Hogget Feast

On Saturday the 27th May and June 3rd, I am hosting a hogget feast. Numbers are strictly limited but we will try to put on additional nights as they fill up. UPDATE: July 1st added as an additional date. Book here

First question: what is hogget?

Hogget is yearling lamb – lamb that has had an extra spring grazing season. These slightly larger animals have had a bit more time for their meat to develop in flavour and complexity, but still maintain the tenderness of lamb. This meat is prized by chefs and restauranteurs the world over, but is all but unknown to the home cook. I had been dimly aware of hogget and had the idea of doing something with it at the back of my mind for a long time when I met Emma at the Cultivate Veg Van last year. Continue reading “Hogget Feast”

Suckling Pig

I served Suckling Pig as one of my series of 2016 Christmas Feasts and is available for private hire events for 6+ people – price on request. 

suckling-pig-roast-2“The third time someone calls you a donkey… might wanna think about buying a saddle.”

When the first person told me when they’d had suckling pig, it was so tender that it was literally carved with a dinner plate, I didn’t even understand how that could work.

The second time somebody told me they’d had suckling pig carved by a dinner plate, I thought it sounded like a gimmicky idea dreamed up in a Spanish tourist trap.

The third time, I bought the saddle. Continue reading “Suckling Pig”

Gold Bar

IMG_1568People are surprised to learn that I don’t watch a lot of cooking television these days, but four years ago when I was in Sydney I had a real soft spot for Masterchef Australia. One episode had contestents running around New York to cook three different dishes from three different multi-Michelin starred restaurants. This challenge was the first time I ever heard of Paul Liebrandt or ever saw Gold Bar, and it’s been stuck on my mind ever since.

The recipe was never revealed on the show, not even if you pause the video and advance it frame by frame, but I did find a blog post by a kindred (ie: lunatic) spirit who had tried to recreate the dish from the list of its elements. Gold bar is:

  • A pressee biscuit base layer
  • A layer of salted dulce du leche caramel
  • A layer of chocolate cremeaux
  • A coating of chocolate glacage (aka: chocolate mirror icing)
  • A pair of cocoa dentelles
  • And a few flecks of edible gold leaf

Continue reading “Gold Bar”

Pulled Pork

 

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I am absolutely nuts for pulled pork, but I don’t cook it that often. Mostly this is because the way I do it makes it one of the most impractical things to cook. Not because it’s difficult to do, but more because it’s logistically ridiculous. My method requires:

  • About five kilos of pork
  • About 18 hours of cooking
  • Dragging the barbecue out of the shed
  • Topping up a wood burning fire every 30 minutes
  • Enduring the inevitable rain that is magnetically attracted to barbecues
  • Picking about 4kg of pork off the bones and shredding it by hand
  • Mixing in a vat of bbq sauce (which needs making as well)
  • Half a fridge shelf to store it

And then, since I’ve got a hell of a lot of meat and live on my own:

  • A commitment to eat nothing but pulled pork for a week.

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So, there are a few sensible reasons to make this more of an occasional treat rather than a regular thing. And then there’s the issue of the chorizo madness.

In 2011, I was working at probably the most profitable four-and-a-half square metres of the whole of Borough Market: the barbecue chorizo sandwich stall at Brindisa. And while I loved working in the food mecca of the world’s greatest city, I did not always love working on my own all day for three out of five days of the week. Between the solitude and the monotony of cutting 86,000 odd pieces of chorizo, I may have gone a little bit nuts. I won’t give you all the gory details, but just as an example: once during prep someone asked me for the time and rather than look at my watch I just counted how many boxes of chorizo I had cut (4 1/2 boxes at 9 minutes per box) and correctly told him it was 4:42pm. I was diagnosed by my coworkers with chorizo madness – a disorder caused by working on the barbecue stand too long – shortly after this event.

As you can see, spending a lot of time on my own with a vast amount of spicy, barbecue-cooked pork has not always been a positive thing for my sanity.

