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At the moment, our backyard broccoli raab (also known as broccoli rabé, rapini or cime de rapa) is growing in abundance.

Luckily we absolutely adore it. Twice a week, we’ll harvest an entire sinkful of leaves for dinner, which barely makes a dent on the plants. Raab is an incredibly healthy leafy green, but it’s taken a bit of trial and error to figure out how to prepare it.

The leaves are too bitter and spiky for salads, and we think they’re at their best when twice cooked – we boil them first, then refry them. The bitterness is mellowed in the process, leaving delicious and interesting green leaves which absorb and complement other salty flavours.

Once a week, we make cime de rapa pasta, and last night we discovered that the dark green flavours also work brilliantly with chorizo…

Inspired by an episode of Rick Stein’s Spain, I fried sliced chorizos and used the residual paprika-flavoured oil to brown spatchcocks prior to roasting. I then created a version of Tanya’s tapas dish, adding onions, broccoli raab and Fino sherry, popping the roasted birds on top for the final presentation.

Pete said I was just looking for an excuse to use my fabulous 12″ (30cm) cazuela dish, and he’s probably right…

Here’s our recipe in a bit more detail, but like all dishes of this ilk, the quantities are loose and can easily be adjusted to suit…

  • 3 spatchcocks, washed (if you wish) and paper towel dried
  • 4 Spanish chorizos (see note)
  • 1 large or 2 small onion(s), finely chopped
  • one sinkful of broccoli raab leaves (freshly picked if possible)
  • good splash of Spanish Fino (dry) sherry

Note: we buy our chorizos from Black Forest Smokehouse. They release a lot of oil and paprika when fried – if the ones you have don’t, you might want to add a little olive oil and/or paprika to the dish.

1. Preheat the oven to 200C with fan. Rub a little oil onto a baking tray (to roast the spatchcocks in). Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Prepare the raab by stripping the leaves off the stems if necessary (if the stems are very tender, they can be left in). Roll all the leaves together and chop them coarsely.

2. Rinse the cazuela in hot water to moisten it. Slice the chorizos into thick chunks, then add them to the cazuela and heat the pan up slowly over a gas burner. This would, of course, work perfectly well in a more robust form of cookware – the terracotta cazuela needs a gentle touch and seems better suited to a gas flame than an electric hotplate.

3. Cook slowly, gradually increasing the heat as required and fry the chorizos until most of the oil has been released. This takes a bit of time. Remove the chorizos with a slotted spoon and set aside.

4. Add the spatchcocks to the hot oil, cooking for a few minutes and turning them over to brown them on all sides. Move them to the prepared baking tray, breast side down, and pop them into the oven for about half an hour.

5. Add the broccoli raab to the boiling water and simmer for a few minutes until softened. To the hot oil remaining in the cazuela, add the onions and fry until soft. Drain the raab and add the leaves to the onions. Stir well, breaking up any clumps. Add a good splash or two of the sherry (or substitute a decent white wine) and allow the vegetables to cook down. Finally, return the chorizos to the pan, and cook for a few minutes more to allow all the flavours to mingle.

6. When the spatchcocks are done, remove them from the oven, and sit them on top of the chorizos and vegetables.

My sons ate a bird each (!) and Pete and I shared the other one. They were tender and delicious, despite being seasoned only with the oil from the chorizos. The star of the night though was the broccoli raab – the leaves took on the spiced oil and sherry flavours, and I found myself scooping out the leftover greens to eat on sourdough.

PS. I bought my Spanish cazuela at (of course) Chefs’ Warehouse. They have an assortment of sizes available at very reasonable prices.

We’ve been experimenting in the kitchen!

When I read out the recipe for garlic soup in David Tanis’ One Good Dish, Pete was instantly intrigued – so much so that he hotfooted it down the road for some Aussie garlic and sage leaves.  It’s a really interesting dish – a stock is made from simmering two whole heads’ worth of garlic cloves with sage and a little salt for just fifteen minutes. Then an egg is poached in the liquid and it’s served with a submerged slice of sourdough toast.

The end result was surprisingly mild in garlic flavour, but tasty nonetheless – the boys were happy to drink the straight stock with their dinner. I’m sure it was very good for them…

I tried Tessa Kiros’ traditional Greek taramasolata recipe from Falling Cloudberries. I’m sure I’d love her books more, but the print in the two that I own is so faint that I have trouble reading them without a bright light.

This tarama recipe is very nice but quite salty (which might have just been the roe I was using). It’s also quite interesting in that it uses the juice of half an onion rather than the pulp. I made it with leftover sourdough bread…

After chatting to Cate at Black Forest Smokehouse, I thought I’d try making chorizo rice.

The sliced chorizos were fried until they gave off their fat and colour, then lifted out of the pan. Chopped onions were cooked in the oil until translucent, and finally raw rice was added and tossed briefly to coat. Everything then went into our baby Romy (unsoaked) with added water, and the dish was finished in the microwave…

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Beth from Burrawong Gaian posted a photo of her roast chook on Twitter, which inspired me to try her method at home. The bird roasted to perfection in the big Romy (presoaked this time), but our backyard lemons are huge, and I couldn’t manage to get a whole one into the cavity. My friend Anne told me I’d made a half-arsed attempt…hehe…

As we’d served the chook with the chorizo rice, there was a portion of the breast meat leftover. A couple of days later, I made chicken rice congee for breakfast…

Finally, I tried my twisty bread again, this time using the Portuguese lard and pimenton. This batch was even more popular than the duck fat version!

I hope you’ve all been having fun in your kitchens too!

My sister and her girls arrive for a visit tomorrow, so I’m taking a week off the blog to spend time with them. Take care and talk soon! ♥

I popped into Southern Cross Supplies in Marrickville recently.

