Chicken and bacon congee

Dear Reader, 

How are you travelling with work and life at the moment?

Tomorrow, I’m presenting at a national scientific conference. My paper is on two Acts that occupy a good portion of my work time. I’m grateful to my workmates, who drafted the presentation for me.

This conference will be the first I will have attended for more than two years.

The conference is virtual because it is in Sydney, and Sydney currently has a significant outbreak of COVID-19. The NSW Government has implemented restrictions. 

I don’t mind the idea of virtual conferences. I know I will be safer, and I like the idea that I can participate and sleep in my bed and cook my food each day. It also means I can exercise the way I want. I like living without disruption. I like the routines I have developed. Pandemic life is my life.

Apart from work, I’ve been reading good books, listening to podcasts, and watching YouTube videos.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve read Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis, The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson, and David Wilkerson by Gary Wilkerson. I’ve also started the Westminster Confession of Faith.

My current favourite podcast is Gospel in Life, which drops a “show” thrice-weekly and features Timothy Keller, a reformed Presbyterian pastor and communicator from New York City.

I’ve been devouring YouTube videos from The Gospel CoalitionCrossway, and Desiring God. I’ve enjoyed the presentations by Kevin DeYoung, Sinclair Ferguson, John Piper, Jen Wilkin, Melissa Kruger, Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, R.C. Sproul, Sam Alberry, Joni Eareckson Tada, and Rebecca McLaughlin.

I’ve also been walking daily. I’m getting about 40 minutes each morning. I begin anywhere between 4 and 5 am, depending on when I feel like getting out of bed. On weekends, I also try to do the 6 km circuit of Lake Ginninderra each day. All up, I’m doing nearly 40 km each week. This gentle exercise has helped me feel better with less joint pain compared with this time last year.

Ingredients

  • Chicken thighs (2)
  • Diced bacon (100 g)
  • Italian arborio rice (1 cup)
  • Tri-colour quinoa (1 cup)
  • Chicken stock (4 cups)

Instructions

  1. Wash the rice and quinoa with cold water until the water is clear and not cloudy.
  2. Put the rice and quinoa into the vessel of a slow cooker.
  3. Add in the stock.
  4. Add in the chicken pieces and the bacon.
  5. Cook on low heat for 6 hours.
  6. Remove the cooking vessel and pull out the chicken thighs. Pick the skin and flesh from the chicken thigh bones and add the meat and skin back to the cooking vessel. Unless you leave the chicken thighs out for a few minutes, you’ll find the process of removing the skin and flesh unpleasant as the tips of your fingers burn from the retained heat in the meat. I recommend waiting or trying to ameliorate the problem by wearing a couple of latex gloves on each hand to dampen the transfer of heat from the meat to your nerve ending enriched fingertips.
  7. With a wooden spoon (or a metal spoon if you don’t care about scratching your cookware), break up the chicken flesh and mix it through the congee (also known as jook).
  8. Remove the congee from the cooking vessel and aliquot into containers.
  9. Serve a bowl of congee with some soy sauce.
  10. Given thanks to the Lord and eat with a spoon.

Final thoughts

  • Apart from work, how have you been spending your time?
  • What books have you been reading?
  • What podcasts have you been enjoying this last week?
  • What YouTube videos have you enjoyed lately?
  • Do you get much exercise?
  • Do you attend many professional conferences? How do you feel about virtual meetings?

Notes

  • I used Italian Arborio rice because I like using ingredients that aren’t typical. Mixing some Italian with my Chinese makes sense to me. It may not make sense to anyone else, but it works for me.
  • What is congee? Congee or jook is rice gruel. My Mum’s chicken jook is my favourite food.
  • Sinclair Ferguson is Scottish and has the most mellifluous speaking voice. 
  • In the 1980s, The Cross and the Switchblade was popular reading. Friends told me to read it then. I’m slow when it comes to recommended reading.

Celebration Pumpkin soup

What am I celebrating? 

My last head cold was in February 2020. I’ve been boastfully rejoicing that the pandemic has proven that if we as a community, if we as a society, observe some simple hygiene principles, we can reduce the number of circulating respiratory infections.

