Goat Curry and Fennel Slaw Tacos


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The other day I found goat meat at the grocery store and somehow it ended up in my cart…

The goat meat was shin steaks, bone-in stewing meat perfect for an Indian curry.

I made Goat Curry with Five Whole Spices and served it along with a daal, basmati rice, and paratha. The curry was quite good. I noticed the spices were similar in many ways to Mexican cooking, excepting perhaps the ginger and cardamom.

There was leftover goat curry.

I had a few fennel bulbs in the fridge (as you do) and a thought came to me: why not make a slaw out of the fennel and make goat curry tacos?

I know what you’re thinking: “Wait a minute… Goat curry and fennel tacos?” Yep. Trust me.

I thought the fennel would pair well with the goat curry and I came across an excellent Fennel Slaw Recipe. I omitted the cabbage from the recipe and suggest substituting fresh coriander (cilantro) for the parsley, as this is for a Mexican taco, after all.

I warmed up a few corn tortillas on a plancha and dinner was served!

The flavours worked together. The fennel slaw was a good contrasting taste and texture for the goat curry.

Chocolate Brandy Pecan Pie



Chocolate Brandy Pecan Pie

Chocolate Brandy Pecan Pie

I just pulled this pie from the oven… The crust is a homemade sweet pastry.

Chocolate Brandy Pecan Pie


Sweet Pastry (preferably homemade)
1 cup dark chocolate pieces (I used 70.5% Belgian Chocolate)
1.5 cups pecan pieces
5 large eggs
2 cups (about 2, not packed) dark brown suger
1/2 cup real maple syrup
1/4 (50g) stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup brandy (I used XO Armagnac)
1/2 teaspoon salt


1. Preheat oven to 165°C/325°F.

2. Roll out pie crust and line pie tin with sweet pastry.

3. Cover bottom of pie crust with dark chocolate bits. Add pecan pieces on top of dark chocolate bits.

4. Break eggs into large mixing bowl and whisk.

5. In a saucepan over medium heat add brown suger, maple syrup, and butter. Remove pan from heat and add brandy. Heat to a slow simmer until bubbly and combined.

6. At this point you may turn off the heat and let the mixture cool for 10 minutes, then whisk into eggs. Or, add the hot mixture immediately to eggs by tempering – whisk the eggs continuously as you add the hot mixture.

7. Pour mixture into pie crust and place on a rack in the middle of the oven.

8. Bake at 165°C/325°F until centre of pie wiggles only slightly and springs back when pressed (about 50 minutes). If the top of the pie browns before the pie is set, cover the pie with aluminium foil and continue to cook until pie is set.

9. Allow pie to cool completely before serving.

10. Top with whipped cream or whatever catches your fancy and serve.


Bertinet’s Baguettes


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After several years of looking, I finally found fresh yeast for sale.  It is sold in 1 Kg blocks for about NZ$3.50.  I won’t be able to use it all before it gets old, so I need to find out the best way to store fresh yeast.  Can you freeze fresh yeast? Will it keep better, longer, if I cut it into smaller blocks and freeze individual portions?  Anybody have experience storing fresh yeast?  I will need to investigate…



I have wanted to make baguettes for a while now and decided I might as well just jump in and do it.  I have never attempted to make baguettes, but the best way to learn is hands on.


The shaping technique is straight forward, it just takes practice to perfect…


Soon, it will be time to bake again.  “La Vérité Sort Du Four/The truth comes out of the oven.” – Raymond Calvel



Not too bad for my first attempt at baking baguettes.

