Category Archives: pork

San Choy Bau

I love san choy bau – the crisp lettuce balances out the rich pork and vegetable mix in one handy (albeit a bit messy) “cup”. It’s one of those dishes where I am sure you can substitute chicken for pork, and also add in any vegetables you have on hand, but I found water chestnuts at my grocery store and that inspired me to cook this dish – it adds another dimension to the dish with a nice crunch.

Ingredients – 6 portions as a starter or enough for 2 hungry people for lunch

  1. Iceberg lettuce – whole
  2. 1 large onion – diced
  3. 200g pork mince
  4. 100g baby corn – sliced about 1/2cm thick
  5. 50g water chestnuts – peeled and diced into small pieces
  6. 50g mushrooms – any sort, I used swiss brown
  7. 3 tbls oyster sauce
  8. 1 tbl light soya sauce

Method

  1. With the core of the lettuce facing down, bang the head of lettuce, on the core – this will make it easier to remove the leaves whole
  2. Remove any wilted outer leaves and carefully remove the inside leaves, trying to keep them as whole as possible
  3. Place in a bowl of iced water to keep them crisp
  4. Over low heat, sweat the onions until soft
  5. Increase the heat to high and brown the mince
  6. Add in the vegetables and cook for 3 minutes until vegetables are cooked through
  7. Add in the oyster and light soya sauce and stir to combine
  8. You can trim the lettuce so it makes a nice neat “cup” to hold the stir fried mixture
  9. Spoon mix into lettuce cups and enjoy hot !

Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork

Easy peasy recipe. Massage the rub into your pork, pop in to your slow cooker, and ten hours later, amazingly tender pulled pork magically comes out ! OK there’s just one or two more steps, but honestly, it’s quick to prepare (obviously it takes a long time to actually cook, but the slow cooker does all the work for you), and delicious to eat.

Ingredients

  1. Pork butt (pork shoulder) – I had 1kg but I’d recommend as much pork as you can fit in your slow cooker, as this freezes really well. Obviously adjust the ingredients below accordingly.

For the rub:

  1. 1 tbls garlic powder
  2. 1 tbls onion powder
  3. 1 tbls sea salt
  4. black pepper (as much as you can be bothered to grind)
  5. pinch chilli flakes
  6. pinch cayenne pepper
  7. 2 tbls red wine vinegar
  8. glug of olive oil
  9. 2-3 tbls honey

Additional ingredients:

  1. 1/4 cup brown sauce (I used HP)
  2. squirt of tomato sauce

Method

  1. Mix all the dry ingredients for the rub together, add the wet ingredients, to make a paste
  2. Get your hands dirty and massage that paste all over your pork
  3. Pop into your slow cooker for an hour on high
  4. Reduce the setting to low and let the slow cooker do its magic for the next 8 hours
  5. Carefully take the pork out, removing any large pieces of fat, and shred
  6. Add back to the slow cooker with the brown sauce and tomato sauce for an hour
  7. Serve on something that can withstand and soak up the juicy pork – like a burger bun (I had a wrap), with something crunchy and fresh like a good coleslaw 

 

 

 


Heston’s Perfect Spaghetti Bolognese

After watching the spaghetti bolognese episode from Heston Blumenthal’s “In Search of Perfection”, I had the luxury of a day at home and basically tried to replicate the 8 hour long recipe. Most slow cooking is actually very simple, just allowing time to do the job of bringing out all the wonderful flavours of the ingredients.

This recipe has you actually cooking for probably half that time. In search of Heston has the entire step by step process in wonderful detail – go and check it out.

If you wanted a traditional bolognese sauce, then this isn’t it. However, you do end up with seriously, the most perfect meat ragu. All those steps give you a rich, complex, utterly delicious ragu.  This is probably the only Heston recipe that I would follow end to end simply because there are no special ingredients or tools required. Would I do it again ? Probably not – it’s just too time consuming and fiddly, but there are a few processes that I’d borrow the next time I’m making my own bolognese sauce.

What would I borrow ?

