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Roast Pork Belly with Apples, Cavolo Nero & Marcona Almonds

I am up to my oxters in bacon and pork belly, testing recipes and cures for my next book, Project: BACON, and making bacon boxes to send to people who subscribed for them. Something had to give, and today, it was me. I stole 1kg of the pork belly earmarked for a cure that would transform it into chilli bacon, and roasted it instead.

I needed it. I had too much wine last night and I am pretty fragile (er, maybe hungover) today. It is a typical routine really: work hard, play hard, fall over, roast some pork belly. I love the stuff and it is so comforting. I have two pork belly recipes in Comfort & Spice, and one is a slow roast over 6 hours, but at 11am I decided that I wanted it and I wanted it NOW so this is the quicker version which results in a firmer meat, and not a tender yielding meat that results from the slow roast.

A few years ago I was going through a pretty intense pork belly phase. I am a little obsessive and I get hooked on ingredients or dishes for weeks (or even months) at a time. Right now, I am in the waffle zone (I now have 3 waffle irons and am working my way through recipes, which I will post some of soon). People joked that I ate nothing else, and I thought, that I probably should snap out of it and explore some other things. Which I did. However, the results of it are quite a few pork belly recipes on this here blog and I joke that every Sunday there is a pork belly stampede (there is – lots of people come here for my straight forward roast pork belly recipe on that day alone).

I often roast pork belly with lentils and I wanted to do that today. But I was too lazy to go to the shop (well, truthfully, too lazy to get out of my pjs to go to the shop), so I worked with what I had and I loved the results. I had some evita apples that I bought at the farmers market at the weekend. Small, crisp and sweet, but with a slight tang that worked brilliantly when in the pork fat and juices for ten minutes. Cavolo nero was also roasted alongside, at this time of year it is less velvety but still good, and the earthiness went well. Marcona almonds, tossed through the slightly mushy apples, cavolo nero and fat and meat juices finished it off. It was lighter than with the lentils, and I will definitely be roasting it like this again.

Enjoy!

Recipe: Roast Pork Belly with Apples, Cavolo Nero & Marcona Almonds
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Recipe: Smokin’ Hot Red Eye Ribs

Smokin' Hot Red Eye Ribs

Now I loved that bacon jam. And it opened my eyes to using coffee in a marinade. Why not? It worked so well there it was bound to be a winner. Then a friend told me about red eye gravy, a coffee gravy served over ham in the American deep South. Coffee and pork are two of my favourite things in this world. The die was cast.

Pork ribs are a much under valued and underused cut of meat. So cheap, so full of flavour, I expect it must be because people don’t know what to do with them. (fyi – in response to a comment below – I am of course referring to the UK & Ireland here. I know they eat lots of them elsewhere). Marinaded ribs are wonderful on the BBQ but also great cooked low and slow in the oven until the meat teases slowly from the bone. Then, and only then, are they are ready to eat.

Smokin' Hot Red Eye Ribs

The secret to all marinaded meat recipes is time, so make sure you marinade them for long enough. Aim for a minimum 2 hours, overnight is best. I used chipotle in adobo again in these, it is one of my favourite things to use at the moment. So versatile with a rich smoky heat. You can get it online quite easily if you are not an urbanite like myself. Otherwise substitute with your favourite chilli, or chipotle chilles (dried or fresh).

Now when choosing pork ribs you have two options: baby back ribs or spare ribs. I love both and on this occasion had some pork spare ribs to try from the London Fine Meat Company, an online butchers based in London. The ribs were big and meaty and delivered at £4.70 a pack (approx 12 big ribs in each). I will use them again, time is such a precious commodity these days.

I made these for friends and they loved them, hope you enjoy them too. These ribs were big so 3 per person was perfect. You may choose to make more, and why not when you are roasting them for so long. You might as well make the most of the oven. Shredded leftovers would make a great sandwich filling or Asian noodle salad.

