May 30, 2010

Sunday comforts...


Before I get to today's kitchen business I have an apology to make.

Last weekend, mum celebrated a significant birthday milestone, and once again I had the honour of baking the celebratory centerpiece. A little disappointment was expressed that said 'cake' had not made the blog, and so without further ado...




Happy birthday mum!


 As for today, Miss Rose and I had both had a hankering for beef Wellington, and since there's little more enjoyable than a late Sunday lunch featuring roasted goodness, we thought this would be a most suitable occasion indeed.
Having gone a little out of fashion, presumably for being a bit too old-time kitsch, beef Wellington is like the ultimate sausage roll. First you make a mushroom duxelles...

Sear off a beautiful piece of eye fillet, smother it in duxelles and wrap it in prosciutto...


 Cover it in pastry...


 And then wack it in the oven until gloriously golden brown...
 Jeffrey, apparently...
 Served with some delicious roasted vegetables...
 Did somebody say OCD?...
 And some Brussels sprouts with chestnuts and bacon... 

And that's what I'd call a perfect Sunday lunch...
Actually, what would make it truly perfect would be finishing it off with something sweet. And since tradition was the order of the day, some pears were roasted and a pudding was steamed...


And the day was brought to a close with a most glorious pear and ginger pudding...




Yep, comforting...

May 18, 2010

My favourite season...


Down here in The Antipodes autumn has well and truly set in, and with the cool, crisp mornings and brilliant foliage displays comes the excitement of knowing the time for soups, slow roasts, poached fruit, and many more of my most favourite kitchen pleasures is finally upon us. And where better to start our autumnal musings than with the quintessence of chestnuts and quinces?

If you were with us this time last year, or have made your own attempts at handling the veritable hairy nut, you will no doubt be aware that to experience the joie de vivre of chestnuts, one must first exercise extreme patience, call on all measure of manual dexterity, and sacrifice a little sanity to reap the rewards held within. If anyone ever serves you a chestnut dish made from scratch, know that the love you dearly.

This time around, our love came in the form of a deliciously rich, sweet and comforting chestnut soup...


Stephanie Alexander's chestnut soup


...and a pleasantly balanced salad of bitter radicchio, sweet chestnuts and salty bacon. A delicious combination, yes, but one made all the more pleasurable by the discovery that our Agrarian bacon was truly, truly wonderful.


Stephanie Alexander's chestnut and bacon salad


To make full use of our spoils from the apple isle, we settled on sweets in the form of saffron custard tart. I learnt a lot on our visit to Tas-Saff, but nothing more important than knowing you must infuse your saffron before use to fully unlock its potential. And this is why...


  Tasmanian saffron

 Spectacularly golden and fragrant, it certainly went on to make a lovely custard...


Saffron custard tart
  

We have also been blessed by an influx of quinces from amazingly generous family and friends with equally amazing and generous quince trees. For some time we have been secretly enjoying the ambrosial pleasures of perfectly poached quince, but so you don't feel too left out, here's Miss Rose's beautiful quince tarte Tatin...




  

This is where you hold your breath, prepare for the burns of imminent failure, and get ready to flip...

One... Two...

Three!




Glorious!

Last, but certainly not least on the day's agenda, was the infamous Crazy Yow Burger. Heart-stopping in more ways than one, they go a little something like this...

If you're keen, first make your own buns (we went for these lovely milk panini)... 


  

Then layer it up with an animal meat patty, cheese, bacon (our own, naturally), egg, caramelised onion, avocado, tomato and lettuce, and then lather it up with some TPB tomato relish and pesto mayonnaise. Once you've apologised to your arteries for what's about to happen take hold, make no hesitation, and don't dare let go until you reign victorious or have been thoroughly defeated.



The infamous Crazy Yow burger



For the record, I believe the standings are currently
Miss Rose  +2
Crazy Yow burger  0
Miss Emily  -2

It seems I have some work to do... 
 

May 12, 2010

The whole hog...





Ok ladies and gents, I suggest you pop the kettle on and make yourself comfortable. This one's going to be a doozy...

