Paul’s Caul… the Spanish cook off

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For all those playing at home, I don’t have red hair and a beard and I’m not G-bags Mcfilthy mouth… no, I am not the father of this blog, I’m perhaps best described as this blogs estranged brother that likes to drop by unannounced and expects every thing that’s great about writing a blog whilst having no responsibility at all… yes that is me in a delicious nut shell, I’m simply a man called Paul who has a shit load to say about food and anything even slightly related to it, like travel, drinking and eating of said food.

I’m a chef that has been cooking for overs 20 years all over the place and I have been extremely fortunate to have known G-bags for all of that time. We share a love of food, swearing and most importantly telling the whole fucking world about it, so a blog seemed inevitable. I’m honoured he allows my scribbling’s to be part of foodisthebestshitever and I hope you enjoy them just as much as we love bacon, but lets face it that’s asking quite a lot. P

SPANISH COOK OFF

After spending a season admiring this guys food, I won’t lie I felt some serious pressure as we prepared for the Spanish cook off. This cook off entailed a four course menu with a canapé, cooked for Grants Dad Derek, the lovely Paula and our respective partners Rachel and of course Lauren. The rules were simple we would go shopping together at the local shops and then each choose a night to put on a slap up feed in Casa Oasis (Derek and Paula’s B’n’B). Grant choose Thursday night so he was first cab off the rank, I choose Saturday so I could gauge just how far I needed to push things. But all this meant was I had a day to stress as his food as expected was top notch. Other rules included you must be dressed at all times and never play Ouiji alone, but lets face it that’s just common sense.

Yes
Yes

The location and the ingredients were the only thing Spanish about our cook off, we may have been sweating a little more than usual and yes we were drinking the benefits of a tax-free live but not much tapas in sight. When we arrived at the supermarket it was a real treat to see a banging seafood counter full of interesting and unusual species ready to confuse travelling chefs who think they know a thing or two about food. But with a huge crowd hovering around it we decided we should start the shop before attempting to order said seafood in a language that we were sure to bastardise.
Yes
Yes

It was about now it dawned on us that nether of us know enough Spanish to successfully navigate around a shop, but with a total disregard for logic our shop began with a couple of donuts for the ladies being whacked in the trolley, lets face it a donut doesn’t need any translation. Next was the veg aisle and it wasn’t the array of goodies we had hoped for, what was there was nice stuff but not a lot of variety at all. So what people saw was two large chefs mumbling dishes under their breath as they tried to conjure menu’s in their heads. Yes we seemed autistic as we said things like “zucchini with parsley, watermelon with chilli and mint, but what the fuck am gonna do with this parsnip… fuck it I’ll grab it anyway” this is as far as I know how all chefs shop, sporadic with a sense of purpose that seems confident, when inside we have next to no idea what it going to be finally placed on plates.
Not the best pic but still hell yes
Not the best pic but still hell yes

Next was the booze aisle so two bottles of 7 euro gin was quickly placed in the trolley along with tonic, so it was back to the veg aisle to grab cucumber and lime, no one said we were organised. Meat was to follow and in the middle of the meat section was a magnificent sight… a god damn Jamon stall, set up like a beach shack that served the most delicious cured legs of black pigs, the nice lady noticed our drool and quickly offered to slice us some samples. I feel she actually feared for her life, as we salivated some more, so in turn she gave us more Jamon. I did like her and her generous ways, so I felt it only right to buy some serrano Jamon, for what I didn’t know but you cant go wrong with the nutty tasting salted leg of the famous Spanish pig. I cant help but now picture a Spanish pig wearing a flamenco dress drinking sangria in a small tapas bar watching football, but you know me and stereotypes, I effing love them.
Yes
Yes

I also have a penchant for black pudding, so when I noticed some Morcilla for 1 euro I didn’t even know what happened, but as I walked away they were in our trolley, I love my brain. Grant had been scoping out the meat section and picked up some mini balls of chorizo but his heart was still at the seafood counter so it was back to the iced up tubs of the Mediterranean’s finest. Mackerel, octopus and razor clams took his attention so the senorita kindly gutted the fish and bagged up the clams, he was nice enough to get me 4 small whole squid.
Yes
Yes

With a full trolley we hit up the register to assess the damage but it was only 116 euro, which is only about 150 Aussie dollars, which is so effing cheap for a full trolley of goodness. Once home Grant started to truly formulate his menu and what he came up with was…

