if it looks like a duck prosciutto…

After the salami success of rigoniman, I wanted to have a go at meat preserving myself. But because I’m a bit lazy, I wanted something simpler and quicker. Also because of the risk; I didn’t want to put in effort and weeks of waiting for a dodgy result. And mind the squids too.

From the back of my brain I recalled reading about the charcutepalooza blog project, which I suspected might help me choose an entry level meat product. ELMP. I landed on duck prosciutto. How’s that for some weird imagery.

The suggested recipe by Ruhlman was heavy handed on the salt, so I went googling to find an option that didn’t mean I had to buy salt. I found a really simple one by this guy from Master Chef (whose restaurant I’ve actually been keen to visit because of his whole-beast philosophy). We  managed to have everything already in the house but the duck. The Queen Victoria Market helped with that.

Making duck prosciutto is supremely rewarding in its simplicity.

There is something lovely about cheesecloth and kitchen string.

After a handful of days and many curious squeezes, we unveiled a most impressive looking pair of duck boobs.

It looked right, it smelled right, it walked… No! It tasted right. I think. (Well, we’ve never eaten duck prosciutto before, so who knows.)

I have to be honest. I’m a little afraid if it. I only eat small portions at a time. It seemed suspiciously easy. The prosciutto smelt clean and meaty and spicy. We didn’t get sick, so that is an excellent result.

This is science though, so do your research and follow the rules! Trust the nose and be wary of any odd smells.

we heart satay chicken

Bbq Ayam

Sometimes you just want grilled meat. And sometimes you want something a little more complex.

Sometimes you can’t make up your mind and you want both. Greeeeeeedy.

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In the process of bbq-ing some great meats recently, we decided we needed more. To mix it up a little. There was time to experiment while waiting for the perfect coals, so we each picked a dish. Rigoniman made some satay chicken (sate ayam) and I went with ceviche.

I was graciously allowed to squeak off a little piece of the tuna destined for the bbq. I let it briefly “cook” in lime juice, along with the best friends of chilli and coriander. Wrapped in some lettuce (that the snails and chickens had kindly neglected to eat) and we had a quick little snack. It was of course delicious (if I do say so myself) but the sate won out because, as well as having flavour, it had fire and sentiment attached.

You see, we met sate ayam in our travels to Indonesia last year where had such an awesome time. Since then we have undertaken a series of attempts to replicate it. Our enthusiastic and sustained efforts have produced excellent taste results. However. The chicken has absolutely no inclination to stay on the sticks and will obstinately fall into the fire if not carefully tended to. It’s needy, and wants lots of turning and attention. I’m sure there are tricks to this. We’ll keep trying. We used lemongrass for the sticks which was extravagant and unnecessary. But they look darling and you feel super authentic using them.

Our admiration for this dish was encouraged by three places in particular during our Indo holiday: 1. Made’s Warung, Seminyak, 2. Paon Bali cooking class, Ubud and 3. Moslem Booth, Lembongan Island. We stumbled into Made’s on our first night in Bali and couldn’t have been more pleased. They do a mixed plate if you can’t make up your mind and ours including some dreamy, spicy sate. I suspect it set the tone of our trip.

We are developing a habit of doing cooking classes when we travel and it’s the best fun and has often resulted in our favourite meals. If you ever find yourself in Bali, and don’t feel like getting drunk and sunburnt like everyone else, try to get to the Paon Bali cooking class run by Puspa and Wayan. It is a real cultural experience with an insight into family life in Indonesia as well as traditional cooking. They are lovely and hilarious people. But the food! Which is what we are all really interested in, right? Well, see here my plate with some of the good things we made? I ate it all. And soup. And dessert.

the spoils

We worked hard for our lunch, with plenty of chopping and stirring. There was a mega-sized mortar and pestle which Puspa referred to as the ‘Bali blender’. Ha!

sate fixing

Puspa’s assistants kindly fixed our efforts at sate shapes; no falling off the stick here.

Lastly, on the island of Lembongan, where we spent the bulk of our trip with massages and cocktails for company, we came across a simple road-side stall. The fire and the smell were calling to us. We quickly stopped our scooters and became mesmerised by the cooking meat. 10 sticks please.

Oh dear, I think it might be time to travel again.

