how good are pancakes?

I love pancakes- how could you not?  

But I do have a confession, waffles get a higher rotation in our house.  Not because I have anything against pancakes but generally the failure rate is much lower in the waffle category.  Pancakes can be tricky territory, too thick, not cooked well enough, too heavy, more than one bowl required etc…

Whilst waffles always have a strong foothold in my heart I’ve had a hankering for fluffy pancakes, bacon and maple syrup lately and Saturday morning certainly delivered.

I’d purchased the bacon, had a flagon of maple syrup in the fridge (thank you costco) and just needed a solid pancake recipe. This is where the buckwheat pancakes make an entrance, I’d had a recipe in my favourites for a while and they had always delivered, but when I visited it from my favourites I’d found that the recipe was no longer online.  *insert tears* Lesson here, if there’s something that you love online, take a copy because you never know when it will disappear.  But if I want to disappear into a metaphor when one door closes another one opens.  In this case an even better pancake recipe.

Why buckwheat?  I’m not a gluten free for any dietary reasons but I’ve always loved buckwheat pancakes and crepes.  The name is deceiving whilst called buckwheat it’s actually not from wheat it’s actually a seed.  And I’ve found after eating them they are much lighter and you don’t feel heavy and full after eating them- more room for bacon!

So in google land I stumbled accross this great recipe for buttermilk buckwheat pancakes.  Soooooo good. Light, fluffy and delicious and even better it’s a one bowl recipe, winning! 

Buckwheat is really interesting when you mix it up for the first time, initially it’s like it’s almost impervious to liquid, it just skims accross the flour and doesn’t really take until you mix it up really well.  Because it has not only buttermilk but baking soda and baking powder the batter bubbles up beautifully…


Once mixed up it’s ready to cook time- Try to find the heaviest pan you can, you want it to conduct the heat nicely so you can have it on a low heat and not cook it too quickly.  I cooked them one at a time in my heavy based crepe pan just using a 1/4 cup measure, brushing the base with butter every now and again.  I kept them in the oven warming whilst working my way through the remaining batter.

When cooking they puffed up beautifully, delicious and golden on the outside and lovely and fluffy on the inside… You know that they are ready to flip when the bubbles appear and split on the surface and the edges of the pancake look set and slightly dry.



So keep working your way through the batter one by one by one.  Once I’d worked my way through the batter I cooked up the bacon on the stove and pulled the maple syrup out of the fridge to come to room temperature.  

Stack them up and then marvel in their beauty…


Serve it up with whatever your sides are, either au naturale with maple syrup and/or butter,  a berry compote or some bacon which I did in this case, and then just stare at it again, particularly if you use maple syrup and watch the syrup just slowly dripping down the sides…. droool……

I know that these were really good because it’s Monday and I’m still thinking about them.  I’ve got the rest of the buttermilk left (it lasts in the fridge for like forever!) so I think that these are going to make another appearance this weekend.

Monkey and I don’t do brunch out really, it’s so much nicer at home, no queues, no need to wear activewear in fact you can just sit there in your bathrobe (which we generally are!) and enjoy a delicious breakfast, coffee and the paper without feeling like you’re being rushed out of your seat.

Try this recipe and let me know what you think- it’s pretty much failure free!

And for me?  I can’t wait until next weekend because we’re having pancakes xxx

yolky goodness

When it comes to eggs there can be two kinds of people, those who insist on on only ever a hard boiled yolk and those who prefer to ride the rainbow of runny to not to runny.

I see the role of the hard boiled egg mainly relegated to sandwiches and salads- everything else is fair game for some runny yolky goodness.

So this brings me to the 5:10 egg- such a revelation! I’d had this recipe lurking in my bookshelves for years and years but it wasn’t until just before the last new year that I had discovered it.  We had friends over for New Years dinner and I had earmarked a delicious recipe from David Changs book Momofuku (lucky peach).  The recipe sounded (and once cooked) tasted sublime.  Soft runny egg served with a herb salad, home made potato crisps, caviar (or any form of fish egg)  and a slow cooked onion soubise (very very very slow cooked onions in butter).  Sooooo good.