• Paprika caramelized Plantains for a canapé/snack
• Razor clams, octopus with ginger & tomato
• 5.5 minute egg with charred asparagus, egg dressing, chorizo
• Mackerel, spiced aubergine caviar, torched broccoli, roast cherry tomato, saffron sauce
• Banana cake, whiskey strawberries, mango custard, toffee banana & mint

What we were treated to that night was nothing short of spectacular, I wont lie I’m very jealous of the way Grant plates his food, its stunning and just so different from my plating. I was crossing my fingers under the table hoping for his flavours to be rubbish, but no such luck, all dishes were a triumph both visually and flavour wise. My personnel favourite was the octopus and clam dish with a hint of ginger, spring onion and a little chilli… here is his recipe and some photo’s of other dishes…

Oh dear good lord yes
Oh dear good lord yes

Razor clams with octopus

250g octopus
20 razor clams
4 spring onions
1 knob of ginger
1 small bunch of coriander
12 sprigs of parsley (for garnish )
4 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 Juice and zest of a lemon and a lime
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
2 shallots
6 tablespoons extra Virgin olive oil (3 for garnish )

• Season the octopus with salt, pepper, garlic, chilli and lemon. Either bbq or grill then oven cook on a low heat for around an hour
• Cook razor clams for ten seconds in boiling salty water. Take the clam from the membrane, discard the latter and boil the empty shells to sterilise
• Fry shallots , garlic, spring onion, ginger and finally tomato paste and paprika until shallots are soft and the tomato has been cooked out
• Thinly slice both the octopus and clams and add to the frying pan to combine
• Add the lemon, lime and olive oil and cool
• Once cold add chopped coriander and place mixture into sterilised shells
• For service grill until warm, place on plate and garnish with olive oil and parsley

The bar was not only raised it was fair up me, I wasn’t comfortable with the situation or this analogy but I was very well feed and honoured to be part of a home cooking challenge with such an incredible chef such as Grant. So over the next day I plotted and planned many dishes but with an extra day up my sleeve I did have the upper hand.

Friday came along and it was deep sea fishing in the med for day time activities followed by cooking our bounty as the sun went down, but I still managed to whack out a dessert in the afternoon. I made 6 glasses of ginger and chilli panna cotta and some spiced cookie dough, these made me sleep a little easier, as I had a bit done for Saturday night. But when I awoke on Saturday I checked the panna cotta’s and as I’d had to set them with agar agar they were heaps more set then I wanted, in fact they were rubbery as fuck so I decided to take from glasses and blended then whip to make into a ginger and chilli cream. Then it was my time to finally decide on some dishes so I scribbled down my thoughts…

• Roast pear with balsamic, blue cheese wrapped in serrano Jamon
• Ginger & lime squid on a watermelon chilli & mint salad
• Morcilla, tapenade, asparagus salad
• Herby beef, parsnip puree, confit cherry tomatoes, spring onion
• Chilli & ginger cream, spiced biscuit crumb, coconut rum & mint macerated strawberries, candy floss

All in all I was happy with what I served up, especially since all was produced in a home kitchen with limited ingredients. My squid dish seemed to be the people’s favorite, whilst the morcilla was mine, one day these two might have the same out come. I have before made many versions of this squid dish and I think I have even given you the recipe before so instead I will give you the desserts recipe…

More yes
More yes

Chilli & ginger cream, spiced biscuit crumb, coconut macerated strawbs

Chilli & ginger cream

300ml cream
200ml milk
120g sugar
1 dried chilli
1 small knob fresh ginger
1 teaspoon of agar agar

• Heat all except agar in pan and simmer for 5 minutes to infuse flavours, then whisk in agar and simmer for 1 minute, strain into container and refrigerate
• Once set, blend until smooth then whisk up into nice thick cream. Whack into piping bag

Spiced biscuits

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
3 cups plain flour
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoon hot water
1 tablespoon four spice

• Cream butter and sugar then add all ingredients one after another then roll into logs in cling wrap and freeze or chuck in fridge
• When want them just slice into ½ cm slices and bake at 180 until coloured nicely
• To make crumb blend once cold in a blender

Macerated strawberries

• Chop strawbs into ¼’s and toss in Malibu rum and fresh mint. Leave for a while so they all get together
• You can then start the build on the plate, I whack some crumbs down first, then the strawbs in a nice pile then pipe 5 different sized blobs of the cream, crumble some freeze dried raspberries around the place and finish with some candy floss on top of strawbs

The week finally came to end with so many memories of lazing by a pool and eating lots of delicious food. Who won you ask? Well I think the other four people were the real winners, but I give my vote to Grant as his food is always food I wish was something I’d produced, and special mention to Derek and Paula of Casa Oasis for allowing to chef’s into their kitchen and home to do what we do best… cook, eat & drink.