There is so much evidence now for the truth behind the importance of physical distance, hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, and staying home if unwell.

As a society, as a community, we must encourage business owners and leaders to begin the next task, which is changing infrastructure to be safer. By that, I mean increasing the number of no-touch approaches to our everyday lives, such as using sensors for doors, taps, toilets, and lifts, making better use of smartphone apps to avoid touching things.

Anyway, as we’ve opened up more and people are relaxing their observance of the mechanisms for reducing communicable respiratory infections, we see more upper respiratory tract infections. I’ve been trying to maintain my observance of physical distancing, hand hygiene, and respiratory etiquette as much as possible. But success relies on everyone doing the right thing.

This week I was infected with a respiratory viral infection. I developed nasal congestion and rhinorrhoea, and then a cough. I didn’t have any fever or headache. Given the advice I freely share with everyone, I went to the local drive-through collection centre to have specimens collected by sampling my throat and nasal mucosa for SARS-COV-2 RNA RT-PCR in ACT Pathology. 

I received my result by text message within 12 hours of the collection time, which is excellent.

COVID-19 SARS-COV-2 RNA RT-PCR result

Ingredients

  • Butternut pumpkin (1 diced)
  • Potato (1 diced)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (a good number of glugs)
  • Clive of India Curry powder (1 tablespoon)
  • Mapuche spice Chilean spice blend (1 tablespoon)
  • Cream (1 cup)
  • Sour cream (1 tablespoon)
  • Onion (chopped)
  • Bacon (diced)
  • Rye sourdough bread (1 slice)

Instructions

  1. Turn on your oven to about 180 °C.
  2. Smear some oil on the inside surfaces of a large baking tray.
  3. Lay the pumpkin pieces into the baking tray.
  4. Add a few good glugs of EVOO over the pumpkin.
  5. Sprinkle the curry powder and spice blend over the oiled pumpkin.
  6. Mix everything with a wooden spoon or if you like scratching your baking tray, use a metal spoon.
  7. Put the baking tray into the oven for 20 minutes.
  8. Remove the baking tray and pray to the Lord that the pumpkin has started to colour without sticking to the baking tray.
  9. Move everything around with the spoon of your choice.
  10. Put the baking tray back into the oven for a further 20 minutes.
  11. Remove the baking tray and again pray. This time, add in the diced potato and mix everything around. By now, the pumpkin will be soft, and the spoon you choose will deform the pumpkin.
  12. Put the baking tray back into the oven for a further 20 minutes.
  13. While the pumpkin and potato are in the oven, sautée the onion and bacon pieces in a large saucepan on low heat.
  14. When the baking tray has completed a total of 1 hour in the oven, remove it and mix everything up. By now, the pumpkin will be mushy, and the potato will be soft. The beauty of this method is there is no excess water in the soup; this means the soup is rich and unctuous.
  15. Add the mashed up pumpkin and potato into the saucepan with the onion and bacon.
  16. Mix everything around and process with a stick blender.
  17. When the mixture is smooth, put the saucepan back on the hob and add the cream and sour cream. Stir until the soup begins to simmer.
  18. Toast the rye sourdough bread.
  19. Plate up the soup with some chopped chives, garnish with basil and serve with the toast.
  20. Sit down with your plate, give thanks to the Lord for all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose. Then enjoy your soup.

Final thoughts

I think this soup would have been nice with some anchovies stirred through during the oven phase.

Lamb rack roast and roast pumpkin

Lamb rack roast with roast pumpkin and gravy.

Ingredients

  • Lamb rack
  • Kent pumpkin
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Sesame oil
  • Olive oil
  • Chilean spice rub

Instructions

  1. Dice a kent pumpkin and, in a mixing bowl, rub the pumpkin with some olive oil, salt, sugar, sesame oil, and Chilean spice rub.
  2. Spread the pumpkin on a baking sheet and put it into a moderate oven for about 45 to 50 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle salt, sugar, and Chilean spice rub onto the fat of the lamb rack roast.
  4. Cook in a moderate oven until the internal temperature reaches 55 °C.
  5. Allow the lamb rack roast to rest for about 10 minutes.
  6. Carve the roast and plate up with the pumpkin.

