Thursday, August 21, 2008

Down by the River Side

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There’s something about a barbecue that seems to bring out the cave woman in me. I am a real pyromaniac, and love gathering firewood, twigs, dried bamboo leaves or casuarina needles to make a blaze. Last Sunday, however, I diplomatically left it to the chief caveman and his (male) assistant to get a good fire going while I concentrated on the food (yeah, I know, sexual stereo-typing).

Our favourite picnic spot is along the Kiulu river, where there’s a wide grassy stretch on one side. The water is deliciously fresh and clean, fed by streams tumbling down the Crocker Range from Mount Kinabalu. It is the perfect spot for lazing about, keeping cool with a dip in the river aided by the occasional beer, and playing a spot of boules or petanque. During our picnic, a few young local guys turned up for a swim and the universal game of skipping flat river stones.

The main event for our picnic (after Belle’s pakhora) was Italian sausage, which I’d decided to stuff into one continuous coil rather than bother twisting and tying to get small sausages, and then risk them falling through the grill into the fire. I held the coil together by piercing it through with thick rosemary stems (saved in my freezer for months). Thanks to Belle and Jim, who carried back sausage skins from England, and to Markus, whose parents carried a giant jar of skins in brine from Germany, I’ve enough sausage skins for at least a couple of years. Just as well, as you simply can’t buy a decent sausage in Sabah.

In case you are also crazy enough to make your own sausages, here’s the best of the recipes I’ve tried since becoming an amateur charcutier.

1 kg minced pork (at least 15% fat)
1 1/2 tablespoons fennel seed, toasted
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 tsps freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup dry red wine
chilli flakes with abandon

Mix minced pork together with all other ingredients and leave refrigerated for 4 hours or overnight for the flavours to blend. Stuff the sausages and then poach in barely simmering water for 10 minutes or (preferably) steam over water in a covered wok. Drain and refrigerate, freeze or grill right away.

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