Indian Weekend Feast

On the way home from work on Friday, I stopped in at the Indian grocery store and picked up a pound box of sweets. Which served as the inspiration to this weekend’s menu. I also picked up a few other goodies to round out the meal.

Menu inspiration: back row (rasgulla and gulab jamun), front two rows (various burfees or Indian fudges)

I’ve made Indian foods from scratch before, but sometimes, you need a break, so buying one or two items to add to your meal isn’t a bad thing. Nor is using prepared pastes, chutneys or even breads.

I was going to make mattar paneer but I didn’t have enough milk in the house to make my own paneer (cheese), and I blew the budget with the other items, so I couldn’t BUY it. Still, I think the menu was good enough, even if it was one of the easiest I’ve made in a long time.

Samosas, easy chicken vindaloo, cheater’s chickpea curry (or chana masala), basmati rice, roti and various sweets.

Chicken vindaloo – a very spicy chicken and potato stew made with a jarred paste mixture and served over plain basmati rice with some cooling yogurt or a cucumber or tomato raita (yogurt based dip)

Close-up of the interior of the samosa – potatoes, peas, toasted spices in a crispy pastry, served with a mint chutney

Two of my favourite Indian sweets – rasgulla (left) and gulab jamun (right)

Both of these sweets are milk based and soaked in a sugar syrup. Cardamom is a flavouring that’s sometimes used in the syrup. The rasgulla is made with kneaded fresh paneer cheese poached in a sugar syrup. When you bite into it you get the  squeaky texture of biting into fresh cheese curds. The gulab jamun is made with milk powder and butter or whipping cream, kneaded into a ball and deep fried and then soaked in the sugar syrup.

Closeups of Indian sweets – various burfees (fudges)

Weekday BBQ … Warm Sweet Potato and Couscous Salad

You just got home in the middle of the week too exhausted to cook anything elaborate. And you have a craving for bbq.  (Or at least, I did.)

So, what do you do?

If you have a freezer, and you planned for just such an event, you can take some of the lamb kofta kebabs you’ve bbq’d previously out and warm them up. For a side dish, this warm couscous salad is mostly hands off, fast and filling. Put it on a pretty plate with a couple of tablespoons of home made or purchased tzatziki, and you could serve it to company.

Dessert … a scoop or two of butterscotch ripple ice cream.

Warm Sweet Potato & Couscous Salad – serves 4

1 cup couscous
1 cup (250ml) hot chicken stock seasoned with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 (400g) sweet potato, peeled, cut into 3/4 inch (2 cm) cubes
1 tbsp vegetable oil (optional if roasting sweet potatoes)
2 tbsp (300g) pine nuts**
2 tbsp (40ml) orange juice
2 tbsp (40ml) olive oil
Salt & freshly ground pepper
1-2 green onions, sliced on the diagonal
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped or 2 tsp dried parsley

** If you find you’ve misplaced your pine nuts, 1 tbsp of toasted sesame seeds work just as well.

Place couscous into a heatproof bowl. Pour the hot stock over couscous, cover and allow stock to absorb for about 5 minutes. Gently fluff with a fork.

Cook sweet potato in a saucepan of boiling water for 10 minutes or until tender. Drain.
(Or, if you have the oven on, drizzle some vegetable oil over the cubes, and season with salt and pepper. Bake at 425 deg F for 25-30 minutes, turning after about 15 minutes until the outside is golden brown and the inside is tender.)

To toast pine nuts heat a frying pan over a medium heat. Add pine nuts and stir until slightly golden. Transfer to a bowl immediately as nuts will continue to cook.

In a small jar with a lid, shake together the orange juice and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add cooked sweet potato, sliced green onions, toasted pine nuts and parsley to the couscous. Pour the dressing over the ingredients and gently combine.

Serve warm.

Picspam: No Knead Bread

Would you invest 8 hours to eat THIS?

