Harissa paste and then harissa marinated olives

harissa olives
Harissa is one of those condiments that is going to be a hell of a shock for your white bread, margarine and mayonnaise sandwich eating ass. Yeah, you probably won’t try it… it’s one of those things you “just wouldn’t like”. That is possibly one of my least favourite lines ever – “I just wouldn’t like that”. How do you know if you’ve never tried it? The satisfaction I get when I can make someone eat those recklessly spoken words is unfathomable… back to the harissa though.

Harissa is a spicy condiment commonplace in the kitchens of Tunisia, and for good reason.

Roughly about as subtle as the underwear display at Mardi Gras, this is a 4-hit combo straight to the top of your dome. Aromatic with garlic, sweet with roasted capsicum, heady with cumin seed and fresh coriander, and spicy with chilli… very similar to an Arabic bazaar in your face, complete with belly dancers and monkeys with funny little hats.

Yes it has a good strong flavour, perfect to stir though steamed mussels, or maybe with some slow roasted lamb with yoghurt, or even mixed with a little mayonnaise on a chicken sandwich, or, as in the recipe I will be sharing with you today, used as a marinade for olives.

Get it all roasted off and then blitzy blitzy
Get it all roasted off and then blitzy blitzy

Looking good
Looking good

Just like a bought one, in fact
Just like a bought one, in fact

HARISSA OLIVES

3 capsicum (bell peppers), it really doesn’t matter too much what colour they are… unless they are brown. Brown generally means they’ve gone a little past their use by date
5-10 long red chilli, depending on how spicy you like it
5 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon cumin seed, roasted & ground
½ bunch coriander, stems and roots and all, washed and then roughly chopped
60ml extra virgin olive oil

• Heat oven to 200C
• Place capsicum in an oven proof dish, rub with a little of the olive oil and season with a little of the salt. Whack it into the oven for 10 minutes
• Add chilli and garlic to oven dish, toss a little and whack it back into the oven for another 5-10 minutes (you should have a few charry blistery bits going on by now)
• Allow to cool for a few minutes until you can get in there and peel back some of the charred bits of skin. Kind of a get of whatever you can be assed ripping off at the time type mission… much like having sex with your socks on. You can be as frugal or as frivolous with your own charry skin pulling as you please
• Now your roasted goodies can go into a food processer or blender with all of the other ingredients and then blitzed to form a paste, smooth or coarse, it’s your call
• Check seasoning
• Stir harissa through 1-2kg of your favourite olives, leave for at least a day to marinate before eating
• Remaining olives will last for 3 or so weeks in a sealed container in the fridge
• If you decide you like harissa you can double or triple this batch and freeze it down in take away tubs

Olive sexy time
Olive sexy time

Middle Eastern inspired chicken with garlic and spices, really herby and lemony cauli-cous, roasted kipflers potatoes and citrus gravy

IMG_5888
This was one of those dinners I set out to cook with a recipe. Yes that is correct, a recipe. Yes, even chefs use recipes believe me, but read on and you will see, as is often place in my kitchen, the whole thing can stray quickly and massively off course.

So one ingredient that was definitely happening tonight was chicken… and Jennee was really keen on cauli-cous (the blitzed faux rice or cous-cous substitute for peeps who don’t like the grain, and maybe for those amongst us who love the cauli)… and this was leading me very quickly to cooking a recipe of Middle Eastern origins.

I flicked through a few books by Greg Malouf, Yotam Ottolenghi and some other inspiring dojos of Middle Eastern cookery and found a chicken tagine recipe that was going to sort me out. I had the chicken and a few other ingredients in front of me and then bam, that’s where shit went pear shaped. One second I’m making a chicken tagine with really herby and lemony cauli-cous, next second it is chicken with garlic and spices, really herby and lemony cauli-cous, roasted kipflers potatoes and lemon and orange gravy.

