Sunday, December 1, 2013

Red Wine and Chocolate Beef Stew

I decided to try something different with my stew and so I added chocolate!  Chocolate in savoury dishes seems to be the 'in' thing to do with cooking.  At first I thought that this was all a chefy gimmick and struggled to connect how this delicious sweet can enhance a savoury dish.  But at the same time this combination fascinated me.  I began to think more about this combination and remembered the Mexican mole sauce which too contains chocolate but somehow (when executed correctly) is the perfectly balanced savoury sauce.  

The key when using chocolate in savoury seems to be how it is balanced within the rest of the dish.  The chef of London's Bocca di Lupo and Gelupo, Jacob Kenedy, explains it perfectly "together with acid flavours, such as vinegar or tomato, or hot or aromatic spices, (chocolate) can be revelatory.  Too many sweet notes and it is as if someone has melted a Mars bar over your main course".  So with that, I present you with the recipe from my first attempt at using chocolate in a savoury dish.

So dear readers, what strange and wonderful sweet ingredients do you enjoy in your savoury meals? And have you ever tried using chocolate in a savoury dish?

Red Wine and Chocolate Beef Stew
- 1.5kg beef, in large chunks (I used oyster blade, but any secondary cut will work fine)
- 2 brown onions, sliced
- 2-3 sticks of celery, sliced
- 3 carrots, peeled and diced
- 6 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 10 shallots, peeled
- 250ml red wine
- 60ml red wine vinegar
- 1L good quality beef stock
- 1 cinnamon quill
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 5 sprigs of thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 generous handfuls of sultanas
- salt
- pepper
- 50g dark chocolate (I used Lindt 85% cocoa dark chocolate)
- 1-2 tbsp brown sugar
- parsley to serve

1.  Heat a large frying pan with a small amount of olive oil on high heat.  Add a small batches of the beef and brown.  Remove the beef and add to a large saucepan.   Continue until all the beef is browned.
2.  Reduce the heat to medium-high heat and brown the sliced onions.  Add the celery, carrot and garlic.  Fry for 5 minutes and add to the saucepan with the meat.
3.  Fry the shallots (whole) till golden brown, add to the beef saucepan.
4.  On high heat, add red wine and the vinegar and bring to the boil and simmer for 3 minutes (this step gets rid of the alcohol content in the wine which makes the sauce less piquant later on).  Add this to the beef saucepan
5.  Add to the saucepan the stock, cinnamon quill, nutmeg, thyme, bay leaves, sultanas, salt and pepper.  Bring to the boil and reduce to a very low heat simmer with the lid on.  Simmer for 2.5-3 hours.
6.  Melt the chocolate gently in the microwave or over a double boiler.  Add a tablespoon of the cooking liquid and mix well.  Add another few more tablespoons of liquid and then add the chocolate to the stew.  Boil for another 30 minutes.
7.  Remove the thyme sprigs, bay leaves and cinnamon quill and discard.  Remove the beef and shallots and cover and put aside.  Use a Bamix to whiz up the sauce.  Add the brown sugar.  Boil the sauce on a high rolling boil to reduce it to approximately half.  Taste and adjust seasoning if required (it also may need a bit more vinegar or sugar depending on the stock that was used).
8.  Return the meat and shallots and cook for another 30 minutes (optional - this makes the sauce richer but if you are short for time, this step can be skipped).

9.  Serve on celeriac puree with parsley for garnish.  Enjoy :)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Lamb Meatballs with Figs, Cranberries and Yoghurt

Uni exams have finally concluded for 2013 so I can finally indulge in using my cookbooks.  It so happens that since finishing exams the weather has been consistent thunderstorms and so a perfect winter warmer dish (although it is summer here on the Gold Coast) was necessary.  So dear readers, what are your favourite winter warmer dishes?

These lamb meatballs are the perfect mix of sweet and sour, balanced with a dollop of yoghurt.  This recipe is adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi's, 'Jerusalem'.

