food for thought

by michelle

Archive for the ‘red meat’ Category

lamb tagine with prunes and raisins

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Adapted by David from an Emeril Lagasse recipe, this tagine has a wonderful balance and depth of flavour.


Using lamb on the bone imparts much more flavour to this dish but you can also use diced boneless lamb. Heat some olive oil in a saucepan or tagine and brown approximately 1 kg (2 lbs) of lamb over high heat in batches, removing the browned meat to a plate. Return all the lamb to the pot and add 1½ cups diced onion and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Add 3 cloves of minced garlic and cook for another minute. Add 1 cup of chicken stock, a pinch of crushed saffron and a bunch of coriander (cilantro) and bring to boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until the meat is tender. Meanwhile pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 cup of pitted prunes and ½ a cup of golden raisins. Let them soften for 20 minutes then strain them and set aside. When the lamb is nearly tender add the fruit, ½ a thinly sliced onion, 2 tablespoons of honey, 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, ½ a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper, and ¾ of a teaspoon of salt. Cook for a further 5-10 minutes. Garnish with coriander and serve with couscous and a fresh salad.

Written by michelle picker

March 24, 2017 at 6:17 am

fine dining in Aukland

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sky-tower-aukland The Sky Tower in Aukland, New Zealand is a distinctive landmark. Thanks to Nicolas who generously gave me a voucher, I ate there with 6 others at The Sugar Club on the 62nd floor. We tried many dishes from chef Peter Gordon’s degustation menu.





First there was an amuse-bouche of turmeric cured salmon over an anchovy paste with crispy lentils.

The menu is designed to go from lighter dishes to heavier so here, in the same order, are some of the outstanding dishes we ordered followed by equally good desserts.

Hiramasa kingfish with nori, cucumber, orange, chilli soy dressing, peanuts and wasabi cream


miso eggplant with medjool dates, feta, crispy buckwheat, tahini yoghurt and mango puree


asparagus and spiced quails eggs with shiitake, miso and almonds


spiny crayfish and Marlborough saffron linguine with pine nuts and aged parmigiano reggiano


creamed Pāua (the Māori name for abalone or ormer shells) with kiwi dip and frybread


octopus with corn puree, quinoa, celery and capsicum


tempura aubergine (eggplant) and blue pea inari with panch phoron spiced tomato pickles, rhubarb and guava


line-caught fish with tempura oyster, mussels, cucumber and dashi


Hawkes Bay lamb rump with pecorino gnocchi, pesto, lamb floss and preserved lemon dressing


Mahy Farms beef fillet with spiced beef cheek, smoked mash and spinach


Aukland harbour sunset from the Sky Tower


berries and meringue


Zealong Oolong panna cotta with matcha sponge, blueberries, fennel confiture and red shiso


peanut butter parfait with miso caramel, sesame, paprika and orange


chocolate cru virunga 70% semifreddo with spiced pineapple, mochi and tamarind caramel


Written by michelle picker

February 4, 2017 at 5:57 am

garlic steak + miso pumpkin

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Japanese garlic steak. Need I say more?


Make some shallow cuts into each side of the steak and marinate in 45ml (1½ oz) of soy sauce, 1½ tablespoons of mirin (sweet cooking sake) and 2 crushed cloves of garlic for at least 20 minutes. When you’re ready to cook, heat a heavy pan (preferably cast iron) until smoking hot, smear a little oil onto the steaks and cook for 5 minutes or so on each side (for thinner steaks or ones without bones, cook for less time). Serve garnished with green onions.


I served my steak with miso grilled butternut. Cut your butternut into wedges, toss in a little oil and salt and bake in a hot oven until softening. Now heat your grill (broiler). Brush the squash with a mixture of 2 tablespoons of sesame oil, 1 tablespoon of mirin, 1 tablespoon of sake, 2 tablespoons of white or yellow miso and 1 tablespoon sugar and grill until caramelising.


Written by michelle picker

January 23, 2017 at 5:37 am

sous vide beef ribs

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Having just acquired an Anova Precision Cooker, I decided to experiment with some beef ribs. This very useful page at chefsteps helped me choose a temperature and timing. After 24 hours of cooking at 70ºC (158ºF) the result was moist and tender meat, not falling apart but coming away from the bone cleanly. Of course you can still cook great ribs without this equipment, but the Anova allows you to set and forget and to concentrate on the other parts of the meal without being distracted.


While the meat is cooking make a barbecue sauce. In a saucepan combine ½ a cup of dark brown sugar,½ a cup of  ketchup, ¼ of a cup of cider vinegar, ¼ of a cup of tomato passata or purée, ¼ of a cup of molasses (treacle), 1 tablespoon of tomato paste, 1 tablespoon of Frank’s Hot Sauce, 2 teaspoons of onion powder, 2 teaspoons of garlic powder, 2 teaspoons of Worcestershire Sauce and 2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard. Cook over low heat for 20 minutes. When the ribs are cooked remove them from their vacuum bag, dry them and place them on some baking paper on an oven tray. Brush on generous amounts of barbecue sauce and grill on all sides under a hot grill.


I served my ribs with extra barbecue sauce, oven potato and sweet potato chips, vinegar-dressed cole slaw, and cucumbers in a sour cream and dill dressing.


Written by michelle picker

November 6, 2016 at 5:39 am

lamb in coconut milk

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Introduced to the South American cuisine by African slaves, coconut is used widely in Brazil and the Andean countries. This recipe, adapted from Maria Baez Kijac’s The South American Table comes from the Pacific Coast of Columbia.