Recipe: Smokin’ Hot Red Eye Ribs

Serves 2

6 pork spare ribs

Marinade:

500ml fresh brewed coffee
3 chipotles & 3 teaspoons of the adobo sauce (or substitute with chilli), finely chopped
80 ml cider vinegar
4 tbsp rich brown sugar like molasses sugar
4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
generous pinch of sea salt

Combine all ingredients for the marinade and massage ito the ribs. Cover and refrigerate for minimmum 2 hours, preferably overnight.
Preheat the oven to 150 deg C.
Put the ribs and marinade in a high sided tin and cover with foil.
Roast gently for 2.5 – 3 hours until the meat pulls off the bone, basting with the juices every half an hour.
Rest the ribs for 5 minutes under foil before serving. If the marinade hasn’t reduced to a sticky sauce (it should haev), reduce gebntly over a medium heat in a saucepan and serve poured on top of the ribs.
Eat with your fingers! It’s wrong not to.

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Choo Choo! All Aboard the Bacon Jam Train! (Recipe)

Bacon Jam. Stop, take a moment, and say it out loud. Bacon. Jam. BACON JAM! Yes, that is what I am talking about! Feeling excited?

So, bacon jam first came into my life some years about when I heard that they sold it in the US. I promptly spent a fortune and ordered some, paying the same in postage as for the jam itself. I fell in love.

I had to have more so I came up with a recipe. It was earmarked for the book but I decided not to put it in (although I do think that was stupidity now) so I never blogged it. It’s my recipe so, as you can imagine, there is lots of spice and big flavours.It’s delicious, and almost as good as my chorizo jam, both recipes will find their way to you eventually!

I am in Nova Scotia now, and when I got to the airport my eye was drawn to a visitors booklet called Taste of Nova Scotia. It has lists of places to try and also some local recipes. One of these was for seared scallops with bacon jam. The recipe was quite different to mine and I was keen to try it. It has coffee in it for one (genius – it accents the smokiness).

The local scallops are very good here and super reasonably priced. I found some smoked scallops at the farmers market and that was it, I was making it. I have used the Taste of Nova Scotia recipe from Shelley Steventon of The Old Fish Factory as a base but made some changes. I didn’t use Tabasco, instead I used chipotles in adobo which gave it lovely depth and smokiness (substitute with normal chilli or 2 tbsp Chipotle tabasco sauce if you can’t get it). I also added a little more sugar and then some red wine vinegar which gave it a lovely tang (I love cider vinegar and there is some in the recipe too but the red wine vinegar adds another layer when added towards the end). Otherwise, thanks very much Shelley for bringing this into my life!

This is terrific with scallops and in a BLT too – just add lettuce and tomato, or just on crackers. It is best served warm. You will love it, you will become addicted. I hope you don’t get gout (I hope I don’t get gout!). Enjoy :)

Bacon Jam Recipe

Ingredients

500g streaky bacon (it has to be streaky), chopped into small dice
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 red onion, finely diced
50g brown sugar
50mls maple syrup
50ml cider vinegar
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
250ml fresh brewed coffee (NOT instant – important)
2 chipotles in adobe (1 chillies – NOT 2 tins!), finely chopped

Method

Sauté the bacon over a medium heat until starting to crisp.

Take the bacon out and fry the onion in the bacon fat until softening but not coloured. Add the garlic for about a minute.

Transfer the bacon, onion, garlic to a large pot with the rest of the ingredients (excluding the red wine vinegar). Simmer gently for one hour, adding a little water every 30 minutes if required (I only had to do this towards the end). Add the red wine vinegar in the last 5 minutes.

Shelley recommends pulsing it in a food processor briefly (to retain the course texture) although I felt it didn’t need it as the bacon was chopped quite small.

Ready to serve. Will keep in the fridge too although I doubt you will have any leftover.

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Recipe: A little bit of Pitepalt

Palt

We’re going to eat Pitepalt. Pitepalt? Yes, pitepalt. I hadn’t done my research and had no idea what they were talking about. I chose to keep my mouth shut and wait and see.

What a treat then to discover that we were going to be eating supreme comfort food, lakeside in Lapland. Potato dumplings, fried over an open fire with pork belly (YES! pork belly), and served with butter and the sugared lingonberries that we had just foraged. Rich, robust and nutty, the potato dumplings, heavier than gnocchi but delicious nonetheless, were coated with pork fat, with nuggets of pork belly for company, smothered in butter with the tartness of the lingonberries raising the tone.

Palt

Lingonberries and sugar

BUT, I can’t have any. Well, yes you can. Quick trip to IKEA for the lingonberries or lingonberry jam, and Bob’s your uncle. I can’t help you with the lake though.

