Easy Breezy

Pork & Fennel Sausage and Spinach Pasta

I’m pretty sure this dish was something I created on a whim when I was starving, too lazy to head out to get groceries and was desperate to use all that was left in the refrigerator. It turned out to be pretty spectacular (if slightly greasy!) so I guess the recipe is worth sharing.

Pork & Fennel Sausage and Spinach Pasta
Serves 2

2 pork & fennel sausages, cased removed
1-2 handfuls of spinach, rinsed and drained (or dabbed dry with a paper towel)
5 cloves of garlic, minced
Sliced fresh chilli, or two teaspoons of dried chilli flakes (optional)
Pasta of choice, cooked until al dente
Olive oil

1. Heat up olive oil in a frying pan, then add in your garlic and cook until lightly browned.

2. Add your sausage meat and mince it up as it cooks to separate it.

3. Add in your cooked pasta and stir until thoroughly mixed. Season to taste, and add in the chilli if using.

4. Turn off the fire, then throw in the spinach leaves. Gently stir through and serve immediately.

Pretty fantastic for a quick weekday meal.


Overdoing It

Wow this backlog of blog posts is a bit overwhelming. I don’t even know where to begin anymore! All I can say is, there’s a lot of pork!

Pulled Pork on Crispy Polenta

First there was Pulled Pork, which I made in a slow-cooker with root beer and a bunch of spices like cloves and aniseed but I really didn’t like the taste of this dish. I hated the crispy polenta as well. it really didn’t compare to my creamy polenta and the root beer kinda killed the flavour of the pork for me. I must get a different recipe and try that one out.

Chickpea and Tomato Salad

The salad however, was brilliant. It was a really simple thing I threw together. Chickpeas, cherry tomatoes and some finely diced parsley. Try it, I swear it’s one of my favourite salads ever.

Pork Meatloaf

I don’t really remember where I got the recipe now or if I just consulted a basic meatloaf recipe and made it Sophia Style. It was basically pork mince, spicy pancetta, spicy salami, homemade breadcrumbs, carrots, celery, spring onions, shallots, garlic and red wine. There was ketchup on the top before it baked as well and I served it up with thyme Paris mashed potatoes. It was goooood. Pork overload!

Roast Pork Sandwich

Then there was that time we made roast pork and there was plenty of leftovers and I knew I had to make a sandwich with the leftovers. I sauteed the apples in a little bit of butter, sauteed some onions, spread some amazing chutney on the bread, topped it with some pancetta and baked the entire monster. The bread was heavily buttered too, of course. I think I brought some over to Joyce and let her eat it before we had a massive dinner, too. We’re such gluttons. But they don’t make such crazy sandwiches in restaurants!

There are a few more pork dishes which I think I will save for proper entries with actual links to recipes. If I can still remember them, that is. I have a huge list of food I want to make this coming week too so that’ll be really fun to update you guys on. I’ll be back! Promise :)


A Pork Day’s Night

Pork Chops on Creamy Polenta

Spicy Pork Ragu Rigatoni

Winter has well and truly descended upon us and with the cooler temperature comes the usual cravings for heartier meals. I’ve been more than a little slack lately and have mostly been using up the scraps in our freezer to make meals. I discovered some pork chops that I simply marinated in Worcestershire sauce, BBQ sauce, some rosemary and salt and pepper. It was then baked then seared on a hot pan. The baking tray was deglazed with red wine and we got some killer gravy from that. The creamy polenta was made with some homemade chicken stock and lots of butter and cream cheese. I’d never been more excited to have polenta before.

The spicy pork ragu rigatoni was a recipe from Delicious magazine. I finally bit the bullet and subscribed to both Delicious and Gourmet Traveler. I’m glad I no longer have to pop by the newsagent for my monthly copies. I live right opposite one but I like to pretend that I’m so hard done by such a tedious task. I improvised the recipe, as I usually do, and I made it a lot spicier than Delicious suggested but I’m Malaysian, what do you want from me? It was 2 Tbsp of chilli flakes to the suggested 1 tsp. Pft, 1 tsp is something you can barely taste!

I’m currently down with my first winter flu of the year. I am grumpy and lethargic and I wish my immune system would buck up already. If you need me, I’ll be wallowing in self-pity in bed… where I’ve been for the past three days.


A Mash-y A-Fare

I type this as I’m splayed out on the couch completely paralysed from overindulging in food and guzzling my wine. In my current state, I’d probably give Homer Simpson a run for his money although I’ve just indulged in some seafood pasta (made from scratch), macarons and some sweet Lexia wine; not pizza, donuts and beer. Ahh, to be young and free.

