Saturday, January 31, 2009

Prawn Ravioli with Salsa Verde

After reading some Jamie Oliver books and getting one of Jamie's food smashers i decided to put my thinking cap on and experiment with some pasta, i had made some of Jamie's pasta recipes and used that as a starting point.

I came up with Drunken Prawn, Ricotta and Parmesan for the stuffing, i used Jamie's simple pasta recipe for the ravioli and his Salsa Verde for the dressing.

Rather than plagiarise Jamie's Oliver, I'll just give the reference for the recipes that I've blended and a simple google search should yield the results that you're after.

For the pasta, search for Jamie's quick Pasta. For the making of ravioli, its a simple matter of rolling out some sheets and cutting squares about 10cm x 10cm having a food brush and wetting one side of your squares, placing a dollop of your stuffing in the middle and placing another sheet over the top, the water is your glue and after a solid pinch around the sides you should have your first ravioli!

For the dressing, search for Jamie's Salsa Verde, i searched a few other recipes and i liked Jamie's the best, its got capers and anchovies, and really is damn good, so run with that one, also don't be afraid of anchovies, its used as salt and texture additive, its ground to a paste and is not meant to encourage a fishy flavour. My girlfriend hates anchovies, so i didn't tell her i had added them till after and she loved it.

For the stuffing, being my own creation I'm happy to run through the recipe.

10 large green prawns peeled and de-veined, tails off.
one sprig of basil, mint and parsley, roughly chopped. (same herbs as used in the salsa Verde)
half a cup of white wine
one cup of ricotta cheese
handful of Parmesan, grated.
olive oil.
(should make about 14 raviolis, 4-5 per person is stacks)

All i did here was add some oil to a pan, added the herbs until fragrant, then added the prawns, on a moderate heat, i fried until just opaque and added the white wine, let the alcohol burn off and remove from the heat. I drained the fluid into a mixing bowl and put the prawns onto the chopping board and roughly chopped them up into smallish pieces, i then added them to the fluid in the bowl, added the ricotta and Parmesan, mixed it up and season to taste.
The stuffing should be reasonably flavoursome with the herbs and wine simply complimenting the prawns, the salsa Verde is where you'll get your acidity so don't feel you need to add too much salt or lemon or anything else to the stuffing for extra flavour.

Next time i think I'll try some finley diced Bocconcini and omit the ricotta as this dish is not supposed to be a copybook recipe, just a source of inspiration so you can experiment yourself.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Smoked Fish

I have wanted to smoke fish for ages now and thought I'd look around the house at what apparatus i could use to DIY a smoker, bingo!!!

My DIY Smoker

I used a cast iron skillet as my base, the surround from a spring form cake tin, an old cake airing rack, and a stainless steel bowl. I got some sawdust from BBQ's galore and i was smoking that afternoon!!

I had caught a Cobia and thought I'd smoke the belly flaps, as they couldn't really be used for a meal as they were smaller than all the other bits.

For smoking fish i read up a bit online and found the consistent thing that everyone does is soak the fillet in a brine solution, i always use a brine solution to clean my fillets as fresh water will significantly dry out the flesh, the rule of thumb i use is to ensure the water tastes as salty as the ocean, then apparently for smoking you add a tablespoon of brown sugar, i gather to combat the highly salty flavour produced from smoking. Soak for at least half an hour.

For the sawdust or smoking chips, these also need to be soaked in water. (apparently you can soak in wine or beer the list is endless depending on what you're smoking) This soaking prevents the smoke from burning out and encourages a nice smoulder.

Soaked sawdust in the skillet

I get the smoke going on the side burner whilst heating up the grill on the bbq for later use, as the lowest setting on the side burner still makes too much smoke at too high a temp so once smouldering, i keep a much steadier temp by moving it onto the grill plate.

Smoking fish (with the lid up for photo)

So once i have a nice smoulder, i place the brine soaked fillet skin down on the rack and cover with the lid, leave for about 20 minutes or i have found that once the fish stops 'sweating' and has a nice golden hue to it, its pretty much done.