This recipe is a variation of one from Paltakademin (the Academy of Palt, an association whose mission it is to spread the word of the pitepalt and help people all over the world to find out about it and enjoy it.

Greta’s Pitepalt (serves 10)

Peel and  grate 2 litres of waxy potatoes, preferably almond potatoes but as you’re not in Lapland, Anya or similar will do. Leave in a colander for at least 15 minutes to get rid of some of the moisture.

Mix the potatoes with 3 tablespoons of salt and 1 litre flour.

Cut 1 kg of cured belly of pork into dice.

In a big pan bring to the boil 5 litres of water with 4 tablespoons of salt and a piece of pork rind (optional).

Roll the paltballs (about the size of a walnut) with wet hands. If you want to fill them put some flour on the tips of two fingers, make a whole in the middle of the palt and put in about 1 tablespoon porkdice in each, then roll them again till round.

When they’re ready lower the palts into the boling water and boil on low heat for 45 minutes. Take them up with a slotted spoon. Serve with butter, the pork and lingonberries

If you haven’t filled them and want to fry them you cut up the balls, have a hot pan with loads of butter and fry until they’re golden. Serve with the pork, extra butter and lingonberries. This is also a good way to use up leftovers from filled palt.

Recipe from the Culinary Academy of Sweden.

The official Palt academy: www.paltakademien.se

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This Little Piggy Went to Pig Masterclass

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This little piggy loves eating out, and doing all sorts of things relating to food, you may have noticed. I especially love new places and trying new things, learning new skills, watching someone and learning from them. So, as often as I can, I’ll get out there and try something or somewhere new.

London is a big city with lots of options and it won’t surprise you that I’ve not been everywhere yet Far from it. So, when I received an invite from a restaurant on my hit list, Trinity, to attend a pig master class, where the head chef would do a butchery demonstration at the kitchen table, followed by a dinner matched with Trimbach wines from Alsace, I was thrilled. I love Alsatian wines, I first discovered my love for them at a Hugel tasting a couple of years ago. Trimbach were particularly interesting as they are a small house, family run for many generations. Just my cup of tea, or should I say glass of Gewurz.

Trinity is a highly regarded restaurant in Clapham, South London. Food critic Giles Coren is a fan, having called it “The perfect restaurant” and it was awarded AA London Restaurant of the Year 2007/2008 and Time Out Best Local Restaurant 2007/2008. It’s a blogger’s favourite also, and frankly, the only reason that I haven’t visited is it is so bloody far away from where I live.

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Rushing, as always, I was greeted with a glass of wine and some pretty impressive looking pig carcass that the head chef, Adam Byatt was presiding over, cleaver in hand and smile on his face. I felt welcome, and slightly overwhelmed but I was desperate to catch up. It was really interesting, he made deft work of the butchering, and presented several joints at the end, some stuffed with sausage meat.

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I found it quite inspiring really and wanted to get stuck in myself and discover how to do it hands on, should they run a hands on course, I will be down there in a flash. It makes so much sense when it comes to quality and price, if you have the space and the inclination. I’ve been considering getting a half pig this year and giving this a try, if my new home has enough space for a big freezer.

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Class adjourned, we ate some spoils from the butchery, some prune pork sausages with rosemary, seductively moist and succulent and some delicious smoky taramasalata, made with cod roe from a small smokehouse in the UK, I intend to source some, it was utterly divine, smooth and rich.

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The meal commenced with a creamy and milky white onion and thyme velouté. Delicately scented and light, it soothed the tastebuds and set us up nicely for the smoked eel, steamed oyster and sole goujons. My dining companions were enthralled by the leek, but frankly, no contest, the eel was the star of the show. Gentle starts for the two robust courses that were to follow.

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Pigs trotters served on sourdough with fried quail egg, sauce gribiche and crackling over shadowed this. It is one of Trinity’s signature dishes, and it really impressed. With a shard of crackling protecting it, it didn’t stand a chance for I had it devoured in record time. A perfect example of producing something very fine and delicate with bold flavours using the cheapest of meat cuts, the simple crubeen (Irish for trotter).

