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Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Middle Eastern Lamb Shanks with Coriander Pesto

We love our lamb shanks. Once given to the dog they weren't regarded as anything special. To my knowledge they were not even sold separately. Now they are a culinary must for a winter dinner. Slow cooked, meat falling off the bone, unctuous, glossy and full off flavour. Whilst they should be, they are not an incredibly cheap meal as they once would have been. Paying by weight there is often more bone than meat. You will need at least one for each person, maybe one and a half to two for men.
The dish can be prepared a day ahead and as is the case with all casserole type dishes it is often better the next day. Particularly yummy, if you have any left over take the meat off the bone and serve it with pasta perhaps a wide ribbon pasta, for another meal.
I have made shanks in many ways, with orange and dates and tomatoes. I taught this for many years in my cooking classes and it is by far my favourite. Spicy and sweet and full of flavour. The following amounts will feed 8-10 people.

150 ml canola oil
10 lamb shanks
2 onions, chopped
large bunch coriander
1 heaped teaspoon turmeric
30 grams  ground coriander
30 grams ground cumin
2 red chillies
2 cinnamon sticks
1/4 cup fresh ginger grated
2 pinches saffron
1/4 cup honey
2 cloves garlic sliced
150 ml white wine
chicken stock
approx 20 dried apricots.

Coriander Pesto

2 bunches coriander
2 cloves garlic
150 grams walnuts
2 green chillies
150 grams grated parmesan

Place all of ground cumin, coriander, chillies, honey and fresh coriander into a food processor and blend. Heat the oil in a large pot and brown the shanks. Remove from pan and set aside. Fry the chopped onion in the pan and add the blended spices and honey mixture to the onion, with the garlic turmeric, ginger, cinnamon sticks and saffron and continue fry.
Add the stock and wine and stir. Return the shanks to the pot making sure all the shanks are covered.
Bake in a slow oven for 2 1/2 hours. If you want to do it a little faster, turn the oven to 200C and cook for 1 1/2 hours. When cooked remove the shanks, pour the liquid into a saucepan and simmer.
Leave to cool and skim the fat off. Strain the sauce and reduce slightly.
Add the apricots and simmer  gently. Add the coriander pesto and 2 tablespoons butter. If your guests may not want the extra chilli leave out the coriander pesto and serve it as a side, just add the butter.
Serve the shanks on a bed of cubed sweet potato roasted with onion. Pour the sauce over and drizzle with mint yoghurt and preserved lemon. I served the dish with risoni and sweet potato last night!

Monday, 22 April 2013

Beef and Guiness Pie

Now the weather is getting a little cooler we tend to think of warming meals. The great Aussie beef pie comes to mind always a favourite and staple at any sporting match and hopefully on a grander scale at the kitchen table. There are some really good pies out there to buy moist fabulous fillings.
Byron Gourmet Pie company makes a delicious pie with fillings like Mexican, Ratatouille  Thai Chicken and of course a Steak. Not being readily available at the time,  I decided to make my own variety. Seriously you can really put any filling into a pie. For some reason everyone loves a meal in pastry and you can make it look very smart with little decorations on the pie top.  Don't fret about the pastry these are easy ! A ramekin with a pastry lid. This recipe made 4 pies, but make more of the meat mixture and keep for another meal. This is very hearty and has a rich luscious sauce. The meat is very tender, helped along by the Guinness !

1 kilo chuck steak
2 cups beef stock
400 ml of Guinness beer
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 onion chopped
3 cloves garlic crushed
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons plain flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
fresh thyme
salt and pepper
1 egg
1 packet frozen puff pastry
4 x 250 ml ramekins

Chop the steak into cubes. Place into a plastic bag with the flour and shake until the meat is totally covered in flour. Heat the olive oil in a large casserole dish and brown the meat. Remove from the pan.
Fry the onion and garlic until translucent. Return the meat to the pan with the stock, beer, tomatoes,
sugar, thyme salt and pepper. Make sure the meat is covered with the liquid, and the pot has a lid on it.
Simmer on the stove top, for approximately 2 hours. The sauce will be really rich and glossy. Stir the meat every 20 minutes to stop it catching on the bottom.
When cooked set aside to cool. This step can be done well ahead.
Remove the frozen pastry from the freezer and let thaw. It is easier to work with if it is still slightly frozen.
Cut a piece of pastry about an inch bigger all round than the ramekin, and grease the edge of the dish.
Place equal amounts of the meet mixture into the dishes and cover with the pastry lid, pressing it firmly into the edge of the dish, with the flat side of a fork prongs. Make a small air hole in the lid, brush with beaten egg and place on a tray in the oven and cook for about 20 minutes or until pastry is puffed and golden. Warning they are very hot so let them sit awhile before serving or warn your guests !
I served them with some ginger sweet potato mash and some cherry tomatoes cooked gently in balsamic vinegar in a frypan on top of the stove. Garlic beans would be lovely as well.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Pork Fritters with Sweet Chilli Sauce

