Ham – a timely subject and a vexing question…

December 22nd, 2013

At this time of year I am sure I am not the only person that goes out and buys a whole leg ham on the bone for the Xrissy table – I do a turkey in the weber also but more on that in another thread.

I picked up my ham today from my local butcher whose ham I will buy sliced every now and then and it is pretty good. I normally buy my Xmas ham from a small smoking company which unfortunately sold up around October this year – his hams were awesome!

So I got my ham home and just chanced to look on the label – I am a label reader – and found that my ham was in fact only 78% pork the other 22% was made up of water, salt, nitrites, acid regulator, sugar and other stuff etc etc In my label reading travels regarding ham I have found ham in the supermarket with as much as 95% pork and as low as 55% pork.

Now the thing is I like Kevin’s ham but I am not sure I want to be eating only 78% pork? My expectations on a gourmet ham would be that it be in the 90% pork range. Am I wrong; is the quality of a ham dependant on the amount of pork in the ham? Or is the quality all about the quality of the meat and the quality of the brine and smoking i.e. in the magic of Butchers like Kevin and how they ply their craft?

Obviously a ham with a higher pork content will be a drier ham, a more meatier texture, flavour and mouth feel – something I like in a whole leg ham. A ham with a lower pork content is going to be a little more wet, a softer texture and possibly a little more salty.

Where do you guys and girls sit in regards to your xmas ham? I know there are a couple of butchers lurking here what say you about pork content levels in ham?

Why?

November 7th, 2013

Why do people who don’t know you, never had anything to do with you, why do they take the time , why do they make the effort to post aggressive, spiteful, insulting messages to you.

Okay to me.

Thankfully it doesn’t happen often but I am completely perplexed and rather angry that someone I have never met or spoken to has sent me a couple of tweets which have been abusive, insulting and aggressive.

Why?

What do they get out of it? Is it a sense of power (hiding behind their handheld media device)

What annoys me is I am angry about it, I feel like it is unfair and I want to fix it. I have done nothing wrong and yet I feel the need to sort it out?

Strange! People are weird!

It is a strange idea that some one that doesn’t know you at all has decided to not like you. I guess that is just as strange as some one who doesn’t know deciding to like you although that scenario feels a lot nicer.

Water off a ducks back – working on that – I wanted to rant and rave get them to see the error of their ways to apologise for being rude and all that….instead I just blocked them, never to be heard of or thought of again!

 

Mussels with Fennel Leek and Dark Ale

October 21st, 2013

1 tablespoon of butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 small red chilli – finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic – finely chopped

1 leek – sliced in half lengthways then sliced

1 fennel bulb cleaned peeled and sliced thin – approx 2/3 cup

1 kilo of large mussels

1 bottle of Dark Beer ale or lager – Dogbolter, German Dunkel, Red Hill Scotch ale, Mornington Brown Ale, Mountain Goat Stout you get the idea.

1 can of chopped tomatoes

2 tablespoons of Fennel fronds – chopped reserved from the fennel bulb

 

Clean and scrub mussels making sure to remove beards. Or buy some Boston Bay Mussels from South Australia (also go by the name Spencer Gulf) they come pre packed, cleaned, scrubbed, de-bearded and alive!

 

Add 1 tablespoon of butter and olive oil to a large pot over medium high heat. When butter has melted add half the garlic and the chilli and fry gently for several minutes then add the leeks and fennel, gently sweeting for about 5 minutes or until translucent then remove from pan and set aside. Add the rest of the olive oil to the same pot you cooked the fennel in and when hot add the rest of the chilli and garlic and fry for a couple of minutes then tip in the mussels and about a third of the bottle of beer put lid on and turn heat to high. Bring beer to a boil and boil/steam the mussels shaking the pot to get the liquid swirling around the mussels. When all the mussels have opened remove from the heat and pour the mussels into a colander that is sitting in a large mixing bowl so as to capture all of the cooking liquor. Put the pot back on the heat and add the fennel and leek mixture back into the pot, the canned tomatoes and another third of the bottle of beer stir and bring to the boil. Remove the colander with the mussels from the large mixing bowl and set aside. Strain the cooking liquor from the mussels through a fine sieve to remove any dirt, grit or bits of shell and then add the liquor back into the pot bring it to the boil and then turn it down a little so that it can simmer for a couple of minutes. Add the mussels back into the pot and stir through so they get the hot liquor into them, simmer for two minutes then add fennel fronds stirring through.