This is what  it looks like inside … under all that butter. :)

Some years ago, I ran across an article about no-knead bread. Well, it sounded too good to be true, but I thought I’d give it a try. I had the Dutch oven (my Le Creuset) and, after reading the warning about needing to replace the phenolic knob due to its temperature limitation, I spent the $15 for a metal knob and shipping. So, I was all set.

But I put it off … until now.

I used the recipe Eva (of Kitchen Inspirations) posted this past February. Other than having to add some more flour to the dough, since it was more like a batter after the 4 hour fermentation, I got a great tasting loaf of bread that looked a lot like the ciabatta that I made years ago in my now defunct bread machine. (NOTE: I’ll be increasing the flour to 3 1/2 cups/ 525 g next time.)

The only drawback is the waiting time. It takes at least 6 hrs before you can put the bread in the oven to bake, 45 minutes to bake and a good hour to cool and cut into.

I guess you could put it together the night before and then shape and let rise for 2 hrs the next day. It’s something to think about. One thing I DO know though, I will be making this bread again.

I <3 Onions – Beef Burgers and Lamb Kofta Kebabs

The first barbecue of the year was a successful one. I threw whatever I could find in my freezer on the grill … hamburgers, lamb skewers and a package of Oktoberfest Grill ‘Ems. But first, I had to do a bit of preparing of the ground meat.

I enjoy the taste of onions with my burgers but I don’t care for the texture of raw onions so I usually saute some diced onions and add it to my meat mixtures.

After frying the onions and prepping the meat on Saturday, I was too hungry to wait til the next day to bbq, so I pan-fried a couple of the smaller hamburger patties and threw them into this sesame seed bun. There’s melted cheese between the two and some ‘healthy’ lettuce on the bottom. :)

Beef Burger

Cross-section through the burger

Barbecued Hamburgers – Word to the wise … do NOT bbq burgers made with regular hamburger meat! The flames are scary.

Ok, the simplest recipe for a hamburger is just to throw some salt and pepper at ground sirloin or other high quality beef, form it into a patty and throw in on a grill, but some of us have limited budgets, so we buy the lean ground beef at the market  … NOT those ground meat chubs at the grocery chains cause I have SOME standards left. And when I first looked up a ‘recipe’ for a hamburger, it told me to use bread crumbs (soaked in milk for moisture) and an egg for binding. So that’s what I’m posting below. Do whatever you want. It’s your burger.

Basic Hamburger – makes 8 4 oz patties

2 pounds lean ground beef
1 small onion, finely diced and sauteed in 1 1/2 tsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp dried bread crumbs
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten well

Sauteed onions

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.

Divide into 8 portions and shape into patties. You can do it by hand or by using a handy patty press like this one, complete with instructions in case it’s too high tech for you to figure out on your own. The press holds exactly 4 oz.

I’m cheap frugal so I used food wrap.

Pan fry, grill or barbecue.

Ground Lamb Skewers (and some Grill ‘Ems)

Lamb Kofta Kebabs or Ground Lamb Skewers – makes 8 skewers, serve 2 per person

1 pound ground lamb
zest of 1 lemon
2 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried mint
1 1/2 tbsp minced dehydrated onion
scant tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander

Mix lemon zest, dehydrated onion and all the herbs and spices together. Sprinkle over the ground meat and knead in well.

Cover and refrigerate the meat mixture overnight to allow the flavours to meld.

About 45 minutes before you want to cook the kebabs, soak 8 bamboo skewers in water for at least 30 minutes.

Divide the meat into 8 portions and shape into a ball. With damp hands, insert the skewer into the ball of meat and shape the meat around the skewer into a 2-3 inch sausage shape.

Grill or barbecue the kebabs for about 8-10 minutes over medium heat until golden brown and cooked through, rotating ever few minutes.

Serve 2 kebabs with spicy yogurt sauce (recipe below) drizzled over them.

