A Corny Story

I love sweetcorn. I love cheap and seasonal food. I love being in New Zealand in May when the harvest is coming to an end and there is a glut of corn cobs available everywhere, sometimes less than 20c for each kernel encrusted delight.

Corn on the cob cooked incorrectly can be soggy, waterlogged and tasteless or burnt and dry. I am surprised by the amount of times I have had corn that has been very substandard as it is sooooo easy to cook!

My fool proof way to cook corn on the cob is also very simple and more flexible than a sub prime mortgage company pre 2007. It is forgiving on timing (you can easily double the cooking time if something else isn’t quite ready) and temperature (cook for longer on lower temperatures and less on higher).

When buying corn, choose cobs that feel heavy for their size and are free of mould or insects.

Step 1

Don’t peel your cobs, get the whole cobs and run them under the tap for 5 minutes or so. If you live in an area where water is precious, place them in a sink full of water for a similar length of time.
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Step 2

Put the soaked cobs still in their skins in an oven between 140C and 200C (don’t worry if it is a bit hotter or cooler).

Step 3

If you are cooking at around 160C, cook for around 10-15 minutes minimum to 30 or so minutes maximum. Adjust timings for hotter or cooler ovens. In an emergency (is there really such a thing as a cooking emergency?) after 30 minutes, dip the cobs in the sink full of water again and return to the oven – it should buy you some more time.

Step 4

Peel cobs and dress with butter, salt and pepper (or for a fat free version that is surprisingly good, squeeze lime and sprinkle with smoked paprika).

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Really Fast Chocolate Frozen Yoghurt

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When I die, I will no I have arrived in heaven if there is an ice cream parlour on every corner. I have always loved ice cream since I was a child. It creates a sense of excitement deep inside me that no other food can come close too. It reminds me of sunny days by the sea, shopping trips to city department stores (my mum would take me to the Bentall’s cafe for ice cream as a treat/bribe), a special ending to lunch or dinner and riding my bike one handed licking a cone in the other.

I love all sorts of ice cream (or frozen dessert as some will call the wider genre!) from frothy, soft Mr Whippy or frozen custards, to zesty frozen fruit blocks and poles to luxurious, gourmet concoctions containing salted popcorn (thank you Heston!). My favourite type has always been chocolate and as I have aged, my preference is for the darker and more bitter variety. When we lived in Sydney, I had a really funky, top of the range ice cream maker, one of those where you don’t even need to freeze a bucket as it has a built in freezing unit. You can crave ice cream at 11pm and have your own batch in a cone ready to eat by 11:30pm

My wife has noticed that our daughter has inherited my zeal for the frosty delights and whenever we go anywhere always asks for an ice cream. Just today, pondering aloud, Mrs Jamie asked me how we break it to the little girl that you shouldn’t expect ice cream every day – I told her she probably needs to work on me first as I could see no error in the statement.

So I dedicate my post today of my favourite recipe for Rapid chocolate frozen yoghurt to my daughter – we share a pleasure that your mother will never understand!

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Serves: 6 small portions (or 4 normal ones)

Ingredients

100g 70% cocoa dark chocolate
100g icing (powdered) sugar
1/2 cup double (heavy) cream
250g Greek yoghurt
1 tsp good quality vanilla essence
1/2 tsp salt

Method

1) Break up chocolate into as small bits as possible and place in a large microwave proof bowl.
2) Heat chocolate on high until it has melted into a smooth paste. It must not get too hot otherwise your frozen yogurt is ruined. The best way to do this is to watch it as it heats and open the door to stir it around every 20 seconds or so.
3) Once melted, slowly, pour in a couple of spoonfuls of cream and combine well with the chocolate. Pour in the rest of the cream and whisk well until smooth.
4) Whisk in the rest of the ingredients until well combined
5) Add to your ice cream maker and churn until set.
6) Serve on its own, or it does go extraordinarily well with raspberries.

Bay Of Plenty Two Ways Trevally

My problem in life is that I always like to have my cake and eat it. Whenever we eat out, I manage to narrow down what I would like to two dishes. I always then either hope or persuade my wife to order one of my choices so that I can order the other.

