Better than IKEA

For very brief, fleeting moments this week, it actually felt like Autumn. As a firm lover of blankets, pajamas and generally looking like an Eskimo, you can bet your ass I was excited.

It’s a widely accepted truth that everyone loves IKEA. Even if you hate it, there’s a perverse pleasure of being there, hating everything and everyone and coming out with 14 bags of Diam (which, by the way, is like crack). I, for one, love IKEA, and am the kind of person that can’t go unsupervised. Mostly because I need someone to remind me that I don’t need coat hangers/toys/500 picture frames and a whole new book shelving unit.

Of course, IKEA is also famous for it’s food court. It’s the cheapest feed in the world, why wouldn’t you eat your body weight in meatballs and mousse while you’re there? You’re going to need all the energy you can get when you’re at home and 4 hours into the most confusing bed assembly in the universe. The problem is, you can’t really go there for a meatball fix, lest you come home with a shelving unit, the temptation is far too great.

So here we have it, folks. The recipe that’s going to make your life just that much better. It’s perfect winter comfort food, and it’s also pretty damn easy.
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Better Than IKEA Meatballs

Adapted from The Londoner and Jamie Oliver

a handful of mixed fresh herbs, such as flat-leaf parsley or chives
300g minced pork
300g minced beef
1 large egg
100ml milk
75g dried breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon ground allspice
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
1tbsp mustard
1-2tbsp Worcester sauce
1tsp honey
300ml double cream
Salt n pepper

Roughly chop the fresh herbs. Set aside a pinch for garnish, and then place the rest in a large, deep mixing bowl, big enough for you go get your hands in to. Add the mince, egg, milk, bread crumbs and all spice. Season with salt and pepper, then mix and scrunch together with your hands until thoroughly combined. Roll the mixture into meatballs, place on a plate, cover and refrigerate for an hour to firm up.

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Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the meatballs to the pan and brown all over, about 10 -15 minutes. Transfer the cooked meatballs to a plate and set aside.

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Add the flour to the remaining oil in the pan and stir until it makes a smooth paste. Add the stock and simmer, scraping the brown bits off the bottom of the pan (you want this, they are delicious). Leave to simmer and thicken for a couple of minutes, then add the Worcester Sauce, honey and mustard. Give a good stir, then add the cream. Stir again, then add the meatballs to the pan, and turn to coat. Simmer for a further 5 minutes.

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Serve meatballs and sauce over your favourite carb – this is amazing with pasta, mashed potatoes, couscous or polenta. Sprinkle with reserved herbs.

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If you’re a little on the lazy side, or pushed for time, you can use your favourite flavoured sausages – just remove the meat from their casings, and roll into balls. The flavouring is already in the meat, so you’re good to go!

Classy as f*ck

Sometimes, you just want a fucking taco.

Make no mistake. The weekend that I just spent in Margaret River was unbelievable.

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I ate marron and truffle in a chandelier lit marquee on the not-out-of-place-in-an-English-palace gardens of Voyager Estate, listening to the wisdom of the chef one of the world’s best chefs.

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I ate marron on the shores of one of Yallingup’s most secluded and spectacular beaches, served by two of Australia’s best young chefs and was served wine by one of Australia’s most prominent wine makers. Actually, I ate more marron that weekend than I have in my whole life to date. It was a tiny bit amazing. Super fancy. Why couldn’t every day be like that?

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After a weekend of pure excess, I spent the drive home asking myself the kinds of important questions about my new life as a purveyor of the finer things. Wagu? Oysters? Where does one get Russian caviar in Perth on a Monday afternoon? Do I own a champagne flute? (the answer to that is no)

As I aimlessly wandered through the supermarket, I happened across pâtÊ. Yes. Fancy people love pâtÊ! I then considered what to have with said pâtÊ. Crisp bread? Cheese? And then BAM. Lightning. Banh mi was the only answer.

PâtÊ belongs in a roll with pickled vegetables, coriander, some kind of protein and cheap, fluffy white bread. It’s just pure mouth magic. It’s French, it’s Vietnamese, it’s easy, it’s street food. There is nothing fancy about it, and I realised that there is very little fancy about me. I love street food. Probably too much, which is why there’s a lack of truffle in my diet. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

And so home I went. I cooked. My boyfriend, housemate and I ate off a chopping board on the floor of my lounge room with our hands. And it was equally, if not more perfect than anything else I’d eaten that weekend, because sometimes, you just want a fucking taco. And I was happy.

