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

Christmas ham glaze and a tasty stuffed bird.

foodisthebestshitever

That glazed ham after a little time in the wood fired oven. I love those little charred sexy bits That glazed ham after a little time in the wood fired oven. I love those little charred sexy bits
I’ve noticed shit is getting a fair bit Christmassy around the joint at the mo’. Like, really effing Christmassy.

My smart brains told me that due to my little issue with finding time to hit this blog up at the moment, I should get onto some kind of Christmassy type post pretty fricking quick smart or the whole thing will pass me by and I’ll be left standing out the front of the house in my freshly pressed favourite baby blue suit, ironed tie and hippest new sock-sandal combo, with no date for the school dance… again…*

I also thought that this might be one of those ever-rare occasions where I may have inadvertently been presented with the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. You see, I have been…

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Venison, root vegetable and stout stew… and navigating a camp kitchen


Our recent trip to NZ had very slight undertones (subtle as a slap in the face with a wet fish) of cooking and/or eating whatever local produce the frozen, undulating, sheep dotted, river covered landscape could offer.

This day we were making our way back to Methven, and the company of our good friends Troppo and Lexi (real names), and we thought it pretty fit that we should cook them a nice hearty, vegetable laden dinner as fresh produce was damn expensive up this way and, well, if there’s one thing you need to be able to afford in this kind of weather it is not fresh vegetables, it is booze – Jesus’s little gift to us to help us stay warm in the cold.

About that dinner.

We finally stumbled on a wee little farmers market in a little sea side town on the east coast, at which one vendor was able to provide us with his home-grown yams, carrots and broccoli, and he was also selling the biggest fricking jerusalem artichokes I’ve ever seen. So big, in fact, I could not even recognise them. When I queried what the name of this strange, palm sized, Anakins-head-when-he-was-crawling-out-of-the-lava looking tuber may have been, the old farmer told me that it was indeed called Jerusalem artichoke and it was grown by another older gentleman up the road (points over shoulder).

“Indeed”, I remarked. “Well I will need to take a couple of those”.

The farmer then packed my produce up for me, I paid him the required toll and we were on our way.

We picked up some Dunedin venison and a bottle of stout from the peeps at Panhead Brewery, and then every item on the shopping list had a nice little tick next to it. We were clearly ready to do some cooking.

You will note my mis en place is in plastic bags. This is so I did not need to carry a box full of crap with me to the camp kitchen where the meal was cooked. “It’s pretty ingenious”, is probably what the other homies in the camp kitchen would have been thinking, and is also no doubt what you would be thinking right now.

Some booze for the stew and some booze for me

There’s those mis en place bags in the camp kitchen
Ready to go… with a big fat side of buttery sautéed cabbage

And a little more booze for me…

NZ VENISON, ROOT VEGETABLE & STOUT STEW

(serves 4)

500g venison shoulder, diced
1 onion, diced kinda chunky
2 carrot, chopped kinda chunky
2 sticks celery, chopped kinda chunky… let’s do all of the vegetables kinda chunky, ay
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 fist sized Jerusalem artichoke, chopped
6-7 yam, chopped
½ bunch thyme
1 tablespoon green peppercorns
500ml stout
500ml stock or water
Salt to season

Season venison and brown meat over med-high heat.
Add onion, carrot, celery, garlic, thyme, peppercorn bag and cook out for 5 minutes.
Add booze and stock, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes. Add artichokes and yam bag and simmer for another hour, or until meat is tender and vegetables are cooked. If the gravy starts to thicken up too much feel free to add a little more moisture in the form of stock or water.
Check seasoning and adjust if necessary.
Serve it up with a side of NZ’s finest booze.

Girls vs Boys Southern Smokehouse Cook-off

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A man, a coffee and a smoker

It was to be another cook-off at foodisthebestshitever HQ. The teams were girls versus boys; the girl’s team comprising of my wife Jennee and her sister Liz (who can get an extra special mention right now because she flew in from the other side of the country especially for the occasion), while the boys team was made up of myself, yer ol’ uncle Grazza, and Jennee’s brother, Queenie. The theme was “Southern American Smokehouse” or something thereabouts. The esky was full of booze. The table was set. The competitors were ready. The Girls v Boys Foodisthebestshitever Cook-off 2016 was about to begin…

*The people in the story may be fictional, but the events are real.

