Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Smoking with Broadbeans

Smoked Lamb with smashed broadbean and spiced pumpkin salad

Photos by Steve Shanahan

Apologies in advance are probably in order here, as I inflict the well worn cafĂ© and restaurant mantra of fresh, local, seasonal produce, on you again to describe these dishes. This concept is not new or unique and producers from the world over have been working with seasonally available produce for ages, actually, forever.

In these recipes I also incorporate one of the most basics of preservation techniques, smoking, used to preserve the spring produce through leaner times. In this instance, this is not used to preserve, but to add flavour.  In making the most of the sweet spring produce available at this time of year and the smoking for flavour, makes for a light, spring lunch, evocative of the Mediterranean.

As in the Mediterranean, I was fortunate to produce my own backyard crop for the choicest and sweetest peas, broadbeans, mint and citrus that were ready to harvest, bang on time for a family birthday feast. 

While preparing the vegetables, I am captivated by the soft, fluffy green papoose of the broadbean pod that protects its offspring, keeping it in perfect condition. And the verdant greens of the mint, coriander and peas have not yet been yellowed off by the sun. This time of year really is the height of food perfection. 

For a low fuss feast, throw together these ingredients with some smoked new season lamb, and few embellishments are needed for a gorgeous Mediterranean inspired spring lunch.

To smoke the lamb and lemons I used a simple smoking technique using a kettle barbeque with hot coals and hickory chips available at most hardware shops. 

Smoked lamb with smashed broad bean and spiced pumpkin salad
Serves 4
800g butternut pumpkin, deseeded, peeled and diced
¼ tspn ground allspice
salt and ground pepper
3 tbsp pumpkin seeds
500g broadbeans, unpodded. If fresh broadbeans are not available use frozen.
12 lamb cutlets
100g marinated feta, crumbled
½ cup coriander leaves, finely chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
Hickory wood chips
Olive oil spray

1 tbsp olive oil
1tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
½ tsp ground turmeric
2 tbsp lemon juice
¼ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
¼ cup chopped coriander

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line an oven tray with baking paper and place chopped pumpkin on the tray drizzled with olive oil, and sprinkled with allspice, salt and pepper to taste.

Bake for thirty minutes and then scatter the pumpkin seeds over the top and bake for another five minutes or so until the seeds are roasted. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

To make the paste, heat the oil in a small saucepan over a medium to low heat. Add the cumin, ground coriander, paprika, turmeric and garlic. Cook, stirring for one minute. Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice, fresh, chopped coriander and parsley. Stir to combine. Smear half of the paste onto the cutlets to marinate and set the remainder aside.

Prepare the broad beans by cooking in a medium saucepan of boiling water for three minutes. Drain and refresh in cold water and drain and cool. When cooled, peel off outer shell and reserve the inner beans. Gently smash with a potato masher, still leaving a coarse texture.

Any smoker can be used to smoke the lamb cutlets. I use a simple kettle barbeque using hot coals cooked down for a few hours with the kettle lid placed on it. Spray the cutlets with a light spray of olive oil. Place the cutlets on a greased wire rack that sits over a disposable foil tray with a handful of hickory chips spread over the base. The foil tray should sit on the kettle rack in the barbeque with the hot coals underneath it. Place the lid on the preheated kettle barbeque and leave the vent slightly open. The cutlets should take about thirty minutes to cook. They will turn a dark red on the outside and just pink on the inside. For well done lamb return to the heat for about another ten minutes or cooked inside when checked for doneness.

To assemble the dish, combine the pumpkin, broad beans, fetta and coriander in a bowl with a dash of olive oil and the lemon juice. Divide among serving plates and top with the lamb cutlets and dolloped with the remaining paste.

