Yes folks, I have finally taken the plunge! After years of eating everyone else's fabulous crackling pork, I was encouraged to "give it a go" by Huey's Cooking Adventures, a half hour programme which airs on Channel 10 daily at 4.00 pm. Why I happen currently to be a daytime television junkie is another story (and to be honest, I don't always tune in) but on this particular day, Huey made this look so simple that I thought even I could do it. He called it Rack of Pork with Turnip Gratin. I'm not a big turnip fan but on another day he demonstrated Salt Baked Potatoes and I put the two together with some greens on the side.
It didn't call for rocket science, just a little salt, a little oil and a hot hot oven. Although the recipe calls for baking at a high temperature only for the first 15 minutes, then at a lowered temperature for the next 45, as my rack wasn't rolled like Huey's, I anticipated mine would take less time to cook and I was wary of overcooking the pork whilst trying to get the skin to crackle so I had mine in the lowered oven for only 30 minutes. This yielded disappointing results in the skin so without varying anything else I simply cranked the oven back up to full and let it go for another 20 minutes. The pork was still succulent and most of the skin had a satisfying crunch which lasted till the end of the meal.
There was one little uncrackled patch and I could have left it in for another 10 minutes but I didn't think we'd eat it all (foolish!) and I was still worried about the meat itself being overdone. I'm confident that one of the reasons it wasn't was the constant adding of chicken stock (which is part of the recipe). I also didn't have a rack so I used 3 medium sized potatoes halved with the cut side down on which to balance my rack so it was kept out of the liquid. These were very tasty the next day as a pizza topping!
In hindsight, I probably would have pre-seasoned the pork a little earlier to let the flavour infuse a little before cooking (I just took it out of the pack, gave it a rinse and a pat dry then rubbed salt and oil on the meat side after doing it on the skin side.) Hmm, stomach rumbling Homer-style while I write!
They say we should eat more seafood and after our recent meat-fest, I couldn't agree more. My first thoughts turned to fish and chips but being the middle of winter, I also wanted something that included vegetables as it was too cold for salad.
My seafood chowder was a combination of bits stolen from the various recipes I found online, the foundation of which was inspired by a recent Masterchef seafood challenge episode (sob, it's over for another year - roll on Junior Masterchef!). Simply put, it's the making of the stock using fresh green king prawns. If you make it earlier during the day, adding a pinch of saffron will allow it to infuse just that little bit longer before you start cooking and of course, add the seafood just before serving. It's a hearty meal that tastes even better the next day.
1/2 kilo of green king prawns in the shell
dash of sherry or xiaoxing wine
pinch of saffron
1 medium firm fillet of white fish, skinned & cut into bite-size pieces
1 leek, finely sliced
1 cup corn kernels
1 stalk of celery, finely diced
2 teaspoons of butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 cup of milk
1 dollop of cooking cream or 1/2 cup thickened cream (optional)
Black pepper to taste
Smokey or plain salt flakes to taste
1 teaspoon of fresh lemon zest
Shell and de-vein prawns, setting shells aside; Cut prawn meat into bit-sized pieces and refrigerate until ready
Put kettle on to boil; Heat 1 teaspoon of butter in a small saucepan; Saute the prawn shells until crisp, season with freshly ground black pepper; Once the shells become bright orange, deglaze pan with wine and add boiling water to just cover the shells; Bring to the boil then reduce to simmer for 10-15 minutes; Strain into another saucepan and add pinch of saffron then put aside until ready to cook;
Heat butter and oil in a medium saucepan
Add leeks and celery and stir until just starting to brown, season with pepper
Add flour and stir till incorporated, then add prawn stock
Add cup of milk and cream
Stir in the corn kernels
Soup should start to thicken
Just before serving, add prawn meat and fish and stir until just cooked, do not boil
Taste and adjust seasoning with salt & pepper if required
Taste and adjust seasoning with salt & pepper if required
Freshly grate lemon zest into pot and stir through just before serving
Serve with freshly baked garlic bread
BAKED "CLARINES" WITH RED WINE & THYME
Oh Masterchef, you cause us to take such culinary diversions! We would never have contemplated this recipe had we not seen it demonstrated in episode 47 of Season 2 by the master of cheese, Will Studd. It is impressive and stunningly easy.
Although we couldn't, at short notice, source a "Fromager des Clarines" to follow the recipe to the letter, all that is really necessary is to buy a soft cheese which comes in the little wooden crate, put this onto an oven-proof dish (unless you like red wine all over your benchtop!), slice up and blanch some garlic (although I don't think we even did this!), poke some holes in the cheese, poke some garlic slices and thyme evenly over the surface of the cheese, poke some more holes where there aren't any and pour on 1/2 cup of (drinkable) red wine. Put the dish in a moderate oven for about 10 minutes and eat with crusty bread or your choice of cracker.
It took a little minute to get used to the combination as the red wine is usually in a glass in my hand rather than warmed and sitting in a pool at the bottom of the dish but it's reminiscent of the fondues of the 70's (apologies to those of you who weren't born!) which again were an acquired taste. However the addition of the garlic and thyme are what add the genius.
Yaya also tackled Alvin's Drunken Chicken the other night but we were so immersed in the process that there weren't any photos. For once, the process overtook the documenting - a true foodie moment!