Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Recipe: Braised Duck with Orange and Pearl Barley

I bought a few months* ago some duck fillets from Pepe’s ducks. After nearly fainting at the price ($26 for 4 fillets) I tried roasting a pair, and was very disappointed at the result, not having managed to ‘burn off’ the fat underneath the skin. The remaining two were then stored in the freezer for another day.

Then I saw this recipe in the weekend paper:

Braised Duck with Orange and Pearl Barley (Sun Herald "Sunday Life" Magazine, Karen Martini 17/3/2010)
10 blood plums, split and pitted
1 tbsp raw sugar
200ml verjuice

400g peeled and cooked chestnuts (vacuum-sealed)

3 star anise

2 oranges, zested and juiced

sea salt and cracked black pepper

130g fine pearl barley

50mL extra virgin olive oil

6 duck marylands

2 brown onions, finely sliced
1 celery heart, finely sliced

5 sprigs thyme

1 tsp ground allspice

2 bay leaves

100mL white wine

1 1/2 litres chicken stock

Preheat oven to 165C fanforced (185C conventional). Toss plums in raw sugar and place on a baking tray with verjuice, chestnuts, star anise and orange zest. Season with slat and pepper and roast in the oven for 25 minutes.
Boil pearl barley in lots of water for 10minutes, then drain and set aside. Heat oil in a large pan over a high heat. Brown duck for 4-5 minutes, season well, then remove from pan. Add onion, celery, garlic, thyme, allspice and bay leaves to pan and cook over medium heat for 10minutes. Return duck to pan, and add wine, stock and orange juice. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Add barley and simmer for 20 minutes or until barley is tender. Spoon plums and chestnuts over duck and simmer for another 5 minutes. Serve on a platter.

And I thought it would be a good use of the remaining duck fillets.

It didn’t begin well.

I didn’t make it to my favourite grocer on time, had to make do with a supermarket, so I was missing blood plums and chestnuts. I substituted purple skinned plums, and a ‘low cholesterol’ nut mix of walnuts, cashews, almonds, pepitas and sunflower seeds. I didn't have allspice, so some freshly ground cinnamon was used instead.

I pan fried the duck fillets on high heat for the 4-5 minutes, managed to fill the kitchen full of smoke, and cover the stove with bits of splattered fat. I had to evacuate the pan to outside to cool off, wipe down the stove, and then in order to distract the smoke alarm and the mozzies: turn off the light, open the screen door, and run around like a madman fanning the smoke with a giant newspaper.

Okay, lets keep going. I drained the exuded fat from the pan, added the other ingredients (substituting beer for wine, so that I would waste less alcohol), and tried to simmer the pot over a low heat.

The burner decided that it would join the fun, and switched itself to ‘high’, even though I had it on low.

A burnt caramel smell later, I didn’t want to start again, so I mistakenly scrapped up all the bits that had stuck to the pan, added more stock and beer, and kept going.

And the burner did it again. Add more stock and beer, wait 5 mins, then add the pearl barley. After the 20 mins of cooking, I added the roasted plums.

And the result was…. Interesting. It was such a shame I burnt the sauce, because this would’ve been a really nice dish otherwise. The duck tasted very gamey, almost liver-like in flavour. Unfortunately it was a bit tough – either because of its extended sojourn in the freezer, the random high heat input from the burner, or I had just cooked it for too long.
The pearl barley/sauce mixture was – burnt. It had some nice elements to it, but I couldn’t rescue the sauce despite much internet research. I think that the chestnuts, if I had used them, would’ve added a creamy texture to the dish. My favourite bits were the duck and the plum, so I saved those for the leftovers, and tossed the rest. I think that this would’ve gone quite well with some English spinach.

* it may have been ‘years’ ago.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Review: Din Tai Fung, World Square

This place is so popular, it took me about six months before I managed to get myself organised enough to try it.

It is also quite expensive, so it is handy that the Entertainment Guide has a 20% off the bill voucher.

However, you can’t use your entertainment voucher on big-event days such as Valentines day or Christmas Day.

