The Stew Project

Last time, I mentioned my new enthusiasm for pressure cooking, and it’s current tendency (despite the heat of summer) towards stews and casseroles. This isn’t as crazy as it sounds – one of the things that puts me off making hot food in the summer is the side effect of further heating the house with the oven or cook top being on for ages. It’s why we bought a rotisserie kit for the BBQ (I can recommend this to anyone by the way – killer roast chicken) and why I use the side burner on the barbie all the time.

I haven’t tried the pressure cooker on the barbie side burner yet, but it’s only a matter of time.

Our first attempt with the pressure cooker was straight out of the selected recipes in the user manual. Turned out great. After that, obviously, it’s open season, but I do need to work out timings as I’m new to this pressurised malarky.

So I grabbed some lamb shanks, checked out the recommended timings for the nearest thing in the user manual (leg of lamb), threw that away, and guessed. I figured 20 minutes should do it, and as I wanted to add some aubergine halfway through, I settled on 10 minutes, add more veggies, and then another 10 minutes. Turned out to need nearly 30; I actually gave it 25 in total, but it could have been ever so slightly longer, I felt. The meat, though tender, didn’t quite have that falling-off-the-bone, gelatinous connective tissue quality I wanted. I’ve increased the timings below to account for this.


  • 750g lamb shanks (2 medium ones)
  • 2 leeks
  • 2 tins tomatoes
  • 200 ml red wine (optional; I happened to have some kicking around in the fridge)
  • 1 large aubergine, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • sprig rosemary, parsley, paprika, salt and pepper
  • sufficient stock to cover the meat

IMG_6815Heat olive oil in the pressure cooker (lid off) and fry the shanks until browned. Add the chopped leeks and garlic, stir around for a few minutes until fragrant. Splash in the red wine, if using, and cook off for a minute or so. Add tomatoes, herbs, stock to just cover the meat and season with pepper.

IMG_6816Cover and pressurise to full (according to your cooker’s instructions. I tried so hard to get a shot of the scary jet of steam issuing forth from it as I depressurised, but to no avail:

steam Obviously if you’re not using a pressure cooker, shove in the oven for an hour and half or so on medium low). Cook for 20 minutes and release the pressure:

IMG_6822Add the chopped aubergine, re-pressurise and cook for a further 10 minutes.IMG_6824

I served it up with rice, and greens from the garden:



I’ve since used it to knock up a quick Thai (that could’ve come out better) of pork and aubergine in 20 minutes; it was pork mince and in no way needed a long, slow cook, but I couldn’t resist testing to see if I could get the full range out of the woody spices (cinnamon, star anise) – turns out, of course, that you can.


The easiest pickle in the world*


Previously I posted about my roasted aubergines, and before that, I shared a recipe about using raw aubergines. Now, I don’t want to seem obsessed with the things, but I am having a garden bonanza type glut and I’m bottling them like crazy to enjoy after the season finishes. The resulting glossy, olive oil-y pickle looks so pretty I had to share!

First take your cooked aubergine, in my case roasted on the BBQ until blackened. Scrap the insides out and discard the skins:


Admittedly not the prettiest at this stage! While they are roasting or oven cooking, sterilise a clean jam jar by ‘cooking’ on medium hot for 10 minutes in the oven. While they are still very hot (maybe leave it a couple of minutes out of the oven, so it’s the same temp as the hot food you’re putting into it) carefully add your aubergine pulp. You can also add fresh or dried herbs at this stage, maybe some chillies. Pack down to exclude as much air as possible. Mix olive oil with vinegar – red wine, white wine, cider vinegars, whatever you have available – around 1/3 vinegar to 2/3 oil. Season with salt and pepper, and pour over the packed aubergine, making sure to wiggle the contents to exclude all air pockets. Leave a good layer of the oil mix covering the top layer so nothing is uncovered:


Pour boiling water over the lid for a minute – a kettle full should do – and then screw onto your still hot jar.

Simple and delicious! And I promise I won’t post any more on aubergines this season*!


Roasting aubergines and baba ganoush


I’ve been so lucky with my crops of aubergines this year. Determined to avoid crop fatigue – you know, grew so many that you can’t stand the sight of them by the end of the season – I’ve been using them in as many different ways as I can think of.

