Wednesday, August 25, 2010

gross and annoying to prepare, but this is the best thing you will ever eat.

So, let's say you have someone you reaaaallllly want to impress... a potential mother-in-law, an employer who's been holding out on the payrise, an overly attentive parole officer.. well this is what you make them...

this parfait will make strong men weep. it will also put offal-ly hairs on their chest. I have enticed vegetarians to eat it, paired with a little cornichon and a buttery cracker (and let me tell you, they loved the heck outta it.) Thanks to a particularly unpleasant sieving procedure, it has a texture that would make a baby's arse jealous. Impossibly rich, this parfait is thankfully a bloody pain to make... but sometimes it's worth it.

I've used the very talented Simon Bryant's recipe with a few additions... Begin 1.5 days prior to the eating. This is serious business.

Duck Liver Parfait
(psssst. don't tell anyone but I used chicken livers 'cause the poultry-monger bloody sold my pre-ordered duck livers to someone else....)

500g Duck Livers
60 ml brandy/cognac
60 ml port
1 small clove garlic, bruised
3 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1 handful of currants

150g butter
5 g gelatine
5 slices pancetta - crisped in a pan
4 french shallots - sweated in a little butter until gold
10g salt
¼ tsp or good pinch grated nutmeg
125 ml crème fraiche

extra 5g gelatine and 100g port

Clean 500g livers of gall & sinew. (It will start off as about 700g)
This bit is filthy and quite disgusting. Make sure you remove all the tough bits and any discoloured parts. A very sharp knife is essential as you don't want to totally mangle the little livers.

Marinate liver in 60 ml port and 60 ml brandy with 1 clove garlic (bruised), 3 sprigs thyme and a few bay leaves.

I also threw in a handful of currants at this point.

The next day, strain livers through a sieve and keep all the juice.

Place the juice in a small saucepan and reduce to 2-3 tablespoons, strain through a fine sieve with muslin cloth, this is to catch and congealed blood protein that will make your parfait grainy. This bit is super important. you'll see all the proteins lump together and go yukky. You want to get rid of this, but keep the concentrated delicious juice.

Soak 5g leaf gelatine in small amount of water, squeeze out liquid and fold the gelatine into the reduced juice & warm it until dissolved, set aside in a warm place.

Melt 150g butter over a low heat taking the butter temperature to 70C's (you must use a thermometer) and poach the livers and currants in the butter for 2-3 minutes, until just cooked (they'll go opaque and firm when cooked.)

Strain the liver (reserving the butter), the butter must also be strained through a cloth to catch impurities that will affect the texture of the parfait. (yet again, with the straining! but it does help with the texture...) Keep the strained butter warm.

Set liver aside to cool and remove the currants, thyme, garlic and bay leaves (The liver will taste bitter if blended whilst hot so make sure to cool it).

When cold, puree livers, shallots and pancetta in a blender working in the juice+gelatine mix and half the strained butter (you must ensure the butter is not too cold when blending or it will clump, warm it gently on the stove so that it is about 30 degrees and viscous).

The puree must be very smooth. work it through a mesh sieve (a pastry scraper helps here) and then season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. discarding any coarse bits left behind.

Whip the crème fraiche to a stiffer consistency, but not to a stiff peak.

Beat a ¼ of this into the liver puree, and then fold this mixture back into the remaining whipped crème.

Pour into ramekins and smooth the top.

Soak extra gelatine leaves and then melt into the warmed port. Spoon this jelly mix over the top of the parfait to stop the mixture from oxidizing. Set a few of the currants into the jelly layer.

Chill, leaving in the fridge at least two hours or overnight.

Enjoy with fresh crunchy bread / buttery crackers and tiny cornichons.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

m'fashnik (or for those of you who did not spend your adolescence with Buffy... COOKIES!)

or, as we say here in 'straya - biscuits!

not just any biscuits, these are fantastically chewy, overly chocolatey, crunchy with nuts, biscuit-shaped nirvana. and way too bloody easy.

