TOAST’s Web “Thing”

Tuesday, 2007-02-27

Man’s gotta eat…

Filed under: Cooking / Eating,Rants,Recipes — by Toast d'Béchamel @ 9:54 pm

Greetings y’all.  I had a killer couple of weeks at work, but had some time on the weekend and got a few things done.  Sorry, no photos, I was focusing on getting the food out there.  Plus my Char Siu was brown rather than red 🙂  Here’s a quick rushthrough of the past few days.  I’d really like to type each of these up properly, but I’m short on time.  They’re all on the “someday/maybe” file.  Either FGI or drop me a line if you need more / specifics.

Brown beef stock

The fridge was getting overloaded by beef bones, chicken bones, duck bones and my vege draw’s onions were liquefying, so first thing Saturday morning, I threw them all into a low oven.  About lunchtime (3-4 hours later), all went into the pot for the rest of the day.  I topped up the water occasionally, but basically forgot about it.  I got drunk and remembered about midnight.  Not a problem.  If I wasn’t so nackered, I’d let the thing go overnight.  Ended up with about 4 litres of good stuff.  Not as brown as I wanted, but I’ve frozen it in big and little portions (ziploc bags and takeaway containers), so I’m pretty happy.

Magic Bullet

I blew up my blender a few weeks ago and replaced it with a Magic Bullet (50% cheaper on eBay).  Boy are they fun!  Got myself WHACKED OUT on Saturday night on strawberry / blueberry / vodka / gin / rum / lemonade / soda things, and pulverised a whole bulb (yes bulb) of garlic the next day.  For about $100 with postage, this is WAY more fun than a video game or 2 trips to the cinema.

Char Siu (BBQ Pork)

You’d be hard-pressed to go too much better than Sneff’s* recipe on everything2.com for Char Siu http://everything2.com/index.pl?node_id=478298.  I was looking for a few dishes for lunch that I could cook “easily” while doing other things in the kitchen (like gettin’ a stew on).  I had half a jar of LKK Char Siu sauce in the fridge, and got myself a kilo of pork neck.  I started out, but immediately had existential crisis and knew I could do better, so I whacked in a bunch more garlic, 5 spice, dark soy, (red food colouring, *SHH*) and star anise and let it go overnight.  Cooked it the next day (I tend to glaze 4-6 times), and it was brilliant.  I think one needs to measure five-spice by the tablespoon, rather than by the teaspoon and the dark soy made it a weird brown colour (will try using “light” plus colouring next time).  I’ve eaten better… from about 5 restaurants (2 of which are in Hong Kong), I’ve eaten worse from… about a hundred places.

*Sneff is a genius and has done 100 times more for the Intarweb than lonelygirl15.

Beef Bulgogi

I’ve got a thing for beef ribs at the moment.  Locally, they sell them cut about 2″ across with a huge salve of meat on top, in sets 5-6, weighting about half a kilo each. Sometimes called “Asado”.  Cheap as chips.  I get out my boning knife and cut off the top meat, trimming it of all fat and sinew, then do wonderful things with it, but that’s another post.  Then throw the actual ribs (and some of the meat) into either a fierce marinade, or a STEW.  I’m having trouble getting the ratios right, the closest I’ve got is:
KOREAN soy sauce (KOREAN, I said KOREAN soy sauce, go to your KOREAN grocer and forcrissake buy the KOREAN soy sauce, do you hear me dammit, KOREAN soy sauce), where was I?
KOREAN soy sauce / “alcohol” / sugar = 1/1/1 plus a Nashi or Kiwi fruit for tenderisation, a little sesame oil and some shallots:
Close.  Quite close. Slightly salty, must be sure to wipe the pan each batch, lacks some character.  Might need more “blood”, less marinade, charcoal or something.  But, man it’s tasty.

Bulgogi Burgers

I tend to make ridiculous amounts of bulgogi at once, simply so I can have these the next day.  Almost gets me out of bed at 6am on a Sunday.
Bread Roll, egg mayo, bulgogi, some pieces of cold kimchi, cold marinated bean sprouts, optional cheese (melted), warm bulgogi.  *ROCKS*.