Lemongrass Pork Banh Mi Taco

Adapted from Gourmet Traveller

3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 red chillies, thinly sliced
2 lemongrass stalks, white part only, thinly sliced
Âź cup fish sauce
40 gm grated palm sugar or brown sugar
800 gm piece of skinless pork neck, cut into 6cm thick pieces

Good quality pâtÊ
Pickled carrots
Coriander leaves
Sliced jalapenos
Japanese Mayo
Sriracha

Blitz the garlic, chili and lemongrass in a food processor until a paste forms. In a large bowl, combine the fish sauce and sugar, add the lemongrass paste, stir to combine, then add the pork and coat with marinade. Refrigerate for at least two hours, or overnight.

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Heat some oil in a fry pan over medium high heat and cook the pork in batches until cooked through.

When you’re ready to serve, spread a tortilla with pâtĂŠ, then top with pork, pickles, coriander, mayo and sriracha, and a squeeze of lime.

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Notes: Banh mi is traditionally made as a roll, however, due to the lack of appropriate bread at my local supermarket, I went with the tiny tortilla option, which was pretty damn fantastic.

The pickled carrot recipe is so stupidly easy, that I have to insist that you give it a go. If you can’t be bothered, julienne carrots are fine, but it’s really worth the extra step. Promise.

Back to Balkan

A day off work during the week is a magical thing.

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What to do? Chores that don’t get done during the week? Nap? Brunch? Absolutely nothing for no reason at all?

When blessed with such a day, I couldn’t help but take advantage. Last Wednesday was my dad’s birthday, and I had grand plans of bringing him cake. Sadly, Frankie had the misfortune of being shipped out to the desert for work, so I took it upon myself to enjoy his birthday on his behalf. You know, because I’m a good daughter and all that.

The team from Divido put out the call on Twitter, inviting people to their latest round of Back to Balkans dinners. Because I’m not an idiot, I was the first to put my hand up, and because they are polite and delightful, they said yes! Kindly, they also extended their invitation to my mum so we could enjoy an awesome birthday dinner, minus the birthday boy himself.

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The Back to Balkan feasts are a celebration of all delicious things from the region, with a focus on Croatia and Macedonia. The concept came about as the chefs told stories of their favourite foods from their family homelands – comparing the individual tweaks made from home to home. So, the decision was made to have regular dinners showcasing the dishes that felt like home. If you know anything about me, it’s that I love the kinds of dishes that remind you of home, no matter where that is. It means that you’re cooking from the heart, and that’s only ever a good thing.

A lucky twist of fate had us sitting at a table with Jacqui from Pantry in Suburbia, who is a fabulous dining partner when all the meals are designed to share.

The entrees began with a light chicken soup, subtly flavoured with lemon. It’s incredibly warming and comforting, reminiscent of something your nonna would make you when you’re sick.

This was quickly followed by a charcuterie board full of interesting meats – the dried beef is akin to a soft jerky.

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The spicy Croatian sausage were a clear winner on our table, full of punchy flavours.

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I loved the home-made pastry filled with mushrooms, feta and onion, gently sweet and juicy.

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We wasted absolutely no time polishing off everything in front of us, and I ran my eye over the table more than once to see if we had missed any morsels.

Sharing plates is perfect when you’re trying new things – there’s no meal envy!

I wouldn’t have chosen the seafood stew, but I was pleased to find it full of plump mussels and clams.

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The wood roasted pig from the Linley Valley was utterly fantastic. Soft, juicy meat, complete with crispy skin. It was well worth the trip to Divido just  for the pig, which we unilaterally agreed was the best in Perth. Get thee to Mount Hawthorn, stat.

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Here’s Dan the Macedonian Chef (I’m pretty sure he answers to that), giving that amazing  pork a quick run under a torch, just to make sure the skin is extra crispy. It was awesome to be allowed in the kitchen and see the guys work together seamlessly.

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Dessert (always my favourite part of any meal) came full circle in the comfort stakes.

Have I told you how much I love rice pudding? Because I really love rice pudding. In particular, I love this rice pudding. Jacqui’s partner was full by this stage, so I may have eaten his. And some of mum’s too.

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The rice pudding was served along side delicate sweet pastries and apple cake.

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The service at Divido is nothing short of exceptional. I prefer to be left alone, while others like to be waited on hand and foot, and I find that Divido strikes a nice balance. They’re also one of the few ‘nice’ restaurants that are open on a Monday, where they also do Champagne Mondays – which is pretty great value if you ask me.