My first eggplant parmigiana experience

For the full recipe including the backstory to this meal, please check out Gary makes eggplant parmigiana over on Yummy Lummy!

Some new readers here may not know, the main purpose of this blog is to direct readers to my food blog so I can post links to Facebook. For reasons beyond my comprehension, Facebook has blocked all links to Yummy Lummy. I don’t know why.

Eggplant Parmigiana with steamed broccolini

Sous vide eye fillet steak with potato gem poutine plus mushrooms and crispy Brussels sprouts

Saturday night dinner is sous vide eye fillet steak with potato gem poutine (provolone and smoked cheddar cheeses and gravy) plus mushrooms and crispy Brussels sprouts.

My personality

I was chatting with a friend today about my personality.

Introverted99%
Observant56%
Feeling51%
Judging51%
Turbulent63%
My personality scores

People who really know me won’t be surprised by how introverted I am. I live alone and for now, I’m happy about that. I enjoy my own company. I’ve lived a full life, I’ve been married, I’m divorced, I’ve learnt a lot about myself, what makes me happy, what upsets me, what unsettles me, and what I think I want for my future.

One thing I know about my future, is food will be a feature. Cooking and eating. Perhaps even growing some of my food. Growing up as a little boy, my maternal grandfather spent long periods of time living with us. Mum was pretty ill when she was pregnant with my youngest brother. She’d already had two very difficult births. My grandfather converted our backyard into a market garden. I don’t have a green thumb and the thought of gardening fills me with horror, but I do have fond memories of picking and eating fresh vegetables. Fresh fruit and vegetables taste so much better than what you get in a supermarket.

Faith will also feature more in my future. I’ve been in the wilderness for a long time and around this time last year, a friend started a good thing in my life. It’s been a year of revelation and self reflection and growth.

Saturday dinner. Sous vide eye fillet steak with potato gem poutine (provolone and smoked cheddar cheeses and gravy) plus mushrooms and Brussels sprouts.

Ingredients

  • Eye fillet steak
  • Iodised salt (ground)
  • Black pepper (freshly cracked)
  • Oregano leaves (dried)
  • Potato gems (Tater tots in North America)
  • Provolone cheese (grated)
  • Smoked cheddar cheese (grated)
  • Gravox instant gravy
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Mushrooms
  • Beef dripping
  • Butter

Instructions

Steak

  1. Remove the meat from the wrapping and season liberally with salt, pepper, and oregano leaves.
  2. Vacuum seal in a food safe plastic bag.
  3. Cook sous vide in a water bath at 54 °C for 2 hours and 15 minutes.
  4. Remove the meat from the plastic bag and dry the meat with absorbent kitchen paper. Try to dry the surfaces as much as possible.
  5. Take some mushrooms and roughly break them up with your fingers rather than slice them with a knife. You want a rustic rough look to them. Although, if you feel refined, you can slice them, I was feeling like being a bit rough and rustic tonight. Not that I’m ever refined and sophisticated 🤣
  6. Heat a skillet (cast-iron if you have it) until it’s just smoking hot and add in a little beef dripping to smear the surface.
  7. With long kitchen tongs, place the meat in the skillet and press down firmly for about ten seconds and repeat this with all surfaces of the meat.
  8. After the first turn, add in some more beef dripping and butter and the mushrooms so while the meat is searing, the mushrooms are cooking and the butter is browning.
  9. Remove the meat from the skillet and set it aside.
  10. Spoon the mushrooms and sizzling dripping and butter over the steak.
  11. Allow the meat to rest for 10 minutes.
  12. Slice into just under 1 cm thick slices and hope the meat has a deep red blush to it.

Gary’s “Poutine” and Brussels sprouts

  1. Grate the cheese fresh.
  2. Slice the Brussels sprouts in half and toss in a mixing bowl.
  3. Splash in some olive oil and season the Brussels sprouts liberally with salt and pepper.
  4. Toss the Brussels sprouts with the oil and seasoning to ensure good even coverage.
  5. Heat an oven to 250 °C and place frozen potato gems (tater tots) into a baking sheet (keep to one side) and on the other side add the Brussels sprouts.
  6. Cook until the Brussels sprouts have become crispy.
  7. Remove the Brussels sprouts and then top the potato gems with the grated cheese.
  8. Cook until the cheese begins to brown. The potato gems should be crispy.
  9. Make the gravy according to the packet instructions.

