Maple Smoked Bacon!

Lately, I've been obsessed with creating my own food. Whether that's through my little veggie garden or making cheese, I find it so incredibly interesting and rewarding to create amazing ingredients on my own. As I was browsing through the Toro Bravo cookbook a couple weeks back I was inspired to create my own bacon. And to be honest, it was so incredibly easy and mind-blowingly tasty that I decided that I MUST share it on the blog.

Firstly, if you love bacon in any way (and if you don't, I think you're at the wrong blog), you HAVE to appreciate the end result.

The ingredients you need are:

  • 2.2kg pork belly
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tbsp whole coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp juniper berries
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp pink sea salt

Now, you can do less bacon if you want, just scale the ingredients back. The first thing you do is to source some good quality free-range pork belly.

Next, combine the cinnamon, coriander, juniper berries, and salt in a mortar and pestle and ground to a pasted. Add the brown sugar, paprika, chilli powder, and pink sea salt and stir to a consistent powder.

Rub a tablespoon of maple syrup on each side of the pork belly.

Cover all sides of the pork belly with the rub and place into a pan about 2x as wide and high.

Refrigerate for a week. By the end, you should see a good amount of liquid extracted from the belly. Now it's ready to smoke!

I recommend picking up a few smoking tins from Bunnings. They are $15 each and will do a great job of smoking your bacon. Pick up enough wood chips for a 4 hour smoke, about 500 grams. Wet the chips for an hour and then fire up one burner of the BBQ.

Place the pork belly on a rack on the cool side of the BBQ and smoke for 4 hours.

Once the bacon has reached 150C internally it's time to chill in the fridge for a couple hours and then thinly slice. Maybe a favour for your best local butcher? 

In any case, enjoy! I find this bacon is best crisped in the oven. But who cares? It's your own maple smoked bacon and eat it any way you want! Let me know what you think...

Masterchef 1/7/14 - Insane In The Brains

So we're back to somewhat normal challenges after the lull-me-to-sleep boring croquembouche "challenge". I just couldn't do this recap justice on that episode, it was just so batshit boring. But at least tonight we have the master, James Viles from Biota Dining, joining the show and telling us all how it's done.

Kylie Kwong opens us up by saying it's been "amazing" thus far. What's really amazing is that I'm still watching so intently, given how many parts are so obviously scripted and/or arranged. What would be awesome is a cooking show that just lets people COOK. Go figure.

And this Power Apron bullshit is starting to annoy me. Win one challenge, get all kinds of benefits for a full week? What a way to help keep a fan/producer fave on the show for a few more days. Whoa, wait a minute!

And I never have gotten this "cooking with beer" to create great bar snacks thing. Isn't beer God's best bar snack on its own?! And then George puts his hands in some of the bar snacks. Didn't his mum teach him that's how you spread cooties? Sheesh. Then I start screaming, "Someone make BEER CAN CHICKEN!". Damn it, won't someone listen?!

Someone says "bacon" and I smile. Colin says "cap-si-CUN" and I throw my shoe at the TV. The only thing that pisses me off more than that is when people say "draw" instead of "drawer". DAMN YOU ALL TO HELL. Grammar - it's the difference between knowing your shit and knowing you're shit.

So we all know now that Laura hasn't used beer before. Like five times. Ok, move on. Or, you could pull a Renae and freak out and cry cause, you know, it's a new ingredient and shit.

Gary tells us that this "won't get any better". For once, he's right. And Tracy obviously struggles with multi-tasking. Which, you know, is par for the course for the cook holding the fucking Power Apron. Then ham gets confused with bacon. You'd think Australia's top cooks would know this.

Seriously, how could they be doing top bar food without BUFFALO WINGS?! They are the end-all and be-all of great bar food. Just sayin'.

Then it drops. Kylie redefines the English language by saying it's a "mushy firmness". What the fuck?! I'm blown away by this until Matt makes some hand motions announcing that Tracy is battling for the immunity pin. If you saw it, you'd know.

And then James joins us. Seriously, if you haven't been to Biota Dining you must make a beeline there NOW. It's simply incredible. As I'm catching up on Foxtel IQ someone mentions brains. I make a Cypress Hill comment. We laugh. And then we hear "brains" mentioned about a dozen more times. No one gets the joke...

Tracy tells us that her dish is "rustic". I think that's just a synonym for "shit presentation." (EDIT: it's shit presentation) And then the judges pretend to not know who cooked what. Just another farce on Masterchef Australia.

Funny thing is that the waitress leaves out "brain puree" in her description. Why? I mean, they've said "brains" a dozen times already. In any case, Tracy beats James. WHAT THE FUCK?! Are you serious? Man, we've jumped the shark. James is obviously pissed. Which he should be. Craziness.