No explanation – just happened. And let me tell you it’s happened before and I dare say it will happen again… damn aliens and their anal probes… um… I mean damn mind and it’s lack of ability to cognitively convey to me what the fuck it is doing.

Anyway, this is what I cooked. I’m going to call it Middle Eastern inspired chicken with garlic and spices, really herby and lemony cauli-cous, roasted kipflers potatoes and citrus gravy.

Hell of a story, I know.

I call this one "the indecision of a child of the modern world"
I call this one “the indecision of a child of the modern world”

Garlic, coriander seed, salt and pepper getting smashed
Garlic, coriander seed, salt and pepper getting smashed
That chicken getting a bit of love from the spice rub... chicken loves a good spicy rub
That chicken getting a bit of love from the spice rub… chicken loves a good spicy rub
Orange and lemons with a pretty antique filter
Orange and lemons with a pretty antique filter

Someone fill that glass would they
Someone fill that glass would they

MIDDLE EASTERN INSPIRED CHICKEN WITH GARLIC & SPICES, & CITRUS GRAVY (serves 4)

The citrus gravy was the winner on this day. It may strike you as being a little weird but heck, I think you’re a little weird and I don’t go on about it all day so maybe you should just give the citrus gravy a try.

1 whole chook (1.6-1.8kg), quartered, or 4 chicken marylands. Make it free-range ay
8 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon each black peppercorns and sea salt
5 bay leaves
1 long red or green chilli, sliced
2 lemons, juiced
1 orange, juiced
Kipfler potatoes roasted with olives and tomato, and herby lemony cauli-cous (recipe below) to serve

• Smash garlic, coriander seed, salt and pepper and a splash of oil together with a mortar and pestle to form a rough paste. A really rough paste. A paste that is as rough as the 42 year old “lady” at the club who is still trawling the floor when the lights come on at 3am
• Place the chicken pieces into a baking dish and rub with garlic mix. Add the bay leaves to the tray
• Place into a pre heated 180-190C oven and cook for 20 minutes
• Baste with citrus juice and add chilli. Return to oven and bake for another 20 minutes or until cooked – you can pretty easily check by cutting into a piece of chicken at the joint. Do it on the under side to keep it discreet
• Pour the juice into a saucepan and reduce over a medium heat until slightly thickened and sexy looking. Check seasoning
• Serve chicken with cauli-cous, potatoes and citrus gravy, garnished with reserved herbs and you know what? Scatter a few edible flowers around the plate too, if you have some. Half a flower garden as a garnish seems to be the trend these days… and maybe a small outdoor setting and a fishpond with a few gold fish just to complete the picture…

The cauliflower cut into florets right before I cous the heck out of it
The cauliflower cut into florets right before I cous the heck out of it

Herby, lemony cauli-cous
Herby, lemony cauli-cous

REALLY HERBY & LEMONY CAULI-COUS

3-4 cups cauliflower florets (from ½ large cauliflower)
½ red onion, diced finely
1 lemon, zested
2 big handfuls of mixed herbs (parsley, basil, mint, rosemary, thyme), chopped
½ cup each pistachios and almonds, chopped
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
Seasoning

• In 2 batches pulse cauliflower florets in food processer. Pulse is the operative word here as you do not want to let the blades of your choppy choppy mixy machine loose on the cauliflower as that is going to end in a cauliflower mush and quite probably tears. Pulse it a few time to achieve a coarse texture and everyone’s going to be happy
• Combine all ingredients except herbs
• Heat a splash of oil in a wok or large pan over a high heat. Add cauliflower mix and toss/stir for a minute or two
• Toss through most of the herbs, reserving a small handful for garnishing purposes, and check seasoning
• Serve with the chicken and potatoes that you just cooked too

Get into it
Get into it

NB that cauli-cous is also cracking with a nice piece of lamb, yoghurt and tahini dressing, and some fresh pomegranate

Stir fried water spinach and store bought dumplings for #easytastygood dinner


Oft times when it is really warm out I don’t do much.

