stuffed pork belly roast

Pork belly is a beautiful boneless, fatty cut of meat from the belly of a pig. Many will say it is best served pink when stuffed and roasted although I prefer a longer cooking time, that yields perfectly moist and tender meat.
There is much debate about the perfect crackling and there are many methods to achieve the crunchiest crackle, although I have learned that it only takes a little patience and the right preparation to achieve this tasty, teeth breaking goodness.
In my view, the toughest part of cooking the perfect belly is scoring the meat, which is an impossible task without a very sharp knife. I have, in the past, used a shaving (minora) blade, which certainly isn’t the ideal but it works quite well.
My butcher, however, was kind enough to score, roll & tie this large pork belly on my behalf, which really simplified things. To save you time and effort I suggest contacting your butcher to arrange for them to do all the hard work so that you can focus on the important task of cooking this tasty piece of meat.

ingredients | serves 6 | a little effort
for the belly
1.4kg pork belly, scored and dried
olive oil
1/2c – 1c coarse salt

for the stuffing
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
60g butter, melted
olive oil
2t fennel seeds
20g fresh sage leaves
zest of 1 lemon
60g walnuts
40g semi-dried tomatoes
large handful fresh parsley
5T breadcrumbs

for the trivet
1 whole garlic head, halved
1 onion, quartered
4 celery ribs, halved
2 large carrots, halved
3 leeks, halved
1/2lt chicken stock
juice of 1 lemon
1c white wine
2 stalks rosemary
1c apple juice

how to do it
preheat the oven to 230 degrees C/210 with fan.
Lay the pork belly down on the meat side and score the skin in a diamond shape, taking care not to cut all the way down to the meat.
Dry the belly using towel paper. Set aside.
Heat one tablespoon of olive oil and a little butter in small skillet and cook the onion & garlic until tender, taking care not to burn it. Set aside to cool.
Combine the fennel seeds, walnuts, dried tomatoes, parsley, breadcrumbs and butter together in a food processor and process until well combined and almost finely chopped. If the mixture is too dry, add olive oil a little at a time until you have reached a paste like consistency. Set aside.
Turn the belly over with the meat side facing up. Sprinkle the meat with the lemon zest.
Combine the onion mixture & the stuffing mixture and spread it over the belly leaving about a centimeter open on each side.
Pack the sage leaves on top of the stuffing. Season with black pepper and a little salt.
Carefully roll the belly and lay it down on the seam side. Using cooking string, tie the belly at about 2cm intervals.
Rub the belly with olive oil and then rub the coarse salt into the skin making sure you get into the scored lines.
Place the halved garlic head, onion, celery, carrot & leek into a roasting tin, place the belly on top and into the oven to roast for 35-40 minutes to crisp up the skin.
Remove the tin from the oven and turn the heat down to 160 degrees C/140 degrees with a fan.
Pour the apple juice & white wine around the belly taking care not to touch the meat. The liquid should not reach the meat and only cover the vegetables.
Place the rosemary stalks into the liquid and roast the belly for further 2 – 2.5 hours.
If the skin is not crisp enough after the cooking time, pour the liquid & vegetables into a pot and roast the belly again at 230 degrees C for a further 15-20 minutes while you make the sauce.
If you are happy with the crackling, set the belly aside to rest for about 20 minutes while making the gravy.

Make the sauce
Using a handheld blender, blend the vegetables & liquid until almost smooth. Add the chicken stock and bring it to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for about 15-20 minutes until reduced. Pour the mixture through a fine sieve back into a pot. Reduce the mixture for a further 15 minutes if necessary. Taste and season.

Serve
Slice the belly in thick rounds and serve it with spring onion & mustard crushed potato, glazed carrots & gravy.

From my kitchen to yours, with love x




brisket & veg mash pie

Because brisket is a tough cut of meat, it yields the best results when slow cooked or braised for a couple of hours using a slow cooker or in your oven, at a low temperature.
Cooked right, brisket is rendered soft with incredible flavor. The meat falls apart and easily shreds, which makes this the perfect cut to cook in advance and freeze to use for pies, quesadillas, tacos or served on top of baked potato or mash. I also often use pulled brisket to serve with pappardelle pasta in a red wine & garlic sauce.

