food for thought

by michelle

chilli oil

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For those of you who love chilli, you’ll know that chilli oil is an important condiment at Chinese tables and a useful pantry staple. Made with facing heaven peppers, chilli oil is not very spicy (for a chilli oil) and has a nutty, toasty flavour enhanced by aromatics.

To make this chilli oil you will need 110g (4oz) of chilli flakes. If you can’t find the correct chilli flakes you can buy whole dry chillies and crush them in a food processor. Put the chilli flakes in a heatproof bowl or stainless steel saucepan and add some salt to taste as well as aromatics of your choice such as Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, ginger or five spice. The addition of aromatics is a personal preference which varies from region to region and even family to family in China. Next you need to heat a little more than 2 cups of oil. I used peanut oil but any vegetable oil without too much flavour would work. Heat the oil over a high flame to about 200ºC (400ºF). Remove from the heat and allow it to cool to around 135ºC (275ºF). Carefully pour the hot oil over the chilli flakes. It should sizzle and bubble releasing wonderful toasty aromas. Allow the finished chilli oil to cool before decanting into jars to store.




Written by michelle picker

March 21, 2018 at 12:09 am

mexican beef skewers

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From Chef Gabriel Gambou of Arrecife Restaurant in Colima, Mexico, this recipe was published in The Taste of Mexico by Patricia Quintana. Tender barbecued beef skewers are served with a rich and dark sauce made with cascabel chillies (shown here with refried black beans).

For the beef, use strips of sirloin or hanger steak, preferably with some fat marbling for tenderness. Thread the beef onto skewers, alternating with onion and green peppers if you wish. In a mortar and pestle crush 1-2 cloves of garlic with some salt, add freshly ground black pepper and ground cumin to taste and combine with ¼ of a cup of vegetable oil. Brush the oil mix onto the meat skewers and leave them to rest in the fridge while you prepare the sauce. For the sauce, fry 6 dried cascabel chillies in some oil until fragrant. Drain and soak them in hot water for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, roast a whole tomato by heating a dry griddle or heavy pan and cooking the whole tomato until the outside is charred. When the chillies are softened, drain them and keep the soaking liquid. Remove and discard the seeds and place the flesh into a blender or food processor. Add the roasted tomato, ½ a white onion, 4 cloves of garlic, 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds, 2 bay leaves and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Add a little soaking liquid and blend until you have a good consistency. Cook this sauce in a little oil until the onions and garlic no longer taste raw. Season with salt and a little sugar to taste.

To cook the beef, brush with a little more oil and some clarified butter and cook on a barbecue, turning regularly, until the beef is to your liking. Serve with corn tortillas and other accompaniments such as re-fried beans, guacamole and fresh salsa.

Written by michelle picker

March 14, 2018 at 10:58 am

sultana and sour cherry fruitcake

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Almost all fruit, this simple one-bowl cake has a nice tartness and a good hit of rum.

Preheat your oven to 160ºC (320ºF) and line a 22cm (8″) tin with baking paper. Measure 500g (17½ oz) of sultanas and 250g (8¾ oz) of sour dried cherries into a mixing bowl. Gently heat ⅓ of a cup of good dark rum and pour it over the fruit. Stir well, making sure all the fruit is moistened. Add 125g of melted butter, ½ a cup of dark brown sugar and 2 eggs to the bowl and stir to combine. Lastly, to bind the fruit, add 1 cup of plain flour and ½ a teaspoon of baking powder. Mix well and transfer into the prepared tin, spreading evenly. Bake for 1½ hours or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cover the tin and allow to cool.


Written by michelle picker

March 7, 2018 at 12:56 am

new potatoes

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Thomas recently harvested this year’s crop of potatoes.

He planted Dutch Cream, a variety known for it’s creamy texture in mash but also excellent for roasting. When they’re this fresh, though, there’s nothing better than boiling or steaming them.

We served them with sour cream mixed with plenty of chives and some salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Other accompaniments: smoked trout with sliced onion, cucumber salad with dill and vegetables sautéed in olive oil.

Written by michelle picker

February 28, 2018 at 12:19 am

ginger braised duck

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Classic Vietnamese flavours, lots of ginger and a little chilli make this braised duck truly tasty.

Use duck legs, thighs or wings for this recipe. Start by browning 6 pieces of duck in some hot oil for a few minutes. Slice a generous amount of ginger into fine slivers and add it to the duck pieces. Continue to fry until the ginger is fragrant. Now add 1½ cups of hot duck or chicken stock, 3 teaspoons of oyster sauce, 2 teaspoons of Thai fish sauce and 1-2 teaspoons of Sriracha chilli sauce. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook uncovered over low heat for 1-1½ hours, checking occasionally to make sure there is still enough liquid. When there is hardly any liquid remaining and the duck is tender and falling from the bone, add some finely shredded carrot, green beans and cabbage. Cook for a further 5 minutes until the vegetables are just cooked. Serve with steamed rice.

Written by michelle picker

February 21, 2018 at 12:37 am

gluten free raspberry and lemon cake

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Don’t wait for your celiac friends to come over to try this amazingly delicious cake. No gluten means the mixture can’t be overworked and mashed potato makes the cake really moist. Perfect for Valentine’s Day!

Heat your oven to 180ºC (350ºF). Butter and line a deep 20cm (8″) round cake tin. Beat 250g (8¾ oz) of caster sugar and 200g (7 oz) of softened butter together until light and fluffy then gradually add 4 eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Fold in 175g of ground almond meal, 250g (8¾ oz) of cold mashed potato, the zest of 2 lemons and 2 teaspoons of (gluten free) baking powder. Spread  half of the mixture into the tin, dot with some fresh or frozen raspberries and cover with the rest of the mixture, levelling the top. Bake for 40-50 mins or until golden and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in the tin before turning onto a wire rack. For the glaze place a small saucepan over medium-low heat and add 80g (2¾ oz) of raspberries, 80g (2¾ oz) of sugar and the juice of 1 lemon. Warm through for 4-5 minutes until the raspberries have softened and the sugar has dissolved. Strain through a fine sieve. With a small stick blender or a mini food processor add ⅛ of a teaspoon of xanthan gum, preferably while blending. This will thicken the raspberry glaze immediately. When the cake has cooled pour the glaze over the top, letting it drip down the sides a little.

Written by michelle picker

February 14, 2018 at 12:24 am

warrigal spinach

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Warrigal spinach, is a bush food native to Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Chile and Argentina. Captain Cook ate it aboard  the Endeavour to prevent scurvy and Joseph Banks took it back to England to cultivate.

The plant is drought resistant, thrives on neglect, self seeds and grows so fast that it can be harvested in a few weeks. It’s flavour is similar to spinach and it can be used in much the same way as it’s namesake. Like spinach it contains oxalates which can be removed by blanching. Try it in a pie with feta, in fritters, cannelloni, dumplings or a pesto. Here is a simple stir-fry for an Asian meal.

Wash and dry the Warrigal spinach and finely dice 2 cloves of garlic. Heat some oil in a wok until very hot and briefly add the garlic before adding the Warrigal spinach. Cook, stirring, until the stems are cooked and not too tough. Add some dried chilli flakes to taste and season with salt and ground white pepper. Serve hot.

Written by michelle picker

February 7, 2018 at 12:53 am