I will add the disclaimer that these are really not at all good for you. Unless you have recently returned from starving in a third-world country and desperately need calories like our Julia needs a stylist. It's best to make them for other people (reserving only a precious few for eating at home) but that's really all you need... and the other people will pledge their undying fealty to you in return for the biscuits :)

Chunky Chewy Choc-chip Biscuits
(makes about 40)

pre-heat oven to 180 c

melt 185g butter (i use salted)

combine the following in a large bowl:
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 & 1/2 cup self-raising flour
1/2 cup plain flour
1 cup nuts, chopped roughly
(macadamias are particularly good, as are walnuts)

the melted butter
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla essence

stir in 200g of dark chocolate chips and mix the whole thing.

roll big teaspoon-fuls into balls and place on trays.
(hint: baking paper makes things crazy easy here)

bake for about 15 min.

If you are like me and prefer your bikkies a bit squooshy and under-done, bake till still a bit pale (10-15 mins)

If you are like Sarah, and must have everything burnt to some kind of nuclear crisp, leave them for 18-25 minutes.

Monday, July 19, 2010

agrodolce lentil salad with pancetta, feta and thyme

After picking up some tiny organic Puy (french green) lentils at Northey St markets a few weeks ago, I've been umming and ahhing over what to do with them and here's the result.

as always, all measurements are approximate.... taste as you go and change it as you see fit.

this is a juicy sweet and sour salad that's meaty enough to stand on it's own (though I ate mine with a crispy little veal schnitzel.)
It would also go down very well at a picnic.

for the lentils:
about 3/4 cup uncooked puy lentils (washed)
1 onion (quartered)
a few stalks of thyme
a few bay leaves

a bruised clove of garlic

all go into a saucepan.
Cover with plenty of cold water and bring to the boil.
Simmer covered for maybe 15-20 minutes until lentils are soft but not mushy.

Drain and remove all the extra bits, leaving only the lentils.

NB - at this point, you'd be hard pressed to pick the difference between these and a drained can of cooked lentils... do what you will with this information :)

For the salad bits:
cooked lentils
crumbled greek feta (a chunk about the size of an iphone)
fresh thyme (leaves from 4 or 5 sprigs)

big handful of torn flat-leaf parsley

handful of toasted pinenuts

5 slices of pancetta, crisped in the frypan and sliced roughly

5 french shallots - sliced and fried till sweet, creamy and golden in a bit of olive oil and more than a bit of butter

1 french shallot (raw) - sliced finely

mix this all in a bowl.

dress it all with...
juice of a lemon
sherry vinegar (a big splosh)
raspberry vinegar (the one i use is quite sweet)

a small glug of ev olive oil
juices from the frying of the shallots
salt and pepper

leave it for half an hour before eating to let the lentils suck up the flavours then devour with much gusto and take some to work the next day to torture your colleagues with.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

oh hi there.

well, like every other chick and her laptop, this is something I've been meaning to do for a while and when I finally came up with a silly name, I could make no more excuses!

Gastrono-Bree is primarily a food and cooking blog where I want to document those everyday (and not-so-everyday) culinary adventures. I love developing new recipes, reverse engineering amazing things I eat in restaurants and generally getting a bit creative with the whole thing. Also - I have recently quit smoking and find myself with a lot of extra energy to pour into projects (not to mention slowly recovering senses of taste and smell!!! (like pears! have you smelt the pears this year??? i'm serious. i leave a pear on my desk at work just to smell periodically throughout the day.. anyhoo, where were we?)

I buy fruit, veges and other produce at my local farmers markets every weekend, trying to stick with local and seasonal stuff that's not too expensive, but this isn't a hard and fast rule.

Like most people, I still find myself at the supermarket a few times a week, but i don't find myself as passionate about what i buy somehow :) Its as if the things i choose at the markets hold more weight/significance? I remember what i've bought and plan ways to use it throughout the week ('what will i do with that purple sweet potato? roast in duck fat with kipflers and a pork chop? or maybe a dandelion/watercress salad') whereas the plastic wrapped iceberg lettuce turns to brown gel in the bottom of the fridge. know what i mean? sometimes the food will be stupidly simple, sometimes, obsessively complex and sometimes it will be unashamedly trashy but hopefully always real, satisfying and happy :)