Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Smoked Duck Breast with Puy Lentils and Mushroom Pate

I'm originally from Leicestershire where "ey up me duck" is often used as a way of saying hello to someone you are fond of. Fair enough. As it happens, I am very fond of duck. Do you see what I did there? Incredibly witty statements aside, duck breasts are a fantastic treat when pan fried, or pan fried then oven roasted. I've also had some success with sous vide duck breasts. If you're not feeling so flush, then the legs can be obtained pretty reasonably and stand up well to roasting, or if you are feeling like a bit of France in your kitchen you can confit them easily at home. Another time maybe.

Continuing my theme of experimenting on the Big Green Egg, I considered just using it as an oven, then thought of a rather nice cold starter I had not too long ago of smoked duck with caper berries and a pomegranate dressing. This got me thinking as to what hot smoked duck might be like. Well, I'm pleased to report that hot smoked duck is very good indeed. I used the recipe on the Big Green Egg website as a guide for temperatures and timings. You can see the recipe here. As the duck breast is not a great big hunk of meat, it doesn't take long to cook, with the end result being a lovely light smoky background hit that doesn't over power the flavour of the breast itself. I then pan fried them briefly skin side down to get the skin nice and crispy as the smoking process doesn't do much for an attractive looking skin. This obviously kept the breasts hot, and as a result of resting them in foil for 5 minutes, the dark pinkness that I normally hope to achieve with a duck breast was somewhat paler, however due to the way the breasts were cooked and the unique design of the kamodo style cooker, the breasts remained incredibly moist and tender.

I served them with a puy lentil stew, made simply by simmering the lentils in a strong chicken stock, draining, then adding some finely chopped sun dried tomatoes, a small crushed garlic clove, and a good glug of olive oil. You need to stir the garlic through as soon as you've drained the lentils which allows the residual heat to take the sting out of the garlic. I nabbed the idea from my sister who lives in Italy who does a similar thing with green beans. You get a wonderful hit of garlic without the rawness. Probably best not to have them just before an intimate conversation with someone!

I then made what I called a mushroom pate but isn't, by sauteing finely chopped mushroom in butter with more garlic, cooling it, then stirred in some creme fraiche and seasoning. Finally just a sprinkle of coriander to finish it off.

Hey, it were right lovely me duck!

Monday, 29 June 2015

Smoked Ox Cheek with BBQ Sauce and Horseradish Creme Fraiche

Did I mention that I liked pig's cheeks? Well, I like ox cheeks almost as much! My mum makes a wonderful ox cheek stew; spicy, rich and unctuous. However, being a newcomer to the Big Green Egg, I decided to see what ox cheeks would be like smoked low and slow.

I coated the cheeks in French's mustard, then applied a rub and left overnight in clingfilm.

The rub was a "Memphis" rub from Stephen Raichlen's book "Barbecue! Bible". Really simple to assemble and the provider of a delicious flavour base on which to build the smokey end effect.

Memphis Rub
1/4 cup sweet paprika
1 tbs dark brown sugar
1 tbs granulated sugar
2 tsp salt
2 tsp MSG (Optional. I have MSG in the form of "gourmet powder" but it's not a powder, it's like hundreds and thousands, so I ground it up in my Bamix grinder to a fine powder)
1 tsp celery salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 to 3 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder

Just put everything in to a screw top jar, put the lid on and shake. It will keep for at least 6 months.

Then it was time to set the Egg going, and attempt to keep it around the 110c mark. After much faffing about closing the top a nano meter, then closing the bottom vent by the width of an ants leg, I got a stable 110c. I dropped some soaked hickory chips in there and left the cheeks to smoke for about 7 hours.

I couldn't help sneaking a peak after about 5 hours and was met by an amazing smoky smell, and decided at this point to start mopping them with some BBQ sauce. The sauce recipe I use is from Richard Turner's book "Hog". It's a wonderful sauce, if a little on the spicy side. If you prefer your BBQ sauce to be a little more user friendly, then halve the amount of chipotle peppers. I however like it spicy so went with the full amount.

BBQ Sauce

For the spice mix;
2 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp celery seeds
2 tsp black peppercorns.

Put all the ingredients in to a large dry saucepan and toast until you can smell the lovely pungent flavours.

2 white onions grated
3 garlic cloves grated
50ml veg oil
250ml apple juice
250ml cider vinegar
2 apples cored, peeled and grated
50g smoked sea salt flakes (Maldon do them, and are widely stocked in supermarkets)
125g canned chipotle peppers (I get mine, along with many other harder to source ingredients from Sous Chef. Great company with excellent customer service)
250ml maple syrup
250ml French's mustard
250ml Blackstrap Molasses (Also from Sous Chef)
250g Apricot Preserve
250g canned tomatoes

Add the onions, garlic and oil to the toasted spices and cook on medium heat for 10 minutes or more until the onions are really soft. Add the apple juice and cider vinegar and simmer until reduced by a third. (I use a chopstick like a dipstick to gauge the amount of reduction). Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes.

Blitz the sauce in a blender, then pass through a fine sieve. The recipe makes about 1.5 litres and will keep in sterilized jars for a good while.

After many mops, the end result looked fairly delicious. The meat was soft and springy to the touch but didn't yield as much as I thought it would. I half expected my finger to go straight through. As it turned out, the meat had a good bite to it, not what I had anticipated but was actually pretty darn good to eat. I think next time, I might braise the cheeks for a while first in a low oven, and then smoke them and add the sticky glaze.

