Category: Main Dishes


Kookoo Sabzi

March 6th, 2014 — 6:22pm

Kookoo sabzi is basically an Iranian omelette with a whacking great load of herbs in it. I became rather attached to it as a weekend breakfast option a year or so back and it’s really very good in a sandwich too, just wrapped in warmed flatbread with some slivered pickles and a splutter of hot sauce (there’s a recipe for that sandwich in a very good book about sandwiches from around the world I’ve heard mentioned somewhere occasionally perhaps maybe).

Kookoo sabzi flatbread wrap with Iranian pickles and hot sauce

Anyway on Tuesday it was the day of the pancakes and so I found myself wondering what a load of skinny kookoos would be like rolled up around a stuffing and baked in a cheesy sauce. They were very easy to make and flip in a little non-stick pan, and I filled them with what was basically a mixture of posho garlic shrooms (chanterelles and chestnuts) and spinach, and baked them in a sauce rammed with cheddar and Lancashire cheeses (what I had in the fridge). Oh and I grated some rather suave aged Comte on top, because I also had that in the fridge, because I’m a member of the Food Tosserati.

The kookoo made this whole dish really pleasing because they’re just so fragrant with herbs and bitey with spring onion; they lift the whole thing meaning you can eat a large amount and not feel in danger of developing diabetic neuropathy the instant you stop eating and slump on the sofa in front of The Restaurant Man. Come to think of it, a gluten free cheese sauce would also make this a good alternative for coeliacs in danger of missing out on cheesy baked pancake things come Fat Tuesday.

Diet food

Kookoo sabzi stuffed with garlic mushrooms and baked in a cheesy…okay I don’t know what to call this but it’s well tasty, promise. 

For the pancakes (makes approx 10 pancakes)

12 eggs
3 tablespoons self raising flour
1 large handful parsley leaves, finely chopped
1 large handful dill, finely chopped
1 large handful coriander, finely chopped
3 spring onions, finely chopped

For the filling

100g chanterelle mushrooms
200g chestnut mushrooms
1 regular onion
3 cloves garlic, crushed
350g spinach, chopped roughly if leaves are large (include the stalks, finely chopped)
Knob of butter
Veg oil or similar, for frying

120g cheese, grated (I used a mixture of cheddar and Lancashire)
Comte (or another cheese, obviously, to grate on top)
50g butter
50g flour
600ml milk

This method looks long and it is really, but you can get most of it going at the same time.

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6/200C/400F.

Beat the eggs together and sift in the flour. Whisk the mixture to combine; it will go lumpy which is annoying but just whisk the shit out of it. Mix in the chopped herbs, spring onions, and season highly with salt and pepper.

Set a small frying pan (mine is 6 inches diameter) over a medium-low heat and add a scant splash of oil, then wipe it around with a piece of kitchen paper. Add enough eggy mixture to make a very thin ‘pancake’, spreading it out with the back of a spoon. Cook until almost set (it’s so thin it will cook almost all the way through without turning), then, when almost set, flip it over for 30 seconds or so to set the other side. This is about a hundred times easier than it sounds. Repeat until all the mixture is gone.

Once the first pancake is out of the way, you can get the filling on at the same time. Heat a little oil in a frying pan and sling the onion in to soften. Once translucent, add a knob of butter and the mushrooms and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes or so, stirring regularly. Set aside, then add the spinach to the same pan and allow to wilt down and cook until no liquid remains in the pan. Mix with the mushrooms. Season.

To make the cheese sauce, wang the flour, butter and milk into a pan and bring to a simmer, whisking it with an air of nonchalance. Once simmering, cook out gently for a few minutes, then add the cheese. It will melt pretty fast. Season with salt and pepper.

To assemble your masterpiece, roll each pancake around some of the filling (not too much). Line them up in a baking dish. Cover with the sauce. Grate a little Comte on top. Put in the oven. Bake for 35-40 minutes until golden.

10 comments » | Breakfast, Brunch, Cheese, Eggs, Main Dishes, Sandwiches

Poussin with Pomegranate Molasses, Turkish Chilli & Rose

July 30th, 2013 — 1:33pm

I do love the word ‘spatchcock’. Oh come on. Aside from the juvenile pleasure, the giggles and unnecessary emphasis, it’s just such a satisfying word to say. Go on, say it. Say it out loud like you mean it.