Bertinet’s Standard White Bread Dough
500g strong white bread flour (unbleached)

10g fresh yeast

10g fine sea salt (grind flaky sea salt down to something a bit finer in a mortar and pestle)

350g water (weigh it on a scale)

1. In a medium bowl, add flour and rub yeast into flour with your hands.  If the yeast is fresh, it should crumble quite easily.
2. Add salt to the bowl and mix well.
3. Add water to dry ingredients and stir with a plastic scraper until no dry is left.  Dough will be wet.  Clean and dry bowl.
4. Turn dough out onto clean bench and knead with Bertinet’s Slap & Fold technique until dough is supple and well developed.
5. Shape dough into ball and place back into bowl, cover, and place in a warm place until dough doubles in size.
6.  Place pizza stone into oven and pre-heat oven to 240°C.
7. Dust counter with flour and help dough out of the bowl (do not punch down the dough!).  Stretch dough into rough rectangular shape and fold long edges into center and lightly press to seal.  Then, fold in half again and seal edge to form a log.
8. Divide dough into 3 equal portions (us a scale).
9. Do not add more flour to the bench.  Pre-shape each portion into a log by gently degassing the dough and stretching dough into a rectangular shape.  Fold each long edge into the center, then fold in half again lengthwise to form a log.
10. Bench rest for 10 minutes.
11. Starting with the first pre-shaped dough, spread out the dough, seam side up, gently flatten, and once again fold in half along the long edge to form a long cylinder.
12. With both hands together, place palms over top of log and gently roll on counter, stretching dough into elongated shape, pinching the ends to a point.
13. Place shaped baguettes onto a well floured couche, seam side down, cover, and allow to rise until almost double.
14. Place baguettes onto lightly floured peel and score baguettes with a sharp blade in quick, confident motions (otherwise the dough will stick and drag).
15. Quickly open oven door and spray water into oven.  Close the door.
16.  Launch baguettes onto pizza stone and spray a few more times into the oven before you close the door.
17.  Lower the oven temperature to 220°C and bake for about 12-14 minutes, until baguettes are nicely browned.
18.  Remove baguettes and cool on a wire rack.

Ambasha: Ethiopian Spice Bread



Clockwise from top:  sea salt, green cardamom, coriander seed, fenugreek

Clockwise from top: sea salt, green cardamom, coriander seed, fenugreek

I enjoy Ethiopian cuisine; the mix of spices differs from many other regions.  I am familiar with injera, the yeasted flatbread that often accompanies the meal (I recently found teff at a local shop here in Wellington, so I may give injera a try!).

Pre-shape and bench rest dough for 15 minutes

Pre-shape and bench rest dough for 15 minutes

I was flipping through one of my bread books, Flatbreads & Flavors: A Baker’s Atlas, by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, and noticed a recipe for a different type of Ethiopian bread:  Ambasha.

After reshaping, allow dough to proof until almost double in size before baking.

After reshaping, allow dough to proof until almost double in size before baking.

There are many different regional variations of ambasha, made with different grains, and sometimes with yeast.  This particular yeasted ambasha is spiced with cardamom, coriander seed, and fenugreek and made with wheat flour (almost 50% whole wheat).

Allow the bread to cool on a wire rack for at least 1/2 hour, to allow moisture to redistribute through the bread.

Allow the bread to cool on a wire rack for at least 1/2 hour, to allow moisture to redistribute through the bread.

I was quite happy with the result, especially considering it was made with almost 50% whole wheat flour.

Mmm... Can you smell it?

Mmm… Can you smell it?

The bread has a subtle spice aroma and flavour, complimented with a soft, even crumb.

Ambasha (Ethiopian Spice Bread)

Based on original recipe from Flatbreads & Flavours: A Baker’s Atlas, by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid.  The original recipe measured the flour by volume rather than weight.  I used the original volumes for the flour, as I completely forgot to weigh how much flour I used.


2 teaspoons active dry yeast

2½ cups lukewarm water

3 cups hard unbleached white flour (bread flour)

1 Tablespoon Kosher salt or sea salt

Seeds from 1 green cardamom, dry roasted, finely ground

½ teaspoon fenugreek seed, dry roasted, finely ground

1 teaspoon coriander seed, dry roasted, finely ground

2 to 3 cups hard whole wheat flour


1. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Stir in the white flour. Stir until well incorporated, about 1 minute, to develop the gluten.

2. Sprinkle on the salt and the spices. Gradually stir in the whole wheat flour until you can stir no longer. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured bread board and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic.

