Monday, 6 August 2018

Sticky Asian Pork Neck

Unashamedly pinched from Chris's Facebook group Rotisserie, BBQ & Camp Fire Cooking

Ok here is yesterday’s effort. I had my good mate, and brilliant winemaker, David “Duck” Anderson over for dinner and a wine tasting with some friends. So slow cooked Asian style sticky pork (I used pork neck or scotch rather than belly). I’ve posted the recipe in the photos...I “kind of” followed that for flavour, but the way I cooked it was 2 hours in the Weber first with oak pellets for smoke, then about 10 hours in the oven at about 120C, covered, and in the marinade. Fall apart tender, and some of the guests were going back for thirds! 😋.

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Sunday, 5 August 2018

Aldi Champagne Veuve Monsingy

Yeah I guess I'm getting a little obsessed with Aldi's offerings lately. But it's very hard to argue with value.

Champagne Veuve Monsingy is bona fide. And it's $20.

Pale straw, persistent tiny bead. Notes of apple and biscuit. Faint hint of brandy.

Light body, touch of tingly acid, and crisp dry finish.

Absolute bargain.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Coppa-style pork tenderloin

Got a hold of some cheap pork tenderloins, and had my first crack at dry-curing.

  • 2 x 1 pound pork tenderloins, patted dry and tails removed
  • 1 cup of curing mixture:
    • 60 % table salt
    • 30% rock salt
    • 10% habanero salt (home made)
    • 2 tablespoons brown sugar 
Into fridge for 10 hours or so.  The initial combined weight was 832g.

After curing, salt wiped off with some brandy; post-cure weight 571g, 69% of original weight.

For one of them, rolled in mixed herbs, the other one kept as is.  The aim now is lose another 30% weight in the fridge.

After three weeks, the herb-rolled fillet was very delicious, if maybe too salty.  Trimming the exterior assisted here.

After four weeks, the plain fillet was even more delicious, and in fact perfect. Will do again, and with other meats.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Aldi Single Malt Whisky - Glen Marnoch

Quite happy with the bargain whiskies from Aldi.  The ubiquitous supermarket chain has its own label, Glen Marnoch, and under this have released a variety of Scotches from different regions and age statements.  Aldi tends to announce these ahead of release date, and only small allotments go to the stores, and then only selected stores.

My good mate Dennis offered to do the queuing, so he picked up for us the 21 and 25 year olds, at $90 and $100 respectively.  Show me a $100 25 year old anywhere else in the world..... They get some good press too.

There are quite a few distribution companies that acquire barrels from various distilleries and then bottle under their own labels (e.g. Gordon & MacPhail and Berry Bros & Rudd). But these will generally advise of the original distillery. Aldi does not do this, so their providence is a mystery. 

A couple of weeks back I had great delight in pouring a couple of samples, sat in front of the Friday night TV, and sniffed, sniffed, sniffed and occasionally sipped.  Over time the aromas opened up and changed subtly. The two are considerably different in this regard. Personally, I found the intrigue mostly on the nose, rather than the palate, although they are both very approachable, smooth, and long.

Glen Marnoch 21 year old
A: Cigar leaf, vanilla custard, dried apple & fig. Honey and caramel.
F: Base notes of vanilla, but plenty of brandied/candied fruit. Palate more interesting than the 25's flavour.

Glen Marnoch 25 year old
A: Faint acetone early, not unpleasant, evolving into pear, rosewater, vanilla, citrus peel, pudding.  Orange notes later on. Far more interesting than the 21's aroma.
F: Smooth, sherry and fruit salad. Warming, but nothing particularly distinctive.

Looking forward to other releases, which from searches may include 18s, 24s, as well as different regions.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Fire Pit BBQ

I've been very excited with my birthday present. This cast iron fire pit has been well-used in the last couple of months, and for a variety of purposes.

As designed, it's very good at burning stuff.... We have lots of leftover timber from recent renovations, as well as plenty of native wood gathered nearby and also donated from neighbours. To store it all, we recycled an old wine rack to separate different wood grades and varieties, and this stands close by under cover.

