Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Project Bacon - Phase 3

And on the seventh day, God created bacon!

After waiting nervously for a week, today it was finally time to take the pork belly which was being patiently transformed into bacon out of the fridge for the final phase.  I had been checking it every day, worried that it might have grown a mould colony in there, but all appeared to be well this morning.

I removed it from the fridge, rinsed it off and put it in the oven at 95 deg celcius for around 90 minutes.  When I removed it, it had taken on that lovely pink colour, and looked..... well, it looked like bacon!

I couldn't wait for it to cool down, so I sliced some off and chucked it in a pan.  How did it taste?  Delicious, and full of flavour.  Eating it by itself, it was perhaps a little salty, and it is also a little sweet.  The sweetness I had suspected, being an american recipe.  Next time I will probably halve the amount of sugar.  To fix the saltiness, I will blanch the bacon before cooking.  This was mentioned in the recipe I used, and appears to happen sometimes. I was unsure whether to blanch it or not this time, so I just left it.  It seemed like I had rinsed enough salt off under the tap.  Apparently not.

Next time I will hunt down a bigger piece of pork to use, as this one was a little thin.  However it was all that was available when I bought it.  It's a little hard to slice so I will take it to work and slice it on the meat slicer tomorrow!  I look forward to making some panchetta next time.

PS.  Sorry for the dodgy photos - we had changed the exposure settings on the camera, and I hadn't adjusted them!

On the menu this month....

Steamed, and crispy fried dumplings with Nuoc cham dipping sauce.  You can find a great recipe for Nuoc cham (Vietnamese chilli sauce) here.  If you make it correctly, the chilli will float on the surface - apparently a pre-requisite for finding a partner in Vietnam!

Lamb Shanks with soft polenta, courtesy of the mini recipe books that you could get with the Herald sun.  This one came from the Guy Grossi cookbook.

Roast Pumpkin Salad

Delicious, easy to make, and healthy.  It's also great topped with a chicken fillet marinated in some lemon juice, paprika, ground coriander and cumin.

Roast Pumpkin (and Moroccan Chicken) Salad

1/2 butternut pumpkin, peeled and sliced to approx 3-4mm thick
Salad leaves (I used roquette and spinach)
Fetta, crumbled
Pine nuts, toasted
Fried shallots
1 avocado, thinly sliced
4 tbsp cumin seeds
Olive oil
Lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 deg celcius.  Line 2 baking trays with baking paper, and brush with oil.  Cover with approx 2 tbsp of cumin seeds, salt, and freshly cracked pepper.  Lay the pumpkin on top of the seasonsings, and brush with oil.  Top with more cumin seeds, salt, and pepper.  Roast the pumpkin for approx 20 minutes, or until you think it's done.

Build your salad on the plates using the salad leaves, avocado and pumpkin.  Sprinkle with pine nuts, shallots, and finally the fetta.  Dress with  a drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice.

As I said above, it goes well with moroccan chicken.  I make this by marinating the chicken in olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and approx 1 tsp each of sweet paprika, ground cumin, ground coriander, mixed with a few ground up coriander stems and leaves.


After racking my brain for a week trying to think of savoury dishes to take to Halloween, the inspiration came all at once and I had heaps of ideas.  Apparently everyone was taking sweet dishes, and that was all I could originally think of also.

We ended up going for Eyeball tarts, and a few 'interesting' dips.

The tarts were simply shortcrust tart cases, filled with a tomato, bacon and mushroom filling, and topped with my version of a culinary eyeball!

I simply cooked off a few tins of tomatoes with some garlic, red wine, chilli flakes, basil and oregano.  I then added thin slivers of bacon, and some finely sliced mushrooms.  This became the filling for the tarts.  We then topped them with thin slices of baby bocconcini for the white of the eye, and added stuffed green olives for the iris.  Some of them had just the right curve for an eyeball, probably the slices of bocconcini that came from the ends.  I was pretty pleased with the results!

The 'Carrot Fairy' dip was simply a mango kasundi I made at trade school, mixed with some grated carrot, and thick greek yoghurt.

The 'Exorcist' dip was a green pea and wasabi puree (recipe below), and the corn chips we made by pressing our tortillas, cutting them into triangles, brushing with oil and salt, and then baking.

'Exorcist' Dip

1/2 onion, very finely diced
1/2 cup cream
1-2 cups of thawed or fresh peas
approx 1 tsp wasabi

Saute the onion gently in some olive oil - do not allow it to brown at all.  Once it is soft and translucent, add the cream and bring to the boil.  Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium and add the peas.  Season with salt, pepper, and wasabi (be careful!) and allow to cool.  Once it has cooled, process with a stick blender, or food processor.

Note:  I have made this a few times, and sometimes the final consistency varies.  You may have to add more cream to make it runnier, or more peas to make it thicker.  Add the wasabi bit by bit to ensure you don't add too much.

Steak, Bearnaise sauce, and roast beetroot salad

Inspired by our recent heart attack inducing visit to France-soir on Toorak Road, I just had to try and make bearnaise sauce at home.  I had gained a little confidence in my ability to make this, largely due to learning a foolproof method for Hollandaise sauce at work.  Prior to learning that, I had experienced quite a few hollandaise failures at home, and had all but given up.

Thankfully it all came together (and stayed together) this time, and after finishing our meal it was good enough to keep eating with a spoon!

The roast beetroot salad that accompanied the steak was fantastic - that combination is definitely a keeper.  I won't write out a full recipe, but it contained the following:

Beetroots roasted in their skins, and then peeled and quartered
Toasted walnuts
Spinach leaves
Soft boiled eggs

I built the salad, and then dressed it with mustard aioli (aioli mixed with dijon, and seeded mustard), and topped it with some soft boiled eggs.  Next time I might even omit the aioli, as the gooey egg yolks were enough dressing for the salad.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Project Bacon - Phase 2

Well I received my pink curing salts in the mail, and went about the business of creating a spice/salt rub for the pork belly.

Pictured above is the mix of regular salt, pepper, curing salts, minced garlic, crushed bay leaves, nutmeg, thyme, and sugar.  I rubbed it all over the pork, placed in a container, and popped it into the fridge for a week.

Next wednesday can't come soon enough!