It’s also, handily, a very useful and easy way of prepping a bird in order to ensure even cooking, particularly on the BBQ. I’m sure you already know this, but I had to say something useful and serious, otherwise this is just a post about a word that sounds funny. Here’s a vid if you’re not familiar with how to do it.

I made these three times before I was happy with the marinade. The first time – too orangey, the second time – too meh, the third time however…well if I hadn’t nailed it the third time I would have been worried. Pomegranate molasses makes a wonderfully sticky marinade with its exotic sweet and sour flavour, there’s orange juice too and then plenty of BOOM! spicing in the form of Turkish chilli flakes and cumin. I also used dried rose petals, which have always baffled me. In the bag they just smell kinda dusty. I didn’t get it. When ground up however, they did add a nice floral (duh) flavour, which I’d originally tried to achieve with orange blossom water (didn’t work – just tasted like bubble gum).

These were fabulous served with some grilled spring onions – just oil and sling ‘em on the grill. A cucumber salad was refreshing, made with spring onions, parsley and sour cream. Oh and there was leftover dirty BBQ veg on the side.

The way to get the poussin tasting really good is to reserve half the marinade and brush it on as they are cooking. This makes sure you get plenty of that flavour on there, without it all slipping off a la marinade. Sticky, sweet, charred, spicy. Incredibly good, actually.

Pomegranate Molasses and Turkish Chilli Poussin (serves 2)

2 poussins, spatchcocked

For the marinade:

4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons Turkish chilli flakes
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon dried rose petals
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (use a good one)
Juice of 1/2 small orange
1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
Splash of olive oil
Salt and pepper

Bash up the cumin seeds with the rose petals until you have something resembling a powder, then mix with all the other marinade ingredients. Season generously with salt and pepper. Cover the poussin with half the marinade, reserving the rest for brushing on top during cooking.

Cook on the BBQ until, well, cooked (depends on the size of your poussin really – mine took about 20 minutes), turning and brushing regularly with the marinade.

26 comments » | Barbecue, Main Dishes, Meat

Tacos: BBQ Onglet with Scotch Bonnet, Grapefruit & Mango

July 23rd, 2013 — 1:50pm

Onglet, or skirt steak, is a great cut of beef to cook on the BBQ; it has so much flavour and just needs a really quick grilling over high heat. Over cook it and you’ll find dinner now has the texture of a flip flop, but get it right and you’ll cut into juicy meat with a texture like butter. I gave it a bathing in a spicy, fruit based marinade which was pretty damn fine when slung into tacos. Here’s what to do:

1. Meet @markymarket at Chancery Lane tube to take receipt of a kg of onglet. You can’t miss him – he’ll stick out like a sore thumb wearing a white butcher’s coat and lugging a cool box. Contact him via his website or Twitter to place an order.

2. Gather some mates together for a hot and sticky summer evening BBQ. They will bring loads of interesting wine because they are ace.

3. Make the fruit marinade. I was originally going to use papaya; a great meat tenderiser. I didn’t though because I didn’t have one and also, papayas are expensive. SO expensive. What I did have was 1 very ripe mango and 3 apricots, the flesh of which was whizzed with grapefruit juice, garlic and scotch bonnet chilli. This makes a great table sauce too, so reserve some for later. Pour the sauce over the onglet and marinate for an hour. It will look like it’s covered in sick. It isn’t; that’s your delicious mango sauce, silly.

4. Grill the meat. Rest the meat. Slice the meat. Eat the meat. We piled it into tacos and topped with guacamole, salsa, and onions quick pickled in lime and orange juice.

A dollop of that mango sauce on top is most excellent, too…

Mango and Scotch Bonnet Marinated Onglet (Tacos) (serves 4)

1 kg onglet (skirt steak)

For the marinade:

4 cloves garlic, peeled
Flesh of 1 ripe mango
Flesh of 3 apricots
Juice of 1 grapefruit
1 scotch bonnet chilli, deseeded or not is up to you
Splash olive oil
Salt and pepper

Get the onglet out of the fridge about 2 hours before you want to cook it. Whizz all the marinade ingredients in a blender and pour 3/4 over the onglet, reserving the other 1/4 for serving. Light your BBQ and wait until the flames have died down and the coals are nice and grey/white all over, you want the BBQ as hot as possible and that doesn’t mean flames. By which point your onglet should be ready.