1) I already use a mix of beef and pork but I do like that the pork and beef are hand cut – the long slow process of cooking allows the meat to render all the fat and become wonderfully tender and I think it makes for a more unctuous sauce

2) Adding star anise to the frying onions. Not more than 2 small stars, or it will end up overpowering the meat, but it’s the chemical reaction of the star anise and caramelising onions that brings out a compound that enhances the meat flavour

3) Using fish sauce as one of the seasoning ingredients. It does add a wonderful depth and umami to the dish

4) Making the tomato compote and frying the tomatoes before adding it to the meat casserole I think intensified the flavour of the tomatoes (although I’d probably cheat and just use tinned tomatoes as I hate skinning and deseeding tomatoes)


Bario Ramen @ Bugis+

So I’ve been slowly working my way through the six “Ramen Champions” at Bugis+. Second on the list (after Aoyama) was Bario Ramen from Tokyo, which serves Jiro style ramen. The Guardian UK recently listed Jiro in its “50 best things to eat in the world” list. “Ramen of the man, by the man, for the man.”

And I think it absolutely delivers on that promise.

The first thing you notice from Jiro-style ramen that differentiates it from other ramen is the noodle. It’s thick and chewy. Piled on top is a mountain of bean sprouts. And the chasu is also not the traditional round thin slices. It’s chunky and meaty slices of tender pork belly. And the tonkotsu stock is rich and flavoursome.

There’s a lot in to the bowl to eat, and Bario offers an almost ridiculous choice to double your noodles.

It’s a go-to favourite of my hubby’s for all the reasons above. For me, the first slurp/spoonful was delicious, but by the third or fourth, I was pretty much done. Perhaps the richness of the stock, or the stodginess of the noodle – it lived up to its infamous resistance to digestion.

And so I continue my quest to try all six chefs’ ramen and make my decision as who would be my ramen champion. Stay tuned for more…and the final verdict.


My Mum’s Penang Loh Bak

My mum’s Penang loh-bak – Chinese five spice pork rolls

It’s actually my granddad’s recipe, which my grandmother used to cook with my mother, but this was the first time I had ever made these delicious strips of pork, marinated in Chinese five-spices, rolled in beancurd skin and then deep fried. Served with sliced fresh cucumber and chilli sauce these tasty, crispy morsels are totally more-ish.

Loh bak is a very traditional Penang Nonya dish and as with most of these types of dishes, the actual cooking is minimal – it’s all in the preparation.

As with a lot of traditional Nonya recipes, my mum cooks like my grandmother – everything is to taste, and I was so enjoying spending time with her in the kitchen that we both forgot to even try to guesstimate the quantity of the ingredients. Ah well, it just gives me more reason to do this again with her in the future and make sure this recipe is recorded for posterity.



Pappardelle with braised pork belly

A slight variation on my usual pork belly in red wine, this just takes a few hours on the stove. I finished the sauce with a few nobs of butter to give it a silky texture that coats the pappardelle.

Ingredients for two

  1. 200g pork belly
  2. 1 onion, finely diced
  3. 1 small carrot, finely diced
  4. 2 stalks celery, finely diced
  5. 1 tomato, roughly diced
  6. 2 glasses red wine
  7. 2 cups chicken stock
  8. fresh thyme
  9. 1 bay leaf
  10. couple of nobs butter
  11. Pappardelle pasta

Method

  1. Brown all edges of the pork belly in a hot pan. You want to get the natural sugars in the meat caramelising. Remove from pan and set aside
  2. In the same pan, add some oil and gently sweat the onions, carrots and celery until they are tender
  3. Add the pork belly back into the pan along with the wine, tomato, herbs and enough chicken stock to just cover the meat
  4. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce the temperature to a simmer. Let lightly bubble away for 2 hours. The liquid will reduce a bit so you may need to check now and then that the pork is still covered. I started to shred the pork after about an hour so that every bit of the pork gets to release its flavour, and also  take on the flavours in the pan. Season to taste
  5. After a couple of hours the liquid in the pan should have reduced by about a half and the pork tender enough to shred into meaty chunks.
  6. Cook pappardelle until just cooked in salted water. Reserve some of the cooking water before you drain the pasta – that starchy salty water helps to make the sauce loose and helps the pasta from sticking
  7. While the pasta is cooking, add a few nobs of cold butter to the sauce. It really gives another dimension to the sauce, making it silky and helping to coat the pasta
  8. Pop the pasta into the pan with the sauce, adding a few tablespoons of the cooking water to help the sauce really coat each ribbon of pasta
  9. Serve hot with a good handful of freshly grated parmesan

Pork sausage and puy lentil casserole

As I didn’t get to finish my main course from Latteria Mozzarella Bar, I thought I would make something from the leftovers/doggy bag the following night. I had bought some lovely puy lentils which my supermarket just started stocking, and adding them to a casserole with my sausages made perfect sense.

