Apologies for the absence, folks! There’s been a lot of happenings here. Lots of ups. Lots of downs. And lots of in-between! Part of that has been an interesting migration of the blog from one host to another. Two weeks on, it finally appears to be working (for the most part), but I’ve got my hand glued to a piece of wood just in case there’s another issue that I just haven’t come across yet!
One of the things I’ve been waiting to blog about is a brilliant new cast iron grill that I received from online shop. Cast iron is, without a doubt, my absolute favourite material when it comes to cooking pans. Not only is the heat retention of a cast iron pot or pan absolutely without rival, but there is nothing quite as non-stick either! Unlike other coated non-stick pots or pans, if a cast iron cooking surface becomes a bit sticky, a little oil and heat to re-season it and you’re done!
I know quite a few people who have had cast iron cookware handed down from their grandmothers and mothers – pots and pans so old and so well-seasoned with years of use that the surfaces gleam jet black. Even my mother tells me stories of the huge cast iron pans that her own mother used back when she was a little girl growing up in the Korean countryside.
Stories of pans used to feed the family night after night, but that also saw many celebrations and feasts. Pans that, unfortunately, were lost along the way of her moving to the city and a smaller kitchen with no wood-stoked fires.
Hearing these stories, I hope that my grandmother’s pans are still rolling around the Korean countryside somewhere, weathered and beaten but still making delicious food in them as she used to when they were still in her hands.
When my mother emigrated from Korea to Australia, there were very few things that she was able to bring with her – and part of that means that she had to leave a large part of herself and her cooking history back home. Since she didn’t have too many pieces from my grandmother in the first place (since she was busy using them herself!), it also meant that there was very little for me to inherit – certainly no beautiful old cast iron pieces anyway!
Since I adore cooking on cast iron, this means that I’ve slowly been building up my own collection of cookware over the years, investing in some pieces that will survive the brutal treatment that they would undoubtedly receive from my family, and other pieces that I hoped would stand the test of time so they could be passed on when I was done with them. And while I’d been looking for the “right” grill pan for awhile, when my friends over at Kitchenware Direct offered me the opportunity to pick one up for review, I jumped at the opportunity.
When it comes to cast iron, my preference is for a naked cast iron cooking surface with an enameled back – the reason for this is that an enamel coating on the cooking surface means there is no non-stick surface, but no enamel on the back means that you have to be diligent about making sure that every single inch of the pan (inside and out) remains seasoned and free of rust or flaking.
WAY too much effort for someone as time-poor as myself. So when browsing their collection, my eye was immediately drawn to this gorgeous, flame-red enameled grill pan which is the perfect size for catering to a family of 5.
Once I received this beauty, I had to decide what sort of a recipe would be worthy of such a gorgeous kitchen tool and quickly decided to do something with shrimp. Whilst those of you overseas may be familiar with the old Australian ad to “throw a shrimp on the barbie“, the weather here in Melbourne tends to be so unpredictable that you can never be 100% sure that the big outdoor BBQ will actually be useable! That and the bitterly cold-cold-cold autumn and winter days/nights can also mean that you can really only get your grill on for half the year.
So what did I think of the grilled shrimp recipe on this grill? No surprises, really. The grill went from the burner straight to the table, and was still (almost) too hot to the touch once the photos were taken and the food consumed. Heat retention? Mega-check.
Since I’d made sure to season the cast-iron well, absolutely no issues with anything sticking to the pan. Check. And clean up? Some boiling water, a quick scrub and all done! Check.
It passed every single check that you would expect and want from a quality piece of cast-iron, with flying colours.
Since then, I’ve also used it to cook steaks and other delicious hunks of animal flesh, various grilled vegetables, and even some grilled polenta. In fact, it’s gotten to the point that it doesn’t leave the stove top since we use it so much.
Spicy Grilled Shrimp Recipe with Choy sum
(This recipe is inspired by a dish I’ve enjoyed quite a few times from Miss Chu – though not exactly alike, I think it’s pretty darn tasty!)
Ingredients (serves 4)
- 16-20 medium sized raw shrimp (or 8-10 bigguns!)
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 6 tbsp fish sauce
- 2-4 red thai chillis
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 8 bunches of small/baby choy sum (can be substituted with any other slender Asian green such as Gai lan)
- Steamed rice, to serve
How to Make Best Grilled Shrimp Recipe
1. Remove the shell from your shrimp (you can give these a quick rinse and store them in your freezer for the next time you make seafood stock), then cut off the heads and remove the vein along the back.
2. Place the cleaned shrimp in a bowl and add the marinade ingredients, stir well then allow to marinate for at least 1-2 hours.
3. While the shrimp are marinating, thoroughly wash the choy sum (it can collect a *lot* of dirt between the stems), then drain well to remove as much water as possible.
4. Once the shrimp have finished marinating, drain them (make sure to reserve the marinade) and give them a quick toss to coat them in a neutral-flavoured oil (such as grapeseed oil). Heat the grill pan over a medium heat, then whack those shrimp right on there! Don’t overcook these babies – you can flip them over as soon as you see the tail change colour, and then they’ll only need another minute or two on the other side.
While the shrimp are grilling – pour the leftover marinade over the drained choy sum and give it a quick toss through.
OILING FOOD FOR A GRILL: Unlike cooking on a regular frying pan or in a pot, the raised grills mean that any oil poured into a grill pan will sit in the valleys and be largely useless in terms of helping to prevent sticking. The correct procedure is to always oil any food with the potential to stick first, before placing it to cook on the heated grill pan.
5. Once the shimp are done cooking, remove them to a plate and throw on the choy sum – this won’t take long to cook, about a minute each side will do it. Arrange both the shrimp and the choy sum back on the grill or on a plate, and present to the table.
Served with some steamed rice, this is a lovely light and healthy meal that you can have for lunch or dinner that will fill you up without weighing you down!