Brush off excess marinade and season well on both sides with salt and pepper. Grill for 2 minutes, then flip and grill a further 2 minutes. Repeat this – so a further 2 minutes each side. This should give you pretty rare steak, but of course it depends on the thickness (you could also brush a little of the reserved marinade on while cooking, if you like. Don’t double dip the brush into the sauce you’re going to serve at the table, though). Let the meat rest for 10 minutes while you get everything else ready, then slice and serve with extras below.

For the guacamole:

I steal a trick from Thomasina Miers here and bash up a little onion and chilli first in the pestle and mortar, as well as mixing some in, which gives a really nice overall savoury flavour. Mix with the flesh of 2 avocados (roughly mashed, you want some texture), juice of 1-2 limes and a little more finely chopped onion and chilli. Finish with salt, pepper and coriander.

For the salsa:

Make a basic tomato salsa by seeding and finely chopping really ripe tomatoes, about 6, and mixing with half a small finely chopped red onion, a squeeze of lime juice, small handful chopped coriander leaves, and salt and pepper.

For the pickled onions:

Another trick nicked from Thomasina Miers, whose book ‘Mexican Cooking Made Simple’ is actually really bloody good. Cover finely sliced red onions with boiling water for ten minutes then drain. Squeeze in lime and orange juice, plus a finely chopped scotch bonnet chilli. Leave for a couple of hours. Makes a great condiment on loads of things, actually.

Tortilla/taco note: I have been e-mailed by a reader who pointed out I have ‘misrepresented’ tacos as I have actually used tortillas. Fact is, tacos are impossible to get hold of for me and also, I don’t like them. Too tough. So yes, I used tortillas and cut taco shapes from them. Apologies if this has offended anyone else. 

 

17 comments » | Barbecue, Main Dishes, Meat, Mexican Food

Lamb and Date Meatballs in Frazzled Aubergine Sauce – Win a £50 Le Creuset Voucher

May 13th, 2013 — 1:33pm

[Edit] I WON! Thanks so much to everyone who voted. 

‘Frazzled’ aubergines? Okay, so I’m definitely not talking about aubergines cooked alongside the popular, bacon rasher-shaped potato snacks.

I sense your relief.

The idea of ‘burnt’ aubergines may be more familiar; popularised recently by chefs like Ottolenghi, it’s actually an age-old cooking technique. I prefer to call them frazzled. It’s just…well, it’s just a lovely word.

Shiny purple fruits are placed over a naked flame, roasted or grilled until skins blacken and they collapse inward on themselves with a steamy sigh. Once cooled and split, the inside is silken, and above all gloriously smoky; a total transformation. It is this creamy flesh that blends into magical dips such as baba ghanoush, but I like to use it as a base for a sauce. It seems very decadent somehow; almost fit for a feast.

The meatballs bobbing within are made with lamb, sweet nubs of date and warming cumin and chilli. I’ve nicked a trick from the Italians too and mixed in some breadcrumbs soaked in milk – just a little – the difference in texture is astounding. They become light and – dangerously – extremely easy to eat. A swirl of yoghurt and a few jewels of pomegranate make this dish really rather pretty. Serve with cous cous or bread to absorb the luxurious sauce.

I came up with this recipe as for the Le Creuset ‘Cast Iron Challenge’, so if you think this sounds a bit tasty, please vote for my recipe on twitter (using ‘I’m voting for @FoodStories in the (@McArthurGlenUK #LeCreuset #CastIronChallenge http://goo.gl/EM7fD), and you could win a Le Creuset voucher worth £50!! That’s pretty awesome.

Lamb and Date Meatballs in Frazzled Aubergine Sauce

500g minced lamb
4 dates, pitted and finely chopped
1 heaped teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 heaped teaspoon hot chilli flakes, or to taste
1 teaspoon dried mint
1 thick slice white bread
Milk (about 4 tablespoons)

For the sauce

4 aubergines
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 400g regular tin chopped tomatoes
2 black cardamom
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1 cinnamon stick
300ml vegetable stock

Vegetable oil, for frying

Pierce the aubergines in several places with a fork, then place directly on the gas ring of the hob, turning occasionally, until black and shrivelled all over. Alternatively, grill them to the same effect.

Remove the crusts from the slice of bread and break into rough pieces. Place in a small bowl with enough milk to mash to a paste.

