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Saturday, 29 December 2012

austerity cooking

Ah, Christmas. A time for ill-advised knitwear, lying to children, and dodgy office parties. Oh, and shameless gluttony of course. It's as though December provides the perfect black hole for calories and cash- it's Christmas, so it would be rude not to buy/eat/drink everything in sight, even if we know all too well that feeling of dread and self loathing that hits us once January rolls around. But for now, it's December, and the festive season is in full swing. So without further ado, lets talk about food.
My own ill-advised knitwear. Well- it is Christmas...
For all you Christmas purists out there, there's turkey, 'nuff said. Luckily, due to a combination of a great mother and mother-in-law, I've managed to escape the delights of this dry, over priced and over-rated bird for most of my festive dinners. Frankly, I just don't understand why people invest so much time and effort in what is essentially an oversized chicken on Christmas Day. But, I'm not here to court controversy; instead I'm here to share a recipe that's perfect for the POST Christmas period- you know, those iffy few days between the Big Day itself and New Years. Or, it's great as a relatively fuss-free New Year's Day dinner, and it's a meal that can stretch to as many distant relatives as may deign to rock up on your doorstep over the festive season, providing brilliantly versatile leftovers that I will follow up on with not one, but TWO recipes over the coming week. Which is where the 'austerity' part of this cooking comes in- the cut, due in part to it's size, isn't exactly cheap, but remember- it is Christmas. And the reincarnated leftover dishes freeze perfectly, which will be a relief come January's credit card bill...

I'm not afraid to admit that this is a bastardized Jamie Oliver recipe. Now that's not to say there was anything wrong with the original, it's just that I do enjoy tinkering with things. I also believe that with any recipe, there's always the opportunity to put your own stamp on something- so long as you're not screwing with any basic chemistry at work (so no tampering with Mary Berry's sponge, please).

It's also worth mentioning that this takes a Very. Long. Time. But, it's worth it, and you can prattle around the house while it's cooking- maybe take the time to pair up all those nice new socks you seem to have acquired...

Jerk-Roasted Pulled Pork For The Masses

What You Need:

  • 5kg boned and rolled pork shoulder, but ask your butcher nicely if they still have the bone hanging around. I also bought a nice little rack of ribs for the meat to rest on while it's cooking- the meat's delicious after a few hours in the oven.
  • 1 x bottle of good quality cider- I really like the slightly medicinal taste of Hecks in this dish. You are, of course, permitted a cheeky swig for yourself every once in a while...
  • 1 x can of Coca Cola (other 'cola' brands are available, but let's face it- they're shit. So just buy the real stuff)
  • A handful of fresh thyme, leaves ripped off
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds, lightly bashed with anything solid you have to hand
  • A liberal grating of fresh nutmeg
  • Maldon Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 3 x scotch bonnet chillis. More if you like it really hot, less if you're a bit of a whimp.
  • 2 tbsp dark muscavado sugar
  • A large knob of fresh ginger, grated
  • 1/2 tbsp allspice
  • 1/2 tbsp cloves
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic, mashed with salt in a pestle and mortar
  • Juice and zest of three limes
  • A bunch of healthy-looking coriander
What You Do:

1. Preheat your oven to its hottest setting- I was quite impressed to discover that ours manages 260 degrees. If your butcher hasn't already, score the skin of your pork and rub all over with the fresh thyme, ground cumin, fennel seeds, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Do this dry at first, and then follow with a hefty glug of olive oil to lubricate things nicely.

2. Pop your joint into a snug-fitting oven tray, resting on the bones. Pour half of the cider and half of the coke into the BOTTOM of the tray, taking care to leave the skin completely dry. If it gets even the tiniest bit soggy, your crackling will be abysmal (and we all know legendary crackling is the benchmark of all good pork). Place in the middle of your swelteringly hot oven for half an hour.

3. After the 30-minute mark, turn the oven down to 130 degrees, and add the rest of the cider and coke to the oven tray. You're afforded a bit of faffing-time doing this, as you'll need to have the door open for a moment to cool the oven down anyway.

4. Set your timer for three and a half hours. Commence sock organising.

5. Once it's up, cover your joint with a layer of foil. Set the timer for a further three and a half hours. Write a short play, or learn a language.

6. And, we're done! Well, nearly. Once your timer has sounded, pull the joint carefully out of the oven. Move to a large plate, and leave to rest with the foil on. Skim the fat from the top of the oven tray (do not chuck this carelessly down your sink. Not only will it probably bugger up your drain, it's also a shameful waste of excellent fat that would much rather be used on a potato one day), and pour all the remaining juices into your favourite bowl.