Spicy yogurt – makes 1 cup

1 cup Greek style yogurt
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1/2 tsp each ground cumin, coriander, and mint
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients for spicy yogurt and refrigerate until ready to use.

Easter Sugar Cookies/ Sugar Cookie Redux

I first posted this recipe for sugar cookies more than 3 years ago on my LJ account, but I’ve learned things in the interim, so I thought I’d repost it there, and here, for the first time. Plus, the pictures are so cute.

Embossed Easter Cookie Cutters

Sugar Cookies

Amanda’s Amazing Sugar Cookies II (from I Am Baker)

Makes 5-6 dozen 3″ cookies depending whether they were rolled 1/8 or 1/4″ thick

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups fine sugar
2 whole eggs
2 eggs yolks
4 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp almond extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder

In a mixer or food processor, beat or cream the butter and sugar together until they are well combined, which will take about 2 minutes. If you take your butter straight out of the fridge, it will take longer to incorporate the sugar.

Add in 2 eggs and 2 egg yolks and mix until combined.

Add in vanilla and almond extract and mix until combined.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Slowly (about a cup at a time) add flour to the butter mixture and combine. Unless you’ve got a strong arm, the mixer or food processor is preferable to using a wooden spoon for this step.

Wrap the dough in Saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 1/2 hours or overnight.

About 15 minutes before you want to start rolling out the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Use a Silpat or a sheet of parchment paper to line a light coloured aluminum baking sheet or the bottoms of the cookies will get too dark.

NOTE: DO NOT OVER-HANDLE the dough or it will soften too much and you won’t be able to lift the cookies to transfer them to the baking sheet.

Roll dough out at least 1/4″ thick, if using embossed cookie cutters, using as little flour as possible. You can roll the dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper to help. If the dough sticks, it’s too warm.

Cut out cookies, transfer to the baking sheets and bake for 6-8 minutes or until the edges of the cookies just start to get some color. (In my new oven, I baked the cookies for 15 minutes.) Once you’ve cut your cookies, you may want to put your cookie sheet into the fridge for 10-15 minutes to chill the cookies and reduce spreading.

NOTE 2: I found that when I used BOTH a Silpat sheet and a sheet of parchment paper in this last batch of cookies, they spread too much and I lost the design from my embossed cookie cutters.

The cookie on the left was baked on parchment paper while the one on the right was baked on a Silpat sheet.

Cookies ready to be baked

Gather together the scraps, roll in Saran wrap, refrigerate and once they are cooled, reroll and cut out more cookies.

Once baked, let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack until they cool to room temperature.

Store in an airtight container.

Christmas variation: Replace almond extract with peppermint extract. Add ~1 cup peppermint candies and 1/2 cup peppermint kisses, each finely chopped.

Boston Baked Beans

I spent the day making baked beans, a side dish to go with my Easter Sunday meal, as well as prepping hamburger patties and lamb kofta kebabs for bbq’ing tomorrow. I also finished baking off the last of the sugar cookie dough that I made yesterday. A busy day but very productive.

My previous attempt at baked beans, back in September, was very successful but, although the Korean flavours were tasty, I DID still want to make the very traditional western version, Boston baked beans,  which are flavoured with molasses or maple syrup and salt pork or bacon. However, at the last minute, I didn’t get a chance to go grocery shopping, so I had to leave out the bacon. I just used bacon fat from my fridge to saute the onions. If you want to make a vegan version of these beans, use vegetable oil instead.

Boston Baked Beans – makes 5-6 cups, serves 8 generously

2 cups (1 pound) dried navy, Great Northern or cannellini** beans
1 tbsp bacon fat or vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
3/4 cup fancy molasses
1 tbsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground mustard
pinch of cloves
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup ketchup (optional)
1 tbsp rum
4 cups cooking liquid

** I had some cannellini beans in my pantry so that’s what I used.

Soak beans overnight. Discard soaking liquid and replace with enough water to cover the beans by about 2-3 inches. Bring the water to the boil, skimming off any foam. Replace any water lost and when the contents return to the boil, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook until the beans are tender (45 min to an hour).

