Monday, 28 January 2013

Storms, Sangria and Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Manly Daily newspaper
Manly Daily newspaper

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,

Of ragged mountain ranges,

Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror 
The wide brown land for me!

- excerpt from poem by Dorothea Mackellar, 1904

Yes, I am starting my blog with a poem. I took a walk earlier this week with my friend, Fran, and complained how crazy the weather is in Sydney, Australia. She mentioned this classic poem, and even though it's 100+ years old, it still holds true today.

When we moved here and I told people that we were from the San Francisco Bay area, they mentioned that Sydney itself and the weather must remind me of San Fran. LOL - nothing could be further from the truth! In Sunnyvale, we had 9 months of consistently sunny, dry, warm days and 3 months of a rainy season. The weather here is erratic and unpredictable. I don't look at the forecast beyond 36 hours as it can change and often does. Last weekend, we had wild weather - 10 inches of rain in 1 day. There was flooding in both New South Wales and in Queensland. Our local beaches have had up to 12 ft waves all week and the only ones in the water are the very good surfers. The rain is back and I'm watching the Southerly blow trees and cause whitecaps on the waves out my window. It has also started to thunder and lightning - a storm is a brewing...again. 

This weather leads me to pull out my UGG slippers, drink and take out the crockpot. The 2 recipes below are easy to make, they just require planning as they both need to be made 8+ hours ahead of time. 


Sangria is a wine punch typically drunk at informal events in Spain and Portugal. It is a nice change from wine and beer and is great with Mexican food and grilled food/BBQs.  

original recipe altered from Cook's Illustrated
2 large juice oranges, washed; one orange sliced; one juiced

1 large lemon, washed and sliced

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup Triple Sec

1 bottle Pinot Noir or Merlot or Roja wine

1. Add sliced orange and lemon and sugar to large pitcher; mash gently with wooden
spoon until fruit releases some juice, but is not totally crushed, and sugar dissolves,
about 1 minute. 

2. Juice the other orange and stir in pitcher with Triple Sec and wine. Refrigerate for at least 8 hrs.

3. Before serving, add 6 to 8 ice cubes and stir briskly to distribute settled fruit and  pulp; serve immediately.

What the recipe doesn't tell you:

- This recipe serves 2 people; double or triple it for a party.

- Wash the outside of oranges and lemon well as many have pesticides.

- You can add other fruits to the orange and lemon as well - stone fruits are a good addition

- The original recipe suggests a cheap Merlot. I think cheap wines = big hangovers. Investing in a $10-$15 bottle is worth it. If you like a full bodied wine, use Merlot or Rojo. If you prefer a light red, Pinot works.

- Refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight for best flavour.

- Do not take out the pieces of fruit before serving. It looks better with the fruit plus the fruit tastes good and is quite potent.

Pulled Pork with homemade BBQ Sauce
One of my daughter's favorite meals is Pulled Pork. It is so easy to make and tastes great. I love using the crockpot as I don't have to do much and the meat always comes out so tender. I like my Pulled Pork with corn bread and coleslaw while the girls like it on a bun with lettuce. You can usually get 2 dinners out of this recipe

 I have also included a recipe for homemade BBQ sauce. I decided to make it when I looked at the ingredients on the jar of my BBQ sauce and was shocked to see how much sugar and other junk was in it. I was put off by the long list of ingredients but happy to find that I had all the needed ingredients for the homemade version in my pantry. I didn't agree with all his proportions (original recipe looks too sweet) so I changed them and it turned out well. If you don't have the time to make it from scratch, a bottle of BBQ sauce works.

PS - I sometimes substitute a leg of lamb for the pork. Braising the lamb in a crockpot all days helps to lessen the gamey smell and flavor of the lamb.

 3-4lb (1.5+kg) pork shoulder or roast
1 bottle beer (optional)
3 cups beef stock (5 cups if no beer)

Homemade BBQ Sauce (original recipe from Matt Preston, altered)

vegetable oil

1 large onion, chopped fine
2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 cups tomato ketchup2 tsp mustard powder
4 tbsp treacle/Molasses2 tsp allspice
2 tsp paprika
4 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Apple cider vinegar (optional)
Brown sugar (optional)Bourbon (optional)

1- Leave twine & fat on pork and cook in oven 400F/200C for 25 minutes. Do not leave longer as meat will get too cooked and will taste tough later.

2- Place pork in crockpot and cover with beer and stock. Put on Low Setting and cook for 8+hrs.

3- Several hours before serving, start making the BBQ sauce - heat large saucepan with some vegetable oil and brown onion. When onion is translucent, add crushed garlic. Add all the other ingredients except the cider vinegar and bourbon. Place over a medium heat and cook for 20 minutes so it thickens.  

