We all love weekends. For me it is a time to kick back and relax with my family after the stresses and strains that school and work routine brings. I love weekend cooking for this. I like it to be lazy, perhaps a BBQ in the summer with friends, a Sunday roast in the winter thrown into the oven to cook slowly, lie-ins on a Saturday morning followed by crisp, fluffy pancakes topped with bacon and smothered in delicious, sweet, sticky Maple Syrup or even a picnic packed hurriedly in the Spring after the depths of winter when we take advantage of the first few warm rays of sunshine and head off to fly kites on the sand dunes or to roam through the forests. My children get excited about our food. The twins will run around asking “are we having a BBQ?”, if they get the slightest whiff of you moving a single chair around the deck…they just LOVE BBQS! We have many and they associate them with good times, when we share our food with family and friends and spend entire carefree days out doors eating. The teenagers are the same when it comes to Saturday nights, this is their time, the twins are hurried off to bed and come 8pm we are all sitting around the fire watching a movie and eating homemade pizza or chicken goujons with red pepper mayo or devilishly devouring a steaming bowl of warm, spicy, cheese oozing Nachos, a tradition that has been going on for far too many years to remember and one that the twins will soon embrace as their brothers outgrow it. And then there is Friday, my favourite day of the week. The one that has all the anticipation of the weekend ahead and the excitement that my husband will be with me for the weekend. Friday night is our night, I try to cook something a little special and we crack open a bottle of wine and catch up after the hectic week. Last Friday night our dinner was a huge hit with all! Slow roasted pork belly which I marinated the previous night by coating it in a spice rub and soaking it in a brine to be cooked slowly for about 5 hours at a really low temperature all day Friday, taking the foil off for the last half hour and blasting it to give some really nice crisp crackling. The result was melt in the mouth pork that just fell off the bones and oozed with juiciness, the flavours were immense and everybody’s lips and fingers were thoroughly licked! It is worth sourcing a really good butcher for this. I am lucky as mine kills his own and the flavour and meat to fat ratio doesn’t compare to supermarket pigs!
CRISPY AROMATIC PORK
I stumbled across this recipe in one of my many cookery magazines, it is by Gizzi Erskine a TV Chef and Food Writer. Although the recipe says 2lb of pork, I used 4 lbs and made a delicious dinner on Sunday using the left over pork, tinned tomatoes, fennel and papadrelle…..I just adore using leftovers and the fact that my 4lb of inexpensive pork fed 6 of us two dinners!!!
FOR THE PORK
1 Cinnamom stick
1 tsp each whole cloves, fennel seeds, sichuan pepper corns and white pepper corns (I couldn’t find sichaun so I used pink instead)
1 star anise
3 pieces dried Chinese mandarin peel or the peel of 1 fresh mandarin ( I used fresh peel )
2lb piece of Pork Belly….( I used a 4 lb piece of organic free range pork from my local butcher ), slashed about 5mm apart for crackling.
400 ml chicken stock
Vegetable or groundnut oil for frying
Thinly sliced cucumber
Shredded spring onions
Hoi SIn sauce
Sriracha sauce ( this is a hot Asian sauce, I couldn’t find it so I used Sambal Oelek which I got in my local health food shop )
Pitta breads or Chinese pancakes
1) Put the cinnamon, cloves, fennel, pepper corns and star anise into a dry pan and toast over a low heat for a couple of minutes or until they begin to pop. Using a pestle and mortar pound the spices until roughly ground.
2) Place the ground spices in a medium saucepan with 3tbsp salt, the mandarin peel and 1 litre of water. Bring to the boil and then turn it off. Pour into a large bowl (big enough for the pork) and allow to cool completely. Sit the pork in the brine, cover and chill for 12 hours.
3)The following day heat the oven to 180C/160/fan/gas 4. Discard the brine and put the pork in a roasting tin, skin side up. Pour in the stock and 400ml water. Cover tightly with foil and roast until the pork is tender about 21/2 hours, (if you use 4lb of meat you will need to cook for longer. I turned the oven down to 140C and let it cook slowly for about 5 hours. For the last half hour of cooking remove the foil and turn the oven up to 220C/200Cfan/Gas7 and continue to roast until the skin is golden and crispy.
4) After removing from the oven and allowing to rest and pull the pork away from the fat. Toast some pitta breads or heat some chinese pancakes (as per packet instructions) and fill each with some of the pork, cucumber and spring onions and smother with lots of Hoi sin and Sambal sauce…..or just Hoi sin if you don’t like heat.