Nikujaga

That’s beef with potatoes, Japanese style (think sukiyaki taste).  Apparently, there’s a Japanese saying that this is a dish that will win you a husband if you cook it well enough. I was basically craving the flavour, had a bunch of leftover beef and some spuds, and had the stuff sauteing before I hit the web looking for a recipe (and realised the name of the dish was Nikujaga).  Of course there’s heaps of recipes, similar to Bulgogi, the ingredients are “standard”, but there’s variants on the ratios.  Again, beware of American websites with recipes, at best they tend to tone things down a little to adjust to the local palate.  This is what I’m going with:
(Japanese) Soy Sauce / Mirin / Sake / Sugar = 2 / 2 / 2 / 1.  Tablespoons if you’re going a small one, plus about 2 cups of dashi (Bonito stock).  Packet goldfish food should do, or go a “Broth of Vigour” if you like.  Pretty close.  There’s heaps of variants.  Yeah, you’re supposed to use a finer cut than rib meat.

Work

Chaos, but I love it.  Sometimes I feel I should stop by the emergency department at St. Vincent’s (hospital servicing the red-light district of Sydney) on a Saturday night for a little quiet downtime :).  No, it’s not that bad, I absolutely love…90% of it 🙂

SPARE TIME?

I’m getting a couple of games of poker in a week, and I’m messing about with blindfold rubik’s cubing.  I am not making this up.

*a-chk* GET YOUR STEW ON! *unh* GET YOUR STEW ON!…

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Wednesday, 2007-02-07

Master Stock Tripe (Failure)

Filed under: Cooking / Eating,Recipes — by Toast d'Béchamel @ 11:46 pm

Greetings all y’all

I got through my first month of “not buying anything at a supermarket” with ease.  I’m healthier, wealthier and full ‘o’ MEAT!  I think I’m now considered a “regular” at my local butcher, noice.  I’ve been buying a lot of the rest at “Ashfield Fruit World”, a gigantic place, full of fun.  I’m still looking for a half decent poulterer and deli, the ones I’ve been going to seem to have lost the will to live.

This week I’ve got a bit of a whacked-out schedule, day trips to Newcastle, 2 sets of workshops in the evening, and a full workload in between.  So I decided to wake up the master stock from a few weeks vacation, throw in a bunch of meat and set myself up for the whole week.  I’ve been waking up very early, and if I put my rice cooker on the night before, I can start the day with an Omurice (rice omelet) while watching “Hey Dad !” at 6am, make a meat-cabbage-rice pack for lunch, and if I totally run out of time, have another one for dinner.  If I’ve got a couple of types of meat in there, I can easily go for a week like this without getting tired of it.

On the streets of Hong Kong, there are many tiny, tiny restaurants specialising in one thing or another, sometimes with exactly *one* dish on the menu.  Something, which I’ve mentioned previously is the slow-cooked briskets, tripe and other beef innards, in a “perpetual” stew.  Similar principle to master-stock cooking, but instead of soy / sugar / star anise / tangerine, it’s milder, beefier, and you can eat the resulting stock as a soup with your meats and some noodles.  I’ve got an ambition to do this, but for the moment, I thought I’d practice with my now six month old master stock.

You really expect us to swallow this tripe?

Cheap as chips.  Actually, not as cheap as you might think.  There’s not a lot of demand for tripe, a lot of what a butcher will buy will the thrown away and it’s labour intensive as you have to clean it like mad.  You should try and find a butcher who has at least a moderate turnover of tripe.  Although you may not think it, offal freshness is often more important than for other meats, as you can’t really tell two day old tripe, unlike a steak which will be moving from red to pink/grey.  Still, this stuff is under $5 a kilo, and there’s no bones or trim.  And yes, I’ll admit, when I was a kid I used to have nightmares about this stuff.  It took me many years to work out that it’s wasn’t the tripe, but the microwave white sauce (clag) that I was scared of.

Spooky?

There she is.  This week is extra licorice root, extra star anise, all the tangerine peel I could find, rock sugar, rice wine but no dark soy as the thing was getting too black.  I had 3 large pieces of brisket (about 2kg) and half a kilo of tripe in there for 3 hours, took them out and threw in a kilo of mid-wings for a 10 minute boil and 10 minute steep.

