Category Archives: Pork

Eggs poached with n’duja, peppers and tomatoes

N'duja

A lovely lump of N’duja. Yes, I know my infills need doing.

Spreadable sausage. Like chocolate cheese, jeggings or Texas ft. Method Man, it’s not really a concept that your brain initially warms to. There feels something faintly 1980s and unhygienic about it, redolent of unwashed lunchboxes and bouts of salmonella poisoning. Then, I discovered N’duja. N’duja is the Calabrian form of salami; a spicy, spreadable treat made from various parts of the pig, roast peppers and a lot of bright red spices. I bought a gigantic lump of the stuff recently during a trip to Salvi’s Mozzarella Bar in Manchester (along with beautifully bright mini bottles of campari and soda, and a lump of smoked mozzarella which I covered in rock salt and ate guiltily in my pyjamas as a midnight snack) and since then have been adding it to everything from pasta to toast. I’ve even been known to cut off hunks of the stuff and eat it with my fingers, because a) that’s the kind of thing I do, and b) I really can’t be left alone with pork products.

So, on a night where the worst storm of the year is slicing through the North West, I decided to use it to create a warm, spicy, porcine spin on an old favourite, Shakshuka. Hunks of n’duja are fried in sizzling oil; along with onions, garlic, and sweet red pepper (after all, woman cannot live on pork alone.) I added a spinkle of cumin and smoked paprika to the mixture for a touch of warmth and spice – this is a dish which can handle it after all. Add some eggs and a large handful of chopped coriander, and you’ve got the perfect Winter’s meal; one which is healthy, tasty, quick and – most importantly – full of pork. What more could a person want?

Eggs poached with n'duja peppers and tomatoes

EGGS POACHED WITH N’DUJA, PEPPERS AND TOMATOES (Serves two)

You will need:

  • 1 thumb sized lump of n’duja
  • 1 medium sized onion, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 medium sized red pepper, sliced thinly
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 4 medium sized eggs
  • Salt & Pepper
  • A fistful of fresh coriander to garnish
  • A medium sized frying pan (with lid) or saucepan

Make It!

  1. Remove the n’duja from its casing, and fry in a tablespoon of oil until it has broken up, and the oil has turned a rich red colour.
  2. Add the sliced onions and red pepper, and fry for 2 – 3 minutes until soft. Throw in the garlic, and fry for another minute.
  3. Sprinkle the ground  cumin and smoked paprika over the mixture, and mix to combine. Pour in the tinned tomatoes and simmer for five minutes until the mixture has thickened. Season with the salt and pepper.
  4. Using a wooden spoon, make small wells in the tomatoes, and crack in the eggs. Cover the pan, and cook for five minutes until the whites have set.
  5. Sprinkle with the fresh coriander, and serve immediately. This goes really well with wholemeal pitta breads, or freshly baked soda bread.
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Pork Meatball Ragu

As regular readers of this blog will know, I have a deep and unerring THING for meatballs. I mean, look at them – who doesn’t like small meaty spheres of deliciousness? I can easily shovel down great handfuls of the things in one go, especially now I’ve finally figured out how to make them so that they don’t a) lose their shape whilst being cooked and b) don’t turn out like little protein bullets made of failure.  There’s also something very soothing about the act of rolling meatballs. It’s the kind of simple repetitive action that a person can easily lose themselves in on a Sunday afternoon whilst their mind is concentrating on other, higher pursuits. Like the football.

Over the past few months, I’ve been experimenting with making them from any and all types of meat I can get my hands on – from lamb meatballs flavoured with coriander and ginger, to beef & veal meatballs heady with oregano and rosemary. So, whilst wondering what I could make for Sunday lunch this weekend that wouldn’t require me to leave the house (don’t look at me like that, it was cold and I may have been hungover),  I rummaged around the back of my freezer to extract a rather sad looking portion of pork mince, and the idea of a Pork Meatball Ragu was born.

To make the meatballs, I spiked the mince with fennel seeds and chilli flakes so that they were redolent of aniseed with a short, sharp bite. I always use Food Stories excellent method of combining the mince with damp bread because it produces the best results –  perfectly juicy, featherlight specimens which are ridiculously moreish. I based the sauce on Felicity Cloake’s excellent recipe for bolognese with a few little tweaks here and there, such as initially cooking the meatballs in a mixture of milk and nutmeg, which not only makes them soft and sweet, but has the added bonus of making your oven smell like Pernod.