7. Finely chop your scotch bonnets, and avoid all eye-scratching, tooth-picking and baby-cuddling pursuits until you've thoroughly washed your hands. In your nice bowl, start concocting what is essentially a Jerk seasoning-mix the sugar, grated ginger, ginger powder, allspice, cloves, mashed garlic, lime juice and zest. Don't worry too much about being exact with the quantities, tweak according to your own palate. It needs to taste a lot stronger than you'd think, as it has a rather large heap of meat to cover.

8. Remove the layer of crackling from the pork. If it isn't quite up to scratch, pop it under a hot grill for a few minutes. Scrape off the white, flobbery layer of fat from underneath, and discard. Now, start the shredding- the meat should fall 'aaahhh-' inducingly apart- in slow motion, just like a Marks and Spencer advert. Pull it all apart with two forks, and then toss in the jerk seasoning. 

Pile onto your favourite serving plate, and let everyone dig in. It's best served with something that can mop up the juices adequately, so I tend to do mine with sweet potato mash and lots of hot greens. As I mentioned, unless you really are feeding the five thousand there should be a fair bit of meat leftover. Just cover this up and stick it in the fridge to await further instructions...!

Merry Christmas/Happy Hannukah/Jolly New Year and all that malarkey...

mrs hunt.x

Monday, 3 December 2012

the not-so tough cookie

This post could be considered a bit of a follow-on from last week's chocolate prattlings- but no rants this time, just recipes. Or one, at least- my gruff, manly chocolate cookie recipe. Cookies might not be the most gastronomically exciting foodstuff, but there's something quite comforting about baking a batch every once in a while. These ones have a 'hero' ingredient- Green and Blacks Mayan Chocolate. It can be substituted for any other interesting variety of chocolate you might prefer (it works well with the chilli-infused stuff too) but the orange zest and spices in this particular bar are fairly distinctive, and fittingly festive to boot.

As you might have picked up from last week's post (which had all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, I'm sure), I'm brazenly snobbish when it comes to chocolate. Now I know Green and Black's can hardly be considered 'artisan' anymore, but it's bloody nice, and a reasonable price for its calibre. Some purists would argue that its dark varieties aren't, strictly speaking, 'dark', since they list milk solids amongst the ingredients. However, after a bit of nosing, I gather this is for allergy reasons and nothing else; they do not use milk solids in the recipe, if you cared. Plus, they're Fair Trade, which is nice.

So, without further ado, my recipe for...

Vaguely Festive Chocolate Cookies:

What You Need:

  • 125g dark chocolate
  • 150g plain flour
  • 30g cocoa, sifted
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • A grating of nutmeg- enough that you can taste it, not so much that you start hallucinating.
  • 125g butter (see below...)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or use salted butter), at room temeperature if possible.
  • 100g light brown sugar
  • 25g muscavado sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (NOT essence. Horrible stuff)
  • 1 free-range egg- cold from the fridge.
  • 200g Green & Blacks Maya Gold chocolate, chipped.

What You Do:

1. Preheat your oven to 150 degrees if you're using a fan oven. Crank it up to 170 degrees if you're not. Pop an inch (no more) of water into a pan, and place on a low heat. Break up your dark chocolate, and melt it in a snug-fitting bowl over the barely simmering water. If the bowl gets too hot, or the water touches the bottom, your chocolate will suddenly transform into a grainy mess that you'll be forced to eat while you try again.

2.Place the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cocoa, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg and, if you're using it, the salt, into a large bowl and mix well.

3.In another bowl (or electric mixer, if you have one), beat the butter until it pales. Add the two sugars, and continue to beat for a few minutes until fluffy. Try not to forget about your melting chocolate in the mean time, and once it's smooth and glossy pour this in and stir through.

4. Beat in the vanilla extract, and crack in the egg. Mix in your dry ingredients.

5. Finally, stir in your Mayan chocolate chips. This is also a good time to start eating your batter.

6. Scoop out enough mix to create a cookie-ball in a size that strikes you as appropriate- this recipe makes 12 decent-sized biscuits, depending on how much of the batter you've managed to consume by this point. Place them on a lined baking sheet, about 2-3" apart. Any closer and you'll end up with a cookie sheet, which I suppose is no disaster. But if you're going for the traditional cookie form, then strategic spacing is advisable. DO NOT PAT DOWN! You might have to do a couple of batches, depending on the size of your baking tray.

7. Bake in the middle of your oven for about 18 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean from the middle, not wet with batter. They might still seem very soft, but don't panic. Leave them to firm up on the baking tray for five minutes or so, and then transfer them to a wire rack.

I like my cookies still warm, served with a bit of creme fraiche and orange zest. If they last long enough to merit it worthy, stick them in an  airtight container and they should last a couple of days.

Happy cookie-munching.

mrs hunt x