My inspiration for this dish came from a favorite in my home, Shepherd’s pie. I used pulled brisket from my freezer that I cooked for 4.5 hours in a delicious home made BBQ sauce and added chopped, streaky bacon to enhance the flavor.

ingredients | serves 4-6 | easy
600g cooked brisket, roughly chopped or pulled
1 white onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
200g streaky bacon, sliced
2 large carrots, cubed
3 leeks, chopped
2 stalks rosemary, leaves chopped
2 bay leaves
1C frozen peas
Handful fresh parsley, chopped
1 can crushed tomato
2T Worcester sauce
2T tomato paste
2C beef stock
1T brown sugar
1/2t salt
1t black pepper
2T olive oil
1T butter

for the mash
6 medium potatoes, cubed
1 garlic clove, halved
4T butter
1/3c sour cream or normal cream
salt to taste
white pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a large oven proof skillet and fry the bacon until almost crispy. About five minutes. Heat the remaining one tablespoon of olive oil & butter in the same skillet and saute the onion until glossy. Add the tomato paste, stir and cook for one minute.
Add the carrots, leeks, garlic, rosemary & bay leaf, stir to coat and cook for a further two minutes.
Tip the cooked brisket into the pot and stir. Add the crushed tomato, Worcester sauce, sugar, salt & pepper and simmer for about five minutes while stirring.
Pour the beef stock into the pot and bring to a light boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for the mixture for about 20 – 25 minutes, occasionally stirring, until the carrots are tender and the sauce has thickened slightly.
Remove the pot from the heat, stir the frozen peas through the mixture and set aside.

For the mash
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook the cubed potato and garlic clove until very soft.
Strain and tip the potatoes back into a dry pot. Place the pot on medium heat and dry the potatoes for about four minutes, tossing every now and again.
Add the butter and sour cream or normal cream and mash everything together.
Add salt & pepper to taste.
To remove small lumps, rapidly whisk until smooth.

Spoon the mashed potato onto the meat mixture and smooth it out with a spatula. Use a fork to make grooves/patterns in the mash.
Place the pot, uncovered, into the preheated oven and bake for about twenty minutes until the surface is lightly browned.

Serve with a garden salad.

From my kitchen to yours, with love x


warm barley & quinoa salad

For me, salads scream summer and since we are currently enjoying our beautiful winter season, it is fair to say that salad is almost last on my “have to make” food list. However, this warm salad of barley and quinoa was the perfect lunch comfort on a chilly day. At the fireplace with a glass of red wine, of course.
If you are not all that fond of smoked meats then grilled chicken breast, chorizo and grilled steak re also wonderful alternatives. I can definitely also recommend soft poached eggs.
The dressing is simple and delicious so take a few extra minutes and make it yourself. Home-made is so much better (and healthier) than store bought.
A simple way to mix the ingredients is using a glass jar to which you add all the dressing ingredients, seal it, shake it up and leave it to stand for a few minutes. Less mess and fewer things to wash up.

ingredients | serves 6 | a little effort
200g cooked pearl barley
150g cooked quinoa
1 large red onion, roughly chopped
300g smoked chicken, sliced
250g mushrooms, quartered
4 garlic cloves, sliced
5 sprigs thyme, leaves only & extra for garnish
120g mange tout or green beans
1C cherry tomatoes, halved
1C walnuts, roughly chopped and toasted
2T olive oil (more if needed)
3T butter
handful fresh parsley, roughly chopped
fresh rocket or watercress (optional)
avocado, optional
salt to taste
pepper

for the dressing
3T apple cider vinegar
3t Dijon mustard
3T maple syrup or honey
1/2C olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
pinch of salt
grind of black pepper

how to
Cook the pearl barley and quinoa to the packet instructions and set aside.
In a large skillet, heat the two tablespoons olive oil and butter together and saute the red onion for about two minutes. Add the sliced garlic and mushrooms and cook, while stirring, until the mushrooms are just cooked, about five minutes. Add the mange tout, tomatoes and thyme leaves, season with salt & pepper and cook for two more minutes.
Set aside.
In the same pan, warm the pearl barley & quinoa together with a tablespoon of butter. Season.
Spoon the barley & quinoa into a large salad bowl and top with the warm mushrooms & onion mixture. Add the sliced smoked chicken, walnuts & rocket.
Garnish with the parsley and extra fresh thyme.
Serve with sliced avocado, if using.