So, queuing on a Friday night, you are given a copy of the menu whilst waiting, and a sheet to mark up the dishes that you want, such that you can place your order as soon as you are assigned your table (similarly to Sushisuma).

You can also watch the chefs hard at work, pinching and poking the dumplings into being.
Don’t look for dumplings cooked any other way except for steamed.

The ones to try are the: xiao long biao, or steamed pork dumpling with a little soup or stock inside. Don’t burn your mouth! The trick that I have found is to put the dumpling on one of the soup spoons, and then nibble a corner of the pastry gently, such that the soup spills out into the spoon, before consuming it in two gulps. Yum! (Although, my most recent visit, I do recall this being a bit too salty for my taste).

Another popular one is the crab roe and pork dumpling. Delicate parcels topped with pink, and a rich almost gamey flavour of the roe throughout the dumpling.

The pasty is almost paper thin, and delicate. Very easy to tear, even when trying to pick up the dumpling from the steamer in your chopsticks!

The downfall in sharing a table is that you always want to reach over to your neighbours’ dish and try it out.

Last visit we saw a delicious looking fried rice with a what looked like a gooey and yummy semi-cooked egg.

on top. We tried organising for the Taiwainese fried rice, but it didn’t look the same, and was actually quite oily. Next time I see it, I will have to try use the phrase: “Wo he ta de yi yang de” (I’ll have what she’s having, in Mandarin Chinese).

Also tried:
Lychee and mint mocktail – delicious on first taste, looks wonderful, ends up being too sugary!

Green tea icecream, and Taro sweet bun. Both very nice the taro bun had an aldente pastry!
The vegetable offerings that I have sampled - Fried waterspinach with chilli and Garlic fried green beans, both I have found to be very oily. Disappointing.

So - would I go again - yes. Would I pay full price - no. These guys are a Taiwanese chain. Having spotted the xiao long biao in DTF Taipei city for the equivalent of $9 AUD, we pay twice the price in Australia for the same product. I guess the add-on comes from making the 'same' product all over the world. The DTF index, instead of the big mac index?

Din Tai Fung
World Square Shopping Centre
Level 1, Shop 11.04, 644 George St
SydneyNSW 2000

(02) 9264 6010
Daily 11am-2.30pm, 5-10pm

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Recipe: Low GI Congee (Jook)

With a Chinese background, I'm always craving congee ('jook'). It's the dish most Chinese turn to when they're feeling under the weather. It's fed to babies when they first get introduced to solids. It is the ultimate comfort food.

It is, essentially rice that has been cooked down to a 'soupy' consistency.

Unfortunately, since it is made with white long grain rice, it has a high GI, and no sooner have you eaten it, then within 2 hours you get hungry again.

I have been experimenting with ways to make a low GI version: comfort food that keeps you fuller for longer.

Various themes on this work, it depends on how far you are willing to depart from the white soupy original. Servings are for 5-6 people, I eat this for breakfast.

Make up 1 1/2 cups using part or all of the following:
rolled oats
basmati rice
pearl barely

3-4 dried shittake chinese mushrooms
stock cube (optional, for flavour. Sorry - my stock-making skills are not up to scratch).

Enough water to cover this 3 times. I have a giant thermos pot which I cook this congee in overnight. It's like a slow cooker pot, but you don't need to connect it to power.

My favourite combination is
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 basmati rice
1/2 pearl barley
tablespoon of quinoa.

It looks pretty authentic, doesn't it?

I have tried making versions with more quinoa, but unfortunately it tends to turn the congee yellow, and it tastes very 'beany'.

Oats and pearl barley work quite well as well. The oats give you a very gelatinous texture, the rice loosens it up, and the pearl barley adds texture and makes you feel wholesome whilst eating it.

Once the mix is cooked up, I pull out the mushrooms, slice them up, and then add them back in again.

Of course my downfall with this dish is eating it with traditional accompaniments - like yao jar guai (deep fried breadsticks) for dipping, and salty egg.