In some very exciting news I have teamed up with Mrs Woog for a podcast we have ingeniously called Woog & Berry. Stay tuned, we should be going live in early December. Such a development!
In our first episode we talk about #everyfuckingnight and just how many things you can do with mince. Preferably we steer clear of 70s favourites of curried mince but embrace the rissole. I of course had to go all show pony and talk about this Thai mince, properly referred to as Laab.
It is an absolute snap to make and oddly enough all of my kids eat it. Granted I can not guarantee all of yours will but it is damn tasty and even if they have a bowl of cereal for dinner again you get something good down your gullet.
I have a group of friends that range from school days, through university and up to Twitter who try to get together once every four to six weeks to have dumplings. We call ourselves the Twitter Lunch Club, TLC for short, which is appropriate because sometimes emergency dumpling summits are held if one of us is in crisis.
One of the dishes we have at our favourite dumpling establishment is this pork dish, served at room temperature which is covered in this thick, sweet, addictive sauce. I can’t recall what it’s called on the menu, we sit there and reel off dish numbers to minimise delay in getting food on the table.
But I’m here to tell you I have replicated it. I’m certain it will take me a couple more goes to perfect it but sweet LORD it is good.
As with basically everything I cook it is not technically hard but this one does take time. I actually did it over two days because I realised after I’d started I’d really left my run too late.
This recipe for dongo pork (best name ever) comes from my current favourite cookbook, Adam Liaw’s Asian Cookery School. He won Australian Masterchef a few years back and has done so much to make Asian cookery more accessible to those of us wary of the wok.
I bought my pork belly from an Asian butcher, their pork is always far superior to what you get at a skippy* one.
This week I’m finally getting to write about when I met chef Ben O’Donoghue a few months back. It was actually a PR event and the first I’d done in more than a year. Technically we were there to talk about how effective Fairy dishwashing liquid and dishwasher tablets but it provided the perfect opportunity to eat sweet, spicy, sticky pork for breakfast.
I’ve loved Ben’s cooking from a lifetime ago when he did a series in the UK called The Best. He, along with Paul Merrett and Silvana Franco, would each cook to a certain theme – the best sandwich, tasty fish suppers, cool salads – then their dishes would be presented to a group of punters who’d choose their favourite dish. They did an Australian version, which Ben was also in, but it didn’t have the same vibe as the UK one.
Anyway, I love his style of cooking and he’s about to open new digs in BrisVegas so if you’re up that way you’ll need to go and check it out.
Things I did differently:
Ben uses 100gm of horseradish in the sauce – I felt it was way too much so just used a heaped tablespoon
I have made the sauce and left out the horseradish and rum and it is still a very tasty sauce
Play with the amount of chilli flakes but it does mellow. My non-spicy eating children love it. I’ve settled on using 2 teaspoons.
Twice cooked pork with bbq sauce
Adapted from Ben O’Dohoghue
The Chef and I - Ben O'Donoghue's twice cooked pork belly with bbq sauce
So how’s all that ham going? I basically lose interest with it the minute Christmas lunch is over so much of my time is occupied with recipes using the leftover ham. To, you know, use the remaining SIX kilos of it.
Christmas was wonderful. A relaxed day here feeding family with lots of laughter, delicious food and plenty of sparkling shiraz.
It was followed by my MIL’s birthday celebration, also here. It will go down in history as the Festival of Ham. With cheesecake. Divine divine cheesecake.
The boys have all been rather delicious – I believe I will look back on this next little episode of our lives with a full heart. My boys are not babies anymore and who they will be is slowly revealing itself – a process I feel absolutely blessed to witness. Even if at times my head wants to explode from the less pleasant aspects of it.
