We’re staying at home...and making it as delicious as we can! Brats get a beer bath, and we say ‘sure!’ to choux…
Good morning lockdown friends,
With all Aotearoa in alert level 4 for a few more days, we hope this edition of The Omnivore will help bring a little joy to your weekend. A big virtual hug to all our essential workers, and a bouquet for supermarket workers – many of whom are isolating and testing having been at work in locations of interest, while the rest put in the hard yards to make our food supply continue ticking over.
A big shout out to our butcher friends too… under level 4 they’re not able to see your smiling faces in store – but many have gone digital, and are storming through online orders. Keep an eye out for what your local butcher is up to – we’d love to see as many supported as possible!
Stay safe, spread your legs daily, and keep tagging us in your lockdown kitchen creations! We love to see what you’re up to!
Anna, Hilary, Gregor and Cameron
We want to acknowledge that lockdowns are not all sunshine and rainbows for lots of people. Community support orgs are stretched thin, and they need financial support – if you’ve got the resources, please consider helping.
Two opportunities caught our eye this week. You may have seen Reuben of Aussie Butcher New Lynn on the telly this week – while his own butcher’s shop was shut, he got on the tools in the butchery department at his local New World, where they were under the pump. What a legend! Now Reuben is being awesome again, putting together $25 Kindness Meatboxes of choice cuts for The Kindness Collective. They will be distributed by The Kindness Collective to families in need. We gave them a nudge and sponsored 20 meatboxes yesterday – we’d love it if you could support them too.
Note: If you live outside the usual Aussie Butcher New Lynn Delivery Zone, please put ‘10 Margan Ave, New Lynn, Auckland 0600’ as the address.
We’ve also arranged for a large delivery of pork mince to Ronald McDonald House Auckland next week – they have a big group number of families in their care – we can only imagine how fraught it is trying to maintain family bubbles while caring for a child in hospital. They have an amazing group of volunteers cooking for them – Service Foods, Bostocks and Bidfood have also been supporting them through level 4.
Hot dogs at a baseball game – oh so Americana! They do their dogs a little differently in Wisconsin… beer brats, as they’re affectionately known, nod to the German ancestry common in that Midwestern state. Bratwurst sausages and sliced onions are simmered in beer, finished on the grill, and served in buns, usually with sauerkraut, and maybe some mustard.
Beer brats are great family movie night fare – clear the coffee table and serve them up on a big platter with extra toppings for those who want to pile them high… we may not be able to get to the cinema, or a baseball game for, but we can make Friday nights in as fun and delicious as can be!
Freedom Farms bratwurst sausages are gently spiced in German style, and fresh rather than smoked, which is traditional. When it comes to which beer to opt for… you choose! You might like a crisp lager, or a pilsner with a lick of bitterness – or if you’re craving a deeper flavour, try a dark beer. Some fans insist it’s not a true beer brat unless it’s served in a hoagie – denser and with more chew than a fluffy hot dog bun. We reckon Paneton ready-to-bake ficelles do the trick very nicely – pop them in the oven ten minutes before you want to serve your brats and the timing will be perfect for hot rolls, freshly baked. They’re rather long, so we suggest slicing them in half – which works out perfectly because they come in packs of three, so one pack fits our sausage pack size to a T! Oh, if you order from Paneton’s site your goodies are delivered on a Saturday morning, too… doesn’t get better!
Freedom Farms Beer Brats
1 pack Freedom Farms bratwurst sausages, links cut
2 onions, finely sliced
1L beer (we used Good George Pilsner… okay, it’s 946ml, close!)
3 Paneton ready-to-bake ficelles, sliced in half to make two buns from each roll
Sauerkraut, to serve (we used The Wild Fermentary Smoky Kāpeti)
Mustard, to serve (we used Dogtown Mustard’s Beetroot & Caraway)
In a pot or deep cast iron pan with a lid to vaguely fit, arrange the sausages and sliced onions, pour in the beer and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer for twenty minutes or so until the onions are soft. Remove the onions and sausages using a slotted spoon, and set aside.
Meanwhile preheat the oven and place ficelles in to bake according to pack instructions, timed to be ready when your brats are.
Heat two pans over medium heat, each with a wodge of butter and a splash of olive oil. Once the fat is sizzling, add the sausages to one pan and the onions to the other. Grind a little black pepper over the onions and sprinkle over a pinch of salt. Cook the sausages and onions, turning, until golden and the onions are starting to brown.
Slice buns down the centre lengthways, place a grilled brat in each, spread or squeeze mustard across one side, top with golden onions and a big pinch of sauerkraut.
Being able to whip up choux pastry at home means you have a wealth of subsequent recipes at your fingertips: profiteroles, eclairs, cream puffs, cheese puffs – even churros start with a choux base, but are deep-fried rather than baked. Yorkshire puddings are in the choux family tree; they just switch choux’s water for milk.
