Idle hands and duck ragu

According to Bunnings commercials, long weekends are the perfect time to get things done around the house. I wholeheartedly agree, if by ‘get things done’, you mean ‘take a nap every day, eat cupcakes and watch a whole season of Grey’s Anatomy’. That’s how these things work, right?

With a very busy week under my belt and a flu-ravaged boyfriend, a quiet weekend was in order. Except it turns out, there’s only so much nothing you can do. After two solid days of couch time and the relentless screams of whoever it was Blair was killing in Battlefield 4, I went a little stir-crazy. Kitchen therapy was the only way to go – obviously – and I wanted something worthy. I wanted something special. 

The deal was sealed having never cooked with duck, and knowing the result was going to be rich and comforting. Fear not, the recipe is still easy, you’re just slow cooking meat. There’s no real technique required (oh god, I have to stop watching MasterChef); and if cutting up a duck is out of your range, use one duck breast per person, which is totally what I did. Because, who has two thumbs up and didn’t know that you can’t just buy a whole duck on a public holiday Monday? This chick.

What are you loving now that the winter weather has kicked in? Do you have a favourite recipe for when you’ve got some time up your sleeve?

Duck Ragu

From Taste Magazine

1.8kg duck
100g diced pancetta, coarsely chopped
1 brown onion, finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 dried bay leaves
250ml pinot noir
2x 400g diced tomatoes
250ml chicken stock
3 rosemary sprigs
1/4 tsp Chinese five spice powder
110g pitted green olives, chopped
Cooked pappardelle pasta, to serve
Shredded parmesan, to serve

 

Using a pair of kitchen scissors, cut along both sides of the duck’s backbone, and discard. Quarter the duck, and season with salt. In a flame and oven proof dish, cook the duck in batches, skin side down over high heat until golden, around five minutes. Turn and cook for a further 2 minutes, then transfer to a place.

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Heat the oven to 130*C. Cook the pancetta, onion, garlic, carrot, celery and bay leaves for 8 minutes or until soft, stirring occasionally.

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Add the wine and stir, scraping and brown bits from the bottom.  Add the duck, tomato, stock, rosemary and Chinese five spice. Cover, place in the oven and bake for 2 – 3 hours or until the duck is tender.

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Once cooked, remove the duck and set aside on a plate. Simmer the liquid over medium heat for 20 minutes or until thickened and reduced by a third. Carefully remove and discard the duck bones. Shred the meat and return to the sauce with the olives. Season to taste. Serve with pasta and parmesan.

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I’m trying to kill you

Today, I want to share with you a recipe that doesn’t belong here.

February, in all it’s summerbodycleaneatingpaleofreshseasonalhealthy glory, is not the place for what I’m about to present to you. But you know what? Bollocks to that. Some days are hard. While I believe that you should try and remove negative stuff from your life, you certainly can’t go around pretending everything is peachy. You’re tired, things go wrong, you’re unwell, whatever. If you’re having a particularly bad day, you’re allowed to feel it. Screw the positive mind-set rubbish, and go wallow.

I’m not going to lie, this dish is probably going to kill you. There is nothing even remotely good for you here, and that’s pretty much why I love it. Because if you’re having the kind of day where you hate life and everything in it, why the hell would you worry about where or not stuff is good for you?

If you’re not having the kind of day where you hate life, make this anyway. It’s comfort food central, made up of stuff that you probably have in your kitchen already. It’s super kid-friendly, wintery cold weather-friendly, Friday night and can’t be bothered-friendly. It’ comes together in 20 minutes, and is incredibly moreish. It is, as the new Cookie Monster says, definitely a sometimes food, but why can’t sometimes be today?

Cheesy Sausage Tortellini

From Kevin & Amanda

2 tbsp olive oil
450g sausage (I used kransky), sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup chicken stock
1 cup tomato pasta sauce
1/2 cup cream
250g tortellini
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat a splash of olive oil in a frying pan with deep sides until hot. Add the sliced sausage and cook for 4 minutes each side, or until browned. Add the garlic to the pan, and cook, stirring, until fragrant.

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2. Add the pasta sauce, stock, cream and pasta to the pan, and give a good stir to combine, then bring to a almost-boil.

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3. Cover the pan and simmer for 12 minutes on low, until the pasta are tender and plump. Serve with cracked black pepper. And maybe a tub of Ben & Jerry’s. I’m not going to judge you.

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What makes food taste better than good?

There are things you can do that makes food taste better. I mean, better than normal.

Slow cooking, for one thing. Having someone else cook for you. MSG and salt. Being hungry – have you ever noticed that everything tastes AMAZING when you’re starving?

I’m personally of the opinion that eating with your hands goes firmly on that list. Think about it! How good are burgers, or pizza? Picnics! Hotdogs! CAKE, BECAUSE CUTLERY BE DAMNED.

Of course, Mexican and it’s various subsidiaries fall into this category too. It’s fun on three levels:

  1. Most of the names are ridiculous to pronounce. Quesadilla what?
  2. Eating with your hands is pretty much mandatory
  3. You get to make it up as you go! Personally, I like cheese and hate guac.

The other thing that’s awesome about Mexican, is that it’s stupidly quick and, if you make it yourself, fresh. Done in 30 minutes or less, this dish wastes absolutely no time getting on your dinner table, leaving you with more time for the important stuff. Like stuffing your face.

