Slow Braised Pork, Bean Puree & Pickled Carrots

It’s Friday evening and that means trying something a little different. Tonight, as we’d not been to the shops for a while, the recipe was inspired somewhat by what I knew we had left in the fridge.

Technically then, not so much inspiration as adaptation, but I unwittingly came up with something we both actually really enjoyed, especially Helen who has spent most of the day ill in bed!

The belly pork needs to be braised for a good while, I did this for 4 hours (using the ‘on-timer’ I have on my oven). I braised it very simply in chicken stock and was virtually falling apart by the time I got back from work. I actually first tried something like this at a local pub who do a version braised in Chinese spices which was also very good, but I wanted something ‘lighter’.

The bean puree was made with butter beans as I had them in the cupboard, but Canellini or Haricot beans would be fine. I had some mixed spinach, watercress and rocket leaves, which I blitzed with it too and added a nice peppery lift. The pickled carrots were based on the pickled mushrooms from the post I made a week ago – it worked well and compliments the richness of the rest of the meal very nicely.

I finished the whole thing off with a reduction made from the pork cooking stock and port.

Serves 2. Takes about 1 hour to make, but needs 4 hours braising time.

Ingredients:

Pork:

  • 500g belly pork, not too fatty for this dish.
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 3 sage leaves

Butter bean and leaves puree:

  • 1 tin butter beans (or 200g dried, soaked and simmered for 40 mins)
  • 3 good handfuls of mixed green leaves – I had spinach, rocket and watercress.
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Tbsp toasted pine nuts
  • A little vegetable bouillon stock.
  • Small knob of butter

For the carrots:

  • 1 large or two small carrots, thinly shaved (use a potato peeler to get the right thickness!)
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 star anise (optional)

For the port reduction:

  • About 200ml of the pork cooking stock, fat skimmed from the top
  • 2 tbsp port
  • Small knob of butter to finish

Method:

Make up some chicken stock if you don’t have any. Arrange the belly pork tightly in a roasting tin (not too big – so it covers the bottom) pour over the stock, sage leaves and salt & pepper. Seal with cooking foil and braise for about 4 hours at 140°C (fan) or Gas 1.

Remove the pork and set aside. Pour the fat from the top of the cooking liquor and strain it through a sieve (or muslin cloth) into a bowl for later.

Drain the beans, if using tinned, and place in a pan, cover with stock and simmer until heated through. Place the mixed leaves on top and allow to wilt down in the heat. Pour out the stock (and reserve in case you need it) and put the contents in a food processor or, if you’re feeling old-school, a pestle and mortar in batches. Blitz or pound until you get a puree. I left a few lumps in as I prefer it that way. You may need to add some of the reserved stock if it’s too dry.

Put it back in the pan and stir in the Parmesan, pine nuts and the butter and warm gently, reducing slightly if it’s too ‘wet’. Turn the heat off and cover until needed.

To make the pickled carrots, simply peel then shave them using a potato peeler, or use a very sharp knife to get thin strips. Put in a small pan with all the other ingredients and bring to a gentle simmer for a few minutes. Taste the liquor and adjust it as you see fit, but this worked for me.

Get a heavy frying pan and add a little oil. Get it hot and colour the braised belly pork on each side, it smells amazing. Remove and wrap in foil to rest/keep warm. Add about 200ml of the reserved pork cooking stock and the port to the pan and reduce on a medium heat for a while. When thickened, take it off the heat and whisk in a knob of butter.

Plate it all up and enjoy. Another long one, but well worth it!

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Kung Pao Prawns

Well, the UK has been pretty miserable the last week or so and even though we’ve seen the sun today (at least I think that what it was from memory), the weather is now coming from the North and therefore it’s freezing out there. I don’t think there’s been a worse year for weather has there? Ah, yes, last year…..

To cheer us up I decided to try something else oriental (in origin at least) with a bit of spice and came across Kung Pao Chicken. Another slightly Westernised dish, I got the general gist of the ingredients and put this together accordingly, but using prawns instead of chicken.  I don’t normally choose this sort of Chinese/Cantonese food, preferring really savoury dishes with black beans, or oyster sauces, that sort of thing, but I was pleased with this. I love the weird mouth tingling effect of the Sichuan pepper corns too.

