As we enter winter proper we get schnitty, investigate ramen broth, and bask in the beauty of Brussels sprouts.
Kia ora Freedom whānau,
As we’re all starting to get excited about the impending long weekend, please spare a thought for everyone affected by the dismal weather in the south…
Many farmers, including some of our own hardworking pig farmers, will be spending the long weekend trudging around in a remarkable amount of mud making plans to fix the damage over the coming weeks and months. Of course, it wasn't much fun for the farm animals either – and while most pigs don’t shy away from a good puddle, we know they’ll be grateful for the extra straw bedding and attention they got as everyone nervously watched water levels rise.
It’s also been a tough week for the team who move food up and down the country on the roads… that thirteen-hour detour around the West Coast is not much fun, and while roads are slowly re-opening, its a good reminder that there are a lot of people who work around the clock to get food to the grocery stores and butchers – without them the system wobbles very quickly.
For now the attention is on recovery but we are also interested in conversations around the role of climate change in these increasingly frequent major weather events.
As Dunedin’s mayor Aaron Hawkins underscored in this emotional speech during a debate over the transport network, the ‘inconvenience’ of being separated from family, friends, business and social connections by extreme weather events must be weighed up against the inconvenience of addressing our emission-heavy habits. Its a big topic, with no simple answers – but worth dedicating some time to thinking about.
We hope your long weekend is full of delicious meals and plenty of rest.
Anna, Hilary, Gregor and Cameron
If you’re not familiar with Freedom Farms… we’re a 100% NZ-owned company that set out over a decade ago to bring you bacon farmed the Freedom way… from NZ farmers who care about the same things we do. Simply put, that is farming that is kinder for farm animals, and takes it easy on the environment. When you buy our bacon, eggs, pork, sausages and ham you are supporting a wonderful little group of NZ farmers… and for that we’re really really grateful!
Shorter days, cooler nights… ‘tis the season for shuffling round the kitchen in toasty sheepskin boots, cooking in comfort after having spent the day dreaming of exactly what scrumptious plate of food you want to tuck into before relaxing into a cosy night on the sofa…
Times like these, pork schnitzel is a great dish to cast your mind to. Our schnitzel is a fresh pork cut of thinly sliced loin, a wonderfully lean meat that is also juicy and tender – the key is not to overcook it – needs only a scant amount of time on the heat.
The term schnitzel refers to thinly sliced meat (we’re all about the pork but veal or chicken are good, too) dipped in beaten egg, coated in dry breadcrumbs and cooked till golden and the meat just cooked through. Here’s some ways you can build on that foundation:
You might opt to deep-fry, shallow-fry, or bake schnitzel – experiment till you find your preference. Clarified butter is often used for a traditional Austrian version, or for an ultimately rich edition, try shallow-frying pork schnitzel in pork lard!
Season the beaten egg – salt and pepper are obvious but also try a little Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce, or chilli sauce if you like it hot.
Breadcrumbs are traditional but you could definitely play around with that…
Try panko crumbs – Japanese style breadcrumbs that are less dense and crisp up well.
Crisp crackers can be crushed (or blitzed in a processor) to make crumbs – rice crackers work well for a lightish version or give it a go with whatever type you like. Or combine panko and cracker crumbs for a bet both ways. Bagel crisps work well here, too! You can add crushed toasted nuts and seeds in, if you like.
Go meat on meat and use Libby’s Pork Crack for a no-carb, keto-friendly crumb.
Whatever crumb you go for, you can pep it up with flavour additions…
Fresh chopped herbs
Finely grated Parmesan or other hard cheese
Spices like smoked paprika, cumin, cayenne, nutmeg, masala, Aleppo pepper
Japanese furikake (seaweed-based seasoning mixes)
A labour of love
Alongside shio (salt), shoyu (soy) and miso, tonkotsu is one of the classic ramen bases, and arguably the most evocative, thanks to its legendarily long cook and method requiring finicky cleaning of bones – as well thanks to the unctuous, deeply umami end result.
Its origins lie in the Fukuoka Prefecture on Kyushu Island in Japan’s south – although there it’s more commonly known as Hakata ramen (Hakata being the traditional name for Fukuoka). ‘Tonkotsu’ means pork bones in Japanese, which is very much what goes into this broth – pork bones, and lots of them. They’re cooked on a rolling boil for many hours – or even days, with added pork fat, and the effect is a milky white broth with a silky texture.
