Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Beef Soup

Sometimes even the simplest recipes can be the best. This is one of those times. You may not realise this, but I tend to cook without recipes. Now, I do have a very good idea of where I'm going with a dish, what food/herb/spices goes well with whatever, what technique works with what type of meat or veggie or fruit, etc. Around 75% of the time, it's turns out great and everyone enjoys it. Perhaps 20% it's a so-so, but plates and bowls are still empty. The remaining 5% is split between, "let's not have that again", and "HOLY SHIT! This is the best darned thing I've ever tasted! Whatever you did write it down so you don't forget cus we all want to have this every meal for the next century!!!"

This soup dish fell into the final category. *pat, pat, patting myself on back*

It involved a bit of leftover too. I'm very good with leftovers. If I was on Iron Chef and Chairman Kaga announced the theme ingredient of Leftovers, then I'd blow them all away! I'd even take them all on at once! Ha! It's gotten to the point where I actually plan for leftovers and have sorta figured out what I'll do with them for lunch the next day. Like this morning, for example. Had some leftover mashed spuds and some leftover sugared carrots. Hmmmmmm, add some bread crumbs, an egg, some seasonings, mix it all together and form into patties. Fry in leftover bacon fat. TaDa: great potato cakes!

Meat is also hard for me cus I've got to make it so my MIL can eat it (and like it too). Hmmmm, 80 yrs old, suffering from Crohn's Disease for the last 60 years (had 5 operations in her twenties and don't have much guts left), not many molars left, and her medications makes her taste buds have wild moods swings. For instance; she's loved lamb her whole life, then about a year ago she said she can't stand the taste of it no matter what is done. Sigh... Beef is even harder cus she loves the taste, but it has to be cooked very carefully for her so that's it's very tender. Needless to say, grilled steaks are out for her (but not for me!). Fish is no problem for her, but shellfish has to be cooked certain ways for her. Even chicken has to be cooked carefully for her... But at least I've gotten them to like spices! Keep in mind, these people used to have seizures if more than one small grind of pepper was put into 2 gallons of soup.

Now, since this post is titled Beef Soup, can you guess which type of land-based protein critter is to be used????? Yup, it's BEEF. All of our really tender good beef is very very very very expensive, so we buy cheap cuts and then I get creative.

To get the beef tender enough for her and for the onions to really "cook in" I knew I'd need to start this soup about lunchtime. Fortunately, it's like maybe 5 mins of work every couple of hours.

Here's what you need:

4 small, tough, cheap, possibly inedible, beef rump steaks
1 leftover baked potato
1 medium onion (rough chopped)
2 fresh carrots (diced)
lots of water
3 bay leaves
2 tbsp dried basil
2 tbsp dried oregano
lots of salt
1 to 2 tsp ground black pepper
bacon fat
2 potatoes (peeled and diced)
1/4 cup unbleached flour
one really big pot with a lid
a wok
wooden spoon for stirring
some sort of heat producing device, I recommend the side burner of your gas grill
fresh baked cobb for dunkers
serviettes (napkins to you US'ns)

Well, those last ten you can probably figure out on your own, I guess.

What you do:

Cube the beef. Try to trim off as much of the grisle and fat as you can. The cubes should be the size of small dice. Heat half (about 2 tbsp) the bacon fat in your big soup pot, and add the cubed beef in just BEFORE the bacon fat starts to smoke. Fry it up for a minute or two, turning frequently so all sides of the cubes are well browned. Yes, you'll have some stuff start to stick to your soup pot but don't worry.

Now add a couple of cups of water. Stir well while using your wooden spoon to scrap all the really good tasting bits off the bottom of the pot. Once that is done, fill the pot to 3/4 full and turn the heat down waaaaaaay low. Add the rough chopped onions, the bay leaves, basil, oregano, pepper, some salt (you can always add more later). 

Put the lid on it and go away for an hour. This may be a good time to take a nap :)

After an hour, top up the water level to 3/4 and give the broth a taste. Add more salt if needed and whatever other seasoning you think may help. Add the diced carrot it.

Put the lid on it and go away for another hour. Hmmmm, time for another nap perhaps?

Oh yeah: if you didn't make a fresh cobb pull-apart loaf of bread this morning, then you really should have started that BEFORE you took your FIRST nap.

After the next hour, skin the leftover roast spud and chop it up finely. Add to the soup, and top the water back up to 3/4 of the pot. Taste the broth, and adjust the seasonings. Dig out the 3 bay leaves and chuck em. Turn the heat off and let it sit for an hour COVERED.

After that third hour (and another nap???), heat the rest of the bacon fat (about 2 tbsp) in a wok and add the diced potato. Fry and toss for around two mins. Then sprinkle with the flour, stir it around, and add to the soup. Put the soup pot back on low heat for 30 mins.

Serve that sucker up in some LARGE bowls cus I can tell you everyone will want lots and lots. Fresh bread for dunkers!

This is really good, I'm not joking.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Mild Malaysian

I do have to apologise for offending anyone who's reading this from SouthEast Asia... Please keep in mind I cook for a family that (until recently) thinks a pinch of ground black pepper in 2 gallons of soup is spicy and hot!

Fortunately, I've (slowly) gotten them to see the good side of spices and their uses in food. The key I've found is not to overdo it, and have plenty of cream and sour cream around to "dampen" the spices if I've miscalculated for their sensitive taste buds.

Can you tell I like to experiment in the kitchen? Huh, CAN YOU? Yes, I do like to experiment in the kitchen. 18 out of 20 times it comes out fine, 1 out of 20 is crap, and 1 out of 20 is DAMNED GOOD TUCKA!

Just a note, this will serve 4 adults with normal appetites. So, like, vary the amounts depending on how many you're serving, eh?

