2011 came and gone just like the wind. The year slipped away quietly with rounds of mindless eating and celebrations for me. But then I love any reason that calls for gatherings surrounded with food and company! I’m sure many of you do as well.
And just when you thought you were developing a “food baby” (a term coined by our food guide, Alessandro of Italian Days Food Experience in Bologna. I just love that term!) over Christmas, you find yourself in the middle of all kinds of temptations again, barely a week later.
This New Year’s Eve, we decided to have a low-key barbecue get together with the extended family. I love barbies for they are unfussy (very manageable, less effort than throwing a dinner party), fun (everyone gets to cook together and bond around the pit) and screams of simple, rustic goodness (with the right food and marinade).
A day prior to the barbecue, J and I picked out a bunch of fresh rosemary and decided to make a dry rub for the chicken and seafood. We placed the rosemary leaves in our mortar-and-pestle and gave it a good bash together with zest from an orange and lemon. Boy was the smell so evergreen and fresh! Then we mixed in some of our Murray River pink sea salt and left the mixture out to dry for a couple of hours before storing them in a jar for the barbie.
Contrary to popular belief that rubs and marinades are better bought off the shelves of supermarkets, I beg to differ; I think that it’s easy (much easier than you think) and fun (use your imaginative juices) to make your own.
I know most people would actually think of using the rosemary citrus rub for poultry (think: chicken, which was what I did as well) but I do think it’s incredibly beautiful on fresh seafood on the grill as well. So we used some of this rub for our prawns and whole sea bass. It kind of brightens up and lifts the flavours of the fish and prawns. And as long as your seafood is fresh, you wouldn’t want to mar its fresh flavours with other additions.
The barbie was perfect with the heavens blessing us with clear blue skies on the last day of 2011. We finished all the food (very happily) with very minimum leftovers (That means no leftover food for the days to come, for once!).
Sirloin beef marinated with lots and lots of garlic, onions, rosemary, thyme, sage.. a party of seafood… throw in some bratswurst sausages… spatchcocked chicken and the old favourite, sweet potato..that makes for one hell of a barbie!
While I was at it in the kitchen, I decided to try out a simple homemade pickles. I have not tried making any form of pickles prior to this but I have great fondness for my aunt’s achar (nonya-styled pickles) and Japanese pickles. After reading the section on pickling on David Chang’s Momofuku, I decided to give this simple brine a go.
I think I cut my carrots a little on the thick side but otherwise, this pickle is a light and refreshing bite to accompany any meal. And I like it because it’s not as labour-intensive as the achar.
As I end off this post, I take stock of my “food baby”. It’s definitely time to keep some New Year’s resolutions for once. Time to hit the gym before the kitchen!
Happy New Year, everyone! To a year where we can stick to our resolutions!
Recipe: Rosemary zesty sea-salt rub
a bunch of fresh rosemary
zest from a medium orange
zest from a lemon
1. Place rosemary leaves into pestle-and-mortar or food processor. Mash or blend it finely and using a microplane, add the zest from the orange and lemon. Mash and blend with the rosemary.
2. Add in sea salt to taste and combine. Spread it out on a plate and leave it out to dry before storing in a jar for future use.
Recipe: Cucumber and carrot pickles
Adapted from Momofuku by David Chang
Makes 3 jam jars full of pickles
2 cups hot water
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
6 tbsp sugar
2.5 tsp salt
1 medium sized cucumber, sliced into half-moons (1/8 inch thick)
2 carrots, sliced into rounds (1/8 inch thick)
1 red chilli (deseeded and cut into strips)
1. Combine water, vinegar, sugar and salt in a small pot and stir until sugar dissolves. Heat up the liquid slightly if sugar does not dissolve.
2. Pack the prepared vegetables in a *sterilised glass jar (You can re-use jam jars for this purpose). Pour the brine and fill it tightly. Refrigerate it and allow them to sit for a week. They keep for at least a month.
*To sterilise the glass jar, wash the jar and lid with hot water and soap. Rinse well and place the jar in a preheated oven at 160 degrees celcius for 10 minutes or until dry.