Preheat the oven to 325 deg Fahrenheit.

In a Dutch oven saute the onion in the bacon fat until the onion is translucent and starts to get golden brown around the edges.

Add the cooked beans, molasses, salt, pepper, mustard, cloves, vinegar, ketchup and rum and enough cooking liquid to cover the beans by an inch, to the Dutch oven.

Reserve the remaining cooking liquid in case you need any more at the end.

Place the Dutch oven, covered, in the oven and bake for 4-5 hours, stirring every hour and checking to see that the mixture hasn’t gotten too thick. If it’s too soupy, take the lid off and continue baking until it’s as thick as you prefer. You may wish the top to get a bit crusty at the end.

Serve hot.

Rugelach and Thumbprint Cookies

Both these cookies are made with the same cream cheese dough and are addictive whichever version you choose to try.

I haven’t made rugelach in ages. The recipe for the cream cheese pastry is very easy but the actual assembly is kind of fiddly. Don’t be intimidated as you can use the basic dough to make thumbprint cookies instead of the rugelach.

The picture (thumbprint cookies on the top row and various rugelach in the other 2 rows) below shows all of the cookies I made from 1/3 of the dough plus the trimming scraps. The yield varies but after making and eating the first batch, you’ll want to whip up another one immediately. :)

Making Rugelach

Rugelach with preserves or jam spread on pastry as a glue, ground nuts and sugar, and chocolate chips

Cutting the triangles

Rolling up rugelach

Rugelach Pastry

1 cup (8 oz.) butter, softened slightly
8 oz. cream cheese, softened slightly
2 tbsp (increase to 1/4 cup) granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups sifted all purpose flour (plus extra for rolling)

1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 tsp cold water for egg wash

Walnut filling recipe follows

NOTE: This is a very soft dough and should be handled as little as possible while chilled, using lots of flour on the working surface and on top of the dough while rolling.

In a food processor, cream together the butter, cream cheese, sugar, salt, and vanilla until they are well combined. Add the flour and pulse just until a dough forms. (If you’ve left the butter and cream cheese at room temperature for a couple of hours it will seem overly soft, more like a batter than a dough, but will firm up during refrigeration. If you are using butter and cream cheese straight out of the fridge, it will be more dough like.)

Divide the dough in half; flatten into disks and wrap each disk in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours and up to 2 days, or freeze up to 3 months (thaw before baking).

Preheat oven to 350° F, with racks set in upper and lower thirds. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. In a small bowl, combine egg with 1 teaspoon water to make an egg wash.

Working with one disk at a time, cut in half, place dough on lightly floured parchment paper and roll out into a 9-10 inch circle about 1/4″ thick, dusting with more flour if needed. If it cracks at the edges, bring it back together or patch if there are large tears. Using a large dinner plate as a guide, cut around the dough to make a perfect circle; trim off scraps. You can refrigerate this circle before filling if it seems to have gotten too soft.

(Combine all the scraps and form into balls for thumbprint cookies at the end of baking)

Brush the circle with egg wash, if your filling is a dry one, so as to have something for it to stick to. Divide the filling ingredients evenly among the circles made, and sprinkle on the walnut and brown sugar mixture. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut each circle into 12 equal triangles. Starting from the wide end, roll up each triangle of dough. Place the crescents on the lined baking sheets, seam side down. Brush the top of the rolls again with egg wash. Bake until golden brown, 20-22 minutes. Transfer the rugelach to a wire rack to cool completely.

Walnut Filling

1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

Mix the filling ingredients together in a small bowl.

Thumbprint Cookies

1 recipe of Rugelach pastry

1 cup of finely chopped or ground walnuts or almonds
Preserves of choice – apricot, plum

Take a piece of rugelach dough and roll into a small ball (1″ in diameter). Roll in chopped nuts. Place balls about 2″ apart onto a baking sheet which has been lined with parchment paper. Make a small depression in the ball with your thumb and fill with a scant 1/2 tsp jam. Bake for 12-15 min at 350 degrees F.

