Sunday, July 17, 2011

this blog has moved

Hi -

thanks for checking in.

I got fed up with Blogger being so slow to post (and often not being able to publish for days), so I have moved to:

I hope you will follow this link and find me again!

Thanks again

Fill Up On Bread

Thursday, July 14, 2011

finally.... a homemade jerk seasoning recipe that works

For more than five years, we have been living in Australia, far away from the comfortingly-stocked shelves of our local Tesco in Brent Cross where the international food choices were staggering. With such a huge population in the area of West Indian descent, there was never any problem buying Orlando's - and subsequently my - favourite West Indian foods and seasonings.

Ackee and saltfish was delicious, easy and cheap to make for dinner. If we needed more jerk seasoning or pepper sauce (a traditional Barbados favourite), we popped down the road either to Tesco or to any of our local groceries, and picked up a jar of Walkerswood or a bottle of Windmill.

Now we live in Australia, we have to remember to stock up if either one of us goes to London. Happily, our trip to Barbados afforded us the chance to send back some decent quantities of jerk seasoning, pepper sauce and tins of ackee.

But how to become more self-sufficient? A few of our West Indian acquaintances here in Australia make really decent home-made pepper sauce or jerk seasoning, but I have never been able to come close. Perhaps it was the fresh Bajan air, or the amazing assaults on my taste buds every evening at dinner, but upon my return this time I think I have cracked it.

The most important thing to get right is the fresh chillies. Australia-dwellers, this is important: you will not find the chillies you need in Safeway. What we really need are habanero chillies but they are not sold in this country. So you need to go down to the local market or your local Asian grocery and ask for the hottest fresh chillies you can find. I get mine from Bharat Traders here in West Footscray, tiny green ones that look like this (they are on a side plate if that gives you an idea of size). I used about 12 of these for one batch of seasoning (enough to season about 1 kg of meat) and to be honest I could have done with a bit more heat still. Deseed before you use if you wish - I didn't bother.
The second important ingredient is all-spice. Many people think this is a mixture of spices used in baking, but that is mixed spices. All-spice is the fruit of the Jamaican pimiento tree and is a very specific ingredient. Happily, although you cannot get the pimiento berries themselves here in Australia, we can buy ground all-spice in most big supermarkets. It's not the same but it does the job.
The third thing is the tool you use. You will need to get this mixture ground down as smooth as possible, so the best results will be obtained from a blender or from a pestle and mortar. I have only used a food processor so far, which chops very finely indeed but it is not enough to make the seasoning paste really sink into the meat.
So, here you go. Give it a try and roast your own jerk chicken for dinner this weekend.
Ingredients (enough to season about 1kg of chicken)
3-4 large scallions or spring onions
6-12 hot chillies
small bunch of fresh thyme
2-3 teaspoons of allspice powder
1-2 teaspoons of ground nutmeg or the freshly-ground equivalent
1-2 teaspoons sugar
juice of half a fresh lime
freshly-ground salt and black pepper
Other people add some ginger, or coriander. I am going to try and add some native Australian herbs and spices, like lemon myrtle or pepperberry, and see how that goes.
De-seed the chillies if you wish. Chop up the scallions and chillies as finely as you can. You can use onion if you are stuck, but I find the onion rather overpowers the balance of flavours too much.
Remove the leaves of the thyme from their woody stems by stripping each stalk backwards. Don't worry about being too finicky with this.
Throw all ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend until as smooth as you can get it. If you don't have a blender, start by chopping everything as small as possible and then use a pestle and mortar to crush the onions, chillies and thyme into as smooth a paste as you can manage.
This seasoning will keep in the fridge in a sterilised container for a week or two if you don't use it all at once. If you add a little white vinegar to the mix at the end of the blend, this will help with longevity.
Rub a small amount of the seasoning onto each joint of meat - I use no more than 2-3 teaspoons per chicken joint or breast. Make sure you get into every nook and cranny. Then cover and leave for as long as you can - overnight if possible, but at least an hour if you are in a hurry.
Roast slowly and enjoy the beautiful aromas coming from the kitchen!

Serve with rice and peas: soak 2-3 tablespoonfuls of black beans, black-eyed peas or similar overnight. Alternatively use azuki beans which are easily found in Asian markets, and don't need soaking. Bring to the boil and cook slowly in plenty of water until cooked. DO NOT THROW AWAY THE WATER. Add your white rice and a dash of salt to the cooked peas in the same water (this makes the rice turn a different colour and adds flavour). Stir occasionally until cooked through, then strain the last of the water away and serve up.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Mairead's killer chicken curry

500g chicken breast or thigh fillets, whichever you prefer, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1-3 large green chillies, fresh, chopped
1/2 tbsp black mustard seeds
1 star anise broken into pods
2-3 cardamom pods
2-3 cloves
1 piece cinnamon, broken up (optional)
1/2 tbsp garam masala
1/2 tbsp turmeric
1/2 tbsp other meat masala (if available from Indian shops)
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped finely (optional)
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 carrots, chopped
1-2 potatoes, chopped (optional)

Heat the oil in a large stove-top pot.
Throw in the black mustard seeds and cook until they just start popping.
Throw in the chillies and cook for 2-3 minutes until pungent.
Add the star anise, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, turmeric and both masalas. Stir vigorously and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add a little more olive oil to moisten if necessary.
Add the garlic and chopped onion, stir into the mixture and cook for 3-4 minutes until softened and beginning to brown.
Add the chicken pieces, stir in well and cook for 3-4 minutes or so.
Add the carrots (and potatoes if you wish) and enough water to just cover all ingredients. Stir well.
Cook slowly over a very low heat - or transfer to a low heat in the oven - for about an hour. Check occasionally, adding more water as necessary to make the curry have as much or as little gravy as you wish.

