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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sichuan Style Fish

Let me start by saying that this is no Sichuan dish – rather it is in the flavour of those dishes I have tasted at Sichuan House and PepperChilli.  It uses XO Sauce which I love pairing with seafood dishes, and also Chinese 5 spice powder, which adds another flavour element not usually found in Sichuan kitchens.  Nevertheless this vibrant concoction does wonders for the palate and thanks to the addition of Sichuan pepper, it does its magic as it tingles on your tongue.

The fish I have used is Red Snapper which is less expensive than its "Pinky" cousin and less sought after.  I guess I see it as doing my bit for the overfished species and ensuring their long existence.  Without getting too environmentally philosophical Red Snapper actually tastes considerably good and works perfectly in this very spicy dish.  Also, whilst boneless fillets of any white fish also works, I just feel that using the whole fish gives a much more flavoursome end product.  Just be sure to get the fishmonger to clean the fish and chop it into cutlets so that it takes out all the hard, and sometimes messy work.

1x 1kg Red Snapper, in cutlets
1-2 Eggs, beaten
½ cup x Cornflour
½ cup x Riceflour (this is the Asian stuff not the coarser baking variety)
1-2 tsp x Chinese 5 Spice Powder
½ tsp x Salt
½ tsp x Sichuan Pepper, ground
Oil for deep frying, 1 x tbsp extra for the sauce
I picked up a bottle of this brand of XO Sauce at my 
Asian grocer and it was exceptionally spicy.  Try and get
your hands on it for this recipe, you'll love it I'm sure
3-4 Dried Red Chillies,
1 tsp x Sichuan Pepper
1 x Red Onion, diced
1 x Bottle XO Sauce (see picture)
2 Tbsp x Oyster Sauce
2 x Carrots, diced
2 x Zucchinis, diced
10 x Green Beans, sliced finely
3-4 Dried Red Chillies,
1 tsp x Sichuan Pepper
Water, added as required
1 x Cucumber, diced 

Combine the cornflour and riceflour with the 5 spice powder and salt and pepper
Dip the fish cutlets into the beaten egg
Coat the cutlets with the flour mixture and dust of any excess flour
Deep fry the fish pieces in batches for at least 4-5 minutes per batch
When the fish is golden brown remove from the oil and drain on kitchen paper
Heat a large wok until smoking, then add a tbsp of oil
Quickly add in the dry chillies and the Sichuan peppercorns
Stir fry for 30 seconds then remove from the wok
Add the diced onion and stir gently to soften
Then add the other vegetables
Now pour in the XO and oyster sauces
Add a little water to thin out slightly and bring to the boil
Return the fish, chillies and peppercorns to the wok and fold through to coat with sauce
Tip out into a large dish and serve immediately
Garnish generously with the diced cucumber

"Chinese 5 Spice Powder is an amazing spice.  It is one of those spices that I keep on hand to add to dishes that need a little zing.  It works great as a background spice in this fish dish and also in fried chicken dishes.  The 5 spices  found in this mixture are usually Star Anise, Cinnamon, Clove, Fennel and Sichuan Pepper - which is why I guess I goes well in a Sichuan style dish"

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Review: Pepper Chilli Chinese, Chinatown, Melbourne CBD