Tamales Day #2 – From Making the Masa to the finished Tamale

Picture Heavy Warning: Many pics … everywhere! I proof read this post as carefully as possible, but, if something is confusing, please ask for clarification.

The finished tamales with various sauces (from left to right): Strained pork braising liquid, salsa (Hot Old El Paso cause I didn’t have the energy to make any from scratch) and a mole made with 2 parts pork braising liquid and 1 part Dona Maria mole sauce. They were all good.

Possible servings photo IMG1082_zps4c816d30.jpg

Tamale with mole sauce

Tamale with mole photo IMG1085_zps7279a2a3.jpg

Inside the pork with mole

Inside the tamale photo IMG1088_zpsd062b3a7.jpg

Day 2

Now that you’ve got your pulled pork filling ready, it’s time to make the masa, assemble your tamales, steam them and then, FINALLY, it’s time to EAT.

Assembling the steamer basket:

Steamer inserts from left to right: steamer stand, collapsible steamer and cake cooling rack

Stand, collapsible steamer basket and cooling rack photo IMG1012_zpse8248f34.jpg

Stacked steamer set up

Steamer assembly photo IMG1013_zps57f1265d.jpg

Steamer Assembly in Stockpot

Inside the stockpot/steamer photo IMG1014_zpse932e648.jpg

By the way, I let my steamer run dry because it vented steam like mad and I didn’t realize that most of the water had evaporated so quickly, though I suspected something had happened from the burned smell. Scrubbing the black crust of burnt corn when I was done was NOT fun. :(  It’s hard to believe that 12 cups boiled away in about 90 minutes but it happened.

For the 2nd batch of tamales, I added at least 4 cups of boiling water every 15 minutes.

Another way to make sure that your steaming pot DOESN’T run dry is to put a couple of pennies in the bottom of the pot full of water. As long as the water is boiling, the pennies will jump around and make a noise. When the noise slows down or STOPS, you’ve run dry.

There are lots of videos about how to assemble the tamales so I’m not going to post any pictures, even though I have a TON. Instead, these are my finished tamales.

Steamed tamale still in the corn husk

Steamed tamales photo IMG1069_zps4d447ea9.jpg

Peeling open the corn husk – the not pretty side of the tamale

Steamed with husk removed photo IMG1070_zps88e21d86.jpg

Pretty side of the tamale ready for saucing

Tamale ready for saucing photo IMG1084_zps8fbcfd6d.jpg

Masa – makes 20-24 tamales

24-28 dried corn husks
4 cups masa harina for tamales (Maseca brand is good)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cup lard
3 1/2 – 4 cups water or stock (chicken or pork), warm

Rehydrating the corn husks

Bring a pot of water, large enough to hold the husks, to the boil. Turn off the heat and remove the pot from the burner, gently submerge the husks, and let them soak for 20-30 minutes. As with pasta, it will take a little while for the husks to become pliable enough to be fully submerged. When ready to fill the husks, drain off some of the hot water and replace it with enough cold water to be able to handle the husks.

NOTE: You can take some of the smaller (narrower) corn husk and tear them into 1/8″ strips for tying or overlap two husks if you run short at the end. For the giant husks, tear off an inch on the side and use that for the ties. Always soak more husks than you need.

Preparing the masa

Whisk together the masa harina, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.

Whip the lard in a kitchen stand blender with the paddle for at least 5 minutes to incorporate as much air as possible into the lard.

Gradually add the masa mixture to the lard, a cup at a time, until it has all been mixed into the lard.

With the mixer turned on, gradually add 3 cups of the warm stock to the masa in the bowl. Then add, more stock, 1/4 cup at a time, until the mixture is about the texture of soft cookie dough. Let the dough stand at room temperature (covered with a damp cloth) for 5-10 minutes so that the masa absorbs the liquid evenly.