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The chorizo stand was also where my love of barbecue started. One of the things I did to distract myself was slow cook joints of meat next to the coals. There’s something insanely great about the smokey flavours that infuse over the long cooking time.

Smoking, for me, is the real barbecue technique. Grilling is fine, but smoking meat just takes it to the next level. Instead of the intense, direct heat from the charcoal, the meat cooks off to the side in the warm smokey air from a scattering of damp wood chips on the coals. It’s more challenging, and requires a maddening amount of patience and more than a little trial and error to get the low, even heat just right. But there’s just nothing quite like it.

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Could I make my method a bit more practical? Possibly. Am I going to? Nope. Aside from the fact that I actually kinda enjoy making things a little bit challenging for myself, pulled pork is already dangerously tasty and a threat to my mental health. Making it easy to cook would give it more power than any dish should wield.

Continue reading “Pulled Pork”

Un-Roast Chicken

Sliced breast and ballotine

There’s no meal more perfect than a classic roast chicken for Sunday lunch with blah blah tradition family gravy blah.

The legal requirement of anyone writing about roast chicken to recollect food memories and discurse on the essence of tradition and family dinners. It is left to authorial prerogative to decide whether it was a mother or a grandmother accountable for roasting the bird, and we get to select your own unique method for getting the impeccably crispy skin or the most succulent meat – popular choices include basting and an internally applied lemon.
The cold hard truth is that the Arcadian ideal of roast chicken lingers large in the memory but lacks a little in reality.

Chicken jointed

Lets break it down.

Chicken, like every other animal, has a number of different cuts that are all cooked best in completely different ways. The largest cuts of chicken are the breast, which is a lean, tender cut that doesn’t need a lot of cooking, and the legs, which are tougher, fattier, and are best cooked for longer at a low temperature. This means that by the time the legs of your chicken have completed roasting, the breast is dry and overdone.

“Dry and overdone” is what everyone has been drilled to learn is the minimum standard that poultry should be cooked to, but this conventional wisdom is safe to discard. On health grounds, there is no scientific justification to treat poultry differently from any other meat. Perfectly cooked chicken (with an internal temperature around the 60-65C mark) should be illegal only because it is so delicious.

Breast vac packed

To get roast chicken right, some traditional methods are going to be replaced by modern technique and technology. The bird isn’t going to make it to the table in one piece – we’ll be disassembling it. And technically speaking, we’re not going to be “roasting” anything, but rather cooking it sous vide in a temperature controlled water bath. But if that mythic memory of the perfect roast chicken can ever be truly replicated, this is the closest I’ve come to it.

We’re keeping the stuffing though. Some traditions are sacred.

Continue reading “Un-Roast Chicken”

Deconstructed Pesto Canapes

3 horizontal 2A simple recipe I learned at university:

Ingredients:

  • 1 jar shop bought pesto
  • 1 teaspoon (optional)

Method:
Unscrew jar. Insert teaspoon (if using) into jar. Remove and lick clean. Weigh guilt, and repeat as necessary.

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Pesto; Parmesan, pine kernels and basil. Call it Genovese pesto to distinguish it from its impersonators. Great on pasta and on toasted ciabatta, but clearly at its best just eaten furtively straight out of the jar.

Of course, jar pesto is not “real” pesto, as everybody knows. Real pesto has to be made with a pestle and mortar. It must only use Parmeggiano Reggiano, and extra virgin olive oil. It must have garlic and never lemon juice. That’s real pesto – you don’t mess with tradition.

Except of course that everyone does. Sometimes its made with parsley. Or coriander, or rocket. With pecorino as well as parmesan. With sundried tomatoes, or walnuts, or mint and pistachios. The notion of the one true, pure pesto is often invoked, but far more often completely ignored.

This deconstructed pesto canape is not traditional, but has a purity of concept. Parmesan, pine kernels, basil. No bread or pasta to interfere with the flavours – just like eating it straight off the spoon.

Close up 2

Continue reading “Deconstructed Pesto Canapes”