Pork, sauerkraut and pickled lentils… but it’s mostly about the sauerkraut

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One of those days in my kitchen

You know the days when you go tot the fridge to get dinner started and you feel like you’ve been transported to the nursery rhyme “Old Mother Hubbard”. Well today was one of those days for me. I opened the fridge and was greeted by nothing more than some red wine braised pork neck I brought home from work, some home made sauerkraut, some pickled lentils and the usual array of home made condiments. Which translates to me having found an effing treasure trove of a chef’s bounty.

Even after doing what I do for years, I find it hard sometimes… mostly in the morning when I wake up it’s… um… story for another time methinks. This day was not hard though. This was the opposite of hard. This was most certainly soft.

It is not that difficult to conjure up a cracking meal with what can be only described as quite literally four things, if you are lucky enough that those four things are meant to be bedfellows.

I am not a magician; I don’t even have the skills to do a basic card trick (but you are still sure to see me at any local young kid’s birthday party looking like Ronald McDonald) but sometimes things just fall into place… and if they don’t, all you need are a few pickled and fermented things in your fridge to be the hammer you need to get the round peg into the square hole.

One very good point to note about pickled and fermented goodies is they will last a whole heap longer than their regular fresh life expectancy. They last for damn near ever and help to make slapping together and easy tasty dinner even easier and tastier than you thought it could be. Get pickled stuff now!

As I said, I had pork neck for this one, but the sauerkraut and lentils would be a gracious host to an array of meaty outcomes; pork belly, ham hock, duck maryland, thick cut bacon, lamb neck, beef brisket, smoky sausages, not smoky sausages, etc.

Also, remember that with pickling, even if everything does go to shit and you have produced something that looks and tastes about as appealing as the illegitimate offspring of Gina Rinehart and Tony Abbot, then it’s time to get started on pickling yourself! A couple of beers and a bottle of red should do the trick. There you go, everything tastes fine now, doesn’t it!

Porky goodness is always good in my belly… especially accompanied with sauerkraut and lentils
Porky goodness is always good in my belly… especially accompanied with sauerkraut and lentils

BRAISED PORK NECK, SAUERKRAUT, PICKLED LENTILS 
You can cook a piece of pork by now, non? This pork neck was braised in red wine with star anise, thyme, peppercorns and garlic, cooled in the braising liquid and then rolled in mustard seeds and more herbs. The lentils were my pickled lentils, which you can find here, and they were simply warmed through. The sauerkraut is the recipe you can find below (original recipe can be found here), once again simply warmed through.

Go fourth now my child. Make pickled lentils and sauerkraut and let your mind be free…

Sauerkraut sauerkrauting away
Sauerkraut sauerkrauting away

SAUERKRAUT
1 medium green cabbage
1 1/2 tablespoons sea salt
1 tablespoons caraway seeds

• When fermenting anything, it’s best to give the good, beneficial bacteria every chance of succeeding by starting off with as clean an environment as possible. Make sure your jar is washed and rinsed of all soap residue
• Quarter the cabbage through the core and slice it nice and fine. A mandolin is good, nay great, for this
• Transfer the cabbage to a big mixing bowl and sprinkle the salt over top. Chuck the caraway seeds in now, too. Work the salt into the cabbage and then let it sit for an hour or so as to draw out the moisture
• Grab handfuls of the cabbage and pack them a large jar or even bucket I guess. Every so often, squash down the cabbage in the jar with your fist. Pour any liquid released by the cabbage while you were massaging it into the jar
• Once all the cabbage is packed into the jar, slip a smaller jar or ramekin into the mouth of the jar and weigh it down with a tin of something. This will help keep the cabbage weighed down, and eventually, submerged beneath its liquid
• Cover the mouth of the jar with a cloth. This allows air to flow in and out of the jar, but prevent dust or insects from getting in
• Over the next 24 hours press down on the cabbage every so often with the smaller jar. As the cabbage releases its liquid, it will become more limp and compact and the liquid will rise over the top of the cabbage.
• If after 24 hours, the liquid has not risen above the cabbage, dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of water and add enough to submerge the cabbage
• Let the cabbage ferment on the bench top for 5-10 days. It hasn’t got past the 5 day stage here and it tastes damn good, but I’m going to make a really big batch and see how it goes for 10 days
• Store in the fridge for ever

Getting pickled… lentils and beans, that is

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Huh. Sepia…

I love getting pickled. In fact, you could say that I have made somewhat of a career out of getting pickled. I don’t know if it is my German-Polish heritage rearing it’s ugly but lovable head, like the child peering around the corner while his parents are engaging in a little “special time”, but without getting pickled, my life is ass pointless as a silent letter.

