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Thai smoked sausage

Thai smoked sausage recipe

I have eyed this recipe up for a couple of years now. A few years ago my good friend Marc gave me a bunch of suggestions for cookbooks. I had reached a rut in what I was cooking, and wanted an out. Marc is a total hoarder (honestly, his habit redefines the term hoarding) of cookbooks so he seemed like the logical person to turn to. Among many books he recommended that day was “Thai Food” by David Thompson. I ordered it on the spot. Authentic Thai is a long way from the heavy sweet noodle rich dishes we see in most American-Thai joints – there is a lovely balance between sour and sweet, and complex saltiness.

When the book arrived, the first page I opened the book on, quite accidentally, was the Smoked Sausage, Sai Grop recipe. Thai sausage is typically much softer than most European counterparts, mainly because of the addition of many more things other than pork and spices. This recipe has a fair amount of coconut cream, fish sauce and fresh curry paste. The texture ends up more reminiscent of a firmer blood sausage. This sausage is first marinaded, then stuffed, then smoked, then grilled to finish. It certainly isn’t a recipe to turn to when you want to knock out a batch of sausage in 30 minutes, but if you have a lazy evening with not much going on, then it will fill your time quite nicely.

I modified David Thompson’s recipe a bit. I knocked the amount of liquid down a bit, and cut the fresh chili down some. The later was a shame. It barely has any spice to it. The recipe you see below has my reduced liquid content, but the chili’s at recipes full amount. If you were to double the liquid, then you could easily stuff this in to casing “blood sausage style” – either with a piping bag with a big nozzle, or by cutting the base off a large plastic soda bottle, and using that as a stuffer. To smoke, David suggested smoking in a wok using coconut, sugar and tea leaves as fuel. Frankly I have never had much luck using sugar as a smoking fuel, so I smoked the puppies over applewood in my smoker.

Thai Smoked Sausage recipe

Thai Smoked Sausage Recipe
(adapted from Thai Food, by David Thompson)

NOTE: the original recipe didn’t call for Cure1. Personally whenever I smoke meat I add cure1, to prevent the chance of botulism.

250g (8oz) minced fatty pork (pork shoulder is good here)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon palm sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup coconut cream
2 tablespoons shredded kaffir lime leaves
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
3 feet sausage casing (I used regular hogs casings)
0.5g cure1 (available here: http://www.sausagemaker.com/11050instacureand153no18oz.aspx)

paste:
4 dried long red chillies, deseeded, soaked and drained
large pinch of salt
2 tablespoons chopped lemongrass
1 tablespoon chopped galangal
1 tablespoon chopped coriander root
1 teaspoon finely grated kaffir lime zest
3 tablespoons minced garlic
4 tablespoons chopped red shallot
1 teaspoon shrimp paste
1/2 cup ground roasted peanuts

Soak the sausage casings in cold water for at least two hours, preferably 6. Change the water a few times during soaking. If the casings aren’t soaked for long enough they run the risk of splitting during stuffing.

Make the paste by pounding it all up in a pestle and mortar. If you get bored use a food processor, but apparently the results aren’t as good. Mix the paste with the minced pork, and other ingredients. Let sit for a couple of hours in the fridge. This is a good idea before smoking sausage anyhow – smoke sticks much better to a dry piece of meat than a wet piece.

Clean the casings by running cold water through them. Pack the meat mixture into your sausage stuffer, and fit with a medium to large stuffer tube that fits well with the hogs casings. Put the casings on the stuffer tube and start cranking out the meat. As the meat nears the end of the casing, tie the casing off. Keep stuffing until all the meat is in the casing. Tie off the casing and twist into links – length is up to you, 5″ or so is fine. If you now chill the sausage uncovered for an hour or so you will find the casings dry out a bit making it easier to cut into groups of links without the twists coming undone.

Prepare your smoker to smoke at 170F. Smoke your sausages until you get an internal meat temperature of 150F. Prepare an ice bath, and put your sausages in there immediately after smoking. Once completely chilled, refrigerate.

When it comes time to serve the sausage – cook them over charcoal, or in a cast iron pan, getting a nice sear on the outside. Remember, the smoking “cooked” them so all we are doing here is adding color, crisping up the casing, and heating them through. 10 minutes should be your max cooking time.