The end result was sensational – unctious meatballs in light, tasty sauce which wrapped itself around the pasta like a lover. I served mine simply, with a lick of grated parmesan and plenty of black pepper, although I imagine this ragu would go just as well over some cheesy polenta or even slapped between two slices of ciabatta and served up as a sandwich. If you’re looking for something to serve your sweetie this Valentine’s Day, I suggest you say it with meatballs.

PORK MEATBALL RAGU (Serves 2-3 people)

You will need:

For the meatballs (makes roughly 14 meatballs)

  • 250g (not too lean) pork mince
  • 2 slices of white bread
  • Half an onion, finely diced
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp dried chilli flakes

For the sauce

  • 1 medium sized carrot, finely diced
  • 1 medium sized onion, finely diced
  • 1 stick of celery, finely diced
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 150ml white wine
  • 150ml milk
  • A pinch of nutmeg
  • Salt & Pepper to season

Make It!

  1. First, make your meatballs. Slice the crusts off the bread, and place it in a bowl with a few tablespoons of water until soaked through. Squeeze all of the moisture out until you have a fat ball of bread. Add the pork mince, diced onion, fennel seeds and chilli flakes and mash together with your hands until combined. Season well.
  2. Wet your hands well and make your meatballs. I do this by taking teaspoons of the mixture and rolling them into small balls which puff up whilst cooking. Once done, refridgerate your balls for at least an hour before use.
  3. To make the sauce, heat a tablespoon of olive oil and cook the onion, carrots and celery on a low heat until they turn soft and golden (this should take around 10-15 minutes).
  4. Pop the vegetable mixture into a casserole dish along with the meatballs, milk and nutmeg. Cook at 180 degrees C/Gas Mark 4 for 30-40 minutes until the milk has just evaporated.
  5. Pour in the chopped tomatoes & wine, and stir well. Cook for around an hour and a half until the sauce has thickened and the meatballs are soft and tender.
  6. Serve over short pasta or polenta with plenty of parmesan.
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Cumin rubbed Pork steaks with Butter Bean and Olive stew

As anyone who has the pleasure of living with me will tell you, I do not cope well with Winter. As soon as the temperature drops, you will find me wrapped up in a slanket, hugging a radiator and looking decidedly pissed off. I’d blame it on the fact that I spent some of my childhood in Florida, and so became acclimatised to a more temperate climate, but that would be bollocks. The true fact of the matter is that – whilst I am a fan of knitwear, big boots and warm mulled alcoholic drinks –  I am not a fan of the cold. Especially when I have to go the gym, and it’s windy out, and the icy gusts which come ripping off the Mersey make me feel as though the skin is being sandblasted off my face.

The only reason I can see people liking Winter is that it legitimately allows you to eat stews on a nightly basis. I bloody love stews. So much so in fact that I have decided  that if this whole ‘working-in-digital-and-social-media’ lark that I do for a day job doesn’t work out, I’ll set up my own door-to-door stew delivery company. After all, who wouldn’t want a piping hot bowl of Scouse or Hot Pot delivered to them on a chilly night?

Yesterday, the skies in Liverpool were heavy and grey with the threat of snow. So, after trudging home in the cold, I decided to rummage around in my cupboards and throw together a quick bean stew. Full of toothsome butter beans, a kick of chilli and a spike of smoked paprika, this Butter Bean and Olive stew really hit the spot. I accompanied it with a grilled pork steak which I’d rubbed with some cumin, salt and pepper, and some caramelised onions. It was perfect comfort food – full of warm flavours and (relatively) healthy to boot. It was so good in fact, that it almost helped me to forget that Manchester City were beaten by Everton at the football last night.  Oh well. You win some, you lost some eh?

CUMIN RUBBED PORK STEAKS WITH BUTTER BEAN AND OLIVE STEW (Serves Two)

You will need:

  • 2 medium sized, (relatively) lean pork steaks
  • 1 tin of butter beans
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • A handful of pitted black olives, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • Salt and Pepper
  • A handful of roughly chopped parsley for garnish

Make It!