One thing of note is the lack of am air hole at the bottom of the pit.  The curvature of the bowl means there's no problem with oxygen flow, but it made me wonder if water drainage would be a concern. Iron, water, rust.... Do we move it ever time, or perhaps find some sort of cover ?
Being very heavy, we sacrificed some lawn and laid down some old pavers. So the intentions are clear: it's a permanent structure and will need covering. While there are plenty of soft-cover options available, these tend to degrade over time, and also limit any alternate use of the contraption.

Well, as it happens we had an old dining table top, made of two semi-circles that fit together with metal dowels. Easy enough to push together for a fire pit cover-slash-outdoor setting.

A couple of things to consider, however.  Firstly, the seam between the halves is not water-tight. To allow for this, I bought a sheet of ply and cut an undercover to size.

And, of course, the table was originally indoor furniture, so it won't be able to withstand the elements for too long without some form of applied protection.  For this, I elected marine varnish, of which I used several coats, with the intention of supplementing at regular intervals.  And I varnished the ply undercover as well, for good measure. I'm not expecting water to get in the bowl by any obvious means.

The most gratifying aspect of the fire pit is the inclusion of a hot plate and grill. Made of cast iron, it's a very heavy piece, but sits snugly over 3/5 of the bowl. Washed with soapy water before first use (and lightly olive-oiled too), its first tour-of-duty was to grill some scotch fillet.

It's a great way to practice open-coal cooking, and good schooling for becoming a pitmaster. All I need now is a rotisserie and a suckling pig...

Fire, BBQ, table.... and the steaks were delicious.

Monday, 30 July 2018

Cold smoking with a 3-in-1 Charcoal BBQ Smoker

A couple of months ago, I picked up a 3-in-1 Charcoal BBQ Smoker from Kogan, for what seemed a pretty reasonable $75.  It's a handy little unit, looking a little like a black R2D2.
3-in-1 Smoker and Inkbird Thermometer

In early trials, I did have trouble with the built-in thermometer, which didn't seem to register the fire within. Rather than sending me a replacement thermometer, Kogan refunded $30, which suited me fine.

Without temperature control, I couldn't really have a crack at hot-smoking, not having visibility of either meat or head-space temperatures.  So, parlayed the $30 (plus a little more) into an Inkbird IBT-6X thermometer ($72 in total from eBay).

This digital unit has sockets for six leads, of which four were a part of this package.  This allows scope for two meat probes, and two ambient probes, ideal for a two-level unit such as this.

And the Bluetooth-enabled app "BBQ Go" monitors all the probes, setting alarm ranges and default targets for a variety of meats. Pretty happy about this.

On the weekend, decided to see how it assisted cold-smoking. As a relative newby to smoking, my early aims are to understand the dynamic of the fire-setting and coal quantities/arrangements, for specific time frames (e.g. a 2-hour smoke).  Once I get this under the belt, I'll start looking into cranking up the coal volumes, to get a better sense of how coal consumption and heat levels change over time. This, I believe, is vital for any serious long-haul hot-smoke attempt e.g. brisket or pork-belly.  I hope to generate some sort of saw-tooth curve of temperature over time, which then allows the proactive lighting and supply of additional coals, keeping the heat in the target range.

Small stack of coals.
But for now, cold-smoke.

For this I'm using a small amount of coal, perhaps 6-8 medium pieces lit by fire starters. I'd like to keep the temperature to a minimum, but still maintain enough glow to ignite the wood chips (Applewood, incidentally, soaked in water for 20 minutes).

After 20 or so minutes of burn, we're ready to go.

The 3-in-1 has quite a few components:  bottom bowl for coals, middle bowl for water (acting as heat sink, humidifier, and drip tray), two grills and a hanging rod in the lid.

But today, I don't need heat control, extra humidity, or a drip tray.  We'll leave the water bowl out.

The plan is to smoke some almonds, and also some mushrooms.

