Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Snap, Crackle, Quack!!

No, it's not a misguided Ricies commercial.  It is the next best thing for those who want to celebrate lard.  In a world of ever present fitness fanatics, Ab machines a plenty, and guilty gym memberships it's nice to have something to turn to when you really want to rebel.

I'm sure we've all had our experiences with Pork Crackling.  Friends and even family can become vehement enemies when a nicely roasted joint of pork comes out of the oven.  Suddenly everybody wants to carve.  Those 15 minutes waiting while the meat rests are laden with anticipation.  In my house no one is allowed in the kitchen during this period for fear of crackling thieves.  It's got to the point where equal crackling distribution almost requires an independent watchdog and flying in Jimmy Carter to oversee the negotiations.

Well now there's a new type of crackling in town.  Duck Crackling!

Now the thing with a whole duck is that it's a bit different to that clucking hen we're all used to cooking.  Ducks are a bit more agile.  Not content with roosting, scratching and pecking their way into early retirement the ducks active lifestyle results in a body shape with meat in all the right places....for movement that is.  Take away the breasts and the legs and all your left with is....well, a very lean carcass.

The one part of the duck which is not lean however is the skin.  Needing to keep themselves warm and dry as they saunter around the local pond looking for your stale bread crumbs a ducks skin has a decent layer of fat.  Wanting to extract the fat I searched through the internet for the best method and was delighted to find that not only could I easily extract the fat from my leftover duck bits, I could also create some Duck crackling!

Having already used the breasts and legs for other recipes I took my leftover carcass and cut off all the skin I could find.  It's best not to use the part around the neck as it doesn't have enough of a layer of fat to work.  Cut the skin into small chunks and place into a saucepan with about 1/2 cup of water.

Put onto a medium heat. And let it bubble slowly away.  What will happen is the fat will come out of the skin while the water evaporates.  After about 20 minutes you will be left with crisp bits of skin, no water, and all the extracted duck fat.

Remove the duck crackling from the pan and place onto paper towels to soak up the extra fat.  Sprinkle with salt and then fact covet these little morsels.  You'll feel wrong eating the first few, and you'll probably want to stop, but chances are you won't, chances are you'll be finding more duck recipes so you can wind up with another carcass and another bowl of juicy, crunchy duck bits.

With the fat, strain into a bowl and allow to cool down before covering with cling film and placing in the fridge.  I'm going to use this fat to make some gorgeous roast potatoes tomorrow night so will let you know how I get on.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Tea-Smoked Duck Breast Salad with Black Pudding, Roasted Beetroot and Blueberry Vinaigrette

One piece of advice I would give anyone who wants to do more in their cooking, or to anyone who is thinking about competing in a show like Masterchef, is to find that which you don't know.  Find it, read about it and then do it.  Not only will you have a great time discovering, but you will increase your knowledge and your skill set, and turn yourself into a better cook.

Reaching out to other styles of cooking not only gives you new skills but it also allows you to enhance your own cooking style.  The more you understand about food the more you can incorporate fresh ideas into your tried and true recipes.

I like to try out something new at least once a fortnight.  I'd been reading a few websites looking for some recipe inspiration when I stumbled across a recipe for Tea-Smoked Duck breast.  Over the years I've seen people attempting this before and always wondered what does that taste like!?  The idea of a smoky tea flavor seems unusual but if people are still doing it then there must be something to it.  Right?  Well let's see.......

To try out this technique I decided to use the duck breast in a salad I've been making for a few years now, pairing up the strong flavor of the duck with earthy beetroot and black pudding and then topping it with a blueberry vinaigrette.  We all know duck goes well with fruit and this combination of gamey, earthy, sweet flavors works really well on the palette.  If you're not a fan of black pudding you can leave it out and still have a tasty salad.

And don't be worried, you don't need a smoker to do this.  As long as you have a large wok or a deep saucepan with a firmly fitting lid, you are in business.

Serves 2, Cooking and Prep Time 1 hour 10 minutes.