I made this with a quick egg fried rice. The one issue with this is that you need to pre-prepare the rice and allow it to completely cool first, preferably in the fridge. So, and I make no secret of it, I keep a couple of those pre-cooked packets of plain rice kicking around in the cupboard for when I haven’t planned ahead or get in late. They’re generally a bit overcooked when eaten alone, but work fine in stir fried dishes like this or a Biryani. Anyway…

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp groundnut oil (2 is better, but I’m keeping it to a minimum)
  • 1 tsp ground Sichuan pepper corns (use a pestle and mortar, or bash under some cling film).
  • 200g large raw prawns
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 thumb sized piece of ginger
  • 1 medium chilli, sliced. Take the seeds out to lower the heat if you prefer!
  • I carrot thinly sliced lengthways
  • 1 handful of bean spouts
  • 1 small onion sliced
  • 1 small red pepper and 1 small green pepper, chopped
  • a handful of shredded cabbage
  • handful of cashews, crushed
  • 1 tbsp. oyster sauce
  • 2 tbsp. sweet chilli sauce
  • A dash of rice wine (or dry sherry)
  • 2 spring onions/scallions finely sliced
  • Soy sauce and white pepper to taste.

For Egg Fried Rice:

  • 250g pre-cook rice or cooked and cooled (overnight in the fridge)
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • Few drops of sesame oil (optional)

Method:

Put the oil into the wok and get the heat on high until it’s smoking.

Add the ground Sichuan pepper and fry for a minute.  Put in the onions and soften, followed by the ginger, chilli and garlic (careful not to burn it). Pour in a dash of rice wine/sherry about a tsp of soy sauce and reduce a little. Add the prawns and when nearly cooked (only a couple of minutes), put the vegetables in. Keep stirring for a minute or two more then add the sweet chilli sauce and oyster sauce to warm through.

Take it off the heat and fold in the crushed cashews, spring onion and a pinch of white pepper. Taste it and add a little more soy sauce if you think it needs it. Place in a bowl, cover and keep warm.

Clean the wok out, add another tbsp of oil and get it super-hot again. Break the rice up and quickly stir fry it for about 5 minutes, pouring in the soy sauce after half the time. Finally, pushing the rice to the edges, make a well in the bottom. Pour in the egg, (so that it is in contact with the wok not the rice) and stir in the middle until cooked and slightly crisp, combining it with the rice once only set, otherwise it will just turn the rice soggy. Add a few drops of sesame oil if using, and it’s done.

That’s it, fast and delicious.

Linguine with Peas Pancetta and Pangriata

It dawned on me today that despite it being my favourite cuisine out there, I’ve yet to post anything to do with Italian food. Mama mia…..

I think it may be to do with the fact that Italian food, particularly pasta, has become almost the ‘norm’ in this house and therefore I didn’t think it worthy of broadcasting to you all. A schoolboy error!

I love a good tomato sauce as much as the next frustrated chef, but I prefer pasta like this, simply but robustly flavoured. I’ve combined some pancetta cubes with sweet garden peas, chilli, lemon, fresh parsley and a background umami boost of anchovy fillets. You can leave the latter out of course as I admit they are a bit of a love me/hate me ingredient.

Pangriata is another example of the Italians making something delicious from something ordinary. Seemingly a replacement for the more expensive Parmesan (or is that an urban myth?), I prefer it in many ways for the crunchy texture. It can be tweaked and flavoured to suit the dish, but here I made it simply using a garlic infused oil and parsley. If you don’t have any, regular olive oil with finely chopped garlic and your choice of herbs is the default route for making this.

The recipes here is for two people, but can be easily multiplied up for more servings.

Serves 2. Prep and cooking time – 20 minutes.

Ingredients:

  • 150g linguine
  • 2 tbsp cooking olive oil
  • Extra virgin olive oil (to finish)
  • 100g frozen peas
  • 100g diced pancetta (or lardons/chopped streak bacon)
  • 4 anchovy fillets
  • small glass of white wine of white wine (optional)
  • 1 tsp flaked dried chilli
  • Zest of a lemon
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • Ground black pepper to serve if preferred.
  • Salt

For the pangriata (depending on how much you prefer)

  • 1- 2 handfuls of roughly chopped breadcrumbs
  • 1 – 2 tbsp Garlic infused rapeseed oil (or the same amount of oil fried with a finely chopped garlic clove)
  • Chopped parsley or thyme
  • sea salt

Method:

Get all the ingredients ready, including any chopping slicing or dicing you need to do.

Fill and boil the kettle.

I make the pangriata near the end, with a bit of multi-tasking, but if you prefer to do one thing at a time, make the pangriata first: simply fry off the breadcrumbs in the garlic oil, a good pinch of salt and some chopped parsley or thyme. It won’t take long to be golden and crispy. Remove from the pan and set aside (preferably somewhere warm).

Next, add about a tbsp of salt to a large pot and pour over the freshly boiled water. Get the heat on until it starts to boil.

Put the peas in the pan and simmer until warmed through for no more than a minute or two, they’ll be cooked further later. Remove with a slotted spoon and keep to one side in a bowl. You can do this in a separate pan of course, but it saves on washing up!

Turn the heat up to get the water to a fast boil and add the pasta. It will take about 11 minutes so time to get moving with the rest.

