Monday, November 23, 2009


This week's cheesemaking exercise was halloumi. I love halloumi, there's something about the way the insides go all soft and gooey when you fry it, with the outsides being crisp and crunchy and soaking up the lemon juice with which you slather it. It's a bit expensive though, so if this turns out well it may be a regular manufacturing job in my house.

It's an odd procedure, making halloumi. Firstly you add culture (not sure if that's actually necessary) and rennet and let the milk set. Then you cut the curd and cook it ever so slightly - it goes from 30°C to 40°C. Setting the whey aside, you mix a bit of mint with the curds and press them fairly hard for a couple of hours. Then you slice the curd block and return it to the whey, which is by this time heated to 88°C. You leave the curd in the whey for an hour or so - it all floats to the top - then fish it out and salt it, then you store it in brine.

This is what it looks like while it's cooling:

That cooking at 88°C is what makes me think there's no real reason to add culture to the milk. After an hour at 88°C any culture has been well and truly killed, and it's not really in there long enough to have done anything to the flavour of the milk before that step.

I cut off a little bit to try - it wasn't salted enough, but I needed to see if it would behave properly in the frypan.

It did:

Yum, crispy-gooey.

So that's 5 blocks of halloumi for $16, and they'd cost about $10 each in the shop. I could easily make this with cheap milk from the petrol station too, that'd halve the cost again. I will definitely be making this again.

More sensible sandals

Note to self: Put moisturising stuff on legs!

I made a new dress at the weekend; made of linen, very plain, and black from the hem to just under the bust, and white from there up with a bunch of red poppies painted to one side. It'll look good with some of my high shoes, but I'm wearing it today with these sturdy sensible sandals.

My Dad used to wear sandals in a very similar style with his walk socks and walk shorts. Blechhh. Thank God walk shorts & socks seem to have disappeared from the lower portions of "mature" men over the last 30 years or so.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

One and a half kilos of pork shoulder

Pork was on special on Monday, so I bought another hunk of shoulder. I didn't think, until I got home, that the freezer is getting just a little bit full. Pork's been on special a bit lately and I keep buying bits of shoulder that I put in the freezer so I can make yummy sausages closer to Christmas, for when my visitors arrive (wanting to show of my new skills as a charcutier). I've overdone it just a bit, so I had to do something with the latest bit of meat.

Mexican chorizo and a pork and bean chili is what I decided upon, with some of the chorizo to go into the last little bit of a batch of sausage skins, and some of it to be used and/or frozen loose.

Here's the pork, chopped up and ready to go:

The couple of steak-shaped bits in the top right corner are for the chili.

I used a recipe from Charcuterie again. This one requires chipotle and ancho chili powder, which I don't have. But I do have dried chipotles and ancho chilies, …

… so I zapped them for a minute or so in the microwave to get them good and crunchy …

… then whizzed them in the spice grinder and turned them into powder:

The recipe called for oregano, which I also don't have, but I have marjoram in the garden so I went out and picked some:

I also needed hot smoked paprika …

… cumin, pepper, garlic and salt:

Everything got all mixed up and left in the fridge overnight:

The rest of the pork went into the slow cooker with some salt, onion, garlic, tomato paste, what was left of the powdered chilies, and a tin of black beans that had been sitting in the cupboard for ages:

Then I turned it on and left it overnight. This is what it looked like in the morning:

It was cold enough on Tuesday to leave it on the bench for the day until I got home from work. Summer is still looking very distant. Or should I say it was looking distant - today it was quite warm, and tomorrow we are looking forward to 25°C. Not a patch on where my grandkids are though - it got to 43.2 in Adelaide today according to my daughter-in-law's Facebook. I hope it cools down a bit by the time I visit after Christmas.

But I digress, back to food.

Tuesday evening I added some water and red wine vinegar to the sausage mixture, minced and mixed it, then stuffed my tail end of casings …

… which went into the freezer, leaving this much extra sausagemeat:

I froze about half of it, but the rest I cooked up so I could fill some enchiladas:

I filled four with the chorizo and some frozen grated cheese:

And four with the bean and pork chili and cheese:

And I alternated them in this dish:

Then I was stuck - I'd put tomato paste in the chili because I'd run out of cans of tomatoes, so what was I going to use for a sauce?

Rummage rummage through the pantry. Finally I came up with this:

Perfect. I love tomatillos, which are related to my favourite jam fruit, the Cape gooseberry.

I chucked them into the blender with a bit of salt and sugar and onion (plenty of chili and spices in the stuffing, didn't want to overdo it) and poured the resulting slush over my enchiladas:

Baked them in the oven for half an hour or so, …

… then aliquotted them two per container (one of each flavour) and froze them. Yes, I still needed to find room in the freezer, but pork shoulder takes up less room cooked and in pieces.