1/2 cup rice
1/2 cup brown sugar
50g of your favorite loose tea leaves.
2 duck breasts

200g Black Pudding, sliced into 2cm pieces
1 Beetroot
1/2 red onion sliced very thinly
2 Handfuls of salad leaves

250g Blueberries
1/4 cup red wine
1 Tbsp Sugar
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/4 cup EV olive Oil


My smoking contraption.  A wok, two ramekins, a spaceship worth of tin foil, and a lid.
  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees C
  • Place the beetroot onto a piece of tinfoil, drizzle over olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Wrap in the tinfoil and then place into the oven for 1 hour.
  • To make the blueberry vinaigrette place the washed blueberries into a small saucepan add the red wine and the red wine vinegar and sugar.  Cook on a low heat for about 10 minutes until the blueberries have softened and turned into a glossy, thick sauce.  Pass the sauce through a sieve to remove any lumps.  Gradually add the olive oil, whisking constantly to make the dressing.
  • To prepare the duck you first need to score the skin.  Using a sharp knife run the blade across the skin lightly, cutting the surface but not penetrating right through into the meat.  Do this about every 1cm and then turn the duck breast 90 degrees and repeat the process to create a criss cross pattern.
  • Line the pan you decide to use for smoking with 2 layers of tin foil.  Put the tea leaves, brown sugar and rice into the bottom of the pan and then place a wire rack in the pan.
  • If you don't have a wire rack that will fit in your pan you can come up with something else.  As long as you can place the duck breast on something so it is above the base of the pan and the smoke can permeate around it you'll be fine.  I wound up using a couple of ramekins turned upside down!
  • Season your duck breast and place into the pan skin side up.
  • Put the pan on a high heat.  When you start to see some smoke turn the heat right down.  Be warned, this can get very smoky, hence the need for a tight fitting lid and a well ventilated kitchen!  Perhaps you better warn the neighbors about this one..... 

Cancerous Canard (the smoked duck)

  • Leave to smoke away for about 15 minutes, then remove the duck breast.
  • We want to finish the breast by getting the skin nice and crispy.  Place the breast, skin side down, into a cold pan without any oil.  Cook on low heat for about five minutes until the skin is crispy.  Leave the duck to rest.
  • Using the same pan turn the heat up and then add the black pudding slices.  Cook until crispy.  You won't need any extra oil for this.
  • When the beetroot is finshed cooking remove from the oven and tinfoil then leave to cool for about five minutes.  Peel the skin of the beetroot then slice into nice chunky wedges.  Be warned this will stain your hands!!
  • To serve combine the salad leaves and the thinly sliced red onion, dress with some of the blueberry vinaigrette dot over the roasted beetroot and black pudding, top with the duck breast and then decorate with some more of the vinaigrette.

Then sit down in your smoky house with your beetroot stained red hands, wondering how on earth you are going to clean that wok and enjoy your carefully crafted dinner!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Delving of the duck........

Shhhhhh, I'm writing this while I get a chance.  After the screening of the last episode of Masterchef it's fair to say that I am a wanted man.  Every time a duck flies past I look for cover.  Do they know?  Do duck's even watch Masterchef??  Who am I kidding.  Everyone watches Masterchef.

How long will this feathered foe feel compelled to frighten me.  I can't go on.........

And so it is, that I call a truce.  We must forget our past.  We both made mistakes.  Yes I shouldn't have been so brazen with your feelings and thrown you to the side without want nor care. But did you have to go and get yourself cooked so quickly......nay say BURNT!

Here and now we resolve this.  I hereby swear to buy one whole duck.  With this duck I will create and explore.  I will not rest until every part of this duck has been extracted for every ounce of goodness that it does possess.  No part shall go wasted.  No part shall wind up in the bin.  And furthermore......I will write down recipes so that all may enjoy.

Let it commence.  The Delving of the duck......

Alright enough paranoia.  I thought it might be fitting, knowing my impended fate, to seek some form of kitchen resolution by cooking the perfect duck breast over the weekend.  As it turns out duck breasts are quite a hard product to find!

After a trip to The Pyrenees deli in Mt Albert drew no results (but the discovery of proper lard-ons and Reblochon cheese, more on this later) I proceeded to a large Asian grocer in Mt Albert thinking they should have something.  Only the cooked version I'm afraid.  So it was with a bit of backtracking that I headed to Nosh, Ponsonby Rd and opened my wallet for their customary pillaging of all my spare change.

