Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Mexican Pulled Pork with tortillas

In preparing this dish of Mexican Pulled Pork with tortillas, my mind flew back to the time I visited Mexico many years ago. It was an excursion during a tour of the USA, and we did a day trip to Tijuana, from San Diego.

I honestly can’t remember what we ate, probably something in a cafĂ© – we did eat a lot of ‘soup and salad’ while in the US, and I recall drinking some 7UP in Tijuana. I was pretty excited about the duty-free shopping there and picked up some Estee Lauder perfume (!!!) because, at the time, the Aussie dollar was hopeless against the greenback, so Mexico was fairly cheap in comparison. I also bought some little handcrafted dolls from a street vendor, as souvenirs.

Well, Tijuana was hot and dry and a bit grimy, and it was a relief to get back onto our pink tour bus/coach for the journey back. The most exciting part of the trip was having the coach searched at the border, with the armed guards looking at the underside of the bus and in the hold for any stowaways. When they realised it was just a bus full of gawking, English-speaking tourists, they lost interest and waved us through without even checking our passports. So much for any hoped-for intrigue, because there was none, so it was a rather sanitised visit, as far as I was concerned.

This recipe can also be made in a pan on the stove – just simmer for 1½ hours and you too can experience the flavours (though slightly restrained) of Mexico.

Mexican Pulled Pork
serves 4

2 tblsp olive oil
500g piece pork scotch fillet
2 medium brown onions, sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tblsp ground cumin
2 dried bay leaves
400g can diced tomatoes
Flour tortillas or rice
Avocado, green chilli and lime wedges, to serve

1. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Sear the pork on all sides until browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer the pork to a slow cooker.

2. Heat the remaining oil in the pan and add the onion, cooking until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, cumin and bay leaves and cook for another 1 minute.

3. Stir in the tomatoes plus ½ cup of cold water. Season with salt and pepper, then bring to the boil. Remove from the heat.

4. Pour the tomato mixture over the pork in the slow cooker and cook on Low for 6 hours.

5. When ready to serve, remove the pork from the cooker and shred the meat using 2 forks.

6. Heat the tortillas, if using, and top with the pork and some of the tomato sauce. Serve with sliced chilli and lemon wedges. Alternatively, serve the pork and sauce with rice.

recipe adapted from

Ingredients, including tomatoes, onion, cumin, bay leaves and pork, and a lime, green chilli and avocado for later.
The pork is shredded with forks ('pulled') after it's cooked, and just look at that luscious meat.

Serve the pork and its sauce on warmed flour tortillas with the chilli and lime.
The avocado ended up being hard as a rock, so I didn't use it in the end and replaced it with some salad leaves.

Make like Speedy Gonzales (who is from Guadalajara, Mexico) to get your hands on this delicious dish.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Berry nice: mini strawberry tarts

There has been a young guy selling strawberries on the local main street in the past couple of weeks, a pallet of rather healthy-looking berries laid out on the footpath in front of him as he greets passers-by. The strawberries are quite tasty, though the price is more than the nearby supermarket charges.

I had to know, is it really strawberry season, for the prices to be fairly low and the fruit so plentiful? So I looked up my culinary encyclopaedia (Stephanie Alexander’s Cook’s Companion). It says that strawberries are of the genus Fragaria, which is a member of the rose family. They are harvested in southern Australia during summer, and in Queensland (northern Australia) during winter. The peak season is September to January (spring to mid-summer here). And, get this, “some berries appearing in the Southern states during winter may not be worth eating”.

Forewarned is forearmed, as the saying goes. However, the strawberries around at the moment all seem pretty good, and very reasonably priced. Good enough motive to dig in and enjoy the bounty. And do I have a recipe for you (or, rather, Donna Hay does).

Mini strawberry tarts
makes 6

30g butter
¼ cup caster sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 tblsp water
250g strawberries, hulled and halved
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed

1. Place the butter, sugar, vanilla and water into a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to the boil, stirring while the sugar dissolves, then cook for another 2 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Lightly grease six holes of a 1/3-cup muffin tin. Place the strawberries in the holes, then spoon over the butter/sugar syrup.
3. Cut rounds of puff pastry to fit over the muffin holes, then put the pastry over the strawberries, pushing in the edges to cover the strawberries.
4. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the pastry is golden. To serve, carefully use a spoon to remove the tarts from the tin (be careful, they’re hot!). Tarts are best eaten while still warm.

recipe adapted from donna hay (dec/jan 2012)
Lovely strawberries.
Place the strawbs into a muffin tray, then cover with caramel and puff pastry.

Gorgeous red tarts, coveted by the queen of hearts.

Check out the Sweet Adventures Blog Hop: Berry Nice to Meet You!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Mr Wong, Sydney

Who hasn't realised that the new Merivale restaurant, Mr Wong, has arrived?
They certainly know how to build up the excitement, with the Merivale marketing machine in overdrive with the tweets and the emails and goodness knows what else announcing the imminent opening of star chef Dan Hong's latest venture.

There was a tweet last week saying that the restaurant, in Bridge Lane, Sydney, was a day early in its prep and was opening right now! So when we went there for lunch on Saturday, it had been going off for only two and a bit days. You wouldn't know it, though, it already runs like a well-(sesame)-oiled machine.

