It sucks to have an empty freezer! It almost never happens for me, but it did.
I’m so used to being able to raid the freezer when I don’t have the time or just don’t feel like cooking. So on a sunny Sunday, I put an end to my empty freezer problem with a fire! A fire in Big Bill my clay oven’s belly of course!
First we made some simple margherita pizzas with real Italian buffalo mozzarella. I was very happy when I found a pot reduced to half price at the supermarket the previous day.
Then we put some left over goat curry on and scoffed them off very quickly.
The last bit of goat curry wasn’t enough, so we topped the last one with cheese – and of course nothing can go wrong with that.
Then I made two naan with the last bit of dough. One of them puffed up like a blowfish! Yes, this happens a lot, but I still always want to get a picture of it.
I then sweep out the oven and put in a tray of olive studded focaccia and a batch of blueberry and chocolate muffins.
Then I loaded the oven with 4 x 500g sourdough loaves, as well as a log of biscotti. Two of the sourdough loaves were 25% buckwheat, and the other two had 25% wholemeal. I didn’t have the time to let the dough rise purely on sourdough starter, so I added a little dried yeast to speed up the rising time. The bread were a little over proofed, so I didn’t slash them, and they ended up flattish like ciabatta. They still taste great with bubbly holes throughout, and thankfully not at all sticky as if the dough were massively over proofed.
I let the bread and biscotti baked for an hour. The biscotti was then sliced and baked again for 30 minutes. These biscotti were made with almonds and cacao nibs, using half butter and half cacao butter. They smelled fantastic but didn’t last very long at all… 😉
At the end of the evening, I stuffed Big Bill with a pot of stewed duck wings and pork belly in soy sauce (bottom centre). I also slow roasted a whole lot of garlics with rapeseed oil and rosemary (bottom left). There was also a pot of pumpkin with onions topped with a knob of butter (top left). And what I really wanted for my freezer – a leg of lamb slow roasted with vegetables in a spicy yogurt nut sauce (top right; top centre is extra vegetables with the same nut sauce).
Regarding the roasted garlics, I squeezed them out and put them into jars topped with rapeseed oil. Because there’s quite a bit (3 jam jars), I then boiled the jars in a water bath to sterile them for long term keeping. But all the precaution was rather unnecessary because Kiwi Bird is literally drinking the garlicky oil down, using the airy holey focaccia as his vessel… In his view, he’s consuming vegetable with good healthy oil…
The pork and duck stew also contained lots of peanuts (soaked for a day) and dried Chinese mushrooms – common ingredients in what Taiwanese call a “mixed stew”. The peanuts are cooked until soft, like beans. I love peanuts this way much more than roasted. After the stew had been in Big Bill for a day, I took the meat out and added knotted seaweed and rolled tofu skin into the mix, both also common ingredients. These things don’t need as much cooking as the meat, so I needed to do them separately. I finished the stew in a slow cooker for a few hours. We had the mixed stew for one dinner, and stashed many pots in the freezer.
The lamb actually came out pink after a night in Big Bill. I actually loved pink lamb so it was great to enjoy it for a meal before I turned the whole thing into a massive curry by boiling everything again and stripping the meat off the bone. I absolutely love this sauce so I must put this recipe up at some stage… And I love using beetroot – it’s like a natural tandoori colouring! The flavour of this dish really stuck with me since the last time I made it in Big Bill.
Now I’m going to talk about fire and thermal mass and all that geeky stuff, so you can click away if you are not interested. I fired Big Bill for about two hours this time. But the fact winter hasn’t left us (a pot of water was frozen on the top next to Big Bill that morning), and Big Bill being such a massive thermal mass (its wall is 30cm thick!), it really takes a lot to properly heat the clay. The pieces of pork and duck was in a pot of liquid (better thermal conduction) so cooked well, but the lamb was cooked as one big leg (3 Kg) on a bed of root vegetables, so came out pink. The pot of root vegetables without the lamb also needed more cooking after a night in Big Bill. The pumpkin and onions were soft, probably because pumpkin contains more liquid than beetroot, potatoes and kumara (sweet potatoes). Also the knob of butter is probably to thank too (again, butter would have helped with thermal conduction).
Now my freezer is very happily stuffed again, and I’m also very looking forward to warmer weather so we can start having friends over for pizza parties!
Recipes you may be interested:
- Airy focaccia
- Sourdough focaccia
- Everyday sourdough bread
- Braised Pork in Garlic, Coriander and Soy Sauce (古早紅燒肉)
- Tender Slow Cooked Lamb Masala