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Roast Pork Belly, cooked simply

Pork Belly

Pork Belly

It’s fair to say that I like pork belly. Just a little. Or, is that alot? Yes, it is. ALOT. It’s such a fine cut of meat, packed full of flavour and with that gorgeous crispy crackling as a bonus. It’s cheap too!

I’ve blogged about it in the past (Slow Roast Pork Belly with Cider & Lentils), and it occured to me recently that I ‘ve never blogged about doing it simply without wine or cider, herbs or spices, just au natural. Now, there’s a petit oversight and one which I’ll rectify now.

There are a couple of important things about cooking pork belly. Start it off at a very high temperature, to wake up that crackling and get it moving. Then turn down the heat and roast it long enough to render out the fat. Then blast that sleepy crackling under the grill so it blisters and crisps, almost aching and arching with the effort.

I got another great new tip recently from one of my many cookbooks. Before roasting, pour some boiling water over the pork belly skin, so that the lines that your butcher has cut through the skin pull apart, encouraging fantastic crackling, and reminding it of the job ahead.

This was enough for two, and I had leftovers. I served it with cavolo nero flash fried with red chilli and garlic. It was a fantastic accompaniment.

Ingredients:

1kg pork belly, ask your butcher to cut through the crackling (score it) or do it yourself with a stanley knife, cutting parallel lines through the skin as far as but not through the flesh underneath
Sea salt
Olive Oil

Method:

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees celsius.
Put the pork belly in a metal colander and pour boiling water over the top. Drain then pat dry with kitchen paper. Rub some olive oil and sea salt into the flesh (not the skin) and rub sea salt into the skin, and into the grooves cut there.
Place on a rack in a baking tray, to allow the fat to drip out, and roast for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 170 degrees and roast for a further hour and a half (roughly – depends on your cut of meat and the oven – keep an eye on it).
Put on the grill and put the pork belly under it to crisp the crackling. This only takes a few minutes. Take care not to burn it, which can happen very quickly.
Rest for 10-15 minutes, and serve sliced, with the crackling on top. This is delicious served simply with greens like cavolo nero, sprout tops or kale.

Enjoy!

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Oh! Look, we’re in Time Out!

Well, I never! I got a text from a friend last week saying: “hey, congrats! you’re in Time Out”, which left me feeling slightly perplexed. Huh?! And, why?!

Well, there can be only one reason, this blog, as Time Out have yet to discover my other many talents. Joking aside, I was surprised, curious and chuffed! So, after work, and en route to a friends house, I dutifully stopped at a newsagents and had a peek. And I never! There was a little pic of my tortilla pizza and a description of my lil blog in their piece on “London’s Best Food Blogs and Websites“. It’s only fitting, that if I get a mention, that the great pork belly does too. And, it did.

Thanks Time Out! You made my day :-)

The other blogs on there are super, I read them regularly,and I’m honoured to be listed beside them. You can take a look at the complete list here.

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Guilty! Guilty Pleasures Dinner Party

Cheese & Sausage Biscuits

Raised an Irish catholic, I am a natural with the guilt, an expert some would say, and venturing in and out of the seven deadly sins on a semi regular basis as I do (gluttony: check), I’ve got the guilt to offer up at a Guilty Pleasures dinner party.

Guilty pleasures. Isn’t that a great phrase? And, it’s so appropriate! Sneaking that bag of crisps or chocolate bar, those deep fried treats or the haribo. Nibbling at the cheese straight from the packet after a night out. Those few stolen, guilty minutes offer rare pleasure. We all have them. Really, we do. Even if you deny it, I know you have at least one… don’t blush, I won’t tell, I promise.

Some people think, or assume that I am a food snob. Nay! I love good food, home cooked or high end. I love simple food and complex food, as long as it’s done right, it’s delicious. I try to be healthy and be nice to my body, but like (almost) everyone, I slip up.