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Homemade Pastrami

Home Cured Pastrami

My wife introduced me to Pastrami a while ago. It was something I never had back in the UK. My mum would make a spiced beef round every year, which I guess is somewhat similar (only not smoked). That was as close as I ever got to Pastrami. Back Then.
Then Michael Ruhlman’s charcuterie book got me to make it. His recipe calls for wet brining the meat, then smoking. Before eating you can steam it till ridiculously tender. I have made this a few times, and it is pretty good. Me being me however, decided to do things my own way, and really like the result.

You might say this isn’t traditional pastrami. I know a lot of people would. I use my own spice mix based on flavors I like in cured meat. I dry cure it, instead of wet curing. Not because I think it is any better, but just because I find it easier. Besides I like rubbing salt in to meat. Just dumping meat into a pot of spicy water doesn’t have the same tactile experience if you ask me, and I know you didn’t.

I don’t have much to say about it really. It is easy, cheap to make, and rather tasty. It is also a rather nice way to while away a lazy afternoon by the smoker. Even if you don’t have a smoker, you could just slow roast the bloody thing in the oven, not to any detriment really. It would taste different, of course, but that isn’t a bad thing. You could smoke it in a wok for a bit if you wanted, then finish it in a low oven too, if that takes your fancy.

The whole thing starts with a nice piece of brisket. You can use other cuts here if you want, a round would be fine, but I like brisket. It gets rubbed with salt, spices, cure #1 (more on that in a minute), and then dumped in the fridge for a week. Then you smoke it, very slowly. Before serving you steam it gently to help break down the connective tissue further. Frankly I hardly ever bother. I eat it straight out the smoker. The left over chunk keeps for ages in the fridge, where you can slice very thin slices (hello meat slicer my old friend), and warm them through by steaming. I am not picky. I will just slice a bit straight out the fridge and eat it that way too. Ghetto style.

So have a go. Pastrami is the gateway meat. Next up you will be curing salami, just you see.

Homemade Pastrami Recipe

NOTE: Instacure #1: Want Botulism? No? Me neither. So use it. Instacure #1 is a mix of salt and nitrite. It is used for curing bacon, pastrami and so forth. The reason we use it is because you can make an environment devoid of oxygen in a smoker if you smoke is really thick. This can lead to the germination of botulism spores, producing the well known toxin. Lets not do that. Please do not use Instacure #2, or anything with nitrATES. They are generally not considered safe for smoked meats that are cooked. The plus side is that it is totally harmless (and some recent studies have shown nitrites as being very good for you) in the quantities shown, and gives the meat a lovely flavor and color.

cure:
Beef Brisket
salt – 2% of meat weight
instacure #1 – 0.04oz per 1lb of meat
4 juniper berries per 1lb of meat
1/2 tsp fennel seed per 1lb of meat

rub before smoking:
corriander seed – 1/2 tablespoon per 1lb of meat
black pepper corns – 1 teaspoon per 1lb of meat

Grind the juniper and fennel seed to a fine powder in a spice grinder. Mix with the remaining cure ingredients. Rub in to the brisket, place in a sealable bag and pop it in the fridge. Leave it there for 5 to 7 days. Every day, rub it through the bag, turn it over.

Remove meat from the bag, and rinse off the cure. Coarsely grind the corriander seed and pepper together, and press it in to the meat.

Preheat smoker to 225F. I like to use apple wood for smoking, but hey, use what you want. Smoke at 225F for 4-5 hours, or until internal temperature of the meat reaches 200F.

Allow to cool, then wrap and put in the fridge for a day. The next day, steam the meat for an hour before serving to make it incredibly tender. (Honestly, I hardly ever do the steaming bit, I just slice it really thin and enjoy it more like a cured meat).

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Editing food photography in Lightroom VIDEO!

It sure is nice to get back into the swing of blogging again. As I was editing the images for my last post, I thought it might be rather fun to make a video of my editing process inside of Lightroom.

I have been a photoshop user for over 10 years, and have found myself in Photoshop less and less with each revision of Lightroom. Frankly, that I like. If I can keep my workflow to one package, I am a happy man. One thing that really helps that is the “local adjustments” inside of Lightroom (I believe other packages have such options too). Local adjustments let you do exactly what it says on the tin – that is, make adjustments (exposure, levels etc) to just certain portions of the image. Those portions you want it to adjust you just paint over. Rather handy for fixing up areas of an image that need a little work.

