Random recipe #24: Barbecued ribs

For this month’s Random Recipe Dom instructed us to get someone else to choose a recipe from their collections. I called on my sister-in-law Lucy – yes, two Lucys, married to identical twins, no, they didn’t find us at a dating agency – to do the honours and she did me proud.

“I picked the Leon cook book because you gave it to me and it is one of my favourite books. I honestly just let the book drop open and the lucky page was 226… Love me tender ribs.”

I’d forgotten all about giving her the Leon book, even though I remember introducing her to the tiny Leon on Carnaby St years ago. It’s been a long time since I made anything from the book myself, but I couldn’t believe I’d missed these ribs.

Barbecued pork ribs
I took some liberties with the Leon recipe – I couldn’t get baby back ribs but just asked the butcher to saw some up, which he did while telling me a story about playing Father Christmas at a children’s party. “I got out of the car and there was a huge scream, then I realised it was because of me!” But I digress. I simplified the sauce a bit and did the final cooking on the barbecue. If it’s not barbecue weather at your place, finish them off in a hot oven. Either way, these are super simple and delicious. The amount below is enough for four adults with some side dishes, though two Flintstones could probably devour them by themselves.

1kg good quality pork ribs
1 x 200g tin of chipotle sauce (I used the La Morena brand)
4 Tbsp honey
90ml  red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
1 tsp Chinese five-spice
1 tsp dried chilli flakes

Put everything except the ribs into a large dish (big enough to hold the ribs in one layer) and mix well, Then add the ribs, turning to coat in the sauce. Cover with clingfilm and put in the fridge to marinate overnight.
The next day, heat the oven to 120C. Line a shallow roasting dish with foil and put the ribs on top, fitting them in like jigsaw pieces so they form one layer. Carefully pour the marinade in (between the ribs, not on top of them) and top it up with water so the liquid comes about halfway up the ribs.
Sprinkle the ribs with salt, then cover the dish with foil or a lid and bake for about five hours, turning occasionally. At this point, you can let the ribs cool until you’re ready to eat – in the fridge for a few days if necessary.
When you’re ready to eat, fire up the barbecue or heat the grill. Grill the ribs, basting with the sauce, for about 15 minutes, until they are piping hot and sizzling. Eat with your fingers, flatbreads, black beans and a cold beer.

Random recipes: Fields Of Greens

In these days of wine and Roses* eating proper food can seem like a real luxury. It was with some relief then that I pulled Fields Of Greens from my bookshelf for December’s Random Recipes.

We were supposed to select a recipe at random from cookbooks received last Christmas but I didn’t get any (sob!) – but I remembered getting Fields Of Greens for Christmas about 17 years ago. The book, written by Annie Somerville, is a cornucopia of recipes from the celebrated Greens Restaurant in San Francisco Bay and focuses heavily on produce grown at its adjacent Green Gulch Farm. The amazing thing about is that the recipes haven’t dated at all and the eat seasonal, eat local ethos is probably much more fashionable and mainstream now than it was then.

My copy, scarred by being left on an element, naturally falls open at page 314 where there are detailed instructions for making an organic sourdough starter. But the week before Christmas is no time to be nurturing a new life, so I flipped through until I found something more seasonally appropriate. As it turns out, it couldn’t have been better.

Grilled New Potato Salad with Cherry Tomatoes, Summer Beans and Basil
Potato salads are high on my list of foods to avoid, thanks to the disgusting ones we had at school. I’ve rarely found one I liked, except the baked potato one in Forever Summer, but this one is a keeper. I didn’t grill the potatoes, discovered at the last minute that we were out of beans and had hardly any basil, but it was still delicious. I think it would be perfect with cold ham on Boxing Day – it’s substantial but not stodgy and full of appropriately festive colours.
The recipe below is the way I made it – to do it the Greens way you grill the potatoes after roasting them.