Pepper Chilli Chinese on Urbanspoon
Sichuan, Szechuan or Szechwan?  Whichever way you spell it, does not change the fact that it is one of the most explosive, taste bud tantalising cuisines available.  For some, eating Sichuan food can be a challenge and this is especially if the heat of chillies is not your cup of tea.  Add to this the tongue numbing effect brought on by Sichuan peppercorns and you have a very unique melange having a rocking party inside your mouth.  There are some other tamer dishes that can be ordered, so there is hope for those non-chilli lovers. My first real taste of the style of Sichuan cooking was at Sichuan House in Melbourne’s Chinatown and my blog piece on the effects that their dainty dishes had on me goes on and on with a very positive review of the food.  I have been back there again to dine since, and while the standard of service is quite normal for a bustling Asian restaurant, run off its feet with loyal patrons, you can forgive them, as all is made amends for in their food especially the Cumin Pork which stands tall (literally) as my favourite dish. 
In the vicinity of the Chinatown precinct I have found a few more restaurant gems offering Sichuan for the discerning palette and I recently ate at Pepper Chilli.  The restaurant sits atop one level at the corner of Little Bourke Street and Exhibition Street, directly opposite Her Majesty’s Theatre.  The decor is quite ordinary but appears clean and did not get as busy as Sichuan House does.  There was no struggle for seats on a Friday lunch session and the wait staff were quite attentive to diners.  This place looks like it should be busy and perhaps it is because it is hidden from street level that hungry diners (like myself on many occasions) walk on by not noticing the stairwell that you need to traverse up.
The menu is quite extensive and if you ask for the dinner menu (at lunch time!) you will get a folio type booklet with glossy pictures of the dishes to help you decide what to order.  As I have already declared my love for Cumin Pork, I was somewhat disappointed to not find it on the menu.  Instead there was a Cumin Lamb dish which I just had to order to stay true to my love.  You don’t usually see cumin used extensively in Chinese cooking, but it would appear that it is the hero of this Sichuan dish, and rightfully so.  The marinated lamb is cut into thin strips and has a nice tender texture nestled with a spicy sauce that goes so well together.  The cumin is very pronounced and this is assisted by the generous dusting of Sichuan pepper.  You just know your taste buds are there when your tongue starts tingling.   You will have to overlook the little pool of oil that is also present as it too seems an all too familiar ingredient in many Sichuan dishes. As a traditional touch, or so I am told, the lamb is served on a bed of home made potato chips - Yes you heard right!  The best part about this is that the potato absorbs most of the oil and the lamb can be enjoyed without the excess oil - if you choose!
The other meat dish we tried was Crispy Chicken in Chilli & Garlic Sauce.  These were tiny morsels of deep fried, crunchy chicken wing bits, strewn through an endless bowl of dried chilli dotted with chunky slices of garlic.  It was almost like finding nuggets of chicken gold amongst the vibrant chilli mix, and boy did they pack some flavour and heat for pieces so small.  Even when we thought there was no more chicken remaining a little scrounge around in the bowl would reveal some hidden treasure.
   For the vegetable contingent of the meal, I couldn't pass up trying yet another eggplant dish.  In Sichuan House, the Fish Flavoured Eggplant is another must have so it made sense to see what Pepper Chilli conjures up with eggplant.  The dish is something more like a braise of eggplant batons in a spicy but sweet sauce that is a welcome change when the heat gets a little too much from the other dishes.  Tender eggplant is served on rice with a delicious sauce dotted with small pieces of carrot, spring onion and cubes of ham. At only $7.50 a plate, with a more than adequate serving it is the best value non meat dish I have found.  I would even go as far as saying I would order it on it's own if I was not feeling to much of a glutton.
Patting the tiny beads of perspiration on my brow as the meal comes to an end, my mouth still tingling from the flavour-fest it had just endured, I felt satisfied that I had got my Sichuan fix and can now put Pepper Chilli on the "go to" list.

"Now there is a lot more Sichuan food to come as this meal inspired me to try out some of these dishes at home.  So stay tuned for the recipes and pics soon"  

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Spicy Pork on Soba Noodles

What to say about Soba noodles other than Sugoi (“Fantastic” in Japanese (with no relevance to the brand of 2 minute noodles available from your friendly Aussie supermarket aisle).  Soba which translates to buckwheat in its place of origin – Japan, is one of their many fast food delicacies, especially popular on the streets of Tokyo.  Soba has good nutritional value with the noodles containing essential amino acids, antioxidants and nutrients that are classified as generally good for you.  It is any wonder that Soba gets its approval and appreciation in a country where the dining regularly focuses on  good healthy choices and clean flavours in chic style on a plate…or bowl.
My foray into Soba was only recent, and I was drawn to the sophisticated packaging of the bundled noodles with its paper band displaying the house of manufacture.  These short and thin noodles are all uniform in length and have a definitive elegance about them, so cooking with this ingredient gives you that feeling of using something quite special.  As you would expect Soba has a  less heavier effect on you than you would get from eating a plate of say, egg noodles (even though I would not knock back a plate!!!).  