I might sit in the pool for a bit, tighten a screw or oil a hinge (not a euphemism) and maybe watch a show, but that’s pretty much it.

I can’t even be bothered to write very much words.

I just cannot be assed.

But let’s face it; I’ve still gotta eat. Me going a day without food is like a Quentin Tarantino film without Samuel L. in it – highly fucking unlikely.

So, when it inevitably comes time to prepare our evening meal on said days I like to stay in character and stick with the whole “not doing much” theme.

This dinner is classic “not doing much”; store bought dumplings and sauces steamed and served with a really quick stir-fried water spinach number.

Piss easy enough for even you to not work up a sweat on a day like today.

Water spinach AKA morning glory, AKA kang kong, is one of my favourite things to put in a hot wok. It is quite simply just some tasty tasty shit. When we were in Vietnam and Laos it was sold as “morning glory” and was available at just about every restaurant and roadside stall we came across. Now I have a little trouble admitting this but I loved it. There you go. Never once in my wildest dreams did I imagine that one day I would be admitting to the world that someone’s morning glory was one of my favourite things ever to put in my mouth… but it was.

This shit is damn well addictive. Even if you don’t like greens just try this… at the very least it might give a little life to your pasty little poster-boy-for-serving-fruit-and-vegetables-in-the-school-canteen demeanor and maybe get a little blood flowing down stairs so that poor little thing can get a little rigid again.

Eat it.

I’m out.

The ubiquitous "before" shot
The ubiquitous “before” shot
Get it on the table
Get it on the table
One more quick look before totally destroying it
One more quick look before totally destroying it
A better view of the water spinach number. Pretty sexy shit, eh
A better view of the water spinach number. Pretty sexy shit, eh

STIR FRIED WATER SPINACH WITH OYSTER SAUCE, GARLIC AND SOY (serves 4 as a side)

1 large bunch water spinach (this shit will wilt down a fair bit), sliced into 4-5cm pieces
2 spring onions/shallots, sliced into 2cm lengths
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed with the flat edge of a knife
½ tablespoon each oyster sauce and light soy sauce
vegetable oil for frying

• Add a splash of oil to a wok or decent sized pan and get it plenty hot
• Add the water spinach, spring onions and garlic and toss for a minute
• Add the sauces and toss for another minute
• Have a little taste to check for seasoning, add a little more soy if you need some more salty
• Put it on the table with a few steamed dumplings, those sticky rice and pork parcels wrapped up in banana leaves (possibly one of the sexiest of items on the dim sum trolley… the banana leaf , once gently and seductively pulled aside, reveals a sticky, soft, yielding mound of ricey porky goodness… dear good lord I’m getting myself excited…) and a heap of condiments; sriracha chilli sauce is a good start, soy sauce, chilli in soy bean oil, kimchi, something else that you can’t read the label of but grabbed anyway, etc. you get the idea.
• Go fourth, eat water spinach and dumplings and be happy

A close up of the glutinous rice and pork in banana leaf porn
A close up of the glutinous rice and pork in banana leaf porn

Oops, I did it again… cooked pork again that is, but this time with a cracking warm salad that is great for vegetarians and meat lovers alike, and will most certainly impress the heck out of Laura’s Mess. Is that title too long?

roast pork shoulder
I have accidentally cooked pork again.

When I say accidentally, I mean that I wanted pork, have been thinking about pork and 100% consciously premeditated this cooking of pork days ago when I handed over a sum of cash to purveyor of said pork and started contemplating how I would be cooking it, and there is not a court in the land that wouldn’t convict me and quite frankly I would convict me too… hmmm… I’m not sure whose side I’m on right now but I can see my lawyers’ stare as he frantically gestures the “shut the fuck up” signal, so I feel it is most definitely time to move on.

Now that I have established the fact that I definitely planned to cook the pork, the only remaining question to be answered was how that piece of porky was going to be cooked.