5- Taste the BBQ sauce and adjust the flavors to your liking. If the BBQ sauce is too tangy, add some of the brown sugar. If it is too sweet add some apple cider vinegar. Cook a little longer then remove from the heat and gradually add the bourbon to taste if desired.
7- After the pork has cooked for 8+ hours and BBQ sauce is ready, take pork out of the crockpot, trim & discard all fat and cut/shred into small pieces. Put pulled pork back in crockpot, add BBQ sauce and mix.

Australia Day - Pavlova

After years of wanting to start a food blog, I am finally doing it. I am so excited to finally be typing right now as I have made so many meals and desserts and written many blogs in my head. As I start another year as an American ex-pat living in Sydney, Australia, this blog will share recipes and tidbits of living life on a big island on the other side of the world. I intend to post a blog 1-2 times per week. I hope you enjoy reading this and hopefully will find a new recipe.

This week, we celebrated  Australia Day (January 26) which commemorates the arrival of the first fleet to Sydney Cove in 1788 and Britain proclaimed sovereignty over the eastern coast of Australia. It is a national public holiday with community festivals, concerts and citizenship ceremonies. An interesting fact is that the British considered leaving Sydney Cove but saw a French ship nearby so the British stayed on and Australia became a British colony. What if the French arrived first? Perhaps today's recipe would be for a Pain au Chocolat?! Australians do what they love to do best on Australia Day - socialise with friends/family, eat, drink and enjoy life. It also unofficially marks the end of the school holidays, as children end their vacations and will start a new school year within a few days of Australia Day.

If the weather is nice, the beach is the place to be. It's a similar crowd to a professional sporting event - lots of people wearing Australian flag bikinis, t-shirts, hats, towels - very patriotic. The high level of camaraderie and national pride makes for a wonderful atmosphere of good times and goodwill. Lauren and I found a spot on the sand and pondered whether to swim or not as a big shark had been sighted earlier in the day. In the end, we went swimming and then went to a sausage sizzle with friends at our neighbourhood beach.

Given the day, a classic Aussie dessert is a great place to start this blog. Pavlova is one of those iconic Australian desserts. Just as Americans have the apple pie and chocolate chip cookie, Aussies have the Pavlova or Pav or Pavo. I can't say enough good things about it - light, fluffy, pretty, versatile and even somewhat healthy in the dessert department as it is gluten free and can be low or no fat depending how much or little whipped cream you use. Don't be fooled! While this recipe looks simple, with only a handful of ingredients in the cake, the result is all in the technique of making this cake.

Basic Pavlova
(adapted from Donna Hay's recipe)

6 cold egg whites
1.5 cups of white superfine sugar
1.5 tablespoons of cornstarch
3 teaspoons white vinegar

1 carton of whipping cream, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
fresh berries

1- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F

2- Beat 6 egg whites in mixer. When stiff peaks are just forming, adding 1/2 cup of sugar at a time while the mixer is still on. Continue whisking until egg whites are big, stiff and shiny.

3- Add cornstarch and vinegar and whisk until just combined.

4- Get out a cookie sheet and put a piece of parchment paper over it. Shape the meringue into a big dome.

5. Place cake in oven and then reduce heat to 300 degrees and bake for 1 hour 15 minutes.

6. After 1 hr 15 minutes, turn off oven and leave cake in oven for 4+ hours

7. Just before serving, whip the carton of whipped cream with the sugar and vanilla extract. Put whipped cream and berries on top of Pavlova and serve.

Looks easy and delicious, heh? It is... if down correctly. Bakers and homechefs here argue over temperature of eggs, oven, shape.

What the recipe/cookbooks don't tell you:

- The eggs should be cold/refrigerated; they separate better.

- Do not make Pavlova on a rainy or very humid day as your egg whites will not whip up very much due to the moisture in the air.

- Use white sugar, superfine is best. Do not use all natural, raw sugar as it is too heavy and will effect the height and texture of the Pavlova.

- When putting the batter on the parchment paper/cookie sheet, use a spatula to build a nice dome (see photo above). Use the spatula to build your Pav structure. Unlike most cake batters that have raising agents and pans to confine them, the Pavlova doesn't. What you shape it in before cooking will pretty much be the same shape when you take it out of the oven later.

- Do not open the oven at ALL. I repeat, do not open the oven door at all as tempting as it may be. When cooked, your Pav will have some cracks in it; this is normal. However, if you open the oven door, it causes additional cracks in the Pavlova, which is not pretty.

- I like to make this cake the night before I am going to eat it. I prepare it, put it in the oven and then when timer goes off, I just turn the oven off and don't open it again until the morning.

- Put whipped cream and/or fruit on just before serving. The cake can get quite mushy and liquidy if the toppings are sitting on it for hours before.

- For those health conscience - serve the cake plain with the whipped cream and fruit on the side.

- When in doubt, do not chuck it out. Pavlova is forgiving. If your cake doesn't rise a lot, you can still use it by making it a layer cake - cut it in half, spread whipped cream in middle and top with whipped cream and berries.

Special design for SuzyQ Under Down by GeCe