There are as many ways to preserve as there are to serve, and I’ve tried a few over the years. But one of my favourites is just roasted, and bottled with olive oil and maybe the odd herb. Roasting brings out the unctiousness of aubergine and has the added bonus of removing the skins, leaving only the fluffy, soft interiors. And it couldn’t be simpler.

Wash and place on barbecue:


Look at those gorgeous colours!

Roast for about 20 minutes, turning ocasionally:


Myriad of purples and browns

Of course you could do this under the grill or in the oven, but in a hot Australian autumn, I’d much rather use the barbie. Plus you get an aroma from an ope flame that’s difficult to achieve in an oven. If you have a charcoal grill, top marks and happy days!

Once they are blackened all over and soft inside – obviously larger, fatter varieties will need cooking for longer – remove and cover. I usually put a plate over the bowl that I’ve placed them in. Allow to cool slightly; the steam caught in the sealed space will help the skins slide off. roastedandsteamedOnce cool enough to handle, peel or scrape out the innards, discarding the skin. Use how you wish – baba ganoush, pickling, salads, the world is your proverbial.

I bottled mine, by sterilising a jar (yes, one mid sized jar was enough for all those (admittedly skinny) aubergines) in the oven for 10 minutes, and layering the roasted, seasoned aubergine with a mix of 3 parts olive oil to 1 part red wine vinegar. Leave a layer of oil over the top and seal firmly. Store in the fridge for added safety!

As to the baba ganoush. All I can say this time around is – don’t substitute korean sesame paste for tahini. It just doesn’t work. Next time I’ll stick to the recipe….

I say aubergine, you say eggplant….

Let’s not call the whole thing off, though, because aubergines are awesome. Velvety, versatile, and easy to grow.

IMG_2928My home-grown aubergines are still tiny wee things  and it’ll be weeks before they’re ready, but they’re cheap in the shops at the moment, and I lobbed 2 big ones in my trolley as I whipped past recently. As the weather turned frosty (ie dropped below 30º) over the weekend I thought I’d crack on and make some pickles.

A quick search online revealed, of course, a mass of recipes for pickled aubergines, and so as usual I picked the best of a few and fiddled about with them. There were a crop of raw, salted, pickled recipes, and as I’ve never tried pickling a raw aubergine (always grilled them first) I thought I’d give it a go.

Most recipes suggested peeling them first, but I love the skins and they’re such a wonderful colour, so I compromised and peeled half.  Most recipes suggested chunks or dice of aubergine, but I like a nice large surface area when pickling anything, so I went with slices instead. I also cut down on the salting time, from 6 – 8 hours, because it was mid afternoon, and I’m lazy. So essentially I: Continue reading

Momofuku Seiobo

I love the fanfare stage of a new restaurant – it’s interesting to read about the venture, the chef, menus etc. But it’s hellishly hard to get into Sydney restaurants that are still flavour of the month. I usually wait until all the hoohah has died down before trying for a table.

Not that that really applies to Momofuku Seiobo at the Star. Despite having been open for months, the place seems to be booked out the minute the new spaces are released online at 10am each morning. It’s a system almost designed to keep a certain mystique and exclusivity going.

Recently however, I was lucky – having already set up a login for their booking system (yeesh, ages ago) I was on the digital spot at 9:58, waiting. To my intense annoyance, rather than being able to just refresh the screen at 10am I had to log back in again instead, thus losing me precious seconds before getting back to the ‘select lunch or dinner’ screen. By the time I reached the booking screen itself some 90 seconds later, one of the 5 lunch timeslots was already booked out. Happily however, 12:20 remained, and my reservation was in! You have to hope it’s worth it after all this booking palaver!

Arriving unfashionably early on the day, we requested seats at the bar/kitchen area. It’s one of my favourite locations and has been foolproof entertainment at Bodega & MoVida in the past. And so it was to be again. We could take sneaky stares at part of the kitchen, noting the British flag stuck to a notice board (head Chef a Brit); watching the incredibly detailed weighing of individual pieces of dough as they were being cut and rolled; admire the glass refrigerator wall dividing Kitchen from Dining areas, and stare at the goings on of the chefs:

Continue reading