As it turns out a double duck breast was nigh on $18 where the whole bird was only $24.  My first thought was $6 for the most gorgeous roast potatoes ever?  Easy.  Then I started thinking surely I can get even more out of a whole bird.

How many meals could I get out of this Duck?  This is what I came up with:

  • Tea smoked Duck Breast served with a Black Pudding and Roasted Beetroot Salad dressed with Blueberry Vinigarette
  • Duck a l'Orange Salad with pine nuts and Bacon and an Orange Vinigarette
  • Roasted duck legs served with Tartiflette and green beans
  • Duck Crakling
  • Duck and mushroom Risotto
  • Potatoes roasted in duck fat

Duck seems to be a dish that is not given much attention in the average Kiwi's kitchen.  People seem prepared to leave this one on the Restaurant menus.

Why is this?  Do people not know how to cook it?  Obviously it's selective availability and relative high price prohibits it from the average family.

Do you cook duck?  What recipes do you use?

Let me know which recipe tingles your tastebuds and I'll get that one up first.  All recipes to be up over the next week!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Real Men eat Quiche

Any man would love a slice, surely?

 Ahhh quiche.  That perennial favourite of the summer bbq at the beach.  There's always one wife, mother, auntie, grandmother that has put together an eggy edifice for all to enjoy.  Always one of the ladies....

It's one of those urban legends that real men don't eat quiche.  A topic well covered in the bestseller from the 80's  by American Bruce Feirstein 'Real men don't eat Quiche'.  As wikipedia describes it ....

'A 'traditional' male might enjoy egg-and-bacon pie if his wife served it to him; a quiche-eater, or Sensitive New Age Guy would make the dish himself, call it by its French name quiche, and serve it to his female life partner to demonstrate his empathy with the Women's Movement. He would also wash up afterwards.'

I'm known in many circles for my masculinity.  At the crochet and flower pressing society I'm always the first one asked to open the jam jars.  So I thought why not test that masculinity, pause the Twilight movie and get cooking some quiche.

Before I put my apron on let's set some things straight.  This isn't going to be that tough eggy thing with whatever was left in the fridge in it, that you're used to.  I'm going to create the classic Quiche Lorraine. Top quality bacon set in a perfectly cooked creamy savory custard.  All set into a short pastry that needs to be both buttery and crumbly.  To give it a slight twist I'm going to throw in some slow cooked thyme flavored shallots to line the pastry, giving the quiche an extra dimension.


For the Pastry:
  • 175g Plain Flour plus extra for dusting
  • 115g Butter, Cold and Diced.
  • 25g Parmesan cheese (optional), finely grated.
  • Pinch of salt.
  • 4-6 Tbsp of Iced Water
 For the Filling:
  • 300g Good Quality Bacon
  • 6 Shallots
  • A few Thyme Leaves
  • 200g Gruyere Cheese (you can substitute with a cheddar or your favorite hard cheese)
  • 3 eggs
  • 150ml Cream
  • Salt and Pepper
For the cook:
  • A little extra bacon and a nice cold beer or glass of Pinot Grigio

To make the Pastry
  1. To make the pastry sift the flour and the salt into a large mixing bowl.  Add the cold diced butter and rub it into the flour with the tips of your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  This should take about five minutes
  2. Stir in the grated cheese then add enough of the water to bind the mixture into a dough.  This varies a little but usually uses the full 6 Tbsp.
  3. Shape the dough into a ball, wrap in cling film and then pop in the refrigerator to chill for at least 20 minutes.  During this time you can prepare the filling.
  4. Once the Pastry has rested remove from the fridge and then leave for a few minutes to warm slightly which will make it easier to roll.
  5. Lightly flour your work surface and then roll out the pastry into a circle until it is about 3mm thick.  When using your rolling pin always roll forward, not backward.  To get the pastry in a circle roll forward three times, then turn the pastry 45 degrees and roll another three times.  Repeat this process until pastry is desired thickness.
  6. Roll the prepared pastry onto your rolling pin and then unroll it over a 23cm/9 inch quiche tin as seen in the picture.
  7. Press the rolling pin over the tin which should cut off the extra pastry.  Otherwise use a knife.  Roll a bit of the pastry into a ball and then press the lined pastry into the tin, making a nice snug fit.  
  8. Prick the pastry about six times with a fork and then place the tin into the fridge for about 10-15 minutes.  This lets the pastry rest after you have worked it and prevents the case from shrinking when it is cooked.  
  9. While you're waiting preheat the oven to 180 C.  Take the pastry out of the fridge and then line with baking paper.  Fill the baking paper with blind baking weights (little ceramic balls) or if you don't have these you can use uncooked rice or beans. 
  10. Cook for about fifteen minutes until starting to colour.  Remove from the oven and remove the baking paper with weights.  
  11. Place the case back in the oven for a further 7 minutes to cook through.  
  12. To finish the case brush a beaten egg yolk onto the pastry and cook for a further minute.  This protects the pastry from the wet custard that you are going to put into the case.  Turn the oven down to 160 degrees.