I am lucky enough to have my wonderful sister visiting me, who took the photo below (find more of her excellent work here and here)

Lamb Meatballs with Figs, Cranberries and Yoghurt
Serves 6, makes around 35 meatballs

- 750g minced lamb
- 2 onions
- handful of fresh mint, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 3/4 tsp ground allspice
- 4 tbsp dried cranberries
- 1 egg
- 300g shallots, peeled
- olive oil, for frying
- 200ml white wine
- 500ml chicken stock
- 2 bay leaves
- 4-6 thyme sprigs
- 2 tsp sugar
- 150-200g dried figs
- salt
- black pepper
- greek yoghurt to serve

1. Mince the onions in a food processor till very finely chopped.  Add to mixing bowl along with the lamb, mint, garlic, cinnamon, allspice, cranberries, egg, salt and pepper.  Mix very well.
2.  Roll into small balls (about the size of golf balls).
3.  Heat the olive oil on medium-high heat in a saucepan which has a tight-fitting lid and place a few meatballs in at a time.  Brown them on all surfaces and then remove from the pot and set aside.  Continue this with the remaining meatballs.
4.  Add shallots to the pot and brown.
5.  Add the wine, stock, bay leaves, thyme and sugar and bring to a gentle boil.  Add the figs and the meatballs.  Close the pot and reduce the heat to very low and leave to simmer for 30 minutes.
6.  Remove the lid and allow the sauce to thicken on the low heat for another hour.  Taste and season as required.
7.  Serve with fluffy couscous and a good dollop of greek yoghurt.  Enjoy :)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Creamy Tuna and Mushroom Pasta Sauce

A friend of mine asked me for a dinner dish which is fast, cheap, tasty and doesn't require cooking skills - essentially a perfect meal for a busy, hungry uni student.  This recipe ticks all the boxes and is one of my favourite pasta sauces.

Creamy Tuna and Mushroom Pasta Sauce (Serves 4)

- 1 medium brown onion, diced
- 1 bag of button mushrooms, sliced thinly
- 1 large can of tuna (400g), drained
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 250ml light cream
- 1/2 bunch of continental parsley leaves, chopped
- salt
- white pepper
- olive oil for frying
- pasta - any pasta works with this sauce but I prefer fettucini

1.  Bring large pot of water to the boil for the pasta.  Once the water boils, add the pasta and cook the pasta per packet instructions.
2.  Heat a medium saucepan on medium heat, add olive oil and onions.  Saute the onions until translucent.
3.  Add mushrooms to the pan with some salt (the salt helps the mushrooms release their juices quicker).  Cook for around 5 minutes.
4.  Add tuna, tomato paste, cream and pepper.  Mix well and let cook until hot.  Take off heat and add the parsley.
5.  Serve the sauce over the pasta.  Enjoy :)

Monday, September 2, 2013

Braised Beef Cheek with Mushrooms

Winter might be over here in Australia, but that doesn't mean slow braised dishes are still not able to be enjoyed.  As a university student with days when clinic runs till 7pm, my slow cooker is one of my favourite kitchen appliances - it allows me to come home from an evening at uni to a delicious smelling apartment and a hot cooked meal.   So dear readers, I would love to know, what is your favourite smell to come home to after a long day at uni or work?

Some tips for braising or slow cooking:
 - try to use larger pieces of meat (this allows the juices to stay in the meat and hence make it more tender)
- always brown the meat on a hot pan prior to placing it in the slow cooker
- once the meat is tender, remove it from the slow cooker and reduce the sauce (as the slow cooker, cooks at a low temperature, very little steam is produced resulting in hardly any liquid being reduced during the cooking process)

Braised Beef Cheek with Mushrooms (Serves 4)

- 4 beef cheeks
- 2-3 tablespoons flour
- grapeseed oil (or another oil with a high smoke point)
- 3 carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 medium brown onions, peeled and chopped
- 1 fist of garlic, peeled
- 400ml red wine
- 500ml beef stock
- 3 tbsp Marsala (or sherry)
- 6 juniper berries
- 3 dried bay leaves
- 1 tbsp dried thyme
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- salt
- pepper
- bag of button mushrooms, halved or quartered
- butter