In Japanese cuisine Soba is served in a variety of cold dishes as well as hot ones, ranging from salads to soups.  I have strayed a little away from the traditional in this recipe however as I was just experimenting with some tastes that I felt just fit together perfectly.  The result is more or less a fusion dish that lends it flavour a little from the Chinese, Korean and Japanese styling in what appears to be a cross between a warm salad and a stir fry.  Enough said! Here’s the recipe.

Ingredients, to serve 5

3 bundles x Soba noodles
25g x Chinese Dried Mushroom, soaked in ½ cup Water
500g x Ground Pork
1 tbsp x Peanut Oil
3-4 Spring Onions, sliced thinly
5 tbsp XO Sauce
2 x Carrots, julienned
3 x Lap Cheong (Chinese Sausage), cut into strips
½ tsp Sesame oil
Fried Shallots, to garnish 

Prepare the Soba noodles by dropping them into a pot of boiling water.
Cook for 3-4 minutes until tender then drain
In a hot wok add the oil and then the spring onions
Stir fry for a few seconds then add the pork and lap cheong
Brown the pork frying it until most of the water has dried up
Now stir in the XO Sauce and combine with the meats
Add the carrot and rehydrated mushroom
Pour in ½ the reserved mushroom soaking liquid
Cook for an additional 5 minutes 
Drizzle the sesame oil and stir through  
Garnish with store bought fried shallots
Serve immediately    

This dish really hits home high on the flavour scale and is fully adaptable for other noodles types, additions of chilli and even crushed peanuts for the garnish.  The taste really is quite a mix of the different cuisines but it really just works for me – I hope it does for you too….Enjoy!! 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Review: Indya Bistro, Nth Carlton.

Indya Bistro on Urbanspoon

While I am on the Indian cuisine high, I thought it fitting to post a review for Indya Bistro, a restaurant in North Carlton that I recently visited (and that isn’t a typo they really spell it I.N.D.Y.A – I think it flows with their modern Indian cuisine motto. We visited Indya Bistro early on a weeknight – how early?? Well, let’s just say there were no other diners there yet.  Indya Bistro has ranked highly in the local stakes and was voted Victoria’s Favourite Indian Restaurant in 2010.  I just had to visit to see and to taste, just what it takes to be given such a high accolade by People’s Choice.  It was time to check out what Modern Indian cuisine actually was. As part of a 7 course banquet we ordered a selection of entrées, a veg and non-veg main dish and dessert to cap off the evening.
For starters we were served a trio of dips accompanied with naan bread to do the dipping with.  The slightly unimpressive dips being Cucumber Raita, Mango Chutney and Lentils came in quaint ceramic bowls with teaspoons.  However I did feel a little short changed to discover that each bowl had about 3 meagre teaspoonsful of the dip, so literally 1 and a ½ spoonful and it’s over.
Thankfully, the next starter item, being piping hot Samosas had arrived.  The spicy potato filling was quite tasty but unlike those Samosas enjoyed at street eateries, where the pastry is flavour full and crispy like a biscuit, these were lacking in the crunch department.  Hardly impressed by this “Favourite” of the people, I hoped the upcoming dishes would have more lustre and give credence to the award.