The porky in the pizza oven
The porky in the pizza oven

The porky coming out of the pizza oven
The porky coming out of the pizza oven

Ummm, at this stage I can't believe I am still taking photos...
Ummm, at this stage I can’t believe I am still taking photos…

(Just a little PS before I go on, although it may seem to the more astute amongst you that I only cork pork and eat burgers, I do cook and consume other things… just not that regularly…)

Enter my friend Andrea.

Andrea is Italian so obviously he owns a wood fired pizza or pasta restaurant. Andrea opted for the mobile wood fired pizza business as his career path, and recently he asked if we would like to look after one of his pizza ovens for a wee bit. Well quite frankly I was almost insulted that he thought that was even a question but I regained my usual composure quickly when he rocked up with pizza oven in tow. It is now parked happily in my backyard with it’s new friends; the fire pit, spit, bonfire and smoker. What a happy little oven it is now…

Andrea is friends with benefits.

Anyway, that’s clearly where the pork ended up along with a little roast vegetable number that is a ripper of a salad in its own right. The tahini coconut dressing is also a cracker and you should give it a go even if you think you don’t even like tahini. You are wrong and you will love it!

That salad with the tahini-coconut dressing
That salad with the tahini-coconut dressing

It is seriously worthy...
It is seriously worthy…
Yes
Yes

Just hurry up and eat it already
Just hurry up and eat it already

ROAST PORK SHOULDER with PUMPKIN AND BROCCOLI and TAHINI-COCONUT DRESSING

For the pork

1 pork shoulder roasted quite simply with a heap of salt and pepper and garlic.
I like to buy pork from Australia because quite frankly that’s where I live. You can be instructed how to roast a pork shoulder if you view this post right here… also, you can be instructed on how to make tantric sexy-time love by Katherine, the 64 year old dominatrix just down the street. I dare you to give that a try…

ROAST PUMPKIN AND BROCCOLI SALAD (serves 4)

• Cut however much pumpkin and broccoli you think you need to feed your crew
• Season and roast the pumpkin with a little oil
• When pumpkin is half cooked add the broccoli and a splash more oil
• When pumpkin is pretty much ready to go add a couple of handfuls of chopped spinach, chard or kale, and a handful of mixed nuts and seeds (I used almonds, pepitas, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds) and roast for another few minutes or until greens are wilted and nuts are toasty
• Serve with a lump of roasted pork and a good splash of tahini-coconut dressing

TAHINI-COCONUT DRESSING (serves 4 plus heaps leftover for other things)

2 cloves garlic
50g sugar
120g tahini
¼ cup soy sauce (gluten free soy is a good option to make this nice for your gluten intolerant belly)
200ml coconut cream
125ml lemon juice
250ml light oil

• Combine everything except oil in a food processer and blitz for 20-30 seconds
• While motor is still running, slowly add oil to emulsify
• Pour dressing all over everything because it tastes so damn good
• You like tahini now, eh?
• You’re welcome
roast pork shoulder

Slow Cooking the Winter Chill Away…

SAMSUNG CSC
The first chill of winter never gets any easier. If summer is the firm tanned buttocks of the physically active young lady, then the first chill of winter is the pale sagging buttocks of the aged lady… polyester slacks included.

Yes, that is the first chill of winter – it’s a bitch of a surprise initially, but soon enough I will be used to it and accept it and love it like the mother would love her inbred child. Well, maybe not that much love, but soon I will acclimatize to the winter is the point I’m trying to make… I think.