Now, I don’t want to start an argument about whether images should be adjusted digitally or not. Ever since the camera was developed images have been adjusted (in a darkroom), and more recently inside the computer. Every professional photographer I know, that makes a good living, does post-production work on their images – and rightly so. Digital cameras natively can create rather flat looking images. Just simple tone curve and saturation adjustments can go a very long way.

editing food photography in lightroom

In this video demo I run through my development process for two images, both of which require local adjustments to make them more compelling. The workflow is pretty simple and fast – certainly much easier than doing these adjustments inside of Photoshop, which would involve adjustment layers, and then painting masks for these layers.

Basic Food Photography Development workflow

Shoot in RAW

Try to get the best possible lighting and exposure on camera

Adjust white balance if needed

Crop if needed (try to frame properly with your camera, rather than rely on cropping later)

Make broad exposure changes

Make broad tonal curve changes

Make broad saturation changes

Make local exposure/tone/saturation changes

The idea here is that we want to get the overal image looking right and having the correct feel before we go in to isolated areas and make local adjustments. The beauty of Lightroom, and most other RAW editors, is that you can go back and forth with all your settings – nothing is etched in to stone, it is all adjustable without wrecking image quality. I like that.

Here is my setup for the white tabletop shot:

Food Photography setup

This is my dining table pushed over to the window. The background (tablecloth) is actually some canvas I bought at an art supply store. On top of that is a ceramic tile from a salvage yard. The fabric is a light white shirt I was wearing that day. All dishes were from Goodwill I seem to remember.

The light is obviously coming mainly from the right – through the large window. I have a white card on the opposite side of the food to help fill in the shadows a bit. Don’t default to using a bounce card. Take a few shots first and look at your light and shadow quality. A straight shot with no bounce card can have more drama, with deeper shadows. This can look very, very good indeed. For this shot however I wanted something very light and airy, and a bounce card helped produce the lighting I wanted. If you position the bounce card and find that it has removed all of shadows, just simply move the card further away from your food until you get the shadow depth that you want.

So, here is the video of developing food phtography shots. If I slur it has nothing to do with with two glasses of wine I drank this evening…(oh due to compression the colors in the video are much brighter than they actually are)

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cucumber, tomato and radish salad, saffron dressing

cucumber tomato salad

It is funny, I just joked on Facebook that it has been so long since I have blogged that I have forgotten my wordpress password. Funny at first, sure, but somewhat sad too. These last 6months have been an upheaval for my family – some large changes in our life that have come to be very welcome indeed. With things seeming like a routine again I can now focus more time to taking food photos, making food, and writing about it. For that, I am seriously happy indeed. I am even more happy for the fact that my lovely wife took a few long days to clear up the garage so I can get to my meat curing chambers again. Things are on course for a very, very meaty winter.

With all that said, on to some food. I have had a long run on this blog of vegetarian dishes, and frankly I see no harm in continuing that trend. Given that we are in the midst of the best growing season I have seen for a few years, it would be rather inconsiderate to this fine weather not to write about something that wholly reflects the current time of year. I am not going to get on the whole local/sustainable/seasonal soapbox (because most know where I stand with that), but this is the time of year where that should be done, and done simply.

asian cucumbers
We were walking around the farmers market and saw some awesome asian cucumbers at our favorite lettuce stand. Snatching those up, and a watermelon radish I set home with a few ideas in mind. I have been looking at a lot of Persian dishes recently, and figured I might well do something in that vain. A simple side salad that was clean, fresh, and interesting enough to seem far more complicated than it really is.

cucumber tomato salad
So here. Mandoline a bunch of cucumber (the asian ones really do work well here) and watermelon radish, slice some tomatoes into wedges, mix up some saffron and herbs, and give this a go.

One thing I want to do is to take shots of my photography setups for each shot. This is really for my learning more than anything – so I have a log of how to do things. I see no harm in sharing the shots! If anyone has suggestions on changes to setup I would love to hear them!

(yes that is actually my white shirt I’m using as the linen!)

food photography setup

Cucumber tomato salad
Cucumber, Tomato, Radish salad recipe

2 cucumbers, preferably the less bitter asian variety
10 ripe cherry tomatoes
1 watermelon radish
a few springs of basil and mint
15 saffron threads
2 tablespoons of hot water
splash of lemon juice
2 talbespoons of good olive oil
sea salt

mix the saffron threads with the hot water. Let sit for 30 minutes.

