Braised beef cheeks in drinkable red wine


At one time in the past I was of the opinion that the wine I used for cooking would not be the wine I would consume myself. In fact, the wine I used for cooking would be bottom shelf, cheap as, nasty assed goon*.

My opinions on more than one thing have changed in the last 20 years.

My opinion on the type of wine I should be cooking with was certainly not passed over by the opinion audit.

Now I am of the opinion that the wine you would like to cook with is also a wine that you would like to drink in your face. Maybe not necessarily that bottle you’ve been saving for your 50 year wedding anniversary, and certainly not a bottle you might drink at a teenage wedding or possibly a college art exhibition opening, but more of a “had a couple of drinks already and now I’m gonna pull you out of the cupboard and drink you all up” type bottle.

So that is the wine I have used to braised these beef cheeks for you right here today.

I have had the pleasure of using the fire to cook my dinner, but you can certainly use a pot on the stove top for yours.

The start of something good

Get a bit of colour on those cheeky cheeks
Add some sautéed mushrooms
Get it on a wooden camp table and serve some drinkable red wine in a mug to go with

BRAISED BEEF CHEEKS IN DRINKABLE RED WINE

(Serves 4)

1 kg beef cheeks, each cut into 3 pieces (a nice butcher will do this for you. A mean butcher will spit in your eye and then tell you to piss off)
100 g pancetta, sliced
1 onion, chopped roughly
3 carrots, cut into 5 or 6 pieces each – keep it chunky, keep it real
8 large cloves garlic, left whole and charred slightly on the coals (or raw chopped garlic will do just fine)
1 long red chilli, sliced
1 bottle of red wine
1x 400g tin diced tomatoes
500 ml beef stock or water
500 g button mushrooms, cut in halves or quarters depending on size
Salt and pepper

Heat a splash of oil in a heavy based pot or cast-iron camp oven over a medium-high heat. Add pancetta, onion, carrots, garlic and chilli, and sauté until starting to brown a little.
Add beef cheeks and season with a little salt and pepper. Sauté beef cheeks for 10 or so minutes until they are browned and tasty bits are starting to grip a little on the bottom of the pot.
Pour in the wine, tomatoes and water, and stir to get all of the good bits off of the bottom of the pot and into the gravy.
Cover and simmer over low heat for 3 hours, stirring every half hour or so.
(While the beef cheek simmering is going on you can sauté your mushroom in a little oil and butter until they are browned. Set aside)
After 3 hours add the mushrooms to the pot and stir through.
Cover and simmer for one more hour.
Check that the beef cheeks are tender – they should be ready to be cut with a spoon by now. If not, simmer for another 15 minutes or until soft, adding a splash of water if the gravy starts to thicken up too much.
Serve with mashed potatoes, jacket potatoes or potato bake and green beans if you have some.
Eat it.

Damn well delicious

*Goon. Aust slang. Cheap arsed boxed wine. A wine one might drink in their teenage / university days.

Nacho good times bowl


This bowl can be a little bit of whatever the eff you’ve got lying around really. Except for your old dog – you just leave him lying where he is.

NACHO GOOD TIMES BOWL

Pulled pork doused with your favourite BBQ sauce. Left overs are perfect for this
Black beans cooked in bacon fat (recipe follows)
Tomato, onion and coriander salsa (You don’t need a recipe for this. It is those three ingredients plus a little splash of red wine vinegar and a little salt and pepper. That’s it)
Sliced avocado
Feta
Jalapenos
Hot sauce
Brown rice – cooked is probably best. White rice will also do the job
Lime
Store bought corn chips or tostadas, or make your own if you have the skills

You did save the bacon fat, right?

One of those “so simple, so good” moments

BLACK BEANS IN BACON FAT

(Serves 4 as a side)

Quite simply this is actually black beans in bacon fat – you save your bacon fat, right?

1x 400g tin of black beans, drained
1 -2 tblsp bacon fat
½ small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper

Sauté onion and garlic in bacon fat until fragrant and softened a little.
Add bay leaf, beans and a splash of water.
Season with salt and pepper.
Simmer 10 minutes, adding another tablespoon or two of water if it dries out.
Check seasoning.
Do the “nacho good times bowl” thing with them.