800g-1kg new potatoes, halved lengthways
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
250g green beans, topped and tailed
250g cherry tomatoes, halved (unless they are tiny)
a handful or two of salad greens (something crunchy, like baby cos, and peppery, like rocket)
a good handful of black olives, stoned
handful of basil leaves

2 Tbsp Champagne vinegar (I used red wine vinegar)
6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 garlic clove, crushed

Heat the oven to 200C. Put the potatoes on a baking tray and drizzle with the olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are golden and cooked through. Set aside to cool.
Blanch the beans in boiling salted water, then refresh under cold water and drain well.
Make the vinaigrette – put the garlic, vinegar and salt in a small screwtop jar and shake well, then add the oil and shake again. Taste and adjust sharpness as necessary.
Put the potatoes, tomatoes, beans, olives and vinaigrette in a bowl and toss gently. Arrange the salad greens on a serving platter and let the vegetable mixture tumble artistically on top. Scatter with the basil leaves and serve. Serves four.

What books are on your Christmas wishlist this year?


* I haven’t really been eating Roses, I promise. But is it just me or is there a lot of chocolate around at the moment?

Random recipes #22 : Picnic Eggs

After the horror that was October’s Random Recipe, I was a bit wary of taking part this month. But considering we were having a quiet weekend at home (apart from shrieking at Downton Abbey), I figured I could cope with another disaster. Then I opened page 38 of ‘250 Ways To Serve Eggs’ – sample recipes: Egg And Liver Ring, Egg And Liver Salad, Pickled Eggs – and nearly passed out.

This book is one of my most recent acquisitions and, dodgy recipes aside, I am very proud of it. I bought it, along with its 23 companion volumes, for a dollar (thanks, Trade Me!) about two months ago. These books are edited by the Culinary Arts Institute and they are a fantastic snapshot of American food culture in the 1960s and 70s. There’s not even a whiff of social change in these pages – it’s all about ways to show “the alert homemaker” how she can “add interest and delight to the family menu”. Some of the recipes are hideous – Body Building Recipes For Children is especially revolting – but there are some surprisingly good things too. Like this recipe for Picnic Eggs, which I turned to after I recovered from reading p38.

Picnic Eggs
Did you know that if you Google ‘how to boil an egg’ nearly 11 million results come up? How did people learn these things before the internet, do you think? I wish the cooks at my high school had been able to access it – the hardboiled eggs they made were cooked for so long the yolks had turned to dusty grey powder and the whites nearly bounced.
There’s a great method here – from a Le Cordon Bleu chef, no less – but his egg still looks a little dry for my liking. I used a Ruth Pretty method when cooking these eggs – bring a pot of water to the boil, add salt, then add the eggs, one at a time. Lower the heat so the water isn’t boiling so ferociously, then cook for eight minutes exactly. Drain the eggs, bash the shells a bit in the pot and leave under cold running water until cool enough to handle so you can shell them. This gives you eggs with perfectly soft-but-not-runny yolks.

4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved lengthways
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dry mustard
a pinch of cayenne pepper (Togarashi Shimchi would be nice here too)
1 tsp vinegar
1 Tbsp very soft butter

Gently remove the yolks from the eggs and put them, along with all the other ingredients, in a small bowl. Mash together until smooth, then spoon this mixture back into the whites. Either serve immediately, or, if going on a picnic, press the halves back together and wrap carefully in greaseproof paper (twist each end so it looks like a giant sweet). Coriander flowers look sweet (and taste good) as a decorative touch.

For more about Random Recipes, you need to see the nice man at Belleau Kitchen. For more fun with eggs, you can have a bit of fun playing spot the difference between a boiled egg and Heston Blumenthal.

How do you cook boiled eggs? And have you ever seen volume 25 of the Culinary Arts Institute series, 500 Ways With Cocktails? I am desperate to complete my set…

The Joy Of Cooking with rice flour

Regular readers of this blog – and visitors to my home – will be well-acquainted with the horror that is my pantry cupboard. I was pleased to see its chaos would finally pay off (or so I thought) for Belleau Kitchen’s October edition of Random Recipes, in which participants have to select a neglected ingredient from their storecupboards and make something with it from a randomly chosen recipe.

