Roast 5 Spice Pork Belly With Spicy Kale Stir Fry

hinese pork belly and kale stir fry

So how has dry January been everyone? I have conscientiously abstained this year as I find little more comforting during the British winter than a good pub with good ale. Throw in some warm bar snacks and we have ourselves a key weapon in the fight again the post-Christmas Blues. Also, more exercise, fewer carbs, starting a new hobby and even more exercise, but the point stands.

This time last year however, I was getting to the end of a month spent free from meat, other than the type which comes out the water and to the very day a year ago, starved of inspiration and protein, I caved in and made a dish with oxtails in it. Sigh.

To mark this significant achievement therefore, I made this lovingly for all the carnivorous detoxers out there – a kind of porcine carrot on a stick to see you through the last few days until all the good work is undone with a whacking great burger.

In fairness only a third of this dish has questionable health benefits and wouldn’t you know, it’s the tastiest bit. It borrows heavily from my earlier post about roast pork belly but this time it’s getting the 5 spice treatment. The night before, the pork was rubbed with 5 spice before being braised in a cooking liquor of garlic, ginger, chicken stock and soy sauce for 3 hours covered with some tightly fitting foil. Then, it’s oven off and leave it alone until the morning. As before, you may want to remove the foil and replace with cling film before transferring to the fridge if you intend to have this for dinner, to be on the safe side.

I heartily recommend a layer of baking parchment between the pork and the foil as the salt in the stock can attack the aluminium, discolouring anything it touches.

As ever, finish the stir fry off last and have everything chopped and ready to go or much cursing generally ensues. I used kale here, primarily as I had it in the fridge, but it works well with the chilli. The only other aspect was the plain boiled rice to serve it with.

Lastly, you’ll have to take my word about the sauce being there, I put it under the pork so as not to ruin the carefully crisped skin….

Serves 2

  •  750g/1.6lb pork belly
  • 1 tbsp five spice
  • 500ml/2cups chicken stock
  • Good dash of soy
  • 4 garlic cloves, whole
  • 8 slices of ginger, don’t bother peeling.

To finish the sauce:

  • 1 tbsp hoisin
  • 1 tbsp honey

For the stir fry:

  • 1 garlic clove, sliced
  • Chilli flakes, as much as you like
  • 3 small peppers, cut into thin rings
  • 2 to 3 handfuls of sliced mushroom.
  • 6 handfuls of kale
  • Soy sauce or salt to taste
  • Oil for frying

Boiled rice

Place the pork in a tightly fitting tray and add the garlic, soy, ginger and chicken stock. Cover with a layer of baking parchment, tightly seal with foil and roast in the oven at around 150°C/ 300°F for 3 hours. After this, turn the oven off and go to bed (or go out for the day) – don’t open the oven or remove the foil.

When ready to cook, remove the pork (keep the cooking liquor – see below) and dry with kitchen paper, cut into nice squares and fry it in an oven proof hot frying pan, skin side down, to crisp up. Turn the pork over to colour each side then place it, skin side up in the oven.

A this point I placed the pan at the bottom of the oven and use the grill to crisp the skin properly and warm thoroughly (80°C 175°F should do it). Once done, leave to rest with some more foil over it.

Skin crisped, ready to go.

Skin crisped, ready to go.

Meanwhile, boil some white long grain rice in a pan, I use the absorption method.

In a small pan, pour in about half the cooking liquor and heat to reduce a little (unless you added too much soy, it shouldn’t be too salty). Stir in the hoisin and honey and whisk well. Keep warm.

Finally, chop the vegetables ready to go. Place a little oil into a very hot wok and stir in the mushroom and peppers and chilli flakes for 1 minute, moving it all the time. Add the kale and garlic and stir fry for a couple minutes more. Season with a little more soy, or salt if you prefer.

Spicy kale stir fry


Grilled Chicken, Roast Vegetables and Tahini Dressing.

Grilled chicken tahini dressing

You may remember a daytime quiz show on TV called Supermarket Sweep, or Dale’s Supermarket Sweep as it was known in the UK to acknowledge the camp Quiz Meister himself. Sadly overlooked at the BAFTAs throughout its lifetime it was well loved by the unemployed, those with sick notes and students. It also conveniently fell after ‘This Morning’ and before Countdown. Epic daytime scheduling.

