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Thursday, 24 January 2013

pork: the trilogy

Red wine obligatory

All the best things come in threes...Coppola's The Godfather, Tolkein's Lord of the Rings, fun-sized 90's boyband 911 ('Bodyshaking' anyone?)... and my pork, which gave every indication of being never ending. But a trilogy it is- for this is my third and final austerity cook, pulled-pork recipe. You have my word. This recipe will finish off any of the leftovers, and can be stuck at the back of the freezer until you feel ready to face the remnants of your pork shoulder once more.

And so in a bid to see away the last of my meat, I turned to that reliable bastion of leftovers- the humble pie. You could, I suppose, just chuck a clump of leftover meat into a pie dish, cover with a layer of shortcrust, and I daresay it would still taste perfectly lovely. A lot of blood, sweat and (I admit...) tears went into that joint of pork, and its leftovers won't fail you. But what this blog might lack in imagination name-wise, it makes up for in its cooking- if I may say so myself, anyway.

So, I present to you all...

Swine-Herders Pie

Arguably not the most sophisticated sounding of dishes, but since it's essentially a bastardized shepherds pie with pork, it seemed fitting enough.

What You Need:

  • As you'd imagine, you'll be needing a pie dish. I used a 24cm stoneware Le Creuset one, as it distributes the heat nicely (so no scorched bottoms), and it looks pretty enough to serve at the table. Mine is purple, if you care to know.
  • Enough leftover pork to fill your pie dish 2/3 of the way to the brim.
  • Oil for cooking
  • 3 juniper berries. It may not sound like much, but more and you'll feel like you've spiked the dish with bathtub gin. Which is no bad thing, I suppose.
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1/2 tsp bashed-up cloves
  • 2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 2 diced shallots
  • 2  garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 200ml cider. Something slightly sweeter works well with this.
  • 1 pint good quality beef stock
  • 1 pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 4 sweet potatoes
  • 1 tbsp mango chutney
  • Soy sauce
  • Juice and zest of two limes
  • 1 egg, beaten (optional, but nice- omit if egg intolerant, or you've forgotten to buy eggs)
  • Sesame seeds
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Coriander, to garnish

This looks like a fairly hefty list of ingredients for something that's just using up leftovers, but most of this should be in your store cupboard. If it isn't, put it there and I promise you'll use it up eventually.

What You Do:

Mash things. Except there's only one
 lime there. You need two. Sorry.
1.Preheat your oven to 200 degrees fan-assisted, hotter if not. Whack in your sweet potatoes just as they are. Take them out an hour later, or once the skin starts to pucker, puff, and char slightly. Leave them to cool on the side, and turn your oven down to 190 degrees.

2. About an hour into the potato cooking time, heat a couple of tablespoons of oil (nothing too flavoursome- just olive, or plain old veg) in a large, heavy-bottomed pan, over a medium heat. Add your three juniper berries, the cumin seeds, chilli flakes and bashed-up cloves.

3. Give these a few minutes to infuse the oil, and then chuck in your chopped garlic and shallots. Turn the heat down, and stir fairly regularly to make sure they don't catch- you should know how I feel about burnt allium by now. Soften for a few minutes.

4. Now add your pork and stir to heat through, breaking up any big chunks with a wooden spoon. Once hot, add your cinnamon, cider, beef stock and cayenne. Allow to bubble away for at least twenty minutes on a low heat, stirring occasionally. You want the liquid to reduce enough that your pie has a decent gravy, but won't be swimming in it.

An unnecessary photo of a potato masher.
5. While that's simmering, start peeling your potatoes- you should be able just to rip the skin away. It really is worth waiting until they've cooled a bit before attempting this. Hot potatoes are hot. Pop them into a large bowl, and mash up with the mango chutney, lime juice and zest, soy sauce and lots of pepper. This is the Jamie Oliver version of sweet potato mash, and I've never looked back- it's amazing. Check whether the soy sauce has added enough salt- if not, use sea salt. You don't want your pie topping to look like mud, after all.

