Cheat’s Ribs with homemade barbecue sauce

Easier than a roast chicken. When it comes to degree of difficulty, American-style barbecue ribs are possibly the dish that has the biggest difference between perception and reality. Of course, the barbecue purists will insist on 30-ingredient rubs, low’n slow smoking for hours on end, and secret recipe barbecue sauces, but a homestyle, oven version with no smoking and a homemade barbecue sauce is incredibly simple, and can literally take ten minutes of preparation and baking in the oven for 90 minutes.

You can use a bought barbecue sauce, but this one is much tastier in my opinion (most bought sauces tend to be a little too sweet for me), uses ordinary pantry ingredients and literally is just stirred together and simmered for a few minutes.

Ingredients

2 racks American pork ribs

2 tbsp dark brown sugar

2 tsp smoked paprika

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

salt and black pepper, to season

Barbecue sauce

½ cup tomato sauce (ketchup)

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

2 tbsp dark brown sugar

1 tbsp dark soy sauce

1 tsp Dijon mustard

2 tsp smoked paprika

1 tbsp olive oil

plus the juices from the ribs

Method

  1. Heat oven to 160C fan. Place two pieces of foil side by side and slightly overlapping, place two pieces of baking paper on top. Place the ribs on the paper and rub with the sugar, paprika, mustard, salt and pepper. Wrap (you may need an extra piece of baking paper and foil for the top depending on the width of your paper and foil. Bake for 90 minutes, then remove the ribs and increase the oven to 220C fan, preferably with an overhead grill.
  2. Unwrap the ribs, pour the juices from the ribs into a small saucepan and combine with the barbecue sauce ingredients. Bring to a simmer and simmer until glossy and thick enough to coat a spoon. Spoon the sauce over the ribs (the top only is fine) and return to the oven and grill for a few minutes until the sauce is caramelised on top of the ribs. Serve with the remaining barbecue sauce.
Hayashi stroganoff

“Hayashi rice” is a Japanese dish of thinly sliced beef and mushrooms cooked in a demi-glace sauce and served with rice. This stroganoff version is a really simple one-pot dish enriched with sour cream. For even more mushroom-y flavour I add a shiitake mushroom powder I make very simply by blending dried shiitake mushrooms.

Ingredients

75 g butter

1 kg thinly sliced beef

1 kg sliced button mushrooms

3 large onions, thinly sliced

4 cloves garlic, finely sliced

1 tbsp sweet paprika

1 tbsp tomato paste

½ cup plain flour

½ cup white wine

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

1 litre beef stock

1 tbsp porcini powder, or shiitake powder, optional (see Tips)

300 ml sour cream

salt and pepper, to season

2 tbsp finely shredded parsley, to serve

Method

  1. Heat a large casserole pan over medium heat, add half the butter and fry the beef until browned. Remove from the pot. Add the mushrooms and fry for about 10 minutes until the mushrooms, onions and garlic are browned. Add the remaining butter, paprika, tomato paste and flour and fry for about 3 minutes. Add the wine and cook for 2-3 minutes until thickened and starting to catch on the base of the pot. Add the mustard, then the beef stock a little at a time to form a thin sauce. Return the meat to the pot along with the porcini or shiitake powder if using, and stir to combine. Add a little extra water if needed and simmer for about 10 minutes until the mixture is combined and thick. Stir through the sour cream and adjust seasoning. Scatter with parsley to serve. Serve with rice that has been topped with a knob of butter.

Tips

To make 1 tbsp shiitake powder I blend 2-3 dried shiitake mushrooms in a high speed blender until they form a fine powder.

Green Laksa

If you’ve never heard of a  green laksa, don’t worry. I just made it up. An ordinary laksa is a yellow-orange soup noodle that often has a bit of red oil separated out from frying the rempah that is made with fresh and dried red chilli. For this more mild green version, I use green chillies and enhanced the soup ramen-style with a fragrant oil made from coriander and Vietnamese mint.

