Saturday, 27 August 2016

Perfect Poached Eggs

Cooking poached eggs seems to be something that everyone has their own technique for doing. I've tried various methods such as swirling the water before hand or adding vinegar to the water, but the best method I've found is the one I describe below.

Ingredients:

  • eggs

Method:

  1. Get a frying pan with high sides of about an inch
  2. Fill the frying pan about 3/4 full with water
  3. Heat over a high heat until the water starts to simmer
  4. Turn the heat down so that the water is happily simmering away
  5. Break the egg into a cup
  6. As carefully as possible, and from as close to the surface of the water as possible, pour the egg into the water in one smooth movement
  7. Cook for about a minute, or a minute and a half
  8. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon and serve

The yolk in these eggs will still be nice and runny. If you want it firmer then simmer in the water for about a minute longer or go for the microwave method.

Red Lentil Stew

This is really simple to make: you just throw the ingredients into the slow cooker in the morning and you have a hearty stew in the evening. This works well as a quick meal with the addition of a couple of poached eggs on top.

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 300g dried red lentils
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp herbs de provence
  • 700ml water

Method:

  1. Put all the ingredients into the slow cooker and stir well
  2. Cook on low for 8 hours
  3. Serve and enjoy

Serves 4 as a side dish.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Sous-vide Bacon Belly

I've been cooking using sous-vide for a while now, but realised that I wasn't recording my recipes so I was at risk of forgetting them. I built my own sous-vide, but you can get clip-on devices for under £200 these days, so it's almost in the reach of everyday cooking.

Ingredients:

  • 600g slab of cured pork belly, cut into thirds
  • 10 leaves of fresh sage
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 3 tbsp of sunflower oil
  • 2 Bramley or cooking apples, peeled, core removed and sliced into half cm slices.
  • 15g butter

Method:

  1. Put your sous-vide machine on to 68 degrees Celsius.
  2. Turn down the top of three zip lock freezer bags (to reduce the risk of getting raw meat on the outside of the bag) and place each slice of pork into a separate bag.
  3. Rip up the sage leaves and divide between the bags.
  4. Use the water submersion method to squeeze all the air out of the bags, sealing the top just as it's above the line of the water.
  5. Place in the sous-vide machine for 24 hours. Pork belly sometimes floats (although rarely when cured) so you might need to rest a plate gently on top to force it under the water.
  6. About 25 minutes before it's time to eat, put the onions in a saucepan with a tablespoon of the sunflower oil. Put a lid on the pan and sweat the onions over a low heat for 10 minutes.
  7. Add the apple and cooking for a further 15 minutes with the lid on, stirring every minute or so. When the apple starts to break apart then its ready. If it looks a bit dry at any point then add a couple of tablespoons of cold water.
  8. When the meat has had its day of cooking, remove it from the sous-vide machine and pour the cooking liquids out of the bags into a jug. Use kitchen towel to wipe the skin side of the pork until it's fully dry.
  9. Heat the last two tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat.
  10. Place the slices of pork onto the frying pan, skin side down, and fry for about a minute to crisp up the skin.
  11. Put the slices of pork on your serving plates and throw the juice from the sous-vide bag into the frying pan to deglaze the pan. Let it simmer for about a minute before adding the butter.
  12. Once the butter has melted into the sauce, drizzle it over the slices of pork and place a spoonful of the apple sauce on the side.
  13. Serve with mashed potato, rice or some proper homemade baked beans.

Serves 3.