for the dressing
Mix all the dressing ingredients together in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid or whisk together in a deep bowl until emulsified. Seal the jar and shake for a few minutes. Add more olive oil & seasoning if desired.


haddock risotto with leeks & peas

I love a good risotto and will pay good money for a well cooked, tasty one although sometimes this seems like a tough request or expectation.
A good risotto is a process and needs a little love for a delicious end result. Take the time, nurture the arborio rice and you will be left with a wonderfully tasty meal, perfect for lunch or dinner.
Arborio rice is a starchy, short-grained rice variety that produces a luxuriously creamy finish and can absorb quite a bit of liquid without becoming mushy.
A little effort for this one but well worth your time and patience.
I used skinless, de-boned haddock that was lightly smoked. It has a flaky texture and a beautifully delicate flavor, perfect for the rich, creamy risotto it is served with
This dish is quite rich so is best served it with a simple rocket & avocado or tomato salad or simple steamed vegetables.

ingredients | serves 4 -6 | a little effort
270g haddock fillet, lightly smoked & de-boned
350ml milk
1 bay leaf
1/2 white onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
300g uncooked risotto
600ml fish stock
1C dry white wine
1/3C cream
3T creme fraiche
4 leeks, washed and sliced diagonally
1C frozen peas
3/4C finely grated Parmesan
1t dried dill
1.5t fine salt
1.5t black pepper
zest of half a lemon
bunch of fresh parsley, finely chopped
fresh dill, garnish (optional)
2T olive oil
80g salted butter

how to do it
In a pot, bring the milk and bay leaf to a gentle boil. Gently submerge the haddock fillet into the milk, bring it down to a simmer and poach for two to three minutes per side.
Remove the haddock using a slotted spoon. Set aside and reserve the milk for later use. Mix the fish stock and white wine together in a large jug. Set aside.
In a large pot, melt 20g butter with the olive oil. Saute the chopped onion until glossy taking care not to burn it. Add the leaks and cook until soft. About three minutes.
Add the uncooked risotto to the pot and stir to coat. Add the garlic and dried dill and cook for one minute while stirring.
Gently pour about one cup of stock & wine mixture into the risotto and stir. Leave to cook on a gentle heat, stirring twice, until almost fully absorbed. Repeat this until you have used all of the liquid. Add the remaining 60g butter and stir through.
Now pour the poaching milk and cream into the risotto and leave to simmer, while stirring for about three minutes.
Add the peas, stir and cook for three minutes. Stir the creme fraiche through the risotto mixture. Add the salt, pepper, zest, parsley and parmesan and stir well.
Flake the poached haddock into the risotto and give it a gentle mix. Taste and adjust seasoning. Garnish with fresh dill if using.

From my kitchen to yours, with love x





Brussels side

Brussels sprouts may not be to everyone’s taste but i really love them. This side dish is the perfect table wow factor and will leave your guests (and kids) loving brussels.
I used beautiful fatty streaky bacon here to add to the flavor of the dish. This can however be substituted for pancetta, chicken/duck/turkey bacon or reduced fat pork bacon.
For a simple and quick lunch, toss it through lemon, garlic & chilly spaghetti. Delicious!

ingredients | serves 2-4 | easy
300g Brussels sprouts, halved
125g streaky bacon, sliced
40g walnuts, roughly chopped
2 leeks, sliced diagonally
4 sprigs thyme, leaves only
2T olive oil
1T butter
1/2t salt
good grind of black pepper
zest of half a lemon

how to do it
Heat a dry pan over medium heat and toast the walnuts. Keep your eye on the pan to avoid it from burning.
Set aside.
Bring a pot of water to the boil. Submerge the halved Brussels sprouts in the water and blanch for three minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the water bath by running cold water into a large bowl and add one cup of ice to it. Remove the sprouts from the boiling water using a slotted spoon and submerge it into the iced water. Leave to cool and then drain.
Heat the olive oil and fry the bacon until almost crispy.
Add the leeks and Brussels sprouts, toss and then add the tablespoon of butter and the fresh thyme.
Cook on a moderate heat until the bacon have crisped beautifully and the sprouts has a nice color to its skin.
Sprinkle the toasted walnuts into the skillet and toss.
Season with the salt, pepper & lemon zest and toss to coat.

From my kitchen to yours, with love x