For the filling:
  1. Peel and slice the shallots.  
  2. Heat a tbsp of olive oil in a pan on a low heat and then add the thyme and shallots.  Cook the shallots slowly for about 20 minutes, stirring every now and again so they don't burn, and then leave to cool down.
  3. Cook the bacon until crispy and then slice into small pieces.
  4. Combine the eggs and cream in a bowl and then whisk.  Season with salt and pepper.
Put it Together
  1. Line the cooked pastry case with the cheese, then shallots, then bacon.
  2. Fill the pasty case almost to the rim and then place into the oven.  Then fill the pastry case to the top with the rest of the cream mixture
  3. Cook for about 25-30 minutes until the custard is set.
  4. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for at least ten minutes before removing from the pastry tin.  You can then either leave it to cool down or eat hot.
  5. Serve with a nice light salad or take it along to your next manly BBQ instead of a piece of steak.  Go on I dare you.. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

O' Sarracino - Restaurant Review

3-5 Mt Eden Terrace,
Eden Terrace

Ph 09 309 3740

When you're a traveler you learn to associate food with location.  Memories of Bangers and Mash in an English Country pub, Grilled Sardines by the Mediterranean in Portugal, dumplings in Hong Kong, Burgers in California.  Food becomes much more than a form of sustenance.  It develops an identity, a character, a story.

Perhaps that's why O'Sarracino is such a special place.  The Napoletan-Italian Restaurant that has been in Eden Tce for 3 years now is like a slice out of Italy.  It takes me back.  Around the world Italy was the country which had the most affect on me.  I fell in love with the country, the culture, the art and the food.  Their casual but passionate approach to food, love, family, and life.  Part of any cooks journey is learning to bring out a food's natural flavor, and the Italians do this oh so well.

The proprietor of the establishment, Gaetano Spinosa, was of course the guest chef for Episode 4 of the second series of Masterchef.  Contestants were asked to take the judges to Italy, and Gaetano, as the resident Don of Italian cuisine, was there to help the contestants remain on the correct flight path.

Having already won Cuisine Magazine's best specialist restaurant award O'Sarracino is already firmly on the culinary map.  However, been privy to Gaetano's talents before his appearance on National Television I decided it would be best to check out the home of his passion before the rest of Auckland starts turning up on his doorstep.  The 1st wedding anniversary was upon me and so without hesitation I made a reservation.

Antipasti Take 1
We walk into a busy, boisterous but relaxed restaurant.  Most of the tables are occupied and there is a sea of smiling faces and the drone of dinner conversations, suggesting happy food and happy people.  It appears there may not be many uncomfortable silences in this restaurant.  Any pause for feeding is quickly followed with an ooohhh, or an mmmmmm, or a burp if there are too many Westies out that evening.

Antipasti Take 2
Welcomed into the restaurant we are quickly guided to our waiting table.  The decor and surroundings are simple yet the room is full of ambiance.  Some people might think that you need soft lighting and a feature wall to create ambiance but lets cut the crap.  Those things are nice, but simply a foil.  What we really want when we go out is great food.  Great food leads to great times.  Great times lead to great people.  Great people lead to great ambiance.  Great ambiance leads to.........hang on, back to the food.
It is without hesitation that we order the Antipasto della Casa to start.  What better way to get an indication of the restaurant than their own selection of the best flavours of Italy.  And boy, we were not disappointed.  Within a few moments out comes a plethora of pocket sized treats.  Deep fried eggplant, capsicum, courgettes, prawns, squid, olives, cured meats, breads, tomatoes, basil, mozarella......everything you could ever want on a platter.  And the quality!  Every mouth-watering morsel was better than the next.