Trim and dice 450g (1 lb) of lamb. In a heavy pan, heat some oil and butter over medium heat and seal the lamb in batches. Remove it from the pan and add 1 large diced onion, an equal amount of diced red pepper and diced celery plus 6 cloves of finely diced garlic. Cook until the onion is soft then add a generous pinch each of ground allspice and cayenne pepper. Return the meat to the pan with 2 tablespoons each of chopped parsley and coriander (cilantro), 1 tablespoon of dark brown sugar and 1½ – 2 cups of boiling water (just enough to nearly cover the meat). Cook over low heat, covered, for 1 to 1½ hours until the meat is tender. Stir in 1 cup of coconut milk and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Cook for 5 minutes then serve with rice.

Vegetable salads with vinaigrette dressing are very popular in South America, the vegetables changing with the seasons. Here’s the one I served.


Written by michelle picker

August 26, 2016 at 6:01 am

8 hour smoked lamb shoulder

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Cooked by Thomas, following a recipe from, this lamb shoulder was truly amazing. With all the fat rendered, what was left was beautifully moist and smoky meat falling off the bone. You will need a charcoal barbecue or smoker, a thermometer and a free day to cook this.


The day before cooking your lamb shoulder, prepare it by removing all the surface fat and the tough silver skin, then season with salt (½ a teaspoon per 450g /1 lb) and keep covered in your fridge overnight. The next day combine 2 tablespoons of dried rosemary, 1 tablespoon of whole mustard seeds, 1 tablespoon of freshly ground black pepper, 1 tablespoon of paprika, 1 teaspoon of ground bay leaves, 10 cloves of crushed garlic and a little water to make a paste. Coat the lamb shoulder generously with this rub – this should be enough for a large shoulder. Preheat your barbecue or smoker to 107ºC (225ºF). Place the lamb over indirect heat and allow to cook (making sure you keep the temperature as even as possible) until the meat reaches 95ºC (203ºF). This will take 8 hours or so. Meanwhile make the black barbecue sauce, an excellent accompaniment to the rich meat. In a saucepan combine 2 cups of water, ½ a cup of Lea & Perrin’s Worcestershire Sauce, ½ a cup of distilled vinegar, ½ a teaspoon of ground white pepper, 7 tablespoons of brown sugar, ¼ of a teaspoon ground allspice, ¼ of a teaspoon onion powder, ¼ of a teaspoon garlic powder, 1¼ teaspoons of table salt and 1¼ teaspoons of lemon juice. Simmer for 10 minutes then set aside to serve with the lamb.

We served our lamb with roasted root vegetables and peas with fresh mint.



Written by michelle picker

July 21, 2016 at 5:49 am

cooking class in Provence

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While in Provence, I took the opportunity to participate in a hands-on cooking class with chef Jean-Marc Villard at his French Cooking School. After shopping for local and organic ingredients, we returned to the specially designed teaching kitchen, where Jean-Marc guided us in preparing and cooking a traditional French meal which we later enjoyed on the terrace with the chef and his wife Alice.


We started with 2 amusebouches, a small appetiser of one or two bites which is normally selected by the chef and served before the first course, both to whet the appetite and to give a glimpse of the chef’s approach to cuisine. Our first was deep-fried zucchini flowers. These were dredged in a simple tempura batter, deep-fried in grapeseed oil and served with a fresh pesto.




The second was a fresh sardine escabeche.







Sardine fillets were laid in a flat dish (skin side down) and seasoned. Onions, garlic, carrots and peppers were sautéed in olive oil, seasoned and spread over the sardines. Finally a slightly reduced mixture of white wine, vinegar and water was poured over everything to cook the sardines. It was served garnished with fresh dill.

zucchini-saladFor the first course we started by preparing a zucchini (courgette) salad. We cut the zucchinis in half and used a mandolin to cut thin strips lengthwise. To this we added pink peppercorns (which are particularly sweet here in France), grated lemon rind, dill, sea salt and freshly ground pepper. After mixing thoroughly we set this aside in a colander. Meanwhile, the sauce was on the stove. Vanilla pods were added to some chicken stock which was then reduced by half. Be careful not to use salty chicken stock as it will become too salty when reduced. To the reduced stock we added as much butter as there was stock and a little finely chopped candied lemon rind. The sauce was then aerated using a wand mixer. Next we prepared fresh prawns (shrimp) which we seasoned and quickly pan-fried. To assemble the dish we placed some of the zucchini salad in a form ring, followed by some mixed salad leaves. The ring was removed, the prawns arranged around the salads and the sauce carefully poured around the edges without wilting the salad leaves.


For the main course, saddle of lamb. This was boned and rolled, seared on the stovetop and finished in the oven along with some fresh garlic cloves (skin on). Of course, the sauce was also reducing on the stove, this time a veal stock with fresh sage leaves.

eggplant-fillingTo accompany the lamb we stuffed large cherry tomatoes. After cutting the tops off the tomatoes and carefully scooping out the flesh and seeds, we seasoned them with salt and placed them upside down on the board, allowing any liquid to drain. The eggplants (aubergines) were cut in half lengthwise and baked (skin side up) until soft. stuffed-cherry-tomatoesIn a saucepan we sautéed very finely chopped shallots and garlic then added the chopped eggplant pulp, some finely chopped rosemary, chopped parsley, a little chickpea flour to bind and salt and pepper. We then filled the tomatoes and put the lids back on for roasting.

potato-galette-with-goat's-cheeseWe also made a typically French accompaniment, a potato galette – this one with a goat’s cheese centre. The peeled potatoes were cut into thin slices with a mandolin and placed in a bowl with melted butter, salt and freshly ground black pepper. After mixing well, making sure that every piece of potato was buttered and seasoned, we arranged 2 layers of slices around central discs, then a generous amount of goat’s cheese, followed by one more layer of potato. We then cut the edges off with a cookie cutter and transferred them to a baking sheet and into a hot oven until golden brown. Finally, the plating and voilà!


Stay tuned for dessert….