: 30 min
Total time: 40 min
Ingredients: 4 boneless skinless chicken legs (can use breasts if you prefer); 2 tblsp olive oil; 2 medium onions, sliced 1/4 inch thick; 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced; 1/2 teaspoon turmeric; 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper; Bunch fresh thyme; 8 pieces preserved Meyer Lemons; 1/2 cup chicken broth; 1/4 cup dry white wine; 16 pitted green olives, halved; 2 tblsp coarsely chopped fresh coriander to garnish (optional)

Method: Pat chicken dry, then season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté chicken until golden brown, about 3 minutes on each side. Transfer chicken to a plate and keep warm, covered.

Add remaining tablespoon oil to skillet and reduce heat to moderate. Cook onions and garlic, stirring frequently, until softened but not browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Add turmeric and pepper and cook, stirring, 1 minute.

Scrape pulp from preserved lemon, reserving for another use. Cut rind into thin strips and add to onions with broth, wine, and olives.
Return chicken, with any juices accumulated on plate, to skillet. Braise, covered, until chicken is cooked through, about 12 minutes. Serve sprinkled with coriander (optional).

If you like this recipe try:

Moroccan Braised Hogget Leg, Sundried Black Geneo Figs, Preserved Lemon served with Toasted Almonds, Pine Nuts, Flat Leaf Parsley & Mint Couscous

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Spanish Seafood and Chorizo Stew

Inspired by the flavours of Spain, this stew is a hearty rendition of the zesty, bold, fresh coastal flavours characteristic of seaside towns like Malaga and Andalusia. A concoction of mussels and Atlantic clams sauteed with flavourful sliced chorizos is enhanced with tangy tinned tomatoes, passata, fava, kidney and cannelli beans, garnished with chopped parsley and coriander and served on a generous swirl of spinach fettuccine.

Ingredients: 500 g Clams and Mussels together; 2-3 Chorizos, sliced at an angle; 2-3 cloves garlic, minced; 1 tin tomatoes; 1/2 cup passata; Good splash of red wine; 1 tin mixed beans or equal amounts of fava, cannelli and kidney beans; 1/2 bunch parsley, finely chopped; 1/2 bunch coriander, coarsely chopped

Method: In a hot wok or a large saute pan, heat a little bit of olive oil and fry garlic off until golden brown, add the chorizo and extract flavour, add in the tinned tomato, passata, red wine, beans and allow to soften for 5- 8 minutes with lid on. Add mussels and clams to the pan and re-cover for another 5 minutes or until all the shells have opened. Any un-open shells must be discarded. Season with salt and pepper, squeeze with lemon juice and garnish with parsley and coriander before serving on spinach fettuccine along with a big bowl of garden greens.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Corner Bistrot

It is no secret that I am a complete Francophile when it comes to fancy-pancy gastro-celebrations. For my birthday last year I hit the jackpot – three of my most lovely and talented friends prepared a fabulously, mind-blowing meal a` la Françoise. Peruvian chica Amy Grey, Cordon Bleu Chef and Cari Sanchez, expert home-cook and gastro-enthusiast, half White-American from Ohio, and half Argentinean fought over who should take charge at the helm, not so much in terms of control but disputing details down to the nitty-gritty of sautéing of onions and the possible colour effects that the addition of mushrooms could have in the Lobster Bisque appetiser. Jackie Singh expert home cook, mother, wife and gastro-cult/ celeb-chef groupie lent her knife skills and put together a mean Potato Dauphenoise to accompany the main course of Fillet Mignon avec Poivre Sauce, Sauteed Haricot-Verts and Turned Glazed Carrots. To finish of the grand meal we feasted on fluffy, creamy Paris Brest.

As I reminisced last year’s birthday dinner the flavours were and continue to be fresh in my memory and are probably indelible forevermore. But more than the extravagantly perfect meal in itself it was the friends (Cari and Amy) that were back in the America’s in the other side of the world that made me long for another extraordinary French meal fabricated by their own hands. With this in mind I dismissed the long list of suggestions given to me by gastro-gals Marion and Jackie, (the list included Concubine on Gouger Street, Panacea on Hutt Street and The Wine Underground) and went with a suggestion from a waiter at Vincenzo’s (will be posting this review soon) – The Corner Bistrot on Leigh Street.

Quaint, cute, cosy and charming all at the same time, The Corner Bistrot is utterly and completely drenched with romanticism. The place loves up to its name since from the moment you walk in you feel like you’ve been transported to a Parisian sidewalk ‘corner bistro’.

The setting is intimate, with just a handful of tables sprinkled over two floors, faint yellow lighting giving a warm welcoming hue, little wooden tables and petite salon style chairs completing the old world European feel. For a mid-week meal the first floor was running almost completely full, with a good mix of local Australian couples, French speaking couples and a single French gentleman dining alone – seeking out flavours of his home come hell or high water – the true mark of a good French establishment in my opinion!

The wine list is a compact, comprehensive mix of French and domestic Aussie wines. To kick-start birthday celebrations we had to of course slurp down a customary glass of French bubbles.