I don’t want to brag, but I think I have more guilty pleasures than most. I like lots of dodgy food stuffs. No, I love them. CRISPS! Now, that was my first food love. My mother always said that I could live in the back of a crisp lorry with no other food stuffs quite happily. She might be right, although, where’s the pork belly? ;-) Other favourites include tinned peas, toxic green like kryptonite, with lots of white pepper. Fish fingers, flaky and crispy and less wrong now than they used to be, but still GUILTY. There’s lots more: haribo, fish and chips, instant noodles, FAT. Ooooh, fat.

Do you still respect me? Maybe a little more? ;-)

helen with her guilty pleasures

Born out of a fun conversation after a blogger meet up some months ago, six of us congregated in South London with our guilty wares in hand. Decadent as we are, we started some dirty martinis, and they were fine! Then, the food. Helen (Food Stories) started us off  with her offering of cucumber and marmite sandwiches, they were lovely, and very naughty with that white processed bread. I’ll make them again. Denise (The Wine Sleuth) our lovely host, followed with cheese and sausage biscuits. She promised they’d be so good, you’d want to slap yo mamma! And, she was right… Lucky there was no mammas there for us to slap! How have I never had these before? Next stop for me: grits.

bovril on toast

How do you follow this? Chris (Cheese and Biscuits) did admirably with bovril and butter on toast. I love bovril, it was a childhood staple, but I’d forgotten about it and bovril on toast may become a guilty staple of my own.

Lizzie cooking up her guilty dish

Next up was the most controversial dish of the evening, Lizzie’s (Hollow Legs) spam ramen which we approached with caution and devoured with speed. Delicious! A guilty triumph. This dish is very popular in Hong Kong where Lizzie grew up, and in homage to this, Lizzie used a chinese brand of spam. I loved Denise’s nickname for it: spamen noodles. That’s going to stick!

One more dish: mine. I had wanted to do crisp sandwiches with cheese and onion tayto (irish crisps), white bread and mayonnaise, but Denise was surprised and disappointed that not one guilty blogger had offered to make macaroni cheese. So, I did. I did a version of the one already on this blog, using raw buffalo milk, a sharp and strong english sheep’s cheese, cheddar and lots of pancetta including it’s rendered fat. I topped it off with 50/50 panko and grated cheese. It was nice but NOT GUILTY ENOUGH. It needed more crispy pancetta and it’s fatty flavour. Ooof.

Threaded through our guilty dishes were some wonderful wines supplied by Dan of Bibendum Wines. We blind tasted and compared some wines which was really interesting and delicious. You can read more about this on Dan and Denise’s blogs.

wine!

So, I suggest we start a craze. Have your own guilty pleasure dinner party. And do come back and tell me all about it.

Want a head start? Here are some of the recipes from ours.

Lizzies spam ramen

Denise’s Cheese & Sausage Biscuits

My macaroni cheese

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Brunch Baked Eggs

Sounds very elegant doesn’t it? Brunch. Baked. Eggs. It evokes luxury and comfort, and yes, it had both of these. But, It had something else too.

Potatoes!

I christened this dish Irish Huevos Rancheros when I made it last Sunday, but when writing this thought, as titles go, I might be going too left of field, and I don’t want to offend any Mexicans ;-) I did your dish proud, honest, but I gave it an irish potato-y twist.

Like most of my recent dishes, this doesn’t have strict measurements. In fact I didn’t measure anything. It’s very simple, and in truth, you can’t go wrong. Now, people don’t believe me when I say this, and believe me to have some inside culinary knowledge or secret power, but, this is not true. It’s easy.

I started by roasting some very sweet and delicious cherry tomatoes (about 3 handfuls) in olive oil with a finely chopped green chilli and some good extra virgin olive oil at 180 degrees. While these were roasting I parboiled some diced potatoes until tender, then roasted them for about 20 minutes until becoming crispy. At this point your tomatoes should be looking, and tasting, delicious, all mushy and full of flavour. Time to add some fresh coriander (a handful) to your tomatoes and season. Pour the tomatoes over the potatoes and crack in some eggs, 2 per person. Bake until the white is set and the yolk is runny, no more than 5 minutes. This is the only tricky bit, it’s very easy to overcook the eggs so keep an eye on them.

That’s it. Dish up and get back to your Sunday paper. Enjoy!