Plating up

  1. Use a spatula to scoop the cheesy potato gems onto a dinner plate.
  2. Add the Brussels sprouts next to the potato gems.
  3. Lay the slices of steak over the cheesy potato gems.
  4. Place the mushrooms next to the meat and then spoon gravy over the meat, Brussels sprouts, and cheese potato gems.

Final thoughts

  1. What do you think of my version of poutine?
  2. Do you like your steak done like this?

Leftover roast beef with spaghetti and tomato sauce

Leftover roast beef with spaghetti and tomato sauce for want of a better name!

Last night I made dinner with a slow cook family roast (beef).  

Tonight I’m using some of the leftover meat with spaghetti and a tomato sauce.

Leftover roast beef with spaghetti and tomato sauce

Ingredients

  • Leftover roast beef
  • Spaghetti
  • Iodised salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Cooking sherry
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • White onion (diced)
  • Garlic
  • Red chilli flakes
  • Mutti tomatoes
  • Dried oregano
  • Basil leaves
  • Capers
  • Black olives (pitted)
  • Pickled jalapeño peppers (chopped)
  • Spring onions (sliced)
  • Provolone cheese (grated)
  • Nutmeg
  • Broccoli (steamed)

Instructions

Spaghetti

  1. I cooked the spaghetti early in the afternoon to induce resistant starch production to improve my microbiota.
  2. Bring some salted water to a rolling boil.
  3. Add the dried spaghetti and cook for the time recommended on the packet.
  4. Scoop about a cup of the starchy pasta water for adding to the tomato sauce.
  5. Drain the spaghetti, and then put it into a bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic film, and place it into the refrigerator.
  6. When it’s time to reheat the spaghetti, remove the bowl from the fridge, remove the plastic film, and add the cold spaghetti to the developed tomato-based sauce.

Leftover roast beef

  1. Remove one of the containers of leftover meat and choose one or two of the muscle bundles.
  2. Cut the meat across the muscle bundle’s grain to ensure tenderness when you place your meat in your mouth. You’ll find because the beef was a slow cook family roast, the meat will lose its integrity when stirred through the tomato sauce. The loss of muscular cohesion is a good thing.

Tomato-based sauce

  1. In a stainless steel skillet, gently sweat some onion, garlic, and red chilli flakes in butter and olive oil. I don’t like to aggressively sweat onion and garlic, because I don’t want the onion and garlic to impart a burnt flavour.
  2. Turn up the heat to make some fond, i.e., the brown stuff that sticks to the pan’s bottom.
  3. Deglaze the fond with some cooking sherry.
  4. Add the tin of Mutti tomatoes and bring it to a simmer.
  5. Add in the oregano leaves, basil leaves, capers, olives, and pickled jalapeño peppers.
  6. Cook for a few minutes while everyone gets to know one another in the skillet.
  7. It’s now time to put the cold spaghetti into the sauce.
  8. Stir the spaghetti through so the sauce coats and adheres to the surface of the pasta.
  9. Add in the slices of meat and stir through, so the skillet contents all get to know one another intimately.
  10. Add in the saved cold pasta water to help thicken the sauce a little.
  11. Turn off the heat and add a couple of nudges of butter and stir through.

Plating up

  1. Transfer the skillet contents into a shallow bowl.
  2. Add some grated provolone cheese.
  3. Add some freshly grated nutmeg using a Microplane.
  4. Serve the steamed broccolini as a side dish in the style of my BFF.

Final thoughts

  1. How would you name this meal?
  2. Did you know the brown stuff that forms on the bottom of a pan is called fond?

Slow cook Family Roast

Slow cook Family Roast

I wasn’t sure what to cook today. It’s a colder day and overcast with some poor weather in Sydney.

At Coles, I saw some short ribs, and then I saw what I assume is an eye fillet roll.