Unconditionally the winner of the night was the Lamb Kebabs –  well spiced, delicately textured ground lamb, classically formed around a skewer, but served without it, just for that little bit of modernism – I think anyway!  These went down a treat and reassured me of good things to come.  The minced lamb was soft and had a welcoming mild Tandoori hint of that was just right.
Chicken Tikka is one of those dishes that you just have to love.  The success of this dish, for me, would be measured by the juiciness of the meat and it’s delicate balance of flavours from the marinade to the basting sauce it comes with.  I would like to say that Indya Bistro ticked all the boxes on this menu item but sadly this was not the case.  What was served was an overcooked and dry piece of chicken that had definitely not been given its due cooking process before it was plated and sent from the kitchen.
Entrées aside I was now somewhat anxious for our mains and I would like to think that you cannot go wrong with a serve of Rogan Josh and for something different Malai Kofta from the vegetarian side.  Now I may be mistaken, and it is probably going to take a few more visits to Indian restaurants to uncover what Rogan Josh is actually supposed to taste like.  The last three places including this visit has dished up a Rogan Josh with very thin runny gravy.  I recall cooking the dish myself and also enjoying my dad’s interpretation, which have both been a dish of boneless lamb pieces in a thick and spicy gravy, complimented with a slight tang.  Here was yet another version of Rogan Josh that just did not hit the spot.  While the lamb pieces were remarkably tender, I just could not enjoy the dish as a soup and where was the spice...nowhere to be seen!

The Malai Kofta on the other hand were quite delicate cheese dumplings with a little spice that were bathing in a bowl of cream – a little too rich in fact but tasty enough to tuck into. With the disappointment in the previous dishes I think it was safe to say I was not going to have a win tonight and this was only heightened by crusty stale textured rice.  Now I am not sure if we were unfortunate enough to get the scrapings from the batch but as a frequent eater of rice – this was hardly passable.  C’mon, it’s rice – a staple in India – How can you not get it right? At least the Roti was comforting enough to make up the carbohydrate component. 
Dessert was a couple of dainty little warm Gulab Jamun –  dumplings in syrup, and these satisfied the need for a sweet finale. 
As I left Indya Bistro I was still doubtful as to how deserving they were of the award for Victoria’s Favourite Indian Restaurant. I did not feel like I had feasted on Indian cuisine that night. My insides did not hum with fulfilment from a meal well-enjoyed that left a lasting impression on your taste buds. Perhaps I am ill-informed! Perhaps this is what Modern Indian cuisine is all about!!!          

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Butter Chicken - Murgh Makhani

Ask any discerning non-Indian diner to name their top Indian curries and this one is sure to be on that hit list.  Butter Chicken in all its bright orange glory is by far the king of curries for me, as serving it up guarantees a well-deserved pat on the back and smacking of the lips!  It is said that the dish was created by an Indian chef in the nation’s capital – Delhi.  It was here that Kundan Lal Gujral humbly created the first Butter Chicken and put it on the menu at the now famous Moti Mahal restaurant in Daryaganj, Delhi.  I caught an episode of Rhodes Across India, on the Food Channel, where UK celebrity chef Gary Rhodes visited the original birthplace of Butter Chicken and met with the restaurant staff.  As a result they happily divulged the secrets of their prized recipe and this here foodie on the other side of the world saw it right to snap it up and cook it at home – and now here it is finally on this blog page to be immortalised forever (well as long as the internet exists anyway!)
After mastering this you can say goodbye to buying bottles of so called Butter Chicken pastes, or sachets of powders that are supposed to turn out this delicacy, but produce coloured chicken lacking in all things “buttery” or “chickeny” to say the least.  I have eaten Butter Chicken or Murgh Makhani, as it is known in its hometown when I was in India, and when I first tasted the end product of this recipe – it really took me back.  I have since made it a number of times, and each time it does not fail to please me – and I am my worst critic - believe you me!
As with all special dishes you need to take your time i.e. once again this is not an after-work dinner that you can whip up from scratch.  There is at least an hour of simmering time and if you have not prepared the chicken beforehand, there is marinating and roasting time for that too.  I have already posted my recipe for Tandoori Chicken and it is notably the best place to begin this dish from.  Whenever I conjure up some tandoori magic I reserve a chicken or two for a Butter Chicken finale some time later.  So having said this if you make the Tandoori Chicken when time is not a factor, then you just may be able to dish some Butter Chicken up in just over an hour – after work perhaps, if you are game enough.  Either way it is well worth the reward, especially if Daryaganj in Delhi is not accessible to you.