In a small frying pan, toast the cumin and coriander seeds over a low heat, stirring frequently, until they start to smell fragrant. Take care not to burn them. Grind them in a spice grinder or crush them in a pestle and mortar.

In a large bowl combine the minced lamb, bread paste, ground cumin and coriander, chilli flakes, chopped dates and mint. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well; really , really well. Get in there with your hands and knead the mixture almost like a bread dough. Make sure the dates are well distributed. Roll into walnut sized balls. Set aside on a plate.

Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in the Le Creuset, and fry the meatballs in batches, 4 or 5 at a time, until golden brown all over. Set each batch aside while you cook the next.

To make the sauce, scrape the flesh from inside the aubergines, leaving behind the blackened skin. Chop roughly. Fry the onion until , cardamom pods and cinnamon stick until the onions are soft and beginning to colour. Scrape up the lovely meaty residues from the pan as you do this. Add the aubergines and garlic. Turn up the heat a little and Cook for about five minutes more stirring.

Add the tomatoes, pomegranate molasses and stock. Put lid on and cook for 45 mins to an hour on low heat. Taste and season. For a thicker sauce, remove the lid towards the end of cooking time to reduce it.

Scatter with pomegranate seeds and coriander to serve.

23 comments » | Competitions, Main Dishes, Meat

Afghan Zamarud and Aubergine Pickle

April 24th, 2013 — 9:29am

Over the years I have become very interested in the food of Iran, then Georgia, and now Afghanistan. The cuisines all make use of ingredients I am very fond of, such as yoghurt, meats like lamb, fruits such as dates and pomegranate, vegetables such as spinach.

A browse around the bookshelves of Iranian shop/deli Persepolis recently turned up Noshe Djan, an Afghan cook book by a woman called Helen Saberi. Helen has written a cook book of the kind I have increasingly come to love; she married an Afghan man and spent a significant amount of time living in Afghanistan absorbing the culture and cooking the food. She has lived the life of an Afghan and she provides a heartwarming introduction to the Afghani meal time; the book is the kind one can read like a novel. It is genuine, accessible and utterly fascinating.

The first recipe I’ve cooked is the amusingly titled ‘sabzi pilau’ or ‘zamarud’, meaning emerald. I say amusing as every recipe like this, which suggests the main ingredient is a vegetable (in this case spinach), then goes on to specify ’700g of lamb’ or, often, chicken.

It was bloody delicious, although it did take a few hours to cook. Worth waiting for, but anyone who is making this might want to consider doing it on a weekend. Or perhaps you’re smart enough to just read the recipe properly in the first place, unlike me. We ate at 12.30 am.

The spice mix makes this interesting – char masala. It is equal parts cinnamon, cloves, cumin and black cardamom. In other spice mixes the stronger flavours like cloves are generally used in smaller quantities, but not here. I also loved the liberal use of black cardamom which I don’t often see; one of my favourite spices, like giant smoky black raisins.

The final pilau was comforting, with the feel of a biryani. I served it with garlic yoghurt (made by blanching some peeled garlic cloves then mixing with lightly whipped, seasoned yoghurt) and an aubergine pickle, which is also worth mentioning.

Small aubergines are slit, and then a whole garlic clove placed in each one; when pinched together they look like mussels. The pickling liquid is simple – white vinegar, sugar and green chillies, nigella seeds and fenugreek, the flavour of the latter being particularly suited to aubergines. It has a sort of intriguing musty flavour which contrasts the acidity. The pickled green chillies are obviously a mega bonus too.

Afghan Zamarud (from Noshe Djan by Helen Saberi)

This recipe serves 4, although if you have other dishes too it could easily serve 6-8. I’d recommend eating it with yoghurt on the side. The lamb can be substituted for a whole chicken, jointed.

450g long grain white rice (basmati preferably)
110ml veg oil
2 medium regular onions, diced
700-900g lamb on the bone, diced (I only used 500g diced lamb shoulder, which was enough. I can imagine goat would also work well)
225ml water
2 teaspoons char masala (to make char masala take equal quantities of cumin seeds, cloves, cinnamon stick and the seeds from inside black cardamom pods and grind them in a spice grinder or pestle and mortar)
450g spinach
110g leeks
2 teaspoons ground coriander (Helen also gives an alternative of dried dill)
1.5 litres water
2 hot green chillies
Salt and pepper

Rinse the rice a few times until the water runs clear and then soak it in fresh water for at least half an hour.