The longer you cook this curry, and the older the pot you cook it in, the better it will taste. Works pretty well in a slow-cooker too, but you have to cook all the spices manually first (method up as far as adding the chicken) as laid out above, then you can leave to simmer in the slow cooker if you wish.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Giuseppe, Arnaldo & Sons

A weekend late (very late) birthday treat with Lee saw us cruising Crown on a Sunday lunchtime looking for fish. We'd just spent a couple of hours in Melbourne Aquarium to see the baby hammerhead sharks, and seafood was the order of the day. You know your fate is sealed when you stand at an aquarium window staring at a large octopus, and the only three words that come to mind are: Lemon. Oregano. Chargrilled.

Sadly, Waterfront is gone forever, replaced by the shell of a new restaurant called Atlantic Bar & Grill. So we wandered into Giuseppe, Arnaldo's no later than noon to see what they could do for us.

It's a funky place with a serious pedigree, and I have heard nothing but good stuff about the place. On a 40C day in the city, we sat alongside the strange folding windows, opened out to show a sleepy riverfront, and the coolness of the interior still won out. The wait staff in their butcher's coats, jeans and Converse were attentive but not overpowering, and it didn't take us long to order two plates of the spaghetti with crab.

The wine list didn't really attract for wines by the glass, so I went with the house red, a tempranillo blend straight from the tap behind the bar. It worked. Beside us, a man about my own age entertained a gorgeous young four- or five-year-old to lunch. She sat imperiously at table, knowing how good she looked in that hairband with the huge pink flower, and looked like she was pretty good company.

Behind me the big salami showcase glistened, and we are not sure how we succeeded in not ordering a plate of everything, with a hunk of the fresh artisan bread lining the walls beyond. But we stuck to our guns, and awaited our pasta.

Not sure why the pasta was served wrapped in a baking sheet parcel. It was a lovely, garlicky, tomatoey pasta sauce with plenty of fresh crab meat, and I just know it was only in that oven for a few minutes. It didn't need to be oven-baked. But the visual impact was pretty good on arrival, even if the baking parchment then got in the way for the rest of the meal.

The pasta was too saucey for Lee. I didn't know what she meant. There is no such thing as too much sauce for me.

At the next table, a couple chose the chicken cacciatore which looked and smelled amazing. Nearby, somebody else chose the Sunday roast - suckling pig. Now, that looks like a dish to come back for.

I can't comment on the value for money, as lunch was Lee's treat, but the menu looked tempting enough for a second, more leisurely, visit another time.

Giuseppe, Arnaldo & Sons on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 24, 2011

loading dock

Riverfront, 70 Lorimer Street, South Wharf, Melbourne
(03) 9681 8289

A casual afternoon lunch with friends on a sunny Melbourne Sunday. Where to go? Initially I balked at the idea of Docklands, even on such a perfect day. Everybody knows that despite the developers' and Melbourne City Council's best efforts, Docklands is a wasteland, and only barely acceptable for about three weeks of the year when the wind is at its lowest and the mercury at its highest.

But no, this little gem of a place is on South Wharf, over the curly pedestrian bridge from Docklands proper, or a pleasant 10-minute stroll west along the river from the Polly Woodside. If you are a shopper, it's less than five minutes walk from the South Wharf DFO complex. The tables outside face north, so they are a bit of a sun-trap, with a small marina spread out in front, and city views all around. Perfect.

Over the course of four hours we grazed on perfectly-cooked thin-crust margherita pizza, fresh and flavoursome thai beef and black-seared tuna salads, generous panini, a pretty stunning Aussie burger, and a couple of excellent Jamaican dishes - curried goat and Jamaican-style snapper with pumpkin rice and okra.

One of the co-owners here is Jamaican, and on the third Sunday evening of the month they host a West Indian evening. We missed the last one being out of town, but February's is firmly in the diary.

The wait staff were lovely. Well, I admit one of them was the daughter of the friends with whom we were eating, but the other waiter didn't know who we were initially, and was most welcoming and accommodating. On paying our bill, one of the owners looked after us, and his civility gave us every reason to give him our custom again.

I have to say the pizzas alone are worth the wander down to this little-known corner of Melbourne city, and I know it is going to become a bit of a regular haunt for us.

So if you're looking for a new corner of Melbourne with some pretty good food and a laid-back riverside vibe, head down to Loading Dock. It's worth the detour.

Loading Dock on Urbanspoon