The next round of dinners is due to be held in early October – you can sign up to their mailing list at Divido.com.au for news and updates, and I suggest you do, because they book up pretty quickly!

**Dinner was paid for by the lovely team at Divido (and I thank them for it!), but this review is still objective and I would definitely go back and spend my own money (hell, I already have) – it’s worth it.

Divido on Urbanspoon

Here comes the meat sweats…

At some point, I don’t remember when, I decided that having a meat party was a great idea. I mean, there’s nothing more beautiful than bring together people you love, to break bread and share experiences over food. That bond can only be made deeper by meat sweats.

The invitations went out to my usual suspects – Pantry in Suburbia, The Skinny Perth, Lipstick Honey, Beers and Sympathy and our favourite taste tester cousins and partners. It was turning into one hell of a meaty pot-luck dinner. Look, I’m not going to lie to you, having food bloggers for friends is a tiny bit handy at times like these: roast lamb in all its glory, the most out-of-this-world buffalo wings and chorizo (because who doesn’t love chorizo?!) wrapped in flaky pastry. There might have been salads, for balance. I wouldn’t know, I didn’t eat them. I came here to party.

As with most events in my life, it was structured around a recipe. As in, I’d found one and wanted to make it so badly that I organised a dinner party just so I could. Is that a really girl thing to do? Am I the only person that’s bought a new dress/shoes/jewellery for no reason at all, then created a party/night out/breakfast just to show it off?Anyone?

Oh. Never mind, forget I brought it up.

Back to meat.

I know I posted a pulled pork recipe this year already. But it was over 6 months ago, so it doesn’t count. Plus, if I’m honest, I like this one better. It’s kind of simpler, in that there’s no brining, it’s less cooking time and a little less having to be organised. It’s certainly not a 30 minute meal by any means… But it’s worth every single second. I know the sauce looks like it’s a lot of ingredients, but 90% of it is stuff in your pantry. For the chipotle sauce, I used the sauce from a tin of chipotles in adobo sauce which I picked up from Fresh Provisions in Mount Lawley. If you see them, grab a couple of tins because they go beautifully in Mexican cooking. YUM. I used a couple of tablespoons, because it turns out I imagined the chili flakes in my pantry, and when I went to use them, they weren’t there. Clever me.

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All jokes aside, I absolutely love having a group of friends around to eat. There’s something really special about cooking for those you love, having them enjoy something you’ve brought to the table. You sit back and ask yourself why you don’t do these kinds of things more often (the answer is the bajillion dishes that took me an hour to wash the next day), but at that moment in time… It’s the definition of happiness. Good times, good food, good people. And if that’s not the meaning of life, I don’t know what is.

 Chipotle Pulled Pork Burgers

From What Katie Ate

2kg pork shoulder, bone in
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pulled pork sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, very finely diced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 carrot, very finely diced
2 sticks celery, very finely diced
1 long red chilli, finely diced
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon tomato paste
4 tablespoons treacle (I used golden syrup, honey is ok too)
2 tablespoons mustard powder
Âź teaspoon ground turmeric
½ cup (125ml) white vinegar
1 litre chicken stock
½ teaspoon dried chilli flakes
1 tablespoon chipotle sauce
1½ teaspoons cornflour mixed with 2 tablespoons cold water

Heat the oven to 160*c.

Place the pork in a roasting pan, and season really well with salt and pepper. My pork didn’t have skin, but if yours does, make sure the skin is facing upwards, then cover with foil and place in the oven for 5 – 6 hours. I left mine in for 6, and it weighted a little less than 2 kilos. Check the pork at the 3 hour mark, and if it’s looking a little dry add some water (I threw in 1/2 a cup, just to be on the safe side). Once it’s done, set the pork aside to cool a little bit, then shred using a couple of forks or your hands – it literally falls apart. It’s amazing.

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At the 4 hour mark of the pork cooking, heat the olive oil in a saucepan. Add the onion and a good pinch of salt and cook until soft. Add the garlic, carrot, celery and chilli and cook until they soften, about 10 minutes. Chuck in everything else except for the cornflour paste and let simmer for 2 hours uncovered until it’s reduced and thickened. Remove from the heat and then pass the sauce through a sieve to remove any chunks. Return the sauce to the pan, discarding what remains in the sieve, then add the cornflour paste and stir to combine.

Add the sauce to the shredded pork and stir to combine thoroughly.

Serve on fluffy white burger buns with coleslaw (the link has a great recipe, if you need one).

I’m sorry there isn’t more/better pictures, but it honestly didn’t last long enough to take any!

