Morcilla Morsels

Some of the reactions I get from people when I describe black pudding are downright amusing.

To be fair though, I can’t really blame someone for scrunching their face when I explain it’s a sausage made from congealed pigs blood, herbs and spices.

90% of the time I have to follow the explanation with “It sounds gross, however…” but the fact is, black pudding (or Morcilla as we call it in Argentina) is a rich and delicious dish.

In Argentina, we throw these on the BBQ with the beef ribs and chorizo. Due to their richness, you generally won’t eat a whole one but certainly add it to your meal.

I’ve noticed over the last few years restaurants have been including it on their menus which is great to see. You will most commonly see it served with scallops, which is what I decided to go for this weekend.

I thought it would be a great idea to serve it with pickled vegetables and a beetroot and roast garlic puree.

Don’t be scared to try this wonderful dish!

Morcilla - try it!

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Pickled Vegetables

Vegetables ready for pickling. Threw in some star anise, cloves, coriander seeds and black peppercorns to a 3:2 water:vinegar ratio. I’m hoping the thinner pieces pickle by this weekend!

Pickles - Crunch in the making

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Braised Pork Ribs

Succulent braised pork ribs with cocktail onions for that sweetness and sauteed red cabbage with apple cider vinegar and sugar for a tangy bit of crunch.

Braisin'

Sucky camera, tasty pork.

Sucky camera, tasty pork.

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All ducks in a row

I’ve been toying with the idea of cooking duck for a very long time, specially after seeing this video. I wanted to put a dish together that was not only elegant but also incorporated a variety of flavour profiles as duck meat is a little more robust and has a gamey taste.

If you have never had the pleasure of eating duck – do yourself a massive favour and try it.

I was able to get duck breast from Prime Quality Meats in Balgowlah stocklands. 2 Duck breasts set me back $23 which is quite pricey, but well worth it. Even more reason to create a dish that would do justice to it!

I had a good think about what I wanted on the plate. I wanted different textures, I wanted some acidity to cut the richness of the duck and I also really really wanted artichokes.

There was actually a fair amount of prep I had to do before I could put it all together. The artichokes were probably the most fiddly part, I almost messed up my potatoes which would have messed up my timings and to be honest, the amount of food that was produced for the amount of work was minimal! However, the end result, in my opinion was well worth it.

Duck - Done.

Duck - Delicious - try it!

Duck - it's what the cool kids are eating.

So there we have it. Roast duck breast, sauteed potatoes topped off with pan fried artichokes, fennel radish and chive salad with a side of chimichurri.

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Martian Chicken

A post-dinner brainstorm on dinner party ideas left me with a challenge – what the heck can I make with blue cheese and wasabi peas?

The answer – mutant looking slabs of wasabi pea crusted chicken breast stuffed with blue cheese. Served with wasabi mash of course.

They turned out a little bigger than I expected them to be, however the flavour combinations worked. During the cooking process, the wasabi peas lost some of their harshness and ended up combining beautifully with the blue cheese. Next time though, I might just keep them a little smaller. Not bad for an experiment I must say!

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Chocolate Mousse and Lemon Curd

I don’t have a great deal of experience making desserts which is a shame, because I sure love eating them. Searching youtube for inspiration, I came across this video and decided I would try my hand at chocolate mousse.

The main thing to remember is that mousse is a texture, not a recipe as such. A mousse is characteristically airy, in that you can feel the air bubbles and is quite light when you eat it. But a mousse can range from chocolate, to strawberries to chicken liver. It’s all about achieving that light consistency by incorporating the right ingredients together in the right way.

There are a number of ways to make chocolate mousse. Some recipes call for cream, some for olive oil, some, like in this video use only melted chocolate!

I went for a recipe that used cream as I wanted the mousse to have a velvety creamy richness:

200g dark cooking chocolate, chopped

50g butter

4 eggs, separated

1/4 cup caster sugar

300ml pouring cream

Riding my wave of inspiration, I decided to add a layer of orange curd, much like the 2nd contestant in the masterchef video:

Juice of 1 1/2 medium oranges

Orange zest from 1 medium orange

2 egg yolks

3 tbsp caster sugar

1 tbsp unsalted butter

I made the orange curd first as it needed to cool in order to layer it with the chocolate mousse. Combine the zest, orange juice, egg yolks and sugar into a thick bottomed pan. Turn the heat up to medium and begin whisking vigorously. Don’t allow the mixture to boil so adjust the heat accordingly. After 10 or so minutes, the mixture will reduce and begin to foam. Add the butter and continue whisking for 5 or so minutes until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Pass it through a sieve and allow to cool.

Next, add a few cups of water to a small pan and rest a bowl over it while it simmers. Add the chocolate to the bowl and melt it. Once it’s in a liquid state add the butter and stir until incorporated. Take the bowl off the heat.

Before we start combining the rest of the ingredients, it is crucial that you fold them into the chocolate mixture gently because you don’t want to knock out the air bubbles that will give the mousse it’s airy properties.

