Sunday, July 26, 2009

Rhubarb and Apple Crumble

Rhubarb and Apple Crumble
with Mum's Crumble Topping

Crumble is one of my favourite comfort foods. It's warming to the heart as well as the tummy in winter. In summer, I still serve crumble (with a change of seasonal fruit) and serve it at room temperature or cold.

There's a couple of ways I make the fruit filling for the crumble, but I always use mum's crumble topping; this is the one we ate at home as kids.

For the Topping

In all honesty, while I don't remember ever measuring the ingredients, here's my attempt to recreate with measurements. There are four ingredients butter (125g or 4oz), brown sugar (1/2 cup), plain flour (1 cup), rolled oats (1 cup).

- Mix the dry ingredients. Add the melted butter. Stir, and loosely sprinkle on top of the fruit mixture.
- After a hint from Chef Luke Mangan, I've recently created a 'friends to dinner' variation by adding little chocolate nuggets (I used dark chocolate roughly chopped) to the crumble topping mixture. It really is a delicious extra layer of complexity, and the chocolate works really well against the oats.
- If I'm not using the chocolate, I sometimes add ground cinnamon (goes well with apple), or ground ginger (works well with peaches) depending on the fruit of choice.

For the Fruit

- I really like my rhubarb and apple, gooey and scrumptious, so I usually cook this combination of fruit stovetop before adding the fruit to a greased oven proof dish.
- I like to add two apples (peeled, cored, sliced) to a bunch of rhubarb and add 1/2 cup raw sugar to the mix. I wet it with a little water (and if I'm feeling lush change this to red wine). Then cook until its melted.
- One variation is to change the apples to oranges (chunks of peeled fruit) and cook in orange juice. If you like you can add orange rind.
- Or use quince instead of the rhubarb with the orange or apple.
- After cooking stovetop, place the fruit a greased oven proof dish and cover with the crumble topping. Cook about 30 minutes in a moderately hot oven if the fruit is still warm to hot when the crumble is added.
- Alternatively place the fresh fruit in the oven proof dish and cover (lid or foil) and cook down a little before adding the crumble topping.
- My favourite combination is peach with blueberry. I just skin and slice the fresh peaches and sprinkle with blueberries then the topping. No other additions, no sweetening and no prelimary stovetop cooking. The colours as well as flavours of this dish are delightful! Let this one cook around 45 minutes starting in a moderate oven, and turn up the heat the last 10 minutes.

To Serve:

Try custard, icecream, cream chantilly, or mascarpone as suggestions on the side.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Chef's Recipe: Pig's Trotters from Ron O'Byan


Pig’s trotter filled with cotechino and celery, Mt Zero lentils, celeriac puree, Calvados jus

This delicious recipe is on the current winter menu at Melbourne's award winning Italian restaurant Church St Enoteca which was recently awarded their first “chef’s hat” at the 2009 Age Good Food Guide Awards, and two “wine goblets” from the Gourmet Traveller Wine List of the Year. My very humble thanks to executive chef Ron O'Bryan for sharing the recipe when he learnt that pig's trotters is one of my favourite dishes. You can also read my interview with Ron about cooking and what inspires him on Inside Cuisine

Ron tells me he "can’t take full credit for this recipe. Zampone dates back to about 1500 and is a specialty of the Modena area. Traditionally served with lentils, spinach and/or potato puree, I have tried to stay as true to this tradition as possible, only substituting the potato puree for a silky celeriac puree.

This recipe can be prepared a day or two in advance and reheated and assembled when required. Remember when reheating the Zampone from the fridge they need to be simmered for about 20 mins."


6 pig’s trotters from the foreleg
1 large cotechino sausage (about 600-700g)
3 sticks celery
150ml extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch oregano, washed and chopped
5lt chicken stock, or water

200g Mt Zero green lentils (du Puy or any type of French green lentils will suffice)
1 small carrot
1 small leek
1 stick celery
1tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 tbsp chopped parsley

1 large celeriac
200ml cream
200ml milk
2 tbsp unsalted butter

1 side American pork spare ribs
2 tbsp olive oil
1 carrot
1 onion
1 leek
1 stick celery
1 bay leaf
¼ bunch thyme
200ml white wine
3lt veal stock
50ml Calvados

2 bunches spinach
sea salt
cracked black pepper

For the trotters:

- Carefully bone out the trotters (or ask your butcher to do this for you), leaving the very end knuckles and toes in place. Make sure you don’t pierce the skin if at all possible.
- Dice the celery. Cover it with olive oil and place on a gentle heat and simmer for 15 mins so that it is just soft and translucent. Drain and allow to cool.
- Remove the skin from the cotechino and mix with the celery and oregano. Season lightly with pepper only.
- Stuff the mixture into the trotters, ensuring it goes all the way into the toes. The trotters should be nicely full and rounded, but not over-full.
- Roll the filled trotters in aluminum foil and secure the ends tightly. Place in a large pot, cover with chicken stock or water, weight down with a plate and bring to the boil.
- Turn down to a gentle simmer and cook for 3 hours.

