Thursday, 24 May 2012

Roast Belly of Pork with Fennel Seeds

Roast Belly of Pork with Fennel Seeds

Pork belly is criminally underrated. One of the few cuts of meat that can stand being roasted without risk of it drying out, it's tender, moist, and you get crackin' crackling with it.  Despite all this, it's also one of the cheapest cuts that you can buy.  Why? Because, it has a decent amount of fat on it, and, as we've all become fat-phobic, terrified of even a smidge of the glorious white stuff, pork belly all dressed up in its bountiful layers has been condemned to the food sin bin.  But the fat in the belly keeps the meat moist while cooking, which means that you can leave it in the oven for a while before it needs any real intervention.  Once it does come round to serving you will find that most of the fat will have melted away during cooking, leaving wonderfully tender and flavourful meat.     

If you want crackling (who doesn't?!), score the pork skin with a very sharp knife (but not into the actual meat) and rub with a good pinch or two of salt.  I've used Fennel seeds along with salt and pepper to season the pork, as the aniseed flavour works superbly well. 

I have deliberatly not specifed precise quantities of ingredients, for example, how many potatoes you'll need is dependant on how many people your serving (and what else you're serving it with i.e veg). 

Pork Belly (Approx 300-400g person)
Salt & Pepper - Good few pinches
Fennel Seeds - 1-2 Tablespoons
Onions, sliced, enough to create a 'bed' for the pork (roughly 2 or 3)
Potatoes, Peeled and cut into chunks, enough for everybody

  1. Preheat the oven to 220C / 200 C Fan / Gas Mark 7
  2. Slice the onions and put them in a roasting tin so that they make a bed for the pork to sit on.  This will stop the underside of the pork from burning. 
  3. Score the skin of the pork belly with a very sharp knife and rub in the salt and pepper. 
  4. Scatter the fennel seeds over the pork.
  5. Peel and chop the potatoes into rough chunks and place around the pork.
  6. Place the belly into the oven and cook at 220C / 200 C Fan / Gas Mark 7 for 30 minutes.
  7. Turn down the oven to 170C / 150 C Fan / Gas Mark 3 and cook for about two or three hours.  Check the pork every so often just to make sure that its ticking way nicely. You don't need to be too precise with cooking times as it is unlikely that the belly will dry out.  
  8. The potatoes will probably be done half way through cooking, so take them out and keep warm for serving later.  
  9. It is unlikely that the cracking will be done by the time it comes round to serving, so heat the grill and place the pork ( still in the roasting tin) under the grill.  Keep a watchful eye so that it doesn't burn.  Grill until the crackling has crackled.  
  10. Serve with the potatoes, veg and gravy.  

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Spicy Moroccan Lamb Stew

Spicy Moroccan Lamb Stew

This stew is essentially a Tagine, albeit without the fancy cooking pot. It takes very little fuss to prepare, a bit of chopping, the opening of some tins and a gentle bubbling in a pan for a few hours.  It all results in a meltingly tender lamb, fragrant, spicy and wonderful. 

The cut of lamb used is fairly important; it needs to have a bit of fat on it, so I use Lamb neck fillet.  The fat eventually melts after a long cooking, but too much fat is not good, so any large bits of fat need to be trimmed off. 
I use typical Moroccan spices to flavour the tagine, such as cumin, coriander, ginger and cinnamon, along with three spices - cayenne, chili flakes and the brilliant Pimenton de la Vera (Smoked Paprika) to give a hot smokey kick to the stew.  Leave out the chili flakes if you prefer a milder flavour.  

INGREDIENTS (Serves 2 plus leftovers):
2 Tablespoons oil
350g Lamb Neck Fillet, trimmed of unnecessary fat and diced into inch cubes

1 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
1 Teaspoon Ground Coriander
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon Cayenne
1/2 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika (Pimenton de la Vera)
1/2 Teaspoon Chili Flakes

1 large Red Onion, thickly sliced
1 large Carrot, peeled and cut into inch cubes
2 Fat Garlic Cloves squished
500ml Chicken Stock
1 Tin Chopped Tomatoes
1 Tablespoon Tomato Puree
1 Tin of cooked Chickpeas, washed and drained
Lemon Juice
Couscous to serve with the stew
Fresh Coriander chopped

