Friday, April 15, 2011

Warm Gnocchi Salad, Pulled Pork Tacos & Brazo De Mercedes - A wonderfully long lunch & a catch up with family

        Ryan and his cousin Dieter were close as kids, but as most kids do, they grow up and grow apart. Now that they are both adults they don't really see each other much and the only times we've ever seen him have been at birthday gatherings and funerals in the family. I think Ryan sees my cousins more than he sees his own. At the last few meet ups Ryan and Dieter kept saying 'we'll catch up sometime' or 'come over to my place and we'll have a BBQ' but then time passes by and being the laid back guys they are nothing really happens. So one day I sent a message to Dieter to get the ball rolling and we organised a catch up between the cousins (and partners too of course).
        Unfortunately Dieter's brother and his partner couldn't make lunch and Ryan's brother was hung over so it was just the four of us for lunch. The facebook invitiation did say BBQ but this was no ordinary BBQ with steaks and snags because we were lunching with two like minded food lovers. And it was an absolutely gorgeous Saturday for a long lazy lunch.

        Ryan and I turned up at Dieter and Alex's place with our hands full with our contributions to lunch. Ryan's dish was a warm gnocchi salad. I helped Ryan prepare his salad at my place and he rolled and cooked the gnocchi when we got there. He actually made the gnocchi dough the night before with my help (we had some for dinner) and made plenty enough to have with the salad and then some (we finished off what was left of the gnocchi again that night for dinner).

        Ryan has been experimenting recently and I think he has the got gnocchi making process spot on perfect. I am yet to get perfect little dumplings on my own (we do work better in pairs though.) You can follow recipes and read about gnocchi making as much as you can but it all comes down to hands on practice/experience, and learning to get the 'feel' for when it's right. Once you eat the little soft fluffy pillows of potato that are perfectly hand made and cooked gnocchi you will never want to go back to the packet stuff again. So it's quite disappointing when restaurants get the home made stuff wrong.

        Dieter and Alex have a Labrador called Oscar or 'Ozzy'. He is just absolutely gorgeous! But always seems to be in the way though.

        Ozzy also has a love for food just like his owners. Anything that dropped on the floor was quickly snatched up by him so you didn't really get a chance to sweep it up. We were told that recently he had to go on a diet because he was just getting too fat. Sounds like me ;).

        Dieter was cooking up some pulled pork for our lunch on his 'big green egg' bbq and let's me have a sticky beak (and to also check on it).

He also made some soft tacos for the pulled pork.

        The pork needs a bit more cooking time so we decide to have Ryan's salad first as our first course since it's ready (and because we were all getting a little hungry and it was getting late). The salad includes spinach, mushroom, nashi pear (my little addition), baby bocconcini, fried haloumi and Ryan's pan fried gnocchi. The salad dressing is a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, dijon mustard and truffle oil. The idea came from a recipe he found but was adapted to our taste. Everything worked well in this salad, all the flavours really combined well and there were the different textures, oh and fried haloumi!. Dieter and Alex had nothing but praise for Ryan's salad =).

After the salad Dieter makes the tacos to go with our second course.

Ryan helps him cook them while D rolls out the dough.

        This little clay pot belonged to Alex's grandmother and apparantly has been sitting on the shelf unused because they didn't know what to do with it, until now - great thinking D!

        The pork is ready! Well as ready as can be because we needed (wanted) to eat it. D explains that he slept in so wasn't able to get it cooking as long as he wanted to and had to cook it on a higher heat to get it cooked in time for lunch which resulted in a slightly drier and firmer meat than he had liked it to be. 'That's okay, there's always next time' I tell him. And I'm counting on it! ;) Ryan and I wouldn't have known any better, we absolutely loved it.

Mmm we get a bit of crispy crackling as he pulls the pork apart.

Porky goodness!

The pork is drizzled in a little of the fat to help keep it moist.
        The pork is served with a huge variety of Korean side dishes and oysters a la momofuku bo ssam style. It's my first time eating pulled pork, and bo ssam.

Soft Taco 'shells' in the pot.

        Looking at this has got my mouth salivating now... There was no real order as in how you were suppose to eat this. A little bit of this, a little bit of that, some pulled pork, an oyster, sauce and wrap it up and take a bite. My hand was dripping in deliciousness pouring out from my little wraps. The pork was perfectly seasoned and the small bits of chopped crackling added a textural sensation when added with the other sides. You had sweet, savoury, tangy, all in one bite.

        And look at who wants in. Apparantly when he begs for food he'll come up and put his head in your lap. We're instructed to push him away with our elbows and tell him 'No'. I felt his head in my lap a couple of times.

        We help them clean up (and let out stomachs digest) before we dig into dessert. I made a Filipino dessert called Brazo De Mercedes, which is a meringue roll filled with egg yolk custard. I've made it once before but didn't do it justice so will do another post with my recent much better attempt. Alex offers us a whole range of teas to choose from which made me feel so spoilt (most households only have one or two tea choices or sometimes no choice apart from just 'tea'). I chose an Almond tea (which I think was the Twinnings brand) and it was delish, especially with my dessert. We are all absolutely stuffed but absolutely satisfied by the end of our lunch - epic food coma (for me anyway). Wish I had taken more (better) photos, but I just enjoyed standing around chatting, watching food being prepared, admiring the house, playing with their dog. 
        I am so glad that I had part in organising such a great lunch. It's funny how food brings people together, alot of our conversation did surround food, but it was just so natural, and you could just tell that we were food lovers as there was just so much passion in the conversation (and the fact that Dieter and I kept whipping out our cameras to take photos of the food). We did talk about other things too but things always came back to one topic ;). Ryan and I couldn't stop talking about the lunch for the rest of the weekend. It was just such great food, great company, and their house was absolutely gorgeous and so homey and inviting. It was just good to be on the other end of the meal, the one not hosting and cooking everything and then cleaning everything up afterwards. There was something about that afternoon that I can't quite find the right words to describe (I'm a crappy writer) but Ryan totally understands how I feel. It was just awesome. Thank you Dieter and Alex for having us over! We're definately looking forward to the next time we catch up again.


Anonymous said...

Great lunch, especially the salad! There's always something magical about sharing meals with family.

jenius said...

wow, what a feast! sounds like it may have been the start of many more lunch gatherings! :)

Wendy @ Obesebaby said...

wow Filipino are born to be chef

Laura said...

love that you arranged this & bam, what a success.

MissPiggy said...

Ok, I need to know how I join your family as you guys always have the BEST food at your parties. I'm like Ozzy - I want you guys to feed me. The pork and tacos look fabulous!

sugarpuffi said...

looks like an awesome lunch! mmm...pork....

penny aka jeroxie said...

That is a super feast! So much yummy food and can't help but drool at the porky goodness.

Helen (Grab Your Fork) said...

Wow what a feast. Your brazo de mercedes looks awesome. And I agree, food is the glue that brings and keeps family and friends together!

Gastronomy Gal said...

sounds like I'll have to come to one of your bbq's esp if that amazing gnocci and pulled pork are there. Nice catch up day!

Dolly said...

ur doggie is so cute..

wow u cooked the pork nicely!!! KUDOS

mademoiselle délicieuse said...

Always such a fun day when it's a shared experience of leisurely cooking and conversation. Plus Oscar is way too cute with his "feed me" face!

Two fit and fun gals said...

its really great of you to suggest getting the cousins together :)

that egg custard roll looks nice! and i love the addition of nashi pear into the salad, excellent idea :O)

Tina@foodboozeshoes said...

Pork looks great anyway. Can't wait to try something like that!