Of course these days I work for myself and as such sick notes are a distant memory, as are my student days but I seem to remember the basic premise was to reach the final where the contestants sprinted around a mock supermarket filling a trolley with as much as possible at some point. Wiki reliably informs me however, this was the ‘Big Sweep’, building to a crescendo with the awe inspiring ‘Super Sweep’.

The reason for my rambling is that this dish was born from a typical mid-week ‘Big Sweep’ shop. No meal planning, no due regard for use-by dates, I just grabbed anything remotely interesting, swiped the club card and got out of there.

And so, after returning home and getting tutted at for forgetting, once again,  to buy anything dessert related, this roast vegetable dish was constructed from the results of my ‘sweep’.

It’s fairly near-East in style so maybe I had a subconscious plan but aside from a little chopping and flattening, it was very easy to do. This also means it’s eminently adjustable if you wish.

The tahini nicely offset the sweet butternut squash and peppers, but then millions of people around the Mediterranean Sea knew that already. I added Chorizo to balance the dish out and it worked nicely too.

Serves 4

  • 4 small or 2 large chicken breasts.
  • Olive oil
  • 2 x 1 tsp chilli flakes (one for the vegetables, one for the chicken)
  • 1 tbsp za’tar
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1 large red pepper
  • 1 large red onion
  • 4 inch piece of Chorizo (or similar), diced quite finely
  • Small handful of seeds to finish (I used sunflower seeds)
  • Salt & Pepper

For the dressing:

  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • 2 tbsp good olive oil
  • 1 pinch salt
  • Small squeeze lemon

Preheat the oven to 190°C/380°F.

Start by flattening the chicken into thin escalopes. If using large chicken breasts, halve them through the middle first.

Flattened chicken breast

Season the chicken with salt pepper and 1 tsp of chilli flakes and brush with the some of the oil. Leave aside for now.

Slice the butternut squash into 1 inch/2.5cm cubes and chop the onion and pepper into large chunky pieces. Place the vegetables (leave the garlic whole) with the Chorizo into a tight fitting tray and pour over enough olive oil to coat well. Add the Za’tar and mix once more. Season with salt, pepper and chilli flakes and roast in a fairly hot oven (190°C/380°F) with foil on for about 20 minutes.

Roast vegetables with za'tar

Remove the foil and roast for another 15-20 minutes until the butter nut squash is tender and the veg has some nice crisp edges.

Meanwhile – mix the tahini dressing by combining the ingredients in a small lidded container and shake well.

Lastly, get a griddle pan smoking hot and cook each piece of chicken until nicely barred on each side. They should only take minutes each if thin enough.

Serve the chicken on the vegetables (remove the garlic unless you want it). Drizzle over the tahini dressing and then the seeds.

 Grilled chicken with roast vegetables and tahini dressing

The Beef Wellington Burger

Beef Wellington Burger

Traditionally this time of year, a lot of folks join gyms and diet-classes and deprive themselves of all the good things eaten over the festive period with a view to maybe squeezing in the bikini or trunks (God help us) this summer. Well good for everyone, healthy and home cooked food will always get a big thumbs up from me.

That said, we all still need a bit of indulgence and I’d guess that this fits the bill pretty well. Using up some left over pate, cheddar and pickled red cabbage this is a kind of deconstructed beef wellington and a big nod to the recent holidays. It works together beautifully well together of course so do try it.

Makes two “quarter pounder” sized burgers:

  • 250g or 1/2 lb good minced/ground steak with some fat in, don’t use lean.
  • 1 large tomato, thickly sliced
  • 2 tbsp or so of pate (I used wild boar and mushroom)
  • Salad leaves
  • Pickled red cabbage
  • 2 handfuls of mature Cheddar
  • 2 burger buns
  • Salt and pepper

Add to the mince about a quarter a tsp of salt and a good twist of black pepper per burger. Mix well but gently with your hands so as not to ‘mush’ the mince too much.

Make into rounds and leave in the fridge to set. You might want to fry off a bit of the mixture to test the seasoning….

Griddle or grill the burgers until just done – I love them pink when I can get hold of good (or better still make my own) minced beef. Use a griddle pan to toast the buns a little with some nice char marks:

Burger buns

Then simply melt the cheese on and stack the burger up. Simple pleasures eh?