3. Clean out the bowl, oil lightly, and return the dough to the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until approximately doubled in volume.

4. Gently turn out the dough onto the bench (help the dough out of the bowl with a bowl scraper), divide into 6 equal portions, pre-shape dough into tight round balls, cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap, and allow to bench rest for 15 minutes.

5.  Preheat oven to 205°C/400°F

6. Re-shape the dough balls into tight, round balls, flatted gently with your palm to about 2 inches thickness, and place on one large or two small, lightly oiled baking sheets.  Cover and allow dough to rise until almost double (about 30 minutes).

7. Just before baking, with a serrated knife, slash an X about 1/4 inch deep on the top of each small bread. Bake in the center of the oven for approximately 25 minutes. To test for doneness, tap the bottom of a loaf – it should sound hollow. Remove and cool on a rack before serving. 


Handmade Brioche Hamburger Buns


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I love hamburgers. Well, cheeseburgers, actually.

Preshaped dough balls are bench rested for 15 minutes.

Preshaped dough balls are bench rested for 15 minutes.

I also love the smell of fresh baked bread.  I don’t know anybody who doesn’t, do you?

These 100mm egg rings help contain the dough and provide more lift to the finished hamburger buns.  Besides, baking rings are cool.

These 100mm egg rings help contain the dough and provide more lift to the finished hamburger buns, or, make them look like big mushrooms. It’s all good. Besides, baking rings are cool.

It’s a perfect match:  Fresh baked hamburger buns for a great homemade hamburger.

Dough balls have doubled in size and now fill the baking rings.  Ready to bake!

Dough balls have doubled in size and now fill the baking rings. Ready to bake!

Well, a cheeseburger is what I have in mind…

A gentle brush of eggwash gives a beautiful golden hue and helps the sesame seeds stick.  Sesame seeds are required.  I believe there is a law for that...

A gentle brush of eggwash gives a beautiful golden hue and helps the sesame seeds stick. Sesame seeds are required. I believe there is a law for that…

Did I mention I made this dough by hand?  Yeah, I don’t have a stand mixer.  I used the French slap & fold technique.  Just follow the kneading technique in this video by Richard Bertinet:

Wait.  Mmmm.  Can you smell it?  Yep, fresh baked bread.  Man am I hungry.  They’re just about done…

I pulled these out of the oven after baking for 13 minutes.

I pulled these out of the oven after baking for 13 minutes.

While the buns were cooling, I was thinking of hamburger toppings.

Place the buns on a wire rack to cool.

Place the buns on a wire rack to cool.  These buns are even better the next day.  Store in plastic bag after completely cooled.

This was the second batch of brioche buns (I’ve been working on a recipe…).  The first batch did not rise, possibly because I used old active dry yeast.  Or, because I am still learning how to knead bread…  I threw that batch of old yeast in the rubbish bin and bought a fresh batch.  Much better.

L to R:  Nature's Fresh Sessame Hamburger Buns (I bought from the local Countdown); the first batch; today's batch.  Which would you rather eat?

L to R: Nature’s Fresh Sesame Hamburger Buns (I bought from the local Countdown); the first batch; today’s batch. Which would you rather eat?  Yeah, that’s what I thought, too. 🙂

Resist all temptation to immediately have at these buns.  You must allow them to properly cool, to redistribute the moisture in the crumb.  They are actually better the next day.  I couldn’t wait that long…

Note the proper bun to burger ratio:  Top & bottom bun equal the thickness of the burger patty.  Also note width of burger patty exactly matches burger bun.  Cheeseburger perfection.

Note the proper bun to burger ratio: Top & bottom bun equal the thickness of the burger patty. Also note width of burger patty exactly matches burger bun. Cheeseburger perfection.

Handmade Brioche Hamburger Buns

Note:  It is more accurate to weigh your ingredients, rather than measure by volume, especially for flour, therefore, I have provided the amount of flour in weight, rather than cups.  Make sure you use fresh active dry yeast.  If your active dry yeast is more than six months old, toss it in the rubbish bin and buy some new active dry yeast.