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Lezbehonest. Joey just gets it.

Kitchen mixed tapes

I had the great joy of taking Frankie (if you’re new here – that’s my dad. Say hello!) to see Sound City recently. *side note: If you haven’t seen it – do so. Immediately. Awesomeness abound.

My dad lights up like a Christmas tree when you get him talking about his favourite music. The records he owned, the memories they trigger, the people he saw in concert. He tells a great story of getting to see Eric Clapton in concert in the midst of his downward spiral – Clapton was so wasted he could barely keep himself on his stool and play. He’s ok now, folks, don’t worry.

But of course, those stories aren’t exclusive to Frankie. The magic of music on the whole is that we all have these stories. Our own personal soundtracks, mixed tapes, whatever.

So, in the interest of sharing (and you giving me your recommendations so I can fill up my iPod), here are some of mine. Feel free to judge me, I don’t mind. I brought this upon myself.

The song that my dad taught me the words to as a little kid: Bad Medicine
The song I like to dance in my kitchen to: The Time is Now
The song I like to drive to when I’m roadtripping: Babylon. Or Thriftshop. Or possibly Run the World. Sometimes Horses.
The song I like to drive to on a Monday when I’m running late: Smells Like Teen Spirit
The song I like to play at late at night: About Today
The song that makes me want to dance in a manner that embarrasses everyone else around me: Chelsea Dagger (no, seriously. Don’t be seen with me in public)

What does all of that have to do with anything? Well, there’s nothing that brings people together like music. Except for food. The two common denominators for humanity; things that are good for the soul, that feed you.

See? Segue!

I loved this recipe, because it’s burgers but not as you know them. Vegetables! Which makes it good for you, right?! Also, it’s a massive, fresh flavour without much work. They do make great burgers, but I also ate leftovers with rice the next day (where I swear it tasted even better).

Ginger Pork Burger

From Food Republic

1 pound pork sirloin
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons finely grated yellow onion
2 tablespoons finely grated apple, skin on
2 tablespoons finely grated ginger
1 large clove garlic, grated
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons sesame oil
3 ounces mushrooms, stems removed
1 small carrot, peeled
2 spring onions, green part only
1/2 small head lettuce
1 tablespoon canola oil or vegetable oil
2 tablespoons white sesame seeds, toasted (optional)
6 Hamburger buns

1.Thinly slice the pork against the grain. Mix together the Worcestershire sauce, honey, onion, apple, ginger, garlic, salt and sesame oil in a large bowl. Throw in the pork, turn to coat and set aside for at least 20 minutes to marinate.

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2. Thinly slice the mushrooms, spring onions and lettuce into strips. Then, using a vegetable peeler, peel the carrots into long ribbons.

3. In a frying pan over medium heat, heat the oil, then add the pork (but not the marinade – but don’t throw it out) in a single layer and cook until golden, turning a couple of times. Transfer the pork to a plate. Add the carrot and mushrooms to the pan, and cook until slightly wilted. Return the pork to the pan, and add the marinade. Turn up the heat to high, and cook until the sauce thickens and coats everything. If you’re using the sesame seeds, add them now, and stir.

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4. Gently toast the buns. Divide the pork lettuce and spring onions between the buns.

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Grating the ginger/apple/garlic is fantastic because it’s on utensil (less dishes is good, remember?).
Grating the ginger/apple/garlic is awful, because I have a pathalogical fear of mandolins/peelers/graters because I hurt myself.
That’s right. I grated my nuckle while making this. But don’t worry, dinner was a flesh free affair. But it bloody hurt. Because ginger and garlic are not open wound friendly.

Let that be a lesson to y’all.

Pulling up pork

I don’t exactly remember how it happened. I lost a bet, or generally offended my Non Foodie Friend, and the short version of the story is, amends needed to be made in the form of food.

I love the challenge of cooking for people; no two guests are the same. There are allergies and food phobias to juggle, budgets and time constraints. Hell, I’ve even thrown a dinner party simply because I had a new cookbook to play with. Actually, that’s probably my favourite reason to do anything.

I had been seriously hankering for an excuse to make pulled pork. It’s everywhere at the moment, part and parcel with the Mexican wave we’re riding. My Non Foodie Friend is not a huge fan of pork, however he does love simple, meaty fare – lasagna, pastas, burritos, that kind of thing. So, making pulled pork enchiladas was the perfect marriage of ‘showing off cooking’ and the simple, high-impact flavours that NFF loves.