Back to the egg- it’s called a 5:10 egg and that’s because it’s cooked for… well you guessed it 5 minutes and 10 seconds- and it’s super simple…

1.  Bring eggs to room temputerature

2.  Bring water to a gentle boil

3.  Gently drop eggs into the boiling water

4.  Set timer for 5 minutes and 10 seconds

5.  Whilst eggs are cooking set up a bowl suitable for the number of eggs that you have and fill with cold water and ice cubes

6.  The moment the timer dings and says it’s go time pop the eggs into the ice water

7.  Wait for the eggs to cool – crack on a hard surface and peel and peel in the water (or out if that’s what you prefer- having it in the water makes it a little easier)

From this point you can leave the eggs in the fridge until you want to use them (can probably sit for a day or 2 max).  Then when ready to use just pop in some warm water either on or off the stove and gently warm them through and serve.

Now… here’s the most glorious bit- cut into the egg and feel free to video in slow motion- it’s the most breathtaking sight- soft soft egg whites and the most delightful runny yolk….


I’ve made these several times- over salads, by themselves or one of the best yet over instant ramen noodles (the yolk just combines with the noodles in a way that it’s like a second sauce).

I will make the dish with the herbs, crisps and onions again because it was really good- but these eggs…. seriously the best- and even better they are something you can prepare in advance- I prepped some last night and rewarmed this morning to serve with latkes and gravlax.

Try it- it’s a keeper- trust me…

not a make again ep1

I haven’t got many pictures for this post because I wasn’t originally planning on sharing it.  However given how terrible it was I feel obligated to. 
So here was dinner on Friday evening, pumpkin gnocchi with sage & pinenut burnt butter- looks good right?


Beautifully plump gnocchi covered in burnt butter, crispy sage, toasty pine nuts and then sprinkled with Parmesan- heavenly… well that’s how it should have been.

Making gnocchi from what I’ve found is a fickle beast (apart from ricotta gnocchi it’s super simple and really hard to muck up) and I respect that, there’s a certain art to it.  

So how did this start?  I could blame costco and wonder why I purchased a whole pumpkin when I just needed about half but I thought no no I’ll put it to good use.  I pondered for a couple of days and then thought, huzzah pumpkin gnocchi what a great idea! So of course naturally you start googling recipes.  

Before I get into the pumpkin version here’s a couple of things I’ve learnt from plain old mr potato gnocchi….

* Keep the potato as dry as possible, any liquid is the devil.  Hence why baking (and then ricing the potato) is a preferred method.

* Keep use of flour to a minimum otherwise it ends up in rubbery bullet like gnocchi.

Two simple and very sensible guidelines, two guidelines I knew about and completely ignored on Friday.

I looked for a few recipes and they advised minimal flour, yes I thought make sense keep them light and delightful.  Another recipe roasted the pumpkin and then squeezed the flesh in a tea towel to remove the excess liquid, again I thought how smart, yes this will keep the pumpkin nice and dry and pull together a nice dough.

Did I listen to any of this?  No. I decided to go with another recipe which used heaps of flour (wrong) and kept the pumpkin wet (wrong again) and why did I do this?  Because this recipe added ricotta as well so I thought that made it different, and that it would be different and end up amazing, even though deep down I knew that wasn’t quite going to happen.  

Wrong wrong wrong, in hindsight I knew they would suck but I thought hey this is different, it’s a recipe from a respected (sort of) publication and maybe just maybe the ricotta makes a difference?!

So granted when rolled out (after roasting pumpkin, pureeing it and mixing with Parmesan, ricotta and a crapload of flour) you end up with fairly decent looking gnocchi…


These were boiled until floating, panfried in olive oil and tossed in burnt butter, sage and pinenuts, drizzled with lemon and sprinkled with Parmesan.