For the lentils:

- Wash the lentils well in plenty of cold water and place in a pot. Cover with water and bring to the boil. Turn down to a gentle simmer and cook until al dente (about 20 mins). Drain well.
- Cut the vegetables into 1cm dice and sweat in the olive oil until just soft and translucent. Mix through the lentils and season with salt, pepper and sherry vinegar.
- Set aside.

For the celeriac puree:

- Peel the celeriac and cut into small, even sized pieces.
- Place in a large pot with the milk, cream and butter and bring to the boil. Turn down to a gentle simmer and cook until soft, stirring regularly so that it doesn’t stick.
- Drain well and puree in a food processor until smooth and silky, adding a little of the cooking liquid if the mixture seems a little dry.
- Season with salt only and set aside.

For the sauce:

- Chop the ribs into small pieces.
- Heat a little olive oil in a large pot. Add the bones and sauté over a high heat until they are well caramelised, stirring constantly.
- Add the vegetables and herbs and sauté for a further 5 mins, stirring constantly.
- Deglaze with white wine and reduce by half.
- Add the veal stock and bring to the boil. Skim any foam, oil or impurities that rise to the top and turn down to a strong simmer. Reduce by half.
- Strain through a fine sieve and return to the heat. Reduce to a sauce consistency. Strain through muslin cloth or an oil filter paper. Set aside.

To serve:

- Reheat your trotters and celeriac puree.
- Blanch the spinach in plenty of salted water, drain well and squeeze dry in a tea towel.
- Reheat your lentils. Add the parsley.
- Bring your sauce to the boil. Add the Calvados.
- Place a line of lentils in the centre of 6 serving plates.
- Roll the spinach into 6 even sized balls and place at the top of each plate.
- Place a spoon of the celeriac puree at the bottom of each plate.
- Carefully unwrap the trotters and trim the ends to neaten. Place on the lentils.
- Season the spinach and spoon a little of the sauce over the trotters.

Church St Enoteca
527 Church St
Richmond VIC 3121

+61 3 9428 7898

and you can follow Ron O'Bryan on Twitter too

Sunday, July 12, 2009

paper bag cookery - en papillote

There's something delightful about receiving a parcel. It's the discovery process in the opening that enchants.

This holds true also for food. Cooking in parchment paper, ...... en papillote in French or al cartoccio in Italian, was one of the earliest cooking techniques that I experimented with as a child. Perhaps I was enchanted (then as now) with the hidden treasures of aromas and taste. When the best of the season's ingredients are folded in a pouch (of parchment, bag or aluminium foil) and then baked, the flavour is captured within and released as the parcel is opened.

One of my most memoriable parcels was Tuscan perfection at Cibreo in Florence and provides the perfect example of cooking with this technique. A parcel of aluminium foil arrives at the restaurant table. The simple package is opened to reveal flat wild mushrooms, which had been baked in a little oil, and tickled with a few fresh herbs. All the flavour, all the aromas were retained. Simple! Delicious!

METHOD: To make a parcel lay the parchment (or foil) out flat. Grease with butter or oil. Place ingredients in the centre of the sheet (covering no more than 1/4 of the surface area). Add a wet ingredient (wine, stock, water, tomato concasse ...) as sauce if desired. Add the hero and accompaniments including herbs spice and seasonings. Fold the sides to close the parcel at the top and sides; roll to the edges to secure tightly.

Ideas and combinations for ingredients are limitless. Here are just a few basic ideas as a starting point:


Fish is the most commonly used ingredient for this method of cooking. The simplest approach is to add slices of lemon, and a herb (such as dill), or perhaps even capers
  • Fish can be cooked with a vegetable accompaniment in the same parcel. Try a mirepoix (onions, carrots, celery) or a julienne trio such as leeks, capsicum/pepper, carrots as starting points.
  • Molluscs (such as squids, cuttlefish or octopus) enjoy this treatment with a bed of fennel, or try tomato concasse or green pesto oil
  • Bivalves (such as mussels, clams, cockles or pipis) and a splash of white wine with a herb make a simple treat
From these bases, add other flavours, experiment, enjoy. Try a parcel with Asian flavour combinations too.