Failure

BZZT!, failure.  The brisket and chicken were great, in fact, the colour of the chicken was the best I’ve ever got it, but the tripe?  No.  I forgot that tripe acts like a great big sponge (like a mushroom or tofu), and in 3 hours, turned a very interesting jet-black.  But it was salty, and the licorice flavour too concentrated.  Although I did get the texture / cooking time pretty close.  Oh yeah, excuse my cutting board, the meats were straight out of the pot and got soy sauce on everything they touched (live and learn).

Next time for sure.  My master stock (I think it needs a name, send in your suggestions) is spending a week in the big fridge, and will get a skim and be back on duty next weekend.  I’m going to try a 1-2 hour boil in plain water first, and a 15 minute soak in the master stock (and then might fry a bit).  While it’s out there… who knows.  If you throw six chicken wings in for twenty minutes, someone will definitely end up eating them 🙂

Chow down dudes ! “New” Japanese episodes of Iron Chef on SBS this week, and a new series of the US “top chef” is on lifestyle food.  Valentine’s day coming up, be finalising your menus and planning your shopping by this weekend. Unless of course, you’re going to a restaurant this Valentine’s day, in which case, as usual, you’ll get exactly what you deserve.

Tuesday, 2007-01-09

More Cassoulet

Filed under: (Uncategorized) — by Toast d'Béchamel @ 10:36 pm

Damn you picassa for blocking my pictures.

Anyway, I reheated a portion of my cassoulet tonight for an hour and a half and discovered something almost incredible.  Here’s the bottom line:

When cooking a cassoulet, an hour before it’s done, fish around in the pot for all the chicken pieces (and probably the duck as well), lay them on top of the beans, and sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top.  Then cook the final hour uncovered.

Ho-leey sheeyat, that’s some good eating.  The chicken is tender from it’s slow braising, full of flavour from all the tasty bits in the pot, one “side” of it will essentially be roasted, and with the crumbs and the drying, gives it an eating quality not completely unlike a schnitzel, or southern fried chicken.

 I was also worried about having too much liquid in there.  I tasted some late last night.  Then some more.  Then some more.  Then some more.  Man, it’s good.  Not a problem any more.

Monday, 2007-01-08

Cassoulet!

Filed under: Cooking / Eating,Recipes — by Toast d'Béchamel @ 10:34 pm

I’ve got so many other things to do, but here’s just a quick one on a first attempt at a cassoulet. It was brilliant, and although technically the process took three days to complete, there was onlt about half an hour of actual effort. I only meant to make a little one, enough for a couple of portions, but ended up completely filling the big Le Cruset pot (6 lites?). I just sort of saw some stuff I had for later in the week, and just though “screw it, throw it all in”. Here’s the recipe, by no means canonical. I couldn’t find/afford any duck, but had some duck fat.

Firstly, soak a kilo of dried beanz overnight. DO NOT ADD SALT. Next day, drain, rinse then boil the beans for 30 mintes, skimming the scum at boiling point and then throwing in an onion. NO SALT.

In the main time, heat up your casserole, throw in some duck fat (or olive oil, you wuss) and fry your meatz. I had 2 large chicken Marylands, 300g of diced lamb (originally planned for something else), 2 thick pork sausages. Season as you go.

Remove the meat as it gets done (fry in batches), and fry off your base, I had 2 onions, 2 carrots, 6 cloves of strong garlic, and 200g of smoked speck (garlic minced, everything else diced), seasoning as you go. In the mean time roughly chop 4 Roma tomatoes. I layered the dish like this: Deglaze with a little white wine, and throw in a third of the beans. Add half the meats and half the tomatoes. Add another third of the beans, the rest of the meat, then cover with the last of the beans. Season after each addition of beans. Don’t be afraid of the salt, remember, you’re cooking a whole heap. Finally, throw in a bouquet garni (or dried herbs if you’re short) and top up with either stock or “bean boiling water”, just to the top of the beans.

At this point, I let it cool a little and threw it in the fridge (it was Sunday night and did all the work while cooking something else for dinner). The next day I put the whole thing in a low oven (140 degrees) for 4 hours, and voila. Serve with great, great bread and cheap red wine.

Cost – About $15, plus bread and cheap wine. Serves 5 people who will end up belt-looseningly stuffed.