 I made a simple sauce of creamed horseradish stirred through some creme fraiche and served with new potatoes from my dad's garden, broccoli and fennel spiced pickled cabbage, with a slurp of that lovely BBQ sauce to keep the taste buds tingling.

If you look at the picture above carefully, you can see lines of connective tissue still running through the meat. This is what is giving it the bite and slight chewiness (that I found really quite pleasing). Cooking for another few hours might cause this to break down but I would be concerned about dryness. As ox cheek is not an expensive cut, I will be experimenting with a much longer cook, braising the meat first in a low oven, and also will try cooking the meat in the sous vide for a long time first pre-smoke. I'll let you know how I get on!

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Healthy Chicken Spring Rolls

Everyone loves a spring roll right? The lovely fried crispy outside with a nuclear hot inside bursting with flavour. Teamed with a lovely spicy dipping sauce, they make a great starter or side dish.

I had bought some rice pancakes for spring rolls from a local farm shop that has diversified it's range and now sells all manner of exotic produce. I was hugely tempted by the frozen Gyoza and Dim Sum on offer, but these times see me on a diet, so while still wanting something interesting thought that a spring roll might be slightly better for me......what with them being deep fried?!! I was about to put the packet back when I read the back and it said you could shallow fry, deep fry or steam them. Steamed spring rolls? Now there's a thought.

[Scroll to the bottom for the recipe]

I often buy things that I expect to sit in the cupboard for months before I either pluck up the courage to use them, or an opportunity arises that is perfect for their use. Having recently invested in a Big Green Egg, that opportunity came quite quickly. When the egg is fired up, it seems a shame (even wasteful!) to skimp on portion sizes and as a result had smoked way too many chicken wings (from Joseph Morris the butchers) over the weekend. I was tempted to just reheat them and serve them for a family meal, as chicken wings are a guaranteed way of getting quality protein in to the kids. Then I remembered my spring roll pancakes.

Expecting soft and pliable pancakes to come out of the packet I was surprised to find stiff white sheets of what looked like gelatin. They had the same crisscross pattern, and very similar pliability.

You soak them in warm water for 15 seconds, after which the tricky bit begins. You have to be very careful as they become very delicate, and stick to themselves in the same way that really clingy clingfilm does.If you look carefully at the picture below, you can just about make out the now almost completely see through pancake.

Quite frustrating, but with a bit of perseverance (and a couple of wrappers that stuck to themselves so passionately that I had to bin them) I assembled 12 little bundles of joy.
I used the leftover chicken wing meat, seasoned with some sweet and sour sauce I had made at the weekend, then chopped spring onion, black sesame seeds and some blanched carrot matchsticks.

Then all that remains is to steam them all for 10 minutes, I had to do them in batches of 4 so as not to crowd the steamer. Next time I will either oil the steamer, or sit each roll on it's own piece of greaseproof paper, as getting them out neatly was a challenge.

They were delicious, and disappeared off the kids plates in a matter of seconds. Certainly something I'll be doing again, and in the not too distant future when the diet is done, I will be deep frying some as well. The thought of crispy outside, soft inside and a spicy hit from something like a sriracha sauce is exciting me greatly. Watch this space! 

N.B. Weights or amounts will vary depending on the amount of leftover chicken you have

- Rice Pancakes for Spring Rolls ( I used Blue Dragon brand)
- Smoked Chicken Wing Meat ( or whatever chicken you have leftover)
- Spring onions, sliced
- Black Sesame Seeds
- Sweet and sour sauce (For speed, use a Blue Dragon sachet if you don't want to make your own)
- Carrot matchsticks

1. Chop up the chicken meat in to fairly small pieces.
2. Mix the spring onion, sesame seeds and sweet and sour sauce in to the chicken. Taste, and season if necessary however the sweet and sour sauce and spring onion should provide ample flavour.
3. Meanwhile blanch the carrot matchsticks in salted water for no more than 1 minute then refresh in cold water
4. Soak the pancake sheets in warm water until they are soft and pliable. Then blot dry on a damp tea towel.
5. Place a few teaspoons of the chicken mixture in the centre of the pancake, top with carrots then roll them up. Bring the bottom of the pancake up over the filling, then do the same with both sides. Finally roll from the bottom up until you have a neat little package.
6. Steam for 10 minutes in an oiled bamboo steamer spaced well apart.Alternatively, you could deep fry at this point in oil at 180c for about 3 minutes I would guess, until the wrapper is brown and crispy, and the insides are piping hot.
7. Serve either as a starter with a dipping sauce, a light lunch or tea with an Oriental salad, or as part of a Chinese style banquet.....which we are always having in our house!?

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Memphis Rub

This rub is great for all pork products, especially pork shoulder and ribs.

Memphis Rub
1/4 cup sweet paprika
1 tbs dark brown sugar
1 tbs granulated sugar
2 tsp salt
2 tsp MSG (Optional. I have MSG in the form of "gourmet powder" but it's not a powder, it's like hundreds and thousands, so I ground it up in my Bamix grinder to a fine powder)
1 tsp celery salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 to 3 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder

*recipe taken from Steven Raichlen's Barbecue! Bible