This recipe is one of those "Damned Good Tucka" ones... Hmmmmm, what shall we call it? Think, think, think... Ah! Got it!

Dingo Dave's Spicy Coconut Fish Over Rice

Yeah, that's a good name for a recipe, cool! Normally I like to use fresh stuff in my cooking (no preservatives or "flavour enhancers") but there I times when I have to dip into a jar of something. Fortunately, most everything in jars and cans down here (in Oz) don'ts gots no preservatives and other crap in it.

Here we go, kiddies:

What you knead:

2 or 3 tbsp olive oil (or peanut oil if you have it)

1/4 cup of minced onion
1/2 tsp to 3 tsp chilli powder (your palate, not mine)
1 tsp prepared garlic (or one crushed garlic clove)
1/2 tsp turmeric powder (keeps cancer away)
1/2 tsp dried mint leaves
1 tsp prepared ginger (or 1/2 inch grated ginger root)
1 1/2 tsp jarred lemon grass
2 tbsp tamarind paste

1 or 2 tbsp raw sugar

small can of bamboo shoots
a pound of white fish, cut into bite sized chunks (I usually use hake or hoki)
one can of coconut cream (400 mls down here, I think that's 12 oz in the US)
sour cream for garnish (optional, this is in case you have someone who doesn't like spices)
fresh coriander leaves (cilantro for you US'ns) for garnish

cooked long grain rice --hey, you gotta serve it over something!

What you due:

Put the oil in a wok and turn the gas to medium-low. At this point you'll want to start your rice cooking. For the rice I use Basmati or Jasmine, but any long grain will do. Start it cooking as you would normally (18 mins in microwave, eh).

To the hot oil add the next 8 ingredients. You'll notice I separated them so you can easily count to eight. Give the spices a quick stir and after 45 secs to a min add the water from the can of bamboo shoots. Stir it quickly and you'll find you have yourself an AWESOME smelling reddish sauce. Then add the sugar and give it one more quick stir.

The fish pieces (chunks or whatever you'd call them) go in now. Toss them around in the wok to thoroughly coat them in the sauce. Turn the heat down to low.

Pour in the coconut cream and the bamboo shoots. Give it a good stir and then let it simmer gently for 10 mins.

Well, ten min later it's done! And your rice should be done to (did you remember to put the rice in the rice cooker 18 minutes ago?).

Serve it up over a bed of rice, yummy! If you've added extra chilli and someone in the household doesn't like spicy food, then just put a dollop of sour cream over the top of theirs, no worries. Garnish with sprigs of fresh coriander and there ya go.

This is really, really, really tasty and I've been told by the clan (from the Scottish border country) that I can make it any time I'd like to. Keep in mind that these are people that used to break out in a sweat just by looking at a mild chilli pepper.

BONUS: Got some prawns? Add them in the same time you'd add the fish. Got some water chestnuts? Add them in the same time as the bamboo shoots; same goes with any veggies you want to put in, no worries.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Veggie Soup Stock

This is so tasty! It's something I've wanted to try for a while and was finally able to cus we got some fresh corn with ALL the husk on. Now I know many of you are going to say to make tamales with the husks, and others of you are going to say to grill them with the husks on (I love em that way) but no one else in the household down here will touch them that way. To them, the corn cob has to be boiled... for a long time... sigh; heathens they are!

So I always end up with a huge pile of corn husks and nothing to do with them (yes, I'll make tamales for myself and grill mine in the husk but there's still a lot left over).

So how's about making soup stock with them!? Why the heck not? Here we go with

Dave's Veggie Stock

What you need:

a big pile of fresh corn husks
lots of water
lots of sea salt
ground black pepper
dried onion flakes (I make my own)
dried red bell pepper (I make my own of them too)
dried basil

What you do:

Fill your largest stock pot with water, toss in all the corn husks. Sprinkle with sea salt, cover, and crank some heat under that sucker. Turn the heat way down once it's boiling, push down any floating corn husks (use something besides your bare hand), and then go away for an hour.

When you come back in an hour, top the water up, sprinkle in some more sea salt, add some ground black pepper, onion flakes, dried red bell pepper strips and some dried basil. Put the lid back on and go away for another hour.

Ok, you've now come back; it's been a total of two hours since you started the whole process. The stock in your stock pot should be tasting pretty darned tasty right about now. Now's the time to adjust the seasonings. Add more salt or pepper if you think it needs it (hey, they are your taste buds, not mine). If it's too salty you have two options. One is to add more water without adding more salt (I don't favor this as it dilutes the overall flavor of the stock), the other is to add a chunk or two of raw potato and simmer for another 15 to 20 mins. Take the chunks of potato out (they will be darned salty after having absorbed a lot of the salt in the stock) and do what you'd like with them (I usually chuck them in the freezer and use them to add to mashed spuds when I need to). And now your stock has been desalted without the rest of the flavor being diluted. Presto!

Well now, you should have about a gallon of good veggie stock. It should only have cost you 50 cents, maybe a dollar. You had the corn husks anyways cus of the corn cobs, a small handfull of onion flakes and a few strips of dried bell peppers are pretty cheap especially if you dry your own, and who doesn't keep salt, pepper and basil in their kitchen? Go run to a store RIGHT NOW and price how much a PINT of veggie stock is, and then look at all the crap that's been added to it! Are you back? Yeah, see: it's much better to make your own!

What to do with the stock? Well, you can use it as soup broth right now, no worries. You can toss it in the freezer for future use. Use it the next time you are making a risotto! Makes a great cream soup too! Use your imagination and your kitchen ingenuity and you'll be amazed.

Yeah, a gallon of veggie soup stock for 50 cents... pretty darned good the way food prices are, eh?