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Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Searzall blowtorch and a recipe for kuih bahulu

Using a Searzall on a T-bone steak

Fire + food. It's guaranteed to draw a crowd. We flock into Pig Flyin's kitchen when we hear our lunch is on fire. This isn't an ordinary blowtorch. Pig Flyin' is using his latest toy, a Searzall. It looks more like a souped up flame thrower. Truly impressive.

Our Stomachs Eleven eating club had gathered at Pig Flyin's for a post-Christmas catch-up. It was the week between Christmas and New Year's when all of us were on holiday and relishing a break from work.

Crumbed pigs head terrine
Crumbed pigs head terrine

We start with crumbed pigs head terrine, precise rectangular blocks deep fried to a golden hue. Inside its panko crumb shell is a pigs head terrine, made from a boned out pigs head cooked with thyme, orange rind and garlic. The terrine had been brushed with Pig Flyin's homemade mustard then crumbed and deep fried.

Inside the crumbed pigs head terrine
Inside the crumbed pigs head terrine

Each cube is different, with surprises of pork skin, pigs ear or pig cheek inside. It feels like Christmas morning again as we open our presents. The dab of homemade cranberry apple chutney is the ideal sweet and vinegary foil against the deep fried crunch.

Homemade air baguettes with mortadella
Homemade air baguettes wrapped with mortadella

I'd seen Pig Flyin's photos of his homemade air baguettes with pancetta for his family Christmas dinner and was so excited when I realised we'd get to try these ourselves, this time wrapped with mortadella. The air baguettes were incredible, hollow bread sticks that splintered into a spray of crumbs with every bite.

Octopus terrine
Octopus terrine

I'd also drooled over his Christmas feast photos of his terrina de pulpo, an octopus terrine set in its own jelly. He still had some of this left, and sliced up the rest of it for our lunch.

Octopus terrine with olive oil potatoes
Octopus terrine with olive oil potatoes

The octopus is wondrously tender, cooked at 80C for 7 hours on his induction stove. Piled in the middle is a mash of potatoes with olive oil.

Searing a T-bone steak with a Searzall
Using the Searzall on a 1.6kg T-bone steak

We can't help but race into the kitchen when we hear the click of a blowtorch being fired. Pig Flyin' had invested in one of the original Searzall blowtorches funded through Kickstarter. They're now available on Amazon for US$75 (US shipping addresses only).

Reverse searing a T-bone steak with a Searzall
Reverse searing - charring the steak after slow roasting at 98C until an internal temp of 50C

The Searzall has been designed as a professional finishing tool. It's not meant to cook steaks, but it will sear them to your head-steered specification. Unlike the single flame of a blowtorch, the Searzall has a diffused flame that creates more of a radiant heat. The flame passes through two layers of alloy mesh, eliminating the "torch taste" often associated with blow torches. The team behind the Searzall - Booker and Dax -  undertook research that proved that torch taste was not due to the presence of propane or butane gases, but the result of new chemical compounds created when extreme heat is applied to foods.

T-bone steak charred with a Searzall
The finished T-bone steak charred with a Searzall

Carving the steak off the bone
Carving the steak off the bone

Our 1.6kg T-bone behemoth has been cooked at 98C until the internal temperature reached 50C. Finishing it with the Searzall is a process known as "reverse searing". This is the opposite of the usual process, where steaks are seared then finished off in the oven.

Slicing the T-bone steak
Slicing the steak

Medium rare T-bone steak using the Searzall
Pink and juicy medium rare T-bone steak

I could swear there was a chorus of angels when those juicy fat slices of T-bone revealed themselves.

Grain-fed dry-aged T-bone steak charred with a Searzall
Grain-fed, dry-aged T-bone steak slow-roasted and then charred with a Searzall

There's a thunderous round of applause when the steaks hit the table. It receives today's version of a standing ovation: the circle of phone cameras uploading to Instagram. Heh.