Smoky chicken wings with honey rum glaze


These are very easily consumed by themselves with a nice little dipping sauce – might I suggest something mayonnaisy, BBQ or hot sauce, or even a drizzle of smoked honey (So, basically any sauce you like to put on the table). But on this one evening I made a meal out of these little flappy parts with grilled corn and sautéed beans. It made for very nice eating indeed.

This is going to work well in a smoker or kettle BBQ with indirect heat.

Those beans were sautéed with onion, bacon, garlic and a splash of chicken stock
Corn and sauteed beans can join the wings on the grill
The corn gets sexy with some mayo, hot sauce, herbs and pecorino cheese. Also, I found some radishes in the garden so I put them on the plate too

SMOKY CHICKEN WINGS with HONEY RUM GLAZE

(for 1 or 2 peeps, depending on the depth of your love of a good chicken wing)

1kg chicken wings
1 tablespoon of your favourite chicken rub
2 tablespoons honey
1-2 shots spiced rum
Your favourite saucy good times

Season your wings with rub, honey and rum. Mix well and allow to marinate over night if you are a top-notch forward planner, or for at least one hour if you are more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants cowboy like me.
Fire up your smoker/grill and get the temp up to 160C-ish (320F). Place a couple of small chunks of smoky flavour wood on the coals to make those wings taste extra sexy.
Place the wings on the grill however you see fit – a nice little around-the-rim pattern seems to be quite vogue right now – reserving remaining marinade.
The lid goes on and the vents are open.
Let the wings have a little smoky loving; 30-ish minutes for full wings and 20-ish minutes for wing segments, or until cooked, reglazing with remaining marinade after 15 minutes. (It is totally legit to cut one open and check that they are done though, so don’t be afraid to do that just to be sure).
Give them another little sprinkle with your BBQ rub of choice to freshen up those flavours.
This is finger-to-face eating at it’s finest.

Maple baked beans


This is a pretty darn easy recipe for some pretty darn good beans.

Surely that’s enough to encourage you to have a go.

If you were smart enough to put your Christmas ham bone in the freezer so it may wait for a good and noble use, now is the time to rip that sucker out.

The beans go into the pot with all of the good bits of smoked pig

MAPLE BAKED BEANS

(serves 8 as a side)

1 ham bone with last skerricks of ham (or 300-400g chopped ham, bacon, smoked pork, smoked sausage or whatever smoky-porky goodness you may be hiding)
1 brown onion, diced
4x 400g tins cooked pinto beans
½ cup maple syrup
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 tablespoon chopped jalapeno
1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
1lt water
A pinch of salt and pepper to season

Sauté the onion with the ham.
(This can be done in a kettle BBQ or bullet for a little extra smoke if you like it like that. I like it like that).
Add all other ingredients and cook over low-medium coals with the lid on for 45 or so minutes, adding a splash or two of water if it starts to get a little dry (this could also be cooked in a preheated 160C (320F) oven or on the stovetop).
Check seasoning and adjust if necessary.
Remove bone and pick over for any little bits of ham that want to be thrown back into the beans. Throw said ham back into the beans.
Eat beans with a fat slab of ham on the side… or some BBQ…or eggs… you get the picture, right?

All good to go

Special fried rice. Why is it so special? It just is, that’s why.


This cracking way to use up extra Christmas ham (that you will probably want to book mark for next year) is based on the Aussie-Chinese take away restaurant classic – the special fried rice.

Why is it called special fried rice?

I am not really sure, but maybe it had the little pink shrimpy things in it and the bog-standard fried rice didn’t.

Whatever the reason, I do remember the special fried rice costing an extra couple o’ bucks a portion and it was worth every penny.

My big tips for cooking fried rice are;
Cook the rice in the morning or the day before so it breaks up nicely and doesn’t get all clumpy and shitty.
Get everything ready. This is called your mise en place. Translated this literally means “putting in place”. Mise en place is super important in the world of wok cookery because it’s such a hot and fast process and you really don’t have the time to be fucking around trying to chop things while the rest is cooking.