Makes 8 X 105 g hamburger buns
250 ml (1 cup) water at 42°C/108°F
2 ½ tsp (7 g) active dry yeast
2 Tblsp (28 g) granulated sugar
450g unbleached bread flour
2 large eggs (about 100 g in total)
2 tsp (8 g) sea salt/Kosher salt
35 g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes, softened, but not melted.
Egg wash:  Blend 1 whole egg and one egg yolk.
Sesame seeds
1. Combine water, active dry yeast, and sugar.  Let stand 10 minutes, until foamy.
2. In a large bowl, combine flour and salt.
3. Add yeast mixture and 2 eggs to flour mixture and mix with bowl scraper until 
well combined (no dry bits!).  Dough will be a bit wet.  Wash and dry bowl.
4. Turn out dough onto bench and knead with French Slap and Fold technique, for about 8-10 minutes, or until the bench is left clean and dough is smooth and elastic (I’m still learning, it took me about 15 minutes…).
5.  Spread dough into rough rectangle on bench and place butter onto dough.  Fold dough over butter and continue Slap & Fold technique for about 6-8 minutes, until dough is smooth and springy (I’m still learning… It took me about 10 minutes).  The dough will quickly lose its cohesiveness and become a bit mucky – do not worry, it will come together again pretty quick.
6. Form dough into ball, place into clean bowl, cover, and leave in a warm place to rise, until doubled in size, about an hour (mine took 45 minutes today, but it depends on the temperature of the room, etc.  May take longer than 1 hour.).
7. When dough has doubled in size, lightly dust the bench and turn out the dough onto the counter, helping the dough out of the bowl with the bowl scraper.
8.  Spread the dough into a rough rectangle and gently fold first one long side into the centre and press, then the other long side into the centre.  Then, fold again along the long axis and seal the edge, leaving a long roll.
9. Using a scale, portion the dough into 8 X 105 g pieces.
10. Form each piece into a ball and tension by rolling the ball on the bench with your fingertips into a tight, round ball.  Repeat for remaining pieces.
11. Cover dough balls on bench with a towel or plastic wrap and bench rest for 15 minutes.
12. Meanwhile, line a half sheet pan with silicone baking mat or baking paper, butter 8 X 100mm egg mold/english muffin mold and place on half sheet pan. (baking rings are optional, but very cool).
13. After dough balls have bench rested for 15 minutes, uncover dough balls, flour very lightly, and reshape dough balls into tight round balls.  Place dough balls into molds and flatten slightly.  Cover dough balls with clean towel or plastic wrap and keep in a warm area until doubled in size.
14. Preheat oven to 220°C/430°F.
15. Make the eggwash:  In a small bowl, blend together (with stick blender) 1 egg and 1 egg yolk.
15. After dough balls have doubled in size, uncover and very gently brush tops with eggwash.  Sprinkle sesame seeds over eggwash.
16. Bake until golden brown, about 12-14 minutes.
17.  Remove from oven and allow to cool on wire rack.
18.  When cool, slice in half and toast before making hamburgers.
When completely cool, you may place them in a plastic bag until ready to use.

Tex-Mex Beef Cheek Barbacoa Sandwich


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What do you do with a big bowl of quite moreish Tex-Mex Beef Cheek Barbacoa, leftover from a roll your own burrito dinner the night before?

You make a sandwich, of course.

Recipe for Tex-Mex Beef Cheek Barbacoa, modified from original recipe for Tex Mex Barbacoa, Slow Cooker Style.

Tex-Mex Beef Cheek Barbacoa

The original recipe cooked the dish in a slow cooker, which I have made in the past and works quite well, but it does take some planning, as it has to cook on the high setting for about 6-8 hours until quite tender…  For this recipe, I chucked everything into a pressure cooker for about 1 hour.