1. Place a large saucepan on high heat with some grapeseed oil.  Lightly coat the beef cheeks in the flour.  Brown the beef on the saucepan for around 2 minutes on each side.  Take the beef off the pan and place into slow cooker.
2. On the same pan saute the onions, carrots and garlic over medium heat for around 5-10 minutes (or until the onions have become translucent and are beginning to become golden).
3.  Add the wine.  Cook for 2-3minutes.  Transfer it to the slow cooker.
4.  Add to the slow cooker the stock, Marsala, juniper berries, bay leaves, thyme, brown sugar, salt and pepper.  Cook in slow cooker for 4-6 hours on low heat.
5.  After 1-2 hours of cooking, add the mushrooms.
6.  After 4-6 hours have elapsed, removed the mushrooms and beef and cover with foil to keep warm.  Removed the juniper berries and bay leaves and discard.  Whiz up the sauce with a Bamix and transfer it to a saucepan.
7.  Boil the sauce on high heat on a rolling boil until it has reduced to a thick luscious sauce.  Taste and add seasoning as required.  Add a small knob of butter.
8.  Return the meat, mushrooms and sauce to the slow cooker and keep on warm until ready to serve.  Serve with Heston Blumenthal's potato mash (recipe can be found here).  Enjoy!

Monday, August 26, 2013


After a long break from blogging (but not from cooking), I have decided to once again use my blog to record recipes, write reviews and hopefully inspire you, my dear readers.

The other day, while out grocery shopping, I noticed a one kilo bag of baby beetroots for $1!  As a university student, with almost no disposable income, a bargain like this is almost impossible to refuse.  One kilogram of beetroots - what was I going to do with them?!  After much thought, I decided to make a beetroot and goat cheese risotto and a Russian salad - Vinaigrette.    So dear readers, I would like to know, what you love to cook with beetroots?

Beetroot and Goat Cheese Risotto (Serves 4-5)

- 300 grams of baby beetroots
- 1 brown onion, finely diced
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 and 1/2 cups Arborio rice
- 1/3 cup white wine
- vegetable stock cube (I used Massel)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- salt
- white pepper
- 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, grated
- 30 grams butter
- soft goat cheese to serve

1.  Place baby beetroots into a saucepan of cold water (approximately 1.5-2L of water).  Bring to the boil and simmer for 40mins or until the beetroots are just tender.  Take them off the heat. (Do NOT discard the cooking water).   When the beetroots are cool enough to handle, peel the beetroots (the hotter they are, the easier it is to peel).  The skin should slide off easily in your hands.  Discard the peel.
2.  Place the peeled beetroots into a food processor with the balsamic vinegar.  Pulse until fine.
3.  Bring the beetroot water back to boil and add the vegetable stock cube and stir.  Once the stock has dissolved, take off the heat and cover.
4.  In a large pan on medium heat, saute the onions on the olive oil until translucent (approx. 5 mins)
5.  Add the arborio rice and gently stir to coat the rice in the oil (2-3mins).
6. Add the white wine and stir until the wine has almost completely evaporated.
7.  Add a laddle of the beetroot/stock water to the pan, gently stirring the rice until almost all the liquid has evaporated.
8.  Repeat step 7 for around 20 minutes.  (If you run out of stock, and the rice is not completely cooked, add a laddle of boiling water instead).
9.  Once the rice is al dente, add the butter, beetroot, parmesan, salt and pepper.  Take off the heat once all the ingredients have been well mixed together.
10.  Serve with crumbled goat cheese on top

* * *

Vinegrette Salad
- 250 grams baby beetroots
- 2 medium potatoes
- 1 carrot, peeled
- 1/2 white salad onion
- 4-5 large pickled cucumbers
- 3-4 tbsp sauerkraut
- 1 can of garden peas (200g), liquid discarded and peas rinsed well
- 2-3 tbsp mayonnaise
- extra virgin olive oil
- salt
- pepper

1.  Place baby beetroots into a saucepan of cold water.  Bring to the boil and simmer for 40mins or until the beetroots are tender.  When the beetroots are cool enough to handle, peel the beetroots (the hotter they are, the easier it is to peel).  The skin should slide off easily in your hands. 
2.  Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, place whole potatoes and carrot into cold water, bring to the boil and simmer until cooked.  Like with the beets, peel the potatoes when they are cool enough to handle.
3.  Finely dice the onion.  Add to salad bowl.
4.  Dice beetroot, carrot, potatoes and pickled cucumbers and add to the salad bowl.
5.  Add the sauerkraut, garden peas, mayonnaise, a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper.  Mix well and taste for seasoning. 
Note: this salad tastes better the next day, once the flavours have been able to develop.  If you don't like mayonnaise, it can be substituted with extra olive oil and white wine vinegar.