06 July 2013

lime & honey venison with a thai salad

I noticed that my last few posts were all sweet stuff, so decided that it has about time to do something savoury.  The problem with savoury is that often it's dinner and by the time the cooking is done, it's dark and I've lost any natural lighting.  Plus a lot of the time I just want to cook, serve, sit and hoover it all down.  It's not until halfway through the meal that I'd go "Awww man! Forgot to take photos"!

I've also been meaning to post up more on the kind of Asian dishes that I'd cook and eat at home - not so much like what you'd get at the cheap and cheerful round the corner.  But usually with this kind of cooking, I often just freestyle it because I've been cooking these dishes for years and I suppose I now just do it without much thought.  Writing down method and measurements is not anywhere in my thoughts at all...until it's too late.

So when I got my hands on some well priced venison at the Food Show a while ago, I decided that I must remember to jot down notes and take some photos as I go along.  Even then, I only ended up with three usable photos!  There simply was no time for food styling since our venison dinner would be ruined if it wasn't eaten right away.

I had a very clear idea on what I wanted to do with the venison - flavour but without too much fuss.  I've used this marinade succesfully with chicken and pork in the past, so decided to try it with venison. Am glad to say it worked!

You could pair the venison with whatever you like; potatoes, polenta, slaw and even a basmati rice (Ottolenghi-style would suit well here).  But I decided to have it with a side of Thai-inspired salad.  It is a perfectly light salad but packed with awesome flavour from the dressing, and went well with the lime and honey marinated meat.

Pretty, artful or careful plating is not my forte at all.  I haven't got the patience for it and usually whenever I do try it, it would take me so long to get it right that the food would get cold.  Perhaps my culinary planets were aligned the day I made this dish, but I was able to do that slant slicing then fan out on the plate perfectly and quickly.  Even the small mound of salad stood nicely poised next to venison.  Usually it's just plonked down.

Although I don't think anyone should get used to this kind of neat plating from me - I assure you it's an anomaly!  Well if it tastes good (I am talking about in a home setting), who cares how it's plated right?

Talking about plates...now that I've got my tickets sorted for Wellington On a Plate, I've also made a wee burger hit list for Burger Wellington.  Check 'em out here!

Lime and Honey Venison

220g Venison steaks
Juice of 1 lime
Grated zest of 1 lime
1 tsp honey
1 tsp sesame oil
5 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Mix all the marinade ingredients together well and marinade the steaks in it for 15mins.
  2. Keep a plate warm (not hot!) on the side for resting your venison later. 
  3. Heat a heavy pan, stove top grill or bbq to medium-high heat and cook each side of the venison for 2-3 mins.  The meat will darken quite a bit and caramelise because of the honey, but don't worry.  Just as long as it's not burnt.  I cooked mine on a cast iron pan and made sure not to move the meat when it's cooking until its full 3 mins per side, which prevented the meat from sticking to the pan.
  4. Once cooked, remove the venison onto the warmed plate, cover with aluminium and rest for 5mins.
  5. Slice the rested venison on an angle and serve with your favourite sides.  If the juices on the plate from the rested venison is still warm, I would normally drizzle it over the sliced meat.
Thai-inspired Salad recipe here.

thai-inspired salad

I made this Thai-inspired salad a while ago and had it with some lime and honey marinated venison.  Since then, I've made this salad several times and it pretty much goes with anything.

Don't let what looks like a long list of ingredients put you off.  It's actually really easy to prepare and quick to put together - no cooking required!  Once you get the hang of it, you could mix it up a little with what vegetables you use for the salad and you could up the chilli count if you like it with a bigger hit.

Thai-inspired Salad

Thai Salad Dressing
2 stalks of coriander, use both leaves and stalks
1 thumb length ginger, peeled
1 whole red chilli - remove seeds and white membrane inside if you don't want it too hot
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp water
1/2 cup lightly roasted peanuts, chopped
  1. Blitz all the ingredients except the peanuts together in a food processor until well mixed and the sugar melts.  All coriander, ginger and chilli should be processed until minced but not a paste.
  2. Set aside.
  3. Lightly dry roast the peanuts in a frying pan and then roughly blitz into small chunks, or chop with a knife if you prefer or do not have a processor.  Set aside.
1 medium red pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 cucumber - peeled alternative strips, cut into 1/4 lengthwise and then across into chunks
1/2 small red onion - very thinly sliced
1/2 head lettuce, sliced thinly - I used romain/cos but you can also use iceberg
1 large carrot, grated rough not fine
125g mung bean sprouts
  1. Place all the ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and mix it well with your hands.  Don't worry if you bruise the vegetables a little.
To serve - liberally scatter the roasted peanuts over the dressed salad, and serve!

19 June 2013

salted peanut butter cookies & WOAP 2013

It feels a little strange to be writing this post; the last post I wrote was in February and although I've got several posts in-draft, I've not felt much like writing.  In fact since December last year, my posts have been sporadic at best.  I haven't stopped being passionate about food (my social media activity proofs it).  I've just been allowing other things that has been happening in my life to take over, leaving my somewhat brain tired, lazy and uninspired.

