pumpkin infused brisket

With fear of repeating myself, I am trying with all my might not to start with post by saying how much I love my slow cooker. But it’s true. As well as using it for soups and stews in the winter, my favourite use of it is for slow cooking brisket.

Brisket is a fatty cut of beef which, while generally quite tough, turns tender when cooked over a long period of time. The flavour is deep, the meat is rich and falls apart at the slightest touch.

Cooked in a smoky barbeque or chipotle sauce, it’s great for Texan-style pulled beef sandwiches. I often drown a slab it in diced tomatoes to make a deliciously moreish Bolognese sauce, but this time I wanted to try something a little different.

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I found a portion of frozen pumpkin soup in the depth of my freezer and thought it was an opportune moment to get some experimentation underway.

The flavour of my soup was fresh and cooling; laced with dried limes and cumin seeds so I wanted the meat to be spicy in contrast. I coated the meat in a dry rub of dried herbs, curry powder, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, ginger and lots of black pepper and set it to one side.

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Next, I diced an onion into the thinnest slithers I could manage and crushed a couple of cloves of garlic. I threw it all into the crock pot with a glug of oil and nestled my brisket on top, dusting the leftover spices in as well. I coated the meat with my pre-made soup; a little under two cups. As a final touch, I added a homemade stock cube and ½ a cup of water to get the flavours circulating.

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After leaving it to stew all day, I pulled the meat apart with two forks and added half a red pepper, thinly sliced. Starting with a bed of roasted new potatoes, I added a layer of shredded spinach and topped with a heaped serving of brisket and a sprinkling of fresh herbs. The heat of the meat cooks the spinach slightly, without wilting it beyond recognition so the dish didn’t come across as too heavy which is great for any hearty meal when it’s not winter!

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pumpkin and lime soup

The in-between part of the seasons can be lethal; I have a habit of being too optimistic as Winter gives way to Spring and too idealistic as the days begin to shorten as Summer leaves us. That is a roundabout way of saying that I often find myself dressing for what I want the weather to be, rather than based on what the weather really is. And that is just a long way of saying that I always get sick in the in-between seasons; I am the only person I know who can manage to get a chest-rattling cough, bordering on pneumonia in the last month of spring.

But it happens. Routinely. And I find myself craving warm, wintery comfort food a good six weeks on either side of winter. One of my winter staples is pumpkin soup; creamy and fragrant with spices and exotic flavours, the aroma could almost transport you to a warmer place when the city is monochromatic and grey.

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Pumpkin soup is so versatile; lace it with cumin and coriander for a cooling summer snack or pack it with spices in the winter. I often make a soup version of these pumpkin chips… or maybe the soup is the inspiration for the chips – who knows?! I also find an explosion of citrus in the mix brings it together nicely.

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Here’s how I do it:

Take a whole pumpkin and riddle it with holes with a sharp knife or metal skewer and microwave on medium for about 15 minutes so it is easier to cut and then add it to the slow cooker – cutting and peeling raw pumpkin is the bane of my existence, I hate it!

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Add a cup of water or stock, a tablespoon of peanut butter, a teaspoon of red curry paste, a pinch of cumin, coriander and cinnamon, a bay leaf and two or three slithers of dried lime and cook on low for 6 hours. Mash or blend – depending on how you like it, stir through a dollop of cream and you’re ready to eat!

I can’t stress enough how the addition of the lime elevates the flavour; it’s a subtle tang, a sweetly acidic bite that’s mellowed by the pumpkin’s creamy smoothness.

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With or without the lime, you can never beat soup on a dreary day. It is guaranteed to improve your mood; I once had pumpkin soup every day for 3 weeks just to get through the awfulness that is winter!

What’s your favourite winter soup?

did someone say satay?

My post a few weeks back about the markets of Marseille made me think about a couple of things. The reminder of the amazing range of spices, flavours and smells; so foreign to the traditional French style of cooking, made me think about the flavours of my childhood.