So, after buying up some locally caught Trevally in the Bay of Plenty region of New Zealand, I had a head and heart debate – do I steam the fish in a nice paper bag in the oven, or do I batter the stuff and fry it? As I couldn’t decide, I did both (more correctly, I started doing just the steamed and changed my mind halfway through to do both), and although a little frenetic, was surprisingly easy. I could have reduced the frenzy a little by deciding I was going to do both styles before, and also not messing up a batch of batter first – but where would the fun have been in that?

The end result was great, the crunch of the battered fish contrasted wonderfully with the slippery pak choi and the steamed fish. My wife as usual took in her stride that the meal she ended up with was not necessarily what I disappeared unto the kitchen to create.

I was happy as I had my cake and ate it…

Serves: 2

Ingredients

4 small fillets of trevally, weighing around 125g each

For the steamed trevally:

1 red onion, finely sliced
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
25g butter
1 small fennel bulb, finely sliced
Handful of fresh parsley
1 tsp dried chilli flakes

For the battered trevally

¾ cup of flour
A good few grinds of pepper
½ tsp salt
Enough cold beer to make a thickish batter (around 125ml I guess). Note: I used a Monteith’s Radler beer. Any hoppy lager style beer should do the trick, I think also a Belgian white beer would work really well too.
Rice Bran Oil for frying

To serve

1 head of Pak Choi, chopped
2 tsp Ketchup Manis (Indonesian Sweet Soy Sauce)
1 clove garlic
2 tsp sesame seeds

Method

1) Preheat oven to 160C
2) Rinse or cut any bloody bits from the trevally – they will go grey when cooked
3) Place a large piece of baking paper on a baking tray – it should be large enough so you can fold it over on itself to make a parcel.
4) Place finely chopped fennel, onions, chilli, butter and parsley on paper
5) Put two of your trevally fillets on top of the vegies and butter and add the lemon juice and zest on top. A grind of salt and pepper won’t go astray here too.
6) Fold the excess paper over on itself and make a nice little parcel. Pleat the paper where the edges meet to make as tight a seal as possible (don’t stress if it isn’t perfect).
7) Put all of the bok choi ingrediants in a foil parcel alongside the fish paper parcel
8) Whack both in the oven for 20 mins
9) Put the flour and salt and pepper in a bowl
10) Add enough beer to form a thickish batter (around the consistency of salad cream)
11) Let batter rest for 5-10 minutes
12) Heat around 1cm of oil in a heavy based frying pan.
13) Dip each trevally fillet in the batter and then slowly lower into the oil
14) Cook for around 90 seconds on each side until batter is crisp and golden
15) To assemble finished dish, place bok choi on centre of a plate, then with a fish slice, put one fillet of steamed fish (and some of the fennel and onion) on top. Finish with a battered fillet and serve with a slice of lemon and maybe a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

Three Cheese and Leek Souffle

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What do you do when you see two foot long leeks on sale for $3 the pair?

I buy 4 of them and after using leeks in all sorts of ways, I thought I would try a souffle. We were staying in a rented ‘batch’ in Gisborne, Eastern Cape, New Zealand with some friends and their kids at the time, so the meal had to suit a range of tastes and be prepared and cooked quickly.

Who can resist melty cheese, and who can resist something fluffy – not us…

Serves: 6

Ingredients

75g butter + a little for greasing
1 large leek, chopped finely
75g plain flour
2 tsps English mustard
300ml or so milk
50g grated Cheddar cheese
50g finely grated Parmesan cheese
50g grated jarlsberg cheese
4 organic eggs, yolk and white seperated
Salt and ground black pepper

Method

1) Heat the oven to 200°C.
2) Melt the butter in a large saucepan. 3) Add the chopped leeks and cook gently until the leeks are soft but not brown.
4) Stir in the flour and mustard and cook for a minute gently
5) Add the milk a little at a time stirring thoroughly until you have a thick white sauce.
6) Add the egg yolks and cheeses and stir until melted.
7) In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until really stiff.
8) Using a metal spoon, stir 2 tbsp of the egg white into the soufflé base to loosen the mix. Carefully fold in remaining egg whites in two parts. Be very gentle and try to retain as much volume as possible.
9) Lightly grease 6 individual ramekin dishes with a little butter.
10) Gently spoon the mixture into the dishes filling nearly to the top. Place the ramekins onto a baking sheet and cook in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until the souffles are golden and risen.
Serve immediately with a green salad and a nice New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

Be quick though, the souffle will sink before the wine has even been half drunk.