As I sit here trying to warm myself from the alien experience that is the winter chill, on the couch, eating an ANZAC cookie, wrapped in a snuggle rug type thing I have stolen from one of my children, I contemplate things… I contemplate stuff… I contemplate that to an outsider I would look almost exactly the same as the bearded, street wise old hobo who hangs out at the local shops. Well shit Mr “outsider”, I am sorry for trying to keep my ass warm in this time that coldness descends upon us, and yes I am going to have another Anzac cookie. I am effing going to have another Anzac cookie. I am addicted to those things. If they were about when our troops went to war these cookies could have been gifted to the enemy and could have very possibly resolved any conflict before it had a chance to happen…

Also, as always, I contemplate what may constitute my next meal and how that meal is going to help to warm my body and nurture my soul and, well, just get some warmth into my life really. I don’t want a “warm hug”. No, in fact the next person I hear referring to a warming wintery dinner as a “warm hug” will quite possibly receive them self a warm flat palm straight to the face. No “warm hug”. Sorted? Right.

A slow braise, a ragout, a stew… what ever you may call it, it is truly one of the best things one can do for their person in times of such ominous chill.

It need not be a difficult process to transform some fridge stuff and a few things from the larder into a pot of awesome if you just follow a few simple ground rules. Not a recipe, just a formula to success.

So here is my secret formula, my family jewels, my third nipple… or just the things you need to make a decent braised pot of heart warming goodness;

A winter stew...
A winter stew…

Goes into some dishes and then steamed potatoes are pushed through the ricer to make a funny pattern that the kids like on top...
Leftovers go into some dishes and then steamed potatoes are pushed through the ricer to make a funny pattern that the kids like on top…

And then the whole nom nom nom thing happens
And then the whole nom nom nom thing happens

1. Something wet. No, no, no, your sheets are not going to do for this one little boy. We need moisture and we need viscosity (there is a whole other world I can head to with a lead-in line like that, but quite frankly even the Germans wouldn’t touch it, so I to will not be going there today…) as a saucy conduit for flavours to the journey from the plate to your face. Something like stock, booze, tomatoes or a combination can provide you with the sauciness you need
2. Some herb. The stuff you keep in the tobacco tin next to the scissors and the pack of cigarette papers on the top of the fridge will not do for this. If you are smart enough to have a few herbs in your garden then you will be winning right now. A few dried herbs in the cupboard will even find you a place close to the podium. Use grass and dirt if you have nothing else on hand
3. A secondary cut. This is not the knife wound the mass murderer inflicts when the first slash is ineffective, but instead it is the collective term for the cheaper cuts of meat that need a little extra love to achieve the state that is going to leave you laying back in a smoky, post-coital haze, much like the farmer in the pig stall. The cuts of meat less favoured by the consumer because of fuck knows why, because the smart money is on the secondary cut every time; tasty and cheap, much like the Thai lady-boy… except tastier… and not that cheap. But still plenty cheap. Chicken wings and even thighs, beef shin, chuck, cheek or brisket, pork shoulder or shank, lamb shoulder or ribs all fall into this category. Quite conveniently these are all of my favourite cuts. Lucky me
4. Slow cooking. Slow cooking. Slow cooking. Slow cooking is the secondary cuts besty. Without slow cooking the secondary cut is but dog scraps. These guys hang out and the magic happens, much like Torvill and Dean, Thelma and Louise or that guy and girl from Swedish 90’s pop-rock sensation, Roxette. Slow is good. Winter loves slow. A slow cooker will do this job just fine for you

So go now and slow cook some heart warming wintery goodness. Do it quickly.

And if you have leftovers fear not. For when you have leftovers you can put them in the freezer for a rainy day, or even better (or at least as good), put them in a pie. Whether your pie be encased in pastry – puff or short crust, or maybe a pot pie with a filo or potato crust just like the one I made today. Which reminds me, I set out today to pen a little piece about a pie I made with some leftover beef ragout (hence the pie pics) but as I often do, I got caught up in the moment and, after a brief flirtation with the point, I end jumping into bad and going ten rounds of the very best with a short story about the first chill of winter and how I’m going to sort that out so now that has become a story for another time.

I seem to be making it quite clear that I’ve been beating the chill with the whiskey so far… plenty of the finest brown paper bag covered Scotch whiskey.

