food for thought

by michelle

roast duck

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Roasting a duck is not really as daunting as it seems. This Chinese-style roast duck is best cooked on a charcoal barbecue.

Clean the duck, remove the wing tips and any lumps of fat from inside the cavity and pat it dry with paper towels. Rub salt over the entire duck (about 2 teaspoons) and tie the neck tightly with string. Roughly chop 2-3 spring onions, 1-2 cloves of garlic and an equal amount of fresh ginger.  In a small bowl combine ¼ of a cup of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon of dark soy, 2 teaspoons of five-spice powder and 1 tablespoon of honey  (if you need to liquefy the honey heat it briefly in a microwave). Stir well to combine the ingredients and brush the mixture all over the duck, brushing some into the cavity as well. Place the spring onion, garlic and ginger into the cavity and seal the duck by sewing or securing tightly with skewers. When you’re ready to cook place a disposable aluminium roasting pan under where the duck will cook to avoid flare-ups from the dripping duck fat. Regulate the temperature to approximately 160ºC (325°F). If you’re cooking with charcoal you can add 2 – 3 chunks of smoking wood. Allow the duck to roast for approximately 2½ hours until the skin is golden brown and crispy and the internal temperature of the breast has reached 74ºC (165°F). Serve chopped into pieces with hoisin sauce (diluted with a little water) and chilli oil.  



Written by michelle picker

April 17, 2019 at 12:28 am

Posted in poultry & game

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flourless brownie

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This is rich, delicious and my favourite brownie. Easy to make too.

Melt together 200g (7 oz) of 70% dark chocolate, 650g (23 oz) of butter and 50g of cocoa powder until smooth and glossy. In another bowl whip 2 large or 3 small eggs with 150g (5½ oz) of caster sugar. Add this to the chocolate mix and transfer to a baking paper-lined tray. Press walnuts into the mix (optional) and bake in a moderate oven until firm.

Written by michelle picker

April 10, 2019 at 12:06 am

stuffed poblanos

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Poblanos are mild chillies which originated in Puebla, Mexico. When dried they are known as ancho chillies and the fresh chillies are popular stuffed and roasted. Here’s my version.

Roast or barbecue 4-6 whole poblano chillies and 1 red pepper until they are softening and slightly charred. Meanwhile in a little oil fry 1 finely diced onion and 2 minced cloves of garlic until wilted. Add small cubes of butternut pumpkin (squash), ground cumin, dried oregano and salt to taste. Continue to cook, adding a little water if necessary, until soft. When the red pepper is soft remove the seeds, dice it finely and add it to the onions and pumpkin. Remove from the heat and add some fresh goat cheese and chopped fresh coriander (cilantro). Cut the poblano chillies in half and carefully scoop out the seeds. Lie the halves in an oven tray and fill them with the goat cheese mixture. Top them with grated cheese (something that melts easily) and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds (pepitas). Roast in a moderate oven until the seeds are browning and the filling is hot.

Written by michelle picker

April 3, 2019 at 12:18 am

tomahawk steak

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Fifi turned up with this enormous steak for a barbecue dinner. We rose to the challenge and produced a melt-in-the mouth medium/rare steak with just enough char and smoke.

The steak was marinated in soya sauce, mirin and garlic for about an hour, or the time it took to get the fire going and the charcoal ready. We used the reverse sear method – we placed the steak on the grill as far away from the charcoal as possible and cooked it very slowly. The steak was turned only once and when it had some good colour but still felt quite rare, we placed it directly over the hot coals, cooking each side until it looked and felt perfect. And it was!

Written by michelle picker

March 27, 2019 at 12:05 am

Posted in meat

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pistachio and lemon bundt cake

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This lovely moist cake is full of of flavour and good-looking to boot!

Preheat your oven to 180ºC (350ºF)  and generously grease a bundt pan. In a bowl combine 3 cups of flour with ½ a teaspoon of kosher salt. In a food processor pulse 2 cups of shelled and roasted pistachios until they are very fine and stick together when pinched. Now beat 290g (11oz) of butter with 1½ cups of sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the pistachios, 1 tablespoon of lemon zest and 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract then add 4 large eggs, incorporating them one at a time. Finally, mix in the flour and salt alternately with ¼ of a cup of white rum until just combined. Transfer the batter to the prepared tin and bake until the cake tests clean. This might take 60 minutes or more. Cool in the pan for 20 minutes and then finish cooling on a wire rack. In a small saucepan combine ¾ of a cup of sugar, 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of water and a pinch of salt. Simmer over medium heat for a few minutes until the sugar is dissolved then add ½ a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract. Allow to cool a little before brushing onto the cooled cake. 

adapted from this recipe


Written by michelle picker

March 20, 2019 at 12:23 am

Posted in cakes & desserts

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warm vegetable and quinoa salad

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Here’s a quick, delicious and satisfying meal.

Rinse some quinoa allowing approximately ½ a cup per person. In a medium saucepan bring some water to boil. Add the quinoa and cook until it still has some texture but is no longer crunchy. Meanwhile prepare the vegetables of your choice – I cooked leeks, pumpkin, parsnip, turnip and okra. If you use okra, wash and trim them and place them in some acidulated water before using. In a large sauté pan with a lid, heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil until hot then add the vegetables. If some vegetables are quicker to cook than others then you will have to add them in order of cooking time. Season the vegetables with salt and freshly ground black pepper and add some herbs – I used sprigs of thyme and fresh bay leaves. Cover and continue to cook over high heat, stirring the vegetables only occasionally so that they become a bit charred. When the quinoa is cooked place it in a strainer, rinse under cold water to cool and leave to drain. When the vegetables are ready put them in a serving bowl with the drained quinoa and some crumbled feta. Dress with lemon juice and more olive oil and toss well to combine.

Written by michelle picker

March 13, 2019 at 12:17 am

red-cooked whole chicken + mushroom and kangkong stir-fry

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This is a popular cooking method in China where it is used for all kinds of meats and hard-boiled eggs. Served either hot or cold, the remaining stock is reused as a master stock. Ingredients vary from cook to cook but usually include soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, rock sugar and whole spices such as star anise and black cardamom.

Place your chicken into a pot which is not too big. Add 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, 3 tablespoons of dark soy sauce, some large slices of ginger, a few cloves of garlic, 2 star anise, a black cardamom pod and some cassia bark (or a small cinnamon quill). I don’t usually add rock sugar. Fill the pot with cold water until the chicken is just covered and bring to a boil very slowly. Simmer, turning the chicken at least once, until it is cooked. You can tell when the chicken is cooked if the juices run clear when you cut into the thigh. If you have a meat thermometer it should read 74ºC (165ºF). Remove the chicken from the stock and drizzle with a little sesame oil before serving. Serve with steamed rice.

Here’s a lovely simple stir-fry to serve with the chicken.

Trim and slice a few king oyster mushrooms, wash and chop a bunch of kangkong (also known as water spinach or morning glory) and peel and lightly crush a clove of garlic. Place your wok over high heat and when hot, add some peanut oil. Fry the clove of garlic until just beginning to brown and discard it. Now add the oyster mushrooms and cook for a minute or two before adding the kangkong. Finally add a little salt, sugar and white pepper and toss well to combine.

Written by michelle picker

March 6, 2019 at 12:15 am