Creamy Honey, Mustard and Cider Pork

Creamy honey, mustard and cider pork

This is very simple and ready in less than 15 minutes – a superquick and tasty midweek supper. Good flavours, and you can make it low-fat by using low-fat crème fraiche instead of cream. I actually prefer crème fraiche to ordinary cream anyway, it’s more zingy.

Ingredients
Serves 2

1 pork fillet (tenderloin)
½ a large onion or 1 small one
2tsp wholegrain mustard
2tsp honey
3 tablespoons crème fraiche (I use low-fat)
About 100ml dry cider
A knob of butter
salt and pepper to taste

The Cooking

First slice the tenderloin into medallions, about 1 or 2cm thick. Mix together the crème fraiche, mustard and honey in a bowl and set aside.

Put the butter in a frying pan and set it on a fairly high heat. Slice the onion finely and once the butter is frothing, add them to the pan. You’re not doing long, slow cooking here (although you could if you really wanted to), so simply soften and brown the onions, making sure the stir frequently so they don’t burn. Once they’ve got a nice colour, either remove the onions from the pan or move them to the edge. Add a bit more butter if the pan is dry and add the pork medallions.

Now don’t touch it for 1 minute. Don’t be tempted to faff about, moving them round the pan. It doesn’t need it. After 1 minute, turn the medallions over and do them on that side for another minute. Now pour over the cider and let it bubble away for a minutes or so and reduce a bit. Take the pan off the heat and add the onions (if you previously removed them) and the crème fraiche/honey/mustard mix. Stir in well, reduce the heat and put the pan back on the heat. Let it simmer for a couple of minutes, have a taste and add salt and pepper as you feel it needs it. Voila, it’s ready.

I like to serve it with rice, but you can also have it with potatoes, veg, noodles, whatever you like. Very nice.

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Roast Pork Belly with Braised Puy lentils

Pork belly is so ridiculously easy I can’t believe I don’t do it more. Granted, there’s a lot of fat on it, but it’s really tasty fat – not the unpleasantly rubbery kind you can sometimes get on chops, but part soft, part crunchy really good stuff. And the fat bastes the meat as it’s cooking, making it sweet and tender and NOM.

The lentils are also simple and the mashed potatoes… well, you know how to make mashed potatoes.

Ingredients
Pork belly. However much you need to feed however many people you’re cooking for. Use the power of your eyes to judge when you buy it.

Puy lentils – about a cup’s worth for two people – multiply as necessary.
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
3 or 4 sage leaves
A little oil
About 1 pint of stock – meat, chicken or vegetable, it’s up to you. I used ham stock as that’s what I had in and it matched the pork.

The Cooking

First preheat the oven to about 170C/340F. Rub some salt on the skin of the pork, put it on a roasting tray and put it in the oven. Leave it for 2 and a half hours THAT’S IT. That is all you have to do. The meat will become tender and sweet and the skin will become lovely crackling. This is the world’s easiest cut of meat to cook, I swear.

About 40 minutes before the 2 and a half hours is up, roughly chop up the onion, garlic and sage leaves and heat up a splash of oil in a saucepan. Fry the onion until it’s just turning golden and then add the lentils and garlic. Fry for another couple of minutes and then add half the stock. Bring it up to the simmer and then just let it gently bubble away for half an hour, stirring occasionally. If it dries out, add more of the stock. Have a taste and if it needs salt and pepper, add it. Make sure it’s not too salty because pork is naturally salty anyway.

While the lentils are simmering, make the mashed potatoes if you’re having them.

Once the pork is done, take it out of the oven, let it relax for a few minutes and then cut it into hefty slices. Artfully arrange it on the lentils so it looks extra-nice and serve. Classy, tasty food.

Roast pork loin stuffed with pinenuts, lemon and sage and wrapped in parma ham

Pork loin

How posh does that look? And yet, it only took me 40 minutes to make and all cooks in the oven at the same time – no saucepans to wash up, nice and easy. Pork is quite lean so this is also low-fat. Positively good for you.

Pork, lemon and sage work well together with the pinenuts for texture and contrast. I made it with roasted parsnips, carrots and red onions because they all release sugars and are quite sweet when roasted and so counteract the sharpness of the lemon with the pork. The whole thing balances very well.

Ingredients
Serves 2

1 pork tenderloin
A handful of pinenuts
The grated zest of half an unwaxed lemon (make sure it is unwaxed, otherwise you’re eating wax. Who wants that?)
4 or 5 sage leaves
2 or 3 slices of parma ham or proscuitto

Veg for roasting. I recommend any of the following: parsnips, swede, red onions, red peppers, carrots, squash.

