April 27, 2011

The importance of produce...

morning views


Like most people, I took the opportunity of a long weekend to get away. And as I spent the days foraging for mushrooms to have with breakfast, catching fish for dinner, and being gifted with the most beautiful quinces imaginable I couldn't help but think what a perfect example of the importance of good produce this was.


'shrooms!


fishing at Cape Liptrap


quintessential quince 


While a technical challenge can be fun, I think people sometimes forget that you don't always need to perform fancy maneuvers for an impressive repast. If you take the time to source a few really good-quality ingredients and have a little knowledge of what compliments what, you need do little more than let the produce speak for itself in creating a most enjoyable feast. By holding back on the embellishments, you better appreciate the flavours in each delectable morsel. And, if nothing else, by starting with the best, it's very hard to go wrong.


honey-roasted quince


steel-cut oatmeal with lightly-poached quince


  poached quince with vanilla, cinnamon and star anise


So when the opportunity presented to have some stunning Berkshire pork delivered direct to my door, understandably I was more than just a little bit *squee!*. Free-range heritage pork is fantastic. Not only do you have farmers dedicated to sustaining a rare breed by rearing them in a manner that I personally find most agreeable, but their flesh has such an amazing flavour and juiciness you'd be hard-pressed to find anything more delicious.

And so, after quelling the post-delivery hyperventilatory excitement, it was simply a matter of taking an indescribably impressive porcine shoulder, rolling it with a few herbs and poached quinces, roasting it on a bed of fennel and balsamic, accompanying it with a few vegetables picked up from the farm gate, and voilĂ !, the perfect 'Sunday' roast.


Greenvale Berkshire pork with fennel and quince


the perfect end to the weekend


Although, admittedly, it was perhaps just that little bit more perfect followed by some apple and honey-roasted quince crumble to finish...


Quince and apple crumble
       

April 17, 2011

Easter standards...

Despite the installment of a mundane albeit slightly less hazardous new floor, kitchen TPB has been a little quiet of late owing to my partaking in a few fun runs about town. But with Easter just around the corner, well, we all know what that means...






The buns are back!


I tried working in a little sourdough this year but could have done more, and the spices were shamefully light on so we're definitely not yet up there with the hottest of the hot. Even so, nothing quite beats hot buns fresh from the oven:




And they're pretty fine toasted, too.




And while I'd been hoping to commit Easter sacrilege with a little bunny action, after today's efforts and owing to time and energy constraints, a spot of rabbit feed seemed slightly more appropriate:







Nothing says post-run exhaustion like a photo montage!





These luscious little wholemeal carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting are a lovely take on a classic combination that will no doubt go down a treat with all the weary runners at work tomorrow, and something I highly recommend trying. Simple. Easy. Delicious.

Happy Easter everyone.
 

April 3, 2011

Grains of old...



Food is fascinating. I know that's quite point captain obvious coming from someone who spends as much time in the kitchen as I do, but I'm finding that just when you think you're getting a handle on things, a whole new world opens up and you're once again cast adrift in to a veritable sea of knowledge.

Since I started taking my running more seriously I've become interested in food from a nutritional perspective - what healthy eating really means, and the way various components are processed when you treat it in it's basic form, as a fuel. Within this, I've also taken a liking to superfoods. Not so much for their 'super' qualities, but more that I like things to be simple, and so when you're talking unprocessed, unrefined grains of old, you've certainly got my curiosity wanting.

The trouble with superfoods, however, is that they're still touted by the general populous as "hippy crap", which usually means they're rather hard to come by, often stupidly expensive, and if you do manage to find them the quality can be quite poor as they'll have been sourced and stored more on account of their revenue than the fact they're supposed to be edible.

Thankfully much of this is changing, and having recently discovered a fantastic local supplier I've been able to start playing around with whole grains and other such things that are just a little bit different. And the reason I'm so excited by this is not just on account of health considerations, but the fact that from my limited experience, these superfoods and friends are also adhering to my view that the more natural things are, the better they taste.

Take, for example, porridge. Now I love porridge, but there's porridge, and then there's steel-cut oatmeal.




Rather than being steamed and rolled to form your standard oat, steel-cut oats are simply cut into smaller pieces, and while they take a little longer to cook, what it means is that you get a deliciously creamy, sweet nutty oatmeal with a fantastic chewiness, with nothing more than oats, water and a lazy Sunday morning.



steel-cut oatmeal with coconut sugar


And once you take the "kid in a candy store" approach, your possibilities become endless. Gorgeously chewy oat and barberry biscuits take a more interesting turn with the addition of rolled spelt, crispy bran flakes and some grassy amaranth...


rolled spelt and cranberry biscuits


And your everyday health bar gets a textural overhaul with the likes of puffed millet, quinoa flakes and whatever else you like, really...


fruit 'n nut bar


So I may have gone a little grain-crazy during the week, but once the weekend rolled around and the quinces were quietly poaching in the corner, it was time to play with the first of my adventurous flours.



still smells like heaven...


Kamut flour is produced from Khorasan wheat, an ancient grain tracing ancestry to Egypt and the Fertile Crescent of Mesopotamia. The flour itself has a straw-like nature in both colour and aroma, and lends a buttery flavour when used in all manner of baked goods. It's considered a high energy wheat, being high in protein and minerals such as magnesium, is organic, and grown in Australia so we can even feel a little less guilty about our daily food mileage.


spot the difference...


So although bread had been the recommendation, I decided my first foray with Kamut would be a dark and spicy gingerbread cake. Now I, for one, like my gingerbread hot, and so a recipe employing fresh ginger, ground black pepper and coffee seemed all the better to bake with.




 gingerbread cake 


Spicy it most certainly was, and the Kamut definitely leant a lovely earthiness that you wouldn't get with just your everyday flour. Alone it was perhaps a little dry, maybe more bread-like than cake, but warm with a smear of butter and I'd say you'd have a goer. That, or some poached quinces and a scoop of homemade vanilla bean ice cream if you're feeling rather more devilish...


nom!


I think that a lot of people tend to write wholefoods off as a sacrifice, something that loses much of its flavour and pleasure by virtue of being 'good for you'. But to me it's the exact opposite, and with the right supplier there's such an incredible opportunity for discovery. For my part, there are now new flavours and textures to experience and a wonderful scope for baking experimentation as recipes are tweaked to incorporate the different properties of these fabulous new ingredients. And for a nerdy baker like me, that's pretty damn exciting...