19 July 2011

Braised Tuscan Kale

I had potted some Tuscan Kale seedlings on the balcony which did very well until the plague of white butterfly caterpillars pillaged them to the stem. As is my way, I chopped off their heads and left them there to see what would happen. Lo and behold each stalk bore two new mini-kale heads, but unfortunately, mini is where it stopped as the winter frost and lack of sun stunted their growth to a rather sad point.

The first time I ever had Tuscan Kale was on a photography camp, where one of the lecturers happened to also be an amazing cook, and he made a dahl/curry/chickpea/tuscan kale extravaganza one night that will always be stuck in my head.

Margaret Fulton's Encyclopedia of Food has a pretty good generic recipe for dealing with all the leafy greens (which I will have to dig out to post here) which I vaguely remembered and re-used:

Melt butter in a pan
Add (tiny half cm squares) chopped onion and garlic, heat until onion is translucent
Add thinly sliced bacon, heat until cooked
Add sliced tuscan kale, heat until wilted and cooked through
Add pinenuts

Unfortunately with such a tiny harvest (both in leaf size and number) I got the ratios a bit wrong as you can see, but was a good excuse to have an excessively buttery bacony side dish to go with the bangers and mash Chris was making!

17 July 2011

Osso Bucco / braised shanks

I always love love loved Osso Bucco when eating out but had no idea how to even approach the idea... until the day I saw a recipe for Braised Veal Shanks by Neil Perry in one of those free Qantas inflight magazines (those recipes are amazing, remind me to show you my version of his Spaghetti Vongole too one day). I've searched and searched online for a link but I can't find it, so hopefully they won't mind me popping a quick pic of the clipping (which lives in my little recipe clipping folder on top of the fridge) on here as the original inspiration (you know me, I never truly follow a recipe):

The first time I made this, it was "four for ten dollars" lamb shank season at my local markets, so I made the recipe with lamb shanks, which I asked the butcher to slice into halves or thirds to resemble the classic "Osso Bucco" veal shank cut. Works a treat! This time I did it the proper way with the correct cut.

So basically I use "some shanks", toss in plain flour seasoned with salt and pepper, then brown all over in a heavy based pan in olive oil. I use an onion, half a garlic clove, three carrots and three celery sticks as I love all the trimmings just as much as the meat. Once cooked and softened I then add Kalamata olives, pitted and halved lengthways; a squeeze portion of tomato paste (you know you get those four to a box tinfoil jobbies from the supermarket?); 2 cups of wine & 2 cups of chicken stock from a box. I still use bay leaves and thyme and sometimes I add greek oregano/marjoram/parsley or rosemary in case of lamb, just depending on what's growing riot on the balcony. I usually forget to get the citrus fruits proper but I always have that bottle lemon juice in the fridge so I just squirt in some of that (and definitely leave out the orange if you're using lamb) and add back the shank slices. I must admit the lemon zest definitely gives the dish a great kick, as does a snifter of chili if you are so inclined. Then for the simmering uncovered, to be honest I have gotten away with 20-30 mins of a "generous" simmer (ie boil down) in a rush, but 45-60 mins of a gentle simmer is ideal for that perfect melt in your mouth meat heaven with bonus goopy bone marrow joy - as well as a helping to fragrance the house for the next day or two!

I serve on top of herbed (yes more herbs) cous cous - I just use the dry box stuff and pour over 1:1 boiling water with lots of chopped herbs, a tiny squeeze of lemon and fluff it with a fork. I don't personally love polenta that much, and I find the cous cous soaks up the flavour really well. Just remember though it seems to keep swelling up in your tummy, so be careful not to scarf down too much in the first go!

If you happen to have some nice olive sourdough or crusty bread for on the side, then so be it! Best comfort food ever for a nice snuggle on the couch on a cold winter's day...
...and if you don't have any cous cous, pasta is pretty good too!

16 July 2011

Watercress... it's the best!

(Backdated entry)

I've been going to the exact same fruit'n'veg stall at the markets since forever. A scavenge and a scrounge recently unearthed the fact that they don't stock watercress! Disaster. My balcony used to be my sole supplier of watercress for my many salads, soups and sandwiches cravings... in fact, I need to get my Dadsy's Chinese Watercress Soup, that reminds me...

Anyway, a walk across the way and I suddenly discovered the neighbouring stall, previously overlooked, has watercress in abundance! At only 1.99 per large box!

If you've never used watercress before, it's a peppery, crunchy treat raw in salads and sandwiches - in particular the tender baby leaves; or a beautiful, tender treat in soups and stews with a milder, robust "Chinese vegie" nommage to its stems and base leaves.