There is, of course, a little more involved than simply boiling bones… clean bones are one of the foundations of a tonkotsu with a clean and bright, but also deep umami flavour. This involves rather a lot of elbow grease by the cook: to start the process, the bones are placed in cold water, brought to the boil, then strained, rinsed, attentively picked clean of any trace of blood and other bits, and rinsed again before they’re ready for stock-making proper.
If you’re really wanting to geek out over the ins and outs of producing a tonkotsu to different specifications, Serious Eats has you sorted.
Miss Polly’s Kitchen
The second in a series of three recipes Polly Markus has created with Freedom Farms goodies, this number is an ode to the beautiful way smoky, spice-rich Freedom Farms Smoked Pork Chorizo marries with the bittersweet vibrancy of Brussels sprouts, in season right now.
Brussels sprouts are cute wee things – like cabbages in miniature. But what’s even cuter – which you might not know if you haven’t seen them growing – is that they grow in clusters up the stem of the plant,
Even though brussels sprouts have undergone a reputation rehabilitation over the last few years and are featured on the menu of fancy restaurants, they’re still often shunned from home cooking. While people are happy to embrace the budding brassica in public, they still whisper insults behind their backs. This must stop.
Cooked right the brussels sprout is a savoury sensation, a mini cabbage that can carry an entire dish on it’s own. The brussels sprout is not merely a side dish.
This recipe celebrates the way the way brussels sprout absorb flavours – in this case the delicious smokiness of the chorizo – and will caramelise when cooked on a high heat. It’s a beautiful warming dish to keep you company as winter approaches.
RECIPE: SMOKED CHORIZO AND BURNT BRUSSEL SPROUTS
1 packet Freedom Farms Smoked Pork Chorizo
½ brown onion
3 garlic cloves
1 large stem of kale
400g brussels sprouts
400g can butter beans, drained
zest of 1 medium lemon
1/3 cup water
juice of ½ lemon
¼ cup pesto
Slice the chorizo, set a large work over medium heat and add some oil. Fry the chorizo over medium heat until charred and crispy.
While the chorizo is cooking, dice the onion and garlic. Remove the kale leaves from the stem and roughly chop. Slice the brussels sprouts in half.
Remove the chorizo from the pan, reserving the oil in the wok, then add the onion. Fry for 4 minutes until softened (don’t let it burn), then add the garlic and half the lemon zest. Let this cook for a minute then add the drained butter beans, a splash more oil and some pepper. Cook for a further 2 minutes.
Add the brussels sprouts to the pan with a splash of oil and the water plus the remaining lemon zest, turn the heat up, cover and cook for 3-5 minutes.
By this point the water should have evaporated. Add a splash more oil, the kale and lemon juice and stir well.
Once the kale starts to wilt, stir through the pesto and cooked chorizo.
Plate it up on a large platter and serve with some fresh sourdough.
Five good things…
1/ The strange jellyfish-like, bacterial-powerhouse that is kombucha’s scoby (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) may be good for more than just our guts… it could have potential to be used in to reverse environmental contamination, including E. coli from dairy shed effluent that makes its way into waterways.
2/ We’re dreaming of eating Boston cream pie this coming weekend… so I guess we’ll be making it, too! It’s not really a pie at all, but a milk-rich cake baked in two layers, filled with crème pâtissière, and topped with dark chocolate ganache… say no more.
3/ Made with fresh NZ venison blood, the boudin noir by Nelson-based charcutier Craft is a French take on black pudding, and wonderfully flavoursome. Find it at the Nelson or Marlborough Farmers Markets or at a small list of stockists detailed on their site.
4/ If you’re keen to learn your cochinita from your cabrito, Netflix series Taco Chronicles is there for you. Seven types of taco are profiled in great depth across seven episodes – including cochinita (Mayan spice-rubbed roasted suckling pig) and cabrito (succulent goat meat, with a tradition stretching from Mexico back to the Middle East.
5/ The Visa Wellington on a Plate festival 2021 programme has just been released and we’re hard pressed to pick favourites from a stunning lineup of events and dining specials that make up this year’s theme, ‘Eat Curious’. For pure coming together of three amazing things – Shakespeare in comedy mode, ballet, and fine food – we wish we could get to A Midsummer Night’s Dream – a production by The Royal New Zealand Ballet, with Hippopotamus’ executive chef Jiwon Do and team on dinner duties.