Spice Road.

I thought I had better explain my absence since I have been asked ‘what the hell is going on with the blog’ from a few people.

Spice Road has been released out into the real world after proving itself at my shop in the Central Market for the last year. I have been busy trying to push the product into kitchens around Adelaide and, through Icons store at the airport, interstate. This means I have been busy cooking for tastings and not imagining up duck recipes. I am keen to get back to my other life (cooking, styling, photographing, eating of duck) but don’t foresee much happening before Christmas. You never know though.

This photo is of the three recipes on the Spice Road to Spain recipe card. Ole.

Rosewater and vanilla creams.

I accidentally bought buttermilk instead of normal milk (the carton looked the same and I wasn’t paying the least bit of attention) so I might as well show you a really good, easy and delicious dessert from Greg Malouf (and I will probably also make pancakes). I made this dessert when I had very little time left to come up with something to finish a middle eastern dinner and it was perfect, light, not too sweet thanks to the buttermilk and easy to make and serve. I halved the quantity below to make 6 glasses.

Rosewater and vanilla creams

500 ml pouring cream plus 150 ml pouring cream, lightly whipped

1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthways, seeds scraped out with a knife

75 g castor sugar

3 sheets gelatine

500 ml buttermilk

1/4 tsp rosewater

dried rose petals for serving

Put the 500 ml cream, vanilla seeds and sugar in a saucepan and heat gently to dissolve the sugar, bring to the boil then immediately take off the heat and cool a little. Soak the gelatine in cold water until wobbly, a few minutes, squeeze the water out then add to the cream mixture and stir to dissolve completely. Strain this mixture and refrigerate to cool completely.

When the cream is cold, add the buttermilk and rosewater then fold in the lightly whipped cream. Pour into glasses and leave to set in the fridge. They will set within an hour. Serve with the rose petals sprinkled over and around the glasses. Pretty

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Sour cherry polow.

I didn’t mention duck in the title of this dish for a reason, in Persian rice dishes the meat is just for protein, the star of the dish is the rice. They like duck in Iran, particularly in the North where the rice is grown, around the Caspian sea. They grow some extraordinarily good varieties of rice in Iran, I am told, but I will have to go there to find out as there is never enough for export. For Persian polows which are flavoured rice dishes (barberry, lentil, dill and broad bean, the King of them all the jewelled rice, all great with duck, particularly the broad bean polow) and chelows which are plain or saffron flavoured, you can use the best quality basmati you can find. To find the best go to a Persian or Indian shop and ask which is the best rice they have.

Look I know you know what cinnamon, rose petals and saffron look like and probably dried limes too but the photo was rather fun to make. Dried limes are made by boiling the fresh limes in salted water then drying them in the sun. They have a really weird but loveable smell. The inside is black as you can see which leads to the name black limes, they also get called Omani limes as they are originally from Oman. They are particularly good when cooking duck, being slightly bitter and slightly sour.

The preparation and cooking of the rice is the same for all the polows and chelows, basically soak, boil then steam. All for good reason, the rice is so light, tastes delicious and surprisingly nutritious. But first for the spice blend for the rice which can be used in many of the other polows and keeps well if air and light ‘tight’.

Spice blend for Persian rice dishes: 2 tsp fennel seeds, 1 tsp coriander seeds, 5 green cardamom pods, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 2 tsp dried rose petals. Dry fry the fennel, coriander and cardamom until fragrant then pound in a mortor and pestle, pick out the casings from the cardamom seeds. Add the cinnamon and rose petals then pound some more, the rose petals will not break down much but it doesn’t matter.

For the Polow:

4 duck legs

1 onion, peeled and quartered

2 cloves garlic, crushed a bit

2 dried limes

¾ cup dried sour cherries (unsweetened)

1 tbsp white sugar

2 cups basmati rice

¼ cup raw pistachios

¼ cup blanched almonds

1 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp salt (not your best flakes but something reasonable)

2 tsp spice blend

a pinch of saffron

Put the duck legs straight into a  heavy pot with a lid add the onion, garlic and enough water to cover the legs plus a bit extra on top. Poke a few holes in the dried limes so they don’t just float around on the top not doing anything and add to pot. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and simmer 1 ½ hours. When the duck is cool enough to handle take the meat off the bones in large pieces and reserve the remaining, strained duck stock. Skim the stock for fat or if you have time refrigerate the stock and remove the congealed fat. Reserve 1 cup of stock for the polow.