Let me just say that the sauce was great, to be honest you can’t ever really go wrong with butter so that was a delight.

But.. on the first bite I just had to say to monkey out loud- ‘this is shit’ and he wasn’t quick to disagree… I didn’t finish all of my diner and that rarely happens….. seriously. As a judgement of nice food it should be possible to open your mouth whilst chewing, your food shouldn’t stick to your mouth in that way…

But these things happen, not every meal is going to be amazing, and I’m not upset at all that these could have ended up being deadly weapons when dried and thrown at people (we also thought it might make a makeshift wall putty due to the nice gluey consistency) but what I’m actually annoyed about is not listening to myself.  I knew that these were wet, and I knew that it used too much flour but for some reason I had convinced myself that because it was a recipe it must be right.

Recipes are great in particular for things like cakes (always need precision) but when you think something isnt’t right change it and try something different, because seriously it couldnt’ be anything worse than what we had on Friday.

Always trust yourself- and it’s ok if it doesn’t go to plan, just hope you can figure out why it didn’t…

PS used packet spaghettini for dinner tonight tossed with white anchovies, tomoto, butter and crispy garlic breadcrumbs for dinner it was delicious- so all is well in the world again.

PPS- I’ve titled this ep1 because I know that in the future there will be a need for further episodes.

PPPS- I’m sorry costco it wasn’t your fault, I’ll visit you again next weekend xxx

grilled shiitake with some umami

Umami- it’s one of those words that tends to get thrown about on menu’s.  This one I am ok with.  

Don’t get me started on things like ‘hand cut chips’ or ‘fresh salad’ or ‘deconstructed’…. Umami I understand- it’s the fifth flavour after sweet, sour, salty and bitter.  We don’t have an English equivalent of the word but essentially umami is a ‘savoury’ flavour- and I love it! Salt added to some proteins, fish sauce, Parmesan, mushrooms and so many more exhibit an ‘umami’ flavour.

Pinned to my Pinterest board for a while I had Peter Gilmore’s (think Quay and the famous snow egg- Sydney) grilled shiitake mushrooms with umami butter.  This week I decided it was happening.

Super simple recipe– grilled shiitake mushrooms topped with an umami butter.  This butter is filled with glorious things. You start with softened butter and mix in some dried shiitake and dried seaweed that have been blitzed in a spice grinder, toasted sesame seeds, white miso, lemon rind and fish sauce- mmmmmm UMAMI!

Firstly- don’t get distracted by Netflix and forget about the sesame seeds in the oven otherwise you end up with this…


That’s a little tooooo toasty- I gave it a second go and actually paid attention the second time.  Dump all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix together and you end up with this delightful combination…


It’s not pretty I’ll grant you that but it’s really really tasty.

Next- take the stems off the mushrooms- on shiitakes they aren’t that lovely (when grilled) so slice them off and then coat with olive oil and salt..

Then it’s time to grill them- the recipe used a wood/coal bbq but I just used my cast iron grill pan over the gas- suitable alternative in my opinion.


I then topped these with the butter and put the in a low oven while I got together the rest of dinner.


Once they are warm the beautiful butter just melts into the mushrooms…


These were really good- I served them alongside a nice steak, baby spinach salad and a nice sourdough- these will be a make again and I think that this butter would go really nicely along with other veggies or even fish or chicken.

Give it a go- may sound strange ingredient wise but the flavour makes up for it.

Umami!

snot blocks

So I’ve knocked another item off ‘the list’- if you haven’t read my last post I’ve got a list of items/recipes that I will make, one day, when the time is right.

Vanilla slice, snot block, custard slice whatever you want to call it they are all fairly similar and it wasn’t until I decided I wanted to make it the other night I realised why I’d put it off for so long.

Let’s start with the puff pastry- you cook it before you assemble but how to cook (and slice) it really varies.  Some recipes cook it weighted with another tray down on top, other recipes let it puff up and then compress afterwards, or others let it puff up and then get you to slice it horizontally to make two sheets (that was never going to happen!)