Using a mandoline or some mad knife skills slice the cucumbers lengthwise, discarding (or snacking on) the core/seeds. Slice the watermelon radish using the mandolin also, across the radish so you see that awesome starburst color. Slice the cherry tomatoes into eight’s through the core to make nice looking wedges.

Whisk together the oil, lemon juice and saffron water. Tear the herb leaves into large pieces. Toss all of the ingredients together, and dress with the saffron vinaigrette. Season to taste with good sea salt.

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Homemade labne with toasted nuts, spices and honeycomb

Hello, have you missed me? You see, my dog ate my computer so all of those 20 posts I have backed up and ready to hit “publish” on disappeared down fido’s esophagus.

To tell the truth this has been a crazy start to the year. Some health stuff, starting a new job, a remodel. Lots of changes. The biggest right now is that my curing chambers are (and have been) out of commission, which I hope to rectify shortly.

Thankfully things have stopped being “mental” as I call them, and I have actually managed to pickup my camera again, after far too many months. The first thing I aimed it at was some cheese. Well, the first thing was my son in his pterodactyl costume, but that doesn’t work for this blog. The cheese however does. The cheese in question is Labne. Some might know it as strained yogurt, greek yogurt, yogurt cheese, or whatever else. Personally I prefer to call it Labne, purely because it makes it sound far more mystical and somehow trickier to make than it actually is.

get this labne recipe after the jump

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A bean stew with beet salad for a cold night

Things have been quiet around here recently. The last couple of months have been quite an unexpected roller coaster here in the Wrightfood household, and frankly I haven’t had much interest in blogging to be honest. Thankfully, things are starting to look exceedingly good for us, which has also meant that thankfully my passion for food has returned a bit.

On the cards these days is simple, fast, tasty food. The kind of food that you can whack a lot of flavor into in the space of 15 minutes, but yet it still has a subtle clean elegance to it, even if it is a rustic pot-o-beans.

get this bean stew recipe after the jump

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smoked squash, herb marinated feta, garlic dressing

I don’t do a lot of smoking. I won a smoker a few years back for a photo of some meat, and guess what – I never used it. It stayed in garage, unopened in the box. Well, honestly, that was mainly because it was one of those that used these dicey pellets of reformed wood and with me being the hippy that I am I didn’t want to smoke my food with a bunch of unknown substances that hold that reformed wood together. I imagined it to be kinda like smoking food using MDF. Nah, not for me.

get this smoked squash recipe after the jump

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Spenser magazine

Many months ago I got en email from a bloke at a new online magazine startup called Spenser. He was looking for a story. Apparently he likes the stuff I do on my blog here and wanted an article about how I got started in charcuterie, the stories of the successes and failures, and just how you go about curing meat at home.

“sure!” I said “that sounds like fun”. Turns out it was. Even better than that it turns out that this online magazine is absolutely fantastic. Stocked full of great stories and photography. My kind of publication. In future editions I will be delving more in to different aspects of charcuterie, but to start with this article is about how I got started doing what I love.

So, go read. The whole magazine. It is awesome, and you can view it for free. That makes it doubly awesome. Oh, and they have a really nifty viewer to read it in too. Yep, you guessed it – now triple awesome. Here is the link: Spenser Magazine

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beets with creme fraiche and other stuff..

Beets are my favorite root vegetable. My favorite to grow in our back yard, and my favorite to chow down on come the cooler months. They have, I have to say, been one of our great successes in the yard. We aren’t experienced gardeners, especially when it comes to vegetables. Many things have died from either our neglect or over attention, but beets have never been one of them. The seeds we sowed this year even survived a ridiculously wet spring and early summer that left most of our other crops bait for slugs. Each year we grow a couple of different varieties, some golden, some of the standard red ones and my personal favorite the chioggia beet. The chioggia is hands down the prettiest beet in the patch. I love how they look simple and beetish in the ground. You pick them and the slightly more red/orange root still looks like a standard beet, albeit a slightly odd colored one. But once you cut in to one raw and see the magnificent strips of brightly colored flesh you are sold. Unfortunately they loose some of that when cooked, however – which just means they should be eaten raw more often. For some reason it always reminds me of cutting in to a watermelon radish, a similar spectacular display of colors and patterns.

get more beets after the jump

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roasted peppers, millet with apricots, raisins, hazelnuts and toasted spices

It is about this time of year that I start doing quite a lot with locally grown peppers. They crop up at the farmers markets everywhere and it is pretty much impossible to walk through without picking up at least one bag. Over the years I have started to stray away from the usual red bell peppers, in search of more interesting shapes and colors. I actively hunt out the odd looking ones. Those deformed ones seem to have more character and I think they taste better to boot – or maybe just photograph with more charm..

