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Spring may be just around the corner, but warmth and comfort is still the order of the day, says chef Bevan Smith.
The year is running away and although the winter has largely been mild to date, I am sure we will still have a few surprises in store like the past week.
Bulbs are stirring in the ground, buds on bare branches are beginning to swell and the magnolias are threatening to erupt into riotous colour any day soon.
While it is lovely in the sun, the wind can still pack a chilly punch, so warmth and comfort is still the order of the day when it comes to a rumbly tummy.
Coconut, turmeric and ginger soup with rice noodles is a fast track to happiness. Colourful, delicious and easy to knock up on the fly, this is my new favourite go-to soup.
Confit duck is hard to resist at the best of times. In fact, I can still remember the first time I tried it, a seminal moment in which for me the world of food changed.
Paired with a simple salad of shaved kohlrabi, capers and watercress, it speaks simplicity and elegance in one delicious package.
For those with a sweet tooth, mallow puffs can be a bit of a walk down memory lane.
An afternoon playing around in the kitchen has resurrected these classic treats and returned them to the status they rightfully deserve.
Wickedly tasty, one is more than enough, so you will need to invite a few friends around and pop on the kettle.
So wrap up warm and keep it in the kitchen this month. Spring is just around the corner. Happy cooking.
Coconut, turmeric and ginger soup with rice noodles
100g rice noodles
¼ cup canola oil
1 small carrot, roughly chopped
½ red onion, roughly chopped
1 stick celery, roughly chopped
1 cup butternut pumpkin, peeled and cut into large dice
½ swede, peeled and cut into large dice
5cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
6 star anise
12 cardamom pods
2 tsp turmeric powder
400ml tin coconut cream
good dash fish sauce
2 cups sprouting broccoli, finely chopped
Place noodles in a large bowl and cover with boiling water for 5-6 minutes before draining well and refreshing in cold water.
Meanwhile, pour canola oil into a medium-sized pot over a medium heat.
Add carrot, onion, celery, pumpkin, swede and two-thirds of the ginger and garlic.
Sweat without colour for 5 minutes before adding the spices and cooking for a further minute before adding the coconut cream and water.
Bring to a simmer, reducing the heat as necessary and simmer for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
Season with fish sauce to taste and add the broccoli.
Remove from the heat and set to one side.
Rewarm the noodles in a bowl with a little more boiling water, before draining and either serving on the side or placing in the bottom of four bowls.
Pour the soup on top of the noodles and serve immediately.
Confit duck with kohlrabi, capers and watercress
4 duck legs
1 sprig thyme
2 bay leaves
peel of half an orange
peel of half a lemon
3 star anise
50g iodised table salt
1 litre water
400ml duck fat, warmed
2 medium heads green kohlrabi, peeled
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
3 Tbsp baby salted capers, well rinsed
¼ small red onion, finely sliced
2-3 cups watercress
½ cup jus, warmed
Remove the excess fat from the duck legs and the inner thigh bone. Place duck into a stainless steel bowl or plastic container.
Place the thyme, bay leaves, peel, spices and salt into a small pot with 200ml of the water.
Bring to the boil to dissolve the salt and infuse the aromatics, remove from the heat.
Pour the remaining water over the duck before adding the infused water and aromatics.
Cover and place in the fridge overnight. The next day, remove the duck from the brine, rinse under cold running water and dry well with a tea towel.
Place the duck into a small ovenproof baking tray or loaf tin with 8-10cm sides. Pour over the warmed duck fat.
Place a small piece of baking paper on top, cover and tightly seal with tinfoil.
Place duck into a 160degC oven and cook for 2-3 hours or until duck is very tender.
Test with a paring knife. Remove from the heat and allow to cool in the fat. Duck can be stored in the fridge, in the fat for several weeks.
Heat oven to 200degC. Remove the duck from the fat. Place a large ovenproof frying pan over a high heat. Place a piece of baking paper in the bottom of the pan.
Put the duck legs skin side down into the pan and colour the skin well before placing the pan into the oven.
Roast for 6-7 minutes or until the duck is nicely browned and the skin is crispy.
Meanwhile, finely slice the kohlrabi and place it into a bowl with the mayonnaise, capers, onion and watercress.
Gently mix salad ingredients to combine and divide between four bowls.
Place a leg of duck on top of each salad, and drizzle over a little of the warmed jus.
Mallow `wonder' puffs
1 can condensed milk
125g unsalted butter
1 cup caster sugar
1 free-range egg
½ tsp vanilla essence
½ tsp baking powder
2 cups plain flour|
200g caster sugar
100g egg white
300g dark chocolate buttons
Ahead of time, place the can of condensed milk into a small pot and cover with hot water.
Bring to the boil and continue to boil for 2-3 hours topping up the water as required to keep it well covered. (If the pot is allowed to boil dry the can, might explode).
After three hours, remove from heat and allow to cool. Store in the fridge in the can until ready to use.
Preheat oven to 200degC. Beat the butter and caster sugar until very light and fluffy.
Add the egg and mix in well before adding the vanilla, baking powder and flour.
Mix until just combined and roll into a soft dough. Cover with plastic cling wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Unwrap and roll out pastry on a lightly floured benchtop until the pastry is 2-3mm thick.
Use a 6cm round cutter to cut pastry discs out.
Place pastry rounds onto a baking paper-lined oven tray and bake for 6 to 8 minutes or until golden (any offcuts of pastry can be reformed and rolled out to make more discs).
Remove pastry from oven and allow to cool on a cake cooling rack. Spoon a teaspoon of the condensed milk caramel into the centre of each biscuit.
Place the sugar with three-quarters of a cup of water into a small pot with the second amount of caster sugar and boil rapidly until the water has evaporated and the boiling sugar begins to form thick bubbles without colour.
Remove from heat and in a mixing machine, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. With the machine still running, slowly pour the boiling sugar onto the egg whites.
Continue to whisk whites until the outside of the bowl is cool to touch. Place meringue into a piping bag with a round nozzle and pipe it to cover the caramel.
Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pot of boiling water.
Warm the cream slightly in the microwave until it reaches blood temperature. Stir into the cream until glossy and fully incorporated.
Spoon the ganache over the meringue and place mallow puffs in the fridge for 15 minutes to set the chocolate. Serve with enthusiasm and a cup of strong tea.
Bevan and Monique Smith own Riverstone Kitchen, runner-up Best Regional Restaurant in the 2014 Cuisine Good Food Awards.