Iceberg lettuce with leaves and salad cream
Iceberg lettuce with leaves and horseradish salad cream - inspired by a dish served by O Tama Carey (recently ex-Berta)

Our salad is a dish that Mr and Mrs Pig Flyin' had at Berta by recently departed head chef O Tama Carey. Wedges of crisp iceberg lettuce are scattered over with shaved radish, cress, parsley, nasturtiums and chives. Dolloped across the top is a rich salad cream with fresh grated horseradish.

Yorkshire puddings
Yorkshire puddings

On the side: Yorkshire puddings. It's been years since I've had the pleasure of a Yorkie. There's a fine art to getting these to puff and rise. Pig Flyin' says his latest trick is to allow the batter to hydrate for as long as possible. This allows time for the gluten to develop and give it puff.

Sunday roast of T-bone steak with Yorkshire pudding and salad
Sunday roast

Add that all up and you've got my idea of a perfect Sunday roast.

Homemade passionfruit curd tarts
Homemade passionfruit curd tarts

For dessert, Pig Flyin' has passionfruit curd tarts. The curd is homemade, piped into shells made with leftovers duck fat pastry from his Christmas pâté en croûte. This pastry is deliriously good - thick and buttery.

Apple frangipane tart
Apple frangipane tart made by J

J has brought along a homemade apple frangipane tart. The puff pastry is pre-made Carême, but the apples and frangipane have been lovingly prepared.

Using the Searzall on an apple frangipane tart
Searzall time! 

We can't help but bring out the Searzall for a little more caramelisation action across the top.

Browning the apple frangipane tart with a Searzall
Browning the apple frangipane tart with the Searzall

There's an art to controlling the heat of the Searzall flame across a delicate surface like pastry, but I'm all for deep caramelisation in any shape or form.

Caramelised apple frangipane tart using a Searzall
Caramelised apple frangipane tart

The Careme pastry has puffed up beautifully into buttery and flaky layers. It's a terrific dessert, the delicate petals of tender apple sweetened with caramelised sugar on a bed of almond frangipane.

Cronuts and cruffins from Brewtown
Cronuts and cruffins from Brewtown 

X has brought along a bounty of cronuts and cruffins from Brewtown.

Homemade kuih bahulu
Kuih bahulu made by me

And I made kuih bahulu, finally christening the mould I bought in Malaysia four years ago.

We ended up chilling after lunch, including a stint of Lego building to make up for the Lego-less chasm from our childhood. "Stay for dinner!" said Pig Flyin'. I expected omelettes or some other simple fridge surprise. I should have known better.

Poached alfonsino in fresh dashi and soy
Poached alfonsino in fresh dashi and soy

Being prepared with menu planning is a sign of an organised chef, but cooking on the fly with no notice is akin to a quickfire challenge on Top Chef.

Meat and seafood is defrosted from the freezer. A pot of fresh dashi stock starts simmering on the stove. We end up with a Chinese-style family meal that includes alfonsino poached in fresh dashi and soy. The alfonsino is sweet and succulent, flaking apart at just the nudge of a fork.

Wild tiger prawns with supreme soy sauce
Wild tiger prawns with supreme soy sauce

Wild tiger prawns are cooked Hong Kong-style, pan-fried until the shells are crisp and the meat in the prawn heads starts to ooze out. Premium soy sauce and shaoxing wine are added to form a rich and sticky prawn brain sauce. Pig Flyin' says this is more elegantly known as "supreme soy sauce".

The wild tiger prawns were picked up from Sydney Fish Market and have a markedly sweeter taste.

Aburi salmon belly with mayonnaise
Aburi salmon belly with mayonnaise

Offcuts of salmon belly from Pig Flyin's homemade gravlax is defrosted, sliced and blowtorched into aburi salmon belly. This is a trick I am definitely going to have to remember, particularly as you can often pick up salmon belly offcuts from the fish market. The salmon belly is unctuously rich and fatty, laced with a spiderweb of homemade mayonnaise.