When you are ready to assemble the polow, (the above steps can be done well in advance), wash then soak the rice in plenty of cold water with 1 tbsp of the salt for about 20 minutes or until it looks opaque instead of translucent. Simmer the cherries in 2 cups of water with the sugar for 15 minutes. Strain the cherries keeping the liquid, and stone them if they are not stoned already. Soak the nuts in the cherry liquid for 10 minutes then coarsely chop them, keep the liquid.

Bring a large pot of water to the boil and add the rest of the salt. Boil the rice for 3 minutes then strain it. Wash the rice with cold water and gently run a fork through the rice to separate the grains.

If you have a rice cooker then perfect, otherwise assemble the polow in a large pot in the same way. Put the olive oil in the bottom of the bowl of the rice cooker and swirl it around to coat. Sprinkle about 1/3 of the rice in the bowl then put in the duck meat, half of the cherries, half of the spice blend, half of the saffron and half of the chopped nuts. Pour over all of the duck stock. Loosely add another 1/3 of the rice, building the polow up in a pyramid shape, then add the rest of the cherries, spice blend and saffron. Top this with the remaining rice. Sprinkle over the top some of the cherry liquid, it is up to you how sweet you want this dish but I don’t use all that much, maybe 1 tablespoon altogether. Poke three holes in the rice with the end of a wooden spoon to help with the steaming. Wrap the lid of the steamer in a tea towel then turn the rice cooker on. Once it flips onto the warm setting leave the polow to steam for 15 minutes, after this time you can leave it on warm for another 15 minutes or so until you are ready to eat.

If you are using a pot on top of the stove it will pay off because you will get a really crisp tah dig, the bottom browned layer of rice. Put a tight lid on the pot, turn the heat initially up high to get the steam happening, about 7 minutes, then turn it down to as low as can go for 15 minutes to finish steaming.

To serve tip the polow onto a platter and gently mix the rice to disperse pockets stained yellow by the saffron. Sprinkle the remaining almonds and pistachios over the top.

Duck Rillettes.

Rillettes are pork, rabbit, goose or duck cooked in fat, their own if they have it or pork fat in the case of rabbit, the meat is shredded then potted and served as a cold starter. In Tours and Anjou, France, pork rillettes are known for their deep colour from almost caramelising the meat adding a rich, sweet flavour. I make rillettes from confit of duck and since I over-cooked my confit to the stage of caramelisation I shall call my rillette ‘in the style of Tours and Anjou’.

From the confit stage, pull the meat off the bones and remove the skin. Season to taste and add a pinch of quatre epices. Shred the meat by hand and press into a ramekin or other pate sized pot. Cover the rillette with a layer of the duck fat to preserve. To serve bring to room temperature, scrape off the layer of duck fat and serve with either caramelised onion, cornichons, a pear/ apple/ or other savoury fruit preserve and fresh baguette or toasted bread. 

Mantu and Boolawnee (Afghani dumplings and leek pastries).

Mantu are spiced, minced lamb dumplings, fried then steamed like Chinese jioaza, then ‘dabbed’ (not liberally coated) with a tomato sauce, minted yoghurt and some chopped coriander and spring onion. I have made them a few times, they are a crowd pleaser and quite easy. So easy that I cooked both the dumplings and the leek pastries on the fire outside since the weather was so stunning this weekend. Glossary: Baharat is a Lebanese 7 spice blend, perfect with lamb, obviously not Afghani but a good substitute.

The tomato sauce is just a shallot, finely chopped and fried in olive oil with 1/2 clove of garlic until softened. Add 2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped and a pinch of baharat. Season with salt and pepper and reduce and cook for 5 minutes. The yoghurt is a sheep milk yoghurt mixed with dried mint to taste.

For the Dumplings you will need: 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 shallots, finely chopped, 1 clove garlic, finely chopped, 500 g lamb mince, 1 tsp baharat, 1 tsp tomato paste, salt and pepper, chilli flakes or freshly chopped birdseye to taste, 1 packet of 30 sheet gow gee wrappers.

For the filling: fry the shallots and garlic in the oil over a medium heat until softened and lightly coloured, turn up the heat and add the lamb. Fry the lamb until browned, add the baharat, tomato paste and chilli then season to taste, stir and cook another minute, reduce any liquid if necessary by cooking further. Cool the mix before filling the dumplings.

To fill: put a heaped teaspoon of the mince on one half of a gow gee wrapper, wet the outside of the half with the filling, fold the other half over the filling and seal by pinching the edges together making a flat bottom as you go. Have a look at this post on ducklicious.com for filling and cooking the similar Chinese jioaza.