Improvements / next time:

  • Need to cook it longer. Normally the 3-4 hour cooking time starts with the stuff at boiling temperature. Mine was at fridge temperature, was pretty close though.
  • Similarly, finish the dish uncovered for maybe an hour, possibly putting some breadcrumbs on top for a crust.
  • Using stock instead of water may improve things, but again, so would reducing the liquid.
  • Better sausages, these ones were very cheap, but still great.
  • Some pork!
  • variants of the mirepoix base, include celery? Exclude carrots?
  • More fat!

Sunday, 2007-01-07

Heya, hiya, have some blog.

Filed under: (Uncategorized) — by Toast d'Béchamel @ 10:49 pm

– WordPress is driving me mad.  It’s so, so slow to edit.  Adding a link takes a full minute sometimes.  They’re shared service is being hit to all hell, and it’ll likely get worse.  The good news is that I hear that if you host it yourself, it’s quite fast, and hosting costs as little as $5 a month.  Gimme a couple of weeks.
– As you may know, more than 80% of the TV I watch is cooking shows.  For some reason, this week I’ve seen 5-6 recipes including “blood oranges”.  These come in season for as little as a month (Winter).  I’m gueassing the reason that they’re on TV so much right is that cable now gets cooking shows quite soon after their original US/UK broadcasts, and ABC is showing repeats.  Drives me mad as you can’t get them :).  Unless they’re being imported from the Northern Hemesphere (in which case they’ll likely be expensive and crap).
– I’ve started shopping at Ashfield Fruit World and they have all manner of great stuff.
 – Bags of all sorts of flours, dried beans, dried fruits etc.  They buy it in bulk and pack it into 1kg/500g vacuum sealed bags, and a looks like they’re hardly charging for this service!  Some things are cheaper than home-brand (is a good brand).  Flour – $1 per kilo, Dried beans – $3 a kilo (enough to feed a whole lot of people), salted peanuts, $4 a kilo, all manner of good stuff, even Wasabi peas.
 – Must be coriander season, small bunches for 70c (or a huge bundle for tree-fitty).  I’ve seen it for $3 a bunch at times.  Also, parsely for a buck, basil/thai basil for two bucks.
 – $6 for a 12 pack of tinned tomatoes.

– Still not entered a supermarket.  Not a problem at all.  Bought a gatorade from a convenience store, and paid for the privelege.
– This week, a big of a cassolet, even though it’s summer and that I couldn’t find any duck pieces and Vietnamese pork recipe
– I’ve started reading “The Man who Ate Everything” by Jeffrey Steingarten (sorry, no link, it’s too painful).  Brilliant stuff, I can hardly put it down.  Dr. Rodd generously lent it to me, claining “this guys is just like you”.  Totally agree.  He’s American, but writes as if he were British, is a Lawyer, but writes as if he has a science degree and goes to a level of research and detail rivalled only by Alton Brown.
– Also reading “Musashi”.  Have made it past the 50 pages now, and am now “into the story”.  Though not completely hooked yet, I am finding it quite interesting.  I know some really exciting and cool things are about to start happening, which is keeping me reading it.  So far, the main character has a WOODEN sword ?!, which he’s actually used to kill someone with.  One scene has him pissed off in a forest and in anger goes around slashing branches off trees.
– Iron Chef America is improving with each episode.  Hope y’all saw Ming Tsai in battle Duck.  Man, that was an amazing episode.  I claim that the winner totally PWNED the loser.
– My last week of being “broke”.  Very nice.
– I’ve been working with Eric Scheid from Ironclad (sorry, no link) on an Information Architecture project.  The man is a fricken GENIUS at IA.  He lives and breathes it.  I learn more in a couple of hours with him than I do in a month of programming.  If you’re in IA or a related field, you’re likely to come across him at some point.
– Is it just me, or does the whole of Australia seem to be on holidays for the last month ?  I’ve had more things like “broken websites”, “broken application forms”, “missed deliveries”, “lost orders”, “faxes not received”, “stuffed up orders” in the last month than I’ve had in the last year.

More from me after payday, when I’ve got some coin and can hopefully get this thing hosted somewhere usable

Monday, 2007-01-01

Greetz! Eatz!