Then it’s the filing, some are made like a custard cooking it with eggs, others are more cornflower based still cooked and thickened up with eggs at a later point.

And assembly…. some just use 2 sheets of pastry and others use more, some use icing and some don’t- so many bloody variations!

Looking through the myriad of recipes I decided on a passionfruit version– it was summer so good timing to give it a go. I didn’t realise unti I purchased said passionfruit how the pressure would really be on for it not to be a failure because in total it was $12 worth of passionfruit alone!

Additionally my biggest fear was slicing the damned thing when it was done so I also purchased an electric knife (wanted one for a while anyway so it seemed like a good excuse!)

After dinner I set out for a late night baking session, and read the recipe properly… and read it again, and again and got quite confused.  After conferring with monkey I realised this recipe wanted you to have the pastry to puff up and slice through horizontally so using 2 pieces you end up with 4 to layer with. It was almost like a cross between a vanilla slice and a mille feuille,  I really didn’t like my chances of precision slicing there so I opted to use 4 slices of pastry and cooked them between 2 pans layered with baking paper and pressed down occasionally and they ended up beautifully golden and crisp…

To trim to pan size I just used a serrated edged knife and it cut really easily (may have sampled some of the off cuts)- now onto the filling.

This recipe was a cornflour thickened passionfruit cream cooked until thick and then egg yolks and butter stirred through afterwards- took a while to get to a beautiful state but it was lump free.  To make the passionfruit juice which is in the cream you scooped out about 6 passionfruit, whizzed in a blender and then strained- smelt just like summer.

Before you start to assemble make sure you line the pan really really well with either baking paper or glad wrap- you need enough to grip onto when you need to lift it out of the pan to slice.

Assembly was easy- pastry, cream, pastry cream, pastry, cream and then pastry- set for a while and then get started on the icing.  

I’m always amazed at how little liquid you need to mix with icing sugar to get it to a spreadable state- 150g of icing sugar and 2 passionfruit left you with a beautiful yellow icing that smelt so so good- spread a thick layer on top and all you need now is a little more patience for it to fully set.

I let mine set in the fridge overnight- and because I was worried it might be a little wobbly I popped in the freezer for about 30 minutes before slicing.

It lifted out of the pan easily thanks to the substantial amount of glad wrap used and I fired up the newly purchased electric knife.  Best purchase EVER! This just sliced through it like a breeze and I have a feeling I might just have a need to use it on everything now.

So the end result?  Pretty good- still needed a knife and fork to eat it properly (sacrilege I know!) but taste wise it did the job- thank goodness you could taste the passionfruit! I think next time I make it I’ll do the traditional 2 slices of pastry and may also look for more of a custardy recipe for the filling.


I still have some more left in the fridge which I am more than fine with- I think it was even better tonight than it was yesterday so logically speaking tomorrow’s should be the best yet!

Probably not something I would make often but definitely will be making (and improving on) in the future.  Although if I want to make more passionfruit ones may need to consider growing my own passionfruit…

it was time to tackle tortillas…

I love Mexican food and I love tacos, who doesn’t?  Most people I know grew up with the Old El Paso taco kit and in our house it still gets a run from time to time.  And despite you now having a plethora of standard, stand and stuff, jumbo and even those cup things sometimes you want something a little different-  a soft taco shell… tortillas!

I generally don’t make my own tortillas because you can get some really decent ready made corn tortillas from the shops which pretty much just contain corn (nothing else!). and to keep it nice and simple- pick your filling, heat the tortillas up (i do mine in the sandwich press) and away you go.  What’s even better is that the majority of them are gluten free so if you are cooking for someone that has a food intolerance/allergy it’s a very easy go to!