In the same frying pan you made the pangriara, add 1 tsbp of regular olive oil (not the good stuff, it’s a waste as you won’t taste it) and fry the pancetta, flaked chilli and garlic briskly until well coloured – about 2 minutes – on a high heat. Add the anchovies and mix thoroughly, they will dissolve into the pancetta.

Add the white wine and peas and reduce for a minute or two.

Add a few tablespoons of the pasta water to the sauce to loosen it up. Taste and add more seasoning if needed but it shouldn’t (pancetta and anchovies should be more than enough). Stir in the chopped parsley and lemon zest.

Check the pasta which should be pretty much ‘al dente’ by now and ready to go. Drain, reserving a little of the pasta water, and put back in the pan. Stir in the ‘sauce’ using tongs or a spaghetti spoon to mix thoroughly. Add a little more pasta water if too dry.

Plate it up in pasta bowls, drizzle over a little extra virgin olive oil and top with the pangriata.

Pork and Apples

I apologise that this is not a particularly adventurous dish, but it’s always a winner and a quick, healthy (if you use lean meat) and inexpensive mid-week meal.

I used the last of the apples from the garden in this, using both the hob and the oven to cook them with the pork. The pork can be tricky to cook without drying out, so I’m a fan of using an oven proof frying pan to seal the meat and then finish in the oven more gently. Chops on bone or with a decent amount of fat work best as they are less prone to drying out and generally have more flavour, but I’ll leave that to you!

Serves two.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tspb oil
  • 2 pork chops
  • 1-2 small apples cored and chopped into 2cm cubes
  • 200ml Chicken stock
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 2 Sage leaves
  • Boiled new potatoes and steamed vegetables (I made broccoli and cauliflower) to serve.

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180ºC (Gas 4)

Using the base of a metal steamer, put the potatoes on to boil. I used new potatoes in skins.

Get the pan pretty hot with the oil and add the seasoned pork chops. Move them around at first.

Add the apples to let them caramelise a bit. Turn the pork chops over after a minute or two, they should be well browned by now. Place the sage leaves at the bottom of the pan and put the whole thing in the oven for 10 minutes or so. A kitchen thermometer is very handy here to check it’s cooked through without overdoing it.

Take the pork out of the oven once done and leave to rest on a plate covered with foil.

Start steaming the broccoli and cauliflower over the boiling potatoes – they’ll only take five minutes or so. Check on the potatoes first though and remove them with a slotted spoon if done already (leaving the water in the pan to steam the vegetables!)

Put the frying pan back on the hob – (being careful of the oven-hot handle!) and deglaze the pan with the stock. Let it reduce with the apples and sage for a few minutes.

Get the plates ready with the vegetables and pork. Season the apple reduction if necessary and pour over the pork. Simple and delicious with a side of mustard.

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Singapore Style Noodles

South Asia meets East Asia in one of my favourite stir fry dishes. Rice noodles are cooked with curry spices and chilli for a kick.

Apparently, this dish originates out of Hong Kong and isn’t entirely accurate as Singapore has many noodle dishes and in any case is unknown in the country. I love it though and providing you don’t go mad with the oil, is healthier than its flavour suggests.

Serves 2. Prep and cooking time 15 minutes (Dan).

Ingredients:

  • 150g Vermicelli rice noodles
  • 1 chicken breast, finely sliced
  • 50g lean cooked ham cut into thin batons
  • 100g prawns
  • 1 small (or half a larger) red pepper & green pepper, finely sliced
  • 1 small onion finely sliced
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 thumb sized piece of ginger, grated
  • 1 tbsp groundnut oil
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp curry power
  • 1 red chill, finely chopped
  • 2 spring onions, sliced
  • Soy sauce

Get your favourite knife out and prepare all the ingredients beforehand. You’ll need to do this as it cooks quickly!

Start by cooking the noodles as instructed. Once done, drain in a sieve and cool under a running tap until cold. Drain thoroughly and add a little oil (so they won’t stick)

Add the oil to the wok and heat until smoking. Put in the ham and brown for a minute followed by the onions, peppers, garlic, chilli and ginger for a minute more, with a good splash of soy sauce.

Add the chicken and prawns and stir until cooked, keeping the heat on.

Once done, sprinkle over the curry powder and the oyster sauce. Stir in the noodles and continue for a minute or two more to heat through.

Serve it up with the chopped spring onions on top. Taste and add a little more soy sauce if necessary.

Great with a Tiger Beer!

Singapore Style Noodles

Lazy Sunday Biscuits

Today’s post was borne out of idleness to be honest!

As neither of us could be bothered to venture out for bread and biscuits this afternoon, I made the decision to make my own. Now, I realise that by the time I’d done all this, and Helen had helped clear up, we could have been to the shops and back countless times, but where’s the fun in that? Exactly.

