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A variation on dry fried green beans April 7, 2013

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Pork, Vegetables.
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I am currently obsessed with Szechuan dry fried green beans. Every time I go to a Szechuan restaurant, I must order them. They are so flavoursome – and seem almost healthy compared to some of the other menu options. Naturally after ordering them multiple times when dining out, I decided I needed to learn how to make them myself.

After reading a few recipes online, I decided to create my own variation. Instead of using straight pork mince, I used some fresh chorizo sausage I had in the freezer. And instead of chinese longbeans, I used standard green beans.

I started by cooking the chorizo in some oil, breaking it up into small pieces.

(If you’re wondering why the chorizo is so pink – yes, there is a little bit of pink salt in the meat)

After the chorizo was cooked, I removed it from the wok and replaced it with Szechuan peppercorns, which I toasted until they were fragrant. Then I added garlic, ginger, chopped chilis, and finally, chopped green onions. Again I cooked these until everything was soft and then removed them from the wok.

Next, I added the beans. I found the best way to cook these was to let them sit for a few minutes, so the ones on the bottom became blistered and charred in some places, then move them around so there were new beans on the bottom.

It took longer than I was expecting to cook all the beans properly – but it was definitely worth the wait as they became properly blistered.

After the beans were cooked, I added everything back into the wok and tossed it all together, before serving it.

While different from the original, these were very tasty and satisfied my cravings for these green beans. There were just enough Szechuan peppercorns to get that numbing feeling without the spiciness of the peppercorns overwhelming everything else. I really like cooking beans in this manner – they remain flavoursome and a little crispy, despite their blistered exteriors. While not at all traditional, I think the chorizo worked in its role of salty meaty addition, and altogether the dish was definitely a success. This one will definitely be repeated on a regular basis – think of all the money I’ll save in restaurant costs!

Corned tongue November 25, 2012

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Innards, Pork.
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It’s been well established that I’m a fan of tongue. I’m also a huge fan of corned beef. So it made sense to combine the two and finally make corned tongue. I was all excited to get going – it was going to take a week to brine the tongue so I wanted to get started right away!

To make the brine, I basically used the same brine I’d previously when making corned beef. I added sugar, salt, pink salt, juniper berries, bay leaves, peppercorns, allspice and some chili to boiling water, and stirred until the sugar and salt was dissolved. When it was cool, I put the tongue in the brine and weighed it down with a plate. I set this in the fridge to await the brining process.

When the week was up, I removed the tongue from the brine and gave it a rinse. Then I transferred it to the pressure cooker and added various aromatics such as garlic, onion, parsley, bay leaves and peppercorns. I added some water and then put the pressure cooker on for about an hour.

Another great use of the pressure cooker! To have tongue ready in about an hour is just great. I was so happy to have the tongue ready so quickly!

Once it had cooked and cooled, I began the process of peeling the skin away and then chopping the meat up.

I was very happy to see that that brine had apparently penetrated all the way into the tongue. The tongue was very tender and seemed softer than previously when I’ve boiled tongue on the stove.

Once I’d peeled it and chopped it up, I made some quick sides to go with the tongue: some salad of rocket and pickles, and some silverbeet with garlic and lemon. While I generally prefer my corned meats with horseradish (the super spicy kind), I decided this time to go with some French mustard, as I thought the herbs would pair well with the tongue.

As you can see, the brine didn’t actually penetrate all the way to the centre of the tongue. While the corned flavour permeated throughout the meat, I would have preferred if it was uniformly coloured all the way through too. I suppose this means a longer brine period next time – perhaps a week and a half or even two weeks.

Corned tongue is definitely something I’ll do again as it combines many of my favourite food elements and is a lovely meal. While I’ll be very impatient next time waiting the extra time for the brine to properly permeate throughout the meat, hopefully the results will be worth it.

Dried prosciutto (to use in place of salt) November 11, 2012

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Pork.
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Another in the occasional series of “do this now because it’s super easy and awesome”. I can’t take credit for this – I’m only copying what I saw at a restaurant recently. I started with some thinly sliced prosciutto which I separated.

You could do this in a dehydrator, of course, but since I don’t have one, I started by putting them in the oven to dry out. Then I got impatient and realised it would probably work just as well in the microwave with paper towels to catch the fat, so that’s what I did. In a few minutes I had super crispy pieces of prosciutto.

I then put the pieces into a mortar and pestle, and bashed them into little bits. I could have used a spice grinder, but I liked having different sizes of prosciutto pieces.