The Pork Taco Challenge

pork taco
Recently my friend Dana at I’ve Got Cake challenged me to a cook-off of an old school classic with a bit of new school flair. A bit of the old “take a dish everyone knows and loves and make it a little bit our own”. Well, at least that’s what I think we’re doing. I didn’t really understand (or even fully read) the brief… was there even a brief? I do recall the phrase “there are no rules” being in there somewhere… or maybe I just dreamt that one too. We are posting this at the same time, yes, that was definitely in the brief!

Dana had thrown the gauntlet. And by that I mean I goaded her into it like a little brother, running down the street and taunting her every second of the way until she finally submitted and said I could play with her Barbie dolls and Californian Vacation doll house. Pulling her hair and, in later pre-pubescencey, the strap of her trainer bra.

I seriously would’ve made a great younger brother. Seriously.

Sometimes I think Dana likes conversing with me because I am like a weird red-bearded, skinny assed, white boy, interweb version of the younger brother she never had… or maybe she does have a younger brother, I don’t know. She does swear at me and says she hates me a fair bit though…

So what could I do to the humble pork taco to make it my own? Make the special kind of love to it down by the fire? Marry it in a Las Vegas cathedral ceremony conducted by a fat gay man in sunglasses (or maybe it was Elvis?)? Or force a Street Fighter-esque three hit combo of my favourite pork products into my face via this little rolled corn edible plate?

I’m going for the three hit combo, don’t be doubting. And I shall cook it on the fire, eat myself fat enough to be the next Elvis and be very gay about the whole situation, with out so much as a fashionable jacket (or something else a girl would wear) on my person, but just damn happy (Happy is what gay used to mean, you know?). See what I did there?… I didn’t think so…

These things were good. Really good. I was caught a little off guard by my family’s sudden embracing of the blood sausage and their forth with consumption of a good percentage of it, as normally I get to eat the blood sausage around here and no, that is not code for anything – just a comment about a grown mans’ love for the black pud.

I would also recommend giving the home made tortillas a try. They’re well worth the effort!

PS if you want to have a look at what Dana came up with (you should because it’s going to be funny and delicious, I don’t mind telling you) you will be able you see that right here.

This is called fore-play around here. Pork belly, morcilla and chorizo, and tomato and onion charring up for the salsa
This is called fore-play around here. Pork belly, morcilla and chorizo, and tomato and onion charring up for the salsa
Damn sexy
Damn sexy
This was sooooo damn good
This was sooooo damn good
When you make you own tacos aint nobody going to deny you're the boss
When you make you own tacos aint nobody going to deny you’re the boss
I really wish I could take better photos. I really do
I really wish I could take better photos. I really do
Pretty grass
Pretty grass. I gaurentee Dana’s photos will be a heap better than this

PLENTY OF PORK TACOS (for 4)

400g pork belly, sliced into 3cm thick pieces
2 morcilla, black pudding or other kind of ethnic blood sausage
2 smoked chorizo sausage
1 chipotle chilli, if you like it hot, very finely chopped
tacos, salsa picante, cabbage & apple ‘slaw dressed with a little vinegar, radish, sheeps feta, coriander and lime wedges, to serve

• Cook the meats just as you would normally cook those meats. Just remember the pork belly is going to take a lot longer than the sausages are they are already cooked. That’s some quality free advice right there
• Once cooked to your liking chop it all up. Get two knives out and do it like a crazy Asian chef if that makes you feel good about yourself. Chuck the chipotle in there too
• That’s it
• Get it on the table and make sure you get yourself a good heap of the morcilla before your kids get to it!