Once cooked in this way you can also keep the belly in the bag and place it into the fridge when it's cooled a bit. The liquid around it will set into a jelly as it cools. You can then leave it in the fridge for a few days, ready to eat when you want it. To reheat, heat a bit of oil in a frying pan on a medium-high. Scrape the jelly off the belly and sear first one side and then the opposite one for a couple of minutes on each side. Throw the jelly into the pan for the last minute and it'll melt down and pull off the char from the pan. Serve and drizzle the liquid from the pan over the belly to get something like this:

Monday, 22 August 2016

Pan Fried Pork Belly

If you don't want to spend a week curing the meat then you can marinade the meat in a mixture of vinegar and soy sauce overnight, but it doesn't give quite the same effect or flavour

Ingredients:

  • 600g slab of cured pork belly, sliced into 1cm slices
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 2 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 spring onions, washed and thinly sliced

Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat.
  2. Cook the slices of pork belly for about 10 minutes on each side: you want to develop a nice colour so you might need to press them down with the back of a fish slice after a few minutes in the pan.
  3. While the pork belly is cooking, mix the ketchup, chilli sauce and soy sauce in a bowl until it's a uniform consistency.
  4. Place the browned pork belly onto a place, sprinkle over the sliced spring onions and then drizzle the sauce over the top.
  5. Serve with plain rice and some green leaves, such as lettice (the crispness of the leaves goes well with the rich belly).

Serves 3.

Pork Belly Bacon

This isn't really a recipe, more just a statement of how easy it is to make bacon from a lump of pork. There are so many pre-made mixes of curing salts available from internet retailers that it's ridiciously easy to do. You buy a packet of the salt, get a piece of meat and then you're basically done.

Ingredients:

  • 600g slab of pork belly
  • 40g of pre-mixed curing salt mix (check with the mix you've chosen for the exact quantities though: too much nitrates can poison you)

Method:

  1. Place your piece of meat in a plastic bag that can be closed, like a zip-lock freezer bag. Make sure to turn the tops of the bag over when placing the meat in to reduce the risk of getting raw meat on the outside of the bag.
  2. Sprinkle the curing salt over the meat in the bag.
  3. Use your fingers through the bag to work the salt into all the cracks of the meet.
  4. Fill a bowl or your sink full of water and carefully lower the bag into it to squeeze out all the air. Lower the opening at the top to just above the level of the water before sealing.
  5. Place in the back of the fridge for a week, turning every couple of days.
  6. Slice and cook like bacon or roast it whole.

Serves 3 (aim for about 200g per person)

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Marinaded Courgette Salad

This year I grew a couple of courgette plants in the garden and they are producing a large number of sizeable courgettes. While looking for recipes, the @sweden account on twitter posted a recipe, which I used as inspiration for this dish.

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg of courgette, about 6 'normal' courgettes, sliced into 1cm slices
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed with a garlic press
  • 2 tsp of capers, without liquid
  • 100g of feta cheese, finely chopped or crumbled

Method:

  1. Put the courgette slices into a large bowl, drizzle over the olive oil and toss around until they are evenly coated.
  2. Season with salt and pepper while you heat up a griddle, barbecue or frying pan on a medium-high heat.
  3. Lay the slices into the pan and cook for about 5 minutes on each side. You want to get a nice char on them for added flavour. Unless you have a large pan, you'll probably end up needing to do two or three batches.
  4. Return the cooked slices to the large bowl and pour over the lemon juice and garlic. Mix well so that everything has a good coating.
  5. Cover and place in the fridge until you're ready to eat it.
  6. Just before serving, top with a sprinkle of the capers and cheese, give it a bit of a stir.

Makes about 4 to 6 servings.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Porcini Salt

Flavoured salts are very easy to make: requiring little more than an airtight jar and some patience. The rich flavour of the porcini mushrooms makes this salt one to use sparingly.
  • 10g dried porcini mushrooms
  • 125g sea salt flakes

Ingredients:

Method:

  1. Place the dry porcini mushrooms into a mini-blender, coffee or spice grinder and blend until slightly finer than your salt flakes.
  2. Combine the finely chopped mushrooms with the salt and give it a good mix.
  3. Pour into an airtight container and leave for two weeks for the flavours to infuse.
  4. Sprinkle a little on a mild dish, such as pasta, risotto or scrambled eggs, for a flavoursome addition.

Makes a small jar of flavoured salt.