Today’s featured recipes were lovingly tested and tasted at Christmas lunch 2009.
Dukkha. There are more recipes for dukkha than spellings (‘dukkha’ vs ‘dukkah’ vs ‘dukka’) or pronunciations [I say ‘doo-kah’ but have noticed others use ‘dah-kah’]. It is an Egyptian spice, seed and nut blend that works amazingly well encrusted over meat (including fish), or fresh bread that has been dipped in good olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
And, as far as I am aware, there is no relationship between this mix and the Buddhist term of the same spelling, which translates to “suffering”…
The recipe below is very simplistic and it’s one that I arrived at after reading a number of different variations, then tasting and adjusting as I went (eg. the paprika was a late entry). With so many possibilities, I encourage you to experiment by adding or removing any nuts and spices you fancy. You’ll soon find the blend that’s right for you.
Recipe #61: Hazelnut dukkha.
You will need:
► 2 tbsp coriander seeds
► 1 tbsp cumin seeds
► 1 heaped tsp fennel seeds
► 1 tsp dried peppercorns [I used pink ones because I had some to hand]
► 1 tsp salt [I use Maldon]
► ~80g hazelnuts
► ~80g sesame seeds
► 1 level tsp sweet paprika (powder)
There is a lot of dry-roasting in this recipe. Preheat the oven to 170°C. Dry roast the coriander, cumin and fennel seeds first; place the seeds on an aluminium foil-covered baking tray, then roast for 10-15 mins (until fragrant). The foil will assist you to tip these into a bowl or mortar & pestle after roasting.
It’s now time to add the peppercorns and salt to the mix; crush the seeds with your mortar & pestle (or you could use a spice grinder).
While you’re pounding away, roast the hazelnuts on the same foil/baking tray for roughly the same amount of time; they are ready when the skins begin to crack. Wait for the hazelnuts to cool slightly, then rub the skins away and discard them. Don’t worry about perfectly removing all the skin from each nut; this spice blend is made for rusticity [yes, another real word, according to me].
By this stage, if you’re using a mortar & pestle to crush the seeds into a coarse powder, your forearm should rival Popeye’s — but the aroma released from the warm seeds will be incredible! Now it’s time to roast the sesame seeds, on the same foil/baking tray for roughly the same amount of time (until golden). When they are done, tip them into a mixing bowl.
Roughly crush the hazelnuts with your mortar & pestle or a heavy-bottomed pan (you may want to do this in several small batches), then combine all ingredients together in the mixing bowl with the sesame seeds.
And there you have it. All you need to do now is eat and enjoy. Cut up some crusty bread, dunk it into vintage balsamic vinegar and good olive oil, press it into a mound of dukkha. Seriously good.
Pork loin. I used to be scared of pork, and not because it was hard to cook; I just didn’t know how. Up until March 2009, my experience with pork had been dry, cardboard-ish slices of meat that were consumed so as not to offend the host. Now I actually find myself enjoying it a little too much.
I know that pork is traditionally paired with rosemary and garlic, however I wanted to try something a little more festive and experimental — and it worked. The cranberry and macadamia stuffing is awesome so please don’t be tempted to go for something any more subdued.
The inspiration for the stuffing comes from my sister Kathryn, who used a similar combination to stuff the turkey for our family Christmas lunch on 22 November. Thanks, Kat!
Recipe #62: Pork loin with cranberry and macadamia stuffing. Feeds roughly 50. Just kidding! But it will yield at least 20 servings.
► a 3.5kg pork loin [I asked my friendly butcher to leave a good amount of fat for crackling and to score the skin for me; this leaves long cuts across the skin; I will explain why later]
► 12 whole cloves
► 2 sticks cinnamon
► 3 tbsp salt, plus extra
► 5 cloves of garlic
► a 500g bag of macadamias, crushed
► a whole packet of Craisins, roughly chopped [dried cranberries; I used the ones from Ocean Spray]
► pepper, to taste
► ~2 metres of butcher’s string
► 500mL chicken stock
I phoned in my pork loin order and didn’t realise just how huge 3.5kg was:
I had also never stuffed a pork loin before. After mustering the courage to tackle this huge chunk of meat, the first thing I did was remove the piece of loin that was flailing in the middle [frozen for a later date!]. Then I made the rub for the skin.
For the rub, you need to pummel the cloves and cinnamon with 2 tbsp of the salt. I used my mortar & pestle for this. Once you have a fine powder, rub it evenly through the skin, ensuring it gets caught in all the little crevices left by the scoring.
The reason for scoring the skin is to give a greater surface area for the salt to cling to. Once the salty skin meets hot oil, it blisters. This is the coveted crackling.
To make the stuffing, finely mince the garlic, then add the macadamias, cranberries, 1 tbsp salt and a good grinding of pepper. For those who are interested in the Thermomix option, I actually combined everything in my Thermomix in the following order: garlic & salt > macadamias > cranberries. Spread this mix evenly over the open pork loin.
The tricky part is next: rolling and tying. I devised my own method and, in spite of giving myself rope-burn on both little fingers, I was happy with it. You may wish to avoid the rope-burn by following a popular YouTube effort from Chef Donn Ovshak. Once it’s all tied up, leave the rolled pork loin in the fridge for at least a day to enable the cranberries to soften and the flavours to imbue themselves in the meat. Yummy.
When it comes to cooking your stuffed loin, remove it from the refrigerator at least half an hour before you do anything with it; you want the meat to be close to room temperature prior to cooking. The first thing you need to do is sear the loin. This is important for sealing in the juices and flavour, and also for setting the blueprint for your crackling.
Preheat a 32cm pan to high heat. If you use a smaller pork loin, you won’t need a pan that’s as big; my ridiculously huge pork loin only just fitted into the pan. Phew!
I rubbed more salt into my loin prior to searing, then seared it for about 2 minutes on each turn — and went through at least eight ‘turns’. It is important to make sure that every part of the loin is seared, particularly the skin. Aim to blister the skin without burning it.
Next, place the pork in a roasting pan with about 250mL stock. Cover this with foil and place in the oven for about 2 hours, checking every 20-30 minutes. If it starts to look dry at the bottom of the pan, add more stock. After 2 hours, remove the foil and cook for another half hour without adding extra stock. This should get the crackling really crispy.
Finally, check the loin to make sure it is cooked > this is when the juices run clear (after a skewer is inserted into the thickest part of the loin). If it’s not cooked, place it in the oven for another 20 minutes. When it is cooked through, rest the loin by wrapping it in foil for 20-30 minutes — then it’s ready for carving, by someone other than me.
Serve with rosemary smashed potatoes and pat yourself on the back for getting through that epic journey with such a tender and scrumplicious roast.
Now, does anyone need my recipe for rosemary smashed potatoes? Let me know and I will post it.
In the meantime, feel good about your food!