I think I should probably clarify something right now… I am taking about pickling fruit or vegetables or, as in this case, legumes. What I am not talking about (but possibly actually talking about) is the pickling that occurs to your brain when you drink excessive amounts (or quite possibly just the right measure) of alcoholic beverages.

Why, as I type this now I am slowly but surely recovering from one such evening.

Quite apt really, eh?

The thing I love about pickles is, well, everything. From the taste to the preserving qualities to the taste… but I think I already mentioned that.

Lately I have been pickling lentils, chickpeas and cannellini beans with effing brilliant results. And where did this idea come from? I like to entertain the thought that I actually came up with this idea all by myself… with my smart brains. Clever, clever Grazza. I quite possibly did not come up with this idea by myself but that’s OK because for now I am living the dream.

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Lentils
Lentils
Cannellini beans. Not much to say about these pics really...
Cannellini beans. Not much to say about these pics really…

PICKLED LENTILS or CANNELLINI BEANS or CHICKPEAS
1 400g tin of lentils or cannellini beans or chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 eshallot or half a whatever onion, sliced
1 10cm stick of celery, sliced
½ small bulb fennel if you have some lying around, sliced
A chilli if you want, sliced
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar (apple cider or sherry vinegar would both be cracking too)
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
• Mix everything, except oil, together in a bowl. Season well
• Pour/spoon the mix into a jar or your holding receptacle of choice
• Cover with oil
• Put them in your fridge, not mine, as they will not last for more than a few days in my fridge
• They are best after a day or two and should last for a few weeks in your fridge
• Eat them with a piece of whatever meat or fish you want, charcuterie, cheese, bread or by themselves straight from the jar

Sauerkraut is next!

Foodisthebestshitever – the home of easy-tasty!

Chicken with lentils, tomatoes and herbs

Where have I been? What have I been doing? I know you’re wondering and I am here today to dispel the circulating rumours of me joining a belly dancing troupe and touring the cattle country looking for a stout stockman to finally make me an honest woman. Alas no, this would not be my fate… but, on an interesting side note, it was all going well until the stockman turned out to be a dental secretary named Veronica. Damn you modern science! Damn you all the way to hell!

False stories of my recent activities aside, I shall incorporate a little bit of fact into this narrative. I can tell you now with at least 90% actual truth, that I have been building a new kitchen. And by “I” I mean a whole heap of people have been building this new kitchen. And by “kitchen” I mean kitchen. Clear? Clear.

So tonight we christen the almost completed kitchen with guests, good times and food food food. There’s always food involved around here.

The stuff
The stuff
Fry it up
Fry it up
Take a second to kick back and admire your big assed bench
Take a second to kick back and admire your big assed bench
Add the chard and lentils
Add the chard and lentils
On the table
On the table
Eat now
Eat now

CHICKEN with LENTILS, TOMATOES and HERBS
2kg free range chicken thigh fillets (only because that was all my butcher… my butcher? When did he become mine? It’s mildly humorous how people will claim a good purveyor of produce as their own… anyway, that was all he had left in the range of fowl. I would have certainly preferred marylands, bone-in thighs or even a whole chook for this dish, but I am an adaptable creature)
2 large brown onions, or their smaller counterpart equivalent, sliced
2-3 carrots, chopped
1 bunch silverbeet or chard, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
800g crushed tomatoes
500ml chicken or veg or tap stock
2 cups cooked du puy lentils
a handful of chopped herbs of your liking
zest of 1 lemon from the tree out the back that is positively dripping with fruit
seasoning
• Season the chicken with salt and pepper and get it into pan with a good splash of olive oil. Add onions, carrot and garlic and cook out for 5-10 minutes
• Once its starting to catch a little on the bottom of the pan, deglaze with stock and add the tomatoes
• Now whack it into a 200C oven for half and hour
• Add the chard and lentils, and back into the oven for 15 minutes
• Check to see if the chicken is cooked… it is? Great. That means we can eat it now
• Put the pot in the middle of the table and garnish with herbs, lemon zest and a splash of olive oil
• Warm potato salad was a popular side on this night. Serve it with whatever you want though, it is your new kitchen after all…

Curried Zucchini and Red Lentil Soup for the flood

The flood waters they are coming up once again. Why? Well I’m no expert but I’m gonna put it out there that it has something to do with barometric pressure, precipitation and cumulous humongous… Probably some other stuff too. I should probably read a book about it.

Yep. During the night somehow, someone fed our weedy looking 14-year-old emo boy of a creek steroids and now that little bitch is hanging with the 17 year old footy jocks. It is swollen like a man-whores member, teetering on bursting like the ripe summer peach. Metaphorsarethebestshitever.