Click to read more of this roasted pepper recipe

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a simple pot of beans

As I start getting old in my years, I am starting to realize there are two things that you shouldn’t mess with. The first is your mother-in-law, and the second is a pot beans. I am not even going to go there with the first – I happen to have a great MIL, so no worries there. The pot of beans is a far more complex issue anyhow (not calling the MIL “simple” you understand) because it needs subtly, which as we all know mother-in-laws can never have (hi Nell!)…

Beans are a favorite of mine, not just because they go so darn well with pork. Oh, and lamb to that point too. Beans have the ability to soak up so much flavor from whatever they are cooked in, yet remain delicate and individually nuanced if you want them to be.

get more beans after the jump

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Food and Light 2011

This blog has been a little quiet of late, and I apologize for that. Things have been busy, really busy. Here is one of the reasons why – Food and Light 2011.

Jen Yu of UseRealButter fame emailed me a while ago and asked if I wanted to be an instructor along with her and Todd and Diane of WhiteOnRiceCouple for this two day photography and styling workshop in Boulder, CO that she was setting up.

Click to read more about this workshop

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gluten free flatbreads – hot pepper lonzino and mizuna

It has taken us nearly a year to perfect this gluten free flatbread dough. The “we” part is my wife and I. For the last couple of years she has had to be gluten-free and that might well never change, so we decided to try and develop a fantastic pizza and flatbread gluten free dough. A regular weekly staple for us was making pizza from the basic “wheat, no knead” recipe that seems to be on every blog these days. We changed it a bit to use a mix of white and whole grain flours, but it was essentially the same. The only problem with it was gluten.

So when Danika first had to go gluten free, this was the one thing we had to make. We started with a recipe from a gluten free baking book. Our hopes were high. We bought the 4000 different flours required, the 20 different bizzare gums that I had never heard of before, and started to mix. We let it rise, then baked it. We wanted to like it. “hey this isn’t bad” I seem to remember muttering. But we knew different. It was bloody lousy. It was also a sodding pain in arse to work with.

Click to read more about this gluten free flatbreads

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the USDA approved basement..

It was about a year ago that I met David Pearlstein. He had a charcuterie blog back then, and was making some very decent looking (and tasting) product in his basement. He came over, we shared some of our cured meat (he makes the best duck proscuitto I have ever tasted) and chatted for a while about salty pig bits. Back then there was no mention of his great plans afoot.

About 6 months ago I checked his blog and saw a post on how he was converting his small home garage into a fully inspected, USDA approved meat processing facility, with the view to make awesome fresh sausage from local sustainable meats. Frankly, this didn’t surprise me much. David has spent more than a decade making fresh sausage, so it only seemed natural for him to make a business out of it. What did surprise me however was that he was going to do it legally from his garage. At the time I remember thinking that it will never work. That he would never get USDA approval for something like this. I mean, everything you hear about the USDA is that they are there to support big (BIG) business and giggle with a non-approving look at small artisan businesses.

click to read more about this meaty garage

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breakfast

“You need to eat more protein” said my naturopath, “preferably at breakfast” she added. Being honest, I wasn’t totally surprised. My breakfasts recently had been cereal mixed with nuts and apples, covered in yogurt (Grace Harbor Farms for the world!). Looks like there is less protein in yogurt than I figured.

To some readers of this blog, that might be a shock. Given that my world the last couple of years has revolved around cured meat, pig and fish. This might be a tall order to expect you to believe this, but I honestly don’t eat much meat. In fact, a lot of the stuff I cure I give away. So, with all this in mind I set about coming up with a few fast breakfasts that revolved around my number 1 favorite food.

Eggs.

Click to read more about my favorite breakfast

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