Ingredients

2 chicken carcasses

2 chicken marylands

1 kg raw, unpeeled large prawns

½ cup dried scallops (or dried shrimp)

4 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tsp salt

2 tsp sugar

1 tsp fish sauce

800 ml coconut cream

250g fried tofu puffs, halved*

1kg fresh Hokkien noodles

200g dried rice vermicelli noodles*

200g fried fishcake, sliced

300g beansprouts

8 eggs (optional)

1 cup loosely packed Vietnamese mint leaves

limes, to serve

 

Coriander and laksa leaf oil

½ cup loosely packed Vietnamese mint leaves

4 coriander plants, stems and roots only (leaves reserved)

1 small bunch spinach

1 cup canola oil

 

Green laksa rempah (makes double)

6 large green chillies, deseeded

1 tbsp belacan (shrimp paste)

1 large brown onion, peeled and roughly chopped

10 cloves garlic, peeled

5 cm ginger, peeled and thickly sliced

5 cm galangal, peeled and thickly sliced

5 cm fresh turmeric, peeled and thickly sliced

3 stalks lemongrass, white part, roughly chopped

6 candlenuts, or macadamia nuts (optional)

 

Method

  1. Start with the stock. Cover the chicken carcasses with 2.5L of water and bring to a low simmer. Simmer for about 1 hour, skimming any scum that rises to the surface. Add the chicken marylands and reduce the heat to very low. Simmer for 45 minutes then remove the chicken marylands and set aside. Peel the prawns (leaving the tails on), add the shells to the stock and simmer for a further 20 minutes, skimming the scum from the top and particularly removing any red scum created by the prawns. Strain, discarding the shells and bones and reserving the stock. Devein and butterfly the prawns and refrigerate. Pound the dried scallops in a mortar and pestle or blend in a blender to fine shreds (or if using dried shrimp, to a coarse powder).

 

  1. For the green laksa rempah (laksa paste), blend all the ingredients together to a smooth paste.

 

  1. For the coriander and laksa leaf oil pour boiling water over Vietnamese mint leaves, coriander stems and roots, and spinach. Stand for 30 seconds then drain and squeeze dry. Combine with the oil in a small blender and blend to a smooth, bright green oil. Strain through a fine sieve lined with a cloth. Reserve both the oil and the green paste.

 

  1. Heat a large pot over low-medium heat and add the oil. Add half the laksa rempah (the other half can be refrigerated or frozen for making another batch of laksa in the future, see note) and fry in the oil for about 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently until the oil separates from the paste. Add the stock and dried scallops and bring to a simmer. Simmer covered for 30 minutes. Stir in the salt, sugar, fish sauce and coconut milk and simmer for a further 10 minutes. You can add some of the reserved paste from the coriander and laksa leaf oil here if you like, and want to make your soup more green. Add the tofu puffs and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Simmer the prawns in the soup for 2-3 minutes or until just cooked, remove and aside. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning as required.

 

  1. While the soup is cooking, prepare the remaining ingredients. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles according to the packet directions. While different brands will vary, generally Hokkien noodles will just need to be blanched for just a few seconds. Boil the fish cake for about 2 minutes until puffed then drain. Blanche the beansprouts for 30 seconds. Boil the eggs for 8 minutes, then refresh in a basin of iced water and peel. Halve the eggs. Keep all of the ingredients separate so that you can build your laksa as you like it. Pour boiling water over the rice vermicelli and stand for 5 minutes, then drain.

 

  1. To assemble the laksa warm a noodle bowl (you can warm it by pouring a bit of the laksa soup into the bowl and then returning the soup to the pot. Add some Hokkien noodle, rice noodle, beansprouts, egg, prawn, and chicken to the bowl. Cover with the soup, then garnish with shredded Vietnamese mint, the reserved coriander leaves, a few spoons of the coriander and laksa leaf oil, and a wedge of lime.

 Tips

  • Make sure you fry the laksa paste really well. Keep the heat low and fry for 15-20 minutes until the oil starts to separate from the paste again.
  • Vietnamese mint is known in Singapore and Malaysia as “laksa leaf” and it is a key ingredient in laksa.
  • You can serve this with a bit of sambal belacan if you want more heat and/or a stronger flavour.

 

Extremely good roast potatoes

The alkaline environment created by boiling the potatoes with sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) helps break down the pectin that holds the potato cells together. That in turn gives the potatoes a crispier texture after roasting. You can take this basic recipe in any number of directions (see Tips).