Assembling the tamale

To wrap the tamales, place 1 soaked corn husk (drain off the excess water or blot a little off if you wish), with the narrow end pointed towards you and the smoother cup shaped side up, on the working surface in front of you. Using a soup spoon, scoop out a heaping tablespoon of the masa and place it down on the husk in about the middle. With your fingers, pat down the masa mixture into a roughly 3×3″ circle (with the lower edge about 1″ from the pointed end of the husk). It should be about 1/4″ thick and as even as you can get it.

Place about a tablespoon of the filling in a strip in the center third of the masa circle. Leave about an inch or less of the masa at the bottom edge (closest to you) free of filling.

Use the husk to enclose the filling. Start by folding up the bottom edge of masa opening up the husk again so that you can see your masa/filling before you fold the next edge. Repeat with the right edge and finally the left edge. Check to make sure that your filling is well covered by the masa and an even log about 1″ inch wide and 3″ long results.

Refold, starting at the bottom, then the right edge and rolling over the left edge to form a snug but not tight bundle.

Tie with a strip of torn corn husk just above the top of the filling.

Repeat until you’ve used up all your masa dough. If you run out of filling, make ’empty’ tamales. They taste just as good with some sauce on top.

Steaming the tamales

Once you’ve wrapped all the tamales, prepare a deep pot with a steamer insert by filling the pot with water until the waterline is just below the level of the steamer insert. Place the tamales in the steamer vertically, with the tied end facing up.

Wet a kitchen towel, and cover the pot with the towel before covering it with the lid. This prevents condensation from forming on the lid, which will drip down and make your tamales watery if you chose NOT to tie them up. Make sure to fold the bits of towel hanging out of the pot up over the lid so they do not catch on fire.

Bring the pot to a boil, then turn down the heat so you can barely see a steady stream of steam escaping. Steam the tamales for 1 1/2 – 2 hours. (I let mine go the full 2 hrs though it would have been fine 15 minutes earlier.) Make sure you check the steamer periodically to make sure you don’t run out of water.

For a sauce, either use the strained braising liquid from the pork filling, a mole sauce (home made or purchased) or a salsa (home made or purchased).

The tamales will keep for about 1 week in the fridge, or for a few months in the freezer. You can re-steam or heat them in the microwave wrapped in a damp paper towel to warm them up.

In conclusion, I want to say that making these tamales was worth the time and effort it took. They’re actually better than ones I’ve ordered in a REAL Mexican restaurant, where they were under-seasoned and less than generous with the filling. These tamales were great without any sauce at all.

For the next batch, I’ll probably try a chicken chile verde filling. I learned a lot and, after eating 3 tamales, I still have 22 left so it’s a good ‘make ahead and freeze for later’ recipe. I also had enough pork filling for about 5 generously filled pulled pork buns. And you can even make vegetarian tamales with baked squash and cheese, if that’s your preference.

Now, I just need someone to come over and do my dishes cause I’m BUSHED and full. :)

Tamales Day #1 – The Pulled Pork

Back in 2013, I made one of the items on my food bucket list … tamales.  But, first, I made the pulled pork filling to put inside them.

Making tamales is a multi-step process, especially if you want to make the best darned tamales EVER because you’ve been looking forward to making them for so long.

Day 1

CREDIT: Although I used a combination of several recipes to come up with the pulled pork recipe below, the basic recipe I started with was found here on Ashlee’s “I’m Topsy Turvy” blog. Her green enchilada sauce sounds pretty good for a future chicken tamale filling … when I recover from this marathon session. :)

Making a pork filling for tamales can be as simple as roasting a piece of pork seasoned with some salt, pepper and maybe a bit of garlic and then sticking it inside your tamale, or as elaborate as making a braising liquid for the pulled pork using chiles, herbs and spices and then a laborious mole sauce with more chiles, ground seeds etc. and using the spiced meat and sauce to fill your tamales. I chose a method that was somewhere between the two extremes in the number of ingredients and techniques used.