We enjoyed an appetiser of classic escargot (French snails) done with a contemporary modern twist – out of the shell, pan-fried in butter and garlic with bacon, walnuts, parsley and served with sautéed spinach. My grouse with the escargot was the fact that the spinach seemed to be leaching out a lot of water that thus watered down the richness of the garlic-butter sauce for one, and the bacon was not crisp enough, lacking the justified crunch and textural contrast it could have otherwise brought to the dish. The walnuts however worked in perfect unison, creamy, nutty and complimentary allowing the snails to dominate the dish’s flavour, merely propping it up with an added taste profile.

I had been eying the Bavette avec Vin Rouge – skirt steak with shallots and red wine sauce from the day before, (I looked over the menu over the internet) and opted for a bottle of the Elderton Shiraz. By the time the steak came out my expectations and eagerness had soared high along with my appetite, however unfortunately I was far from ecstatic about my plat principal. While skirt steak is known to be a flavourful cut that is rather tough, if cooked properly it can be tender and delicious. This can be achieved much like the cooking of squid or octopus, by quickly grilling or slow cooking – stuffed, rolled and braised. Devoid of its characteristic juicy flavour the steak failed to impress, sinking further because of the disappointing lacklustre red wine sauce that was runny and diluted, lacking substance and characteristic shine, gloss, viscosity of a French glaze. This I say with the expertise having had several weeks of hands on practice making demi-glace and several of its derivative sauces, including vin rouge.

My partner wisely opted for the fillet of pork with prunes and brandy – a symphony of flavours that melded together effortlessly. The meat yielded to the fork with ease, tender and sweet thanks to the fruit and alcohol.

The Tarte de la Maison sounded intriguing and caught my fancy, especially after having made my first tarte tatin at cooking school that very week. Lemon tart was the special of the day and came out as a single slice on a crumbled cheesecake like biscuit base instead of the luxurious puff pastry base I was anticipating.

All in all it was an experience to cherish on the grounds of the fantastic ambience, the feeling of jetting off to Paris for the evening, even if the food wasn’t spot on. The service is tip-top and the prices mild on the whole, serving up set menus at $30, $35, $48 and $60.

Corner Bistrot on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Flashbacks of Week 6 & 7: Vegetables, Fruit, Eggs and Farinaceous

Two weeks of intensive basic methods of cookery entailed getting comfortable with principal techniques such as frying (shallow, pan and deep), baking, roasting, braising, grilling/ broiling, barbecuing, steaming, poaching (shallow and complete). To gain a firm grasp of these cooking methods a variety of vegetable, poultry, meats and fish were used to create the much needed step off point. Exploring the versatility of cooking, we experimented with everything from poaching salmon, grilling steaks to stewing meat.

Rolled chicken breasts stuffed with ham and melted Gruyere in deliciously flaky, buttery Filo Pastry with demi-glace, garnished with shredded sauteed carrots and leeks

Roasted Whole Poussin or Gawler River Quails, Bacon Bits and Jus Lie served with Turned Potatoes

Rare Sirloin of Beef on Rosti Potato with Maitre d'hotel Compound Butter and Watercress

Above: Trussed pork neck ready for roasting
Below: Carved Pork Neck, Jus, Pilaf Rice, Ratatouille and Turned Potatoes

Classic French Stew: Navarin of Lamb with Turned Carrot and Potato
Broiled Whole Tommy Ruff served over Chargrilled Eggplant, Zuchinni and Red Peppers with Balsamic Glaze

A Perfect Hollandaise Sauce
After several failed attempts at making Hollandaise Sauce, finally I managed to make one without overbeating it until the ghee split from the eggs into complete ruination. This was an enormous high for me!
Moving forward to week six: vegeatbles and fruits, but mainly it was eggs, eggs and more eggs on the menu as well as everything containing high levels of starch came into play and by this I mean farinaceous foods like pasta, rice, bread, potatoes and flour.

Above: Oueffs Benedict, Below: Scrambled Eggs on Garlic Toast with a Smoked Salmon Rosette

Spanish Omlette loaded with red onion, mushroom, red pepper, paprika and topped with Kalamata Olives, grilled sliced tomatoes and Parmesan Cheese

Tarte Tatin - Open Faced Upside Down Classic French Apple Tart

Rice Pudding with Spiced Prune and Apricot Compote, Flaked Almonds

Tomatoes filled with Duxelles, Glazed Turned Carrot and Turnips and Harricot-Verts Lyonnaise

Poached Salmon with Asparagus, Lemon Slices and Beurre Blanc
It was exciting making my very own pasta from scratch – a personal first. Using durum wheat flour, water, olive oil and salt we made up the dough and passed it through the pasta roller several times before slicing them into fine noodles and boiling them briefly.
Making my own pasta from scratch

Pesto Papardelle with Parmesan
Meat Pies
We also learned gnocchi basics – I was shocked at the effort required to make these perfectly shaped silk worms, the patience and the delicate disposition of your fingers and above all the sheer determination it requires. Undoubtedly it is an art that must be mastered over time. While gnocchi seemed a depressingly daunting task to me, it was heartening to receive full marks for the practical test for the week from Italian lecturer and chef Antonio Pianadossi who thought my risotto a’la funghi was the best risotto of the day – spot on in terms of “soupy consistency” and bang on in terms of flavour as well.

Above: Grilled Polenta and Swiss Brown Mushrooms with Spanish Chirizo
Below: Rissoto a' la Funghi

Gnocchi with Sage, Nut Brown Butter

Crepes Suzette: Classic French Dessert with Brandied Orange Sauce