Thursday, 10 November 2011

Five-spiced roast pork belly with leek pilaff

Serves 4


For the pork:

2 tsp five spice powder
3 tbsp dark soy sauce
A thumb and a half sized piece of ginger, finely grated
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
3 star anise
8 large pork belly strips

For the pilaff:

100g wild rice
140g basmati rice
1 leek, cut lengthways and finely sliced
1 large bunch coriander, leaves picked
1 lime


Mix the 5 spice, soy, grated ginger and hoisin sauce and then rub into the meat. Put the marinated meat in a baking dish which just accommodates it, and leave it to marinate in the fridge for a few hours or ideally overnight.

Approx 2 hours before you want to eat, pre-heat your oven to 160 ° C. Arrange the pork strips skin side up and put them in the oven. After 30 minutes baste the pork with the juices. Repeat after another 30 minutes and then keep an eye on the pork to ensure it does't burn on top. If it gets close to burning, you should be able to turn some pieces so that the more cooked side is sitting in the juice.

Stir-fry the leek in a little sesame oil, grate in the zest of half a lime and add a good pinch of salt. Cook the rice as per the instructions. I put the wild rice in first and throw in the basmati 8-9 minutes before the wild rice is ready. Add the leek to the cooked rice and stir in the juice of half a lime. If the pork isn't ready, you can cover the rice and keep it warm in a cool oven.

Twenty minutes before you want to eat, drain the juice from the pork and return the pork to a cooler oven. About 140 ° C. The pork, now free from juice, should now dry out and crisp up a bit. Don't work, it won't dry out too much as it has layered fat within the meat.

The pan juice is full of flavour but will also be very fatty. Strain off the juice and discard the fat. If there is a lot of juice, you could now reduce it while you wait for the pork.

Divide the pilaff between warmed plates, drizzle a little pan juice over the rice and top each pile with two belly strips. Garnish with coriander leaves if you're posh.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Spaghetti With Goats Cheese and Rocket

Some of my favourite meals are the simple pasta dishes which take minutes to prepare and have very few ingredients. I suppose this is a cousin of macaroni cheese, so it was always going to have a very good chance.


These quantities are per person and make for a large main course.

100g spaghetti (De Cecco where possible)
50ml milk
50g goats cheese
25g rocket
2 tablespoons of grated parmesan, plus more to serve
half a bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste


Put the pasta into well seasoned boiling water and get it bubbling steadily. Heat the milk in a small pan and gently melt in the goat cheese. If the goats cheese has rind, which hopefully it does, chop the rind well. As the cheese melts, you can do away with some of the cindy chunks by pressing them into the edge of a pan with a wooden spoon. I don't mind chunks though. When the cheese is incorporated, add the bay leaf, stir in the the parmesan and leave the sauce to rest.

Wash the rocket and reserve a few leaves to garnish. Roughly chop the remaining rocket.

When the pasta is al dente, drain it and return it to the pan. Add the chopped rocket and sauce and give to a quick blast of heat to make sure its piping. Check the seasoning. Its unlikely to need much salt (unless you forgot to salt the water), but I always add a healthy twist of pepper.

Serve on warmed plates garnished with the reserved rocket leaves and a few parmesan shavings.

Notes to gluttons

Timing. If you prepare this (sauce) in advance or over-boil it, it will separate. So don't do anything until the pasta is on. Olivia first cooked this dish and it coated the pasta beautifully. My version had chunks of curd and sat in a puddle of whey.

Pasta needs salt and I think that when cooking pasta and sauce, the benchmark of well-seasoned pasta is whether or not you would eat it on its own, no sauce. If the pasta is unseasoned when you add the sauce, you are in danger of spending the whole meal chasing the seasoning. A little more salt, a little more salt. By salting the water sufficiently, you are seasoning the core of the dish and not just adding seasoning as an afterthought.

Rocket is often rubbish quality in UK supermarkets. Even at its freshest, you only have to open the bag to get a slight whiff of rot. Morrisons sell bags of unwashed wild rocket (though how wild can it really be) which is very fresh and very tasty. I guess the process of washing and drying it leaves rocket covered in stale water and that the moisture causes it to deteriorate faster. So if you can get unwashed rocket, you should find it tastes and lasts better.

What to drink

Well, red wine for sure. We're drinking Morrisons "The Best" 2009 Fleurie. Sorry to sound like an advert for Morrisons. In the most part I don't really like shopping there, but tonight I happen to have combined two of their best products.