Heat 75ml oil in a pan and fry the onions in it, stirring frequently until soft and golden. Trim excess fat from the lamb pieces, then add it to the pan and continue frying until the meat is well browned. Add the 225ml water, 1 teaspoon of the char masala and salt and lots of black pepper. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until the meat is tender. This takes a couple of hours, FYI, depending obviously on the size of the lamb dice. It’s nice to have big chunks but if you want it to cook faster, cut it smaller.

Prep the spinach by cutting off any large stalks and washing really thoroughly, then chop roughly.

Heat the remaining oil in a large pan and fry the leeks in it, until they are soft and nearly brown. Add the spinach and continue to fry, stirring all the time. When it starts to wilt down and reduce in size, turn the heat down, cover the pan and cook gently until the spinach is completely wilted down and cooked. Add the ground coriander (or dried dill) and some salt and pepper. Cover and cook gently until all the water is evaporated and the spinach soft.

Preheat the oven to 150C/200F/Gas 2

Bring the 1.5 litres of water to the boil and add a teaspoon of salt. Drain the rice from the soaking water and add to the boiling water. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then drain and add to a casserole dish with a tight lid. Add the spinach and meat along with approx 175ml of the juices and the other teaspoon of char masala. Mix this together gently but thoroughly. Put the green chillies on top of the rice. Cover the dish and put it in the oven for about 45 minutes.

After this time, remove the chillies from the top of the rice. Serve the dish on a large platter. As I said, I like it with yoghurt, which I mixed with crushed garlic that had been blanched in boiling water for a few minutes. Garnish the dish with the chillies.

Aubergine Pickle (from Noshe Djan by Helen Saberi)

This works best with baby aubergines. Helen says that if you can’t get them you can use regular aubergines too, diced. In that case just chuck the garlic cloves in to simmer with the diced aubergine.

450g baby aubergines
110g garlic (basically a garlic clove for every baby aubergine)
1 heaped teaspoon turmeric
2-3 oz fresh green chillies (about 8)
1 tablespoon nigella seeds
1 tablespoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon dried mint
1/2 teaspoon sugar
500ml vinegar
150ml boiled water

Slit the baby aubergines lengthways to the stalk, but don’t separate them. Put one peeled garlic clove inside each as per the picture above.

Fill a saucepan with water and bring it to the boil. Add the aubergines. The water should cover them. They will bob up to the top during cooking, when you will need to push them down again. Inevitably some of the garlic cloves will pop out – don’t worry about it, you can fish them out afterwards.

Simmer gently for five minutes then remove the garlic and aubergines with a slotted spoon. Keep the cooking water. Once they are cool enough to handle, put a layer of aubergines and garlic in a large jar, followed by a layer of chillies and repeat until both are all used up.

Mix together the vinegar, sugar, salt, fenugreek, dried mint and nigella seeds plus 150ml of the cooking water. Pour over the aubergines. Seal with a lid.

I ate mine after about 3 days and they were lovely. Helen doesn’t specify how long they should be left before eating.

17 comments » | Afghan Recipes, Main Dishes, Meat, Peckham, Vegetables

Peckham Goat Tagine

January 2nd, 2013 — 2:54pm

Tagines have always been something I’ve viewed as having great potential to be really tasty, but I’ve never eaten a good one. What I imagined in my head to be a thick, rich, aromatic stew with complex flavours always arrived as a thin, watery bowlful bearing way too much dried fruit.

Because I am a spoiled and lucky girl, I received a magnificent tagine for chrimbo; a chance to turn things around and make the tadge I’ve always wanted, Pecknam stylee.

The tagine is heated on a little metal thing that looks like a ping pong bat with dimples in it, which helps to distribute the heat evenly across the base. It’s important that the tagine is heated slowly, otherwise it will crack and spoil all your fun before you’ve started.

The base was thickly covered with a bed of onions, the idea being that they would cook down, becoming silken and lush and absorbent of everything above. This being Peckham (bruv), the meat had to be goat, which is very easy to come by here. Its ballsy mutton like flavor is perfect (you could obviously substitute mutton if you can find goat) and it loves long cooking to become properly tender. For veg, some of those little white baby aubergines, which also need a good simmering into submission (they remain stubbornly bitter otherwise) and some small turnips, diced.

