Thursday, August 8, 2013

Introducing the Kitchen Kit Road test

Working in food and constantly testing and developing recipes means that you end up using or being given the opportunity to use lots of different cooking equipment. I thought, rather than keep my opinions to myself I'd start a section on the blog - a kitchen kit roadtest if you will - to help you decide whether or not to try or buy a new "bit of kit" for your kitchen. The equipment will be a mixture of items I purchased to try (the potato foam from my new epsum gun which is still on my roof will be saved for another day), some that I have used on cookbook shoots or have been loaned as trial for feedback, and some that I have received in exchange for product recipe development such as my first kick off post today. The Breville Sous Vide Supreme.
The Breville Sous Vide Supreme is a temperature controlled cooking device where food is cooked at fixed temperatures in a water bath. Normally this "sous vide" style of cooking is reserved for restaurants but this is one of the best units to come onto the domestic market for home cooks to have beautifully tender food.


I'd be lying if I said the unit was small. This does take up some kitchen real estate. In fact mine lives permanently on the bench because it can't fit in my cupboards. But to be fair that may have more to do with what's already bursting from them, not the actual unit. And I'm ok with it's kitchen bench locale because it looks pretty sleek. It is mostly polished chrome with black trims and a small digital screen in the bottom centre. Thankfully it doesn't glare out at you into the night - the digital elements are small and unobtrusive with lighting etc.
Super super easy to use. You press about 2 buttons and walk away while it does the rest. Its easily the laziest form of cooking while being one of the most consistent. Go figure. 
I like that it is completely silent, particularly as some recipes ask you to cook tough cuts of meet, say lamb ribs, for up to 22 hours. I want to turn it on and go to bed, not hear it bubbling like a spa bath.
It is odourless. It took me a while to move this to the pros column - normally I like to smell my dinner but for more confined living arrangements such as apartments and old terrace kitchens, it really does mean you don't have to worry about "stinking out the house" with your cooking. 
The flavour intensity you get is amazing. I find chicken breast a really hard meat to cook - other than the obvious quality of the bird, it is frustrating to cook the centre while the outer becomes tough and tasteless. I think the biggest breakthrough for me has been shoving in some chicken with herbs and a dash of wine and the end result is just sublime. 

For me it was not the sous vide machine but the Fresh keeper. You see the food has to be put into these vacuum pouches which you seal, so the pouch can then sit in the water, keeping the food air and water tight while it cooks. I had some trouble with sealing the bags and despite going through the instructions and trying to find a youtube clip - anything with some tips, I couldn't find any. The issue was simply where I put my hands on the unit to apply some pressure so it seals. Seems easy and silly but I do think I wouldn't be the only person trying to use the unit and getting frustrated. Breville - time for some additional troubleshooting elements on your website so first time users can navigate the little tips and tricks.

Check in at Breville for the tech specs here

From what research I have done the unit varies in price by retailers but expect to pay in the realm of $600 - $800

And get it shipped - the box would be a nightmare to carry through a shopping centre



 A few weeks back I developed this recipe for Daily Life using lamb cooked sous vide and wrote about the experience. Enjoy!


 Spiced quince lamb with eggplant, kale & bulghur salad


The glory of lamb is that it can take an awful lot of messing around with and still taste amazing – its probably one of the most versatile meats around. You can badger it with anything from apricots to anchovy to chilli and smoky cumin, or hickory and hoi sin and it’s still a delight to eat. Low temperature and hyper-slow cooking suit the tougher cuts of meat like lamb shoulder but the sous vide gadgets coming out make the job safer and easier, even for the leaner less forgiving cuts. I had been a little adverse to this method of cooking, something about not being able to smell, prod or turn my dinner, but then I acquired a SousVide Supreme, a serious bit of kitchen kit that promises the ultimate home cooked meal at the simple push of a button. I can see the appeal. It’s a superbly healthy way to cook, and for pregnant women suffering the throes of morning sickness this is completely odour free cooking. Ditto for those of us living in old terraces with after thought kitchens or the confines of an apartment – not having your entire living quarters smell like grilled salmon for a week is amazing. But best of all, you can forget all about it, stick your food in, disappear for a few hours, and come back to a bath of succulent whatever. Obviously, a sous vide machine is an investment of both money and kitchen real estate so I’ve tweaked the recipe here for cooking normally and for those who have entered the world of uber kitchen gadgetry. I dare say its worth it.

Serves 4 - 6

Ingredients
Marinade
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp sweet paprika
2 tbsp orange juice
2 tbsp quince paste
1 tbsp olive oil

2 (200g each) lamb backstrap

Salad
150g fine bulghur (cracked wheat)
2 baby eggplants, chargrilled, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 tbsp olive oil
½ red onion, finely sliced
¼ cup pistachio kernels, roughly chopped
¼ cup raisins, roughly chopped
1 cup kale, finely sliced
½ cup coriander leaves, chopped
½ cup mint leaves, chopped
Zest of ½ lemon

Dressing
4 tbsp Greek yoghurt
Juice of ½ a lemon
Salt and pepper to season

Method
Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl and stir until the quince paste has broken down and the marinade is a smooth consistency. Add lamb, turning to coat, cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight. (If using sous vide, add the lamb and marinade to a food safe vac bag and seal).
Pre-heat chargrill on high heat. For the sous viders, preheat the Sous Vide water bath to 55C, add the lamb pouch and cook for 90 minutes.  Cook lamb for 5 minutes on each side for medium rare, or until cooked to your liking. Cover and rest for 5 minutes.
While the lamb is cooking, prepare the salad by soaking cracked wheat in hot water until tender (8-10 minutes), drain well and fluff with a fork. Add the wheat to a large bowl with the remaining salad ingredients and toss to combine. Season generously with salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.  Add the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and stir to combine. Thickly slice the lamb. Add the salad to a large serving bowl, top with the lamb and drizzle over the yoghurt dressing. Serve warm.





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