There were two real stars on this platter.  The first one being the Casatiello.  A rich dense bread stuffed with salami, pancetta and cheese.  A typical Napoletana bread, Gaetano's version is dense and full of savory goodness.  Drizzled with the best of olive oils it is so good that I have to ask Gaetano if I can take a loaf home for my breakfast!  Also gathering more than it's fair share of attention in this platter of perfection is a wonderful combination of breasola (cured beef) with ricotta and more ample lashings of olive oil.  The bite of the beef is washed back by the creaminess of the ricotta and held together with the clean, almost peppery flavor of the olive oil.

I'm going to find it hard ordering an antipasti from anywhere else after this experience.  Mock Italian Restaurants of Auckland beware.

Snapper with a Tomato sauce
Sumptuous starters were followed by tasty mains.  My Ravioli stuffed with Ricotta and Spinach served with Gorgonzola and Walnut Sauce had perfectly al dente pasta covered in a super rich sauce.  If anything the Ravioli filling was a bit lost with the strength of the sauce but the combination of the Walnuts and Gorgonzola had me constantly working towards another forkful.  Kelly's Snapper with Cherry Tomato, Prawn, Olive and caper Sauce was perfectly cooked.  The fish flaking gently with the merest motion.  The sweet and sour combination of the tomatoes, capers and olives worked perfectly together.

Sumptuous Ravioli
Walking around the tables is the man himself.  Gaetano not only promises to deliver you food from the heart, but he ensures that you know that's exactly where it's coming from by presenting the food directly to your table.

Desserts on offer seem a little less inspiring than the courses that have preceded it.  With little options on the actual menu it's a case of sampling what is in the pastry cabinet that particular evening.  Our options are Cannoli, the ricotta stuffed pastry case adorned with pistachio nuts, Panna Cotta and a Chocolate Mousse.  My wife's attempt to have a light sorbet was met with Gaetano's arrival where he insisted that sorbet is boring and she should finish a lovely meal with the 'light' chocolate mousse instead.  She caved into the accent and the charm, and I'm sure she's not the first.

One thing you can always be sure of in a good Italian restaurant is a proper espresso.  So with that and a shot of golden grappa we finish the evening and walk out content, happy and singing Dean Martin.  That's Amore mi amici.  That's Amore.

Food 8/10
Service 8/10
Value 7/10
Overall 8/10

Price for two with wine, coffee and extras $170

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Tarakihi with a corn corriander and lime salsa

Travelling frequently to my parents abode in Rotorua I often stream past fields and fields of New Zealand's own sweetcorn.  Now is the perfect time to make the most of this sweet grain.  Eating a whole husk of sweetcorn is one of the less gracious actions that can take place at a dinner table.  If half of it doesn't wind up between your teeth then the rest will probably be on the far reaches of your cheeks and chin.  Or is that just me?

We're going to make it easier for the less graceful and save on a few napkins by cutting the cooked sweetcorn from the husk and incorporating it into a fantastic lime flavored salsa. We're going to top the salsa with a Tarakihi fillet lightly spiced with cumin.  Tarakihi, for my foreign guests, is a common fish found in the waters of New Zealand.  It has medium firm white flesh and you can easily replace this with any white fleshed fish you like.  In fact no need to limit it to fish.  This salsa works perfectly well with Chicken too.

This is a light and vibrant meal perfect for enjoying on a long summer day.  It also has two fabulous advantages.  It's healthy and it's quick and easy to put together!

Serves 2
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook time 15 minutes


2 fillets of Tarakihi, or any white fleshed fish
1tsp Ground Cumin (if you have seeds, dry fry them and crush yourself for a much better flavor)

1 Sweetcorn
1 Avocado
1 Red Capsicum
1/2 red onion
Juice of 1 lime

To make the Salsa

  • Bring a pot of Water to the boil.  Remove the sheath from the corn and place it into the boiling water and cook for 10 minutes.  To check the corn is cooked you can push the kernels with the back of a fork.  If they give a little but spring back you're in business.  Remove from the pan and leave to cool.
  • Dice the red pepper and the onion.  Put 1 Tbsp Olive oil in a pan and cook the pepper and onion for about 5 minutes.  You don't want to cook them right through, but just get rid of some of that bite that would exist if they were raw.
  • Using a knife cut the corn kernels off the husk and break them up so that you have your individual pieces of corn.
  • Dice the Avocado and combine with the red onion, red pepper and corn kernels.
  • Squeeze over the juice of the lime.  Add some finely chopped corriander and drizzle some good quality EV Olive oil into the mix.

