Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Pork in Dandelion and Burdock

The idea for cooking pork in dandelion & burdock came to my while I was sitting on a park bench eating a bag of chips. I nearly always have a can of dandelion & burdock with fish and chips, and for whatever reason this time it occurred to me that the sweet aniseed taste would make a good sauce to go with pork.

I'd heard about a South African dish of chicken cooked in coca cola. So pork in dandelion & burdock didn't seem too outrageous. And on the most recent series of Masterchef the winner, Tim Anderson, had done a dish of belly pork braised in coca cola. It was his recipe that I referred to for the technique for my recipe.

I started of by browning a 600g piece of belly pork in a frying pan and heated the oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Whilst doing that I made up my braising liquor:

450ml dandelion & burdock
100ml rice wine vinegar
100ml soy sauce
2 star anise
1 heaped teaspoon Chinese 5 spice powder
1 hot chilli (pierced and left whole)
1 cinnamon stick

With the pork browned on all sides I poured the liquid into the frying pan and brought it to a boil. Then I gave the meat a quick baste and put it in the oven to cook for a couple of hours, basting every 20 minutes. After cooking I let the meat rest for 15 minutes whilst cooking some rice and spring greens. I also reduced the braising liquor to a thick sauce.

I hesitate to use the word triumph, but it did taste really good. The meat was juicy and tender and the sweet and spicy sauce went really nicely with it. The plain rice and greens were a good, bland, accompaniment.

In terms of technique I wouldn't change anything, but I would use less cooking liquid, 1 can of dandelion and burdock would be enough. And the sauce could have done with being a bit more savoury. Worcestershire sauce would have helped, or some light stock, or a mixture of the two.

If you give it a go, let me know what you think.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Lentil and egg curry

If you thought pear and beetroot salad sounded odd, I guess lentil and egg curry is going to sound even odder. But don't judge a dish by its name - this one is based on a Delia recipe and tastes fantastic.

We both love a good curry but so far have struggled to make anything which can compete on taste with a curry from a good curry house. I suspect that's because we shy away from using (a lot of) ghee. However, this lentil curry has come up trumps, if you'll pardon the expression.

The key to getting a good result with this is time. You need to cook the onions for a minimum of 30 minutes on a low heat to get a good caramelisation which gives good depth of flavour to the curry.

To start with chop an onion (or more than 1 if you're cooking for a crowd) quite finely. Get some oil, or ghee, hot and then add your spices. We use about 1/2 a teaspoon of ground fenugreek, ground ginger and ground turmeric. A teaspoon of cumin seeds also goes in along with a teaspoon of garam masala. We've been using Schwartz curry powder for our garam masala as it has a strong taste of clove which is essential in a curry. Stir this around for 30 seconds or so. Add the chopped onion, mix thoroughly then turn the heat down really low. Add a couple of cloves of chopped garlic and a chopped chilli or two. Put a lid on the pan and leave the spiced onions to caramelise for at least half an hour.

Make up some coconut milk. We use blocks of creamed coconut to do this as its pure coconut. How much you'll need will depend on how many people you're cooking for, so use the guidelines on the amount of liquid your lentils will need to cook in. Add the coconut milk to the cooked onions. Add the lentils (we've been using red lentils which are a bit sweeter than green), a generous teaspoon of lime pickle and throw in a Cinnamon stick. Simmer.

Keep and eye on this as you might need to add more water if the curry looks like it is getting too thick.

About 10 minutes before your curry is done do some soft boiled eggs - eggs into cold water, bring to the boil then cook for 7 minutes. When done, put them into a bowl of cold water then peel them when they're cool enough to handle.

Stir some chopped coriander into the curry, if you fancy, then serve in bowls with the halved boiled eggs on top. Flatbreads go nicely with this curry and I prefer using them rather than serving the curry with rice.

Lentils, friend of the student and the vegetarian. And now firm friend of the unemployed.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Pear and beetroot salad with feta and parma ham

To most people, including me, pear and beetroot salad doesn't sound that enticing. But the flavours in this salad are great. Me and my partner have eaten this 3 times a week some weeks! If you're cooking for 2 you'll probably end up having it twice to make sure you don't throw half a block of feta away. Not a bad thing.

The original recipe, in Cook with Jamie, uses a mix of raw beetroot. We've used pre-cooked beetroot and it's still very tasty. It's simple to make as well.

Peel and core your pears then slice thinly, a pear per person will do. Do the same with your beetroot and mix with the sliced pears. Crumble over half a block of feta then pour over a dressing of olive oil and lemon juice and season. The original recipe uses mint but we prefer to use thyme to make the taste a bit more savoury. You could leave it at that, but parma ham works really, really well in the salad and seems to make it more of a meal.

That's it. From start to satisfied in about half an hour. Make it once and I guarantee you'll make it again and again.