(I hope you’re still in pj’s – I was ;-)

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Cosy, quick and healthy snacking

Toasted tortilla with manchego and tomato
Sometimes, with food, instant gratification is called for. As close to instant as is possible in any case. I am not talking about reaching for the haribo (although, that has been known to happen), but something flavoursome, healthy, crispy and super quick.

Don’t worry, I haven’t lost my mind and am not about to tout the health benefits of leftover pork belly or a bag of crisps. Tasty: yes. Healthy: not so much. The snack I am about to describe, is colourful, pretty and delicious and so easy, it’s ridiculous.

Take one tortilla (corn or flour), add a handful of chopped tomatoes, the best you can get, I like sweet, ripe cherry tomatoes. Top with some grated manchego (or similar cheese) and put in a preheated oven (180 degrees celsius should do it) on a lightly oiled tray. Toast for 5 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Drizzle some good extra virgin olive oil on top and season with salt & pepper. Serve with a handful of greens as a garnish, I used pea shoots but rocket would be good too.

Sit back, briefly admire your handiwork, for it will be pretty, and eat. Run back into the kitchen and prep another as you’ll probably want one. I almost always do.

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Savoury Pork Belly, Savoy Cabbage & Noodle Soup

Savoury Pork Belly, Savoy Cabbage & Noodle Soup

Sometimes, the very best dishes arrive as a surprise, twisted children of the products of our store cupboard and leftovers. It’s always a pleasure when something tasty and comforting arrives as a product of these rushed confections and today’s dinner was this.

Most readers are familiar with my pork belly obsession as are my friends, who are capitalising on this now. Of course I love cooking it for them, but it’s gone to the stage where I am cooking so much, I actually have leftovers! In truth, this is mainly because I am cooking a lot more of it, as I want it for sandwiches. I adored the pork belly sandwiches at Konstam, but I am not working nearby anymore and no longer get my regular fix.

Roast Pork Belly

(I’ve really got to exercise a lot more to compensate for this regular fat influx. What to do about the arteries? I use a lot of olive oil. That’s ok? Right? No? I’ll balance it with healthy veggie dishes, promise.)

So, today, I was faced with a mountain of roast pork belly. I’d roasted it in a light chicken stock with shallots, garlic, bay leaves and thyme and rubbed fresh ground star anise and sea salt into the flesh and crackling. So, what to do? Along with the pork belly, I had some gorgeous stock. I was speaking with a friend about how much it is used in ramen recently, so I thought, why not try a noodle soup?

Full of delicious umami, that savoury sense of ours, rich in meats, mushrooms and cheese amongst others, it was the perfect counter to a Winter’s day. Very quick and very easy to make, it’s a one pot wonder. Next time I make pork belly, or roast pork, this is going to be top of my list for the leftovers.

Ingredients:

650ml chicken or pork stock
150g shredded leftover pork belly
3 spring onions shredded
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
1 inch ginger, finely chopped or grated
1/2 green chilli, finely chopped
1 tbsp soy sauce
4 leaves savoy cabbage, shredded
1 nest chinese noodles (I like shanghai noodles but any will do)
a light oil for frying like groundnut or vegetable oil
S & P

Method:

Briefly saute the ginger, garlic and chilli in the oil.

Add the stock, pork belly and noodles and cook until the noodles are almost done.

Add the cabbage and cook for a minute or so, so that it retains it’s bite and lovely bright green colour.

Add soy sauce and S & P to taste.

Serve piping hot garnished with the shredded spring onions.

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January roundup!

When we hit 2009, I did a roundup of the year. It went down very well, so I thought that I would start doing monthly ones. It should keep me on my toes. Already, I can see that I haven’t blogged enough and the pile of drafts that have yet to be published is climbing high. I’ll give you a sneak preview of those in a bit!

January started very nicely with an email from the people at Wikio, stating that this humble blog was number 2 in their Top 100 Gastronomy Blogs. Now, how did that happen? Lovely news and I was chuffed. There are so any blogs I read that are more deserving of the position!

The month started with a roundup of 2008 in two parts (part one, part two), followed by the top posts for 2008 and my personal favourites. Take a look if you want to see what everyone’s been cooking, your feedback on those posts has been lovely!