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One of my favourite cuts followed, pork belly, which was served with black olive oil mash, braised celery hearts and cockle and saffron vinaigrette. Sadly, I didn’t enjoy this as much. It had been cooked sous vide for 16 hours, and I felt it didn’t do the meat any favors. Instead of the tender fragments of meat rendered by slow roasting, the meat was dense and compacted and while full of flavour, I didn’t enjoy the texture, which seemed a great shame considering how much work had gone into it. I did enjoy the fragrant cockle and saffron vinaigrette though. One slight shadow on an otherwise lovely meal.

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We finished with an intensely sweet and delicious quince tarte tatin and honey ice cream, which was everything a tarte tatin should be: fruity, intense, caramelised and golden. Nothing complex, a simple dessert that was well executed, exactly how I like my desserts to be.

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The wines were a real treat, the rieslings were particularly good. Two shone out particularly, the 2001 375th anniversary cuvee, beautifully dry with lots of mineral and a real pleasure to drink. The final wine was a very fine Gewurztraminer, the Gewurztraminer Selection des Grains Nobiles 1989.

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Overall impressions were extremely positive, Trinity is a lovely local restaurant offering very fine food, lovely service and a warm and cosy atmosphere. The Trimbach wines were really excellent, and it was a real pleasure to be taken through the tasting by Jean Trimbach himself. I was pleased to see a Trimbach wine in my local Waitrose recently, the Trimbach Riesling Réserve 2007,very well priced at £13.29, I will be trying it soon.

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Should you fancy going to the Trinity Pig Masterclass costs £70 per person, and includes the butchery demonstration and lunch, matched with ciders and perrys. It runs from 10am-1pm and is well worth a visit.

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http://www.trinityrestaurant.co.uk/

Trimbach Wines

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Dealing with January: Lomo con Leche (Pork cooked in milk)

lomo con leche

I hate to open a post on a negative, it’s not my style. Especially, on what is my first proper post of 2010 (hello 2010!). However, here it is: don’t you just HATE January? I mean, really hate it.

I’ve always struggled with January. I feel I need someone to lift the sky. Did someone remove one of the tent poles that was keeping it high off my head? And what have they done to the colour? Where is the light? Why is everything so grim? Someone please put it back to the way it was! I’m getting desperate. Nearly four weeks of it now, and it’s still going on. I feel a little miserable.

I remember as a child hearing about an Irish professional cyclist (yes, you did read right), who spent 6 months abroad over Winter every year, and the remaining 6 months in Ireland. As an adult with a healthy does of realism, I can see now that that was most likely a tax ploy, but as a child I thought: genius! that’s what I am going to do. 6 months away, avoiding those most depressing of months, January and February. I haven’t done this , of course. A part of me still anticipates that I may make it happen. Maybe not 6 months, but next January somewhere other than here, would be seven kinds of wonderful.

As I wander the streets, avoiding the puddles and skidding on occasional ice, damning the snow of early January and damning the sky, shaking my fist at dissolving snowmen, and kids with snowballs, I feel grumpy. I hate feeling grumpy but it won’t go away. I want to kick things. I need to sort it out. I need to lift my mood. I need to eat something comforting with a big, bold and spicy glass of red wine. There’s no money, and lots of time. That means frugal cooking with the occasional treat.

What to eat, what to cook? Slow leisurely cooking yields tender meats and big flavours, and plenty of time for that indulgent glass of wine. Red meats, with red wine, heady sauces, spices. Fresh fish makes a cheerful and bright supper, and I feel healthy and light afterwards. It’s also quick, bonus. The real treat for me recently was pork cooked with milk. Creamy, tender, rich, yielding, it saved me from several hours of looming crankiness, it was luscious.

Now, if you’ve not heard of it, pork cooked in milk is a common Italian dish, Maiale al Latte. I had seen the recipe in one of my River Cafe cookbooks, but the one that really grabbed my attention was a Moro version with added spice, some cinnamon, entitled Lomo con Leche. It also used fresh bay leaves, one of my favourite fragrances, a gorgeous addition to most dishes, and with milk, sublime.

So, I had to try it. Dutifully I went to my butcher, securing a loin as specified by the recipe. I chose just over 1kg, the recipe specifying 1-1.5. Removing the skin and most of the fat, saving this for some crackling which I would have seperately, the ultimate fatty and crispy indulgence with flakes of salt dancing on top.