6. Check on your pork filling- tweak any spices to taste, and season. If you happen to have any leftover cooked veg hanging around the fridge, feel free to throw that in now. Take your pan off the heat, and allow to cool slightly.

7. Pour or ladle the filling into your pie dish of choice, and top with the mashed sweet potato. You want it to look nice and rustic- ploughed, almost. The peaks catch in the oven and give the whole dish a good bit of colour. Brush lightly all over with your beaten egg for a bit of a crust once it's cooked, and then sprinkle all with your sesame seeds and a last twist of salt and pepper.

8. Place in the middle of your oven, and cook for 35 minutes. You might hear a bit of hissing and spluttering as the gravy seeps up over the crust and inevitably trashes your oven, but don't be alarmed. Just coerce a grateful pie-recipient into cleaning it later. Once it's out, garnish lavishly with coriander leaves, and serve with salad, crusty bread, and a bottle of your favourite hot sauce.

For some post-pie viewing- enjoy this on me...

mrs hunt.x

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

eating madrid

I'm having a pork-hiatus. That is to say, the idea of a third consecutive pork-post is just too much to bear. And since it's a  cold, snowy, depressingly English day, I thought I'd perk myself up with a post about Madrid, following a hedonistic, fun- (and food... and drink...) filled sojourn there last October. But never fear- the pork will return for its third and final re-incarnation next week.

Possibly the only image I possess from Madrid that isn't food or alcohol...
So… what can one do with sixty-eight hours in Madrid? A great deal, I imagine. Explore the Prado, perhaps, or enjoy a leisurely amble through the Retiro. Maybe even have a peek inside the Palacio Real. Well, I didn’t manage any of these. I visited Madrid on an Eating Holiday, and I was dedicated to the cause. I’d packed my stretchiest, most forgiving wardrobe, and there was a blanket ban on anything more active than the walk between tapas bars - unless you count a night spent Salsa dancing with geriatric Spanish couples (which I do).  Until my arrival, all thoughts of the recession were far from my mind; my fabric softener is more expensive, and I probably won’t get a mortgage until my mid-thirties, but other than that, luckily I can say it’s had negligible impact on my day-to-day existence. Spain, however, is an entirely different kettle of fish; next to Greece, it’s had the roughest ride in Europe over the last five years. Don’t get me wrong- Madrid is a stunning city. Cleaner than London and more stylish than Paris (the children all look as though they’ve just stepped off a Petit-Filous advert…), there’s very little on the surface to suggest it’s still in the midst of the worst recession since the Wall Street Crash. If the Madrilenos are good at anything, it’s keeping up appearances.  But if you strain your ears and prick your eyes, you’ll start to notice the signs: the queue for Spain’s National Lottery reaches over 300 feet, there are ten anti-austerity marches in the city centre every day, and there’s a notable increase in the number of both street performers and sex workers lining the boulevards, leaning casually against the trees. If you listen carefully to the hubbub in the bars and restaurants, all talk is of ‘la crisis.’ Well, that or Real Madrid. But what of the bars? Are they being shunned, in favour of saving a penny or two? Of course not- this is Madrid. Whether it’s another case of ‘keeping up appearances,’ or else just a means of drowning sorrows, the bars and restaurants are packed. And if you follow a savvy Madrileno, you’ll probably find the best food you’ll ever eat.

The grilled-foie. Guilt-laden, and good
Txirimiri on Calle del General Diaz (one of four across the city) is a tiny Basque tapas bar specialising in pintxos. It’s small, nothing special to look at, and some football match or other will inevitably be blaring from the wall-mounted television. But the food- oh, the food! Eating the grilled foie was like consuming tiny droplets of velvet that evaporated on my tongue. The solomillo had the texture of butter, and the rabo de toro (sandwiched oxtail stew) was cooked to perfection. I finished with a tatin de manza- and how something so inauspiciously named can taste so good is, frankly, beyond me. Cinnamon-stewed hunks of apple in a light sponge were dusted with icing sugar and almonds, and encased in a shortcrust party base of such daintiness that Mary Berry would be hanging up her apron in defeat, should she try it. After this, we made the (thankfully) short crawl over to Taberna Degusta, where we ate eggs. Now the Spanish are fond of an egg or two it seems, and Madrilenos in the know would argue that this is the place to get them. Try the huevos rotos de corral con trufa (or ‘broken eggs with truffle, to you and me) and huevos con iberico y salmonejo (eggs with iberico ham and gazpacho), and your dippy egg and soldiers will never taste the same again.