  1. Sweat your chopped garlic and chilli flakes  in a teaspoon of olive oil until the oil turns slightly red and the garlic is starting to brown.
  2. Add the chopped tomatoes, smoked paprika and olives to the pot, and cook for ten minutes or so. Then, add the drained butterbeans and simmer for another twenty minutes, until the stew has begun to thicken.
  3. Whilst the stew is cooking, season the pork steaks with the salt, pepper and cumin. Cook on a screamingly hot grill until just cooked, and the insides are no longer pink.
  4. Once grilled, place the  pork steaks on top of the stew, and sprinkle with roughly chopped parsley. You can add caramelised onions on top if you feel like it – they add a nice sweetness to dish. Serve with a large glass of red wine.
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Pulled Pork Sandwich with Homemade Sandwich Buns

You’re probably looking at the above image wondering why I have posted a picture of a relatively normal sandwich whose only distinguishing feature is that it resembles a meat-filled PacMan. But looks can be deceptive. And whilst this may not look like much to the naked eye, it is, in fact, possibly the best sandwich I’ve eaten all year. A sandwich so good, that – if I was one of those God fearing types – I’d be offering up a prayer to him thanking him for inventing tasty tasty pigs. For this vision, dear readers, is slow cooked pulled pork piled onto a home made bun. And bugger me, it is pretty bloody amazing.

Read any (good) food blog from the USA, and they will tend to rhapsodise about the beauty of a delicious pile of pulled pork. Juicy, tender and piquant with a baste of vinegar, tomato sauce and brown sugar, it is a taste of the South wrapped up in one delicious messy bite. Most of the time, the pork is barbecued slowly over a smoker, but seeing as it is November, and not exactly barbecue weather here in Bootle, I decided to improvise and give my slow cooker a bit of an airing.

First, I smothered my pork joint in a dry rub and left it overnight. Then, the next morning, I dunked it in a pot and allowed it to stew in its own juices for a few hours. The end result was divine – a nice hunk of pig, braised to breaking point, rich with delicious unctuous fat which was slightly crispy from being sizzled against the hot crock pot.

I would have happily eaten this delicious meat spaghetti on its own, but then I decided that that might be unseemly. Also, apparently it’s not ladylike to eat a big plate of red meat whilst shouting at the TV. So, I threw together some easy home made sandwich buns to accompany my bounty. Warm, squidgey and nicely sweet, these were devoured with almost as much relish as the pork.

This is big, messy, thoroughly filthy food. So leave your manners at the door, don’t be ashamed to lick your fingers clean, and let that juice run down your chin with pride. November’s here. It’s time for some serious soul food.

SLOW COOKED PULLED PORK (Serves four)

You will need:

  • 1 kg pork shoulder joint (preferably bone-in – I got mine from Abel and Cole)
  • 1-2 teaspoons chilli powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cumin
  • 1 tablespoon garlic paste
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons muscavado sugar
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 150ml barbecue sauce (I was lazy and used some stuff out of a bottle that I bought from Florida, but it’s super easy to make your own)
Make It!
  1. To make the spice rub: combine all of the spices and the garlic paste in a bowl. Massage the spice rub into the pork, ensuring that you coat each side of the joint thoroughly. Place in a cool place and leave to marinade for at least five hours (I left mine overnight).
  2. When you’re ready to cook your joint, place it in your slow cooker with 150ml of water. Cook on the ‘low’ setting for six – seven hours, or until the meat flakes into shreds when you pull it apart with the prongs of a fork.
  3. Once the pork is done, transfer it to a chopping board and discard the leftover liquid in the slow cooker and the bone.  Shred the meat finely with a fork,  place it back in the slow cooker and coat it with the barbecue sauce. Heat it on the low setting for ten minutes or so until warm. Pile on top of home made sandwich buns with the toppings of your choice (e.g. a nice slaw).
HOMEMADE SANDWICH BUNS (Makes 8 buns)
Recipe adapted from The Kitchn

You will need:

