Archive | January, 2012

Japanese tea pot

19 Jan

I love tea. I love all sorts of tea but I tip Japanese green tea (sencha) as my favourite, followed closely by genmaicha (Green tea and brown rice). For Christmas a few years back my auntie bought me my first tea pot  and it really saw some use. I’d make a pot of green tea a few times a week and sometimes a few pots a day. So when my floral English style tea pot broke I needed to replace it, fast!

I’ve have quite an affinity with all things Japanese so I thought a Japanese tea pot was in order. There are a few different types. Roughly there is the Tetsubin (te-tsu-bin) which is your regular shape with a handle over the top and it’s made of cast iron. According to wikipedia the tetsubin is appreciated as a source of iron as the iron leaches into the water…wow.

The more common type is the Kyushu which is made of ceramic and is either the regular shape or has a protruding handle out the side. This is the type I opted for when I wandered into “Japan City” at my local Westfield that was having an opening sale! $38 and I’ve got an elegant, traditional style tea pot that’ll be sure to impress.

I’m really happy with it. It pours well. It’s deceptively large and I can get 2 regular size tea / coffee cups from each batch. I’m still using a tea infuser inside but it’d be fine with uncut tea leaves.

I’m aiming to never wash it. Just like a wok, your tea pot will season. I’m sure there’s 100 year old tea pots out there with a rich heritage of flavours built up over the years!

Do you use a tea pot? What sort? Anything you can share about choosing, using or caring for it?

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Pickled Limes

12 Jan

My passion for pickled foods started with chilli. I was never very good at eating hot food but I could see that people could be very passionate about hot food. So I went out to teach myself to enjoy the good spice. During the journey I found pickled limes(with chilli) at an Indian restaurant and instantly fell in love. I started buying pickled limes from the supermarket and eating them with cheese and crackers (a taste combination I highly recommend). One day I saw limes on sale and thought I’d take a stab at making my own. I was successful and now anytime I see limes on sale I grab a bag and pickled them up with various flavours like rosemary, sage, thyme while ALWAYS making sure there’s a liberal dose of chilli’s.

Do you know the difference between pickling and preserving? Pretty simple, pickling something is just preserving it in brine (salt).

As always, to get started I organised my ingredients. Today I decided to go with rosemary, mainly because it’s growing great in my garden at the moment. I picked up 4 limes for $3 so given that I already I had the salt and the rosemary and chillis are from my garden this cost me a little over $6. As you’ll see I ended up using 1 big jar and 2 smaller mustard jars, all of which I boil in water for about 15min to sterilise.

While the jars are sterilising I chop up the ingredients. The limes I divvy up between slices for pickling and halves for using the juice. The chilli’s I chop in half and gently smash, the rosemary I leave as is.

Once the jars are sterilised it’s simply a matter of shoving the lime slices into the jars interspersed with chilli’s and rosemary twigs. I add a good pinch of rock salt between each level of limes. I don’t think you can overdo the salt at least I haven’t yet, but you don’t need to go nuts.

When the jar is full I squeeze in at least one lime depending on the size of the jar. Normally about 1/3 of the jar is enough. Then I top it up with freshly boiled water and give it a shake to get the bubbles out. Before I put the lid on I put a piece of squeezed lime skin side up on top. This keeps the slices submerged and covers everything (I discard it when I eat the limes). I try and top the liquid up right to the top before putting the lid on.

The last step is to clean it out and submerge the jars in boiling water for about 5min. Really not sure what this does but it’s a common step I’ve read with all canning / preserving / pickling techniques.

That’s it. Let it sit for 2 – 3 months (mine have been fine up to about 6 – 8 months) and enjoy.

Tip though, you eat the skin not the flesh. The flesh will taste horrible like really salty off lime. Remove the lime slice, skim the flesh off and chop up the skin. Use it as a side pickle for an Indian curry or as I said before, eat it with cheese and crackers.

Last tip, the process is exactly the same for lemons. I make those up and use them in Moroccan dishes like preserved lemon and chicken tagine and olives!!

Keep in mind that it’s very important to use sterile equipment, jars and of course your hands. The salt will go along way to keeping the bugs at bay but you need to be careful. If when you open the jars it doesn’t smell or taste right, don’t eat it. It’s not worth the risk to get ill (or worse) from botulism.

Home-minced home-made pork, sage & garlic sausages

7 Jan

Last year something inspired me to make my own sausages. Subliminally I might have been influenced by the NIB summer commercial “I love sausages” however I’m sure it was just part of my learn to cook and be self-sufficient craze. In any case, and despite many raised eyebrows from friends and family, I eventually bought the “Dakotah Sausage Stuffer“, a 4kg water-powered meat pushing beast of a unit (and a massive space filler in the kitchen cupboards).

It took me a few attempts to get the technique sorted and buying the right parts (hoses, nozzle attachments etc). The most recent acquisition to make my sausage making experience easier was a mincer. Up until now I’ve used a food processor that just didn’t chop the meat fine enough, ending up with largish chunks of fat in the sausages, not a key feature found in the worlds best sausages, so the mincer was on the Christmas list. I scored a Chef Avenue Wonder Mincer ($49 from King of Knives).

I decided to go with a simple recipe to start with, the old favourite Pork and Sage, and because there’s nothing garlic doesn’t go with I added garlic. On the left you can see that there’s also some beef and beef fat. A lesson learnt (and researched) is you need to have about 30% fat. That seems a lot but being dry doesn’t make the top 10 best sausage feature list! I didn’t end up using the beef fat as the pork fat was enough.

Once I had all the ingredients ready I chopped up 10g of sage, crushed up 25g of rock salt, 3 cloves of garlic and trimmed the fat off the 1.3kg of pork so I could measure the fat ratio (ended up with approx 400g of fat which is 31% of total meat).

Next step was to mince the meat in my brand new mincer. There was a little apprehension that the cogs were plastic and I really had no idea how hard it was going to be. Surprisingly it was very very easy. The cogs work so there’s really very little pressure required. The trick however was to ensure the bits of meat were small enough to fall into the spiral pusher-thingamajigit, too big and they got caught and needed to break before continuing towards the blades.

I added the salt / sage / garlic mixture to the mincer but in hindsight I’ll just mix it in by hand because I lost too much inside the mixer.

Once mixed through I shoved the mixture into the 4kg water-powered sausage stuffer, attached the nozzles, slid on the sausage casings (I’ve used natural collagen casings) and powered the beast up. With minimal effort out spat my snags (image on left). Using my yet to mastered skills of turning the sausages (alternate clockwise / anti-clockwise) I ended up with something resembling sausages you might buy from your local butcher! (image on right)

All up it took me about 2 hours to prepare, mince, make and cook the bangers however you definetly get economies of scale the mince you create.

To re-cap the ingredients I had:

  • 1.274kg Pork including ~400g fat
  • 10g Sage (home-grown)
  • 25g rock salt
  • 3 cloves of garlic

Total cost $18 keeping in mind that I know exactly what’s in these snags. I could buffer it out somewhat by adding bread or other fillers but for the time being I’m happy with pure meat snags!

What did they taste like? Best I’ve done so far I’d say. Perhaps a little salty and a lot of fat rendered in the fry-pan so I could probably cut back on both those. Experimenting and learning is most of the fun!

What do you think? Would you spend the time with home-made sausages or do you trust your local butcher to use quality ingredients.