                  If Hemmingway truly frequented every bar that lays claim to his name, then it’s little wonder he had such a prolific drink problem. Nevertheless, if the state of the floor is anything to go by (and in Spain it is- the dirtier, the better) then Carvecierci Alemana is tapas gold. A bustling, well-known establishment, this isn’t exactly one of Madrid’s hidden gems, but it’s definitely worth a visit. Pop in for a chilled Tio Pepe, and fill up on the accompanying anchovies, Iberico and olives.  Once you’re sated, start heading over to La Latina- (especially if it’s a Sunday, in which case hit the El Rastro flea market en route) then commence the eating, drinking and merry-making. Apparently, even if they do have a job to go to the next morning,  sleep is of little concern to true Madrilenos, who party just as hard on a Sunday as any day of the week.  At the top of cobbled and winding Costanilla San Andres sits La Gorda, a Peruvian bar and restaurant. This might seem an odd recommendation to make, but it forms part of a subtle change in Madrid’s attitude to food. No longer are all Spaniards staunchly xenophobic in their culinary approach; indeed, many cities (Madrid at the fore) are embracing their changing demographic. The upshot of this? Some bloody fantastic Peruvian resaturants. La Gorda- literally, ‘The Fat Woman,’ had me the moment I spotted shot glasses brimming with Bloody Mary adorning the bar top, which I pounced upon immediately (almost choking on the cockles hidden at the bottom in the process).We had every intention of popping in for a pisco sour and pintxo before moving on… needless to say, four hours, several piscos and a lot of ceviche later, we were still going strong. It’s also probably worth mentioning that the pisco was responsible for the mother-of-all hangovers the following morning- don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Bitesize Bloody Mary. Notice
 you  can't see the cockle...

Of course, I now have every excuse to make a return trip. After all, I can’t really say I’ve seen Madrid- I’ve just eaten it. So I’ll be back. I’ll have to pop into La Gorda, obviously. And check the tapa is still up to scratch in the Plaza Major. I daresay I’ll visit La Latina for some late-night revelry again, too. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll squeeze in the Prado. We’ll see.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

pork: the sequel

Fun Fact: every year, we Brits chuck away 18 million tons of edible food.

So, I lied. There was nothing particularly 'fun' about that fact, but it seemed worth mentioning. On a relatively serious note though, let's just try envisioning what 18 million tons of food actually looks like- it's ridiculous. And also a little bit sad, given the number of people who go to bed hungry every night.

Me again.
But let's not get too preachy, eh? I made a resolution this year- a new one. Because I daresay I won't have the time to learn Cantonese, and given the occupational hazards of being a food blogger, any weightloss ambitions are, sadly, unrealistic. So this year, I'm vowing to throw away less food, and be more inventive with my leftovers (and not just postpone their inevitable binning by chucking them into the cavernous depths of the freezer without another thought).

Last week, I promised you I'd do something imaginative with your leftover pork. Now, when I saw just how much leftover pork that recipe... well, leftover, I don't mind admitting that I was intimidated. Had I just got a tad carried away in the fervour of festive eating, and bankrupted myself for a joint that I could NEVER FINISH? Were these delicious scraps of meat destined to languish in clingfilm until I gave in, and turned to the bin in defeat? Not on my watch. So here we have it- Pulled Pork Reincarnation #1:

Jerk Patties

It's imperative that you consider the flavours used in the original cook when conjuring up inspired leftovers, otherwise you risk ending up with something that tastes confused and jarring. Given the Jerk leanings of the slow cook recipe, I wanted to come up with a mid-week friendly, Caribbean-inspired patty. And here it is.