Slow cook roast beef in packaging
Slow cook roast beef in packaging

Ingredients

  • Slow cook family roast (1.5 kilograms of meat)
  • Carrots (diced)
  • Onions (chopped)
  • Celery (sliced)
  • Beef stock (1 Litre)
  • Cooking sherry (1 cup)
  • Mustard powder (2 teaspoons)
  • Worcestershire sauce (2 tablespoons)
  • Brussels sprouts (halved)
  • Horseradish cream
  • Broccolini
  • Baby green peas

Instructions

Meat instructions slow cook family roast

  1. Heat your oven to about 150 °C.
  2. Unwrap your meat from its tight plastic coating.
  3. Dry your meat with absorbent kitchen paper.
  4. Season your meat with lots of iodised salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  5. Prepare your carrots, onions, and celery and place them into the bottom of a large casserole.
  6. Place your seasoned meat onto the bed of carrots, onions, and celery.
  7. Pour in the litre of beef stock as well as the cooking sherry and Worcestershire sauce. 
  8. Add in the mustard powder.
  9. Place the lid on the casserole and put it into the oven for four hours.
  10. After four hours, remove the lid from the casserole and continue to cook for 45 minutes.
  11. Add the halved Brussels sprouts to the casserole around your meat and atop the hot fat rendering from your piece of meat.
  12. After 45 minutes, remove the casserole from the oven and rest your meat. Because your meat will be firm with heat, you want your meat to relax and loosen up for that perfect mouthfeel of fatty, juicy and moist meat on your tongue.
  13. Lift your meat from the casserole and place it into a shallow bowl and cover with aluminium foil for 15 minutes.
  14. Remove the Brussels sprouts and place them into another bowl.
  15. Once your meat has rested, dissect it along the muscle planes. Place the large muscle bundles into plastic containers for the refrigerator for future meals. 
  16. Place half of the Brussels sprouts into plastic containers, too, for future meals.
  17. Leave aside the fat cap, which has become crunchy on top during the final 45 minutes of cooking. You’ll notice the fat has rendered, and the remaining connective tissue has become crispy. The fat cap meat may be cooked well-done, but because of the amount of fat and the loose muscle fibre structure, this meat is not only tender but delicious.

Vegetable instructions for the slow cook family roast

  1. Wash the broccolini and then saute in a skillet.
  2. Add the frozen baby green peas to the same skillet and some of the fatty meat liquid from the casserole and put a lid on the skillet for 3 minutes.

Plating up instructions for your slow cook family roast

  1. In a shallow bowl, spoon in the peas to act a comfy bed for your meat.
  2. Place your meat atop the peas.
  3. Place the broccolini next to the meat on one side of the bowl and the Brussels sprouts opposite.
  4. Add a large dollop of horseradish cream to your meat.

Final thoughts on your slow cook family roast

  1. What’s your favourite way of cooking large pieces of beef?
  2. What other vegetables do you enjoy with beef?
  3. Do you like horseradish cream?

One pork knuckle gave me six meals

One pork knuckle gave me six meals.

On Saturday night, I cooked a pork knuckle for dinner and had enough leftover for four more meals. Here is what I did with that one pork knuckle for readers on a budget and cooking for one.

Saturday night

Pork knuckle with crackling on potato mash with green vegetables.

Pork knuckle with crispy crackling, potato mash, Brussels sprouts, and baby green peas.

Sunday dinner

Laksa-flavoured pork knuckle curry

Sunday tea. Laksa-flavoured leftover pork knuckle meat with coconut creamed rice and a side of broccoli.

Monday lunch

Pork knuckle meat with cherry tomatoes and cucumber.

Pork knuckle, cherry tomatoes, and cucumber

Tuesday dinner

Oven-cooked laksa-flavoured pork knuckle curry

Leftover oven baked pork knuckle laksa-flavoured rice curry with asparagus and Brussels sprouts. Cooked in the oven to make the rice crunchy.

Wednesday lunch

Pork knuckle meat with cherry tomatoes and cucumber.

Pork knuckle Cherry tomatoes Cucumber Coffee

Wednesday dinner

Pork knuckle meat with a tomato-based sauce

Leftover oven-baked pork knuckle with tomatoes and bocconcini plus lentils and broccoli
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