This weekend past, Miss Rose and I took a little trip down south for something we've been anticipating for quite some time. Unfortunately, my Tasmanian experience got off to a rather poor start, and without the care and pharmaceutical support of Miss Rose and our generous hosts at Explorer's Lodge in New Norfolk, things could have taken a devastating turn. I believe the nausea may have set in as we disembarked at Hobart and Miss Rose uttered "Look! A winnebago! We SO should have done that. AND it's called the 'Leisure Seeker'. That is SO cool..."

*shudder*

Thankfully transport arrangements were unchangable, and I managed to pull through the ensuing unpleasantness with a sturdy constitution, a little help from a tidy Tanzanian, and the belief that enduring a few crazy days with the delightful, if not slightly insane, Miss Rose, would be thoroughly worth it.


 This is how we travel...


Before heading to the événement principal, we managed a quick trip down to Glaziers Bay and Tass-Saff, where the ever-charming Terry took us through the finer points of growing and using saffron, and provided us with some of the most beautiful and fragrant saffron I have ever seen, and which I am certainly looking forward to cooking with.


 Glaziers Bay


Local saffron


Then, it was time for The Hog.




On a crisp autumnal morning we headed down to The Agrarian Kitchen, a gorgeous little cooking school run by the delighful Rodney and Severine, in the pretty little hamlet of Lachlan. Like anyone who enjoys spending time in the kitchen, I have a "when I build my dream kitchen" plan, and as I entered The Agrarian, while I was incredibly jealous to see this dream realised - by someone else no less - I was also very excited to know that for the next two days, I would be calling this place home.


The Agrarian Kitchen


The purpose of our visit was to partake in their Whole Hog Masterclass, which starts like this...




Middles on something like this...





And ends as a two day, thirteen course, pork-fest extravaganza.




We began by learning the finer (and not-so-finer) points of porcine butchery from the lovely Lee, who bestowed us with a wealth of knowledge, beautifully marbled pork and delightfully lewd innuendo in both adequate and equal measure.


A butchery pork-tage!


Our first port of call was the loin, which was stuffed, rolled and then popped in the wood-fire oven to crackle away happily as we prepared various other bits-and-pieces, stuffed our fat chops, and then settled down to lunch.


Loin


Chops


How the civilised prepare to dine...


Rolled pork loin stuffed with calvados prunes and served with a winter salad


Silverbeet stuffed chops


The afternoon breezed by in a haze of overindulgence, there were pork scratchings for the brave, and after a little more to-do, we were sent home to take respite and recover for the coming day of porknanigans...


Stock, trotters, streaky bacon, ears, lard...


Pork scratchings


                             





Our return was greeted with three of my favourite words: Morning. Coffee? Breakfast? If something had been dastardly hilarious I may have had a moment, but fortunately for all that was not the case, and after being treated to the most wondrous baked beans imaginable, we headed straight to the kitchen.


Baked beans


Numerous dishes were set bubbling, baking and roasting, and then it was time for everyone's favourite mid-morning snack, ribs.


Chinkiang vinegar pork ribs


Dirty, messy, sweet sticky deliciousness ensued, and so naturally thereafter, it was time for sausage.


Sausage-tage!


A quick taste test...


Pork and fennel sausages


Streaky bacon and rillettes were prepared for the journey home...


Rillettes


...and then we sat down to the most gloriously long and delicious progressive lunch you could ever ask for.


Soft tacos of shredded slow-cooked pork leg


Pressed pig's head


Chorizo, chickpea and poached egg soup


Parsley, radicchio, apple and crispy pig's ear salad


Pig's trotters and potato torte


Torta Sbrisolona with goat's milk dulce de leche, preserved apricots and lavender, lemon, goat's milk ice cream


I cannot adequately describe how much I adore The Agrarian and their friends. From their principles to their passions, everything is as it should be, and so accurately reflects how I personally believe food, and life, should be approached. And that all is done without fuss, simply stemming from the desire to share good food with good friends, makes it all the more better. Everything is thought through to the finest detail, and you are so incredibly well looked after you're not quite sure whether to feel guilty or immensely honoured. How gracious a host, I ask, which not only welcomes you in to their home and feeds you like royalty, but then sends you home with this as a doggy bag?




So I offer my humblest of thanks and respect to Rodney, Severine and Lee.


The quality of produce was exceptional; the company just splendid; and the food simply divine.


I had fun. I am happy. I am inspired.


And I think I'm still full...


So thank you