Ingredients

1 kg red new potatoes (or other new potatoes), washed but unpeeled

1 tsp sodium bicarbonate

½ cup olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

flake salt, to season

Method

  1. Heat your oven to 200C fan. Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with tap water. Add the sodium bicarbonate and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 15 minutes until a small, sharp knife can be inserted and withdrawn easily. Drain the potatoes and allow to stand for about 5 minutes to steam dry.
  2. Place a sheet of baking paper into a roasting tray and add about ¼ cup of olive oil onto the baking paper. Place some of the potatoes on top and with a cooking weight or the bottom of a small saucepan, squash the potatoes to about 2cm thick. You can put a piece of baking paper between the base of the saucepan and the potatoes while you squash them if you want to keep the base of the saucepan clean. Repeat the process with more potatoes until the roasting tray is full in a single layer. Season with a little salt and drizzle with a little extra oil. Repeat for a second tray of potatoes.
  3. Place into the oven. If one tray has more potatoes than the other, put that one on top. Roast for about 40 minutes until the potatoes are browned and crisp and look like they do in the photo. Depending on your oven one tray may take longer than another. Just remove each tray when it’s done.
  4. To serve, tip one tray of potatoes onto the other and then place the whole sheet of baking paper into a serving bowl. Season with extra salt and trim away the excess baking paper. Serve, and wait for your guests to say “Those are extremely good roast potatoes.”

Tips

  • You can use other potatoes, or even large potatoes that are cut into smaller chunks. You can peel the potatoes if you want, but I think they have a better flavour and texture if you don’t peel them.
  • Instead of olive oil, you can also use vegetable oil, animal fats (like lard or duck fat), butter or ghee.
  • Add whole cloves of garlic, herbs or other flavourings if you like, but this is a good basic recipe for you to riff off.
Gyoza (Japanese-style dumplings)

Originally adapted from Chinese jiaozi dumplings, gyoza have become one of Japan’s favourite foods. In fact, jiaozi, gyoza and gow gee are the Mandarin, Japanese and Cantonese pronunciations of the exact same word. The main difference between the Japanese version and its Chinese predecessors is that where the Chinese favour a juicy, springy filling, the emphasis of the Japanese dish is on a fine, crispy skin. This simple gyoza recipe makes about 50 dumplings.

Ingredients

250g Chinese cabbage

1 tsp salt

500g fatty pork mince

6 spring onions, finely minced

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 tsp grated ginger

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp sake

1 tsp vegetable oil, for brushing

1 tbsp potato flour, or cornflour

1 tsp sesame oil

soy sauce, to serve

rice vinegar, to serve

chilli oil, to serve

Hot water gyoza skins

2 cups plain flour

Method

  1. For the gyoza skins, combine 1 cup of boiling water with the plain flour and mix well. Knead for about 5 minutes, dusting with just a little more flour as necessary until the dough is smooth and firm. Cover with cling film and rest for 30 minutes.
  2. For the gyoza filling, finely shred the cabbage and mix with the salt. Transfer to a strainer and allow to strain for 15 minutes. Squeeze out any excess moisture and mix the salted cabbage with the pork mince, spring onions, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and sake. Rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  3. On a floured board, roll the dough into a long sausage about 1 cm in diameter. Cut into 1cm rounds, press down with the palm of your hand and with a small rolling pin roll the dough into thin, round skins about 7 cm diameter. Alternatively, you could use commercial dumpling wrappers.
  4. Place about a teaspoon of filling into the centre of the gyoza skin and fold the skin in half, crimping one edge to form the gyoza. Repeat for the remaining filling and skins. You can freeze the gyoza at this stage if you prefer.
  5. Make a mixture of 2 tsp of potato flour (or cornflour) per cup of water. Heat a frying pan over medium heat and brush with an even layer of oil. Place the gyoza into the pan, nestling them together to fill the base of the pan with the gyoza just touching. Fry for about 1 minute until lightly browned on the bottom. Mix 2 tsp potato flour or cornflour into 1 cup of water and pour around the gyoza. Cover the pan with a lid open just a crack and steam for 7 minutes then uncover the pan until water is fully evaporated and you can hear the gyoza frying instead of boiling. Sprinkle over the sesame oil and cook for a further minute then remove the pan from the heat. Invert a serving plate over the pan, ensuring the plate completely covers the pan, then flip the pan and plate over, so that gyoza are on the plate. Serve with soy sauce, rice vinegar and chilli oil for dipping.