Mexican chorizo (from Charcuterie)

2.5 kg diced pork shoulder
40 g salt
2 tbsp ancho chili powder
1 tbsp hot paprika (I used smoked)
1 tbsp chipotle powder
1 tbsp minced garlic (I used smoked)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano (I used marjoram)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
3 tbsp tequila, chilled (I used water)
3 tbsp red wine vinegar (chilled)

Optional: 3 meters of sausage casings (pig intestines) soaked in tepid water for at least 30 minutes and rinsed.

Keep everything cold.
Mix all ingredients except tequila and vinegar and toss to distribute seasonings. Keep chilled until ready to use.
Grind the mixture through the small die into a bowl set in ice.
Add the tequila and vinegar and mix well with a spoon or the paddle attachment of your mixer.
Sauté a little bit of mixture to check the seasoning. Adjust if necessary.
Either stuff into the casings and twist into 6 inch links, or use loose.
Sauté or roast links to an internal temperature of 65°C, or if using loose, sauté until cooked though.

Sensible sandals

I have no idea where these sandals came from, I found them in my wardrobe this morning when I was looking for a pair of something unworn. I must have bought them in a sale at some stage.

They're very comfy though, and not too ugly.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Three pâtés

Emily from Malaysia asked me for a good chicken liver pâté recipe. Pâté is not something I make very often, as it tends to go crumbly if you freeze it and it's very fattening so I can't eat a whole batch all by myself if I still want to fit into my clothes. I don't know where I got the recipe I use, it was some time back in the 70s, and it's so simple I haven't needed to look at it since the first time I made it! It's also very easy to modify so I'm giving two versions here, and seeing as I bought some chicken livers I'm also making a pâté (somewhat modified) from Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn's Charcuterie - because I want to see what it tastes like.

Here's what I bought at the supermarket:

That's about 250 g each of chicken livers, boneless chicken thighs, and pork belly strips. I'm making very small portions of each of the patés, for the sake of my waistline.

For the first chicken liver pâté, which is the basic version, I started off by putting 100 g of chicken livers, a few black peppercorns, a bay leaf, and a sprig of parsley into a small pot and barely covering with water.

I poached the livers gently until they were just cooked - about 10 minutes, but you can break open a liver to check its cookedness.

Then the liver and parsley went into my tiny processor - the one that came with my stick blender - with 50 g of butter, half a small onion, and a clove of garlic. I used smoked garlic because I have some and I love it, but just plain old raw garlic is fine..

I whizzed it up until it was very smooth, then added salt and ground black pepper to taste. You just stick your finger in and taste it, it's already cooked. You want to salt it quite well, because it'll taste less salty once it's cold.

Then all that's left to do is pack it into a dish, let it cool, then cover it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge.

If you want serve it turned out of the mould, you can line it with plastic wrap before filling it with the pâté, but I quite like to serve it in a pot like this.

In number two version of the pâté I fry the livers instead of poaching them. In this case I'm frying them in goose fat, because I had some in the fridge, and I want to see what the paté will be like using poultry fat instead of butter. This is actually very similar to the Jewish dish of chopped liver.

So that's 100 g chicken livers, each one cut into about six pieces, fried in 50 g goose (or chicken or duck) fat. When they were done, I put them in the wee processor, then I fried half a small onion in the fat as well. I decided against putting garlic in this one.

I put the onion, fat, some freshly ground black pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt into the processor with the livers and whizzed it up.

Then it went into a wee pot too.

It's a little less smooth than the poached version.

The pâté from Charcuterie is a great deal more complicated than those two, and I halved the recipe.

I started off by skinning the pork strips and cubing the pork and chicken (this was supposed to be just pork shoulder in the recipe) …

… which then went through the coarse die of my mincer:

One third of this coarsely minced meat went into a separate bowl to which I added three cloves of smoked garlic, a good bunch of parsley, some black pepper, and some pâté spice (a mixture of cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, white pepper, and coriander). I was supposed to put a chopped onion in there too, but I saved it to chase this stuff down the mincer with.

That all went through the mincer's small die, into the bowl with the coarsely ground meat. The onions went down the mincer last, to push through the last bits of meat. I don't care if a bit of onion gets left behind in the mincer, but I do care if it's meat.

The salt was added at this point.

Next thing to do was mix a panade. It was made from an egg, some flour, some brandy, and some cream. Again I didn't do what I was supposed to - it was supposed to be heavy cream, but I used the top of the milk I get for cheesemaking. Much lighter. Slightly less fattening.

Then I mixed the panade in with the meat mixture.