It is seriously pissing down right now*.

One thing I know in English is that it’s raining. I find a gentle summers rain on a tin roof to be quite therapeutic, and heaps cheaper then an hour on the psychologist’s couch or behind the red curtain at that masseurs hut in Thailand. But when that gentle rain moves into the realm of level 3 cyclone and the possible dawning of a new ice age, well… actually that’s still pretty cool by me. We just have to make sure the hatches are battened down, the hobbits are back in there cages and the chooks and ducks aren’t under the big tree in our backyard (fondly known as “the big tree in our backyard”), because that tends to shed a branch or two in the event of a storm. And it’s all out of little ones thanks to the last storm we had.

Waddayagonnado?

Make some bloody soup is what I’m gonna do.

This is a soup that I vaguely remember from the first kitchen I started cooking in, thank you Mr. Pete McGregor. That was neither a segue or an amusing anecdote.

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clearly this would be the ingredients
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add the lentils and shit
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puree that bitch. Are you drunk yet? I am…
looks good eh
looks good eh
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the steroid induced river. Normally that little puppy is a softly flowing stream about 4 meters lower

CURRIED ZUCCHINI AND LENTIL SOUP (enough for the whole neighbourhood to survive the impending flood)
6-7 zucchini, diced
2 brown onion, diced
6 cloves of garlic, chopped/crushed/sat on
a big assed knob of ginger, peeled and chopped/grated
1 cup curry powder
1 cinnamon quill
4 cups red lentils
3-4lt vegetable stock or H2O
• In a large heavy based pot sauté the onions, garlic and half a handful of seasoning in a bit of oil until it starts to soften up
• Add the zucchini and ginger and cook out for 10 minutes
• Add the curry powder and cinnamon and cook out for another 10 minutes
• Now add the lentils and water/stock and simmer on a very low heat for about 45 minutes. Keep it low because the lentils will catch quite easily when they start to break down
• Once it is all soft and lovely remove cinnamon quill and puree that bad boy with a stick wiz or in a blender or food processor, check seasoning, fix seasoning. Aaah, delicious
• Serve with coriander and chilli yoghurt (scroll down), or plain yoghurt if you are a pussy

CORIANDER AND CHILLI YOGHURT
500g natural yoghurt
1 bunch fresh coriander, the whole lot, washed and chopped
1-2 long red or green chilli, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
• Get your food processor back out and think to yourself you should have read t he whole recipe before you put it away
• Combine all ingredients, blitz, season, enjoy

*If that term came from people thinking rainfall was the pee-pee of the gods then those guys had a big night on the beers tonight!

Cheeses Loves You…

This is an ode to my friends and local cheese peddlers at Cheese Please. Di, Pob and Keejay, cheeses really does love you.

 

As with a good woman, one cheese is never enough. Two is good, three even better and four… well four is four. And they both start to smell the longer you leave them in the cupboard too…

 

I’ll leave it at that as I know for a fact feminist hate mail is one of the worst kinds to receive. Actually I would have to say airhead hippy feminist hate mail would be even worse than that.

 

I hear you say I am digressing again…

 

You hear me say “my blog, my rules, I’ll do what I want”

 

You think what a spoilt little silver spoon mutha effer I must be.

 

I say…

 

Wait. Am I having a dialogue with myself? I do believe I am. Jolly good then. Let’s get on with the show. Queue dancing girls…

 

 

Getting your pickle on, and getting your pickle off.

 

Although the opening sentence or title of this chapter on making pickles may seem slightly evocative, I’m not sure where I was going to go with it. So I tell you what. You make up something really funny in your head and then tell yourself it was me so it seems like I’m the funny one. OK? Cool.

 

Cheese is an easily encouragable main course at our place so I find myself constantly working on side dishes that justify to myself that I am feeding my family nutritiously with the consumption of what is essentially cheese and bread for dinner.

 

And apart from the obvious nutritional value of said side dishes it also means you receive necessary roughage. Which means you get to do a poo the next day, and we all know how important and exciting having a poo is. This is a good thing for your bottom, or anus, to do as it makes room for you to consume more food, and as Jesus said, we need food to live (he did recommend bread and fish but we’re sticking to the bread and cheese thing for now).