To cook you will need a fry pan with a lid, some frying oil and a cup of water at the ready: Heat a smear of oil, I used grape seed, and when a dumpling makes a nice frying noise when it hits the oil put in enough dumplings to fill the pan without any touching. Fry a minute until the bottoms of the dumplings are browned then add enough water to come half way up the sides of the dumplings, cover with the lid. When the water is nearly evaporated, take the lid off the pan and reduce the remaining liquid until the dumplings start to fry again. They are ready when they come away from the bottom of the pan easily, which also means they have crisped up from the second frying.

Dot them with the tomato sauce, yoghurt, sliced spring onion and fresh coriander.

For these babies you need: 2 cups of plain flour with 1/2 tsp salt and 2/3 cup cold water, also for the filling: 1 leek, more salt, olive oil and chilli flakes and grape seed oil for frying. Make a well in the flour and salt, add the water, you know the drill, make a dough, knead 5 minutes, rest 1/2 an hour or until you are going to make them. Chop the leek into a small dice, in a bowl mix the leek with 2 teaspoons salt and 2 tablespoons olive oil. With your hand macerate or knead the leek mixture to soften.

Roll the dough into a sausage, cup off 1 cm pieces and roll each into roughly 10cm disks. Fill one half with 1 teaspoon of leek mixture, wet the edge with water and fold the other half of the dough over to cover, pinch or press the edges together with a teaspoon or more traditionally a thimble.

Heat enough grape seed oil in a fry pan to just cover the pastries when 3 or 4 are added depending on the size of your pan. Fry until browned then turn and fry the other side. Serve and eat straight away, they are better when the pastry is hot and crunchy, they soften pretty quickly.

Roast lamb, baby beetroot with truffle honey & balsamic dressing, green lentils.

I was looking through old Gourmet Travellers, ruthlessly ripping out good photos and recipes that I know I will most likely cook and severely culling the pile, and I found baby beetroot with truffle honey. Think about the earthy taste of beetroot, how it needs sweetness and acidity when it is cooked and the earthy taste of truffles. I thought it would work and I built this dish around the idea.Purple carrots (or the more regular orange carrot) are friends with honey and can be cooked the same as beetroot so I bought these and styled the photo to make it look like I grew them.

Beetroot and carrots: Trim stalks and roots, rub with olive oil and season with salt, wrap in groups of about 10 in foil, put on a roasting tray lined with coarse salt ( I used Sel de Geurande) and roast at 180 degrees for 30 mins or until tender. Cool enough to peel the beetroot. Mix 1 tablespoon of truffle honey well with 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Dress beetroot and carrots while still warm.

Lentils with shallots and baby spinach: French green lentils grown in Australia are just the same as the French grown, more affordable, closer to home, and available at Jagger’s. Boil 250 or 300g to feed 2-3 in water or stock or both until cooked and if you can keep an eye on them, judge the liquid to be all absorbed and evaporated just as they are done. A little liquid left is fine. Fry 2 chopped shallots until browned and sweet, add a chopped clove of garlic and soften, add to the lentils. Season the lentils and turn through about 3 handfuls of baby spinach and 2 tablespoon chopped parsley until just wilted.

Lamb: I didn’t want to waste the sea salt so I scraped together the salt and beetroot juices from the pan, made a bed of rosemary and salt, more salt on top of the lamb, and roasted in a really hot oven for 15 minutes. I turned the oven off  and left the lamb inside because I had to take Bob to the vet. I over cooked it a bit for my liking but it was still very good, nothing can really go wrong with this quality of lamb. I got rid of a lot of the salt crust to serve but the saltiness was a really good contrast to the sweet beets and carrots. Bob was caught licking the lamb while I was taking the photo below, he seems fine now.

I sprinkled the flowers I took off the rosemary earlier over the beetroot, partly for the photo and partly to tie the lamb and the beetroot together. It was good.

Beef bourguignon.

Sunday night stew with fancy name.

I had opened a bottle of wine I just did not like  (not the one in the photo) so the next day I shopped for this beef bourguignon recipe from the SBS Food Safari web (the recipe calls for about 3/4 bottle of wine). I love this recipe from Guillaume Brahimi, he uses pureed carrot to thicken the stew instead of flour and butter giving the stew a sweet, healthy and natural texture (and also keeping it gluten free). I use oyster blade for any stew/ braise or even curry, there is plenty of gelatine through the meat which means it stays so moist and cooks to very tender in 45-1 hour on a stove top. Always serve with mashed potatoes and red wine!