You beat it for a minute or so until it gets sticky - a bit like kneading bread.

Once it was well beaten I mixed in some capers I had in the fridge. The book says to mix in whatever you have that'd be nice, suggesting cooked mushrooms, brined peppercorns, or duck confit. I don't have a lot of duck confit lying around the place, so I used capers. You don't need to use anything though.

I was a bit concerned about the next step - lining the cooking dish with plastic wrap. I was not at all sure it wouldn't melt in the oven, but I gritted my teeth and followed instructions, wetting the dish so the plastic would stick to it. Then I packed it with the pâté mixture …

… and covered that with the tails of the plastic.

On with the lid and into the 150°C oven in a bain marie.

I cooked it until its internal temperature was 70°C, which took longer than I expected, around an hour and 20 minutes.

The plastic didn't melt! They do know what they're talking about after all.

I pressed it overnight with a couple of kg weight on top.

Then turned it out in the morning. How nice does this look?

Here it is all sliced up, looking very attractive studded with the green capers:

I've frozen some of it, we'll see how the texture goes when I defrost it. Some of it is in the fridge waiting to become lunches, and I had to try some too.

I baked myself a small loaf of sourdough bread this morning so I'd have something to eat the pâtés with.

That stuff on top of the right hand slice of toast and pâté is marmalade. I'm very fond of pâté with marmalade, an idea I got some years ago from a local deli who were giving out tastes of pâté with candied citrus slices. Marmalade is basically candied citrus, and a lot easier to make, so I tried it and loved it and have eaten chicken liver pâté thus ever since. It's also nice with a squeeze of lemon juice instead of marmalade; the pâté is very rich, so a bit of tartness helps cut the fattiness.

Oh, and the pâté from Charcuterie? It's heavenly.


Basic chicken liver pâté

about 200 g chicken livers
1/2 the weight of the livers in butter
a bay leaf
a few peppercorns
big sprig of parsley
salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic
small onion

Put everything except the onion, garlic, butter, ground pepper and salt in a small pot and barely cover with water.
Simmer very gently until the livers are cooked, about 10 minutes.
Drain the livers and transfer them and the parsley to a food processor.
Add the rest of the ingredients except the salt.
Whizz until very smooth. Taste, and add salt until it is slightly too salty - it will taste less salty when it's cold.
Scrape into a small serving dish, cool, refrigerate.

Variations: Use duck, goose, or chicken fat instead of butter. Replace up to a third of the liver with chicken thigh or breast meat. Fry in the fat instead of poaching; this gives a stronger flavoured pâté. Use more or less garlic, depending on how much you like it. You can use less fat; the texture will be less smooth, but it'll be better for you - I've made it with as little as 1/4 the weight of livers in butter.

Pâté Campagne (from Charcuterie)

1 kg boneless pork shoulder, diced (I used a mixture of pork belly and chicken thigh meat)
100 g pork or chicken liver
50 g chopped white or yellow onion
50 g coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
25 g minced garlic
25 g kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp pâté spice*
20 g flour
2 large eggs
30 ml brandy
1/2 cup heavy cream

optional internal garnish - anything you have that might be nice, cooked chopped mushrooms, brined peppercorns, duck confit etc

* 1 tsp each of ground ginger, coriander, cloves, nutmeg, 2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tbsp white pepper.

Keep everything very cold, including the mincer. (I was a bit slack about this, didn't seem to hurt it too much)
Pre-heat oven to 150°C
Grind the pork through the large die a bowl set in ice.
Transfer about 1/3 of this to another bowl, and add the liver, onion, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, and pâté spice.
Fit the mincer with the small die, and grind the pork-liver-seasonings mixture into the bowl of coarsely ground pork.
In a small bowl, combine flour, eggs, brandy and cream and stir to blend.
Add this to the meat mixture and mix until it becomes sticky like sausagemeat. You can use an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, or a wooden spoon. Fold in the optional garnish, if using.
Do a quenelle test (poach a tiny bit of the mixture wrapped in plastic wrap and taste it) to check the seasoning and adjust if necessary.
Line a 1.5 litre terrine mould with plastic wrap, leaving enough overhang on the long sides to fold over the top of the terrine when it's filled.
Fill the mould with the pâté mixture, packing it down to remove air pockets.
Fold the plastic over the top, and cover with the lid or foil.
Place the terrine in a high-sided roasting dish and add enough water to come halfway up the sides of the terrine.
Put the pan in the oven and bake until the interior of the pâté reaches 65°C if using pork liver, or 70°C if using chicken livers. About 1 hour.
Remove from the oven, remove the terrine from the bain marie, and set a weight of about 1kg on top of it.
Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until completely chilled, overnight, or for up to a week.