Take the egg yolks and blend with an electric whisker, adding the caster sugar in slowly until the colour turns pale yellow and starts to look like whipped cream. Fold into the chocolate mixture gradually.

Take the egg whites and whisk until soft white peaks form. Again, fold into the chocolate mixture.

Finally, take the cream and whisk until you get close to the consistency of whipped cream. Make sure not to over whisk it. Fold into the chocolate mixture. It should look something like this:

For presentation, I bought a bag of plastic wine glasses from coles. They are great for measuring portion size and look quite smart once you layer the curd underneath. Not to mention you can simply throw them away once you are finished with them.

I added 2 tbsp of orange curd then went up to just under 3/4 of the way up the cup. You can add more or less but I figured this would be a good ratio of curd to mousse. Once you have divided the mixture evenly, let them set in the fridge for 2 hours. If everything went to plan, they might look like this:

So the big question is, did they work? Well, not quite. Early on in the process I was struggling to get the chocolate to a true liquid consistency so I went ahead and started adding in the other ingredients. I was definitely getting the air bubbles and the taste was spot on, however it was just too dense for a mousse which is a shame because the combination of chocolate and orange curd is just delicious!

Learnings: Allow the chocolate to get to a true liquid state before combining the other ingredients. I might even be tempted to leave out the cream as well. Or even go for Heston Blumenthals version that uses pure chocolate and water cooled over an ice bath.

Stay tuned for my next version in ‘revenge of the mousse’.

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Shortcrust Savoury Tarts

It’s been too long between meals, time to roll up the sleeves and get this blog going again!

Cooking with pastry is something that has always eluded me so I thought I would try and tackle one of the basics – shortcrust pastry.

Shortcrust pastry is so delicious and versatile. It’s most commonly used in pie or tart bases. You can use regular shortcrust for quiches, chicken pies or savory tarts. If you add sugar you will end up with ‘sweetcrust’ which is used in apple pies, lemon meringues and many other sweet treats.

After searching online I stumbled across a very easy shortcrust recipe – purists out there will scoff at the use of a food processor, but I don’t really mind using it as it saves a lot of time and hassle.

I had been thinking about caramelized onion and goats cheese tarts for quite some time only there was a small problem – I’m not the biggest fan of goats cheese. So I brainstormed a few ideas for tarts with feta cheese and ended up with the following recipe:

Shortcrust Tart Base

1 egg, beaten with 2tbsp cold water

125g butter, cubed

1 2/3 cups plain flour

Pinch of salt

Tart Filling

1 small bulb of fennel, thinly sliced

1/2 leek, thinly sliced

1/2 Spanish Chorizo, thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1/2 block feta cheese, crumbled

4-5 Sun dried tomatoes, thinly sliced

2 eggs, 50ml milk

Extra virgin olive oil

Thyme, salt and pepper to taste

For the shortcrust pastry, combine flour, salt and butter in a food processor. Run it until you get a consistency that looks something like breadcrumbs. Keep the processor running and slowly add the egg and water mixture until all ingredients combine. As soon as the dough comes together in one big lump, stop the food processor.

Flour a surface, separate the dough into 2 portions and knead for about 30 seconds, then form them into discs. Cover in glad wrap and store in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.

While the dough is resting, fire up a pan on medium-low heat. Add the leeks, garlic and fennel then allow them to sweat. Add a few generous glugs of olive oil. This process should take around 30 minutes. Make sure you don’t get too much colour on them as you want to take your time and allow the natural sweetness of the fennel and the leeks to come out. Add the thyme in around half way, season with salt and pepper, set aside.

Turn the heat right up and fry the chorizo until golden brown. Make sure those lovely fats have rendered and left the surface nice and crispy. Set aside.

Preheat your oven to around 180 degrees c. Grease 2 muffin tin trays and take the shortcrust dough out of the fridge. Flour a surface and flatten it out with a rolling pin, 1 disc at a time. You want to try and get it as thin as you can, probably around 3-4mm thickness. You then want to cut out discs that are 10cm in diameter. Press these into the muffin tins, line them with baking paper and fill them up with dry lentils. This stops the pastry from puffing up. Bake for 10 minutes then take them out of the oven, carefully empty out the lentils and return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes. You are after a light golden colour.

So now you have the tart casings and the fillings ready to go. Almost there!

Tarts

Fly, my pretties.

Divide the leek and fennel mixture into all the casings then layer with sun dried tomato and few slices of chorizo. Spoon in the egg and milk mixture over the fillings until it’s all finished. Finish off with the crumbed feta, then return to the oven for 15 minutes, or until the egg mixture has set and the feta has some colour on it. It should hopefully look something like this:

Tarts - done.

I was pretty happy with the results considering this was my first time working with shortcrust so will continue to experiment with it. They turned out delicious, but sadly they did not last very long.

I wanted to give them a name but couldn’t think of anything – any ideas? Leave a comment below with suggestions!

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