Pâté à choux, its full French moniker, speaks to this pastry’s ability to puff up jolly big and round like a choux (cabbage). It has a reputation for being tricky– which is partly down to the fact that it’s essentially cooked in two stages. First you make a paste by gently cooking flour, butter, and water over heat, then cooling somewhat before mixing in the eggs, shaping or piping the paste, and then baking in a hot oven (or less commonly frying, steaming or even poaching which some recipes call for.) In baking, the air inside acts as the raising agent, puffing up the pastry to its end point: a crisp, golden shell encasing an airy, soft and custardy interior. In some regards the double-up on cooking opens up more opportunities for things to go awry… yet plenty of home-cooks swear that making choux is dead easy. We’ll come down in the middle, and say that keeping some firm guidelines in mind makes for stress-free choux sessions.
A general formula of 2:1:1:2 (water:butter:flour:eggs) is a good place to start.
Apply the spoon test to the dough before baking – a spoon poked in stays upright.
Always cool down the dough sufficiently before the step of adding the eggs – you don’t want the dough to cook the eggs. Being able to put your hand on the bottom of the pot is a good guide (do this sensibly!).
Dampen your baking paper before piping or spooning choux on – this helps the pastry to rise.
Prick the shells towards the end of baking – in what seems like an irony, this helps prevent deflating by allowing the shells to dry out; trapped humid air can suck the shells down from their lofty heights.
Let them cool in the turned-off oven after baking, held ajar with a wooden spoon, or if you need to use the oven again straight away (you’re on a choux marathon, perhaps… that croquembouche tower is looming!) at least cool them in a warm, draft-free spot.
Some Good Things
This is usually five good things… but we’ve added a few extra this week. Some of these are good in the sense that they give us plenty to think about… others are good in that they give us something to smile about.
1/ Airfryers are having a major moment, with social media feeds going wild with everything from avocado (a friend described this as ‘almost edible’), to crispy mee goreng cooked in the benchtop appliance, which promises to deliver the crisp without all the oil. While some dismiss it as a ‘novelty’ appliance (TikTok’s ‘Airfryer Guy’ Jake brings plenty of novelty to the party, including watermelon and sour gummy worms), others point out there are some basics an airfyer excels at. MasterChef judge and food writer Melissa Leong reckons perfect pork crackling is one of the most satisfying things an airfryer can turn out.
2/ The Guardian unpacks the way in which Brexit is having an imminent effect on Christmas this year, as EU worker HGV drivers – many from Romania and Bulgaria – are now unable to get visas and are locked out of Britain. Iceland and Tesco are two supermarkets warning that Christmas food supplies are looking shaky unless Ministers intervene.
3/ Farming in California gets harder as thirsty crops drive deeper and deeper digging to reach water… many wells are spitting out sand, or collapsing under the weight of the ground. The Counter looks at what a Californian Farmers’ Market would like if the drought doesn’t improve.
4/ With the annual Visa Wellington on a Plate festival halted smack in the middle of its month-long appearance, organisers have scrambled to continue some of the fun online. The hugely popular Burger Wellington became #BurgerWellingtIN as hundreds of fans created entries from home kitchens. Both Burger and Cocktail Wellington look promising to continue ‘IRL’ as outlets open up when the city reaches level 2.
5/ Food-centric, puppet-powered, and feel-good... Waffles + Mochi provides sweet distraction from the now. Aimed at kids (but we’re not judging) Michelle Obama and her puppet pals travel the globe learning about key cultural ingredients and food diversity. Showing in NZ on Netflix.
6/ Eat New Zealand have just announced their Kaitaki Collective for 2021. This is a group of thirty food storytellers from all over New Zealand – and from all over the food system. Throughout the coming year they’ll be working together to tell NZ’s food stories from their own unique perspectives – all part of Eat New Zealand’s excellent goal of putting our local cuisine on the world map.
7/ Feeling like the world is a lot at the moment? It’s a totally understandable feeling. This long form piece, Collapse, Renewal and the Rope of History from Angus Hervey adds some glorious context to what can feel like a pretty dire news cycle some days. Well worth a read.
Ultimately, there’s no way of judging whether we’re living through Collapse or Renewal. Future generations will decide that for us. The only thing that matters is the part we play. We can choose which strand of the rope we belong to. We can add to its grand weave, in the way we treat other people, in the daily work we do, in the decisions we make about where to put our energy, in the leaders we vote for and in the words that come out of our mouths.
8/ And finally, we’ll leave you with some giggles from UK comedian Sean Lock. Sean passed away recently, but has given the world many laughs to remember him by (he starred in British comedies 8 out of 10 Cats and Countdown, which have have offered some light relief in our house recently). Here’s one of his best…
*contains some swearing*
That’s all from us. Stay safe, and be nice to each other. Don’t forget to share The Omnivore with other foodies in your life. See you again soon 👋