  • 1 tablespoon fast action yeast
  • 125ml tepid water
  • 125ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 360g bread flour (I used wholemeal as it was the only thing I had in my cupboards)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
Make It!
  1. Activate the yeast by stirring it into the tepid water and let it sit until it’s dissolved and has become frothy (it should have a good head on it).
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, oil, sugar, and salt. Add this to the yeast mixture and stir until combined. Add all the flour and stir until it forms a shaggy dough. Knead for 10 minutes until the dough feels smooth, slightly sticky, and springs back when poked.
  3. Return the dough to the mixing bowl and cover. Let the dough rise in a warm spot  for around an hour until it has doubled in size.
  4. Dust your work surface with a little flour and turn out the risen dough on top. Divide the dough into 8 pieces and shape each into a ball which is roughly the size of your fist. Transfer the balls to an oiled baking sheet and let rise for around 30-40 minutes until they look puffy and hamburger-sized.
  5. Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 6/200 degrees C. Melt the butter and brush it over the risen buns. This helps them to brown and keeps the crust soft. Bake the rolls for around 15-18 minutes until they have turned puffy and golden.
  6. Let the buns cool to room temperature before slicing and using.
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Pork, Potatoes and Pilsner – Adventures in Prague

As you may have gathered from the dearth of posts on here, I’ve been rather busy recently – who knew that trying to hold down a full time job, a freelance career and a personal life whilst studying for a digital marketing qualification could take up so much time?  The past fortnight has seen me pretty much living out of a suitcase, and being forced to buy clean knickers from Tescos because I had no time to go home and fetch a fresh pair. I’m scared I’m going to become one of these women who carries emergency underwear in her handbag, next to the lipbalm and the loose change.

So, finally, last Friday I decided I’d had enough. It was time for me to leave these shores and head to pastures new for a few days. Those pastures new being Prague, land of churches, cheap pork products and a strange foodstuff known as “beer cheese” (the promise of beer cheese alone was enough of an incentive for me to be honest). The holiday didn’t really get off to the best start when we were faced with a seven hour delay after one of the engines of our plane set on fire whilst we were on the runway. However, when faced with such a setback, I turned to the one thing which I know for a fact will bring me succour in times of woe. Namely, booze.

Some would say that 7.30am is too early in the morning for Breakfast Martinis. I am not one of those people. Especially when aforementioned Martini comes with a (frankly ridiculous) slab of cold toast shoved onto the side of it.

By the time we got to Prague, both myself and Mr. Cay wanted to do nothing more than go to the pub. Which we duly did. This decision was justified when we discovered that beer in the Czech Republic is both cheap (an average pint will cost you around £1.20) and delicious, and that you could smoke in pubs. Which led to us both getting rather tanked, smoking like priests and eating pizza in bed. A very fine way to start a holiday by anyone’s standards really.

Being sensible and ridiculously gluttinous types, we decided to spend our holiday eating, drinking and looking at beautiful (and occasionally strange) buildings. Here’s some of the highlights:

WHAM, BAM, THANK YOU HAM

On our first day there, we decided to go exploring, and upon entering the Old Town Square, our nostrils were immediately assailed by the delicious smell of roast meat. I’m a sucker for any time of pork product, so I couldn’t really turn down the opportunity to feast on some authentic Prague ham, served up with rye bread and plenty of mustard.

It might possibly be the best ham I’ve ever eaten – juicy, smoky and with a delicious layer of crackling which we crunched between our teeth whilst watching a Czech television personality sing traditional folk tunes. It was so good, that I’ll even forgive the bloke who sold it to me for ripping me off after I handed him the wrong bank note.

It transpired that the ham man was there as part of International Chefs Day. Which meant that it would have been rude not to try some of the dishes being served up, like this amazing homemade lamb sausage from Apartmán hotel Jítrava . Served with garlic spiked mashed potatoes and an apple relish, it was just the thing to keep out the chill of a rainy October afternoon.