Here’s the deal. I started this on a Saturday morning, for dinner on Sunday night. I promise you, pulled pork is almost effortless. It does take a LOT of time, though; being organised is key. But once you have that… One long nap, and pulled pork goodness is yours.

Visit your local butcher, ask them to remove any bones, skin and ligaments – that’s most of the hard work done for you. Winning! I used a kilo of pork, and that gave me a lot of leftovers. Luckily, there are also a lot of uses for them – Google is your friend.

Pulled Pork

From Juji Chews

Pork shoulder –  I used a kilo piece, Juji used a pieces between 3 and 4 kilos. Whatever suits your needs, really.

Brining solution
1/3 cup salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1.5 l cold water
Bay leaves (about six)
1 tbsp dry rub
1 large (really large) ziploc freezer bag 

In a large saucepan, add the water, salt and sugar, stirring to dissolve. Throw in the bay leaves (I only had dried leaves) and the dry rub.

Put the pork into the ziploc bag, then pour in the brine. Sloosh around to coat, then seal the bag, put it into the roasting pan (it catches up any leaks) and into the fridge for at least 10 hours – though its fine to leave it as long as you need – just not less. The brine stops the pork from drying out while it cooks.

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When you’re ready to cook, preheat the oven to 100*c – I cooked mine overnight, while I was sleeping. 

Take the pork out of the fridge, drain the brine pat it dry with a towel. Rub the pork all over generously with the dry rub, getting into all the folds.

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Place the pork in a roasting pan, and then into the oven.  Take a nap (it’s totally part of the instructions) or go about your day – just don’t open the oven, and don’t turn up the temperature. Set an alarm for 11 hours. When it goes off, turn off the oven and then cover the pork with foil. Put the pork back in the oven, and let it cool for another 2 hours.

Once it’s cool, the pork will come apart into threads with your hands, and it’s free to use as you wish. I made it into enchiladas, using the recipe here.

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Oh, and one more thing – the dry rub. If you’ve got some in the pantry, feel free to use it instead. The more spice, the merrier. If you’ve got plenty of stuff in your spice cabinet at home, you can make your own!

Dry rub

1 tb ground cumin
1 tb dried oregano
1/2 tb dried thyme
2 tb garlic powder
2 tb onion powder or flakes
1 tsp chili powder
1 tb cayenne pepper
2 tb salt
1 tb ground pepper
3 tb paprika
1 tb smoked paprika
1/2 cup brown sugar

Mix the dry rub ingredients together in an air tight container or ziploc bag. It lasts for months, so make more than you need here if you like, it’s great on all kinds of meat.

And then whoopm, there it is. Enchiladas.

Tastes like home

What food did you love growing up?

I was always really jealous of the kids around me who came from different backgrounds. I grew up surrounded by Italians (I believed their pigeons were pets – silly me!), my friends were Thai, Serbian, English and Indian. They had family trips back to ‘The Home Country’, interesting relatives in return. They had special days off to celebrate holidays and festivals.

I mean this in the nicest way possible, but I’m painfully Australian. I got zip, zilch, nada of these fun things. All those fun foods? I didn’t get those either.  But, before you start playing the tiny violins for me, don’t worry. The flavours I grew up loving were a little less traditional Australian, but good none the less.

I loved the sweet and salty balance of char siu sauce, usually used to marinate chicken skewers for barbecues. I’d plead with mum to make them for me whenever she could. The second they came off the grill, there I was, getting in the way of anyone who dared thought they could have one. They were my precioussssssss.

The marinade is traditionally paired with pork, and makes these gorgeous organic pork ribs amazing. You should get some. Really.

Char Siu Pork Ribs

From Not Quite Nigella

Ingredients:

300g Pork Ribs
4 tablespoons of Lee Kum Kee Char Siu sauce
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons white sugar
3-4 garlic cloves chopped
4 tablespoons honey

1) Mix together char siu, salt, sugar and garlic in a ziploc bag. Add the ribs to the bag, and carefully smush the marinade around the ribs to coat. Marinate overnight if you have time, or for at least an hour.

2) Preheat oven to 180C degrees. Bring the ribs to room temperature. Put the ribs on a rack over a baking tray of water. Cook for 30 minutes, turning halfway.

3) Increase the temperature of the oven to 200c. With a pastry brush, baste one side of the pork with the honey, cooking for 5 minutes, then turn over baste other side with more honey and cook for a further 5 minutes.

4) Allow to cool for a couple of minutes before serving.
Serve with steamed rice and Asian greens.