The bread, nice as it is, was a fairly run of the mill wholemeal loaf.  I’ll be doing some more posts on the subject of bread later anyway

I’ve made these oat biscuits  before and they turned out well enough, being made from store cupboard ingredients and costing pennies.  I thought I’d try them again as they’re quick and easy but pretty good. I’ve added a pinch of salt this time though.


To make about 12 biscuits:

  • 100g wholemeal flour
  • 100g rolled oats
  • 100g soft brown sugar (white will do)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 100g butter
  • 1 tbsp cream (or milk)
  • 3 tsp golden syrup (about 1 and  a half tbsp)
  • Seeds from half a vanilla pod (optional – I had some left to use up)

Heat the oven to 160ºc.

Combine the flour, oats, baking powder and sugar in a bowl until a homogenous mixture.

In a small pan, melt the butter and add the cream, salt, syrup and vanilla (if using). Whisk it all together.

Then, just pour it into the flour and oats and combine it all together well.

Scoop out about  a tbsp  and roll it into a ball. Put it on a non-stick baking tray and flatten, shaping it into a round about 1cm thick (the biscuits will expand in the oven, so don’t worry they look a bit small). Repeat until all the mixture is used.

Put in the oven for about 15 minutes then cool on a rack for as long as you can resist them…..

Fish, Prawns & Risotto

I fancied trying something a bit different tonight. I’ve been up in Scotland today and popped into a farm shop on the way back down where I picked up some some haddock fillets landed in Eyemouth. I’m a huge fan of fresh fish, but it has to be fresh. We’re lucky enough to have the North Shields Fish Quays nearby and I get over there whenever I can.

For this dish, I had four pans on the go but it was worth it. The haddock was simply grilled with a leek risotto, whole prawns and a a sauce made from their shells. I finished it off which some pickled mushrooms, an idea I got from a local occasional TV chef called Kenny Atkinson after I saw a cooking demo by him. They really finish it off and contrast the richness of the other flavors.

I was pretty pleased with the results, as was Helen, and from someone who is normally fairly indifferent to fish, that’s praise indeed!

(Serves 2)

For the fish:

  • Oil – I used rapeseed
  • Salt and Pepper

For the Risotto:

  • 1 tbsp oil & 10g butter (optional, health fans!)
  • 150g Arborio Rive
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stick, finely chopped
  • 500 ml chicken stock
  • Glass of white wine
  • 1 medium leek, finely sliced.
  • Handful of grated parmesan cheese (or to taste)
  • Salt and pepper

For the prawns/sauce:

  • 6 whole prawns
  • About 300ml chicken stock
  • Dash of Brandy or Cognac
  • 1 tbsp double cream
  • 15 g butter (to finish)
  • 1 heaped tbsp chopped parsley

For the pickled mushrooms:

  • 100g button mushrooms cleaned and trimmed
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp stock
  • 2 tsp sugar (or to taste)
  • Salt

Start the prawns/sauce: Add the prawns and stock to a small pan, bring gently to the boil and poach for a few minutes until cooked. Remove the prawns with a slotted spoon and peel them -apart from the tail, it just looks better… Return the peeled shells to the pan for a while to extract more flavour for 10 minutes (or as long as possible). Keep the cooked prawns to one side, they’ll be warmed through later.

Ge the risotto started: Unless you have any homemade, get the kettle on and make up some stock (I often use the little pots made up with boiling water). Put the stock in a pan/Pyrex bowl and place on a small burner on your hob to keep hot.

Add the oil to a large pan, heat, and fry the celery,  garlic and leeks. Tip in the rice and coat well in the oil. Pour in a glass of wine and stir well until absorbed. Add a ladle of the stock and stir well until nearly absorbed. Keep adding ladle-fulls and stir in the same way  for about 15-20 minutes.

Whilst doing this, prepare the pickled mushrooms: fry the mushrooms in a little oil with some salt for a minute, add the vinegars, stock and sugar. Heat until boiling then leave to simmer very gently to reduce whilst you crack on with the rest.

Keep stirring the risotto and adding the stock! You need to keep an eye on this one!

Finish the sauce off. Strain the prawn shells using a fine sieve (or muslin cloth for a clearer liquor) and discard, keeping the liquid in the pan. Add the cognac/brandy, double cream and reduce for a few minutes. Add salt to taste and the chopped parsley. Finish with the butter by whisking it in until melted away. Add the prawns to warm through gently.

Finally! Cook the fish. Heat  the grill and put the fish under, seasoned with salt and pepper and brushed with oil. They will only take a few minutes to cook. I confess, I took my eye off them and slightly over did it, but it was still good!

I served it up with the prawns on the risotto, and the sauce on the fish, with a few of the pickled mushrooms scattered round the edge.

Phew! Bit of a balancing act, this one, but well worth sticking with! Lovely with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.