Ingredients, to serve 4 
1 x Tandoori Chicken, prepared as per recipe and cut into pieces
1tbsp x Butter or Ghee to be traditional
2 clove x Garlic, chopped
5 x Cardamom, bruised
1 stick x Cinnamon
2 x Bay Leaves
3 x Whole Cloves
2 cans x Tomatoes, pureed in a blender
1tsp x Chilli powder
100g x Cashews, powdered into a paste with a little water
25g x Butter
1tsp x Cumin powder
1tsp x Garam masala powder
1tsp x Fenugreek seeds, grounds
1tbsp x Cream
Coriander to garnish

In a heavy pot heat the butter or ghee
Add in the garlic, cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaves and cloves
Fry gently to release aromas, do not allow the garlic to burn
Pour in the pureed tomato and stir in the chilli powder
Bring to the boil then turn heat down and cover pot
Allow to simmer for 45 minutes,
Do not allow tomatoes to dry too much adding a little water if required
When tomato mixture has cooked down carefully turn it into a sieve over a bowl
Strain mixture well pressing through the sieve
Discard the whole spices
Give the pot a wipe and return to the heat on medium
Melt the butter then add the cumin powder and toast lightly for 30 seconds
Return the sieved tomato mixture to the pot
Stir in the cashew paste and mix well to combine all ingredients
Bring the sauce to a boil adding a little water if too thick
Place chicken pieces into the pot and turn heat down
Cook for 10 minutes stirring occasionally to prevent catching
Stir in the Garam Masala and Fenugreek powders
Cook for an additional 5 minutes then remove from heat
To serve swirl in the cream and garnish with chopped coriander leaves

"Best enjoyed with hot Naan breads or Rotis or simply on some steamed Basmati rice.  It is surprising how little butter there actually is in this dish despite its name.  The creamy texture comes from the pureed tomato as does the overall orange colour.  There is no need for additional cream but it does make it look pretty when serving.  This is truly my favourite dish to make from my Indian recipe repertoire."  

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Tandoori Chicken

Characterised by its fiery red colour and explosive hit of spices, Tandoori style food has etched itself onto the must-have dishes when dining at an Indian restaurant.  The name Tandoori derives from the clay oven that the food is cooked in, known as the tandoor.  The use of these ovens, that can reach extremely high temperatures, is widespread across the Indian sub-continent and also in the Middle East.  The cylindrical ovens are lit with a wood fire, usually at the base, and then allowed to heat up to such intensity that meat can cook within minutes when skewered and placed inside.  Tandoors are also used in producing Naan bread, and you will know when they are cooked this traditional way, as the Naans will be soft on the inside and have a crispy, charred and flavoursome exterior.  The principals of tandoori cooking are very much in line with that of convection ovens – to some degree.  In restaurants the meat or vegetables are marinated and then threaded onto metal skewers and then plunged into the furnace where they cook to smoky perfection.  The smokiness of the end result comes from the dripping juices from the food evaporating and infusing the food, as they splash onto the hot wood fire. 
I have dined on Tandoori at restaurants across India during my brief travels there and savoured every piece of chicken and lamb tikka kebab.  Here in Melbourne there are some good places that put a on a fairly comparable Tandoori chicken dish and some even keep the tandoors within view of the diners to heighten the excitement of the dining experience.  Like with most restaurant food I eat I like to emulate it in the home kitchen in the hope that it tastes somewhat similar and worthy.  Unfortunately I do not own a tandoor oven although, they are available to purchase - so I am taking donations….anyone!!! 
For a while I have tried making Tandoori Chicken in the kitchen oven, on the bbq and even on a grill plate.  While the marinade has been good and followed to the letter from Indian recipes – the end result falters in the taste department and I had almost given up.  That was until our backyard acquired a new resident – the Weber Kettle BBQ.  This spherical oven produces some very flavoursome roasts cooked above hot coals in what’s called the indirect method of barbequing.  This is when the coals are positioned around the meat and not directly below it, as a griller would have it.  It was this that inspired me to try cooking Tandoori chicken in this manner.  Combining whole chickens with a perfect blend of spices and an admittedly “cheats” ingredient, I had finally come up with restaurant worthy Tandoori Chicken that I have served up to my guests, and gotten major compliments for.  
The process is not exceptionally hard to do and the reward is remarkable.  This recipe yields about three whole Tandoori chickens and I keep at least one as a left over and freeze it to use later in a mouth-watering Butter Chicken recipe.  If you do not have a Weber at home, then the conventional oven will do – you just will not have the smoky flavour that’s all but the chicken will still be tasty – trust me!  Use the red food colour to give it that exotic look and you can’t go wrong.  In our family we actually consider Tandoori as a shade of red – like Scarlett and Magenta.  “Fake tanned bodies will get called Tandoori colour”.  Marinate this dish a day ahead for maximum taste.