Just about everything in my pantry is a neglected ingredient. If it’s not in the front row of either shelf, it’s out of sight and out of mind. Choosing something was as easy as reaching past the olive oils and tinned tomatoes and grabbing the first package that came to hand. Choosing the book was simple too, since my bookshelves are nearly as chaotic as the cupboard.

If it wasn’t for my handwriting on the brown paper bag I would swear that someone else had put this package of brown rice flour in my cupboard. I have no recollection of buying it and no idea what I was planning to use it for. I hoped that my fondness for my tattered paperback copy of The Joy Of Cooking would see me through. This book, first published in 1931, is a fascinating historical record.  I have a fourth-edition copy – there are now eight, with the most recent update in 2006 done by Irma Rombauer’s grandson, Ethan). I love dipping into it at random, partly to horrify myself with the recipes for things like ‘Variety Meat Patties’ (brains, liver, kidneys, among other things) and advice on how to prepare bear, beaver tail, raccoon or muskrat. Fear factor aside it’s actually still a very useful resource and I had high hopes that the Rombauers would see me right. I was wrong.

Rice flour griddle cakes
I had a funny feeling about this from the start. Recipes in The Joy Of Cooking are often prefaced with a line or two about serving tips or a dish’s provenance. The recipe for Sour Cream Waffles on the facing page describes them as ‘superlative’; the recipe for Crisp Corn Flapjacks comes with an amusing tale about them being renamed ‘Crepes Sauvages’ by a Parisian botanist. This recipe had none of that, so I’ll supply it:
‘These pancakes, with their gritty texture and unpleasant aftertaste, will make you run straight into the arms of a waiting omelette. Avoid at all costs.’
I don’t think I can blame the rice flour – can I? – and I’m pretty sure my technique was blameless. I even rested the batter for the suggested three to six hours first. It produced very thin, but somehow still slightly spongy, pancakes with a peculiar taste. I include the recipe here in the hope that someone else may have better luck. It’s supposed to make ’18 four-inch cakes’ but I gave up after making five and poured the batter down the sink.

2 cups rice flour
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp golden syrup (The Joy Of Cooking uses 2 tsp maple sugar)
2 cups milk
1 egg, beaten
1 Tbsp melted butter

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Whisk in the milk and golden syrup until the mixture is smooth, then fold in the egg and melted butter. If possible, cover the batter and leave to rest for three to six hours. Cook as for pancakes on a greased, heavy pan. Or you could just pour the whole lot down the sink and make proper pikelets instead.

Do you have a well-thumbed copy of The Joy Of Cooking? Should I be grateful that I didn’t end up with the recipe for ‘Halibut Ring Mold’ or ‘Liver Dumplings’?

Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy

In what has been a(nother) difficult week chez nous, one thing has kept me going. No, it’s not increased gin rations, industrial amounts of chocolate or a pool boy called Raoul, it’s this incredible book.


My sister sent me this for my birthday. I’d never heard of Alice Medrich before but I knew I was going to love her. How could you not admire a woman who is credited with introducing chocolate truffles to the US?


There are millions of cookbooks in the world but few written as well as this one. Even the ingredients lists are perfect. And the advice. And the photographs. There are 130 recipes, plus mini-tutorials and an FAQ section. It’s 416 pages of brilliance, with rigorous testing and research worn as lightly as a dusting of icing sugar. If you have any interest in baking, this is the book for you.


I haven’t made a single thing from it yet, but it has been a place of wonderful escape (I’m also reading The Corrections, in case you think my brain is pure sugar). My one wish for the weekend is to lie on the sofa on Saturday afternoon and read some more of it.


Before that though I’m making a fleeting appearance at the second New Zealand Food Bloggers Conference, where I’ll be coughing and spluttering my way through a discussion about blogging vs writing. Let’s hope no one throws a cream pie at me.


Have a great weekend everyone x