Coriander chicken with pico de gallo

Adapted from Good Taste

3 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp dried oregano leaves
1 tsp sea salt flakes
2/3 cup chopped fresh coriander
4 garlic cloves
2 fresh jalapeño chillies, finely chopped
80ml lime juice
2 tbs olive oil
800g chicken breasts
4 tomatoes, seeded, finely chopped
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
Tortillas, warmed

Place cumin, ground coriander, oregano, salt, 1/2 cup chopped coriander, 3 garlic cloves and half the chili in a mortar or blender, and blitz until it forms a paste.

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Add half of the olive oil and lime juice. Season with pepper to taste. Pour the marinade into a bowl, then add the chicken, rubbing the marinade in well. Set aside for 10 minutes.

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Toss together the tomato, onion and what’s left of the garlic, coriander, chili, lime juice and oil in a bowl; set aside.

Heat a splash of oil in a frying pan on high, then add the chicken and cook for a few minutes each side until cooked through. Slice thinly, then serve with the tortillas and pico de gallo.

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I might be wrong, so please correct me if I am, but I’m pretty sure you could even blitz up the marinade, coat the chicken and then throw it into ziploc bags to be frozen.

Did I just make this super easy dinner even easier? Uh, I think I did. YOU’RE WELCOME.

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.

Easy like Sunday… Night.

I spent the entirety of this weekend curled up in bed with a migraine.
While being in bed and sleeping for hours at a time is awesome, the drum and bass brain… Not so much.  I’m telling myself that the sensitivity to light is just one more step to me becoming Batman, though somehow I think it’s just hallucinations from the really interesting pain killers I’m taking.

Then comes Sunday night. I’m starving. I’m scarily un-caffeinated. I haven’t seen the inside of a supermarket in a week. All of these things are creating a vicious cycle of can’t-be-bothered-leaving-the-house syndrome.
I’m being forced to scrape the bottom on the culinary barrel. Or, just finish off whatever is left in my fridge.
Herbs left over from those brilliant Greek baked eggs. Cherry tomatoes. There’s chicken in the freezer…

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m creating magic. Pulling dinner (and probably tomorrow’s lunch), out of a hat. It’s pretty basic stuff. But it’s fast, cheap, simple and will get out through until you can make it to the shops come Monday.

Roasted Tomato and Herbed Ricotta Pasta

Ingredients
1 punnet of cherry tomatoes
1 chicken breast, diced
1/3 cup ricotta
120g dried pasta
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp chopped oregano
2 tsp chopped thyme

1. Preheat the oven to 200*.
Line a baking tray with foil. Halve the cherry tomatoes, peel the garlic, add herbs and toss with half the oil and season with salt and pepper in the tray. Place the tray in the oven, and roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until the skin starts to blister.

2. Cook pasta according to packet instructions.
In the mean time, season the chicken with salt and pepper. Pan fry the chicken in the other half of the oil.


Place the roasted tomato and garlic in a blender, blitz for a couple of seconds to chop. Mix the tomato with ricotta.

3. Drain the pasta once al dente, then return to the pan with the chicken and tomato ricotta sauce. Mix to combine until heated through.
Divide into bowls and serve with additional herbs.

Food bribery gets stuff done.

I make no secret of the fact that I like to bribe people with food to do my bidding.
What? It’s like the age-old bartering system, where the Europeans traded blankets for food with the Native American Indians. Except, that’s also how they all got smallpox and died… Look, the point is, no one has died after I’ve fed them, I swear. Wait, that’s not my point. Oh god, I’ve forgotten what my point is…

Anyway. I convinced some friends to help me move some stuff around my house, and for that, I offered to cook them dinner. It’s how the system works, right? After the crazy of last week’s Christmas feast, I wanted to do simple. And fewer dishes. For that, this dish is magic. Everything goes in one pan, it’s filling but not heavy (unless you eat the whole pan. The thought crossed my mind), and who doesn’t love to eat straight out of the pan? Just me? Oh. Well, this just got awkward.

Also – the leftovers are awesome.

Turkish Meatballs with Eggs and Flat Bread

Adapted from: Kitchen Coquette by Katrina Meynink

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion finely chopped
400g tinned crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp brown sugar
500g cherry tomatoes
3 eggs
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp sumac
2 tsp ground cumin
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
600g beef mince
1 chorizo sausage
200g Persian feta
a handful of coriander leaves
a handful of mint leaves

1. For the meatballs, place half the onion in a mixing bowl and add spices, garlic, one of the eggs and the mince. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well, and using your hands, roll into even walnut sized balls.

2. Heat oil in a large frying pan and sauté the rest of the onion until just translucent. Remove the onion, and add the meatballs and chorizo to the pan in batches, until cooked through.

3.Return all the meatballs and chorizo to the pan and add the onions, tinned tomatoes and sugar. Cook for 10 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes, until the skin is starting to burst.

4. Crack the remaining eggs over the mixture and cook for 3 minutes or until cooked to your liking.

5. Scatter the feta, coriander and mint over the top, and serve directly from the pan with naan bread.

Wheezey may have licked her plate clean. Does a compliment come any better than that? I don’t think so.