This is the boneless pork shoulder blade roast I started with. The marks are from the large netting while held it into a roast shape.

Whole Pork Shoulder photo IMG120_zps9232ec6c.jpg

The result, almost 3 hrs later, was a pulled pork which made me want to eat the whole thing in buns and forget making the tamales. By the way, it’s amazing how much shrinkage you get from a 3 pound pork shoulder, once you braise it and get rid off all the remaining fat and connective tissue. I can understand wanting to stretch the tasty meat by putting it inside a tamale. :)

Pulled Pork Sandwich photo IMG1051_zps22897f8c.jpg

Red Chile Pulled Pork

3 – 3 1/2 pound pork shoulder blade roast, boneless
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 each ancho, guajillo and red chiles, stemmed and seeded
1 medium onion, quartered
5 whole garlic cloves, peeled
5 whole cloves
3″ cinnamon stick
4-5 whole bay leaves, dry toasted
6-10 whole black peppercorns
1/2 tsp whole coriander seeds
1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds
1/2 tsp dried Greek oregano (Mexican, if possible)
1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
1 cup diced tomatoes, with liquid
1 tsp salt

Chiles used for the Chile Colorado (red chile) braising liquid: Anchos (dark fat ones), hot red chiles (little ones) and guajillo (long reddish brown ones)

 photo IMG113_zps1bc78d3a.jpg

In a medium sized bowl, break up the chiles and pour in enough boiling water to cover well (1-2 cups). Use another weighted bowl on top to make sure the chiles are submerged. Soak for about 30 minutes, then remove the soaked chiles to a blender. Pour the soaking liquid through a strainer, leaving the grit on the bottom behind, and reserve the liquid to help puree the chiles later.

Cut the pork shoulder into 4 x 1 1/2-2″ thick strips. Brown all sides in vegetable oil in a Dutch oven at medium high heat. A couple of chunks at a time would be best as you don’t want to crowd the pan or lower the heat. Transfer browned pieces to a large bowl until they’re all done then drain off all the accumulated fat in the dutch oven, blotting off any remaining gently with a paper towel so as to retain the browned bits on the bottom.

Sprinkle the salt evenly over the 4 chunks of pork and place them into your dutch oven.

In a dry frying pan, char the quartered onion and the garlic cloves turning over so all sides are done. Remove to the blender with the chiles. Add the oregano and thyme as well as the diced tomatoes with any liquid. Add a bit of the chile soaking liquid and puree until you get a fairly even mixture. (I used all of the draining liquid and it was thick but pourable.) Use 1/3 of this mixture (about 1 cup) to braise the pork. Keep the rest (~2 cups) for another day.

Ground chiles, tomatoes and herbs

Chiles and tomato sauce photo IMG1037_zps8d3171e7.jpg

Charred onions and garlic cloves

Charred onion and garlic photo IMG115_zps9443e726.jpg

Preheat the oven to 325 deg Fahrenheit.

In the same frying pan, toast the bay leaves until just beginning to bubble and brown. Add them to the dutch oven with the pork. Also add the chile-tomato mixture, the coriander and cumin seeds, peppercorns, and the cinnamon stick. If the pork isn’t covered by the mixture, rinse your blender with some water to get the rest of paste dissolved and then add more water as needed. You want to have enough water so that the pork just barely peeks out and is in only one layer in the bottom of the dutch oven.

Toasted bay leaves, cinnamon stick, black peppercorns, cloves, cumin and coriander seeds

Herbs and spices photo IMG118_zps8b99a148.jpg

Place the dutch oven on the stove and heat the contents until they come to a boil. Cover and transfer to the preheated oven. Braise for 2 hrs or until the pork falls apart when you stick a fork into it.