 

If you don’t have any cheese in the place where you keep your cheese, then you should build a spaceship in your backyard (probably make it a pretty small one so not to draw attention to yourself) and take a trip to the moon because we all know the moon is made of cheese, and it’s free. Of course you just have to pay for the outer-space rocket fuel but I’m sure it couldn’t be much more expensive then your weekly crack bill. And that reminds me, don’t forget the crackers…

 

Eggplant pickle

1 large or 2 medium eggplant, cut into 5-10 mm discs and then sliced to make batons

salt

1 brown onion, sliced

3 Tbls castor sugar

3 Tbls red wine vinegar

a glass of something red, and make sure there’s some (or a lot) port for later, and while you’re at it turn your phone to silent so there’s no interruptions. PS the booze is all for you

  • Sprinkle the eggplant with a teaspoon of salt an let it sit for 15 minutes while you prep your other salads
  • Sauté the eggplant and onion in 2 tablespoons of olive oil for 10-15 minutes. You want to get a bit of colour on it, and it’s not a biggie if it starts to stick. That just means it’s time to get the other ingredients in
  • Add the sugar and vinegar and cook out on a medium heat for another 5 minutes, or until caramelised and syrup-y

 

 

Beetroot dressed with yoghurt, lemon juice and sumac

  • It is what it says right there. Use your smarts for this one and add seasoning too
  • Actually I just realised I should probably explain that you should cook the beetroot or used tinned baby beetroot. To cook your beetroot wrap them in foil with a splash of balsamic and roast them in a medium oven (or the coals of a fire) for 45minutes to 1 hour. Peel them and cut into segments for the salad

 

Lentils, spring onion, rocket and tomato

1 tin French/green lentils

1 tomato, chopped

1 handful of rocket or parsley from the garden

2-3 spring onions, sliced

  • Combine all salad ingredients
  • Dress salad with fresh thyme, red wine vinegar, olive oil and seasoning

 

Sautéed Brussels sprouts with bacon and apple

  • Sauté that stuff in a tablespoon of butter and season with some salt and pepper. Keep a bit of firmness in the Brussels. Mmmmmmmm…

bangers and mash on the fire

BANGERS AND MASH

SAUSAGES AND MASHED POTATO

SAUSAGE AND TWO POTATOES (that could be something different)

 

It’s an old skool pub favourite but, just like everything else in the cheffy wanky world, it needs to be revisited, reinvented and damn well re-rodgered*.

 

It is a dish that can be so damn good, yet all too often embodies everything that is bad, no, not just bad, criminal about pub food in Australia. Pub ‘bistros’. Now that’s a word that doesn’t belong on the giant billboard at the front of any pub, club or RSL. I sure it was all started with good intentions, but this food could not be further from being actual bistro food… and quite frankly I heard the road to hell was paved with good intentions. I will pick this up again later.

 

So anyway, tonight I cooked a type of bangers and mash. But there’s a little story to tell first. Grab your hot chocolate, snuggle up to your mama, and read on…

 

It’s time to celebrate.

 

Today I got two new teeth. Well, they’re not actually new teeth, but they used to be teeth that were almost gone and now they’re whole and in my mouth again. I was reaching the point where I felt like I was in a bloody toothpaste commercial… ‘sensitive teeth? Can’t drink cold water? Give a fuck?’

Yes, yes and no.

But I thought I should get them fixed anyway because I was getting sick of having the jolly old seadog look to go with the tongue…

 

The really cool thing about all of this is that both of my effed up teeth were on the same side, top and bottom. So, after a heap of local anesthetic, I walked out of there looking like I was a stroke victim. Droopy face and shite…

 

Back to something of a subject matter that is (almost) slightly more PC… the celebration of my new teeth.

 

A big fat rib-eye on the bone, roasted over the coals would have been ideal. Char-grilled chicken and chorizo could have done it too. But I had sausages… yep. Sausages. Didn’t think this one through very well did I?

So I cooked those snags and I cooked them like a bloody champion. This is what happened…

 

 

 

Light a fire with actual wood

Season some pumpkin with rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper, and wrap in alfoil. Chuck it in the coals for as long as the sausages take to cook. This is gonna be your mash

 

Heat a fuck off big paella pan (just because you have one and they’re so damn sexy), and fry off sausages, sliced onion, garlic, rosemary and a couple of anchovies. Once they are coloured deglaze with ½ a bottle of red (you know what the other half is for, yeah?). Add 2 tins of diced tomatoes and a tin of French lentils. Check seasoning. Garnish with chopped parsley, basil and rosemary from the garden

 

Life really ain’t that bad eh…

 

A general rule of thumb. Any meal that takes two people to carry is going to be a good one. Especially if it comes off the fire

 

Mash the roasted pumpkin with a tin of cannellini beans. Check seasoning

Serve like that. Eat. Congratulate ones self on a job well done. Look at your paella pan some more. Damn fine pan. Damn fine…

*re-rodgered. A term given to something that was rodgered once, and then again…