The markets that day had the most luscious looking rare roast beef I've ever seen just down "meat alley" as the other half calls it, as well as the standard olive bread, so here's what became of that (slathered with Philly cream cheese):

My all-time favourite is smoked trout, watercress, boiled potato & goat cheese salad. Here was my first attempt, well before the great balcony aphid plague of 2010:

Let me know if you have any other inspired watercress recipes!

10 July 2011

Kangaroo Ragoo

{First official bignomslittlenoms blogpost}

I learnt something new with this one, namely that Ragu is Italian for Ragout (French, from ragoƻter). Given that I was using Kanga Bangas (yes, that is what they are called), I've decided that it's Roo Ragoo.

Loosely based on my first port of call for most ideas, a quick search on taste.com.au, and the fact that I am on 13 hour shifts and only had some Kanga Bangas in the fridge to start with, I decided to construct my late night dinner (after Iron Chef of course).

The process went something like this:

Pull kanga bangas out of fridge (500g packet) to rest.

Boil water in kettle, pour into saucepan, salt liberally, chuck saucepan on stove on high heat.

Wash and finely chop broccoli - I quartered the florets and diced the stalk to 1cm cubes. Pop in microwave, set for "fresh vegetables 0.3kg".

(Sing along to Kasey Chambers and hubby's country-banjo infused duet version of Kylie Minogue's Can't Get You Out of My Head).

Put handful of dried pasta into saucepan - I used wide curly fettucine, because there was an open packet of it in a jar in the pantry. Note time, sort of, and mentally remind self what the time will be in 14 minutes - because that is what the packet told me was the "cooks in..." time.

Get another larger pan, pour olive oil in.

(Be grateful nowhere near as large and emotionally distressed as US Biggest Loser contestants).

Roughly chop garlic and chuck onto olive oil. Wonder why there are no onions anywhere in the house. Separate kanga banga sausage meat from skins (slice lengthways, unwrap) and smoosh with hands into oil in big bits. Best to wet hands first so meat doesn't stick. Meh. Wash hands.

(Tsk tsk at the Black Team for using their luxury prize to booze with its thousands of calories, and get on the gaspers!!!)

Liberally apply dried thyme, oregano, chili flakes, black pepper and then also freshly grind on fresh black pepper. Go nuts with the wooden spoon to break up all the bits of meat into little chunks. Give up on wooden spoon and switch to mega-spatula, which does the trick nicely. Splash some light soy sauce and balsamic vinegar over the mix.

Suddenly remember to attend to pasta which is boiling over, stir and unlid.
Open microwave because it is shouting at me regards the broccoli.

Back to the mix. Meat is browned, add a sort of cupful of water from the still-hot kettle, add a beef stock cube. Mix for a bit, allow to simmer while wrestling with pasta sauce jar lid (chunky tomato and herb a la that was the brand on discount du jour). Plop whole jar of pasta sauce in, with extra hot water into jar (quarter jarful-ish) to shake out all the claggy bits stuck to the insides of the jar and add that to the mix. Chuck in the broccoli bits, stir well, put lid on.

It's probably been 14 minutes and the pasta seems done, so turn gas burner off, pour into strainer. Curse self for forgetting to keep some of the starchy water to add to mix a la Jamie Oliver - next time. Keep warm over saucepan with lid on. Live in fear of bacillus cereus spores popping open at room temperature in grain foods.

Mix is boiling and looks a bit pale. Decide to add tinned tomatoes, same trick with hot water to get all the gooey goodness out of can. Pop out to balcony, freeze tits off, pluck a handful of flat leaf parsley, consider marjoram but hands are numb so back inside and shut the door! Wash and chop parsley, sprinkle some on pasta, some on mix. Be glad stirring boiling mix is warming my hands up. Grab jar of olives, rinse about half the jarful. Halve some, bivalve some and leave the rest intact and add to mix. Add a heap of grated parmesan (like, two big handfuls) and watch mix start to take form.

Give up on perfect consistency of "Ragoo" and decide to eat now as "Pasta Sauce" consistency. Refresh pasta with a pour of boiling water through the strainer. Serve pasta with generous spoonfuls of Roogoo atop, toss to serve and sit on couch to watch next segment of Biggest Loser. Decide to put rest of pasta in fridge, and get more black pepper for my bowl whilst I am up. Leave mix on stove on simmer to further consolidate into "Ragoo". Pop that into separate box in fridge after having finished my delicious dinner. Nom.

(Be glad I have had a balanced healthy meal that is hearty and delicious without whining or being SHOUTIER THAN A MICROWAVE AT A CELEBRITY PERSONAL TRAINER WHO IS REALLY JUST THERE TO HELP or concerned about my Blue or Black top or being weighed on national television).

Time for bed.

- There were requests on fbook for a picture, but despite being delicious it is not really a pretty sort of meal! I am reheating some today for lunch at work, if I can make it presentable I will take a photo for you...