I chopped some fresh thyme and rubbed it into the joint with sea salt, browning it on all sides, and then sitting snugly in my 20cm Le Creuset pot, I covered it with the milk, added the bay leaves and the cinnamon and let it cook, keeping an eye on the meat, as loin is quite delicate, not having protective fat to keep it moist, it’s easy to overcook.

The recipe said an hour to an hour and a half, for my kg an hour was plenty, almost too much, it’s worth using a meat thermometer to determine when your loin is perfectly cooked at 65° – 70°. I also used less milk, in my 20cm pot, a liter was plenty. I was a little disappointed that the sauce didn’t have the rich caramelised and nutty brown nuggets that theirs had in the photo, however, the taste was terrific, comforting, nurturing, rich. This was a perfect January dish, tearing you instantly away from the tortures of this grim month, and whisking you to a moorish village with heady flavours and colours. Maybe I just had too much wine at that point.

Don’t be put off by the photo, it ain’t pretty but it’s mighty tasty. We had it with greens and potatoes.

The recipe is adapted from the original recipe,taken from The Moro Cookbook by Samantha & Samuel Clark

It supposedly serves 4, but I say 3.

Ingredients

1-1.5 kg boned  pork loin, with skin removed
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 cinnamon stick
3 fresh bay leaves
1 litre full fat milk
sea salt & black pepper

Method

Trim the pork of excess fat and rub all over with salt, pepper and thyme. Place a large, heavy saucepan over a medium heat and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the pork and seal until golden brown on all sides, but not too dark.

Pour off any excess oil, add the cinnamon, bay and milk and bring to a gentle simmer, turning down the heat if necessary. Cook slowly with the lid half off for an hour or so, turning the meat occasionally, or until the meat is cooked through, but still juicy and tender, or until it registers 65° – 70° on your meat thermometer.

The milk should have reduced into caramelised, nutty nuggets, and made a wonderful sauce subtly flavoured with cinnamon and bay. If it needs more time to reduce, remove the meat until the sauce is ready.

Taste and season. Let the meat rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

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Spiced Roast Pork Belly

spiced roast pork belly

Spiced roast pork belly you say? Not a cut of meat you’ve seen here before? A new direction for Eat Like a Girl?

I jest. I have more than over blogged pork belly, but I tried a new spice mixture and a new way of cooking it, and it was delicious, so I thought that I would share. I had no intention of blogging it so I didn’t make an effort with the photos, however, the taste proved delicious, and I thought, hey, I should really be blogging more frequently anyway, and this is worth talking about.

I had pork belly in the fridge, 1kg, a really nice piece I got from a local enough butcher, with the bone still in. I asked the butcher for pork belly, and he asked if I wanted tenderloin. Huh? No, pork belly. Was I sure? Did I want to eat all that fat? Did I like the flavour in the fat? Hell, yeah. Gimme some pork belly please! I’ll get tenderloin another time.

I had guests staying and a friend popped over. Two meat eaters and one strict vegetarian. I wasn’t planning on going anywhere and I wasn’t much in the mood for the pub, so we decided that we would stay in and I would conjure up a dinner using, mainly, what I had to hand. I faltered and went out to get lots of fresh herbs and some fresh vegetables which were sadly lacking, but otherwise, I was good to go.

spices for roast pork belly

I had plans for the vegetarian food, two big salads, one with beans, and therefore reasonably balanced. Noone was going hungry on my watch! As for the pork belly, the Saturday kitchen recipe had piqued my curiosity. I decided that I would take a similar approach with mine. I hadn’t added lemon zest to my pork spice rub before, so definitely wanted to try that, and I added fennel seeds (always so good with pork), sea salt, some red pepper flakes that I had bought in a local Turkish shop and which have become a staple, and finally, some fiery chilli powder.

I’ve been experimenting with how I roast meats recently, starting at a low temperature and blasting it at the end to give some crispy crackling skin, and I think I have it down now. I ground the spices in the pestle and mortar and then poured some boiling hot water over the scored skin to part the bits that are scored and improve the resulting crackling. I dried the skin with some kitchen paper and rubbed in the spice rub, all over the pork.

pork belly

Ready to go! I had preheated the oven to 150 degrees celsius. In went the pork, snugly in a roasting tray that just held it, with 100ml water in the tray. I usually add cider, stock or wine, but with so many flavours on there already, water was right for this. I roasted it uncovered at this temperature for 2 hours, then turned the oven up to 220 degrees to crisp the crackling for about 20 minutes. And we were done.