To cook the Fish

  • Pat the fish dry with a paper towel.  Coat the fillets with the cumin and season with salt and pepper.
  • Place 1 Tbsp Olive Oil and a small knob of butter in a frying pan on medium heat.
  • Cook the fillets for about 3 minutes either side until cooked through.  

To Serve

  • Place the Salsa on a plate and top with the fillets.  Eat and Enjoy!

    Sunday, March 6, 2011

    Lamb rack with Pumpkin and Cinnamon puree, Honey roasted Shallots, Beetroot stack and Minted peas.

    In honor of the latest lot of lamb recipes in the Masterchef kitchen it's thyme to rack up some sweet ideas for a shallot of recipes that even a beetroot would be minted at, before we all turn into pumpkins.

    Hopefully this dish I decided to create won't be as confused as that sentence.

    I love Sunday dinner.  Generally by Sunday you've had your fun, done your chores, pretended to do something manly, and have a few hours spare to put some real effort into the kitchen.

    During the week it had dawned on me that I had never, ever, cooked a lamb rack.  I'd eaten lamb rack.  I'd enjoyed lamb rack.  I possibly even dreamed about lamb rack.  But I'd never cooked lamb rack.  Such an anomaly could not be allowed to fester so it was with great delight that I decided this Sunday I would break that duck.....or lamb as it may be.

    The lamb rack comes from the mid section of the lamb called the loin, and it has some of the tenderest meat you can find, across all the animals.  Most butchers will sell it already french trimmed, which means the fat that covers the top 2-3 inches of the bones has been removed.  If you want to be a perfectionist you'll need to tidy it up a bit more.  Just use a small knife running it along the bones to remove any little bits of sinew or meat, exposing the bone.  This will result in the cooked rack looking tidy and ready for a Michelin star kitchen!

    Don't be put off by the many components here.  It really is a very simple dish to put together, and can be ready in just over an hour.


    300g Lamb Rack, French Trimmed.
    4 sprigs of thyme
    2 garlic cloves

    400g Pumpkin
    1 small Potato
    1/4 tsp Cinnamon
    30g Butter
    100ml cream

    12 Shallots
    1Tbsp Honey

    Handful of Mint
    2 tsp White Balsamic Vinegar
    1 tsp caster Sugar
    3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