Tip

If you don’t want the theatre of making the “skirt” to hold the gyoza in place, you can just fry-steam as many gyoza as you like, using plain water instead of the flour slurry.

Lemon, Honey and Ginger Chicken

Not your nanna’s cold remedy. This Chinese-style chicken brings together three familiar flavours for a modern take on a Chinese restaurant classic.

Ingredients

4 Lilydale free range chicken thighs (around 800 g)

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp Shaoxing wine

¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda

¼ tsp salt

1 cup cornflour

1-2 litres vegetable oil, for deep frying

3 spring onions, finely sliced on a steep diagonal

1 rice paper sheet, to serve (optional)

lettuce leaves, to serve (optional)

Japanese mayonnaise, to serve (optional)

Sauce

juice of 1 large lemon (or 2 small lemons)

100 g honey

1 tsp grated ginger

2 tbsp soy sauce

¼ tsp salt

1 tbsp Shaoxing wine

½ tsp sesame oil

½ tsp cornflour

Batter

½ cup plain flour

½ cup cornstarch

¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda

¼ tsp salt

 

Method

Trim some of the visible fat from the chicken thighs and cut into 3cm pieces. Combine with the soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, bicarbonate of soda, salt and 1 tsp of the cornflour and set aside for 15 minutes. Combine the ingredients for the sauce in a separate bowl. In another bowl, combine the batter ingredients with ¾ cup of cold water and 5 ice cubes.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or wok to 175C. Toss the chicken in the remaining cornstarch and transfer to the batter. Fry the chicken in batches one piece at a time for 3-4 minutes. Drain on a wire rack and allow to cool to room temperature. Heat the oil to 185C and fry the chicken again for about 1 minute until golden brown and crisp.

If using, break the rice paper sheet into large pieces and fry for about 10 seconds until puffed and crisp.

Place a wok over high heat. Stir the sauce ingredients and add to the wok. Bring to a simmer and simmer, stirring occasionally until thickened to the consistency of maple syrup. Toss through the chicken and the spring onions. Transfer to a serving plate with the lettuce leaves and the rice paper crisps.

Chicken schnitzel caprese

Think of this as a fresh version of a schnitzel parmigiana. Rather than tomato sauce, ham and melted cheese, this takes advantage of in-season tomatoes, proscuitto and fresh mozarella. And yes, it’s still on top of a schnitty.

Ingredients

4 Lilydale free range chicken breasts

1 cup plain flour

salt and pepper, to season

4 eggs, beaten

3 cups panko breadcrumbs

4 ripe tomatoes

2 tbsp olive oil

salt and black pepper, to season

approx. 1-2 L canola oil, for deep frying

200 g (1 balls) fresh mozzarella cheese (in whey)

1 cup loosely packed basil leaves

4-6 very thin slices of prosciutto

lemon wedges, to serve

Method

Place each chicken breast between two pieces of baking paper and with a mallet or rolling pin pound it to 1cm thin. Place the flour into a tray and season well with salt and pepper. Place the eggs and breadcrumbs into separate trays.

Cut the tomatoes into large chunks and place into a non-reactive bowl. Season well with salt and pepper and drizzle with the olive oil.

Using a skewer as a kind of hook (this will allow you to move the chicken between the flour and egg without getting your hands dirty and without tongs disrupting the coating), dip the chicken into the flour first, and then the egg, and finally into the panko breadcrumbs – ensuring that it is coated completely. Lightly press the breadcrumbs onto the chicken.

Heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan to 170C. Fry the chicken one piece at a time for 4 minutes, turning once during the frying process. Drain on a wire rack, standing the chicken up on an angle for better drainage. Allow to cool and drain for 5 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a serving plate. Spoon over the tomatoes and tear over the mozzarella. Add the slices of proscuitto and scatter with the basil leaves. Serve with wedges of lemon.

 

Tamarind and coconut grilled chicken

Thigh cutlets are a great cut of chicken for a summer barbecue. I leave them on the bone but trim a little of the meat away from the bone so that they sit more flat on the barbecue and also cook more evenly. Rest the chicken well after grilling so that it stays moist.