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$100 Pizza Oven

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I was hungry for pizza so I built a pizza oven, that makes sense right? As most of you might of gathered by now we like food an awful lot, especially baking and our, lets call it a “healthy” obsession takes up a good portion of our time. So when we heard the Melbourne Pizza Festival was coming to town we were sold on the idea. Mouth watering succulent pizza would be on offer and who are we to refuse, but sadly we only managed to get our mouths around just two slices and that just wasn’t quite enough to tame our wild stomachs. I’m not saying the festival or pizza wasn’t good, far from it, but unfortunetly for us they had failed to allow room for half of Melbourne to fit and so resulted in a very crowded venue, and a very hungry us. It was decided: we need a wood fired oven, but one that could be abandoned should the need arise due to our renting status, and it must be completed on a budget. Challenge accepted.

pizza-photo-stripThink of this as a first try; the pizza oven you build to hone your pizza oven building skills. If everything goes to plan over the next twelve months we will be moving on and buying our first home and a whole new oven will need to be built. 

The basics of an oven are somewhat simple, heat – in this instance from a fire and thermal mass – bricks and render (clay would have been a better for thermal mass but I’m lazy so render will do). The fire heats the oven and the bricks store the energy to be released and used to cook your pizza, bread, roast, whatever your appetite calls for. This oven was built with this in mind but on a budget, here we go…

Materials and Cost breakdown

5 Pallets – Donated
18 Cement paving stones – Had
180’ish Bricks (old clinkers) – Had
Chicken wire (about 2sqm) – Had
Chimney if required  – Had
Sand – $60 for 2/3 meter 
Lime – $10
Cement -$15

Total $85

With the fifteen dollars we had spare I’m going to buy a bottle of wine and christen her this weekend, results to come!

Instructions – The boring bit

The pictures are pretty self explanatory, I started with a base (pallets donated by a local builder) and then built up. I wanted to use some cement sheeting for insulation over the pallets but with the budget in mind I laid some old cement paving stones insteed, tightly layering them on the pallets. Then I mortared (MIX 4-1-1) in a line of bricks around the edge of the base and filled the centre with tightly packed sand. The sand was then covered with bricks that were persuaded into place with a mallet, the base is tightly packed but not set with mortar as it’s the baking surface.

Then I started laying my bricks, around and around leaving some room for an entry at the front. Using an old length of steel from our garden, I formed a lintel and set a terracotta arch on the lintel and continued to taper the brick dome inwards. From here I created a platform inside the dome and covered it with sand shaping the inside of the dome and giving the bricks something to rest on while being laid and then setting in place.

I added a length of chimney from the front of the dome, held in place with chicken wire which also helps to strengthen the structure. After a day I carefully removed the platform and shaping sand and then set to work rendering the facade, this not only looks nice but increases the thermal mass. The render is about the same mix as the mortar but with a little more lime for flexibility. Over the bricks I have a render layer then a sheet of chicken wire to aid with strength and topped with a smooth render layer. At its thickest point the oven would be almost twenty centimetres.
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What could I have done different?
Well if money wasn’t an object, almost everything, but this amaizingly cheap project took me about six hours in total and came in under budget. I call success, now who’s for a slice of pizza?

backyard bbq (or, the weather outside is weather)

The small town that we live in is almost 600 metres elevated, and so we get a little more winter than others living around Melbourne. For the most part, this is exactly to our taste, and part of the reason we moved there. However, following a series of below zero temperature mornings, we welcomed a sunny-ish Saturday and made the effort to boost its warmth by lighting a fire.

And let’s face it, by having a little red wine.mixed meats

The fire-pit in our backyard gives us much joy. In the Australian tradition, it has been constructed from various bits and pieces that were not designed for that purpose. Ours for example, is a fine combination of brake drum, metal pipe and something that looks exactly like a grill plate, works like a grill plate (now smells like a grill plate) but isn’t! Gian Carlo forged it for us and we try to pay our respects to it regularly.

meat prepSo on this darling of a day, a quick trip to the local butcher yielded some excellent meats of the aquatic, feathered and land-based variety. We planned to do the simplest of bbq-ing and let the meat speak for itself. Pork ribs, eye fillet and tuna were grilled straight up.

I’m hoping the photographs do the talking here, because really, there isn’t much to say. Simplicity itself. There is just something about meat cooked on a bbq isn’t there? Of course, we didn’t manage to keep it entirely simple and ended up making a few ‘side dishes’, but more on that another time.

tuna, quick grilled and meltingly pink

tuna, quick grilled and meltingly pink

The Salami Test

salami tit

Some six weeks back Gian Carlo and I attended Salami School. Fine tuning our charcuterie skills was the aim of the day, but Gian Carlo was certain that getting his hands dirty would bring those long lost salami secrets flooding back to him from a childhood as a junior charcutier back in Italy. The day was incredible and a real culinary sensation, James our host not only welcomed us into his home but was more than happy to share his wealth of knowledge and if that wasn’t already enough he then organised a near 100 kilogram pig for for our own salami day the following weekend.