Roast Yorkshire Pork

Pork was a strong feature of January: pork belly, roast pork, bacon, sausages. So, it won’t come as a surprise that the next post for the blog was some delicious Roast Yorkshire Pork. Tender, moist and with crispy crackling, it was a treat. It’s always so good to find a good producer, or a source of a good product, and I definitely found a winner in Paganum, the online Farmer’s market based in Yorkshire. I couldn’t face a full roast dinner after all my Christmas indulgence, I just wanted to enjoy the tender, juicy pork, and found it went down well with some kale, steamed with the juices of the pork in the oven, it’s definitely a dish to be repeated, I could see it being a spring winner with some lovely new potatoes.

Baozi Inn

A much overdue trip to Baozi Inn was next, recommended by a number of people, including fellow blogger, Lizzie of Hollow Legs. I really enjoyed it, as did my three dining companions, one of whom lived in China (Chengdu) and proclaimed it some of the most authentic Chinese food that she has had in London. Service was efficient but friendly, it’s certainly not a place to linger but it is a good cheap eat.

Reports seem to be mixed, so, I’ll be interested to see how others find it and I’ll be trying it again. I am also keen to try those Sichuan restaurants that I’ve yet to eat in: Red & Hot on Charing Cross Rd and The Sichuan in Acton.

The last post for January was a comforting soup; Salsify & Roast Garlic Soup. Nutty, savoury and delicate, it was also quite healthy with red lentils supporting the salsify.

If I did only these things, I would have had the quiet January I had aimed for. Typically I didn’t. It wasn’t crazy, by any means, but I did do lots of nice things, some of which I will blog about over the next week.  I also made some nice food, and some awful food (rhubarb muffins, I am talking about you!). As a rule, things that don’t make it to the blog, do make it to flickr, so I’ll share them with you, for now, in pictures.

Two things I have no pictures of, and I’ll tell you about first. I had a delicious lunch at Scott’s of Mayfair with the people from Lactofree. It was very interesting, with three doctors discussing lactose intolerance and managing it, which for me, a lactose intolerant with a background in physiology, it was very interesting. The food was delicious. I’ll go back!

The second was a fantastic wine tasting experience at the Saatchi Gallery: Handmade by Bibendum, organised  by Bibendum Wines. The Saatchi Gallery was transformed into a wine lovers paradise, with rooms dedicated to different contries, wine regions, champagne, fine wines, spirits etc. It was on all day, unfortunately, I only made the second half due to previous commitments. It was a fantastic experience and included a Twitter Taste Live, which I had the pleasure of taking part in. I’ll write more about that and publish some photos soon.

I paid a visit to Chinatown on Chinese New Year. I love the buzz there, and the dragons calling into local businesses etc. It’s great fun.

Chinatown on Chinese New Year

Chinatown on Chinese New Year

Chinatown on Chinese New Year

Chinatown on Chinese New Year

I went to one of my favourite restaurants, New Tayyab’s in Whitechapel, twice. Once with fellow bloggers Chris, Helen, Lizzie and Joel and Charles from Tipped, we were VIP’s that night and seated in the VIP room which was very exciting. The food as always was divine. I went again with 7 Tayyab’s virgins, who loved it as much as I do. Yum!

Seekh kebabs and chicken tikka at New Tayyabs

Seekh kebabs and chicken tikka at New Tayyab's

Masala Fish at New Tayyabs

Masala Fish at New Tayyab's

Tindi masala at New Tayyabs

Tindi masala at New Tayyab's

I had the pleasure of attending a fantastic bloggers’s dinner at St John in Farringdon, just after they were awarded their first michelin star. We started the evening at lovely Vinoteca across the road with some delicious Portugese wine, and our meal was accompanied by gorgeous Dinastia Vivanco wines from Rioja. Thanks to Rob of The Wine Conversation and Rafael and Hugo from Bodegas Dinastia Vivanco for hosting.

Beef & Kidney Pie at St John

Beef & Kidney Pie at St John

Bone marrow at St John

Bone marrow at St John

Not a bad start to 2009, eh? Looking forward to tucking into February.