After an end of financial year stocktake, they were offering a few items for sale – on a palate outside the entrance sat deeply discounted masonite cake boards ($4 each for huge ones, and no, I didn’t buy any) and these paper baking pans. I’d never used them before, but at 50c each (20 for $10), I thought they might be worth a punt (and useful for gift giving, if nothing else).

The pans are made from sturdy corrugated paper with a thin cardboard base and I think they’re the King Arthur brand. They’re a convenient 8″ diameter in size and the internet tells me that I need to treat them as I would a regular metal baking pan – greasing as per usual and baking at the same specified temps.

I tried our tiger cake recipe in two of them (there was far too much batter for just one) and was really pleased with the results…

I think I might need to tweak the heat or baking time just a little, as the crust was a bit thicker than usual. The cake was tender and tasty nonetheless…

After baking the cakes, I remembered that I still hadn’t used the panettone cases that lovely Joanna sent me ages ago. Happily, a large batch of our sweet dough recipe fills up four of these beautifully…

I rolled the dough into logs and curled them up like snails, then popped them into the greased paper moulds. Baby M came over and took two of these home with her…

Finally, a treat for Red Roars who’s studying for his HSC trials – little gluten-free chocolate cakes. They’re baked in paper-lined muffin tins and topped with icing sugar…

Are you baking anything this weekend?

The devil, or so the expression goes, is in the details.

And that’s why the older I get, the less inclined I am to eat at restaurants. I want to know the details about what I’m eating – where the ingredients came from, what temperature the oven was set to, how the flavour combinations work.

The easiest way to achieve this is by cooking at home. I rarely find it tiresome – I’m more than happy to spend time fussing over something on the stove, or experimenting with a cake until it turns out just right. I want to be involved in as much of the cooking process as possible – it makes eating the final dish infinitely more rewarding. For me, it’s not just about pleasing my palate or ingesting nourishment – I want to seek out interesting ingredients and feel them in my hands, I want to observe the transformation from raw to cooked, I want to taste, season, and taste again.

For that reason, amongst others, I adore A Platter of Figs by David Tanis. It seems to be written specifically for folks who cherish the opportunity to spend time in their kitchens, cooking for and with friends and loved ones.

It’s not a book for everyone – all the dishes are scaled to feed eight to ten – and it’s laid out in menu form, so you can’t just turn to “poultry” and see all the recipes collected in the one chapter. But I find it gloriously engaging – the recipes, the anecdotes, the writing style and the photos – I love everything about it.

Last night I defrosted our remaining Costco lobster and used it to make a bastardized version of David’s risotto…

I didn’t have the four or five raw lobsters the recipe asked for, but that didn’t seem to matter. I cracked open the one I did have, picked all the meat, then put the shells on to boil. Further rummaging in the freezer produced a tub of fish stock, which was added to the pot.

The onions were sweated in butter, then Carnoroli rice, garlic, saffron, bay, olive oil and salt were added, followed incrementally by the stock. Once the rice was al dente, it was topped with lemon zest and the picked meat, and finished with parsley. The finishing touch – a dollop of homemade mayo – proved to be the perfect accompaniment. It was sublime and so rich in flavour that Big Boy and I could only manage a bowl each (Pete and Small Man aren’t fans of crustaceans).

This dish was a delight – every grain was loaded with flavour – but I doubt I’d have enjoyed it nearly as much if I’d had it in a restaurant. Then I wouldn’t have known how excited Lorraine and I were to discover the lobsters in the freezer at Costco, or that the rice used was Carnaroli rather than Arborio, or that the parsley and lemon were picked from our garden that afternoon. I wouldn’t have watched the grains of rice transform from hard white to translucent brown, or snacked on the roe from the lobster, or noticed the pungent aroma of the single crushed bay leaf before it was added to the pot.

The great joy of the dish, it turns out, was in the details.

I love how blogging begets blogging.

Since Ella Dee gave me the headsup on buying Burrawong Gaian products in Sydney, I’ve been dropping in to see George and Yiota at Dulwich Hill Gourmet Meats and picking up a bird on a monthly basis.

Last Friday, we slow roasted one of Beth’s ducks for three hours in the Römertopf – after rubbing with a little salt, the duck was placed into the presoaked pot, covered, and given 40 minutes at 200C with fan, followed by a couple of hours at 150C with fan. This was followed by a brief bake with the lid off at a slightly higher temp to crisp up the skin.

A couple of times during the roasting process, I took the Romy out of the oven and poured off the oil. The end result was so tender that it practically fell apart as I lifted it out of the pot. My sons attacked it like cavemen…

As I mentioned to Beth on Twitter the next day, the duck was sublime, but the leftover fat and gelatinised stock were gold

The ever fabulous Chica Tanya mentioned recently that in Spain, lard is often mixed with a little pimenton and served on grilled toast for breakfast. Inspired, I combined 50g of the duck fat with half a teaspoon of pimenton (paprika), and smeared the paste onto half a kilo of risen high hydration sourdough that I just happened to have on the bench…

The dough was rolled up into a thick log – it was a seriously messy process – then cut into slices. Further inspired by Lorraine’s bacon ring, I stretched each slice out and twisted it up. At this point, the dough was looking like torqued intestines, complete with blood (but I was having fun)…

After a brief rise while the oven preheated, the sticks were baked at 220C with fan for twenty minutes. They were divine. Big Boy and Small Man ate them hand over fist…

duck4

See what I mean? Blogging begets blogging! We had a lovely dinner, with thanks to Ella Dee and Burrawong Gaian Beth, and scrumptious, unique, whacky bread inspired by Tanya and Lorraine! ♥

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