Smoked Lemon, pea and broadbean on flatbread

Serves 4
4 Lebanese flatbreads

olive oil spray
2 tsp dried mixed herbs
2 garlic cloves, peeled
4 tbsp olive oil
800g broadbeans in shell, alternatively use frozen broadbeans
250g fresh peas in shell, alternatively use frozen peas
1/3 bunch fresh mint
2 lemons, halved
100g pecorino cheese, grated
salt and ground pepper

Smoked lemons
Preheat smoker or barbeque and place lemon halves over a grill with a smoking wood below. I generally use hickory chips. Smoke for fifteen minutes or until the lemons appear golden and caramelised. They should be softened. If you are cooking this complete meal with the smoked lamb, you can smoke the lemons at the same time as the lamb.

Broad bean and pea topping
Shell the broad beans from the outer pod and cook the beans in a pot of boiling water for two minutes. Remove the beans with a slotted spoon and reserve the water for the peas and set broad beans aside. Shell the peas and cook for two minutes in the broad bean water. Drain the peas and set aside. Shell the cooked broad beans.

In a food processor, pulse the broad beans, peas, mint half the pecorino cheese, garlic, olive oil and juice from one smoked lemon in a food processor for only a few seconds to achieve a slightly chunky mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 200C and spray the flatbreads lightly with olive oil on both sides. Sprinkle with a little salt and the herbs. Cook in the oven on a rack over an oven tray for about ten minutes or until golden and crisp but not burnt.

To assemble, break the flatbreads into shards and pile on the broad bean and pea topping, serving with extra grated pecorino, a further drizzle of olive oil and the remaining smoked lemon cut into halves again.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Sticky rice balls in ginger syrup

Sticky rice balls in ginger syrup. Photo by Steve Shanahan
These are delicious to finish an Asian meal. Prepare them prior to serving. 

1/3 cup dried yellow split peas, pre-cooked to the equivalent of 1 cup of cooked beans
½ tsp salt
3 tbsp sugar

Rice Ball Dough
2 cups of glutinous rice flour, found at Asian grocers
¾ cup of water, and extra if required
toasted sesame seeds for serving

Ginger Syrup
3 cm fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into thick rings
1 cup brown sugar
3 cups water

Coconut sauce
300ml coconut milk
100ml water
1 tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 tbsp cornflour

Cook the yellow split peas for about 45 minutes or until soft. Drain, rinse in hot water, and mash with a potato masher until smooth, add the salt and sugar and mix to combine. Set aside.

For the rice ball dough, in a large bowl combine the rice flour and water and knead until a soft dough forms. Add water a tablespoon at a time if more water is needed to bring it together. The dough should be soft and sticky. Knead the dough in the bowl for a few minutes and wrap in plastic wrap and leave to rest.

For the filling, take a half teaspoon of the mashed pea paste and roll into about small balls, and place lined up on a piece of baking paper so they are not touching. Continue rolling into balls until all paste is rolled. Set aside.

For the ginger syrup, in a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the water and brown sugar. When the syrup starts to boil, add the ginger. Cover pot and and turn to low and leave the syrup to simmer for about 15 minutes.

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and turn down the heat to medium. Take one tablespoon of dough and flatten slightly to form a patty. Place a ball of paste in the centre of the dough. Gently work the dough around the paste and pinch and roll into a ball shape. Roll the ball lightly between your hands before gently dropping them into the boiling water. Continue rolling the balls until you have about 10 at a time in the water.

When the balls float to the top, they are cooked. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer them into the simmering ginger syrup. Continue until all the dough has been used up. Once all the balls are cooked simmer lightly in the ginger syrup for another 10 minutes. 

For the coconut sauce, in a small bowl, mix the cornflour and a tablespoon of water to form a thick slurry and set aside. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the coconut milk, water, sugar and salt. Stir to combine. When the coconut milk just starts to bubble, add the cornflour slurry and stir quickly for two minutes to stop lumps forming. Don’t overheat the coconut milk before you add the cornflour as this will create lumps.

Serve the warm dumplings in a bowl with a few spoons of ginger syrup, the coconut cream sauce poured over the top and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds.  

