Saturday, February 19, 2011

Ham Hock & Beans

A few weeks ago I met G at Milk Bar on a sunny Sunday morning for breakfast. We both had their home baked beans with sourdough toast and goat cheese. It was awesome. So enjoyable in fact that it has been simmering at the back of my brain since then and I decided I would try to make my own version.
Which brings me to my newest favourite thing: smoked ham hocks. I was at the Ginger Pig picking up bits and pieces for a week of dinners and saw these massive smoked hunks of meat. I was pretty sure you had to boil them and that if you boiled them with the beans then all sorts of goodness would happen in the pot. I was right.
We ate the beans with pagnotta bread from Eau a la Bouche which is I think my favourite type of bread and very plain goat cheese. Simple, relatively easy (especially for future as the beans made a mountain and I put two meals worth in the freezer) and homey - one of those comfort meals that feel like an internal hug.
Beans & Ham
A smoked ham hock 
Enough water to cover 
An onion, split into quarters
Two carrots, cut into quarters
Bring to a simmer and let bubble happily and covered for an hour.
300 g cannellini beans, soaked over night
After an hour, add the beans to the ham hock soup. Simmer for an hour or until beans are tender.
At this point I took the ham hock out and let it cool so that I could chop it up and put all the meaty bits aside for the finished product.
Meanwhile I chopped two red onions, two cloves of garlic and a sprig of rosemary, two glugs of olive oil and let them all sizzle and sing together for about ten minutes. Just before they started to colour I added three tablespoons of brown sugar and two of cider vinegar, stirred and then added a 400g can of chopped tomatoes. Stirred, let it all start to get to know each other and then spooned the beans into the pan, making sure to save the ham/bean cooking water.
I let it simmer and bubble until it looked like it had all come together, about 10 minutes, tasted, adjusted a bit of salt and pepper, added the ham hock meat pieces and tada - homemade baked beans. That weren't baked at all.
And now I have the most luxurious ham water with which to make pea soup. Stay tuned....

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Some Light Reading

A few articles and bits that have caught my attention of late and that I think are worth passing on...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


After taking inspiration from my Vietnamese cooking class a few weeks earlier I decided that we would celebrate Tet - Vietnamese New Years. We did. On February 5. I shopped on Friday. I cooked all day on Saturday.

Basil Seed drink
Summer rolls with fabulous shrimp from Vicky at Broadway Market
Bo La Lot
Bánh chưng (traditional Vietnamese new year's cake)
Longdans with Lotus Nuts, Jelly & Seaweed

You will notice that it pretty much mirrored what I learnt from Uyen back in January, with the exception of the cake, which I bought and, following Uyen's instructions, shallow fried.

 This was probably the most out of depth meal I have ever made. Five dishes (including the funny but not entirely well liked basil seed drink that I went everywhere trying to find!) and I wasn't confident that any of them would turn out. Summer rolls were delicious - and basically foolproof as the flavours are what you make them and we had excellent shrimp and a ton of exotic herbs. Bo La Lot to Uyen's recipe were moreish and were probably the night's highlight. The banh chung was... odd... If you read this you probably know I can be a bit, um, fussy we'll say about meat, so the ingredients list that said simply 'meat' wasn't really making me feel very comfortable and, even with frying it was still a very particular texture. The longdan dessert was unique and not very desserty. Which of course made it more interesting.

But. To the point. Everyone tried everything and the evening was an interesting success. It made me realise how specific my own celebratory ways are and that my expectations of what makes something special are very particular. I'm looking forward to expanding my perception of celebration...


I love that getting shot in your game is a Thing. Considered acceptable. Maybe even a bit cool and desired. Because then it is the Real Thing. And that adds a certain air to the meal, doesn't it? 

I mean, as long as you don't break a tooth.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Year of the Rabbit - Lapin Aux Olives

Happy Chinese New Year! It is the year of the rabbit! I'm not sure what this means for the world but I am hoping it will mean a year of delicious eating for me.

As it was a Thursday night I wanted to keep celebrations low key so instead of doing a blow out feast (that was Saturday when we celebrated Tet - details to come!) I made Anthony Bourdain's rabbit recipe in Les Halles - Lapin Aux Olives.

A bit of a process but straightforward enough and low stress, C & I sat down to a lovely proper feeling dinner of simple boiled and buttered potatoes, Vichy carrots (which always remind me of the Nazi friendly government) and the rabbit. Not very authentic but delicious nonetheless.

What do people eat to celebrate the year of the Dragon?

Tuesday, February 01, 2011


I saw a recipe this morning for leek soup with dill oil on 101 Cookbooks. I was reading through my Google Reader Feed. I removed my RSS feeds from Safari and put them in Google Reader and now I don't feel a constant state of panic as the numbers  keep getting bigger and I don't have time to read everything. Yes, I like my inbox to be cleared as well. 

Anyways. Heidi writes " report back if you take it in a slightly different direction you end up happy with." I didn't intend to change what she had done - it looked delicious! - so I went a head and made the dill oil. (Blender, dill, oil. Done.) Then I cleaned the leeks and dropped them into the food processor. And then I went to peel the potato. But I couldn't find them. I still can't. No idea where the potatoes are. Clearly I was going to be taking the soup in a different direction. 

I added a small handful of leftover parsley that was sitting in a glass on the counter. I added two cloves of garlic. I pulsed the vegetables in the food processor (as per the instructions) and put some dill oil and butter in my big pot and threw everything in to cook. 

At this point I remembered another 101 Cookbooks recipe, checked that out and decided to use the two tins of black eyed peas in the cupboard. (C bought them one day when I sent him out to get black beans. Why are canned black beans so difficult to come by here? And what made him think that the two were the same?) So, threw the beans in. Left everything to cook and stick to the pot in places. Then I added chicken stock, salt, pepper and a bit of cider vinegar.  Tada. Soup. Delicious soup that is nothing like what I thought I was making, but delightful nonetheless. Here's to cupboard food and making something out of nothing.