I'll detail the almond preparation recipe in another post, but 400g were put on the lower rack, and the fresh mushrooms on the top.  My theory being the lower rack (minus the water bowl) will get more radiant heat from the coals, and I want to minimise any drying to the mushrooms. So they're on top, and almonds on bottom.
Almonds below, mushrooms above,
and two probes for the temperature.
Lid on, throw a couple of larger chips onto the red coals, and see what happens.

One slight problem with a cheap BBQ Smoker is the somewhat hit-and-miss seal between the components.  Further, there is no control of the air input, only the air output in the lid.

So after a while, there's a fair bit of smoke billowing from all orifices.  The temperature seem to peak at no more that 75C on the lower rack, and 65C on the top.

Whenever the unit stopped leaking smoke, I added more wood chips through the lower of two access doors.

After about 90 minutes, the internal temperatures were down to about 40-45C, and there was little glow left to smoke the remaining chips, so time to decamp the contents, and clean up.

So, to date I have yet to really pack in the coals into the unit for a hot smoke, so not sure how this will all unfold.  But it would seem that a 90-120 minute cold smoke is quite manageable with only small amounts of coal and chips, leaving the food uncooked, and providing a mild-to-medium smoking effect.

As it turned out, the almonds are lightly flavoured with smoke (not as heavy as the salty packaged ones in the supermarket), but great as a pre-dinner snack.

The mushrooms were later sauteed with red onion to provide an accompaniment to BBQ pork steaks.  Worked pretty well.

How many coals for cold smoking  Coals for smoker Charcoal for cold smoking Charcoal for BBQ Smoker  How much coal for BBQ Smoker Inkbird Thermometer Digital Thermometer Coals needed for cold smoking

Sunday, 29 July 2018

2016 Rikard Chardonnay

Sometimes you've just got to take a punt, and if the stars align, it can pay off in spades.

Most Aussie wine lovers would know the story of William and Kimberley Rikard-Bell.  I won't retell it here, as others have done so much better than I ever could (Australian Story - Fruit of the Vine 2008). Needless to say, Will and Kimberley have faced more than any of us would want, and the story is quite inspirational.

Libby and I had additional insight into Will's progress after the accident, as Kimberley is niece to our good friend Brendan, whose wife Yvona is Libby's bestie.

So we learnt of his rehabilitation, of his getting back into wine making, his stints at various places, and then the establishment of Rikard Wines in Orange. And then, joy of joys, his passion for cool-climate wines using traditional techniques, and our favourites too.... Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Stars were starting to align....

And then we learnt of a foundation member club, involving regular dozens and advance warning of new releases.  At this stage we had no idea what the cost would be, but it all just felt right to us.  If in some tiny way we could be a part of the Rikard-Bell story, we'd love to have that opportunity. And a little bit of FOMO....

We've now received two separate dozen deliveries, which mix up Pinot Noir (the softer white label, and a more robust premium black label), Chardonnay (blue and premium black labels), and a very limited Shiraz. Averaging about $37 a bottle, this would seem a bit brave for untried wines... But untried not for long.

Needless to say, the stars kept aligning. Rich, complex, long, and absorbing. It's great stuff, and I couldn't be happier with our decision to go in boots and all, so to speak.

Oh, and this helped, too .... YGOW

So today we cracked a blue label 2016 Rikard Chardonnay (RRP $30), to have with a lunch of home-made terrine, heirloom tomato salad and french bread stick.

And the wine ? Two words: pineapple cream.  And a couple more: long and rewarding. Not sure if Will would welcome the first two necessarily... maybe "cool-climate tropical fruit notes" and "malolactic characteristics" might be more appropriate wine-speak, but sh!t, I'm calling as I taste it.

(Once in my 20's, I did tell a winemaker their SSB reminded me of Big Mac special sauce.... If I had instead come up with "dill herbaceousness" offence might not have been taken.  I hastily offered "but hey I like Big Macs" however the damage was done.....)

Keep a look out for Rikard Wines.