What You Need:

  • 2 average-sized potatoes- whatever variety you have to hand.
  • Roughly half the volume of potato (once grated) in your leftover pork. Remove from the fridge an hour or so before you start your patty-making, if you can.
  • A handful of fresh coriander, chopped.
  • 1-2 fresh red chillis depending, as always, on how hot you fancy.
  • 1.5 tsp of fennel seeds
  • 1.5 tsp of allspice
  • 1.5 tsp of mixed spice
  • The zest of two limes, and juice of one.
  • A sprinkling of fresh thyme leaves (dry will do, in a pinch).
  • A thumb of fresh ginger, grated.
  • 1 egg from a happy chicken
  • Plain flour. Enough of it.
  • Sea Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Oil for cooking.

What Yo Do:

1. Peel and grate your potatoes, and squeeze them gently in your hands over some kitchen towel to dry them out a bit. Don't clench them to a pulp, but do try your best to get some of the excess moisture out, or your patty will disintegrate, and look rather woebegone.

2. Lightly bash your fennel seeds, chop your chilli and coriander, grate your ginger (having peeled it first, ideally), and give it all a decent mix with the allspice, cumin, mixed spice, lime zest, lime juice, salt and pepper. This isn't really the sort of thing you want to check by thrusting a finger in and licking it, so give it a good sniff (not too hard- ingesting chilli and allspice through your nose is, surprisingly enough, quite unpleasant). It should smell sweet, earthy, and zingy, with no one ingredient dominating. If it does, tweak. Trust your nose.

3. Now tackle your pork. Getting it out of the fridge in advance should make it easier to handle, as you need to shred it a little more finely than you probably did originally. It should be roughly the same cut as your potato. Some excess fat will have congealed during refrigeration, so try to pick off any obvious-looking lumps, and don't worry about the rest.

4. In a big bowl, mix your potato, pork and spices. Crack an egg into a small glass or bowl, and whisk very lightly with a fork. Add this to the mix gradually until it all starts to melge* together- too much and it will turn out soggy, not to mention distinctly egg-flavoured.

5. In a shallow dish, pour in some plain flour, and season enthusiastically with sea salt, fresh black pepper and a good pinch of cayenne.

6. Start shaping your patties, but first- decide what you're using them for. They make good party nibbles (and sure beat a prawn ring or pallid frozen 'tikka bite'...), so think along the flattened golf-ball lines for that. For a solid main dish, think generic fish-cake size, and for a nice little starter, somewhere in between the two. Give them a good final squeeze as you're doing this, just to triple-check they aren't still oozing water. Dust them lightly but thoroughly in the flour, and set aside.

... and dust
7. If you want to freeze these for Credit Card Statement Day (or any other occasion you find yourself in need of a cheap dinner), then place them onto a clingfilmed baking sheet, and pop them in. Once they're hard, transfer them into something more practical (I heart Tupperware). Defrost thoroughly for at least twelve hours before heating. If you're cooking them there and then, leave them in the fridge for an hour or so to firm them up, if you have time.

8. To cook, heat some oil in a non-stick pan over a medium heat. The 'non-stick' element is quite important here- you risk skinning your patties in the pan if it's some dodgy old thing, which is always a bummer. You may notice Le Creuset cookware features a lot in my blog photos, and it's because everything they produce is amazing, and well worth every penny... so you've got a whole year to behave, and bag some from Santa for next Christmas. Anyway- once the oil is hot, place them in carefully using a spatula or some kind of burger-flipping-device. Cook dinner-sized ones for about four minutes each side, and the smaller ones for 2-3 minutes each side. Please do check they are piping hot all the way through- I still don't have the legalities of blogging quite figured out yet. I'd be awfully miffed if I got sued...

It's worth nothing that, seeing as your pork is already a couple of days old, you should either cook or freeze your patties on the day.

Serve with salad, and obligatory hot sauce.

Granny-plate optional

Don't fret- Pulled Pork Reincarnation #2 will follow soon. God, I hope you like pork...

mrs hunt.x

* I though 'melge' was a real word- it turns out that's not the case. I'm sure we understand one another.