DSC_0604Our Salami day was also a massive success and our curing room is now bursting at the rafters. But with everything we produced still curing, we still have a couple more weeks before we can try our handy work. But the salami from Salami School requires no more waiting, which is good because we are only becoming more and more impatient, also a little hungry.
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The first test was done by Gian Carlo last weekend: a success he proclaimed. The second test was done by friends at the local brewery and as the whole salami was consumed in about twenty seconds I’m claiming this as a success as well. And the final test, I call it “The Pizza Test” – Excellent!

Salami School

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The mornings are getting colder and I’ve pretty much made the switch from beer to wine, that’s a good sign that winter is just about here. The heavy yield garden crops of the warmer months are all but gone and so now we look for something different to preserve. Around the start of winter, usually the Queen’s birthday weekend most Italian families lock themselves away and convert their garages, sheds and kitchens into home butcher workshops; it’s salami season.

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The weekend just past was something of a test run and real treat, Giancarlo and I were able to attend an amazing day of butchery, cooking, charcuterie and most importantly coffee. Hosted near Kilmore, just north of Melbourne, in a converted stone building that anyone would be happy to have in their backyard we kicked off early and with an espresso in hand, James, our host proudly led us on a tour of his home, garden and backyard butchery. WOW!

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Organised by the Home Make It crew and the Salami Board (hosts of the massively successful Melbourne Salami Festa) we were in great hands and in my opinion they really nailed it. The day consisted of meat boning lessons – a guide on how to butcher a pig, mincing, mixing and spicing – getting the texture right is just as important as the spice mix and then a guide on filling and hanging salami.

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During the day we were treated to an amazing spectacle of food, wine and hospitality by our host, true to form from any Italian, and when it was time to go we were all sent off with our own salamis to hang as well as a few kilograms of pork sausage to cook. Most of us stayed well after the course officially finished, enjoying that day’s produce cooked in our host’s wood-fired oven all the while quaffing his chianti.

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From our new friend made this weekend we have already secured our own 130kg free-range sow and are planning our own full scale weekend of butchery and curing soon, stay tuned for the result.

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Roo-Boar Sausage

spice

Like many Italians, my father immigrated with his family just after the second world war, they brought with them a wealth of knowledge and culinary skills that have helped to shape the flavours of food we enjoy today. But Italians have been calling Australia home since settlement and in the 1850’s gold rush came people from all over the world looking to strike it rich.

Many Swiss-Italian came to make their new home here during this time, bags bursting with dried spices, aromatic garlic and rich red wines, the flavours they loved so much. Daylesford, Victoria still holds an annual festival preserving their rich heritage. This recipe was known to the Italians  as salsiccia or sausages but it was the Australians of the day that gave this sausage, made of beef, pork, red wine and spices, its name – Bull-boar.
If you grew up in Tasmania then you will more than likely have tried or even made your own kangaroo patties, they’re much the same as a normal burger pattie but the Tasmanian kangaroo used have less of a gamey taste, a real treat if you get the chance to try them. But today I’m not making bull-boar sausages nor am I making kangaroo patties… I was recently given some freshly shot kangaroo meat from the apple isle and have opted to try a roo-pork hybrid inspired by a traditional Italian sausage recipe.
There are many variants to this recipe and I’m sure they are all good, this one’s fantastic! A great alternative to this is to cure these sausages into salami, If you are planning on this then five grams sodium nitrate per kilo of sausage filling.
mix1
1 natural sausage casing
1kg pork shoulder minced
1kg kangaroo minced
8 cloves garlic
1 nutmeg grated
1 tbs cinnamon
1 tbs ground pimento
1 tbs cayenne peper
1 bottle of red wine (full bodied)
25g salt
20g black pepper
Combine minced meat with dry ingredients and mix by hand for at least five minutes, mix in red wine and leave to sit overnight in fridge or some place cold. At this stage of making salami of sausages I always fry some of the mixture up for a taste test, delicious! The next day fill sausages, tie them off and let hang to dry for another day before packing for freezing or eating.
sausage1The mince can also be cooked in patties but I would advise against this, I ate a considerable portion during taste tests and resulted in less sausages and a very full stomach.