Ingredients

6 Lilydale free range chicken thighs or thigh cutlets

1 tbsp tamarind puree

200 ml coconut cream

2 tbsp palm sugar

1 tbsp fish sauce

1 tbsp dark soy sauce

½ tsp salt

vegetable oil, to grill

lime wedges, to serve (optional)

cucumber, to serve

Dipping sauce

1 tsp tamarind paste

1 tsp chilli powder

2 cloves garlic, grated

1 tsp palm sugar

1 coriander plant, finely minced

2 tbsp fish sauce

2 tbsp finely shredded coriander leaves

 Method

  1. If using thigh cutlets, trim around the bone slightly so that the meat sits flat. Combine with the tamarind, coconut cream, palm sugar, fish sauce, dark soy sauce and salt and refrigerate to marinate for at least 2 hours but preferably overnight. Remove from the fridge 1 hour before grilling.
  2. Combine the ingredients for the dipping sauce and mix with 1-2 tbsp of cold water to form a thick saucy consistency.
  3. Heat a barbecue grill over medium heat and brush with vegetable oil. Grill the chicken thighs for about 8 minutes (boneless) or 10 minutes (cutlets with bone), turning occasionally, and rest for a few minutes before serving with the dipping sauce, lime wedges and slices of cucumber.
Turmeric chicken drumstick pulao

The difference between a pulao and biryani is that biryani is usually layers of cooked rice, while for pulao the rice and other ingredients are cooked together.

Ingredients

6 Lilydale free range chicken drumsticks

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp salt

¼ cup ghee or vegetable oil

1 red onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

2 tsp ginger, finely chopped

2 bay leaves

2 tsp brown mustard seeds

1½ tbsp Keen’s curry powder

3 cups basmati rice

2 tomatoes, finely diced

½ cup chopped coriander

lemon wedges, to serve

thick yoghurt, to serve

Method

Place the chicken into a large bowl and add the turmeric and ½ tsp of the salt. Rub to cover the chicken and set aside for 30 minutes.

Heat your oven to 175C (fan). Heat a large, low casserole dish over medium heat and add the ghee (or oil). Fry the chicken until browned all over and remove from the pan. Add ¾ of the onion and fry for about 5 minutes until browned. Add the garlic and ginger and fry for a further minute until fragrant. Add the mustard seeds, curry powder and bay leaves and fry for just a few seconds until fragrant. Add ¾ of the tomatoes and all the rice and mix in the spices. Spread the rice over the base of the pan and add the chicken back on top. Add 2 cups of water (or stock) and the remaining salt (or to taste). Bring to a simmer and cover. Transfer to the oven for 20 minutes, then remove and stand for a further 10 minutes.

Uncover, then scatter with the remaining onion and tomato, and the chopped coriander. Serve with lemon wedges and yoghurt.

Creamy chicken saagwala

My kids call this “Green butter chicken” and they absolutely love it. It’s fairly close to a traditional saagwala except it’s cooked off the bone and I make it a bit sweeter and with more cream.

Ingredients

2 bunches spinach

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 stick cinnamon

6 cardamom pods

1 tsp cloves

1 onion, finely chopped

5 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 tsp grated ginger

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp ground turmeric

½ tsp chilli powder (optional, or to taste)

1 tbsp garam masala

3 tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 kg Lilydale free range chicken thigh fillets, cut into 5cm pieces

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

¼ tsp grated nutmeg

150 ml thickened cream

25 g butter

Method

Wash the spinach well, trim and discard the root portion and place the leaves and stems into a heatproof bowl. Pour boiling water over the spinach and leave for 1 minute. Drain, then puree the spinach in a blender.

Heat a large pan over medium heat and add the oil and the cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and onion. Fry the onion for about 3 minutes until it starts to brown, add the garlic and ginger and fry for a further 2 minutes. Add the coriander, cumin, turmeric, chilli and garam masala, stir and then immediately add the tomatoes. Cook for about 2 minutes until the tomatoes soften, then add the chicken. Fry the chicken for 3 minutes, then add the salt, sugar and stir in the spinach puree. Cook uncovered for about 5 minutes until the chicken is cooked through, then add the nutmeg and stir through the cream. Taste, and adjust seasoning as necessary, then stir through the butter and serve.