Filed under: Cooking / Eating,Recipes — by Toast d'Béchamel @ 11:36 pm

Happy 2007 all y’all.  Even though I don’t really believe in New Year’s resolutions (one day a year is far too few to get some ambition and some steam up yo ass), I happen to have a couple of things that happen to start on the 1st of January.

Firstly, I’m attempting to go a whole year without purchasing anything from a supermarket.  I did make a fairly sizable order from shopfast last night as a bit of a weaning (cola, detergent, glad wrap, soap, TP and dog treats), but that’s it.  At times it’s going to be very tough.  But I expect that while I last, I’m going to be saving a bunch of coin and losing a lot of weight. 

Although not a resolution and something that I’ve brought up before, I’m turning my back on the whole scene and avoiding restaurants as much as possible for the next year.  So far, so good.  I spent the last week in Brisbane with my folks, and had a great time at Yum Cha.  Something I couldn’t get enough of (and everyone else avoided) was some delicious tripe.  People, the sooner you all get over it and start eating tripe, liver, kidney, arsehole etc, the happier you’ll be, the more money you’ll save and the healthier you’ll become.  A double chicken breast costs MORE than buying the entire bird.

Finally, I’ve had a craving for a while and had a shot at making Western (Western China / Inner Mongolia that is) dumplings.  Yes it’s lamb and yes it’s from Mongolia, but it ain’t farking “Mongolian Lamb”.

I’m totally broke for the next couple of weeks, Christmas and a week without wage is always a bit tough, but I’ve got a freezer full of congee, glutinous rice wraps, dumplings and porky treats, so I’m going to be fine.

Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction

Filed under: (Uncategorized) — by Toast d'Béchamel @ 11:33 pm

I got quite excited when I found out that there was a new “Adrian Mole” book out (even though it was 6 months after it was actually published).  I sort of grew up reading the poor blighter’s mis-adventures, usually reading them at a similar sort of age as the actual character!  Moley is about 10 years older than me, and with the delays in writing, publishing and getting the books to Australia, it’s tracked my life somewhat.  Unfortunately, the first couple of books, many pieces of the humour went right over my head.  As a 14 year old, I found myself continually having to look up things like “Tory”, “Falklands”, “Terry’s Chocolate Orange”, “Brown Ale”, “Giro” etc.  These days, the ‘net sure helps, this time around I was looking up “Jeremy Clarkson”, “Habitat” and a bunch of British MPs.  Even though always described as an “anti-hero”, the first couple of books I saw Moley as quite an exciting character, having a much more fun and social life than me.  I was one of the original computer nerds/’net addicts though.  But I digress.

I’ll try not to spoil anything for you.  I really enjoyed the read and got through the ~500 pages in under 3 days.  I really liked the “canon” of the series, no need to establish e.g. who Tania Braithwaite is, or about Sharon Bott / Glenn etc, just jump right in there and give us the updates.  There’s usually a few years gap between each book, during which time, things change, people die, new people emerge etc, but I really churned through this book like catching up with an old friend.

The main criticism I have regarding this book (and the previous one to some extent) is the predictability of some of the events.  Basically, if something significant happens, then you know that it’s all going to end up pair-shaped.  In fact, you can start anticipating it very early on.  Still… that’s what happens to old Moley.

I don’t have all the info, but apparently the author, Sue Townsend, is either going, or is now completely blind!  This is actually reflected in one of the long-term characters of the series, going through a similar ordeal (I won’t tell you who).  You can very much tell that the account is real and personal.  Although only a minor sub-plot, it’s quite surprising and unpredictable.

Alas, this would appear to be the final book in the series (I just confirmed it on wikipedia), and whilst it doesn’t glibly tie up all the loose ends, the conclusion leaves one satisfied.  I’ll probably have a read of Sue Townsend’s other recent works as well, especially if they’re light easy reading material as well.  I’ve spent far too long reading textbooks and heavy literature, one forgets that there are plenty of great, easy to read books out there which over a real alternative to television, the movies and the Internet.

So, if you’re a fan of the series, get yourself a copy, and get stuck in.  It’s a fun light read and will put a smile on your face.

Sunday, 2006-12-17

One hundred (and two) potsticker dumplings.