The mise en place says it all
Seriously. GET. IT. SORTED!
I used hot coals as my heat source and let me say, it worked a treat
Get all up in that!

SPECIAL FRIED RICE (serves 6)

1 onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 knob ginger, grated or chopped
3 cups finely diced zucchini, corn, frozen peas, carrot, capsicum etc
1-2 cups diced ham
1 cup diced cooked prawns or shrimp
1 cup chopped omelette or scrambled egg (from 3 eggs)
6 cups cooked rice (white or brown is good)
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
Salt and pepper to season
½ bunch shallots (spring onions, scallions), sliced
Vegetable oil
A wok and a hot fire source

Heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil in your wok hot over a high heat.
Add onions, garlic and ginger and stir fry for 1 minute.
Add vegetables and stir fry for a further 2-3 minutes.
Add ham and prawns and stir fry for a further 2 minutes.
Add omelette and rice and stir fry for another 2 minutes.
Add soy and shallot and stir through.
Taste to check seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper.
Serve it with extra soy sauce and some kind of chilli sauce on the side.
Pretty easy – really good.

Ham


Ham.

Now, there’s going to be a lot of different stories floating around the world wide super-web at the moment all tell you how to cook a decent ham… well, in actual fact that may be more applicable to the couple of weeks prior to Christmas but, as we all know, I am not the most talented at being super organized for this sort of thing so for now I shall just be pretending I am super organized and on the program (and not just the methadone program for a change).

So, about that ham…

Like I said, there is a lot of different ways to cook a ham much like say, skinning a cat or pleasuring a lady-man. I am not here to tell you my method is more righteous and will light the path to the heavens for you, but let me tell you it is pretty damn good and I am feeling more than just a little enlightened right now.

Hallelujah!

The other thing about what I did is, well, I cooked the ham from scratch which automatically gets you 300% more kudos than just glazing a store bought smoky leg o’ pig. Also smoking a ham is not nearly as hard as you think it might be, as long as you have a smoker (Bullet/barrel or off-set is what I have used) and a probe thermometer.

You will also be needing a brined (or pickled) leg of pork for this exercise. You should be able to hook this up from your local decent butcher if you give him a little notice.

This recipe is for 9kg of pure porcine glory. If you have a smaller leg, or even half a leg, the cooking time is going to be reduced. Just keep an eye on that internal temperature and hoist it when it hits 170F.

You’re gonna need a smoker
This is a very sexy sight
Get the skin off it (but save it for something like baked beans at the end of the week), glaze it up and get it back into your heated barrel
Carve it at the table like a boss because let’s face it, you are definitely a boss

SMOKED HAM

(serves a small village)

1x 8-9kg leg of brined (pickled) pork
A smoker
Lump charcoal
A few bits of flavoursome smoky wood. I used ironbark

Get your smoker on and get it up to 225-250F. The ham will take somewhere in the vicinity of 8 hours to cook, so bare this in mind when you are setting up your pit.
Add a piece of smoky flavour wood.
Get that leg of pork into the smoker, insert temperature probe into thickest part of the leg and put the lid on so it may do its thing.
Drink a beer.
If you are happy your pit is going to hold its temp for a few hours you could go and have a nap or watch I little bit of that carnival folk pornography I know you love so much.
Now it’s all about keeping that temperature and chucking a bit of smoky flavour wood on the coals every hour.
Once that internal probe tells you it’s 170F in the middle of that leg it’s time to pull it out.
Now you have ham.
Rest the ham for half an hour or refrigerate for a later date. Remove skin, leaving as much of the fat as you think you like (I like to leave it all for flavour and moistness), score (I gave it 10 out of 10 ;)), place in a baking dish and glaze with something sweet and sexy – this year I used 1 cup of honey and a little rosemary.
Whack it back into the pit or a suitably heated oven for another 1-1.5 hours, reglazing with the pan juices every 15 minutes.
Carve that thing at the table like a boss.
Amen.

Enjoyed by parents and children alike