  1. In a large pan, heat the oil until hot.  Add the trimmed and cubed lamb, and fry until browned all over.  
  2. Add in the spices (Cumin, Coriander, Ginger, Cinnamon, Cayenne, Smoked Paprika and Chili Flakes) and stir the lamb so that the pieces are fully coated.  Continue to fry for 2 minutes.  
  3. Add in the squished garlic cloves, onions and carrots, turn the heat down and cook for 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.  
  4. Add in the chicken stock, tomato puree and the tin of chopped tomatoes, stir and turn the heat down low.
  5. Cook for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally and adding more stock or water if the stew becomes too dry.
  6. About 20 minutes before you want to serve, add in a can of drained chickpeas. 
  7. Season with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.  
  8. Scatter with chopped fresh coriander and serve with a mound of fluffy couscous

Friday, 11 May 2012

Thai Pork Burgers and Lettuce and Lime Salad

Thai Pork Burgers and Lettuce and Lime Salad

These Thai inspired beauties are the new favourite in the house, lighter than a classic beef burger, they are beautifully fragrant and spicy.  They are also a doddle to make, and most of the ingredients for the spice paste were already lying around in my kitchen, so no long searches for obscure ingredients.

These little burgers go superbly well with chunks of roasted sweet potato and/or fragrant Jasmine rice,  and the lettuce and lime salad.  This salad is crisp, bitter, refreshing, salty and zesty, a cleansing balance to the meaty spiciness of the burgers and is pretty delicious.  Close your eyes and you could be in Bangkok.... 

Thai Pork Burgers (makes enough for 2 greedy people):

500g Minced Pork
Thumb sized piece of Ginger, peeled
4 Garlic Cloves, peeled
2 Chillies
1 Fresh Lemongrass Stalk, outer skin peeled off
1 Small Red Onion
Zest and Juice of one Lime
1 Tablespoon Light Soy Sauce
1 Small bunch fresh Coriander, stalks and leaves roughly chopped

  1. In a food processor, blend the ginger, garlic, chillies, lemongrass, red onion, soy sauce and lime zest and lime juice until it becomes a paste.
  2. Add this to the pork mince with the chopped Coriander and mix with your hands until thoroughly mixed.  
  3. Form into small burgers and fry in a little oil until brown and cooked.  Serve with Jasmine Rice and/or roasted Sweet Potato chunks, and the Lettuce and Lime salad.  

Lettuce and Lime Salad

Crisp white lettuce, washed and roughly chopped
Small handful of Coriander, leaves and stalks
10 (or so) Mint leaves
Juice of half a lime (or to taste)
1-2 Spring Onions finely sliced
1 Green Chili, deseeded and finely chopped (optional)
Good pinch of Salt

  1. Roughly chop the lettuce and place in a large bowl
  2. Finely chop the Coriander, Mint, Spring Onions and Chili and toss with the lettuce leaves.  
  3. Squeeze a generous about of lime juice over the salad and a good pinch of salt.  Taste and add more lime juice or salt as necessary.  Serve with the Thai Pork Burgers

Monday, 7 May 2012

Fresh Pasta and Basil Pesto

Fresh Pasta and Basil Pesto

It was my Domestic Goddess blip (see Coffee and Walnut Cake post) that had me making my first ever batch of fresh egg pasta.  Previous to this, I had never attempted to make my own pasta, probably because I was under the impression that I needed a whole host of equipment and ingredients that I didn't have, didn't want to buy and didn't have the space for.  Oh how wrong I was.  No need for a pasta machine here - as long as you've got a solid rolling pin, your laughing.   

You will need special "00" pasta flour though, but you can find this in most decent supermarkets.  It is even super easy to work out quantities - for every 100g of flour you will need to use one medium egg.  The 100g flour and one egg mix will make roughly enough pasta for one person, although I did 300g flour and 3 eggs to serve two very hungry people.  Just work out how many people you need to feed and adjust accordingly. 

When you come to roll out the pasta you will need to get it as thin as you can - no thicker than a penny, and then using a sharp knife or pizza wheel like I did, cut it into strips.  How wide you want the strips to be is up to you, mine were about 1cm, but you don't need to be too precise.    

Now, there's no point taking time to make your own pasta if your going to ruin it with some crappy shop brought pasta sauce.  Try to see the fresh pasta as a delicious element in its own right, rather than just something that the sauce clings to. When you've made your own pasta you need a really special sauce.  
I had a bunch of beautiful emerald green basil at home that was just calling out to be turned into a pesto. Vibrant grass green, this pesto is a world away from any overly salty shop brought pond sludge.  