The boys

We (the boys) felt there was a lot of smack talking from the girls. Like, a lot of smack talking. The girls were being particularly good at smack talking. In fact, I was walking down the street in a local town when I was approached by a young man who informed me that he had heard a rumor my man Queenie was very slightly hung. Now, Queenie may not be the manliest of guys names but I know for a fact that this brother is packing the equipment needed for the job. Well, I’ve heard he’s packing… don’t look at me like I’ve been sussing out my brother’s package. Holy shit you guys know how to contort a story… much like the women folk around these parts… great segue. That bloody smack talk.

A weaker boys team may have crumbled, but our resolve would not waver. We cleared our minds and our pipes, centered our chi and got the eff on with the job.

Our little tree motif was whittled by Queenie, made from 100% repurposed wood that was otherwise just laying around, taking up space and producing air and shit.

The rocks displayed our organic approach to our cooking and our lives, and the ebb and flow of the world we live in.

The plates were also repurposed old plates, which were recently introduced to their new life as, well, plates.

That was our story and we were sticking to it.

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Feel the emotion

Our Ode to the South was based on nothing more than a child hood obsession with KFC and an adult (or maybe more correctly termed; a 30-40 year old) obsession with smoked meat… and fried chicken… and an old Elvis 7inch. Still, it was our Ode to the South none-the-less, and it went a little something like this;

• Pulled pork finger, cheesy jalapeño crust, pickles, kimchi mayo
• Smoked rib, Big Red Rub, mustard sauce
• Tater tots injected with white trash heroin AKA cheese sauce
• Beer battered onion rings, ranch dressing
• Fried and then smoked and then fried again chicken, hot sauce, blue cheese sauce
• Smoked jalapeno popper
• Smoked brisket burger, crumbed (breaded) milk bun, slaw, barbecue sauce

The girls

The girls relied heavily on smack talk in an attempt to throw the boys from their game. But they did eventually bring some tasty and creatively produced treats to the table, ensuring a close competition.

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That layered salad was pretty special

The girls based their plate on a love of the hush puppy and 1980s layered salads. Happily re-jigged to fit with-in the guidelines of the “Smokehouse” brief, their entry went almost exactly like this;

• Layered salad with crumbled corn bread, smoked capsicum and corn, pickle and iceberg lettuce
• Smoked pork rib
• Smoked prawn, smoked Andouille sausage and smoked eggplant hush puppies

The result

Once the smoke had cleared and the gloves were un-tethered and removed to reveal calloused hands strapped crudely with ordinary house hold masking tape, the votes were tallied and the announcement of a winner was tasked to our youngest child, Obi. It was said around the table that both boys and girls had brought their A-games to the kitchen this day but unfortunately there could be only one winner – one team whose A-game was in fact a little A-er.

On this day of our lord, Sunday March 27th 2016 *drum roll please*… it would be the boys that would march away victorious from this cooking stadium, heads held high and then swiftly and smartly the victory was relegated to a distant memory, one that would not be spoken about ever again, as we were the men folk and we knew about the way of the world…

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That onion ring. Bangin’

A recipe for the WINNING BEER BATTERED ONION RINGS (enough for a few sides or maybe a Friday night on the couch watching midget wrestling)

2 med-large onions of your choosing
1 cup plain flour
1 cup self raising flour
1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon Big Red Rub or Cajun/Créole spice mix
1 bottle o’ beer… whatever you’re drinking will be fine
Oil for deep frying
Seasoning
Ranch dressing and extra Big Red Rub to serve