I also had leeks and swiss brown mushrooms in my fridge, so in to the casserole they also went, to make a good earthy, warming meal.

You can just as easily use fresh sausages for this dish, but I would then add a garlic to the casserole (see recipe below).

Ingredients for 2 servings

  1. 4 good quality pork sausages
  2. 1 glass dry white wine
  3. 4 cloves garlic (optional, see note above)
  4. 1 large onion, sliced
  5. 1 cup swiss brown mushrooms, halved
  6. 2 large leeks, rinsed and sliced
  7. 1 cup puy lentils, rinsed
  8. 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  9. 2-3 sage leaves, chopped if fresh, or 1 tsp dried sage
  10. 1-2 bay leaves

Method

  1. In a heavy-based saucepan, heat some oil and brown the sausages – they don’t need to be cooked through at this point if you’re using fresh sausages. Remove from pan and set aside. When cool enough to handle, cut into 1” slices
  2. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, pour into a jug, set aside
  3. Heat more oil in the pan and gently sweat the onions until translucent
  4. Add garlic next if you are using them
  5. Add leeks and mushrooms and fry until soft
  6. Add the sausages and white wine
  7. Add lentils and sage and bay leaves and enough stock to cover all ingredients and bring to a boil
  8. Lower heat and gently simmer for 1 1/2 hours till lentils are cooked through
  9. Serve with crusty bread

Hokkien soya sauce braised pork belly

I have no idea how I ended up cooking this for dinner tonight, but gosh I’m glad I did. This dish (in hokkien is called tau yew bak – literally translated, soya sauce pork) is one I haven’t had for maybe 20 years and the cool thing is eating it took me right back to when I was a little girl and my mum made it for me.

I think I just fancied some comfort food, and this dish, which is essentially pork belly that is stewed for 2 hours in a combination of soya sauce and spices like cinnamon and star anise, is warmingly melt-in-your mouth tender and is yummy served simply with rice.

Living in Singapore, I also tend not to cook Chinese food because access to top notch Chinese food is so easy here. And there is also the variety of different Chinese cuisines, from Hokkien or Peranakan (which is my heritage) to Cantonese (which is what I grew up with in Sydney), to Hakka, Peking, Hainanese…you name it.

The problem with eating out is that it’s tough to get brown rice unless it’s at some organic, vegetarian, peace-loving-type restaurant, and the most authentic food is just not served in places like this. My palate has been trained to like white rice with Chinese dishes, so my recipe below might be ridiculously simple, but it was a way for me to enjoy eating rice, with a 50% good component with the mix of brown rice. I just had to get over one of the basics of cooking rice – not to stir it around, ending up in mushy rice – and working out the logistics of different water and time ratios of cooking the two types together.

The recipe below is my rough guide on measurement – it’s a forgiving dish and doesn’t need to be precise so add more or less to taste

Ingredients makes enough to serve 4

  1. 300-400g pork belly, cut into 2cm strips
  2. 4-6 cloves garlic
  3. 1 stick of cinnamon
  4. 1 star anise
  5. 1 tsp black peppercorns
  6. 1 tbl Chinese five spice powder
  7. 1/4 cup dark soya sauce
  8. 2 tbl light soya sauce
  9. 2 tbl sugar (or to taste)
  10. 1-2 cups water
  11.  1-2 hard boiled eggs

Method

  1. Blanch pork in boiling water and cook for 5 minutes to remove any impurities. Drain well. Discard the water
  2. In a claypot or a saucepan, heat up some oil and add the pork, garlic, cinnamon, star anise, peppercorns and five spice and fry until fragrant and the pork has browned
  3. Add the soya sauces and sugar and bring to boil for about 5 minutes until the sauce thickens and the sugar begins to caramelise
  4. Add the water, bring to boil, cover and reduce heat to a gentle simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Again the amount of sauce is personal. Some like it sticky and almost dry (me), some like it with quite a lot of sauce
  5. About 30 minutes before serving, add the boiled eggs
  6. Serve with rice and vegetables
  7. For my mix of 50/50 white/brown rice, add 2 cups boiling water to 1/2 cup of brown rice and simmer for 25 minutes. Then add 1/2 cup of rinsed white rice, stir, cover and simmer for an additional 20 minutes

Sausage rolls – with added newness !