3 x Chickens, kept whole with skin removed
250g x Yoghurt
3tsp x Cumin, powder
3tsp x Coriander, powder
2tsp x Garam Masala
1tsp x Turmeric
3 tsp x Ginger, freshly grated
6 x Cloves of Garlic, crushed  
2 x tbsp Tandoori Paste (This is my biggest cheat, as no matter how hard I have tried I have not gotten a better taste without the paste)
Chilli powder (As much or as little as you like)
Salt to taste
Red Food Colouring (after all if it ain’t red it ain’t Tandoori)
3 x Lemons, medium size

In a large non-metallic bowl combine yoghurt with ginger, garlic and dry spices
Add the Tandoori Paste and mix well.
Adjust salt to taste then add the food colour.
Prepare the chickens by scoring the thighs, legs and breast sections with ½ cm cuts
Rub the marinade over the chicken and inside the cavity before placing a lemon in each cavity.
Allow to marinate overnight in the fridge.

DAY TWO (I will give instructions on how to cook the chicken in a conventional oven, however I did use my kettle BBQ in an indirect method which takes about 1½ hour until the meat is cooked through)
Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius
Place the chickens onto a wire grill above a roasting dish to catch the drippings
Bake for 20 minutes on the high heat then turn oven down to 175 degrees Celsius and cook for a further 45 minutes.

Chicken is done when the juices run clear
Allow to rest for 15 minutes before carving it up
Serve with leafy greens, lemon wedges and a minted yoghurt for dipping

Monday, September 19, 2011

Greek Food Weekend...Opa!

Hot on the heels of a very successful French Food Weekend, and one from which we are still enjoying the spoils, mainly being Duck Confit and Duck Rillettes, it was time to head further down the Mediterranean Sea, to Greece, for some more culinary inspiration.  Was this destined to be another weekend of foodie joy hailing from the land of the gods Zeus and Apollo? Well I decided not to make it too labour intensive as there was a few other happenings around the kitchen this weekend being the one in September when our family celebrates three separate birthdays.  The first birthday to be celebrated is my sister’s and it was her idea for me to cook up a Greek storm to honour her 27th annual celebration.
Happy Birthday to my sister Ro - She requested this Greek Feast so here goes!  
What to serve for the feast that was to be had for Sunday lunch? Since the weather is warming up a little it seemed like a good idea to keep it really informal and simple but tasty.  What could be more Greek than Souvlaki or Gyros (depending where you are from).  I decided on a chunky leg of lamb to marinate and cook to a juicy souvlaki filling and since we were expecting a small crowd, I put up a chicken dish on the menu too.  Paired up with a selection of fresh spring veggies and beautifully dressed Greek Salad, these “souvas” were going to be memorable.  For starters, Greek dips definitely had to be on the menu and some warm pita bread to carry them on.  No Greek meal for me would be complete without the sweet hit of flaky, syrupy Baklava to finish which also masks the relatively prominent taste of garlic that you are left with because you just had to ask for “Extra Garlic Sauce thanks!”

The menu looks like this (click on the items to take you to the dish)

Baklava – A spiced nutty mixture encased in layers of buttered filo pastry and soaked in a wickedly sweet sugar and honey syrup
By the way this cake was not made or decorated by me it was done by the Mrs. so I thought it only fair to show it off on this blog.

