Sunday, May 23, 2010

Belly pork, new potato and asparagus salad

This salad consists of belly pork, new potatoes, asparagus, rocket, spring onions, and olives. I won't give the quantities - any ratios would work. Instead, I'll offer a few comments about cooking the pork, and preparing the vinaigrette.

I had three slices of belly pork, but of course a whole piece would have been just as good, if not better. The two questions I asked myself about poaching it were: should I cover the pan, and should I salt the broth? Both might have cooked the meat more vigorously and therefore toughened it: the covered pan because it causes an agitated simmer, whereas an uncovered pan can be kept at below boiling point; and the salt because it raises the boiling point of the liquid. On the other hand, salt has a tenderising effect. Another point to consider, if I wanted to use the cooking liquid again as a stock, is that I'd have to be careful about the seasoning of anything made with it.

I covered the pork with water, and threw in a peeled onion, a couple of sticks of celery, some peppercorns, and some juniper berries; and added salt. I covered the pan, brought the contents to a simmer, put a heat disperser underneath, and put on the lid. I cooked the pork for two and a half hours, allowing it  to cool in its broth before shredding it by hand. It was beautifully moist and tender.

I like this recipe, from the Guardian's "How to make the perfect..." series. My vinaigrette differed in two respects: I simmered an unpeeled clove with the potatoes, and mashed the flesh into the vinegar; and I used a 2/1 oil/vinegar ratio. Combined with the pork and the potatoes, the sauce does not taste too sharp.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Spiced cheese crumpets

I got the idea for crumpets with a savoury topping from a magazine recipe. The harissa reflects my perverse taste for chilli with everything, and is obviously optional - though a pinch or two of cayenne pepper would be a nice, less controversial alternative.

The egg causes the mixture to puff up appealingly. If you were using twice as much cheese, you might mix it with a whole beaten egg rather than with two yolks.

Makes three crumpets

80g grated cheese, such as Cheddar or Gruyere
1 egg yolk
1tsp harissa
1tsp mustard
(Also possible, instead of the harissa: Worcester sauce, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne)

Toast the crumpets. Mash up the cheese and other ingredients with a fork.

Spread the mixture on the crumpets, and grill (I use the lowest setting) until puffed up and browned.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Rhubarb, orange and cinnamon

Unless you want to make a compote or a fool, you may prefer to bake rhubarb rather than to stew it on the hob - the pieces will not break down and turn to mush. Serves 2.

4 sticks rhubarb
1 orange
Cinnamon stick, or sprinkling of ground cinnamon

2 heaped dstsp dark brown sugar

Cut the rhubarb into spoon-sized chunks. Give them a wash, and put them in an oven dish. Squeeze over the juice of the orange, and throw in the orange husks. Add the cinnamon. Bake at gas mark 8/230C for about 10 minutes.

Now stir in the sugar, which might have caught and burned if you had added it before the rhubarb threw off any liquid.

Bake for a further 20-30 minutes, until the rhubarb is very soft.

There will be too much liquid. Spoon it into a small saucepan, and boil it until syrupy. Pour it back over the rhubarb. Serve hot or warm (but cold would be fine too), with cream or yoghurt.