Sausage rolls with onion, sage and chestnut stuffing

I made two small changes to my standard sausage roll recipe today. First, I added chopped cooked chestnuts, which I can luckily find in my supermarket in vacuum-sealed packs, and used the puff pastry that comes in blocks rather than sheets. It means that there is a touch of sweetness in the sausage mix, and you can control the thickness of the pastry. I think the pastry:sausage ratio with thicker pastry = the best sausage rolls I’ve made. Our maths lesson for today is brought to you by my Mother in law’s awesome sausage rolls she always bakes loads of when we visit.

Ingredients

  1. 6 good quality pork sausages (or about 350g sausage meat from the butcher)
  2. 1 large onion, finely diced
  3. 1 handful sage leaves, chopped
  4. 150g cooked chestnuts, roughly chopped
  5. 1 block puff pastry, thawed at room temperature
  6. 1 egg, beaten

Method

  1. Pre-heat oven to 200C/390F
  2. Combine the sausage meat, onion, sage and chestnuts together in a large bowl
  3. Roll out the pastry to about 1/4 inch thick
  4. Place lines of the sausage meat along the length of the pastry, roll over and seal edges lightly
  5. Cut into 2 inch thick slices and place on to a wire rack over a oven-proof tray and brush with the beaten egg
  6. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown

Roasted rolled pork belly – it’s all about the crackling

I bought an enormous pork belly from the supermarket yesterday morning. Like, huge – I think it was over 2 kilos (and remember there’s just the two of us). In my mind the thinness of the cut justified a larger piece but clearly it doesn’t work that way.

The skin was not as dry as I would have liked (dry skin=good crackling) so I salted it liberally and then popped it in the fridge in the hope that it would help to dry in the few hours I had before it needed to go into the oven. When I took it out later, it still wasn’t dry enough, so I decided to improvise and roll the cut to help get the best crackling possible.

I had nothing suitable for me to roll the pork with – it would have been lovely with some chopped dates or even just some fresh thyme. Luckily the cut has those lovely layers of fat that help to keep the roast tender and juicy. It’s also the first time I’ve rolled pork myself – usually the butcher does it for me. And to be totally honest, I made enough of a mess without addditional help from trying to add stuffing. We had so much left over we had pulled pork sandwiches for lunch and have a roast pork dinner again tonight (sans crackling boo).

Roasting was quite daunting for me at the beginning, but I have found over the years that if you follow some basic rules you can’t really go wrong – it’s very forgiving, unlike a pastry, for example.

My usual gauge for roasting pork (I almost always use pork belly because I love the layers of fat) is to simply season with salt and pepper, then pop into a preheated oven at 220C for 30-40 mins to get the crackling going, and then either 1 hour for every kilo of meat at 180C or 2 hours for every kilo of meat at 160C. This has worked for me every time, but you can also always use a thermometer – the last thing you want is to have to your apartment (or house) smelling of that delicious roast and then carve it only to find it needs more time in the oven. I couldn’t bear to delay the gratification!  Let the meat rest for a good 20-30 minutes before you carve it up.

I serve my roast pork with roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes, leeks, onions and garlic (which goes all mellow and sweet after you roast for an hour).

Oh, and if the crackling is still not up to crispy par, then once you take the meat out, carefully take a knife and cut the skin off, and while the meat is resting, pop the crackling back in the oven on high or even grill it, although I find the oven gives better results – it seems to go puffy when you grill it.  Watch the crackling like a hawk, particularly when grilling – you don’t want any burned bits because they are uneatable.  And who can take that risk when crackling is such a premium??