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Gadget tragic

'Really?'' my wife comments with that resigned edge men the world over know so well. ''That's what you're going to wear?'' Sure, I think, knowing it's always better to do this before speaking. The jacket was fine when I bought it in 1992 and it's not exactly worn out by use. It fits like a glove still, well, not entirely, it seems like my arms have shrunk. This is a worry because I watched The Voice USA last night and Cee Lo Green is an example of someone whose arms are weirdly too short for his body. How does he scratch his head?

Disasters: I've had a few - Why Ian Parmenter is not a fan of gadgets

A Thermomix takes pride of place in many hi-tech kitchens.
A Thermomix takes pride of place in many hi-tech kitchens. 

''You bet, and I'm going to team it with 501s and RM Williams.'' Something deep inside tells me I'm doing this on purpose. I'm not really aiming at the greying-country-gentleman-with-shrinking-arms look. The thing is it's so hard to change at this point. I'm fairly up to date with information technology, if someone says they are going to poke me, I don't get nervous, and music-wise I know who Frank Ocean and Gotye are, even though I thought the latter was a medical complaint at first. I can use emoticons appropriately and I'm thinking seriously of getting a full-back tattoo of a genie.

But with clothes I can't see anything wrong with the consistent look. So, yes, I will wear a 20-year-old checked sports jacket and it could be worse. I did have a crumpled cotton suit like the other Ocean, Billy, and I didn't have to roll the sleeves up.

Conversely, I am totally open to new ideas with food and cooking. If there is a product I haven't heard about I'll go to excessive lengths to find and use it. I read a recipe from Mugaritz where they thickened sauces and bouillon with kuzu, an arrowroot-like substance used in Japanese food, so I spent an hour finding some and then half the night using it. If I put this much effort into fashion I'd be parading around the winery in one of Missoni's latest stellar outfits for the modern man.

I've been playing around with random homestyle sous-vide cooking for a while now. Hours spent testing the temperature of water and adding either hot and cold to keep the eggs at precisely 62.5C. But now I have bitten the bullet and bought an automatic sous-vide temperature probe, heater and circulator. It's a pretty neat thing - you just hang it off the side of any vessel, turn it on, set the temperature and it will keep the water at exactly that, give or take 0.1C. They come from Rely Services in Melbourne (www.relyservices.com.au) and the basic model will cost you - and don't tell my partner this or she'll have a fit because I could be wearing the latest T-shirt from Prada for a similar tally - $1000.

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I resisted the temptation to buy a chamber vacuum machine which they would have thrown in for another three grand, but it's on the list, along with a Pacojet and Thermomix. Teamed up with my much used and loved pressure cooker and Ilve oven, I now have many options in temperature control.

I was gathering all the ingredients for a winter cassoulet when I had this idea of buying the temperature probe, so it's my test case. What you find once you make the commitment to this type of cooking is that pretty soon you'll be blogging about it because there are a gazillion sous-vide bloggers out there. Google anything and add ''sous vide'' and you'll see what I mean.

Confit is ground zero for sous-vide cooking. Ducks and geese are perfect and hard to wreck. Being able to keep them at a constant temperature and sealed, you get a near perfect result and you don't have to keep gallons of duck fat handy. Here, I also cooked the beans in a pressure cooker, which allows you to use just the right amount of water, and it gives a robustness to the flavour and turgidity.

CASSOULET

Bryan Martin is a self-confessed gadget tragic.
Bryan Martin is a self-confessed gadget tragic. Photo: Gary Schafer

Marinade

4 goose legs (or 8 duck legs)

Guillaume Brahimi's cassoulet. The recipe here has a similar crumbed top, and uses sous-vide techniques.
Guillaume Brahimi's cassoulet. The recipe here has a similar crumbed top, and uses sous-vide techniques. Photo: Domino Postiglione

4 sprigs thyme

2 gloves garlic, chopped

2 tbsp salt

4 crushed juniperberries

For the marinade, rub the legs with salt and mix with everything else, seal in a sous-vide or ziplock bag. Leave for 24 hours, brush off the excess and discard the marinade.

Sous-vide legs

about 1 cup goose fat

4 sprigs thyme

2 gloves garlic, chopped

4 crushed juniper berries

Divide the garlic, thyme and juniper between four bags and put one goose leg or two duck legs in each bag. Mix. Add two tablespoons of fat to each bag, seal under high pressure and massage the bag to evenly distribute the fat.

If you are going old school, without the bag, you'll need to have enough fat to submerge the legs entirely, plus double the flavourings. Cook at 65C for 12 hours either in an oven or water bath.

Beans

300g great northern beans, soaked overnight in a 10 per cent salt solution

350g unchlorinated water

1 tsp salt

1 piece of pork rind

2 cloves garlic

1 bay leaf

4 sprigs thyme

Place the drained and rinsed beans in a pressure cooker with the water, salt, pork rind, garlic, bay leaf and thyme and cook on high pressure for 20 minutes, then leave to cool completely. Remove the flavourings.

If using a pot, use more water and double the cooking time. Look for softness but no mush.

Putting it together

prepared goose or duck legs

prepared beans

olive oil and butter as needed

2 Toulouse sausages, pricked all over with a needle

1 onion, chopped

3 carrots, sliced on an angle into thick slices

2 cloves garlic, chopped

4 sprigs of thyme again

1 cup fresh breadcrumbs

½ bunch parsley, leaves only

1 clove garlic, minced

3 good anchovies, heated in a bowl over boiling water and mashed

chicken stock as needed

Process together the breadcrumbs, garlic, parsley and anchovies. Set aside.

In a heavy-bottomed casserole with a tight-fitting lid, heat a little oil, drain the confit legs and brown all over in the hot oil. Remove and turn down the heat. Carefully cook the sausages so they are nicely browned too and will hold their shape. Remove, slice thickly, then return and fry them on each side. Reserve. Wipe clean the pot.

In fresh oil and butter, cook the onion until it is very soft and loses its oniony aroma. Add the carrots and cook a little on both sides, then the garlic and thyme. Place the legs on top, wedge the sausage in as best you can and cover with the beans and their liquid, plus enough stock to make it watery but not too liquid.

Cover and bake in a 160C oven for one hour, checking it's keeping moist.

Once it looks yummy, cover the top with the breadcrumbs, turn the oven up to high and bake without the lid. Every five minutes, take out and carefully stir the surface to moisten the crumbs. Keep cooking until they are toasty.

Bryan Martin is a winemaker at Ravensworth and Clonakilla, www.bryanmartin.com.au.

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