My son James decided to cook dinner two nights ago using his brand new slow cooker. I had a very large piece of pork here which he cooked Kylie Kwong style in an Asian master stock. The result was delicious, but we did have enough pork left for another meal.
Rather than have it with a salad or reheated with vegetables, I decided to make the meat into fritters.
My grandmother and mother in turn always did this with leftover meat when I was young. I fished out the old cook book and there was the fritter batter recipe. Lamb or beef would also be equally delicious.
Two schools of thought on the meat, some chop it up and some slice it. I grew up with the slice method, but I am sure it doesn't matter a bit. The end result is yummy, filling and comforting. Serve it with the salad or vegetables and a sweet chilli sauce, or a really good relish.

2 cups Plain flour
2 teaspoons  baking powder
3/4 cup milk
pinch of salt
3 eggs

Sliced  leftover cooked meat of your choice. I had about 10 slices but put smaller bits together, to make decent sized fritters.
Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Beat eggs and milk together. Make a well int he centre of the flour and pour egg mixture into middle in a steady stream. Gradually incorporate the flour into the egg, beating into a smooth batter. You could also put the flour into a food processor, add the egg and milk mixture and blend to a smooth batter.
It is better for the mixture to stand a couple of hours before use, but an hour at least please.
Dip the pieces of meat into the batter and coat well.
Use a shallow fry pan and a small amount of oil. Heat the oil and fry the fritters 3-4 at a time until golden. Remove and drain on absorbent paper and serve immediately.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Green Tea and Five Flower Pannacotta

This beautiful dessert is so incredibly easy. You can experiment with many flavours or tea infusions. Traditionally Italian in origin it simply means boiled cream.
On our trip to Thailand we had the most fabulous meal at the Issaya Siamese Club. Memorable for many reasons, not only the food but the location and the amazing staff.
It is set  a little on the outskirts of the city in a large Thai mansion with garden and terraces. The chef Ian Kittichai who apprenticed at Claudes in Sydney, offers traditional Thai dishes with an international twist. The dining area is surrounded by an aromatic garden full of herbs, which are used in the kitchen.
The entire meal was superb. We chose the banquet amazing slow braised ribs and massamun lamb shanks, gorgeous canapés, all  presented in the most delightful array of baskets and dishes
The finale of the meal was a jasmine pannacotta, which was to die for. I love deserts like this, very light and sweet enough to finish off the spicy and intense flavours of the mains.
I chose to make one for my son's birthday dinner on my return. I didn't have any jasmine tea but did have this beautiful, green tea with strawberries, sunflower petal, rose petal, cornflower blossom and lemon. It was just as lovely and I am sure you could experiment with many different teas, that are on the market these days. Probably find an infusion you love and try it, I am sure it won't disappoint.
Coincidentally Neil Perry had a jasmine pannacotta in last Saturdays paper. he uses eggs and I haven't in this recipe.

400 mls Cream
200 mls Coconut milk ( use light if you are having the guilt's ) or use 150 mils milk
4  good quality Gelatine leaves
120 grams castor sugar
3 tea bags of your favourite infusion.
For decoration I used toasted shredded coconut.

Place the gelatine leaves in a bowl of water until softened. Put the cream and coconut milk into a saucepan to simmer gently. As it warms add the sugar and the tea bags and simmer gently for about 5 mins. Turn off the heat and remove the tea bags, being very careful not to break them. If this happens you will have to strain the tea out. Squeeze the gelatine leaves out and discard the water. Put the leaves into the cream mixture and whisk continuously until dissolved.
Lightly grease small moulds or ramekins and pour equal amounts into each. This should make 6 pannacotta. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
To remove them from the moulds run the dish under hot water, run a very sharp knife around the edge and turn upside down onto your serving plate.
I garnished with the toasted coconut, simply toasted in the oven on a baking tray. It doesn't take long , so stay close. Serve with berries or a fruit coulis.