    1 Large Beetroot

    1/2 cup frozen peas


    • Preheat oven to 180 Celsius
    • The first step is to get the beetroot ready.  Cut any excess stalk from the beetroot, but make sure you leave at least an inch on as you don't want to puncture the flesh, or it will bleed out all it's flavor when cooking.  Place in enough tin foil to cover and then drizzle on some olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Wrap tightly in the tin foil and place into a hot oven, cooking for just over an hour.
    • Next we will make the Mint oil.  Finely chop all the mint and place in a mortar and pestle with the sugar and balsamic vinegar.  Mash the mixture up with the pestle and slowly drizzle in the olive oil.  Leave the mixture to infuse while you make the rest of the dish.
    • To make the Pumpkin Puree we are going to Roast the pumpkin, as if we boiled it it might become a bit wet for the puree.  Cut the pumpkin into large chunks and place in a roasting tray.  Drizzle over some olive oil and season, then put in the oven for 45 minutes or until tender.
    • When the Pumpkin has been cooking for about 30 minutes put the potato into some boiling salted water and cook until tender, between 15-20 minutes.
    • Peel the shallots and place them in a small oven proof dish.  Coat in Olive Oil and season.  Place in the oven for about 20-30 minutes, depending on the size of the shallots.  Remove from the oven and then drizzle over the honey, coating the shallots liberally.  Place back in the oven for 5 minutes so that the shallots get a nice sticky sweet glaze from the honey.
    • Take your lamb rack and cut it so that each piece has three ribs.  We're going to cover the exposed bones individually, with tin foil.  This will prevent the bones from getting burnt while the meat is cooking.  Cut a garlic clove in half and crush it gently with the side of a knife to get the oils going.  Rub the garlic clove, cut side down, all over the lamb rack.  Season the meat liberally with salt and pepper.
    • Heat 1Tbsp Olive oil in an oven proof frying pan on medium-high heat.  Place two cloves of crushed garlic and the bruised thyme sprigs (bruise them by crushing with your knife handle) into the pan to flavor the oil.  Sear the Lamb rack on all sides.  The idea is to give the meat color, but not cook it through.  It should take only a minute on each side if the pan is hot enough.
    • Place the seared meat into the oven and continue cooking for a further 10-15 minutes, depending on how rare you like your meat.  10 for rare 15 for medium.  Well done?  You shouldn't be ordering such succulent meat if you're going to cook it so much.  Go for the chicken.  Well done chicken is good.  Once the lamb is cooked, remove from the oven, cover loosely with foil and let rest for 8 minutes.
    • Take the Pumpkin out of the oven, remove any skin.  Combine with the drained Potatoes, Cinnamon, Butter and Cream then mash until it is as smooth as you can get it.  To ensure we get a super silky finish we want to then push the mixture through a sieve with the back of a spoon, back into the saucepan.  Heat the mixture through and add more cream if necessary to get a puree that is slightly wetter than mash, but not so wet that it dribbles on the plate.  Season with salt and pepper.  A little hint, mash and purees usually need a lot more salt than you would expect.  Just season and taste, season and taste, until you are happy.  You can always add more salt, but you can never take it away!
    • Cook the peas in the microwave or stove top according to the packet instructions.
    • When the Beetroot is cooked remove from the oven unwrap from the tinfoil and leave to cool for a few minutes.  Peel the skin of the beetroot with a knife.  Note, this will stain your hands so wear gloves if you can, or use paper towels as I do.  Cut the beetroot into small cubes, about 2x2 cm.


    Take a good dollop of the pumpkin and place it on the plate.  Place the Lamb rack on top.   Stack the beetroot cubes into a perfect pyramid and then dot around the plate the honey glazed shallots.  Finish by drizzling the mint oil here and there and throwing a few peas at it.


    Tuesday, March 1, 2011

    Crispy Pork Belly served on Cannellini Beans, Golden Kumara and Courgette, dressed with Gremolata

    Mmmm, Pork Belly.  One of those ingredients which nutritionists would roll their eyes at, with enough fat to keep a polar bear warm over winter, pork belly is one of those indulgent treats.  It's bad for you, but it tastes good.  Everything in moderation right?  So please, only every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday with this recipe, ok?

    Make sure you buy a whole piece of pork belly, rather than the slices, or 'fingers', which are often sold in supermarkets.   Most good supermarkets and all butchers can help you out.

    The key here is to get fantastic crackling, which we do with high heat, and tender moist meat, which we do with long, slow heat.  So it's really a bit of a mix and match with the cooking. To help us get the perfect crackling we're going to utilize a technique that originates in China.  All over Peking you will find whole ducks being immersed briefly in boiling water which acts to tighten the skin and start the cooking of the fat.

    The meat is enhanced through a fantastic marinade of Fennel seeds, Lemon, Garlic and a dash of chilli and cumin.  We're going to serve this slab of perfection upon a vegetable medley mixed with the glorious Cannellini beans (my favorite of the bean family) and to finish we will dress it with a Gremolata.

    This dish would be best served as an alternative to a Sunday roast, when you want something a bit different to lamb, as to get best results you really need a bit of time.

    Serves 4         
    Prep Time 30 minutes     
    Marinade Time At least 2 hours, preferably overnight
    Cooking Time 2 1/2 hours


    750g Pork Belly
    1 Tbsp Fennel Seeds
    Juice of Half a Lemon
    2 tsp Minced Garlic
    1tsp Ground Cumin
    1/2 tsp Chilli Flakes
    6 black peppercorns
    1 Tbsp Olive Oil

    1 Large Golden Kumara, cut into 1cm x 1cm chunks
    1 Courgette, cut the same
    1 Red onion, finely diced
    1 400g can Cannellini Beans (pre cooked)

