Thursday, April 24, 2014

NZ Sausage Roll

One of the dishes that I saw in nearly every cafe in New Zealand was a Sausage Roll, usually served with a sausage.  Now of course, this is the cousin of "Pig in a Blanket" but the difference is that you use your own minced lean pork or beef (or a combination of both) to make the filling instead an already prepared sausage and then you wrap it in puff pastry. It's incredibly easy to make too. I got the recipe at one of my favorite cafes in Napier and used a combination of sage, onion, garlic and strangely Teriyaki Sauce!  That is the secret ingredient that adds just the right hint of sweetness to this savory delight. This recipe makes the sausage fairly dense so if you want it lighter, you can add bread crumbs and eggs.  It was a huge hit with my sons and would be a great thing to serve at a Superbowl party so I'm going to keep this recipe in mind. It can be cut into big pieces like they serve in NZ or made smaller and cut into bite sized pieces for a party - either way it's delicious!

NZ Sausage Roll

1 pound lean ground pork (can also use beef or a combination of both)
1 1/2 Tablespoons Dried Sage, crumbled
1/2 medium onion, minced
2 Tablespoons Butter
1 garlic clove minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup Cayenne Pepper
2 Tablespoons Teriyaki Sauce (I used Kikkoman)

2 sheets (1 package) frozen Puff Pastry (I used Pepperidge Farm)

Optional:  1 egg and 1/2 cup breadcrumbs.

Unthaw Pastry and place both pieces on a large baking pan with a Silpat Baking liner or Parchment Paper.  In a small frying pan, melt butter and cook onions and garlic until just starting to brown.  Remove and cool slightly.  

Heat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together the pork, dried Sage, cooked onion/garlic mixture, salt, pepper, Cayenne and Teriyaki sauce until well blended.  Divide the meat in half and spread down the middle of each puff pastry sheet into about a 2 inch wide sausage like shape.  Leave about 1/2 inch space at each end.  Roll the puff pastry up and around the meat, creating a rounded sausage roll. Seal the two ends and place the roll seam side down.  Cut small air holes on top.  Repeat with second roll.  

Place in the oven and cook for approximately 30 minutes or until the puff pastry is lightly browned.  Remove from oven and cut into desired size pieces.  Serve hot or warm with Tomato Chutney, Steak Sauce, Ketchup or Sriracha.

Five Element Analysis

Pork belongs to the Water Element so that element is fully represented and the Soy Sauce part of the Teriyaki Sauce adds even more, whereas the sweetness of the Teriyaki Sauce adds some of the Earth Element.  The puff pastry, made from Wheat contributes the Wood Element.  The onions contribute the Metal Element.  The Fire Element is missing, which is why it is good served with the Chutney, Ketchup, Sriracha or Steak Sauce - all of which also add a bit more needed Earth Element and/or a Green Salad for even more Fire as they do in New Zealand to create a balanced meal.  

Monday, April 21, 2014

Refried Beans - Frijoles Refritos

Making a Mexican meal involves making good beans.  And for me, serving them from the can, even when you doctor them, does not cut it. Besides that, beans are so easy to make - they just take some time but you don't even have to pay attention until it is time to refry them and mash them. Also, don't mash them all as it is good to have some texture from some whole beans. Having good Refried Beans to go with Spanish rice makes the meal for me along with fresh made Salsa.  Refried beans are not actually fried, but they are cooked twice and the second time involves some fat or oil - I use olive oil to make it lighter.  This recipe is a classic.  Make sure to soak the beans overnight and then throw away the soaking water as this is supposed to make the beans less gassy. You can also cook the beans with Epazote, which is also supposed to help. I use the pressure cooker as it is so fast and I often make the beans the day before I am going to use them. Once the beans are cooked, it only takes about 10 minutes to make perfect Mexican beans!

Refried Beans

2 cups Pinto Beans
Water to soak bean
6 cups water to cook beans
Small onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Chili Powder
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
Salt to Taste (at least 1 teaspoon)

In a large pot, soak the beans overnight with water to cover.  Drain and add 6 cups of water and bring to a boil.  Lower heat to simmer, cover and cook for 2 1/2 hours and beans are soft.  Or, put the beans in a pressure cooker, add 1 Tablespoon of oil and cook for 25 minutes.  Cool completely before opening.  Drain beans but reserve bean cooking water.

