Its a sunday cook off…

Sunday again… time to cook!

You do fall in and out of love, food it is for me, I also fall in and out of love with cookbooks; it’s possible! I was in love with the Ottolenghi’s, the food, the tastes, the whole daring do attitude, the unholy alliance of Israel and Lebanon seemed a challenge and we were told that their partnership was more than surface… all so interesting. Then I fell out of love with the whole experience.  It could just be that I was reacting to the world being in love with the boys and every where you turned there they were. I am of course just stubborn enough to do that. I can be fickle, when the world moves one way, I head off to the other. But that’s what makes me so charming!

I have lots of the world covered today, kitchen wise that is, all but the glorious US of A and I have to again confess that I just don’t know how to cover that food, frankly it scares me.

Vietnam… chicken thighs marinaded for 6 hours in loads of ginger, garlic and chilli with oyster sauce, a splidge of sugar, some fish sauce for salt and then grilled.

I prefer chicken thighs and I confess that I leave the skin on and the bone in, both seem to me to be important, resulting in better flavour, for six people I go down the path of having at least half as much again as numbers, so nine pieces of chicken to feed six, deep slashes on the skin side.

3 tablespoons of fish sauce

3 tablespoons Oyster Sauce

1.5 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce

1.5 tablespoon Lime Juice

2 cm piece of ginger grated

4 garlic cloves crushed and pounded with a little salt

1 tablespoon crushed palm sugar

Mix all together well. Place the chicken thighs into a flat dish, pour the marinade over allow to marinade for 6 hours, less is ok, but 4 hours is essential. Turn them often to make sure that the marinade gets into the meat.

Ideally if you have a charcoal barbeque then cook them over a good hot (but not flaming) bed of charcoal until well cooked on each side. In the event that you have not got a bbq, then they can be cooked on the stove top in a heavy based pan, its good to use a lid to allow some steam to build and cook them through. Chicken can dry out and so cooking these in the oven can be a bit fraught, as can cooking them under a grill which also tends to dry them.

Indonesia… I had a family request for peanuts sauce (to go over the chicken) and while I know that many Indonesians and Vietnamese will/would scratch their heads and sort of look confused, it will taste good.

1 or 2 shallots (they are the small oval shaped brown skinned onion… usually they are in segments.

2 cm piece of ginger

2 cm piece of galangal

2 – 3 cloves of garlic

1 piece of lemongrass trimmed of the tough outer and cut into 1 cm pieces

1 red chilli (deseeded and with the white ribs removed if you want milder heat)

1 tablespoon of palm sugar (crushed)

Place all of this into the food blender and pulse until a paste is made, don’t add water, try and get as smooth as possible. Fry this paste in a little oil, not olive oil, use peanut oil if possible, when caramel coloured, add 2 tablespoons of fish sauce and 1 small can of coconut cream, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, juice of one lime and two heaping dessertspoons of crunchy peanut butter. Cook all together slowly until thick and delicious.

Israel/Lebanon… I made the sweet potato warm salad from the Otto boys first book, it’s great. We have a lot to learn from Middle Eastern cuisine and its not all about preserved lemons and cumin. The way that the combinations of sweet and sour are used is delicious.

2 sweet potatoes (about 850g in total)

3 tbsp olive oil

35g pecans (or use any nut you have on hand, pistachios are good)

4 spring onions, cut into rings

4 tbsp chopped parsley

2 tbsp chopped coriander

¼ tsp flaked chilli

35g sultanas (raisins or even cranberries)

Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 190ºC. Don’t peel the sweet potatoes, cut into 2cm cubes, spread out on a baking tray and drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle with some salt and pepper, mix well, roast in the oven until the potatoes are just tender, about 30 minutes. Turn them over gently half way through the cooking.

In a separate tray, toast the pecans (or other nuts) in the oven for 5 minutes. Remove and chop roughly.

Dressing

60ml olive oil

2 tbsp maple syrup

1 tbsp sherry vinegar

1 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp orange juice

2 tsp grated fresh ginger

½ tsp ground cinnamon

The Dressing….whisk together all the ingredients in small bowl. Taste and add salt and pepper in needed.

When the potatoes are ready, transfer them to a large bowl while still hot. Add the spring onion, parsley, coriander, chilli, pecans (nuts) and sultanas. Pour the dressing over and toss gently to blend, then season to taste. Serve at once or at room temperature.

Me (a bit Turkish)… I roasted some dried peaches after I had soaked them for a few hours in hot water to plump them, I used some walnut oil and made a salad with some walnuts, green onions, loads of parsley and just a splidge of balsamic. I roasted a capsicum on the top of the stove, such a messy things to do, but worth it and that’s gone in too.

France… a Mescalin salad with the ubiquitous dressing that owes so much to its origins in France and which, when made properly, far surpasses any other.

I make this dressing in a pestle and mortar.

Crush 2 cloves of garlic with a little salt until a paste, add 1 heaped teaspoon mustard (Dijon or a good English mustard is just fine, mind you purists might say that English mustard is too hot, so perhaps if using that, cut back to half a teaspoon. I always add a splidge of sugar, just ½ a teaspoon and occasionally if I want a spicy version, a splash of Worcestershire sauce (purist have again dived under the table and are now beating their heads on the table leg whilst weeping).

Now is the time to decide on the oil… some would say that you are wasting good oil if you have added garlic and mustard since the tastes will in fact fight with the taste of the olive oil. I have to say that I use a good Spanish or Italian EVO, but the choice is yours. About 2/3rd of a cup and mix well. I am of the opinion that too much acid (vinegar or lemon juice) is not a good thing, so to 2/3rd of a cup I would add 1 tablespoon of acid… now purists may wish avert their eyes here, but I am known to add … malt vinegar, red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar or lemon juice, depending on the salad and what it is being eaten with. If in this case a dam fine mescalin, I would go the red wine vinegar route and I would not add the Worcestershire sauce and I would use the Dijon mustard.

Italy… I went yesterday to the Italian wholesalers and of course bought more bread than anyone decently has a right to do, but it is good.

Wine… my cellar, I am feeling generous, will wait till the guests arrive and let them choose.

Do I sound smug? I hope so, its all come together so well. After the bloody (just a tiny mention NOT lamb chops but 2 tooth that with the fastest of possible cooking times in a super hot pan, still turned out as tough as bloody old leather) sheep chops. I tell you my father, his father and all my fathers brothers will arise soon from graves that hold them and begin to haunt. I am so disillusioned by the whole sheep chop experience, as a kid it was one of the delights and we all fought for the tails, mum cooked them to death under the griller, but they were tender and succulent. What the hell is happening today. Jonathon Gianfrida of happy memory was the one who provided me with great thick chunky lamb (sheep) chops that always delivered in flavour and tenderness. Speaking to a fellow foodie and great lover of lamb, Jeanette tells me the advice she received from her butcher was to allow the meat to age a little before consumption… up to three or four days. I think its worth a try.

~ by peterwatsonfood on September 20, 2011.

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