SOFT TACOS (you best believe I made my own)

3 cups masa harina flour
400(ish) ml hot water

• In a medium bowl, mix together masa harina and hot water until thoroughly combined. Turn dough onto a clean surface and knead until pliable and smooth. If dough is dry add more hot water
• Cover dough tightly with cling wrap (plastic film) and allow to stand for 30 minutes. If it dries out while resting, sprinkle with more water
• Preheat a frying pan to medium-high.
• Divide dough into 20 equal-size balls. Using a tortilla press, a rolling pin, or your hands, press each ball of dough flat between two sheets of baking paper
• Place tortilla in preheated pan and allow to cook for approximately 30 seconds, or until browned and slightly puffy. Turn tortilla over to brown on second side for approximately 30 seconds more and then transfer to a plate. Repeat process with each ball of dough. Wrap tortillas with a towel to stay warm and moist until ready to serve.

Movida Aqui Melbourne

MOVIDA AQUI, Burke St, Melbourne

This place, on this day, for these people, could not be faulted.

The staff was attentive and in high spirits, it looked like they were having a good time, which is always a plus in this industry.

My friend Ewey is the chef so we left him in charge of our culinary destiny.

“We are hungry my good man,” I said to him. “Please can you quell this hunger inside me?”

And quell the hunger he did. And it was good… really good. At one stage towards the end of our feasting the waitress asked if we were starting to get full. I was, but I looked her straight in the eye and replied “not yet”. I blatantly lied to her, and that is something I shall have to live with for the rest of my life.

I think describing our favourite dishes to you right now is going to be the best way to go about this…

OBI – BOCADILLA DE CALAMARES (Calamari sandwich with tangy aioli and the pickled chilli things that I, for the life of me, cannot remember the name of)

Why?
“Because it had squid and the squid was really yummy”.

SEBA – BISTEC ESPECIAL (Grilled O’Conner’s tri-tip, brioche-y bone marrow crumb, horseradish and cavolo nero)

Why?
“Because I really like that sort of steak. It’s delicious dad. It’s really good”.

JENNEE – VIEIRA CON MORCILLA (Seared scallop, morcilla cigar and apple puree)

Why?
“It was really good. It was genius”.

Right about now in hind-sight I am wondering was it the best idea to ask my family to review their favourites… but don’t worry, I’ll fill in a few more details and some extra explicits in a bit…

NB. The best thing about this is that the week previous Jen and I had a lengthy conversation about black pud and how she did not like it one little bit. One bite of the morcilla cigar and she quizzed me as to what the filling might be.

“Morcilla,” I said. “Black pudding. And you like it, and you are a douche bag,” I sang to her like a six year old child.

“Hmph”, Jennee replied as she continued eating. It was reminiscent of Sylvester Stallone hanging out in the sewers in one of the stranger movies of 1993, “Demolition Man”. When he had the einen ratten burger. Classic shit.

ME
I’m really bad at picking one favourite thing so, since this is my blog and my silly ramblings and my rules and shit, I’ll tell you about a few of my favs…

ANCHOA – Hand filleted anchovy on a crouton with smoked tomato sorbet. I do believe it’s somewhat of an institution so just bloody well try it. Seba was amazed that someone had made a “tomato icecream” as he called it, and in turn, how well it went with the anchovy.

BOMBA – Catalan potato croquette type thing, filled with chorizo, crumbed and deep fried. If you have actually read the last sentence you’d realise you couldn’t go too far wrong. Then dress it with some aioli and a capsicum puree… Its-a the bomb-a.

BISTEC ESPESCIAL – I have to agree with Seba on this one. It was a damn tasty piece of meat. It does take you into the territory of needing teeth though. Tougher then it’s close brethren the ribeye or fillet, but so damn flavoursome, a trade off I am more then happy for, nay, actually prefer. And the sauce that resulted from the brioche-y marrow crumb, horse radish, eshallot, buttery goodness and olive oil amalgamating for a little party in the bottom of the bowl… I must confess I ruined their fun, but their good time sure enhanced mine.

BUTIFARA – The house-made pork and pepper sausage with salsa verde, chickpeas and more of that awesome morcilla. Chunky pork sausage full of flavour could well and truly stand up to the tangy salsa verde, whack some chickpeas and more of that morcilla into the mix and I am a happy man.

We finished our meal with some churros just because that’s what you do even if you are really full, and then it was back to the apartment for a siesta before we drank our way into the depths of another Melbourne night…

A worthy Melbourne dining experience.