Lime and Pepper Crumbed Snapper

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I have known my friend Ian for getting on for thirty years now. We went to school together and stayed in contact ever since, I was best man at his wedding and I returned the ‘favour(?!)’ when I got married.

He emigrated to New Zealand around the same time that we were moving to Sydney, so over the course of the last 6 or so years and 3 children between us later, we have seen each other relatively frequently.

Ian has bought a kayak which spends most of the time in his garage or on the roof of his car (impresses the ladies apparently).

He also bought some fishing lines on the assumption that he could catch his supper whilst paddling around.

Yesterday, I received an MMS which had feet and fish in them. The excitement was palpable, after 27 outings, Ian had caught a fish (or two!) but alas, did not have a clue how to cook them.

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So being the great mate, I rushed to the supermarket and bought my own snapper so I could create a simple recipe for him to wow the family with (Ian is a better kayaker than chef, in fact is probably better at telling jokes(!) than cooking).

The finished dish is deliciously simple and the light citrus notes and the warmth of the pepper showcase beautiful fresh new Zealand snapper.

I served it with a homemade tartare sauce and a green salad. Simple and delicious.

Serves: 4 as a main and 6 as an entreé

Ingredients

Around 500-750g fresh snapper (would work with any good white fish), skinless and boneless.
Zest from 4 limes
6 slices of bread (stale is fine)
2 Tbsp black pepper
1-2 beaten eggs
100g plain flour
Rice bran oil for frying

To serve: homemade tartare sauce and fresh green salad

Method

1) Break up bread slices and place in a baking tray.
2) Put tray in a 100c oven for an hour or so until bread is dried through.
3) Put bread in a food processor and pulse until you have breadcrumbs.
4) Chuck in pepper and lime zest and blitz for 5 seconds.
5) Pour breadcrumbs back into baking tray.
6) The next stage is key to prepare well because once you start, things get messy and happen quickly! You are going to set up a production line with, from left to right – small baking tray of flour, Bowl of beaten egg, tray of breadcrumbs, large frying pan on hob, plate with kitchen paper to drain cooked fish.
7) Heat a scant 1cm depth of oil over a medium heat. It has reached temperature when a cube if bread sizzles gently in it.
8) Dip fish fillet in flour, then shake, then in egg, then roll in breadcrumbs. Shake off loose crumbs.
9) Gently place crumbed fish in hot oil and cook each side for around 2 minutes until golden.
10) Drain on kitchen paper
11) Serve with tartare sauce and green salad.

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Ginger & dark Chocolate Tiramisu

I was told a few years ago by a quite mad and quite brilliant French Human Resources Vice President that the mother of innovation is hardship.

I had these words ringing in my ears when I decided to make Mrs Jamie one of her favourite deserts – Tiramisu. On some of our previous travels, she has been spoilt eating this fabulous desert in Rome and Tuscany prepared lovingly by handsome chefs in fantastic kitchens.

Unfortunately, I had neither the good looks or fabulous kitchen or even some of the key ingredients that I have used when preparing this dish before.

Ever the optimist, I picked up some great Mascarpone cheese from a deli in Lake Taupo, New Zealand and shopped for the rest of the ingrediants at the local ‘Countdown’ supermarket.

Opening up my bags in our basic holiday house kitchen, I suddenly realised I had no Ameretto or similar alcohol to go in the pud! I did have a couple of bottles of beer, but drew the line at ruining a dessert and wasting precious Montieths ale…

So, I thought adding some grated ginger would be a way to add a different flavour that would make the absence of booze not be so grave. And this time, it worked!

The finished dessert came out fantastically and the ginger kick wove in beautifully with the strong coffee and dark chocolate. Best of all, the fluffy creaminess proved to be a welcome treat in my subsequent recovery from a nasty nip from a red back spider in the washing. I vow to shake all jumpers in future before putting them on.