 

Serve in big bowls with fresh crusty bread and a spoon to slurp up the fantastic juice.

 

Serves 2

Ps don’t forget to finish the remaining third of beer!

 

Note: do not salt this soup as the mussels, if really fresh, will be full of sea water which will be quite salty but equally delicious.

 

Really Important note: If some mussels do not open get a knife pry them open and EAT them. It is a false hood that they should not be eaten!! They are perfectly safe and delicious. Before cooking if you notice a smelly mussel ditch it or a mussel that has a cracked or broken shell – it will be dead so ditch that one also. If you get good mussels that are alive then they are fine and safe to eat even if they do not open.

Fresh Idea? I think not!

October 15th, 2013

I only just heard Jamie Oliver is the new face of Woolworths! He is a good guy, talented, passionate, successful, a moral food crusader etc He is going to tell Australian how to eat healthier – all good things. He is going to help change the way you and I shop and eat – good for him and Woolies.

 

I am just a little tired, frustrated and annoyed that Australian companies keep using overseas celebrities to promote Australia???? Coles has signed Heston, target Gok, Big W has Eric Stonestreet, you got Jerri and Dawn and so on and so forth……the list will continue to get longer.

 

Yes I am envious too because I think – I know I could do a good job of it also. Don’t get me wrong I am not putting myself anywhere near the same step as Jamie or Heston or Curtis….but I have been championing Australian fresh food, produce and producers for the last 7 years.

 

I have also had extensive discussions with Woolworths to try and get support for my show Mercurio’s Menu so we could continue to tell the stories of the Australian fresh food growers, suppliers, producers, supporters and customers but to no avail. So it does irk me to know that Woolies will more than likely pay Jamie the equivalent (or more) of what I needed to shoot two more 13 part series of Mercuio’s Menu – and that is probably only for the first year and doesn’t include production costs for any of the adds they will shoot with him.

 

Oh well, that’s the biz! Good luck to them.

Recipe from the cooking demo I did yesterday and also today at the Feast and Family Field Day At Morning Star Estate.

October 6th, 2013
Mussels in Coconut and Beer
25g of unsalted butter
25 mils of olive oil
1 long green chili – thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic – chopped
1 Lebanese eggplants
2.5 cm piece of ginger – peeled
½ cup of peas 1 stick of lemon grass -
4 Kaffir lime leaves – remove middle stalk and thinly sliced
1 ½ kilo’s of fresh mussels
1 330mil bottle of Hoegaarden Wit Beer
1 27o mil can of coconut milk
1 tsp of fish sauce
1 bunch of fresh Coriander to finish
Clean and de-beard the mussels discarding any with broken shells, set the rest aside in a colander. Place a pot large enough to hold all the mussels on the stove over a medium high heat. Add in some olive oil and when hot add in some chopped garlic and chilli and cook stirring for a minute or so being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the mussels to pot and about ¼ cup of the beer, put lid on and turn heat to high. Bring beer to a boil and boil/steam the mussels shaking pot to get the liquid swirling around the mussels. When all the mussels have opened remove from the heat and put mussels into a colander making sure to reserve the cooking liquid.
On the stove melt the butter and oil in the same pot. When butter is foaming add the garlic and chili and stir. With the flat of your kitchen knife or palm of your hand smash the peeled ginger so that it is squashed and falls into chunks add this to the pan. Cut the green chilli in half lengthways and add to the pot. Peel away the tough outer layers of the Lemon grass stalk to reveal the pale lower section of the stem. Use a sharp knife to trim the base. Cut the stalk into 4 pieces and then smash the stem with the flat side of a knife to bruise and release the flavour add to the pot. Cut the Lebanese eggplant in half lengthways and then cut again lengthways so you end up with four pieces from each eggplant. Now chop them into pieces about 5 mm thick and add to pan along with the peas and the Kaffir lime leaves. Give it all a stir and cook until the eggplant has softened – about five minutes.
Strain the cooking liquid through a fine sieve to remove dirt and shell and then return to the pot then add the rest of the beer and the coconut milk and give it all a good stir, bring to the boil then turn down to a simmer add the fish sauce stir through and allow to cook for ten minutes. Add the chopped coriander and the cooked mussels and stir so the soup gets into the mussels drenching them well in the sauce. Taste the sauce for seasoning – if the mussels are really fresh they may release a lot of fresh salty sea water into the sauce in which case you will not need to add any salt. Add some freshly cracked black pepper simmer for a couple more minutes.
Divide the mussels and sauce equally into to two large bowls and garnish with a little more freshly chopped coriander.
Serve with some toasted crusty sourdough.
Serves: 2 as a main 4 as an entrée.