Fresh Pasta (per person):
100g "00" Pasta Flour
1 Medium egg (Free-range)

  1. In a bowl put the flour and make a well with your fingers
  2. In the well put the egg(s) and using your fingers mix together.  It may seem a bit dry at first, but persevere and all the flour will be incorporated, so don't add any extra liquid.  
  3. Once it has come together in a rough ball, you will now need to knead it on a lightly floured surface.  
  4. Knead the pasta until it is no longer rough and floury, but smooth.  It took me at least 10 minutes to get to this stage.  
  5. Wrap the pasta tightly in cling film and place in the fridge for at least an hour to rest.
  6. Once rested, take it out of the fridge and on a lightly floured work-surface roll it out using a rolling pin (or if your super fancy, a pasta machine).  It may be easier to do this in batches.  Keep any pasta that your not working with wrapped in the cling film to stop it from drying out.  
  7. Roll the pasta so that it is no thicker than a penny.  Using a sharp knife or pizza wheel, cut out long strips of the pasta.  
  8. To cook the pasta, put a large pan of salted water on the boil.  When it starts boiling, put in your fresh pasta.  As it is fresh it has a much shorter cooking time than dried pasta, but how long you cook it for depends on how thick the pasta is and how much there is in the pan.  Test it regularly. You want it al dente, with bite.  

Basil Pesto (makes enough for four servings):
Large bunch of Basil
50g Grated Parmesan
50g Pine nuts
1 Fat garlic clove (or two small ones)
Juice of half a Lemon (to taste)
100ml Good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil 

  1. In a dry frying pan, lightly toast the pine nuts until just golden.  Take them off the heat and leave to cool.
  2. In a food processor, blend the basil, pine nuts, Parmesan, garlic and half of the olive oil together until finely processed. The pesto should have a similar consistency to double cream. You may find that you don't need to use all of the oil - or you may need more.  
  3. Add in the juice of half the lemon and taste, adding more if necessary.  You probably don't want it too lemony just enough to brighten it.  I found that half was just enough.
  4. Stir it through fresh pasta, or use it as a delicious herby salad dressing.  

Coffee and Walnut Cake

Coffee and Walnut Cake

Last Friday was a bit of a Domestic Goddess moment for me, a rare moment where I wake up far too early and spend my entire day making and baking.  We were visiting my cousins quaint new house on Saturday, and alongside the two cushions I had made for her, I decided to bake a cake for tea at hers.  

Coffee cake is a family favourite, and has a near permanent presence at my mothers house.   Normally shop brought, my main problem with these cakes (aside from the vast number of unnecessary ingredients) is the measly size - when I want cake, I want a hunk of cake.  For this, I use a tin that is 22cm in diameter - perfect size for a wodge of cake.  

Because I don't have two cake tins, I have to make and bake the cake in two parts, so I divide the ingredients in two (i.e 120g instead of 240g) and then repeat it.  
240g Unsalted Butter, softened
240g Golden Caster Sugar
240g Self Raising Flour
2 Teaspoons of Baking Powder
4 Medium Eggs lightly beaten
Pinch of Salt
2 Tablespoon Instant Coffee dissolved in 8 tablespoons of water.

100g Softened Unsalted Butter
500g Icing Sugar
1 Tablespoon Instant Coffee dissolved in 4 tablespoons of water.
Walnuts to decorate

  1. Preheat the oven to 190c / 170c fan oven / Gas Mark 5.  Line a suitable cake tin(s).  
  2. In a bowl beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy.
  3. Sift in the self raising flour, baking powder and pinch of salt and beat with half of the lightly beaten eggs until just incorporated.  
  4. Add in the rest of the eggs with several spoonfuls of the dissolved instant coffee (to taste) and mix.  
  5. Spoon into the cake tin and carefully spread to the edges.  Smooth the top and place in the oven for 15 minutes or until cooked.  Try not to open the oven door for at least 10 minutes or the cake may not rise too well.  
  6. Leave the cake in the tin for at least 10 minutes before removing and leaving to cool on a wire rack.  
  7. Repeat if necessary (if you don't have two cake tins).
  8. When the cakes are cold you can start to make the icing.  
  9. In a bowl beat the butter until pale with an electric whisk.  
  10. Add in half of the icing sugar and beat until thoroughly mixed.  
  11. Add in a spoonful or two of the coffee and mix.  
  12. Add in the rest of the icing sugar and thoroughly mix.  The icing may be a bit dry so add in a bit more coffee until the icing has reached a spreadable consistency.  
  13. Get yourself a board or plate on which to put the cake.  Spread a small spoonful of icing on the empty dish, and put one of the cakes on it.  This will stop the cake moving about.   
  14. Using a flat knife or palette knife, ice the top of that cake and put the other cake on top of that (so that you've iced the middle of the cake).
  15. Use a small amount of the icing (about a quarter) to carefully ice all the cake (top and sides) and put it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.  
  16. Take the cake out of the fridge and use the remaining icing (you should have about half left) to go over the top and sides.  This should stop the crumbs from going in your icing.  
  17. Top with walnuts and serve in generous wedges.  