Vietnamese style pancakes

Vietnamese pancakes. Photo by Steve Shanahan

Cooking Asian food requires some preparation and energy to hunt and gather ingredients, but provides its own reward with simple, light and fresh flavours.

We don’t need to travel very far in Canberra to access fabulous local food markets and a plethora of Asian grocers, offering the opportunity and inspiration to recreate Asian street style delicacies. My challenge each visit is to only buy as much as I need.

When old friends from the North Coast of NSW arrive for a surprise stay we visit the Capital Region Farmer’s Market to shop for an Asian feast.

So to counter my habit of buying more than I need, I make a shopping list and take my friend along for back-up. Arriving at the market I turn my trolley upside down to find the shopping list, which I realise is languishing on my kitchen benchtop. So we shop from memory and collect a little extra just in case. I do find shopping from memory does tend to keep me a little more focused.

After escaping with only a couple of extra bags of produce, we return to prepare the feast of pork and chicken pancakes in bean sauce and sticky rice dumplings in ginger syrup. This is accompanied with a glass or two of alcoholic inspiration.

Over dinner, our visitors enthused about the quality and choice of the produce available at the market, again reminding me of Canberra’s strong relationship to it’s burgeoning and multicultural food culture.

This recipe requires some preparation time, so start early and give yourself a few hours leeway or have someone else in the kitchen to share out the tasks.

Crispy Vietnamese pancakes with bean sauce
400g rice flour
300ml coconut milk
300ml water
2 green shallots, chopped finely
vegetable oil for frying

200g pork mince
100g chicken mince
1 small onion, chopped
3 green shallots, chopped
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp palm sugar or coconut sugar
1 chilli, deseeded and chopped
1 lime, juiced and zest
½ cup of fresh herbs, a combination of basil, coriander and mint, finely chopped
vegetable oil
1 tsp ground white pepper
200g fresh bean sprouts

Bean sauce
50g vegetable oil
100g salted soy beans, found at Asian grocers
150ml sweet chilli sauce
1 tbsp tamarind paste
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp dried chilli flakes
¼ cup of fresh ginger, finely chopped
¼ cup of green shallots, finely chopped
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
60g roasted peanuts
2 tbsp water

To make the pancake batter, place rice flour into a medium sized mixing bowl, add coconut milk and water and mix until smooth. Add shallots and mix together and leave to rest for half an hour.

To prepare the bean sauce, heat the oil in a medium sized frypan over medium heat. Then add the ginger and shallots and cook for one minute. Add the tamarind paste, bean paste, sweet chilli sauce, peanuts and sesame seeds and cook for five minutes, stirring to combine and prevent sticking and burning. Add the water and continue to stir for another two minutes. Remove to a bowl to cool slightly, then blend on high speed for one minute in a food processor or stick blender until smooth. Remove the blended sauce to a bowl and set aside.

For the filling, in a medium sized frypan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the pork and chicken mince and cook until golden and crumbly. Add the onion and shallots and cook for another five minutes. Then add the fish sauce, sugar, chilli, lime zest, peanuts, juice and white pepper. Continue to cook and mix for another five minutes. Taste for seasoning. Transfer the mince mixture to a medium bowl and stir through half of the chopped herbs, cover and set aside.

For the pancakes, preheat the oven to 80C. In a medium sized frypan or wok, heat three tablespoons of vegetable oil over a high heat and add a third of a cup of the batter, rotating the pan to evenly coat the the base of the pan.  When bubbles start to form cook for a further two minutes until crispy around the edges. Remove from pan with a large egg lifter and place on an oven tray. Transfer to the oven to keep warm. Repeat until all the batter is used.

To serve, place the pancakes on individual plates, top with a couple of spoons of warmed meat filling, add a spoon of chopped fresh herbs and top with a good dollop of bean sauce, some fresh bean sprouts and toasted sesame seeds.

Due to the crispiness of these pancakes they do not roll well, so eating with a fork and knife works best.