    1 Lemon.  Zest and Juice
    2 Garlic Cloves, finely diced
    1 Bunch Parsley
    2 Tbsp Olive Oil

    Making the Marinade

    • Dry fry the fennel seeds for about a minute until they are fragrant.  Then do the same with the cumin seeds.
    • Using a mortar and pestle grind the Fennel seeds, Cumin, Pepper and Chilli into a powder.  Add the olive oil and garlic ans squeeze over the juice of half a lemon.
    • Mix thoroughly
    • Take the Pork Belly and make deep cuts across the skin, about every 3cm, cutting most of the way through the fat, but not so far that you can see the meat.
    • Unroll a piece of glad wrap large enough to wrap the pork. Place the Pork skin side down on the glad wrap and then coat the meat with your marinade. Wrap up the meat tightly, then put on a plate and into the fridge to marinade for at least two hours. 

    Cooking the meat

    • Put the kettle on and preheat your oven to 240 Celsius.  Not for a cup of tea, but for getting your crackling nice and crispy!
    • Take the pork out from the fridge and unwrap the glad wrap.  Season the meat side of the pork with plenty of salt then place the pork meat side down onto a wire rack inside a roasting dish, ensuring there is a good gap between the rack and the bottom of the roasting dish.
    • Carefully pour boiling water over the skin of the pork.  You will see it start to pucker up, and get tighter.  What you are doing is increasing the temperature of the fat, which is going to help it to get nice and crunchy.  You want the water to go into the roasting dish under the pork until it sits just below, and not touching the meat.  This will help to keep the meat moist while cooking.
    • Pat the skin dry and then season liberally with salt.
    • Place the Pork into the hot oven for 20-25 minutes.  By this time the skin should be nice and golden and crispy.  You can then turn the oven right down to 100 Celsius and leave it to cook for a further 2 hours.

    Making the Vegetable Medley

    • When the Pork has about 30 minutes left you can start the Vegetable Medley.
    • Place the Kumara into a pot of boiling, salted water and par boil for about 5-7 minutes.  Drain
    • Heat 1 Tbsp Olive oil in a frying pan and cook the par boiled Kumara for about 10 minutes on medium heat, until they are nice and golden. Remove from the frying pan
    • Heat a further Tbsp Olive Oil and then fry the red onion and courgette for about 5-7 minutes until the onion is cooked and the courgettes are nicely browned.
    • Put the Kumara back into the pan and then add the finely chopped garlic, chopped parsley, zest of the lemon and the juice of the remaining half a lemon.  Fry for a few minutes until the garlic is cooked.
    • Add the drained and rinsed Cannellini beans.  Heat through
    • Take the Medley off the heat and then drizzle over some good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

    Put it together

    • Take the Pork out of the oven.  If the skin is not as crispy as you would like it you can finish it under the grill but be careful as it can quickly go from not crispy to extra burny crispy!  Leave the meat to rest for at least ten minutes
    • Cut the pork across the belly in the same parts that you scored the skin.
    • Place a decent portion of the vegetable medley onto a plate and top with two slices of the sumptuous pork belly.
    • Serve and enjoy, matched with a nice dry Reisling.  The acidity and sweetness will help to cut through the fat and pair up with the lemon to give an all over taste bud experience.

     And try not to get too addicted to Pork Belly.  I'm almost starting to Oink.

    Let's start this food blog up.....

     Hello, and welcome to the beginning of my passion.  My name is Anthony and I am a boy who loves his food.  It's the centre of my creativeness and the source of my sustenance and as such I wanna give all I can to the pursuit of tasty treats of gastronomy.

    A few months ago I started a journey.  Pushed into a competition by well wishing family and friends I tried to pit myself against the might of the best amateur cooks in New Zealand by entering the second series of the reality TV show, Masterchef.

    I met great people and had some fantastic foodie experiences, but overall I ignited a passion.  A realization that food is it.  This beautiful bounty which we are bestowed with every day.  Something so simple.  Raw ingredients of nature, which can be turned into a thing of true magnificence.

    This blog starts off as the burning flame of that passion.  Here I hope to share with you thoughts about food, great recipes, the odd disaster, and some fanciful thoughts along the way.  When I come across a great place to eat in Auckland I'll let you know.  I also want to showcase the best New Zealand has to offer by highlighting the great artisan products that us Kiwi's are giving a go.