I grew up with an eclectic mix of flavours and cooking styles – like most of New Zealand, and trying new dishes from exotic cultures was not an uncommon occurrence. There is one dish that does stand out in my memory particularly, and that is peanut satay. Until last week, I didn’t realise how much I missed this mildly spicy, nutty sauce with its rich, dark-yellow, turmeric-induced colour.

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So I decided to make some, for this instalment of Chippie Tuesday.

The French are not known for their tolerance of spicy food – far from it in fact, and when the nation has a love affair with sweetness that runs as deeply as it does here, the thought of eating salty peanut butter for breakfast is so unimaginable that it is almost impossible to find decent peanut butter anywhere. So I sacrificed a tablespoon of my dwindling stock for this recipe.

Mix a teaspoon of turmeric, a tablespoon of peanut butter and a tablespoon of red curry paste with a healthy drizzle of olive oil and another drizzle of warm water. Briskly mix until you have a consistently smooth paste – the only lumps should be the bits of peanuts… unless you’re using smooth peanut butter, which you shouldn’t be doing, because crunchy is where it’s at.

Peel and hollow out half of a small pumpkin, half it and slice into thin slices, as thin as you can get them – a mandolin with make easy work of it, or a sharp knife will suffice. As you may have noticed recently, I am a bit addicted to pumpkin, obviously any root veg will do; potato, sweet potato or even carrot.

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Toss the veges through your sauce until they are all nice and coated, distribute them evenly over a baking tray and bake at 180°C until crisp and golden, rotating every once in a while; this will take about 30 minutes.

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The beauty of this recipe is that you don’t really need to prepare any sauce to go with them – they are baked in the sauce! However, if you are like me and didn’t judge the levels of spiciness too well, you might want to prepare a little yoghurt sauce or cucumber dip to cool things off a little!

chippie tuesday

On several occasions I have entered into the debate of whether or not polenta is an ingredient that should be celebrated or scorned; usually debating on the celebratory side. While today’s recipe is not exactly directly linked with polenta, there are definitely some polenta-inspired elements to it.

Like the majority of human beings who have ever eaten polenta chips, I am a fan. Simple as that. In fact, I am a fan of almost every kind of chip; which is why I have a whole series of chip-orientated posts in the pipeline- stay tuned! I might even go as far as saying I could devour a sizzling bowl of polenta chips faster than their French fry equivalents.

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During one of my many episodes of craving, fantasising and googling unique food combinations, my mind drifted to roast pumpkin, then to polenta fries, and then back to pumpkin. Before I knew it, my brain had fused the two together and right in front of me was a scribbled and makeshift recipe for pumpkin polenta fries.

This recipe is an expansion of a simple pot of pumpkin puree, I had no real idea about what I was doing, or if it was going to work out- but that is how most of my creations begin! I added half a cup of milk and half a cup of polenta to the mashed equivalent of a small pumpkin, along with a knob of butter, a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper. I wanted to harness the milk’s creaminess and the polenta’s absorption to create a firm mixture, the nutty flavour and texture was an added bonus!

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Spread into a thick slab on a cling-filmed baking tray, I resisted the urge to eat the mixture then and there, instead, enjoying the sweet scented steam while it cooled. The next day dragged on; all I could think about was the bright orange mixture chilling in my refrigerator. Alas, I knew that this was a necessary step for the mixture to hold its shape.

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That night, I sliced the mixture into thick fingers and carefully removed them from the tray. I coated them in flour with a hint of cayenne pepper, which I love because of the tingly warmth that it gives you.

Not one to ever deep fry anything, I oven baked them like my churros, at 180°C for 45 minutes, rotating them every 10 minutes. The timing on one oven is always going to differ from the next, so it is best to keep an eye on them and leave them until they are a shade that you find most desirable.

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Unlike your average Kiwi, I detest tomato sauce, so instead I served mine with a quick Greek yoghurt sauce- yoghurt, lemon juice and ground cumin. And then I ate them in bed; paradise.