It’s not the prettiest dish. The spice rub was well and truly charred at this stage but the crackling was crisp and the meat so, so tender, not to mention delicious. The rub conferred a lovely spiciness and citrus kick, which lightened it. Next time I might not put the rub on the skin, as it charred a little too much. This may become my regular pork belly dish. It’s important to play with your food, sometimes you improve something you didn’t know you could or should.

This recipe made enough for 3 and I served it with khobez (flatbreads) and 3 salads (more on those later). Enjoy!

roast pork belly with salads

Ingredients:

1kg good pork belly, on the bone, if possible

Spice rub:

1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp sea salt
1 tbsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tbsp fiery chilli powder
Zest of one unwaxed lemon

Method:

Preheat your oven to 150 degrees celsius.
Grind your spice rub ingredients to a fine paste in a pestle and mortar.
Score the skin on your pork belly, if your butcher hasn’t already done it for you. Put the pork in a colander or on a wire rack and pour over some boiling water to fluff up the skin a little. Blot dry with kitchen paper, and rub the spice rub all over and in between the grooves in the scored areas.
Add to a roasting tray just a little bigger than the meat, and pour 100 mls water at the side, not touching the meat. This will keep the end of the meat moist and will prevent it drying out.
After two hours, the belly should be cooked through but still very moist. Turn the heat up to 220 degrees celsius for 20 minutes or so, until the crackling is crisped up but not burned. If you prefer you can do this under the grill.
Rest for 10 minutes and serve in slices.

Enjoy!

EDIT: I incorrectly said 180 degrees in the text. Typo – apologies. Should be 150.

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Slow Roast Pork Shoulder

Slow Roast Pork Shoulder

Complex, you would think? A gorgeous hunk of meat, that is full of flavour and moisture. A HUGE and gorgeous hunk of meat.

Complex? No. All it requires is your time, your patience, your oven, and a good cut of meat supplied by your local friendly butcher. That’s it!

Mine had some extra complexities. That probably won’t surprise you. These were not the fault of the pig, or the oven, the oils, or any attendant spices. The issue my friends, was my accent.

The most complex thing about it was ordering it. I called my butcher in advance and ordered a shoulder of pork, bone in. He had explained previously that I would need to order it in advance, as they rarely have bone in joints on the premises. I wanted the bone in, as it would help retain the moisture over a slow roasting time and would retain much more flavour.

Bone in, my butcher repeated. I had discussed it with them last time I was in the shop, so satisfied that the joint was ordered, I hung up.  I called the next day to check they had it. In fact they had three. Huh? Three? I thought they never had any? They did, he said. I checked, bone in? And he said, no, you asked for bone out. Sigh. So, we started again. I called the next evening but he couldn’t understand me, so I went on faith, in the hope that this time my pork shoulder would be there. That evening I successfully collected 4 kgs of pork shoulder with the bone in, and lugged it home.

And that was the difficult bit completed. Cooking it was easy. I didn’t need to cut the skin with a knife as my butcher had already done it for me. I first poured some boiling water over the skin to help the crackling plump up, just a brief splash, and then dried it with some kitchen paper. I crushed some sea salt and fennel seeds in my pestle and mortar and rubbed it all over the pork and into the grooves between the cut skin, then placed it in a roasting tray in  a hot oven (220 degrees celsius) for half an hour. I then covered the roasting tray with a double layer of foil, and lowered the temperature to 170 degrees celsius for 5 hours, basting occasionally. I then removed the foil and roasted it for a further half hour, to crisp the skin even more. I rested it for half an hour and then we tucked in.

Slow Roast Pork Shoulder

And there you go. Delicious and simple. There’s lots of i’s in that recipe, but that’s how I did it, and it’s a story more than an instructive recipe.

Pork shoulder in khobez flatbreads with salad. I’ll be making it again. Only I’ll make more next tiem so that there’s lots of leftovers!

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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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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.