• Slice onions into 1cm-ish rings, popping the first 4-5 center rings out for something else you’re cooking that has onion in it
• Heat oil in a deep fryer or pot or plastic bucket if you’re not that smart. 180C is the go
• To make batter mix flours, oil and spice mix. Slowly whisk in beer until your batter is quite smooth and is thick enough to coat your finger nicely. Not too thick is the key here
• Coat the onion rings with plain flour and then dip them into the batter. Drag them out of the batter and ever-so-slightly drag them across the side of the bowl to remove excess batter
• Lower them gently into the oil and fry for 2-3 minutes until crisp and golden, turning half way through
• Drain on kitchen towel, season with salt and pepper and a little extra Big Red Rub, serve with ranch sauce on the side

Bayger Gourmet Burgers, Byron Bay… still delivering the goods

bayger burgers byron bay
It had been quite a while since we had visited our ol’ fave, Bayger Gourmet Burgers in Byron Bay. Bayger is a bit of an old dog in a world of young pups when it comes to the local gourmet burger scene and we were keen to suss out if they were still delivering the goods and cocking their leg all over the place, or if they had become incontinent and spent all day in bed licking their own gear…

The storm clouds rolled in from the south as we headed into “the Bay” to rekindle this old friendship. Storm clouds in the middle of spring! That did not deter us though.

The sky bellowed like the stomach of Thor himself was rumbling after he had eaten one too many shrimp surprise from the all you can eat buffet. It was sounding ominous that’s for sure, but still we did not falter.

It rained (and I am always a little suspicious when the bright blue skies of spring are smothered by the fluffy grey harbinger of wetness. Yes, the fluffy grey “pocket rocket” battery powered woman’s accessory if you will…) as if Thor was indeed displeased with me. Displeased with me. And I have no idea why. I mean, in the last two weeks I have sacrificed three perfectly good goats… three goats… I don’t know… it’s between me and Thor I guess. Needless to say, we soldiered on.

We made it to Bayger and promptly ordered our meal as we were quite hungry, but we are always pretty quite hungry it is true.

Rolling with the big dogs and getting the hell into my face
Rolling with the big dogs and getting the hell into my face

Not a single one of our number could go past the Bacon & Cheese ($12.90);
Prime beef, crispy bacon, melted cheddar cheese, salad & BayGer sauce with your choice of wholemeal, light sourdough or Turkish bun. We all added the chips and home made lemonade meal deal option for an extra $2.50, and we also had the beer battered onion rings with garlic aioli* ($5).

The burgers here are both delicious and tasty. The patties are well seasoned, juicy and just cooked past medium, I had the Turkish bun which was indeed Turkish bun like and the salad makes the burger appear to be healthy, which it probably almost is until we had the bacon and cheese option. I’m not sure what is in their Bayger sauce but it kinda tasted like it was mayonnaise with chopped pickle… maybe not, but it still worked well on their burger anyhow.

Come here
Come here you sexy effer

The shoestring fries were a nice change. I don’t see them around a lot anymore and they are quite possibly my second favourites after the crinkle cut chip. Crisp and damn tasty, covered with some kinda special seasoning and perfect for carrying condiments to my mouth just like a good chip should be. Good chip. Good chip.

The home made lemonade (which has a drop of rose water I think) is cracking. I seriously crave that stuff as much as I crave the burgers. I crave it like I crave just one day free of stupid people. It is deliciously refreshing and once again gives your brain the impression that you are being healthy! They even gave us free refills, which mad me feel extra special and like this place even more. I am a seriously fickle mother fucker and that is the sort of shit that is going to have me coming back for more.

Very, very tasty
Very, very tasty

Now this is the part of the really good report card that I never like. I know I am not a teacher and Bayger is by no means my student, but that is the best analogy I can come up with so that shall be how we roll today. The onion rings. No good. The batter was almost rubbery. I don’t know why, but that’s how it was. Onion rings are some of my favourite things (along with unicorns, fluffy bunny rabbits and waterfalls made of that kick-ass home made lemonade) and I really think they aren’t done well often enough. That is what I reckon people.

And I will tell you this for free; these guys are still rocking their OG styles. Great burgers with a bit of a healthy aspect to them, loaded with local produce and washed down with awesome home made lemonade. Bayger are indeed still rolling with the big dogs and delivering what your burger eating face needs… possibly as long as your face doesn’t really need onion rings, that’s all. This place is still well worth the visit for the rest of its offerings!

