Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bacon Jam....A Culinary Must

Bacon jam and goats curd pop tarts

Can I make a culinary suggestion? Just a small unobtrusive one?
Bacon jam.

It truly is the gift that keeps on giving. Its variations, uses and ability to give the most every day of dishes a touch of phwoar are endless. It goes well slathered on poached eggs, in a tart, a frittata, on pancakes, over roasted vegetables, slathered on a burger or a croissant, hell, it even makes a wonderful gift if you are the sort who have mastered even a bit of self control. Need I go on? I’ll prove it and take it one step further nestling it with some goats curd in the comforting hug of puff pastry is truly glorious. These may not look amazing (they do taste it) but lets be honest, superbly good food rarely does.

Bacon jam
400g bacon, diced
3 eschallots, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp smoked sweet paprika
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp tarragon leaves, very finely chopped
pinch cinnamon
2 tbsp instant coffee granules, dissolved in 2 tbsp boiling water
1 cup tomato passata
3 tbsp dark molasses
3 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup bourbon
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
Dash of fish sauce
Salt and pepper to season

150g goats curd, crumbled
Good quality puff pastry
1 egg lightly whisked for

Fry the bacon in a deep-sided fry pan over medium heat for five to 10 minutes, or until coloured. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the eschallots and garlic to the pan and sweat until translucent. Add the sugar and spices and cook for an additional two minutes or until fragrant. Add the remaining ingredients and return the bacon to the pan. Reduce the heat to low and cook for one to 1.5 hours or
until thickened and reduced by half. Allow to cool, then add to a food processor and pulse briefly or until desired jam consistency is achieved.
Preheat the oven to 190C. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Using a 10cm cookie cutter, cut circles from the sheet/s of puff pastry. Place a heaped teaspoon of bacon jam and a teaspoon of goats curd in the centre. Fold the edges together to create a moon shape and press gently around the edges. If the pastry isn’t sticking, use some egg-wash to help it seal. Repeat with remaining pastry, bacon jam and goats curd. Place on the baking tray and bake in the oven for 12 minutes or until puffed and golden. Serve warm and be careful not to burn the roof of your mouth – that jam can take some heat.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The way porridge should be....

Porridge with espresso honey, pear and walnuts

Purists take their porridge with water, and the odd pinch of salt.  I’ve tasted it and happy to say that I left Clag glue behind in my younger school years with my macaroni necklace, and that these days I will happily eat the bastardised versions – those that add milk, seeds, nuts, fruit and of course a touch of something sweet. Honey though, or maple syrup. I balk slightly at the use of jam, so it seems I have sugar standards (at least at breakfast).  I’ve incorporated espresso into honey in this version – killing all breakfast birds with one stone so to speak. Eat your heart out goldilocks.  With a sweet, spiced caffeine kick, I think this is a true breakfast of champions. 

1 cup rolled oats
1 ½ cups boiling water
1 cup milk
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
pinch cinnamon
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped

Espresso honey
2 tbsp honey
30ml espresso

Buttered pears
30g butter
2 pears, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1 tbsp caster sugar

Toasted walnuts to serve

Place oats and boiling water in a medium saucepan and stir to combine. Let oats sit for 10 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and stir again. Bring slowly to the boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and bring mixture to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat and let the porridge stand, covered for 2-3 minutes before serving.
Meanwhile, combine the honey and espresso in another saucepan and place over low heat. Stir to soften the honey and until just combined.
For the pears, place butter in a fry pan and melt over medium heat. Add the pears, and sprinkle with sugar. Cook gently until the pears are pale golden. Turn over gently to prevent them braking and cook until golden on the other side.
To serve, spoon porridge into bowls, top with buttered pears, espresso honey, toasted walnuts and extra warm milk on the side.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Cunning Canele

Cunning Canelés
It was on the narrow streets surrounding Quartier Saint Pierre in Bordeaux, France that I fell in love. Amidst the myriad of cheeses, silky beef bourguignons and the roast chicken riddled bistros, I found my one true significant culinary other. The Canelé (alternate spelling: cannelés)
Made from a crepe like batter infused with vanilla and rum, then poured into copper cylindrical moulds and baked at fisson inducing temperatures, they are crunchy on the outside while custardy, soft and sensual on the inside. It’s the pastry equivalent of taking you up in a hot air balloon, landing you in a forest full of flowers, and reading to you the funniest and saddest story in a voice as soft as rain. It is without doubt my most favourite, most lusted after confection. And the best bit, amidst the glitz of macarons and pain au chocolats, is the absence of trimmings. The canele is simple and earnest and while it might require beeswax, special fluted moulds and at times determination of uber-foodie proportions, I implore you to try them. For the diligent baker, the pay off is spectacular…

Makes 20
You will need to start this recipe one day ahead

500ml milk (full fat please)
2 ½ tbsp butter, chopped
1 vanilla pod, split, seeds scraped
100g (¾ cup) plain (low-protein) flour, sifted
Pinch salt
170g caster sugar
3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk (super fresh) lightly whisked
1/3 cup good quality rum


Combine the milk, butter and vanilla in a medium saucepan, and bring to a simmer, add the sugar and stir until dissolved then set aside. Add the rum.
Add the flour and salt to a bowl. Pour over the whisked egg and milk mixture, (remove the vanilla pod if you kept in the milk for flavour) and stir. Let cool to room temperature then add to a pouring jug, cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. (Some chefs leave the batter for up to 3 days).
Preheat the oven to 220C.
Butter the canelé moulds if they are made of copper (unnecessary if you're using silicon molds). Remove the batter from the fridge, it will have separated, so stir gently until well blended again. Pour the batter into the moulds until ¾ full. Place on a baking tray and bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 200° C and bake for another 20 – 40 minutes (40 will result in a very dark brown caramel crust). Turn out onto a cooling rack and let cool completely before eating. Best eaten on the day of making.

The moulds and preparation
The complexity of the canele is in the variables. There are the tangible ones that determine texture and taste: flour, eggs, butter, the copper mould, and the quality of the vanilla. And then the more elusive intangibles: judgement and intuition, experience and flexibility, common sense and skill. And of course, love.The copper moulds are difficult to get your hands on, but there is a silicon version available at specialty baking/kitchen stores that still offers a good result.

Traditionally beeswax is used to grease and line the moulds. I sometimes use almond oil or a flavourless oil rather than butter. I find the butter burns at the high temperatures too quickly and can give a much too dark end result.

History of the Canele 
Some say that during the XVIII century, nuns known as the Ladies of the Annonciade prepared the cakes with donated egg yolks from local winemakers who used only eggwhites to clarify their wines. Others state more humble origins, claiming the canele was created by Bordeaux residents living along the docks, who gleaned the low-protein flour from the loading areas and used it to make sweets for the children. To this day the actual derivation is still unconfirmed. Archaeological searches have never found a canele mould and no record of any repairs to canele moulds from that period have ever been recorded.

So the canele is something of a pastry folklore, its history and production a delicious odyssey stitched together by history, politics, religion and a bounty of village specific versions that are courted far beyond the boundaries of Paris. The origins and creators of the canele are highly contested; it’s method has been subjected to 300 years of refinement, and supposedly the recipe lies locked in a vault in the underbelly of Bordeaux, protected by a band of pattisiers who fiercely guard its’ secrets like the knight templars over the holy grail.In 1985, 88 Bordeaux patissiers formed a confrerie, a secret brotherhood, to protect the integrity of their caneles. They staged a “linguistic coup d’etat” by removing an ‘n’ from the original spelling (canneles) to differentiate their cake and protect its secret method of preparation from basterdised versions.