That was some tasty braised beef shin
That was some tasty braised beef shin

The pumpkin risotto that I never thought I would cook

SAMSUNG CSC
I never feel the urge to cook risotto. Never.

And I especially never feel the urge to eat risotto. OK, maybe once, but I’m pretty sure I was under the influence of LSD or some other mind expanding/altering substance and I was actually under the impression that I was eating fried chicken, which I was really keen on the idea of. But alas, eye witness reports and CCTV footage would later confirm I was actually eating risotto… on the floor,,, wearing only a pink feather boa… in a KFC family restaurant (at least I had the place correct). Needless to say, I do not indulge in consumption of mind altering substances very much anymore.

“So why?” I hear you ask.

Half of me wants to say it’s none of your business, but the other half reminds me that this is indeed a public forum I have created and whether it be for my own personal gratification or not, the nature of such a beast is that people will indeed ask questions from time to time. As small as this chance may be, there is still a chance that the subscribers to these pages of the ramblings of a man trying to fumble his way around the kitchen and stumble through the English language like the drunken priest stumbling through the hallways on a late night rendezvous in the boys dormitory may wish to ask a question, and thus it is only fair that I should answer it.

Here goes.

I saw a picture of a pumpkin risotto on the social media of a celeb chef who I am inter-stalking, or maybe http://www.stalking, whose name fails me but the memory of his risotto lived on. It looked good… really good. So I decided then and there that I would make a pumpkin risotto.

That’s all.

The ingredients. Note the big black pumpkin in the back ground
The ingredients. Note the big black pumpkin in the back ground

Looks pretty sexy now, huh?
Looks pretty sexy now, huh?
Chop it up and season
Chop it up and season
Eat it. Eat it now
Eat it. Eat it now
Thoroughly enjoying this risotto. Didn't think I would enjoy it as much as I did, actually
Thoroughly enjoying this risotto. Didn’t think I would enjoy it as much as I did, actually

I ate it all up
I ate it all up

PUMPKIN RISOTTO WITH PINE NUTS AND HERBS (serves 6)

½ large pumpkin, roasted whole for 2-3 hours at 180C, or until black on the outside and soft in the middle. This really does give it a nice sweet tasty pumpkin flavour. Chop the pumpkin and boil it if you are too slack and happy with second (or third or fourth) best
2.5 cups risotto rice (carnaroli, aborio etc. Probably not jasmine or basmati)
1 brown onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, diced
2lt stock, heated and ready to go
50g butter, chopped
1 cup grated pecorino or parmesan
½ cup toasted pine nuts
1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
A few sprig of thyme, leaves picked
A handful of parsley, chopped
Seasoning
Olive oil

• While pumpkin is still hot, cut off the burnt skin, remove the seeds and chop the flesh roughly. Immediately douse it with a splash of olive oil and a good hit of salt and pepper. This will allow it to have a little roast pumpkin sexy time and come out with a warm, post coital glow
• Heat some oil in a large heavy based pan and sauté the onion and garlic over medium heat until soft and fragrant
• Add the rice and toss until grains are opaque – about a minute or so
• Start adding stock one cup at a time, stirring it in until almost all liquid is absorbed – this will happen quite quickly at first because the rice is hot and dry and hella thirsty
• Keep adding stock and stirring
• Once you are half way through your stock you can introduce the pumpkin to the party… stir it in there… oh how pretty that looks
• Keep going with the stock
• About 20 minutes in and you should be down to the last cup of stock and the rice should be damn near done. If not, you’re going to have to add a cup of water unless, of course, you were smart enough to heat an extra cup of stock
• Now add your butter and stir or shake (depending on what your school of thought on risotto is) to emulsify for kick-ass creaminess
• Stir through cheese
• Check seasoning and serve sprinkled with pine nuts, chilli flakes, herbs and a little extra olive oil
• Bam. Risotto like a baws