In any case, we're whittling things down to the last few. Let's hope we still see some good cooking and the producers and judges don't continue to screw things up. Tonight's recap is brought to you by AllDay. Check out the track, "Claude Monet", it's a cracker. He's a good Aussie rapper and his new album drops on July the 4th! Good night, peeps. 'Til tomorrow.

Masterchef 29/6/14 - It Burns My Turkey

It's hard to believe I've been doing these recaps for two weeks now. But I have to admit, it's pretty good fun. But upon reflection last night, I have to say that the title of the show is starting to confound me a bit. I realise "Masterchef" is an Aussie version of the classic UK show but shouldn't it really be Mastercook? Or Goodcook? Seriously, there is less and less "mastery" and "chefing" going on each episode than the last. But I digress.

And I know I'm pedantic but I'm very pleased they stopped calling it the Golden Apron when it is CLEARLY white with gold lettering. Now it's the Power Apron. It still makes me think of He-Man or some sort of variant. And speaking of mythical creatures, didn't George look more Hobbit-like last night than most? He shouldn't wear his collar up.

So we finally see the Masterchef "back of house". SO many amazing goodies! I'd apply to the show just to spend the six weeks back there having deep and meaningfuls with everything. Have I mentioned that my kitchen is the size of a broom closet and the Gourmet Female screams everytime I buy a new Bradley smoker or Steak Locker? (both purchased in a week - anyone have a couch I can crash on?)

Tracy has the Power Apron so she can decide which ingredients are in this Mystery Box. The funny thing about the Mystery Box is the mystery about why they only have to use ONE of the ingredients. And to make my blood boil even more, Tracy picks Skate and then goes NO WHERE near it. Pisses me off.

George tells us that they'll be tasting the 3 best dishes of the night. Sorry, George, I have to correct you. You'll be tasting the three dishes that the producers WANT you to taste. And it'll probably, no likely, involve Sarah. (EDIT: it involves Sarah. FUCK!) And on Sarah, she says that she is starting to get "it" back. Did she ever really have it?

Intelligent minds show themselves when we hear a couple cooks say they are going to cook dishes that they've "never made before". But really, this just plays to my theory that the contestants cook most everything for the first time, from a recipe. And they might even get to practise beforehand. It's almost certain.

And for once Gary is spot-on. Tracy is indeed ignoring the skate. Did I say how much this pisses me off? I guess they would have a drama on their hands if eight or nine of the contestants completely fucked up using skate. Best to focus on carrots and chocolate, no?

Some genius decides to blowtorch something on a paper towel. Yep, these are our Master chefs, didn't you know? And then the Aussie accent cracks me up. Someone has a "pasta disaster" and it rhymes. How in the hell does this country NOT produce more rappers? The rhyming options are ENDLESS!

Sarah saunters through the kitchen like there's not much she could do to get voted off. Yep, I need not say any more.

Brent tells the judges to "be the judges". Brilliant. It's almost like when Matt told someone who was standing behind their dish to "stand behind" their dish. MENSA members these people are not.

It's about at this point I say, "Jesus, if they said Sarah there I was going to go postal" as they pick Emelia to have her dish tasted. Phew. And this is quickly followed by a "FUCK me" as they pick Sarah. She just won't go away. She saunters back to the benches.

Brent wins, which is great because I'm holding a fork at this point. Near my eyes. Focused on Sarah. It would have happened. And then I'd have to type these recaps by voice recognition. And we know how crap THAT technology still is, all these years on.

As an aside, follow @manversusbean. DO IT NOW! This guy is an absolute crack-up! Just when I'm about to go nuclear about Sarah he sends me this:

"Dude, we need more ridiculously good looking people on this show." A Zoolander reference to calm me down about Sarah. That'll do it. But I still am hoping she gets snakes or ravenous wolverines in her gift box from Tracy.

Emelia promises to deliver escargot in 30 minutes. It's about this point that I REALLY could go for escargot in about 30 minutes. But it never appears. Then Renae loses her shit and freaks out about chopping and cooking eel. But Uncle Colin steps in and does it for her. Seriously, that should be an instant elimination. Can't touch the ingredient, can't cook this week. Buh-bye.

We see Sarah's "I'll get you back, BITCH" face when she realises Tracy gives her tripe with 15 minutes to cook it. Funny thing is, I've been watching this tripe for 60 minutes at this point and am STILL watching!

Brent repays me for his hair by throwing in a :"cooked to perfection" and "balanced to perfection". Those two shots tasted just like perfection, ironically. Yum. And I shout to him to make beercan chicken. It's the best invention EVER! You are FORCED to drink beer to start cooking. That's my kind of chef-ery, people.

Ben says he doesn't want to blow George's head off. We vote that wouldn't upset us. It'd probably make us laugh. Go on, Ben. George HATES lamb. Seriously. Show him a lesson.

I start searching for the meaning of "burning my turkey". I'm SURE it's euphemism. "Dude, did you hear that Sarah is on tonight's Masterchef promo?". "FUCK, that really burns my turkey." It's a start. Needs refinement.