BEEF AND BREAD

The evening saw us dining at U Pinkasu, a cute – if slightly touristy – restaurant situated in Jungmannovo Namesti. U Pinkasu specialises in traditional Czech cuisine which, it transpired, is exceedingly heavy on the whole ‘meats and carbs’ side of things. Seemingly every dish on the menu appeared to contain ‘bread dumplings’ (which weren’t so much dumplings as very soft, doughy slabs of white bread), potatoes or (frequently) both. This is not the kind of food you want to be eating if you’re on the Atkins diet. Full marks must also go to our waitress – a woman who could not only carry five steins of beer in each hand, but who also appeared to speak four different languages (whilst we were there, we heard her speak to diners in Czech, Italian, English and Russian), and the section of the menu which was entitled ‘For Gourmets and Feeders’.

Beef goulash with bread dumplings and horseradish

Old Bohemian Beef in Cream Sauce with Cranberries and Bread Dumplings (apologies for the poor pictures, beer had been consumed at this point).

STUPIDEST THING I ATE

The award for ‘most outrageously stupid thing I ate on my holidays’ undoubtedly has to go to this heart attack on a plate -a deep fried potato pancake filled with pork & chicken, and covered in cheese. For some bizarre reason, I decided to order this for my lunch. In my defence, I think I might have been slightly under the influence of strong drink at the time. It would be wrong to say that this wasn’t delicious, but it was also absolutely bloody enormous. I ate about half of it before I gave up, and spent the rest of the afternoon lying on the bed in my hotel, rubbing my distended belly, and feeling like a boa constrictor who has just consumed a large deer.

You would think that after that little incident, I would have learned my lesson. No. No I didn’t. On our final day, prior to boarding a flight back to the UK, I had these potato dumplings filled with smoked meat and fried onions on a bed of cabbage. Undoubtedly tasty, but not the kind of thing you want to be eating when you have to be wide awake and drag a heavy suitcase across a city full of cobbles. They also gave me a raging heartburn that took me a good 24 hours to eradicate.

JEWISH FOOD AT KING SOLOMON’S

On our final night in the city, we decided to treat ourselves, and dine at King Solomon’s in the Jewish Quarter, allegedly the oldest  Jewish restaurant in the Czech Republic. The meal wasn’t perfect – they don’t serve wines by the glass, the restaurant was dreadfully quiet and one of the waiters appeared to having an argument with one of his colleagues about the music on a Jewish radio station which was being played in the background – but the food was excellent, and there’s always something quite lovely about an intimate  candlelit dinner. The standout highlight of the meal for me was their chicken soup with herb knedlich. I always thought that my Bubbie made the best chicken soup in the world, but sorry Bubbie – you’ve got competition.

Goulash with Matzo and herbed dumplings

Veal with bread dumplings (which, slightly bizarrely, came with a large squirt of whipped cream on the side of the plate)

We washed this all down with complementary shots of slivovitz, a potent plum brandy that you’ll find being served up at restaurants and bars across the Czech Republic. We would have had dessert, if it wasn’t for the fact we’d consumed this bad boy earlier that day.

Baileys Chocolate Mousse cake, aka three layers of chocolatey-dessert-joy. This was sinfully, indecently good. Especially when coupled with a strong espresso.

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE BOOZE?

Ah yes. The booze. Czech beer is possibly some of the finest beer I’ve ever tasted. Crisp, refreshing and punchy with hops, it’s a million miles away from the bland swill you so often find in British pubs. There’s a seemingly giddy array of Czech breweries, with Pilsner Uruquell being the most common. A lot of pubs also served Kozel, a dark beer, that looked like ale, but had a surprisingly light, almost fruity taste to it.

I also – in a fit of post dinner madness one night – indulged in a shot of the local spirit, Becherovka. It’s pretty interesting stuff, with a taste that’s a cross between floor cleaner and cinnamon tictacs, and a kick like a donkey. The lemon version is slightly tastier, but it’s definitely not something I’d advise you to try if your preferred tipple is Malibu. For reasons I’m still not entirely clear of, I bought a bottle to take home with me which is now taking pride of place in my drinks cabinet. I’m thinking of making cocktails with it. Does anyone know what mixes well with alcoholic Dettol?

SO, THAT WAS PRAGUE

After five days of Central European bliss, me and Mr. Cay  finally returned to Liverpool on Wednesday pickled in alcohol, marinaded in pork fat and – very probably – two stone heavier. It was worth it though. We’re already fantasising about where our next adventure is going to take us. But for now, back to the real world. Thanks Prague. You’re really something.

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