The Cooking

Pre-heat the oven to 190C/370F.

First do your prep – peel and slice the veg into appropriately-sized pieces according to how you want them. Put them in a roasting tray, sprinkle them with salt and drizzle with olive oil and give it a shake so they’re all evenly covered.

Grate the lemon rind, but make sure that you don’t also grate the pith (white bit) because that’s bitter. Put the pinenuts in a plastic bag and bash them with a heavy implement (a can of beans or a rolling pin will do). Chop the sage leaves finely. Mix these three ingredients together.

Slice the pork loin almost but not completely in half lengthwise and open it out butterfly-style. Put the stuffing mix in the middle of the opened-out loin and close it up again, encasing the stuffing.

Now lie the parma ham out flat on the chopping board, put the pork loin on top and roll the pork up in the ham. It’ll be thus:

pork loin in parma ham

Pop it onto the roasting tray and put everything in the oven. After 15 minutes, give the veg a shake and turn over the pork. After another 15 minutes, it should all be done.

Slice the pork into medalions to make it look pretty. Serve it up. Tasty.

Ham Hock and Stock

Ham stock

This is proper frugal food. A whole ham hock costs me £1.75 – and that’s a posh organic one from my local farmer’s market – and it’s easily made to stretch to three meals. It baffles me why this isn’t a more widely used joint of meat. Granted, the initial cooking takes some time but you’re not standing at the stove slaving away over it, it just bubbles away on its own for a few hours. If I wasn’t so paranoid about accidentally burning down my flat, I’d put this on in the morning, go out and do other things, and then come back and it would be ready. As it is, it’s a pleasant Sunday night ritual to cook a ham hock ready for the week.

You also end up with a great big ham bone. As tempting as it is to give this to a dog, a vet friend of mine told me off for doing this because the bone will have softened in the cooking and splinters easily. So. Don’t do that.

Ingredients for Stock

A ham hock
2 carrots
1 onion, red or white
6 or so peppercorns
6 or so juniper berries if you have them
A couple of bay leaves
A bouquet garni if you have it
Celery, leeks, whatever veg you have in except for brassicas like cabbage, broccoli or spouts. They can rather overpower the stock.
Water

No salt – the ham is salty enough itself.

The Cooking

You don’t need to peal anything, just wash the veg, cut the bulkier items in half and then bung all the ingredients in a large pan. Pour in cold water slowly. The reason you do it slowly is that you don’t want to disturb the fat on the ham too much – if the fat gets jostled and dislodged, bits of it will float around in the water and this is what makes stock cloudy and greasy. The water should just cover the ingredients.

Put it on a low to medium heat on the hob (stovetop). The aim is for the fat and scum to rise to the surface as intact as possible so you can skim it off easily and the stock stays clear.

Once it’s come to a gentle simmer, skim off any fat and scum that has risen to the surface with a spoon. Turn down the heat even more. You want the barest of simmering going on – the occasional “bloop” from a bubble every few seconds. This is so that the collagen in the meat softens and dissolves, which flavours the stock and means the meat doesn’t dry out.

For the first half an hour or so, check back and skim off any further rubbish that’s risen to the surface. After this time it will probably have all risen. You can do now go off and do your own thing for a few hours. I give it a stir every hour or so to make sure there’s no ingredients poking out of the top of the water and drying up.

The liquid will reduce a bit, which is a good thing. The flavours are getting concentrated. After 4 hours it should be nearly ready. Have a taste. If it’s full of flavour, it’s ready.

Strain the stock through a fine mesh colander into a suitable container and leave it to cool. You now have stock:

And ham:

Once the ham has cooled, tear it off the bone and either eat straight away or put it in the fridge for later. Chuck the veg and fat away, it’s no use to anyone but the pigs now.*

You can use the stock straight away but it might be a bit greasy. Instead, let it cool and then leave it in the fridge overnight. In the morning there will be a layer of fat on the top which you can skim off. The stock will probably be jellified, which is a great sign because it means you got the temperature right and the gelatin from the bones has leached out and the stock will be really full of flavour. It’ll become liquid again when you heat it up.

The stock is now ready for use. Tomorrow’s post will be a selection of recipes for the ham and stock.

*Don’t feed pigs with it. That would be wrong.

Creamy pork and cider casserole

Pork and cider casserole

This is a very simple casserole, good for the approaching autumn. Pork, apples, cream and sage all have a natural affinity and with fluffy mashed potatoes this is a really comforting dinner.