Colin aims for the stars. He wants to be "fourth worst". Yay! And then all the cooks look at their dishes with "smell the fart" faces. And a couple of them look like they're ready to laugh. Yep, he who smelled it dealt it, guys. And I'm guessing Colin's responsible.

Ben matches Colin's aspirations by "depending on other people's failures". This is a HIGHLY aspiration group, people. They are our Master Chefs, after all. The "best left in all of Australia".

Jamie starts to let me down. I sense a trend. I might have to change my name, after all. And then Sarah brings out her tripe and there's not ONE fucking comment about how God-awful it looks. They bang on every episode about presentation and then give that steaming pile a pass. So transparent it's sickening. And then Tracy has the look of, "SHIT, that backfired."

And Brent is through. By the hair of his chinny-chin-chin. Speaking of Chin Chin, make it over that way if you're in Melbourne. Simply awesome!

This was one FREAKIN' long episode. But full of good material. But Sarah still "burns my turkey". Stick with me people, it'll get better. Tonight's episode is brought to us by Clubfeet. I'm not sure how a band from South Africa and Melbourne get together but when they do it's AWESOME! Dancy goodness. Until the next episode, peeps.

Masterchef 26/6/14 - Ben < Maths

How cool are my friends on Twitter?! Not only do they recognise when I'm not around during the live broadcast they even avoid telling me what's going on when they realise I'm on tape delay. I'm lukewarm on the actual show but warming to my many friends that I've made through the show. Now enough of that soft crap! :)

Tonight we have an "intense Mystery Box challenge" (I'll bet there are a few of those in the Cross) and the chance to win a "Power Apron". Sounds like He-Man and the Masters of the Universe to me.

Hold the freakin' phone! Emelia CRIES tonight?! When did that happen? Oh, yes, there's a knife involved. And I'm SURE it's the knife's fault, not hers. And Sarah can just GO TO HELL. I saw a Masterchef tweet yesterday where they were asking for retweets to keep Sarah. It was 10:1 at the minimum. And they're really trying to get us to believe it isn't rigged?!

And that's not a fucking GOLD apron! It's a white apron with gold lettering. Yes, I'm a pedantic pain in the ass but let's get accurate, no? And Matt says that the "dream is now sharpened". Too bad his outfit is not. 

I've been pretty open about the fact that I'm Jamie's biggest fan. But he's thrown by the fact that there's no trout? I mean, come on dude, the Jamie community depends on you! Then Emelia blames the knife for her tears. I'm not holding my breath for her to say, "Yep, it sucks but I messed the FUCK up. It's ALL my fault." Nope, not happening.

Jamie goes WAY overboard with berries. And Matt says that the rosewater in Renae's dessert smells like his grandmother's perfume. Thank GOD he said "perfume". That could have gone wrong quickly. Phew.

Emelia apparently has too much oil. I'd say she also has too much whine. And then she reminds us that her finger hurts. And how it'll be the scapegoat if she fails. (EDIT: she fails) And just to make things clear, I give Emelia the finger. You know, to replace the one she hurt. Although I think it's a different finger. But you get the point. She probably doesn't. And to top it off, she's keen to boil someone's nuts. I somehow don't think that's a figure of speech. She's like that.

Jamie is cooking lamb "to perfection". And Ben is drooling all over the Gantry "to perfection". And for some reason I'm tempted to get my freekeh on.

Then Gary says that the skin on a dish is "melty". Really?! Is that even a word? Do they even really care? And then Matt channels Marlon Brando and I vomit just a little bit. Just a teensy bit. It's a pretty bad impression, dudes.

Emelia pipes up from the Gantry. And I tell her to shut the FUCK up. She should go cry about her finger or something. And then Ben tries his maths skills. He claims Tracy has practiced this dish 500,000 times. Or about 5x/day for 35 years. Yep, they grow them smart over the Tasman. Or keen. If you're lamb.

"it's not about SWEET, it's not about SOUR. It's all about POWER." Matt, for God's sake. Really? Is that the best that you can bring to the show? We've reached a new low. Which I didn't think was possible. But apparently it is. Low.

Now it's all about SUGAR! And I'm tempted to throw on System of a Down. 'Cause, you know, they have an amazing song called "Sugar". Check it out. Really. And that's it. Tracy wins the "Gold Apron", which really isn't gold. Just gold lettering on a white apron. Did I say that before? Hmmm. I have a bit of early onset dementia. Must be from watching brain dead shows. Nameless shows, of course. Yes.

And tonight's Masterchef recap is courtesy of Projected. Had no idea who these dudes were before today but found them on Spotify. Love Sevendust? Screw it, love music in general? Give them a listen. I love it! Night, peeps. A two day hiatus until we step into the ring on Sunday. Have a good weekend.