Proud Dad – you bet!

July 15th, 2013

But it’s more than that have a listen!

Winter is an original written, composed and sung by Erin!

https://soundcloud.com/erinmercurio

It’s not that hard!!

April 10th, 2013

I might quickly point out that I am talking about Pizza and not some other issue!

Seriously though I had the worst pizza last night from a local home delivery service pizza shop. It makes me wonder how do people get it so wrong? I was in a little country town last week riding my new motorcycle home and I had one of the best pizza’s in a long time. So why in a town like Melbourne do so many get it wrong.

People try to save money by using very bad cheap ingredients and then pile them high so the pizza looks good and is big and heavy but it is also crap! The best pizza’s only have a few quality ingredients on them and are wonderous to behold and eat.

Have you ever asked yourself how can a pizza joint be offering two large pizza’s and a bottle of sugar and fizz all for the low price (and even lower quality of ingredients) of $12!!!!!!

And while I am at it do some research on the stuff that is supposedly shredded ham it is not what you think it is!!!! But is is cheap.

 I should just stop ordering pizza – my pizza oven is in the garage waiting on the knocking out of a wall so I can get it around the back of the house and set it up! No more pizza till I am making my own again!

 

Yes I turned 50 today!

March 31st, 2013

I was in bed ready to just go to sleep and pretend that I didnt turn 50 today but then I really wanted to have a record of this momentous occassion!

I have many comments to make and I have thought long and hard about what I might say about this turn of events but I will leave it for later when I have been 50 for a day or two but lets face it what I will have to say will not really differ from what I feel right now!

But I will say this – I am happy!

Some say

February 4th, 2013

some say no news is goods news

i say good news is news you get!

Damn it it’s here!

January 1st, 2013

Yep well we’ve gone and done it haven’t we…I say ‘we’ because ‘we’ all welcomed in the new year in some form or another. Now I am already three quarters through the first day of next year. (Question when does it stop being next year and become this year?) Just to be up front I am not all that impressed that next year is here and I am already living it. I was quite happy to wait a little longer for it to arrive – yes I begrudgingly welcomed it in (ask my wife I was a little grumpy about the whole thing) it’s not like I really had a choice right? And quite frankly I am not ready for it!! It’s not that there are things I’ve left undone in 2012 (although I still haven’t unpacked the garage) it’s just that I am not ready for it, I don’t feel optimistic about it, I haven’t got myself into that positive space where I can welcome in the new knowing full well that there is nothing new about welcoming the New Year. Next year is full of the same old same old of last year and that was hard enough to deal with so how am I supposed to get over that while being faced with a whole new year of it ahead of me?????

Yes embrace change, embrace the unknown, create your future, one door closes and another one opens, something will come up it always does (especially if you wait %*#*ing long enough) see the possible in every moment etcetera etcetera. Well yes the door of 2012 certainly closed and the door of 2013 certainly opened (so I guess that bit is true) only I can see no discernible difference in the two and now I am not sure if I am going forward or backward but feel as if I am doing both i.e. I am going backwards into the future.

Oh well I guess I just have to suck it up – I have stepped off the precipice of 2012 and am now free falling into 2013 – I would be lying if I told you I am not worried about the landing, I am. I don’t want more of the same – I want new, exciting, more fulfilling, more prosperity - I WANT IT TO BE A BETTER YEAR THAN THE ONE JUST GONE.

There were significant and wonderful changes in my family’s life last year starting around June and which are still in play. Maybe that has rocked my boat more than I realise - although I do realise the import of the changes and the deep affect they have had on all of us – things are no longer the same and thus, perhaps the crux of the matter, I do not want 2013 to be the same like 2012 was and indeed 2011.

Time for more change then?! Bring it on….I may not be ready (just yet) 2013 but I am willing and I am able!

I may go finish unpacking the garage – better sort the past out so I can step into the future without baggage!