Flat iron steak beef katsu with red cabbage
Beef katsu with red cabbage using flat iron steak

Flat iron steaks have been trimmed by Pig Flyin' himself from cuts of oyster blades. Pig Flyin' says their flat and even thickness make them perfect for making katsu. The meat is tender and flavourful, coated in a panko crumb shell and best eaten with crisp shavings of raw red cabbage.

Steamed eggplant with soy and shallots
Steamed eggplant with soy and shallots

I'm a huge eggplant fan but never think to steam them. These are an heirloom Italian variety that Pig Flyin' picked up from Frank's Fruit Shop in Haberfield. They have a satiny soft texture to them, their sweetness accented by the thin soy sauce dressing.

Asahari gohan clam and dashi rice
Asahari gohan clam and dashi rice

When I pop open the rice cooker, I'm immediately enveloped in an incredible smell of seafood. Pig Flyin' has added dried baby clams - brought back from Kinasawa, Japan - to the rice which has been cooked with fresh dashi stock.

Baby dried clams from Kinasawa, Japan, in the dashi rice
Dried baby clams from Kinasawa, Japan, in the dashi rice

The rice is a meal in itself, the plump and chewy grains accented by pops of clam with an umami undercurrent of dashi stock. I need to find those clams and make this myself.

Second homecooked meal of the day by Pig Flyin'
Impromptu dinner

I don't have recipes for Pig Flyin's dishes, but I do have one for the kuih bahlulu I brought along.

Kuih bahulu recipe

Kuih Bahulu recipe
based on a recipe by Nasi Lemak Lover

Kuih bahulu are mini Malaysian sponge cakes that some people call "Asian madeleines". They should have crispy edges but be soft in the middle.

I bought my cast iron kuih bahulu mould in Malaysia, but you may be able to source one online. If you can't find one, others have used mini bundt pans or converted these into biscuits.

These are easy to make and are great dessert to bring along to picnics as they transport well. They're light, won't melt and their sturdiness makes them easy to carry. You can also make them the night before for hassle-free catering.

3 eggs (cold from the fridge)
120g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (you can substitute pandan essence if you prefer)
70g (1 cup self-raising flour)
30g (1/4 cup less half a tablespoon) plain flour
5g (half a tablespoon) cornflour
Vegetable oil or coconut oil for greasing the pan

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C.
  2. When the oven is hot, lightly oil the bahulu mould using a pastry brush and heat in the oven for at least five minutes.
  3. Beat the eggs and caster sugar using an electric mixer for about fifteen minutes. By this time, the mixture should be a pale golden colour, thick and foamy.
  4. Add the vanilla extract and beat until combined.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine the flours and mix thoroughly.
  6. Gently fold the flour into the egg mixture in three batches.
  7. Remove the hot bahulu mould and carefully ladle in the batter. Fill them about 3/4 of the way, as the batter tends to expand quickly. Use two spoons so you can neatly fill the moulds.
  8. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 12 minutes or until the tops are golden brown in colour. To check if they are cooked, insert a skewer into the middle of one of the cakes and make sure it comes out clean. If not, return to the oven.
  9. When the cakes are cooked, remove the bahulu mould from the oven and transfer the cakes to a cooling rack.
  10. Carefully wipe out any cake fragments and then regrease and heat again for five minutes.
  11. Repeat steps 7 to 10 until all the batter has been used. 
  12. Store the cool kuih bahulu in an airtight container and consume with two days. 

Kuih bahulu recipe

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19 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 1/15/2015 02:15:00 am


  • At 1/15/2015 2:48 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    WOW! That apple frangipane tart looks crazy delicious. I'm super keen on making those bite-size kuih bahulu. Thanks for the recipe Helen! :D

  • At 1/15/2015 7:09 am, Blogger Ramen Raff said…

    Oh man! I so want to purchase a searzall now!!

  • At 1/15/2015 8:50 am, Anonymous Sophie @ cooksophiecook said…

    Wow. This puts my dinner parties to shame! Incredible. How do we become friends?? :)

  • At 1/15/2015 9:20 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The steak looks great. How did you cook it at 98 degrees precisely until it reached an internal temp of 50?