Yield 10-12 entrée (appetiser to Americans) servings.

My jewelled heels

Friday night we had a work function to mark the changeover from our current Head of Department to the new one, who takes up his responsibilities in February 2010. It was quite a flash affair; dinner, speeches, then a band and dancing afterwards. Everyone wore their LBDs and I finally had the chance to wear these shoes (photographed where left them after I kicked them off on arriving home afterwards):

If you look carefully you will see that the heels are covered in garnet-coloured rhinestones. One thousand four hundred and forty of them, give or take a few, each of which was glued in place by yours truly using my strongest reading glasses and tweezers. Under electric light they glitter and flash deep red sparkles, and were much admired by my colleagues. The shoes were some cheap $30 ones, and the rhinestones were super cheap because they were the last ten gross of the line - no possibility of matching them again.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

More shoes that needed cream

Today I have on another of my pairs of shoes that I couldn't wear until I got something cream.

They just didn't look right with only black and red, but I'm wearing a black cardigan with my cream skirt and a red top and it all looks fine. Unfortunately they're very difficult to walk in, as my heels keep slipping out and then they don't slip back in again; they squash the backs of the shoes instead. Also, that red strap that crosses my little toe is a bit uncomfortable - a good thing they were very cheap shoes.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Meaty things

I'm having a cheese eating party in mid-December to taste all the cheeses I've been making, and I need to serve something other than cheese. It's a daytime party and there will be children as well as adults. I'm thinking I'll make some pizzas and some of my smoked sausages, but I also want to make a terrine or two and had some ideas I wasn't sure about so I decided to do some experimenting on Monday night.

I wanted to try making a chicken stuffed with a pork mixture between its skin and flesh as well as traditional sage and onion stuffing in the middle, and I want to be able to just slice through the thing without worrying too much about bones.

I got this nice big chook from the supermarket …

… as well as some pork mince, ham pieces, and beef mince to make a meatloaf.

I removed the ribcage of the chicken by cutting the skin down its back and gently slicing the flesh away from the bones, cutting through the hip and shoulder joints so the legs and wings were still intact:

I always think a chicken like that looks like a baby's sleep suit ready for baby-insertion.

I chopped up the ham pieces roughly …

… adding half to the beef mince, which I set aside, and half to this pork mince.

Eddie cat was taking a great deal of interest in the proceedings, it's a good thing there's a window between the kitchen and my sunroom.

I chopped up some sage from the garden, reserving half for the sage and onion stuffing and adding half to the pork.

Ditto with a big onion:

I then added an egg …

… a good dose of salt, and about a quarter of a cup of flour to the pork mixture and squidged it thoroughly with my hands.

I inserted my fingers between the breast meat and skin, and between the thigh meat and skin, and pushed as much of the pork mixture into the spaces as would comfortably fit. There was a good half of it left over.

I salted the exposed chicken flesh ready for adding stuffing, and the carcass went into a pot with leeks, carrots, and celery and onto the stove to cook for stock:

I then made the sage and onion stuffing from a couple of bread rolls, some parsley from the garden, …

… the other half of the sage and the other half of the onion, binding it together with a little melted butter.

I then piled it into the centre of the chicken …

… and fastened it together with toothpicks.

Here's the finished article, dredged with salted flour and trussed ready for the oven:

It went into a roasting dish and into a 160°C oven.

Back to the beef mince!

Here's the beef meatloaf/terrine mix:

It has beef mince, onion, thyme from the garden, the other half of the chopped ham, an egg, some flour, and salt and pepper in it.

And here's the rest of the pork mixture, with some chopped and sautéed portobello mushrooms mixed in:

I lined my long loaf tin with foil, and plonked in about half of the beef mixture. I then placed the pork and mushroom mixture down the middle …

… and put the rest of the beef mixture around it.

I covered it all up with the edges of the foil, then put it in a bain marie in the oven with the chook.

I cooked them both to an internal temperature of ~70°C.

Here's the chicken:

Here's the meatloaf/terrine:

And here's the stock after the solids have been removed and the chicken's pan drippings have been added. It's going in the freezer.

Eddie, Lucas, and William finally got some of what they wanted - the exhausted chicken carcass.

Last night I cut up all of my meaty yumminess, so I could aliquot it and freeze it. Here's the meatloaf/terrine:

Here's the dismembered and sliced chicken:

See the three colours? White chicken surrounded by greeny stuffing and pinky pork. I think it looks quite pretty, and yes of course I tasted it. It's delicious.

And here are the slices all vacuum packed and ready for the freezer:

I think something similar along with some crusty bread and a few salad vegetables will do very well to feed my guests in December.