Ingredients
Feeds 2 hungry people

About 300g diced pork.
About 250ml cider – alcoholic or non alcoholic, your choice. But don’t use sweetened apple juice.
1 small onion, roughly chopped
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
About 3 tbsp cream – I used single cream. If you’re feeling low-fat you can use low-fat creme fraiche.
Sage – either about 1/2 tsp dried or 3 or 4 fresh leaves.
1tbsp oil
Salt and pepper to taste

The Cooking

Pre-heat the oven to about 160C/320F. You don’t want it too hot or the pork will dry up.

First, do your prep. Peel and chop the onion and carrots. Do it quite chunky, this is a chunky kind of dish. Heat the oil up in a casserole dish on the hob (stovetop) on a medium heat and when it’s hot chuck in the onion and carrots. Fry them, stirring occasionally for 5 or so minutes until the onion is soft but not brown.

Throw in the diced pork and turn up the heat a bit and fry it for a couple of minutes. You don’t need it to brown and cook through, you’re just searing it. Add the salt, pepper and sage and pour over the cider and bring it up to a simmer. The liquid should be just up to the top of the ingredients – if it’s not then add some water or pour some out. Put the casserole dish in the oven (without a lid).

Now go and have a cup of tea and watch Corrie (for my Americanadian friends read: have a cup of coffee and watch… Day of Our Lives?). Stir the casserole after about 15 minutes so – the liquid should be simmering gently and have reduced a bit. Leave it alone for another 15 minutes and then stir it again, to stop the pork drying out. If you’re having it with mash, put the potatoes on now.

When the potatoes are almost done (or after another 20-ish minutes), add the cream to the casserole. Stir and return to the oven for 5 or 10 minutes (while you finish off the potatoes).

And that’s it, it’s ready to eat.

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How to sweat onions and mushrooms, etc

The process of sweating food means exactly what you think it means – making them release water. Almost all cooking methods involve releasing water from food, but when you’re given the instruction to sweat something in a recipe, it generally means that you need to keep the released water from evaporating to a certain extent.

For example, when sweating onions or mushrooms, you need to put a lid over the pan in which you are frying them in order to trap the condensation. This means the water doesn’t evaporate, they don’t dry out, and they end up cooking in their own expelled water. As long as you have them on a low heat, they can go on stewing in their own juices for quite a while, intensifying their flavour.

A good guideline as to when onions or other ingredients have been sweated properly is when they’re soft and floppy but not swimming in their own juices. If a massive amount of water is released during the cooking and doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere, just take the lid off and let it evaporate, stirring often. It’s not ideal, and if your ingredient is letting out loads of water, you may want to investigate why it’s got such a high water content.

For example, when you fry cheap bacon, you get loads of watery rubbish released from the meat because it’s bulked out with saline solution. But good bacon releases hardly any water, because it’s mostly meat and fat. It’s worth looking out for.

Pork tenderloin wrapped in pesto and parma ham with puy lentils

Pork tenderloin

This takes slightly more effort than just bunging something in the oven, but only slightly more and it is worth it. Pork and lentils are such a great match.

Ingredients
Serves 2

1 pork tenderloin
4-ish tablespoons of pesto – either shop-bought or make your own (takes 5 minutes)
4 slices parma ham or proscuitto
Aluminium foil

½ an onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
Puy lentils. Judge for yourself how much you want.
Vegetable stock

The Cooking

Pre-heat the oven to about 180C/350F

First of all, heat up the olive oil in a saucepan to a medium/high heat and chop the onion. When the oil is good and hot, bung in the onion and cook until softened but not browned (about 5 minutes). Add in the lentils and stir it well and cook for about a minute and then pour in some vegetable stock – enough to cover the lentils and then some. Because every time you cook lentils they’re different, you’ll need to judge for yourself if you need to add more stock as they’re cooking. I tend to top the stock up as I go so that it’s neither a big soupy mass nor dried out. Turn the heat down and simmer.

Now smear the pesto over the pork loin all over so it’s well covered. Lay out the slices of parma ham flat and so they overlap slightly. Lie the pork loin on top of the slices and then wrap the ham round the pork so it’s tightly wrapped. If you’ve got some ham left over you can also fold some over the ends. Now wrap the whole thing in aluminium foil and put on an oven tray. Pop it into the oven for 15-20 minutes.

By the time the pork is done the lentils should also be ready. Have a taste and season with salt and pepper if you think it needs it. If they’re a bit bland you can add things like Worcestershire sauce, thai fish sauce, mushroom ketchup. It’s up to you.

Slice the pork and serve it with the lentils. Lush.

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