Lamb Souvlaki - Food of the gods

Charcoal grilled lamb has a beautiful aroma that you can smell a mile away and although this recipe does not use the charcoal grill it still has the potential to fill the kitchen with a very welcoming aroma.  Grilling meat to be eaten in unleavened bread dates back many years and the Ancient Greeks seemed to have a good knack of it and have passed these traditions down the generations.  Today you don’t need to be in Athens to enjoy a Souvlaki – why just the other day I was making a right mess of a souvlaki on Brunswick Street right here in Melbourne.  The humble “souva” is the go-to fast food, that Saturday night out-on-the-towners, who need a huge hit of sustenance in the early hours of the morning, after a big night, turn to almost religiously.  I must admit that it is one of my guilty pleasures on such nights that I surely regret the next morning - but will gladly do again next time.
Nevertheless, souvlaki can be enjoyed in the home and if you get the marinade right, turn up the music and eat this at odd hours, it is almost like a night on the town.  Or you could just have it for a late lunch as we did - and boy was it was good!  Start the day before with the meat marinating and 24 hours later you are bound for a treat as you dish up some home-made goodness.  I use a nice leg of lamb trimmed of any excess fat and opened up with the bone still intact.  If you do not like the idea of wielding a knife and carving into the meat then ask your butcher to do it.  The idea is to open the meat so that you can season the inside with marinade and then roll it back up as it was to roast like a big joint of meat.  It is advisable to use cooking twine to truss the meat on leg so that I stays intact through the cooking process.   

2.5kg Lamb, leg joint
½ cup x Lemon Juice
¼ cup x Olive Oil
4-5 cloves Garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp x Dried Oregano leaves
5 sprigs x Thyme, leaves picked
Store bought pita bread loaves

Prepare the leg joint by cutting 1 cm deep gashes along the outer side
Cutting the leg open along the bone and turn it out so that the meat which was once rolled is now flat
Keep the bone intact as this will add to the flavour and assist in cooking.
Combine all marinade ingredients in a cup, stir well to mix
Massage the marinade into the inside of the lamb, apply a thick amount of the herb mixture
Roll the meat back around the bone as it was and tie with the twine to secure
Now work marinade onto the outside of the lamb especially in the gashes
Place the remaining marinade and any drippings into a plastic bag along with the lamb
Secure tightly and leave in the fridge for at least 12 hours
Preheat oven to 220 degrees
Place lamb in a roasting dish with the marinade
Bake in the oven for 20 minutes on the high heat
Turn the leg over and turn heat down to 175 degrees
Cook for another 40 minutes and turn leg again
After another 15-20 minutes check the internal temperature with a thermometer
A temperature of 77 degrees (170 degrees Fahrenheit) is ideal
Remove from the oven and rest the lamb for at least 30 minutes before carving

Make up the souvlaki by taking a store bought pita bread loaf and filling with a generous serve of lettuce, tomato, onion and then topping this with chunks of lamb.  Squeeze on some fresh lemon juice and garlic sauce (Yoghurt infused with garlic).  

Roll the pita up as best as you can and then chomp into it – there is no other way.  Keep napkins at arm’s reach because it is sure to get messy – but oh so good!    

Chicken Souvlaki - Greek inspired of course

If you venture in to your local souvlaki joint you will see right next to the lamb, almost every time, is its best friend - Chicken. Merrily rotating over the grill, caramelising on the surface and just beckoning to be part of your souvlaki experience.  Chicken was a great addition to my Greek feast menu as sometimes just lamb won’t do.  After all, a culinary delight at souva joints, like those in Brunswick Street is the “Mixed Souva”.  Yes lamb and chicken married in a flavour bomb of garlic, herbs and fresh salad.  So if you want to make a mixed number then you had better get this chicken dish on your menu.  It also goes well on its own as a humble Chicken Souvlaki.
I use boneless Maryland pieces (drumsticks and thighs) for this dish as they are a good cut made for slow roasting and are easy to carve without bony bits.  The chicken is roasted in the oven until practically cooked and then it is finished on the grill so that it gets it a nice caramel crisp surface that resembles the rotisserie over charcoal, in the shops.  The marinade here is very similar to Lamb Souvlaki but as a special touch I have tried to incorporate what I call "chicken friendly" herbs like rosemary and sage - this is purely for a contrast you are most welcome to use the classic oregano and thyme if you feel that way inclined.  Keep in mind for best results it is recommended that you marinate the chicken the day before - for the total flavour infusion.