Entrance to the restaurant. It is in the former Tank nightclub site, on the lower ground floor of the Establishment complex in George Street. Lots of heavy wooden beams, exposed pipes, open kitchens.

Dan Hong in da kitchen.

The menu is mainly nouvelle Cantonese. The food is fabulous.
There were 2 of us for lunch, with its dim sum menu. This is what we had.
Warning: Lots of pictures and a corny advert at the end.

This is chicken and jellyfish salad with pig's ear ($14).
Just like the salads in Chinatown, with smooth poached chicken and crunchy jellyfish and pig's ear in sesame oil. Lots of coriander (unfortunately for me, the coriander-hater).

Foie gras prawn toast ($12) was piping hot, with fresh oil used to fry the prawn on bread. The subtle but the unmistakeable flavour of foie gras takes this to another level.

Sichuan steak tartare ($18) had sweet-tasting undertones and a chilli oil kick, and the raw steak was nicely tender. Topped with fried garlic slices and served with fried crispbread (like pappadums) and refreshing cucumber slices.

Abalone chicken shumai ($9.80) had tiny, tender abalone atop chicken mince. Intense flavour in the chicken, maybe from shiitake mushrooms. Wish they served this at normal yum cha places.

There is a roast meat section on the menu, and freshly roasted ducks and chickens hanging in the kitchen. Out the back are dozens of denuded raw ducks ready for their tanning treatment.
Those doors (above right) are for the toilets.

We only ordered one main, Salt and Pepper Calamari ($27).
Again, good frying technique results in tender calamari coated in lots of salt, pepper and spices such as star anise. Quite salty, but moreish.

Tsingtao beer ($9) and silver jasmine tea ($2 per person).
I must say that this was the most fragrant, beautiful jasmine tea I've had in a restaurant. The waitstaff don't seem to recognise the international signal of teapot-refilling-needed, though (lid askew on the pot).

The only criteria I had for ordering the other dishes was, "Must leave room for dessert".
Mr Wong's deep-fried ice cream with butterscotch sauce ($14) was eagerly awaited - and quickly eaten.
Fresh cake crumbs around the ice cream, but for me, the butterscotch sauce was to die for. 

I ordered the roast white chocolate ice cream with yuzu curd, longans and raspberries ($14).
One word: OMG!
The citrusy yuzu curd was the perfect foil to the smooth ice cream. There was also some biscuit crumbs in there, making the dish like a deconstructed something. 

In case you hadn't noticed, I really, really like Mr Wong. Excellent food, wonderful atmosphere.
The waitstaff are dressed like stereotypical French waiters, with black waistcoats and long white aprons. The open kitchens are filled with industrious workers who are surprisingly quiet, and it's the diners who are the noisy ones as they enjoy their meal and each other's company. It's probably not the type of place your traditional Chinese parents might enjoy (the prices!), but like Red Lantern on Riley, it's a Gen X-Y-Z version of what the parents like.

By the way, I'm definitely showing my age, but do you remember that ad from the 80s? It went like this:

Scene: A group of Aussie tourists in Hong Kong with their tour guide
Tourist: Mr Wong! Mr Wong! 
Mr Wong: What is it?
Tourist: I've lost all my traveller's cheques!
Mr Wong: Ohhh. What kind were they?
Tourist: American Express...
Mr Wong: Ahhh, they have an office right here in Hong Kong!
Smiles and nods all round.

And that's how this new Mr Wong makes you feel, all happy that everything is right in the foodie world.

Mr Wong is at 3 Bridge Lane, Sydney (enter via Pitt St or Bridge St).
ph: 02 9240 3000

Mr Wong on Urbanspoon
Mr Wong on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Unboring Brussels sprouts and lentils

I just realised how booorrrring the title of this post sounds.
Brussels Sprouts (erk!)
Lentils (double-erk!!)

 But please don’t change the channel just yet. This is a surprisingly tasty little dish that, when served with something meaty – like roast lamb, maybe? – will make you feel that being vegetarian might not be so bad after all. You’d just need to give up roast lamb.

Hope you like it anyway. I did, and wasn’t bored at all!

Brussels sprouts and lentils
serves 4 as a side

¼ cup Puy lentils, rinsed and drained
500g (1 lb) Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
3 tblsp butter
1 tblsp olive oil
2 eschalots, sliced

1 tblsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tblsp olive oil

1. For the lentils: place the lentils in a small saucepan with 2 cups of cold water. Bring to the boil over medium heat, then simmer for 20 minutes, until the lentils are soft. Drain and rinse with cold water and set aside.
2. For the Brussels sprouts: bring a saucepan of salted water to the boil and cook the sprouts for 2 minutes. Drain and set aside.
3. Heat the butter and olive oil in a frying pan over high heat. Add eschalots and cook for 5 minutes until softened and browned. Add Brussels sprouts and cook for 5 more minutes, until golden.
4. For the dressing: whisk the dressing ingredients together with salt and pepper.
5. To serve: combike the sprouts and eschalots together with the lentils in a bowl. Pour over the dressing and toss together.

recipe from Donna Hay magazine

Ingredients: Brussels sprouts, lentils and eschalots

The Brussels sprouts are blanched in boiling water before being tossed in a hot frying pan

Golden Brussels sprouts and Puy lentils - a vegetarian delight (except for the butter)!