However from time to time when the mood strikes me I want to make my own.  A couple of years ago I looked into it and was really surprised at how easy it was (theoretically) to make your own corn tortillas.  All you needed was one magic ingredient- Masa Harina.  Masa Harina is a milled, dried corn treated with lime- don’t attempt to sub in polenta (which is also corn) because it hasn’t been treated in the same way and won’t soften to make a pliable dough.

To make your own corn tortillas you mix the Masa Harina with hot water, knead, roll into a ball, rest, portion out, roll out into a circle and cook on the stove- easy!  Well so I originally thought when I first made them. They were always edible but could have been better, thinner, more crispy but also pliable etc… Each time that I’ve made them I’ve seen where I can make little improvements here and there.

So firstly the dough- as mentioned you really just mix the Masa Harina with hot water (most packets of Masa Harina have a recipe on the back or a simple google search will help you out) and knead it until it feels like soft play dough- a few recipes I read online said that you should be able to press your finger in and the dough should not crack so this is what mine looked like…

Then let the dough rest for about an hour. However I’m fairly certain that after I took this photo I added slightly more water and kneaded it through- the dough didn’t crack when pressed but I felt it could be a little more ‘play dough like’ in texture.

Next it’s time to pinch off pieces of dough about the size of a golf ball and roll out into thin circles.  The first time I made tortillas I rolled out the balls of dough between baking paper.   I wasn’t happy with the shape- wasn’t really circular in shape so  for my next attempt I decided I needed a tortilla press (any excuse to purchase new kitchen gadget!) so I purchased one from a deli not too far away from work- it really looked the business…

Despite how professional it looked you still needed to cover the top and bottom plates.  When uncovered the dough stuck and you had to peel it off and never quite successfully and not surprisingly quite a few words were said in the process.  BUT once covered and pressed they were beautifully circular so it’s into the cooking process. The only annoying thing about this process was that the gladwrap kept falling off and you had to keep attaching it to the press which made for quite an arduous process…

Cooking..

Find a pan that’s nice and heavy heat to a nice heat and pop a tortilla on for a minute or two on each side and hopefully you have some nice charry bits on each side- store in a tortilla warmer or in tea towels- you must keep it in a steamy environment because then they start to soften and become nice and pliable.

Testing the first one my second time making them (but with the super professional press this time) they were simply still too thick- circular, but thick! So I rolled the remaining ones after the initial press between baking paper with a rolling pin. Then continued to cook the rest but it still felt that the cooking time was far too long…

Which brings me to my latest attempt with one additional  kitchen accessory, a few more tweaks needed but much more success.

So now I had the dough sorted, the right press method (for the most part) but cooking method could be improved.  Before Christmas I was in a heavenly home wares store and I found a comal.

comal

This is a nice and heavy flat pan that can be used to cook tortillas amongst other things.  If you have a cast iron pan (which I don’t) this is the same equivalent in my mind.  Was a decent price so I purchased it and knew that I had to give it a go soon.

Which brings me to the other week- dragged the pan out and seasoned it and got ready to roll in making tortillas.  Got the pork on early for the filling (sooooo good and see previous post for this)  Made the dough as described above.

Then dragged out the press- but with one slight change.  I read on a post that someone had used zip lock sandwich bags on their press.  Pulling a couple out of the cupboard I stretched one over each plate and got ready to pinch out the doll and press out the circles.  MUCH easier method with the sandwich bags rather than the glad-wrap- however still needed to further roll out to make them a little thinner.

When the dough was rolled out it was time to get cooking on the comal. Bumped up the heat, pre warmed it and got going- and I was pretty happy…

tortilla

They puffed up and charred really nicely- and after sitting in the tortilla warmer softened up beautifully.

So it may have taken a few attempts to figure out dough consistency, proper rolling and pressing  and getting the right pan to conduct at the right temperature, I finally got there!  For this latest attempt we had cheese, sour cream mixed with lime juice, fresh tomato salsa and carnitas (slow cooked delicious pork, see previous post)

taco

Cooking takes mistakes, patience and just keep trying some things again and again (where you think its worth it of course!)