For the fruit, which for me is potentially the making but most commonly the breaking of a good tagine, I bought dried fruits from Persepolis, ending up with a kind of Moroccan/Persian hybrid recipe. There are many similarities between the cuisines. In went a dried lime, which the Iranians add mostly to stews where they bob about, gradually releasing a flavor which is like a lime essential oil, emerging at the end shriveled and spent. Apricots went in too, but not those horrible overly sweet and sulphurous supermarket ones but fragrant perfumed Persian fruits. A few scarlet barberries flecked the top, adding sourness, like tart cranberries.

For heat, I couldn’t help whacking a scotch bonnet in. I’m sorry. If I didn’t I’d be betraying Peckham. It was left whole though and just pierced, to contain heat but leach flavour. Having impulse bought a bag of African hot peppers, a couple of those went into a spice paste with loads of garlic, two types of paprika and a shed load of ras el hanout. It could have blown our heads off but didn’t; a bit on the hot side for a tagine, but with an enjoyable slow build.

After three hours of simmering and steaming what emerged was the tadge I’d always wanted; deep and complex, sweet then spicy then sour, lips were sticky from slow cooked onions and goat fat. A scattering of mint and spring onion freshened things up at the end.

This is, as you would imagine, even better the next day and again the day after that. I served it with flat bread and Sally Butcher’s Borani-ye Esfanaj (spinach with yoghurt – from Persia in Peckham), which is one of my favourite yoghurty arrangements of all time.

Peckham Goat Tagine (serves 6)

500g diced goat meat (or mutton)
4 small turnips, peeled and cut to the same size as the aubergines
6 small white aubergines, halved
3 onions, sliced
1 scotch bonnet chilli, left whole but pierced
250ml water
1 dried lime
5 dried apricots
1 scant tablespoon barberries
Mint leaves, finely sliced
1 spring onion, finely sliced

For the paste

5 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
2 African hot pepper dried chillies (optional)
2 tablespoons ras el hanout
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (smoky paps)
1 tablespoon water

Ideally I would have marinated the goat overnight in the paste then added it straight to the tagine without browning. I didn’t because I wasn’t organised enough so I’ve set out the method below as I cooked it.

Start by heating the tagine slowly. Add some olive oil, the onions and scotch bonnet chilli. Let the onions cook down gently while you brown the meat.

Cover a plate with flour and season it with salt and pepper. Dust each cube of the goat meat in it. Heat a frying pan and add some oil. Brown the meat on all sides. This will need to be done in several batches. Add this to the tagine, followed by all the other ingredients, including the paste. Season with salt and pepper and cook on a lowish heat for three hours, stirring every now and then after the first hour or so. After two hours, I’d advise you pick out the scotch bonnet chilli, because it’s only a matter of time before it bursts and you get a lot more heat than you bargained for.

Scatter over the mint and spring onion and serve with plenty of flat bread for dipping.

30 comments » | Food From The Rye, Fruit, Main Dishes, Meat, Peckham, Stews, Tagines

Ultimate Hogwich

October 24th, 2012 — 10:14am

The idea of making ‘ultimate sandwiches’ has been brewing in my head for a while now; hell, I started already by making the meatball sub, the best chicken sandwich of my life and the po’ boy of dreams. Since then I’ve been, well, distracted, but when I was recently sent a sous vide machine to play around with, I knew it was time to get it involved. It had to be a meaty sandwich, it had to be extreme, and it had to be made in the Sous Vide Supreme.

I wanted to start with pork so I went down to the new butcher in Peckham, Flock and Herd, and bought a frankly massive piece of pork belly – 3kg. No idea why. The plan was to vac pack it, which is GREAT fun by the way; the first thing I vacced was two tomatoes and a cucumber – I’m sure you can imagine the arrangement. Very mature. Anyway, so I would smother the belly with fennel, chilli and garlic, roll it up like a porchetta, pack it and sous vide it for, ideally, 36 hours. Seems like a long time doesn’t it? It is. I wasn’t going to argue with Serious Eats however, which is where I found the appropriate cooking time and temperature; this is long enough for all the connective bits in this famously gnarly cut to break down into lovely gelatinous goo.