2.75 Kg Beef Cheek Meat

2 teaspoons Sea Salt

2 teaspoons Pepper, freshly ground

1 Tablespoon Cumin Seeds, toasted and freshly ground

1 Tablespoon Mexican Oregano

8 cloves Garlic

1 whole Bay Leaf

2 whole Limes, juiced

1 cup homemade Beef Stock or good quality, low salt prepared beef broth


Rinse cheek meat and cut away as much fat and visible silverskin as possible. Cut into 5cm cubes.   Place cheek meat into a large mixing bowl and season well with salt, pepper, cumin, and oregano. Remove the skins and hard end from the garlic cloves and throw them in whole.  Mix the spices and meat together until the meat is evenly coated.  Add meat mixture to pressure cooker.

Add the bay leaf and squeeze the juice of the limes over all. Add the beef stock + 1 cup of water, stir, cover pressure cooker.  Cook over high heat until steam is visible from the vent.  Place steam cap over vent and continue to heat until steam vent toggles regularly.  Turn heat down and cook for one hour (make sure steam vent continues to toggle).

Allow pressure cooker to cool until steam lock opens.  Remove meat with a slotted spoon and reserve.  Pour remaining liquid into a clean, medium sized saucepan and heat over a medium high heat until the liquid is reduced until quite thick.  Remove from heat and pour reduced sauce over reserved meat.  Mix  meat and sauce together and serve.

Polenta Squares with Tuna Ragu


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I had the opportunity to cook a dish to represent Italy for a friendly International Food Festival – a spin on a dish you might find around Trieste, in northern Italy.  It went down a treat.  All gone!

Polenta Squares with Tuna Ragu

Recipe by Steven Kesler
Serves 20 happy International Food Festival attendees (bite sized portions) OR 4-6 as a main

Tuna Ragu
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Anchovy fillets, crushed to a paste
2 Shallots, finely diced
1/4 Teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
3 X 400g tins of whole or crushed Italian Tomatoes, passed through a sieve to remove skin and seeds.  Alternatively, you can use 1 Litre of tomato passato OR if fresh tomatoes at the height of the season are available, by all means, use them! (slice fresh tomatoes in half through their meridian, scoop out the seeds, and grate with a coarse grater into a bowl).
500 mL homemade fish stock, no salt.  OR water.
250 mL dry white wine (optional)
60g capers preserved in salt (rinsed and soaked to remove excess salt), if available.  Can use capers in vinegar, rinsed.
1 X 425g tin Tuna in oil, placed in bowl and lightly broken up with fork
Salt & Pepper, to taste
1 litre home made vegetable stock, no salt (or water)
500 g Course grained polenta (may not use all of it)
25 g Butter
Salt, to taste
Olive oil
Tuna Ragu
1.  Heat a medium saucepan over medium low heat and add olive oil, anchovies, crushed red pepper (if using).  Cook until the shallots are soft, but not browned, about 10 minutes.  If the onions start to colour, reduce heat.
2.  Add sieved tomatoes and fish stock, and white wine and bring to the boil, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer until sauce thickens, about 1 hour.
3.  Taste sauce and adjust Salt & Pepper, to taste.
4.  Add tuna and capers, stir gently into sauce so as not to break up the larger pieces of fish too much.  Continue to cook over a medium low heat for an additional 5 minutes to let everything get happy.
5.  Serve over polenta squares.
Polenta Squares
1.  Heat the vegetable stock (or water) in a medium saucepan over medium high heat until boiling.
2.  Slowly add polenta in a slow drizzle, whilst whisking.  Turn heat down to low and continue to slowly add polenta, until the mixture is thickened.  Trade a wooden spoon for the whisk, add butter and salt, to taste, and continue to stir polenta over low heat for about 20 minutes, until polenta removes from the sides of the pan (ideally).
3.  Coat a baking pan with a light coating of olive oil, then pour polenta into baking pan and spread evenly.  Allow to cool.
4.  Heat grill (oven broiler)
5.  Lightly brush the top of the polenta with olive oil and heat under grill until lightly browned.  Remove.
6.  Cut polenta into squares and serve tuna ragu over polenta squares.