6 nice size portions, or around 50 sneaky spoonfuls over a couple of days…

Ingredients

Around 200-250g Mascarpone cheese
1 pint of double (or heavy) cream
2 tsp good vanilla essence or contents of half a small vanilla pod
250-300ml of really good, strong coffee
Slab of madeira cake (make your own, or buy one to save some time here – just buy a really nice one)
4 Tbsp sugar
1 egg white
Around 50g of finely grated 70% cocoa dark chocolate
A pice of skinned root ginger size of half a small matchbox finely grated

Method

  1. Whip cream until it holds soft peaks in a bowl
  2. Beat egg white until really stiff – the more air you can get in, the better.
  3. Beat sugar, vanilla and ginger into mascarpone.
  4. Fold cream into mascarpone mix.
  5. Fold egg white into mix gently but well.
  6. Cut madeira slab into thin slices
  7. Have coffee brewed and pour into a bowl
  8. Dip madeira cake into coffee and place in a layer in small loaf tin.
  9. Sprinkle a thin layer of grated chocolate on the cake
  10. Place layer of mascarpone/cream mixture on top
  11. Repeat steps 7-10 until all ingrediants are used and make sure you finish with a creamy layer.
  12. Sprinkle the rest of the chocolate on top of the dessert
  13. Chill for at least two hours and serve sliced on large plates.

Holiday Home Roast Ham

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I remember when I was a young lad that a public holiday would always bring relatives scurrying together from all over the country to gather at my grandparents house. Chief amongst these holidays were Christmas and Easter. I think it had something to do with the double public holiday that meant (as was the case in late 1970s and early 1980s UK) that everything would stop, work, shopping and regular life. The only things that would occur would be cooking, eating, drinking and the playing of games.

The games were my favourite part of the festive season, particularly hours spent playing cards (and watching others playing). Card games would often go on until the early hours and would be sustained by my dear grandmother producing seamlessly endless platters of tasty sandwiches made with home made bread and home cooked meets. Favourite amongst these was the home cooked ham, so different from supermarket bought wet, flabby insipid pink blancmangey stuff that was in vogue at that time. Firm, with a hint of smoke, mustard and honey, it really only needed a smear of chutney to make a great sandwich.

Even though there will only be a few of us together for Easter in Gisborne, New Zealand this year, I still cant resist cooking a holiday ham – I justify that we will get plenty of meals from it, but really it gives me a chance to indulge in some introspective nostalgia and remember the laughter and fun filled holidays of my childhood – Happy Holidays.

Serves: Around a million rounds of late night sandwiches

Ingredients

2.5 – 3kg smoked gammon joint (size is not key here!).
About 20 peppercorns
Around 10 cloves
2 Star Anise
Cinnamon stick
4 Bay leaves
2-3 Tbsp Maple syrup
2-3 Tbsp English mustard

For the glaze

2-3 Tbsp Manuka Honey
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 Tbsp English mustard
2 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp oil
Several good grinds of black pepper

Method

  1. Get the biggest pan (cauldron?!) you can lay your hands on.
  2. Open your gammon from its vacuum sealed packaging and rinse under cold running water for a good two minutes, turning it frequently to get a good rinse all over.
  3. Place your gammon in your massive pan and pour enough cold water on to just cover it.
  4. Add all of the ingredients listed above (before glaze listing) to the pan.
  5. Bring to the boil and reduce heat to a simmer.
  6. Put lid on pan and leave to simmer for 2 and a half hours
  7. Take off heat and leave to cool
  8. Preheat oven to 180C
  9. Take out your boiled ham and with a small sharp knife remove any string and also the skin on the gammon. The trick here is to remove the skin, but leave as much fat as possible on the ham.
  10. Mix up all the ingredients for the glaze.
  11. Score the fat of the ham, and brush and pour the glaze over the fat of your ham.
  12. Place on a baking tray and straight into your hot oven for around 15 minutes until the glaze has browned/blackened and is bubbling on the fat.

Serve hot with eggs and chips or cold with your favourite salad, cheeses, crusty bread and chutneys.