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Pulled Pork

Pulled Pork

As far as roasts go, pulled pork is pretty epic.  Far simpler and, actually, a lot less faff than your typical beef or chicken Sunday lunch, it is immensly tasty, fun, and cheap. Although it is a bit of an investment in time (and fuel) the results are well worth it - meltingly tender pork with a delicious spicy kick.  

The aim of this game is to cook the pork low and slow, I cooked the shoulder for 18 hours in an oven which was never above 110C / 90C (Fan Ovens) / Gas Mark 1/4, and boy did it turn out good.  We served it with cheap white rolls, wedges, corn on the cob, and several types of chili and barbeque sauce.    The new Tabasco Chipotle sauce goes perfectly with the pulled pork - spicy and smokey, it's frickin' awesome. 

Those who have had proper pulled pork before, will know that this recipe is not strictly authentic.  For one, I don't have a smoker (I don't know anyone in England that does), in which to smoke the shoulder for hours. So, this pulled pork is more of a homage to the barbecue kings of the Deep South and their meaty greatness.  

Makes enough for 5 very hungry people (plus leftovers)
2.5 kg Boned Shoulder of Pork (roughly 500g uncooked weight per person)
New packet of Clean Rubber gloves

For the Spice Rub:
1 Tablespoon of Smoked Paprika - Pimenton de la Vera
1 Tablespoon of Garlic Granules
1 Tablespoon of Ground Ginger
1 Tablespoon of Mustard Powder
1 Tablespoon of Cayenne
1 1/2 Teaspoons Ground Black Pepper
1 Teaspoon Dried Rosemary
1 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
25g Rock Salt (Not the fine table salt)
60g White Caster Sugar
60g Dark Brown Sugar

  1. In a bowl mix up all the ingredients for the spice rub and set aside.
  2. Carefully wash the shoulder of pork.  Cut the pieces of string that hold the shoulder together and roll out the pork.  Cut away any large pieces of fat.  You want to keep a fair amount of fat on the pork to stop it drying out when cooking.  Besides, nearly all of the fat will eventually melt off the meat. Pat the pork dry with kitchen paper.
  3. Put the pork into a suitable sized roasting tin and generously cover with the spice rub.  
  4. You will need to massage in the spice rub making sure that the pork is completely covered.  
  5. Cover the pork with cling film and leave to marinade in the fridge for about 5 hours or so.  
  6. About an hour before you plan to start roasting the pork, take it out of the fridge, and let it come to room temperature.  This is actually very important, so don't skip that bit.    
  7. Preheat the oven to 110C / 90C (Fan Ovens) / Gas Mark 1/4.  The aim is to slowly roast the pork at a very low temperature.  
  8. Put the pork into the oven and leave to cook for at least 12 hours.  I cooked the pork for 18 hours at it turned out wonderful.  As long as the temperature is low then the pork shouldn't dry out. Don't worry if the rub starts looking quite dark and black - this is normal, it hasn't burnt - its caramelised!   
  9. When the pork is cooked - there isn't really the need to check for blood in the juices if the pork has been cooking for at least 12 hours.  The best way to check is to stick a fork in the pork and twist it - if it turns easily then the pork is done.  
  10. Take the pork out of the oven, cover it with tin foil and a clean tea towel and leave to rest somewhere warm for at least 30 minutes.  
  11. After resting, uncover the pork and wearing your (clean) washing up gloves, start to hand shred the pork.  Discard the skin and any lumps of fat that still remain.  The pork should naturally break off into strands without you having to use any knives. 
  12. Serve the pulled pork with chips/wedges, soft white rolls, buttery corn on the cob and lots of barbecue and chili sauce.