Bangers & Mash

Bangers & Mash

I made this for dinner last week when the weather was chilly and it didn’t feel entirely wrong to indulge in something so heavy and sinful. Another recipe nicked off the Gourmet Traveller Cookbook; oner of my favourite cookbooks this year. Seriously, it’s an endless source of recipes!

Onion-braised Sausages with Paris Mash
Serves 2
Adapted from Gourmet Traveller Cookbook

Paris Mash
300gm potatoes, preferably Pontiac, peeled and cut into 2cm pieces
70ml pouring cream
40ml milk
55g butter, coarsely chopped

1. Combine potato and plenty of cold salted water in a lage saucepan, cover and bring to the boil over high heat. Uncover, cook until tender for 10-15 minutes. Drain well, return to hot pan and mash well (I recommend the OXO Good Grips masher).

2. Meanwhile, bring cream, milk and butter to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat, Gradually add to potato, mixing until smooth. Season to taste and keep warm.

Onion-braised Sausages
2 onions, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 pork sausages (mine were from the Polish deli… a little too salty for my liking tbh)
3 thyme sprigs
100ml red wine
125ml chicken stock
Boiled peas, to serve

1. Heat oil in a large frying pan over high heat, add onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions start to caramelise, about 8-10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, heat a separate frying pan over high heat, add sausages and cook, turning occasionally, until browned; 3-4 minutes. Transfer to onion pan. Deglaze sausage pan with wine, then add stock.

3. Add to onion pan with thyme and cook, turning sausages occasionally, until cooked through, 5-7 minutes. Serve onion-brased sausages hot with Paris mash and boiled peas.

Dinner for two

Needless to say, we were very satisfied and stuffed that night. And Paris mash? Best type of mash there is. Of course, I’m still dying to try the famous Joel Robuchon mash to challenge this statement!

I do love a good bangers and mash. This was particularly good as I rooted around our alcohol loot and discovered a forgotten bottle of Montalto pinot. Not really being a red wine drinker, all red wine is only used for cooking in my household; as horrifying as that may sound to wine aficionados. Oh well, at least this one came to some good use, right? Fret not, the more treasured wine bottles (gifted by more worthy people) are safely ensconced in my little alcohol nook and will not be relegated to the dishonour of being used as a base for my onion braise.


Hostess With The Mostess

Last weekend was one of my final weekends of freedom before things get really hectic and I become a sad student living in the library in sweatpants, glasses and unplucked eyebrows with horrible eyebags so I decided to host a little dinner party. Coincidentally it was a weekend where all my nearest and dearest were actually in Melbourne so it was basically the most perfect timing of the year. I’m surprised my apartment didn’t implode with the chatter and laughter ricocheting off the walls.

It was actually a pretty big event having people over for dinner. It’s not that we live in a barn or anything but we don’t entertain too formally so we don’t really need to care if we haven’t dusted in a few weeks and our couch has an unfolded throw over it because we usually need to keep our feet warm while watching TV. But we went all out for this dinner party: we tidied, scrubbed, dusted, mopped and cleaned the kitchen up so well that I almost felt guilty for having to cook in it for fear of dirtying it up again.

Then there was the menu planning. From the get go, the main two requests I fielded were for Crack Pie and some form of pork or another. You see, my friends are equally as crazy about pork as I am. With those requests in mind, I got to work.

References

References

The initial menu was really ambitious. It was going to look like:
Starters/Nibbles:
Prosciutto Ring bread
Rosemary Focaccia Sheet
Parmigiano-Reggiano Crisps with Goat Cheese Mousse

Main:
Six-Hour Roast Pork Shoulders
Potato Gratin / Gratin de Pommes de Terre
Provencal Vegetables / Byaldi

Dessert:
Crack Pie

Unfortunately I was not the Superwoman I previously assumed myself to be, so I had to eliminate the items that I italicised. Anyway, maybe having those other two items would have been a slight overkill but I still really want to try making the Parmigiano-Reggiano Crisps. It’s a recipe from the French Laundry Cookbook and it sounds so simple and delicious!

Then I had to go grocery shopping on a Friday with my trolley, which I usually detest because I find it so bulky. I had a really good time shopping though, as one of my favourite delis in Victoria Market doesn’t open on weekends so I was able to catch up with the proprietor, sample some cheeses (yum!) and talk a little bit about salts and butters. I found most of the proprietors a lot cheerier and chattier on Friday as well as the market was more pleasant to be in without the overwhelming weekend crush.

Vegetable loot

Vegetable loot

When my housemate saw all the vegetables unpacked, she joked, “Wow, is this FarmVille?”

Deli goodies

Deli goodies

Then there were the goodies from the deli like prosciutto and hot sopressata sausages (for the Prosciutto Ring bread), Comte, goat cheese and Parmigianno Reggiano, and of course, one of my favourite things to cook with, Lescure butter. If you’ve never tried French butter, you really need to. It’s a tad pricier but it makes a world of difference. I remember when I first had Galette des Rois, which my friend made after her stint in France, and I was blown away and the secret to the perfect creaminess of the galette was the French butter. H-E-A-V-E-N.