Delicious golden smoked Cobia

I decided to crumble this piece into a salad and used a mustard dressing, it was sublime, great lunch or light dinner.

For the dressing;

1 Tablespoon of English mustard
1 teaspoon of balsamic
2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
5 tablespoons of good olive oil
salt and pepper to taste.

whisk it all together until it forms a nice smooth consistency

I also used some feta cheese which compliments the smokey flavour of the fish perfectly.

But you can use smoked fish for a bunch of stuff, sandwiches, on some crackers with some cream cheese, salads...


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

My Hop Garden

I've been growing hops for the last two years now, and this hardy vine only grows in the warmer months, dying off during winter, leaving a rootstock in the ground ready to shoot again once it warms up. Seems this season has been warm enough as its beginning to flower, this should be a decent crop and i should get a few batches of beer out of it, its a Chinook variety so an American Pale ale rich in pasionfruit and citrus aromas will be called for.

Gibbo's Surf and Turf

After a late run of lobsters for my local area (Sutherland Shire) i finally got my hands on a couple and thought why not make a Surf and Turf on Boxing day. And what better turf than some Kangaroo fillet.

Rather than run through the ingredients for everything, I'll just briefly explain the process i use for the various sections of the dish.

This is all about timing and i did all of this dish on the bbq.

For the Roo, have yourself a hot oiled flat plate on the bbq, and simply season your roo fillet with some salt and pepper before it hits the heat. Cook one side until brown then turn, cook the other side untill browned then move to the grill (not on) but leave the plate on low and close the hood, this will gently continue to cook the roo through but leaving it rare and succulent, i usually leave it for about 20 minutes before returning with the lobster.

When i did the lobster for this dish, i used some scissors to cut the membrane that connects the tail to the head, this ensures when you separate, you will pull the meat inside the body cavity also, then i make two cuts on the outsides of the underside of the tail (confused yet?) this allows you to peel back the softer underside of the tail skin revealing the white flesh. Using your fingers, on the hard side of the tail, peel back the meat from the shell, using the scissors to cut around the membranes leaving the tail paddles attached for presentation. I then slice in half (laterally) removing the intestine, rinse in a salt brine and season, this can go on the bbq plate once you believe your roo to be almost done, set aside with the roo on the warm grill plate once it is browned on all sides and the tail flaps are bright red.

For your sides, i use the side burner to boil some sliced potatoes, golden delight seem to crisp up well on the bbq, so peel and slice into 1cm thick circles, boil them in some salted water until lightly blanched, set pot aside until your meats are done, then cook in the hot plate with some olive oil until golden, save the water in the pot also!!

I throw some greens like beans or snow peas onto the hot-plate last, just long enough to get a bit of colour and heat through them.

For the sauces, i used Bearnaise and a red wine/balsamic glaze, Bearnaise I'll save for another day, i cheat and use my food processor and it makes great Bearnaise, google it if you want but I'll do a step by step hassle free Bearnaise soon.

For the glaze, this is real simple, with a small amount of butter and a crushed garlic clove, foam the butter and garlic on the side burner, pour in about 1.5 cups of red wine, and as much balsamic as your palate will handle for acidity, about 150mls of beef stock if you have it (not needed though, but will add some depth, i sometimes add some meat/roo offcuts to the foaming butter for similar effects) and about a tablespoon of brown sugar, salt and pepper to taste and reduce, once boiling add about 3 tablespoons of the potato water, the starches will help any sauce thicken, same goes for any pasta water, i try and save this sauce to the last 5-10 minutes of the dish or until up put the potatoes on the hot plate with some more olive oil. You will know it is done when thick bubbles start foaming, turn the gas off or you'll end up with tar.

Like i said, this sort of cooking is all about timing and starting different processes at the right times will ensure you have juicy meat, succulent lobster and hot ready to pour sauces. (have some warm plates, rinse them in some hot water for a few seconds and dry them off)

Please feel free to ask any questions