Oscar loves his basketball hoop for the trampoline – possibly the finest example of highway robbery by a company I’ve ever been party to. Felix is smitten with his cruiser skateboard and ZOMG he will be 13 this year and that makes my chest tighten. Jasper got his long-pined-for Halo rocket ship. A Megabloks hellzone. There were three lots of tears on Christmas Day at being so overwhelmed by it. I ended up building most of it. Ask my chiropractor how that worked out for everyone. Grover was conflicted, apparently Santa “got it wrong” with his Lego but all was forgiven with a Dr Who sonic screwdriver.
Mum’s left knee has totally packed it in – she’s basically incapacitated so between the two of us we cut quite a pair.
What better way to counter chronic pain and, in mum’s case, now unavoidable joint replacement surgery in 2013 than eating ham. A lot of ham.
Ham and potato pie
Shortcrust pastry – you can NOT go past Maggie Beer’s sour cream pastry, it has revolutionised my fear of working with pastry – it’s hugely forgiving, ridiculously easy to work with and tastes DIVINE.
5-6 waxy potatoes – cooked, peeled and cut into 1/2-1cm slices
700g ham, sliced thinly off the bone
handful fresh basil, finely chopped
handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
salt and pepper
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup milk
Preheat oven to 180C and grease a 24cm springform tin
Roll out 2/3 of the pastry to about 3mm thick and line the tin – try and do it in one whole piece but don’t stress if it breaks – just smoosh the broken edges together
Place a layer of the potatoes in the bottom, top with ham, then scatter over herbs and seasoning – go light on the salt depending on how salty your ham is
Keep layering and end with ham and herbs then press the filling down firmly
Mix the eggs with the milk and cream, pour over the layers then pop a pastry lid on the top, cut some slits in it and glaze if you feel so inclined
Let it sit for 1/2 hour and then bake for 1-1.5hrs. I always bake it for 1.5 and it comes out a treat – just stick a knife in it and if it’s piping hot it’s good to go.
Leave it to sit for 10-15 minutes once it’s done and then serve with a simple green salad.
Dumplings make everything better. That’s it really. I had a complete brain fart the other week but a dumplings session with Woogs, Sarah and the world righted itself toot sweet.
And don’t be nervous about working with the gow gee wrappers, they are remarkable robust and if sealing them with the little fancy folds is too intimidating then just moisten the edges fold the pastry over and voila, gorgeous half moons of goodness.
Now, what follows is two recipes for you. The first is the one I have always used in the past, the other from Adam Liaw, winner of Season 2 of MasterChef Australia. I made this on the weekend and think it worth including here. The flavour is a lot more delicate and look, it’s just so easy.
I tend to make a big batch of the filling and then freeze containers of what is left over so I can whip up another batch down the track. Sorted.
Pork and garlic chive dumplings
250g fatty minced pork (do not come over all healthy on me, you need the fat for flavour)
1tbsp very finely grated ginger
1/2 cup coarsely chopped garlic chives
2tbsp Shaoxing wine
40 gow gee wrappers
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well, for a good 10 minutes and season well
Adam Liaw’s pork dumpling filling
1kg fatty pork
1 cup finely chopped and blanched Chinese cabbage
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2tsp grated ginger
1tbsp white vinegar
1/2tsp white pepper
Mix all the ingredients together and knead for about 10 minutes. Refrigerate for 30 minutes
Use it as is or add other flavourings now. (I’ve used some rehydrated Chinese mushrooms finely chopped and finely chopped water chestnuts)
To assemble and cook:
Place a heaped teaspoon of mix in the centre of the wrapper, dab water around the edge and seal. Make sure there’s no air in the pocket with the meat. Either seal as a half moon shape or then bring the bottom of one side up, and again and again to make a little parcel.
If using in a soup or to simply boil, drop into boiling water and once they rise to the surface cook for a further two minutes and then remove.
For pot stickers – heat a little oil in the frypan and add the dumplings. Brown a little and then add water half way up the sides of the dumplings. Keep cooking, shaking the pan a little every now and then until the water has evaporated and the dumplings are left to fry again.