However in the last month, I've slowly started to come out of my blogging hiatus and have been furiously taking tons of photos and making notes of things I've bake and cooked - like these here peanut butter salted cookies.

It also helps that Wellington's event of the year (it is for me and my social calendar!) is only a month and half away: I speak of the annual gastronomic event Wellington On A Plate, WOAP to those who are familiar with it.  Nothing gets me out of a funk like two weeks of food-fueled indulgence and the anticipation leading up to it.

So with all that food on the brain, I've been able to push pass my non-blogging haze and give you these  - wee mouthfuls of peanut butter heaven.

First of all I'd like to just say that I really REALLY like peanut butter - on toast, in ice cream, in gelato, in confectionery, in baking, by the spoonful.  But never ever in satay sauce; that's just wrong on all levels (I blame the food network channel for this abomination).  When I was a child I would only eat the smooth variety.  But now I go through jars of crunchy peanut butter like there's no tomorrow.  It's a bit like me and greens - hated stalks and only ate the leaves when I was a child.

I had gotten it in my mind some time ago that I had to bake peanut butter cookies.  Add that to my list of other must-cooks and must-bakes and it took me some time before I finally got to the cookies.  That, and also each time I looked at my jar of peanut butter I would think "But if I used the peanut butter up for cookies, what would I put on my toast and do I really want to use my expensive jar of peanut butter to make cookies with"?  Yes I know about supermarkets.  I've even walked into a fair few in my time.  But I'm not always logical when it comes to peanut butter!  So when I was given a couple of free pottles of crunchy peanut butter, I decided it was now or never.  (Also, I preferred the brand I usually buy but didn't want to waste a couple pots of good quality artisan peanut butter).

Like a good foodie, I started my peanut butter cookies recipe research.  Strangely enough I didn't find one peanut butter cookie recipe in any of my cookbooks - I say 'strangely' because by all accounts, it seems to be a very popular and common cookie type.  Oh but go online and there are hundreds upon hundreds of recipes, a lot of which are really exactly the same.  So at the end I decided to use a simple recipe from a fellow Kiwi food blogger friend.  She's good at what she does and I had no worries about the recipe not working out.

However I did tweak the recipe a little, just a little.  Enough to satisfy my need for a bigger hit of peanut butter in my cookies and my need to put my own little twist to it - I upped the quantity of peanut butter and decided to sprinkle some rock salt to give it that sweet-salty flavour effect that works so well.

I made these cookies quite small, about the size of say a milk bottle top.  So baking time was pretty short.  If you make them bigger, just bake for a little longer until the cookie is just lightly browned.  I took them out when the cookies still felt a tad bit soft to the touch.  They will crisp up on the outside once cooled with just a little bit of chew inside - just how I like them!

And if you want to know what my WOAP 2013 picks are, events I'm going to and what I hope will be a blow-by-blow report as I eat my way through WOAP this year - check it out here.

Salted Peanut Butter Cookies
Original recipe from Bron Marshall and tweaked a little by me

1/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup lightly packed soft brown sugar
1 cup of chunky peanut butter - use the best you can afford. I used this brand.
125g of softened butter
1 large egg - at room temperature
1 cup plain all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
Sea or rock salt (make sure it's not iodised table salt)
  1. Preheat your oven to 170°C (338°F).  Line your baking tray(s) with baking paper.
  2. Sift the flour and baking powder together.
  3. Beat the sugars, peanut butter and softened butter together until well mixed, creamy and smooth-ish (no lumps).
  4. Add the egg and beat until well combined.  Scrap down the sides of the mixing bowl so that everything is well mixed.
  5. On a low speed stir through or gently fold in the flour and baking powder until mixed through - but don't over mix it.
  6. The dough will be rather soft so I prefer to refrigerate it (about an hour) until its cold and stiff enough to handle with my fingers and roll in my palms - but try to work quickly even if you're working with refrigerated dough.  You can choose not to refrigerate if you don't want to or cannot wait.
  7. Roll heaped teaspoonfuls of the dough into balls and place onto the baking tray.
  8. Then use the back of a fork (lightly dusted with flour every now and again so it won't stick) and flatten the balls of cookie dough down a little into discs.
  9. Bake between 10-12 minutes, rotating your tray at half time, until the cookies are lightly brown.  Your cookies should be just that bit soft if you gently poke with at it.
  10. Do this quickly - before the cookies cool down and while it's still hot and warm from the oven, sprinkle some salt over the cookies.
  11. Then cool the cookies on the tray - the cookies will crisp up on the outside and remain just that bit chewy inside.
  12. The dough yielded around 40 cookies for me but it'll all depend on how big/small you make these cookies.
Voila! And best enjoyed with a cup of black coffee. :-)

I've also entered these cookies in Fisher & Paykel's 
Let Them Bake Cake.  They may not be cake but cookies is baking...and maybe I could win me a prize worth $10,000!