The resulting pieces are intensely salty and bacony. They make a great substitute for salt on just about everything – eggs, meat, cocktails…the list is practically endless.¬† To store it, I added a little bit of normal salt so the pieces wouldn’t clump together, and have been using it on everything.

This is definitely something I’ll always have a supply of from now on.

Pork ravioli with mushroom sauce January 11, 2012

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Pork, Vegetables.
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Or, what to do with the leftovers of a suckling pig christmas dinner. It may surprise you to learn that there were indeed leftovers after Christmas day, for which I blame the general excesses of Christmas and the ridiculous amount of food this holiday seems to encourage. While eating leftovers straight from the fridge was fun for a few days, after that it was time to do something more exciting with the remains of the pork. I decided to make ravioli with the rest of the meat, and boiled the bones to make something between a stock and a headcheese.

As I was starting with pre-cooked meat, I used the approach taken with the Saucisse Minuit recipe: make a slurry, add the meat, and mix everything together. I used some fat left over from making pork confit, and cooked some onions and garlic.

When the onions were softened, I added wine, pistachios and breadcrumbs, and mixed them together until it turned into the aforementioned slurry.

Meanwhile, I minced the pork meat (and some of the skin), and once the slurry had cooled, mixed everything together.

Meanwhile, I set to work making a sauce. I made a bechamel sauce, and thinned it down with wine and stock. I added some finely chopped mushrooms and let it all simmer together for a while. I didn’t want the sauce to be too creamy, so I added some red wine vinegar to provide some acidity and tanginess.

I’d already made some pasta dough, which had been chilling in the fridge until now. I started making the ravioli – which was fun for about the first 20, and got rather tedious after that…

As the filling was already cooked, I only needed to boil the ravioli for a couple of minute until they done. I served them with the mushroom sauce, with some basil on top.

It’s hard to make light-brown things look attractive, so you’ll have to take my word that this was a very nice combination. The ravioli were quite rich from the pork, there was the odd crunch from the pistachios and this was contrasted with the tangy mushroom sauce. I was very happy to find such a nice way to use up the remains of our Christmas feast, and, given the quantity I made, we can be reminded of Christmas for many meals to come.

Christmas 2011: What we ate December 28, 2011

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Pork, Sweet things, Vegetables.
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So Christmas is traditionally meant to be the time that you splash out on a fabulous meal and eat way too much food. While I certainly did this, I also kept it as simple as possible (and actually, simpler than I expected when I forgot to make some of the pieces!). I decided the only way to top such a great year of meat cooking was to cook a whole suckling pig. So that is what I did.

We ordered¬† 4-5kg pig, which came frozen. The amusing thing is that we had nowhere large enough to defrost it, except our shower. So in a scene reminiscent of a serial killer film, the pig was left in the shower to defrost. I’ll spare you the photos of the pig in the shower, but here it is in the sink once it got a nice rinse off.

It was such a nice little piggy! I had been concerned that it wouldn’t fit in our oven, but luckily I was able to just fit it onto our largest roasting tin, with its legs tucked underneath it. I put some pieces of garlic and ginger in the cavity. I sprinkled inside and out with salt and pepper, then covered both the ears and the snout with foil, to make sure they didn’t burn.

Then it was just a matter of waiting until the pig was done – about 3 hours. I should tell you that I was feverishly cooking for that entire 3 hour period, preparing delicious side dishes, but that would be a lie. Instead, I waited until the pig was done and resting, then made a simple salad of rocket and endive, and some asparagus with lemon, to go with the pig.

Almost finished cooking; crisping up the skin

Final plate of pig, with asparagus and salad

I had intended to make some maple jellies from the recipe by the Butcher’s Apprentice, thinking it would provide a nice contrast to the pork, but forgot completely until I sat down to eat. Needless to say, the pork was delicious, even without the jellies. The pork skin was ridiculously crispy, and the meat was super rich and flavoursome. Both the asparagus and the salad provided nice, vinegary, bitter contrasts to the pork.

To finish, I’d intended to make chocolate truffles; however, the filling never properly hardened (I think I added too much brandy!), so we ate scoops of the filling with some pieces of orange and a sriracha-sugar brittle I’d made to go on the top of the truffles.

In some ways it seemed so appropriate after a year of eating the insides of animals, we finished it off by eating the insides of some chocolates!

Other things we ate and drank, not shown:

  • Mulled apple cider
  • A punch with aperol, gin, champagne, orange juice and mint
  • Mince pies, which I made the day before
  • More panettone, this time with a caramel (dulce de leche) filling

I hope everyone had a fabulous holiday time! Regular posts will resume soon, once I emerge from this pork coma…