Click here to save yourself the time it will take you to type Bayger Gourmet Burgers Byron Bay.

*I love it when people call aioli “garlic aioli”. Aioli literally translates to garlic oil. Garlic garlic oil is funny. It’s like that whole ATM machine or PIN number thing. I know, I should just leave people alone.

Mussels with bacon, apple cider and cream… and introducing “Matty mis en place”

mussels with bacon, apple cider and cream
Just yesterday I was going to get some mussels and cook them up for dinner. Mussels with bacon, onion, cider and cream, I thought. I’ve really been feeling the mussel lately… wait, I believe even I should re-think the wording of that one…

Anyway, my mouth has been yearning for a dripping hot creamy mussel… dear good lord.

Seriously, I really shouldn’t be attempting to write any kind of story to goes with mussels for dinner. Shit, even that sounds like an all male review… I think I should just move fairly quickly to a recipe.

The thing I was going to say is that events came to pass that prevented the consumption of mussels that evening. My palate/face/head would be relegated to whatever leftovers may be hanging around in the fridge. Lucky for my face, held within the cooling grasp of the refrigerator was the remains of two cracking barbecues that were cooked on previous nights. Those leftovers consisted of smoky brisket, pork ribs, pork sausages, coleslaw, add to that a few chips that were purpose chopped and fried, and home made hot sauce and I do conclude that life does not suck.

After eating our dinner we watched a little River Cottage on the interweb, and it just happened to be a fish episode… and Hugh was cooking mussels… and those mussels were indeed cooked with bacon, spring onions, cider and cream. He was basically pointing at me and laughing in my face that I didn’t have mussels. Seriously, I’m pretty sure he gave me a little “suck shit” glance. He’s lucky I think he’s a bloody nice guy or I might have flicked him off in favour of Gray’s Anatomy, a nice hot chocolate and a couple of Iced VoVos.

Would I bollocks!

Anyway, Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall is a nice guy and I cooked those fricking mussels for dinner tonight.

A worthy mention goes to my brother Matt, who prepared the mis en place. Matt now goes by the moniker of “Matty mis en place”.

Getting geared up for the mussel fest... and not one pair of ass-less chaps in sight
Getting geared up for the mussel fest… and not one pair of ass-less chaps in sight

In with he bacon, onion and garlic
In with he bacon, onion and garlic
Deglaze with the cider
Deglaze with the cider
Get the cream in there... and please stop with the gutter mouth innuendo
Get the cream in there… and please stop with the gutter mouth innuendo

Get the mussels into your face... I need to go now
Get the mussels into your face… I need to go now

MUSSELS with BACON, APPLE CIDER AND CREAM (serves six or more with sides)

2kg live mussels, de-bearded and scrubbed (a lot of mussels will come cleaned up and ready to go these days, which makes for a truly quick and easy dining experience… no reason why we can’t your dinner to match your performance in the bedroom now, is there?)
1 onion (whatever you have), diced
4 rashers bacon, diced
4 cloves garlic, diced
300ml apple cider… get a big bottle so there’s some left for you. Actually, just get a few now so you don’t need to drive up to the bottle shop later when you’ve decided another one or two might go well with dinner
300ml cream
‘A handful parsley, chopped
Grated pecorino
Pepper (you shouldn’t need salt because of the saltiness of the mussels and bacon. I hope this isn’t news to you because I have told you before. If this needs to keep happening we are not going to be able to remain friends)
15 minutes
Crusty baguette with aioli and green salad, to serve

• In a large pan that is clearly big enough to fit all of the mussels, you can heat some oil
• Sauté bacon onion and garlic until soft and fragrant
• Add cider and simmer for a minute or two
• Add mussels, cover and simmer for another 3-4 minutes
• Remove lid and gently stir through cream. Simmer for another 2 minutes or until all of the mussels are open (it is common for one or two, or even three or four, to hang on for a little longer than the rest. You can pry these open with a butter knife to get what’s yours)
• Season with a little pepper
• Sprinkle with parsley and a bit of pecorino if you feel the urge
• Serve with a little or a lot of other things