Pork ready for braising

Pork ready for braising photo IMG1035_zpsb305c31f.jpg

Remove the dutch oven to the top of the stove, tilt the pot and, with a large spoon, carefully remove as much of the accumulated fat on top as you can. Return the dutch oven to the oven and cook for another half hour, uncovered, to concentrate the braising liquid. You want about 2 cups of concentrated liquid to be left.

Remove the dutch oven from the oven to the top of the stove again. With a slotted spoon, carefully transfer the meat into a large bowl so that it can cool enough to be handled. When cool, remove fat from the meat and then, very coarsely, shred the meat.

Strain the braising liquid so as to remove the seeds, peppercorns, bay leaves etc. Refrigerate the liquid so that any remaining fat hardens and can be removed and then use the liquid to moisten your pulled pork.

Finished pork ready to be ‘pulled’ or shredded with 2 forks

Finished pulled pork photo IMG1047_zpsd6c1241b.jpg

Satay: Beef, Chicken or Pork

Even though satay (sate) refers to to skewered, grilled meat served with one of a variety of sauces (ie. sweet or regular soy, pineapple, tempeh) , most people have come to expect satay to be served with a peanut sauce. It’s this most well-known type of satay that I’m going to make in this post.

Satay consists of two components: first, a marinade that flavours and tenderizes the meat before threading the meat onto skewers and grilling it. Second, a sauce (usually peanut based) to serve with the skewers. I’ve been using a jarred satay bbq sauce which can be used for both purposes with some additional ingredients added to the sauce before using it as a marinade. However, I decided to make everything from scratch for a change using a recipe that I found on

Although I chose to make my satay with pork tenderloin, it can be made with boneless, skinless chicken thighs (more flavourful than breasts and won’t dry out as much) or thinly sliced beef tenderloin.

Pork Satay with Peanut Sauce – makes 16 skewers, serve 2 per person as an appetizer and 4 per person as a main

1 pound of pork (loin or shoulder cuts)

16 6-8 inch wooden or bamboo skewers, soaked in warm water for 20-30 minutes

1/2 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp ginger root, chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice**
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tbsp vegetable oil (or peanut or olive oil)

** I didn’t have any lemons in the house so I used 1/2 tsp of the tamarind concentrate in the picture below, diluting it with enough water to equal 2 tbsp total. It’s normally used to make the sauce for Indian panipuri … not that I’ve ever made them.

If you have a small food processor or blender, dump in everything except the pork and blend until smooth. Otherwise, chop the onions, garlic and ginger really fine then mix it all together in a medium to large bowl.

Cut pork into 16 x 1 inch wide and 1/4 inch thick strips. (My tenderloin was about 10 inches long and 2 inches wide, so I cut it in half,  and then I cut each half lengthwise into 4 x 2 inch wide planks. Each plank was then cut in half.)

Cover pork with marinade.

You can place the pork into a bowl, cover/seal and chill, or place the meat and marinade into a ziplock bag, seal and chill at least 4 hours or overnight.

Pat the soaked skewers dry and gently and slowly slide meat strips onto the skewers. Discard the leftover marinade.

Broil or grill at 550°F (or pan fry on medium-high) for 8-10 minutes or until the edges just start to char. Flip and cook another 8-10 minutes.

Serve the satay with Basmati or jasmine rice and sauce (recipe below) for dipping.

Peanut Sauce – makes about 1 cup, enough for a tablespoon per skewer.

3/4 cup coconut milk
4 tbsp peanut butter
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1-2 dried red chilies, chopped (keep the seeds for heat)

In a small saucepan combine the dry ingredients with the soy sauce and lemon juice, mixing well. Add the coconut milk and peanut butter, stirring again and then place over medium low heat. Stir the contents often so you get a smooth mixture.

The peanut sauce may be made ahead of time so as to let the spicy chilies infuse the sauce. Reheat before serving in that case. If needed, you may thin the sauce with a tsp or two of water. Make extra as it’s delicious over the accompanying rice or dipping.