  • At 1/15/2015 9:40 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    Talk about a Foodporn alert! That's some seriously good looking food there and the chef in me wants a massive blow torch now! Love your descriptions of this amazing feast/feasts and you have me dreaming about your asian Madeleine's now too ;)

  • At 1/15/2015 10:22 am, Anonymous ChopinandMysaucepan said…

    Dear Helen,

    That T-bone!!!

    Could you please find out from Pig Flyin how long was that 1.6kg steak in the oven for at 98C and whether that torch head with the 2 layers of alloy mesh can be remove from the Searzall so it acts like a regular blow torch?

  • At 1/15/2015 11:20 am, Anonymous Priscilla @ FoodPornNation.com said…

    I want to set fire to my meal too!!!

  • At 1/15/2015 2:46 pm, Blogger Choc Chip Uru @ Go Bake Yourself said…

    That is a super fancy way to make steak, it looks AWESOME :D
    IIII set fi-ireeeee to the steeeeaaak! (that was adele by the way!)

    Choc Chip Uru

  • At 1/15/2015 6:26 pm, Anonymous Padaek said…

    Soooo impressed with the cooking prowess of the Pig Flyin duo. Wow!!! So creative, passionate and generous with their food and cooking tips. Thanks for sharing them, including the Yorkshire Pudding tip. That Kuih Bahulu looks very delicious too. Thanks for sharing Helen! :D

  • At 1/15/2015 10:04 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Stan - Pig Flyin' has a combi oven that can do 1 degree accuracy but you don't have to be that accurate. Just somewhere between 95C-100C. He used a bbq thermometer inserted into the steak to check the internal temp.

    Hi ChopinandMySaucepan - Pig Flyin' says it took him 1.5 hours in a steam oven but it might take 2hrs in a normal oven. Just check the internal temp.

    And the Searzall is an attachment that you place on a Bernzomatic. You can just remove the entire head if you want to revert to the regular blowtorch.

  • At 1/16/2015 8:01 am, Anonymous Nagi@RecipeTin Eats said…

    OMG that is ONE serious blow torch!! And I have never seem pigs head look so appetising :) I usually shy away from "serious" offal but THAT is something I would dive into. It helps that it's deep fried!! :)

  • At 1/16/2015 8:07 am, Anonymous Hotly Spiced said…

    I used to be very content with my little blow torch - now I want the flame-thrower! What a weapon! All the food here looks amazing and I don't know where to start. Would love the homemade baguettes wrapped in mortadella - great appetiser and I could do this! xx

  • At 1/16/2015 10:17 am, Blogger Maddie Loves Food said…

    I'm really intrigued by the octopus terrine and feel compelled to make that Asahari gohan clam and dashi rice myself at home, it reminds me of the rice I loved to eat in Japan! That blowtorch attachment really is something, the t-bone looks cooked to tender perfection.

  • At 1/16/2015 10:52 am, Anonymous Shellie - Iron Chef Shellie said…

    you guys sure know how to party! I remember my Grandma having a blow torch like that, and I was so worried seeing her use it, we got her a kitchen sized one instead!!

  • At 1/16/2015 1:21 pm, Blogger gaby @ lateraleating said…

    That torch is a great party trick! Love the looks of the finished steak. The terrina de pulpo looks amazing, I'll try to find an easy recipe for it.

  • At 1/17/2015 6:34 pm, Anonymous racy_staci said…

    I've said it once and I'll say it again. Oh to be a stomach! The steak looks mighty fine. What a feast.

  • At 1/19/2015 11:58 am, Anonymous Berny @ I Only Eat Desserts said…

    Woah that steak looks amazing and cooked with that blow torch = epic :D

  • At 1/26/2015 11:29 pm, Anonymous Sara | Belly Rumbles said…

    Come on baby light my fire...

  • At 1/27/2015 2:28 pm, Anonymous Amanda @ Gourmanda said…

    Oh wow, that torch is amazing! I really can't justify another appliance in my kitchen though...


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