Complete with nipples…

My butcher’s knots need a little work…

So the sous videing was sorted but what to do about crackling? Long slow water bathing isn’t going to achieve that and we all know that crackling is the best bit; what good would the ultimate pork sandwich be without crispy pig fat? This is where the Serious Eats recipe really comes into its own, suggesting that the crackling is achieved by deep frying. Yes. Is deep frying a porchetta excessive? Yes. Is it very unhealthy? Yes. Does it achieve the perfect crunchy crackling we’re looking for? Definitely. So on the inside we have 36 hour (well, 30 actually; I didn’t fancy eating it at 4.30am) cooked ultra soft and succulent pork belly and on the outside the kind of satisfying crunch that can only ever be achieved by plunging meat into a wok full of hot oil and frying the shit out of it. Incredible.

Two versions of the sandwich were made. The first time I tried to be all posh about it, making a fresh mustard seeded slaw and a chilli flecked quince sauce to drizzle; the latter complements the hog in the same way as apple sauce but with a  more interesting fragrance. Piled on to a soft white loaf it was good, but it just wasn’t right. I’d deep fried the pork for goodness’ sake; there was something just too damn clean about the rest of the sandwich.

Round 2. Amendment number 1 = different bread; I’d wanted to keep things British but in the end caved to the superior sturdy chew of ciabatta. Amendment 2 = pimp my shop bought coleslaw, yo. Yeah, that’s right, a mayo laden coleslaw was mixed with shredded spring onions, wholegrain mustard and a little lemon juice until it was just, well, pretty tasty actually. The quince sauce had to stay but needed a filth injection which came in the form of hot sauce and plenty of it (No Joke to be precise – it has the fruity notes to fit with the quince), plus all the glorious golden jelly from the outside of the sous vided pork. Now we were talking. Almost. The pork was sliced and then…guilty eyes met eager ones…a suggestion was made…the next thing I know I’m deep frying individual slices of the pork belly. That’s right, a second deep frying; more surface area to get good and crisp.

Ultimate Hogwich was born.

Ultimate Hogwich (I got like a million sandwiches out of this plus some of the best instant noodle pimpage I’ve ever achieved; recipe to follow)

This is by no means a quick job; 30 hours is definitely the longest I’ve ever waited for something to cook, but it was worth it. The sous vide machine is immense fun and the results are incredible; I can’t stop thinking about what to try next. The recipe can of course be made by just cooking the pork belly without a sous vide machine. Radical.

1 boneless pork belly, about 3kg in weight
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
1 tablespoon hot chilli flakes
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
4 bay leaves
4 cloves garlic
Salt
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
String to tie the pork belly

Heat the sous vide machine to 68.5C (Serious Eats suggested 68.3 but my machine wouldn’t have that) and start prepping the pork. Lay it out flat, skin side down and score the flesh in a diamond pattern. In a dry pan, toast the fennel seeds and black peppercorns until fragrant, moving the pan about over a low heat so they don’t burn.

Grind the fennel seeds and peppercorns in a pestle and mortar, then sprinkle all over the pork belly flesh. Sprinkle the chilli flakes over the pork too, add the bay leaves and grate over the garlic using a microplane grater. Use your hands to work everything into the pork.

Roll the pork and use string to tie it tightly into a roll. Mix 1 tablespoon salt with the bicarbonate of soda and rub this all over the surface of the porchetta. You may then need to cut it into two pieces in order to vac pack it – I did.

So…vac pack it and once the sous vide machine has reached temperature, lower the pork in. Cook it for erm, 30 hours or even 36 if you are more organised than me. Once that’s done, remove the pork and plunge it into a sink full of iced water for 15 minutes, then remove from the bags, and save all the lovely gelatinous stuff round the edge. This is precious. Pat the pork dry, heat your oil for deep frying and really, really carefully, lower it into the oil. The pork should be halfway submerged, not totally. It will need about 5 minutes each side, during with time you should carefully spoon the oil over the exposed side. Just be bloody careful constantly, basically.

Then it just needs a final patting with kitchen paper before resting for 5 minutes and slicing.

For the quince sauce and coleslaw: melt a couple of tablespoons quince paste with some of the pork jelly and some hot sauce to taste. For the coleslaw, mix some shop bought coleslaw with lemon juice, spring onions and some wholegrain mustard. Pile the whole lot into a ciabatta and add a cheeky extra dash of hot sauce if you fancy it.

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