6 x Chicken Maryland fillets, skin removed
1 cup x Natural Yoghurt
2 Tbsp x Lemon Juice
¼ cup x Olive Oil
4-5 cloves Garlic, crushed
 ¼ cup x Sage leaves, freshly picked
6 sprigs x Rosemary, leaves picked
1 - 2 tsp x Salt
Store bought pita bread loaves 

Prepare the chicken by scoring 1 cm deep gashes along the outer side
Season lightly with 1 tsp salt
Combine all marinade ingredients in a bowl, stir well to mix
Place marinade into a deep non-metallic dish
Add the chicken to the dish in one layer
Cover securely with cling wrap and leave in the fridge for at least 12 hours
Preheat oven to 175 degrees
Place chicken on a wire rack above a roasting dish 
Baste the chicken with any remaining marinade
Bake in the oven for 30 minutes on one side
Turn the chicken over and bake for a further 30 minutes
On the stove heat a grill pan or flat heavy bottomed pan
Grill the chicken pieces on high heat for about a minute on each side
Remove from the grill and allow to rest for 5 minutes uncovered
Carve the chicken pieces into chunky slices

And as with the Lamb Souvlaki, build it up by taking a store bought pita bread loaf and filling with a generous serve of lettuce, tomato, onion and then topping with chunks of grilled chicken.  Squeeze on some fresh lemon juice and garlic sauce (Yoghurt infused with garlic).  Roll the pita up as best as you can and then chomp into it – there is no other way.  Keep napkins at arm’s reach because it is sure to get messy – but oh so good - guaranteed or your money back (just kidding I don't offer warranties!)   

Greek Salad

It seems a little pointless to do a blog piece about a salad, but I must indulge in this one as it really hit a high note in the flavour stakes.  Along with the cuboids of the usual suspects that appear in a Greek salad line up is the dressing that just brings the whole thing together.  Many a time have I been quite unimpressed by the offerings at restaurants that are played up as Greek Salads.  While the vegetables and the feta are perfectly good, what is most lacking is the punchline delivered by the dressing.
I am making a point of the dressing as this time around I have really outdone myself even and stumbled upon a dressing that was simply delicious.  So good that I grabbed a plain pita loaf and mopped up the dressing leftovers from the bottom of the salad bowl.  The secret to a good Greek Salad dressing is really really good Olive Oil.  You want a nice fruity, green, probably expensive bottle that you keep under lock and key.  In my case I was fortunate to have such a bottle supplied to me from the grower himself.  You see, I work with an olive providore that grows and presses his own olive oil.  Each year the bountiful harvest of 10,000 plus olive trees are used to create olive products and this was my first real use of the good stuff.  The result is a deliciously green and fragrant oil, that once added to my salad dressing, there was no turning back.  Here's to Mr NC and his awesome olive grove.

For the dressing
¼ cup x Olive Oil (the very best you can find)
2 Tbsp x Red Wine Vinegar
1 tsp x Dried Oregano
Salt and Pepper to season

For the salad
2 x Cucumbers, 1 cm cubes
2 x Tomatoes, 1 cm cubes
1 x Red Onion, cut into rings
200g x Kalamata Olives
200g x Greek Feta, cut into cubes

5-6 x Mint leaves x finely cut
3-4 sprigs x Fresh Oregano, leaves picked

Combine the dressing ingredients and stir to combine
Place all vegetables and feta into a large salad bowl
Drizzle the dressing over the salad 
Using your hands work the dressing over the salad
Garnish with the mint and oregano 
Place in the fridge until time to serve

Make sure you mop up the bottom of the bowl as the stuff there is pure gold...I tell ya!