I really enjoyed cooking for the dinner party because of the new dishes I was trying out from the Bouchon cookbook by Thomas Keller. I can’t even begin to describe how much I love this cookbook because of how approachable all the dishes are and how I look at them and just want to eat them. The dishes I chose didn’t come with pictures, unfortunately, so how it turned out is my assumption that I’ve done it right.

The Byaldi or Provencal Vegetables was described as a refined form of ratatouille and Keller said it’d go with anything so that drew me in immediately. As much as I love pork, I understand that with a meat-heavy meal you need a subtle flavoured vegetable dish to go with it and I so loved that I could cook it a day in advance as it was recommended for the flavours to be fully incorporated into the vegetables.

Uncooked Byaldi

Uncooked Byaldi

The fun part of this dish for me was getting to use my mandolin. I smartly used the finger guard as I was working pretty quickly slicing the vegetables. I know I’ve swooned about my mandolin before but can I just say again how useful it is?

Byaldi

Byaldi, out of the oven

Let me tell you why I love Thomas Keller’s recipes: the details. I fully understand why he’s one of the best chefs in the world because of the tiny little details that he pays attention to. I enjoyed making the dishes from his cookbook simply because it was so educational (hence the fun!). For the Byaldi I learned how to peel the skin off tomatoes and to make a sachet; both techniques are obviously important and will benefit me but no recipe picked off a food magazine would demand these details off you, or perhaps there’s an assumption that the home cook only wants to make “simple food”.

Up close

For the potato gratin, the new techniques I picked up were the soaking of the potatoes before cooking them to remove the starch (so handy!) and how to tie a bouquet garni.

Bouquet garni

Bouquet Garni

The final dish itself was beautiful, although it didn’t photograph well. I forgot the final coating of thyme and Panko breadcrumbs but thankfully the taste of the dish did not suffer for it.

Potato Gratin

Potato Gratin

Another reason why I love Keller’s recipes is just how simple everything is. I remember the first time I flipped through The French Laundry Cookbook, I was surprised at how simple all the ingredients were but yet with the right combination of ingredients, he made them great.

For the main course, we had Six Hour Roasted Pork Shoulders. I made this recipe once before with a pork loin. It was a pretty massive meal of 2.7kg worth of pork and the entire apartment smelled like heaven while it was roasting.

Pork shoulders

Pork Shoulders

As Jacey said, “I wish we could bottle this scent.”

Melty goodness

Melty gooey goodness

For dessert, it was Crack Pie with some improvisations. The first time I made it, I mentioned that it was much too sweet for my liking and I adored the crust a whole lot more than the entire pie so I needed more crust. So with version 2.0, I doubled the cookie recipe for the crust and ended up with a lot more crust and extra cookies to snack on, and even extra pie crust that I ate out of the mixing bowl with my bare hands. Shh, it’s my dirty little secret!

Crack Pie

Crack Pie

I also upped the salt quantities in both the crust and the filling, and I reduced the amount of white and brown sugar in the filling by 50g each. I still think it could be a little less sweet but my darling friends who tasted my first batch loved this version a whole lot more too, and the ones with the sweet tooth all found it ideal whereas I personally could do with less sugar as well. I was just a little worried it’d compromise the texture of the pie but I could mess around and add more cream. No disrespect to pastry chef Christina Tosi, it’s just that I’m not a sugar junkie.

I hope everyone had fun that night but I definitely had the most fun cooking up a storm. I went to bed after the dinner party with my shoulders stiff and my legs achy from being on my legs for the better part of two days but it was still immensely satisfying especially when I got to bring everyone together to break bread (literally!).

I wish I had remembered to photograph the Prosciutto Ring bread but I forgot all about it. I have enough prosciutto and sopressata for another batch so I might make it again and photograph it then.

The great thing about my friends, apart from their crazy company, is how thoughtful and generous they are to me. Apart from the generous bottles of wines and non-alcoholic beverages,

Spoils

I got a box of macarons from Lindt Cafe (I had two for breakfast on Sunday) and a bouquet of flowers because once Stan came by and there was a vase of flowers on my dining table and he asked, “Who’s your secret admirer?” and I sadly admitted that I bought myself flowers as I hadn’t received flowers from guys in well over a year (oh the depressing timeline of my single life!). Imagine how tickled I was that Stan remembered that conversation and decided to gift me with flowers. Thoughtful little gestures warm my heart.

Of course the biggest pay off was the fact that everyone went home stuffed and happy. It’s what every hostess wants most out of a dinner party.