Filed under: Cooking / Eating,Recipes — by Toast d'Béchamel @ 6:44 pm

 

I love these things and have made them a few times in the past.  Making the dough is a beeyatch.  Hard physical work, tricky and messes up your entire kitchen.  I did it a couple of times just to say that I did it.  Bought a few packets of gow-gee skins (call them what you like, Gow Gee, JiaoZi, Potsticker dumplings, or even gyoza), which made things so much easier.  Not wonton skins, that’s a different thing.  It had been a while since I’ve done this, but I did pretty well.  Recipe for 60 (I ended up doubling the recipe, and had some leftover filling).

Start with 500g of pork mince, not too fatty.  If you’re game, you can get an incredible result if you mince the meat yourself using two cleavers, enabling you to control the texture.  Add half bunch of shallots, and finely sliced and half a Chinese cabbage (aka Napa cabbage or wombok or whatever).  Add the seasonings on top of that to ensure good distribution.  A tablespoon of light soy sauce, a tablespoon of dark and one of rice wine.  I resorted to the jars and added 2 teaspoons of garlic, and one of ginger (careful on this one, it’s strong).  Finally full teaspoon of white pepper and one of sugar.  No salt, the soy should cover you, and no chilli, use it as a condiment if you want some.

Before stuffing, fry a little bit in pan for a taste test, adjusting seasonings if you need to.  The flavour should be fairly mild.  Add teaspoons of the mixture to each wrapper (and I mean “teaspoons”, tiny amounts) , dampen one edge, fold in half and seal.  Lay on a floured or silicon papered tray.  Filling 12 at a time seemed to work well for a one-man team, and it took me around 45 minutes.  Having something good on the TV and a tasty beverage makes this not an unpleasant task.

If you have leftover wrappers, deep fry them and eat them as snacks.  If you have left over filling, stuff some pieces of bell pepper, or hollowed out tofu, or make an eggplant sandwich, or make into patties and enjoy a Chinese style burger. 

Freeze them on floured or silicon papered trays, and store in zip-lock bags in groups of 15 if you eat a lot, or groups of 10 if you don’t eat so much.

Variants include: different types of meat; adding water chestnuts for crunch or bamboo shoots; using garlic chives as the vegetable, or even kim chee; adding diced rehydrated shitake mushrooms; adding coriander for a nice fresh taste.  If you want to try making the dough, there’s recipes out there.  I used to use wheat flour and hot water, but there’s recipes using iced water as well.

You can cook them by frying them straight from frozen in a non-stick pan (there’s a reason they’re called potstickers) for a couple of minutes, throwing a cup of water in, putting a lid on and steaming for about 10 minutes.  Or boil, steam or nuke them and throw them in a pan to crisp up.  Eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack.  You can cook some in the morning while you’re making breakfast, take them to work and nuke them at lunchtime. Serve with a dipping sauce, or just pour it all over the top.  Suggestions include black vinegar (aka caramel vinegar), red rice wine vinegar, brown vinegar, soy sauce, chilli oil, chilli sauce, sesame oil, worcestershire sauce, mayo, tabasco sauce, Dave’s insanity sauce, sweet chilli sauce, Vietnamese dipping sauce, any combination of the above, or nothing at all.  I’ve no particular favourite, just whatever I feel like at the time, but I most often use black vinegar, sometimes with a little chilli oil.

Full pics at: http://picasaweb.google.com/gtoast/102PotstickerDumplings

Saturday, 2006-12-16

G’Day. What’s in the pot this weekend ?

Filed under: Cooking / Eating — by Toast d'Béchamel @ 11:12 am
  • Lamb chops fried in olive oil
  • Potato Gratin
  • French onion soup with big croutons
  • Freeform lasagne with ragu, spinach thing, ricotta and pumpkin
  • CHEAZ !
  • Potsticker Dumplings (I promise only a single batch)

Big exam on Monday (Managing eBusiness), an Assignment to write, preparing for Christmas and getting ready for my employment contract review.  And Borat.  Is nice.

Saturday, 2006-12-09

10 word movie review – Beijing Bicycle (2001)

Filed under: 10 word movie reviews — by Toast d'Béchamel @ 11:13 am

Thought-provoking cultural insight, fascinating dichotomy, emotional, beautiful, inspiring tragedy. 8.5/10.

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