These were really really good if I do say so myself.  I did read that you could reheat the next day but…. nah weren’t that flash so that won’t be a go in the future but making them this way certainly will.

It’s not something that would be a regular thing but next time I think I’ve almost got it down pat…

Now after typing this all out I’m quite hungry for a taco(s)! How about you?

little meats

Last week I decided to finally give my new tortilla pan (a comal) a crack – I was convinced it was the missing link in being able to finally make a decent tortilla that I was happy with.  Corn tortillas are great friends with juicy slow cooked pork so I thought given I was still on leave I’d have plenty of time to slowly cook away a lovely shoulder.

My plan was that I’d give trying to perfect tortillas a crack and then share it with you- which I will but first I just have to share this pork with you, I now have a go to recipe, it’s the best slow cooked pork I’ve ever made that was bound for tacos…

Generally in the past when searching for a recipe I’d just search for pulled pork recipes- and they were generally pretty good but they were cooked with a whole heap of extra ingredients such as rubs, sauces, spices etc and didn’t really seem like an authentic Mexican counterpart to a taco.

So I changed the search criteria and asked Mr Google to look for Carnitas. It basically means ‘little meats’ and is pork cooked very slowly in liquid or lard very slowly and adding some minimal seasoning and cooked down until the liquid evaporates, the pork breaks down and goes nice and golden and crispy and is served with things like coriander, guacamole, tortillas, onion, refried beans etc.

I narrowed it down to a couple of recipes but settled on this one from Epicurious (if you haven’t been to their site you should- lots of great recipes).  A couple of things drew me to it- firstly the inclusion of cooking the pork in milk (had never cooked meat in milk) but then also the addition of half an orange and really not much else ingredient wise.

Recipe decided I purchased a pork shoulder roast (I don’t recommend a leg- you need something with a decent amount of fat), unbound it and removed the skin- cut it into about 8 large chunks, seasoned it and seared it on the stove- pop into the heaviest casserole dish you have (if it’s one you can’t use on a stove top), top with milk, half an orange squeezed over and dump the orange rind in there too.  I also added in a dash of cumin  (quite a few comments with the recipe recommended this) and a liberal dosing of pepper and top with water until almost covered popped on the lid and cooked it for two hours.

Which brings us to this point…

porkhalfway

This is where the recipe then advises you to remove the orange and break up the chunks into slightly smaller pieces (which I did) and cook for a further 20 minutes (which I did not).  A lot of the feedback said that they had to cook it for much longer than 20 minutes to completely reduce the liquid and crisp up the pork so I kept going past the 20 minute mark… and kept going…. at about the hour mark I flipped over the pork because I was worried that the pork above the liquid line would dry out. About 15 minutes later I considered removing some of the liquid but decided not to and kept going.

Patience pays off…. 20 minutes was actually 2 hours. However it smelt amazing, and took no effort at all to break up the pork- and the top was just beautifully crispy and caramelized.

finishedpork

Yes this takes 4 hours to make but when it’s in the oven you don’t really have to tend to it at all.  This was just incredibly simple and it sounds silly but just so… porky. They went so well with the tortillas and had them again for lunch again the next day (love love love Mexican food).

Sunday morning I still had some left over in the fridge and rather than freeze the leftovers I thought I would have it join one of my most favourite breakfasts ever- Migas.

migas

Migas are corn tortillas cut up into 8 wedges, fried until crispy (I didn’t add chopped onions this time) crack a couple of eggs over, wait until cooked for a little bit, season, and start to mix it around the pan with some chopped coriander and some cheese if you like.  Then plate it up.  I topped mine this time with chipotle salsa, more coriander, cheese, sour cream and a side of caranitas.  I loved Migas before I’d tried it with carnitas but this took it to another level… would have been even better if I had remembered the pickled jalapeños!

So- this one is forever filed away as my go to pork recipe for Mexican food… set some time aside and give it a go, let me know if you do- I don’t think you’ll have any regrets!