  • Potatoes, radishes, carrots with a little vegetable broth and garlic (try other root vegetables such as sweet potato, parsnips, rutabaga, celeriac)
  • When I can I bake corn on the cob still in its husk as its own parcel. Where the husk has been removed use aluminium foil. Accompaniments in the foil parcel can include butter, salt and pepper, red capsicum/pepper dice, chilli flakes
  • Zucchini/courgettes make a wonderful base vegetable for a parcel as this technique retains flavour. Serve skewered on rosemary branches with pieces of red capsicum/bell pepper and a little tomato/garlic/white wine sauce
#try also CHICKEN, DUCK, LAMB, BEEF, PORK and accompaniments ... I believe the French also use this method for RABBIT ... now that your getting the hang of this expand your repertoire to include KANGAROO, GOAT, VENISON, PIDGEON and more

#OFFAL I've seen recipes in French cookbooks for en papillote for sheep's tongue and have had success in lightly cooking livers with cognac and cream in a parcel

  • Strawberries or other berries warmed through with brandy make a simple parcel idea
  • Bananas and brown sugar and rum are another treat

I've read and seen others partly cook the ingredients before laying on the paper. I've never done this. I've only put my fresh raw ingredients in my treasure. I'm not sure if it's because I want to utilise this method to its utmost, if it's because I am lazy, or if it's because of habit and cooking this way (without first searing or sealing) since I was a child, but in any regard, each time my end results have been delicious.

While parcels are traditionally baked in the oven, these ideas above and below, can also be adapted for the BBQ.

And here are some links for other ideas:



HOT SMOKED TERIYAKI DUCK with pak choi and ginger

LAMB CHOP PARCELS by Aaron Craze (Market Kitchen)

LEMON CHICKEN PARCELS with sweet potato


There are lots of other ways to wrap food too:

Or try using a Bread Dough as the parcel like BRAISED LAMB PARCELS with tomato, pepper, olive

As an Aussie I've also included a recipe for PAPERBARK PARCEL Smoked Vegetables by Benjamin Christie

Or why not consider trying LOTUS LEAF RICE

What are your favourites parcels?

Monday, July 6, 2009

everday DUCK

Every few weeks or so, if I've had the afternoon at home, I like to poach a duck for Sunday dinner. This is not a treat, it is everyday duck. And, from the poaching I get > 5 meals (> 20 portions) which certainly makes it economical.

#1 Poached Duck

  • For poaching the whole duck, I have many variations depending on the season: bay leaves, mirepoix (2 parts onion, 1 part carrot, 1 part celery) peppercorns and/or ... white wine, lemons, oranges, fresh ginger root, juniper berries, quatre epice ... endless options
  • To serve on the Sunday, I remove the duck from the stock, rest, and remove the 2 breasts
  • Slice the breasts to serve with a variety of vegetables ( a favourite is sweet potato / kumara mash or souffle) depending on the flavours of the stock base - or - sliced in a composed salad
#2 Stock
  • After I've removed the duck, I strain the stock twice (don't season until finished dish)
  • Soups (of many varieties) are the obvious first choice for a second duck dish using the stock as a base
  • Other uses for stock: sauces, reduce/enrich for demiglace, add to other dishes for flavour

#3 Duck Fat

  • Treasure this prize: remove the fat from the top of the stock (easiest after refrigerating overnight) - rendering for its best
  • Duck fat makes the best @ home potato dishes, hand cut chips, roesti and more - I've even enriched my mash with a little
  • Or use the duck fat with some remaining meat for confit

#4 Legs Thighs and Wings

  • Here are a few options for the next cut of meat - try classic confit or add directly to cassoulet
  • Make a ragu (with seasonal options - for winter try fennel and orange)
  • My most constant companion is risotto (with peas, with sweet potato, with onions, with mushrooms, with truffles ...)

#5 Remove remaining meat from the bones

Add remaining shredded meat from the carcass, as well as any leg, thigh or wing meat that is left over to many dishes such as pasta sauce (add a vegetable or two, onions and zucchini/squash for example), pasta filling, dumplings, risotto (maybe add another earthy flavour like mushroom), layered in Potatoes Anna, upmarket quesadillas, duck and noodle salad, duck fried rice, add duck to lentils (cooked in duck stock), try duck in hash browns ... limitless combinations limited only by your imagination

#6 Repeat Stock

On the first, second or third day, remove all the meat from the bones, using fresh mirepoix, roast the vegetables and bones, and make additional stock with water (and/or some wine). Be easy on yourself with stock, no need to remove onion skins, or peel carrots - just rough chop. Tomato peelings are another stockpot addition which will enhance flavour. This second stock may need to be reduced and will be lighter in flavour.

Now I'm not proposing you eat duck every day for a week! Refrigerate, freeze, and otherwise (safely) preserve the duck meat, stock, and fat for later use. My hint for freezing stock is put in icecube trays and remove for portion size convenience.