In a lage frying pan, heat oil and add the onions.  Cook until translucent and just beginning to brown.  Add in drained beans, chili powder and Cayenne and begin to mash the beans. Add in 1/2 cup of the cooking water and continue to stir and mash most but not all of the beans.  Add an additional 1/2 cup of the bean cooking water as the mixture gets too thick. You will use between 1 1/2 - 2 cups of liquid. Taste and salt as desired. Serve, sprinkled with cheddar cheese.

Five Element Analysis

Beans are a Water Food so that element is covered. The onion and cheese add the Metal Element and the Chili Powder and Cayenne ensure that the Fire Element is present too.  But, the Wood and Earth Elements are not present. So, beans are especially good when served with Corn Tortillas and beef for some Earth or Flour Tortillas and Rice for more Metal, Salsa for more Fire and Chicken or green vegetables for some the Wood Element to create a balanced five element meal.  

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Donnini's Sicilian Salad

I was recently in Melbourne, Australia and ate at a wonderful restaurant called Donnini's.  They had a very refreshing salad they called the Sicilian Salad which combined two bitter greens - Radicchio and Endive with Fennel slices.  The dressing was made of Blood Orange Juice and Olive Oil. It was a simple salad and so delicious!  I loved the bitterness of the greens combined with the sweet taste of the fennel and the sourness of the Blood Orange juice.  It was refreshing and exciting. It also was the perfect first course for the rich pasta dishes that followed.  So, I tried to recreate the dish at home and here's the recipe I came up with.  Luckily, I found some Blood Oranges, but if you can't, you can recreate that taste by mixing fresh Navel Orange juice with some Lemon juice.  If you like bitter greens, you need to try this salad!

Sicilian Salad

2 heads Endive

2 heads Raddichio
1 Fennel Bulb
2 Blood Oranges, juiced (or juice of a small Navel orange and a small lemon)
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon Salt

Wash the Endive, Raddichio and Fennel.  Cut the top branches and bottom root off the Fennel and slice into thin slices.  Then tear the Endive and Raddichio into bite sized pieces. Put in a salad bowl.  In a smaller bowl, mix together the Blood Orange Juice, Olive Oil and Salt. Pour over the salad and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Five Element Analysis

Endive and Raddichio, being bitter greens, belong to the Fire Elment. The Wood Element is represented by the Orange Juice and the Olive Oil.  The bit of salt contributes a hint of the Water Element.  So, to create balance, serve this salad with a soup that contains something Earthy, like Beef or Root Vegetables.  

Monday, April 7, 2014

Shelley's Bacon and Egg Pie

For my last night in New Zealand, my good friend Shelley made her famous Bacon and Egg Pie. Now I think she's makes best Bacon and Egg Pie and she was kind enough to give me her recipe.  She swears it is really simple and it seems to be, but she does have that magical something that makes hers better than anyone else's. This is a classic New Zealand cafe staple and there are many variations. Here's her classic recipe with lots of options to personalize it. It is one of those dishes that can quickly become a favorite.  This recipe can be cut in half to make an 8x8 inch pie, but I think it is delicious hot or cold so it's great for a quick breakfast and I think it is the perfect picnic dish too!

Shelley's Bacon and Egg Pie

1 pound of thick bacon (pick the meatiest kind you can find) cut up into 1 inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped
12 eggs
4 sheets Puff Pastry (2 Packages), thawed

Optional:  Spinach leaves, tomato slices, minced garlic, cut up red pepper, mushroom slices, etc.

Heat oven to 425 degrees.  Put parchment paper in a 9 x 11 inch pan.  Place two sheets of puff pastry in the bottom of the pan and push in to fit with edges coming up the side. Pinch together the seam in the middle to seal.  Then put in the onion pieces across the bottom and then the bacon pieces.  Crack the eggs over the top and cut open the yolks with a sharp knife tip. Then sprinkle on peas.  Put the other to pastry pieces carefully on top, laying one on top of the other in the middle.  Then pinch together the bottom pastry to the top pastry and cut vent holes across the entire surface.  Bake for 25 - 30 minutes until the puff pastry is thoroughly browned.  

Five Element Analysis

Eggs are a Water food and so is bacon, so this is a very Watery dish!  The onions add the Metal Element and the Peas contribute the Earth Element. The puff pastry is made of wheat and so the Wood Element is represented too. Only the Fire Element is missing, so be sure to serve with some Tomato Sauce (Ketchup) as they do in New Zealand, a green salad and some coffee - a Flat White of course - or tea to make this a balanced snack or meal!