Pulled Pork

I can’t count how many times I have cooked this – any time of year it seems perfect, particularly when we have a load of friends round.  Very little hands on time, works a dream if you make it ahead of time and is an unbelievably economic way to feed a crowd. Did I forget to mention that it is also downright delicious.   Super tender, long cooked soft pork bathed in a sweet, spicy and tangy barbecue sauce stuffed in a soft bap with my crunchy, zippy fresh Christmas salad, topped with quick pickled onions and hot sauce.  Seriously, what is not to love.

I have made this with a whole shoulder and it made a huge amount, more than enough for 20 with extra for the freezer (a super useful number to have stashed away and it reheats a treat).  I tend to make this more often then with half a shoulder, rather easier to marinade and manoeuvre – last weekend one did 8 children and 6 adults with seconds.  I cooked it fully on Friday, shredded it (easier whilst warm) mixed it with the sauce and then reheated it in the oven on Saturday.  Too easy for words.

The Christmas salad (December 2013) despite its name is also a year round winner, crunchy and tangy, it works so well with the pork, they complement each perfectly.  Quick pickled onions (August 2014) bring a sweet/sour tang to the party and I couldn’t countenance my assembly without a good squirt of sriracha on top.

For pudding last weekend I made my son’s favourite, the Giant Strawberry Mivvi (June 2014), see the picture below.  This is a summer treat we look forward to all year and as it needs to be made ahead is another good one for entertaining.

Pulled Pork

1 heaped tablespoon paprika

1 heaped teaspoon smoked paprika

2 teaspoons fine salt

1 heaped teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

2 tablespoons soft brown sugar

20 turns of the black pepper mill

Shoulder of pork, around 5/6lbs

50ml cider (or white wine) vinegar

1 bottle good barbecue sauce

Mix the first 7 ingredients together in a bowl then rub into all sides of the pork.  Wrap tightly in cling film and leave in the fridge for at least 4 hours or up to overnight.  When you are ready to cook, preheat the oven to 200 and let the pork come to room temperature.  Put into a baking pan not much bigger than the pork, put the 50ml vinegar and 50ml water in the bottom of the pan (don’t pour it over the pork or it will wash off some of the spices) and cover with foil. Put in the hot oven and immediately turn it down to 160 and cook for 6-7 hours until the meat falls apart when prodded with a fork.   Pour all the cooking liquid into a pan, skim off the fat, pour in the barbecue sauce and simmer gently for 20 minutes until slightly thickened.  Meanwhile remove and discard the layer of fat from the pork, shred the meat and return to the baking pan.  When the sauce is ready pour it over the pork, mix well and serve.

Roasties with Chive Yogurt

Occasionally it’s not so much a new recipe I need, more a hint or reminder of something. After all I have many, many cook books full of recipes but sometimes lack of energy, time or ingredients mean I’m looking for an old favourite rather than a new idea.

So yes, this is a recipe for roast potatoes but how often do you think of roasties aside from Sunday?  These are an absolute winner and get eaten ridiculously quickly whenever I make them.  Not just any old roast potatoes these are canapé potatoes or something else for a mezze type lunch potatoes.   Pimp them up if you wish, a good dusting of paprika or chilli flakes would add pep and a handful of rosemary always works but I like them just like this, with salt and their tangy, chive and yogurt side.

I guess they are a little like potato skins – I know you can make these by baking potatoes and then removing the fluffy contents leaving you with the skins to roast and crisp but I never have.  I do however like the combination of crispy crunchy potatoes with a sour cream and chive style sauce.   This then is my way of doing things – you get the crispy skins but also the fluffy interior and I’ve gone for a yogurt based dip, similar but a little lighter and tangier than the original.

Sometimes I serve these alongside a main course but more often they are offered in their own right – a starter or a grazing treat to go with drinks before lunch or dinner.  A little dish of sriracha alongside offers that heavenly combination of the cold and creamy yogurt with a belt of chilli heat.  It’s not a spanking new fangled recipe, just the re working of an old favourite.

Roasties with Chive Yogurt

This is easily doubled or trebled which I would highly recommend.

500g potatoes, Maris Piper or similar

Olive oil

Salt

150g Greek yogurt

A handful of chives, finely chopped

A small clove of garlic, crushed (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200.  Cut the potatoes into chunks about the size of a large walnut.  Put into a large pan of salted water, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes.  Drain really well, shake briefly in the colander and then put into a large roasting pan, add enough oil to just coat, turning the potatoes well.  Sprinkle with salt and roast near the top of the oven for 40-50 minutes until deeply golden and crunchy at the edges.   Meanwhile mix the yogurt, chives and a good pinch of salt and let down with a little water if you prefer a runnier dip.  Mix in the garlic if you are using.   Serve the potatoes on a large plate with the dip and perhaps some sriracha along side.   Serves 3-4 as a snack.

 

Teriyaki Chilli Salmon

This recipe really should be called salmon with a rattle around the kitchen cupboard, accurate but less catchy.   It came about ages ago after I’d seen something similar in a magazine but had none of the requisite ingredients.   I use teriyaki because that is what I had originally but light soy sauce will work a treat.  Sweet chilli sauce, ginger and a squeeze of lime are the only other additions along with salmon which I usually have in the freezer.  It defrosts quickly, is reliably bone free (happy children) and quick to cook.

Sweet, salty, hot and sour is nothing new and this combination of tastes are rightly celebrated. You won’t believe what a good foil they are to salmon and frankly supper made this quickly and easily can only be a cause for applause.  Serve on rice or turn some ready cooked noodles in the sauce to heat through – either way clean plates are to be expected.

Teriyaki Chilli Salmon

The coriander and spring onions make a pretty and delicious addition but don’t panic if you find yourself short of one or both of these two – the sauce will more than hold its own without.

2 fillets salmon

2 teaspoons oil

2 tablespoons teriyaki sauce (see intro)

2 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce

1/2 thumb size piece of ginger, peeled and grated

1/2 a lime, juiced

A few sprigs of coriander, roughly chopped

2 spring onions finely sliced

Mix the teriyaki, sweet chilli, grated ginger and the lime juice in a shallow bowl and put the salmon skin side up in this for 5-20 minutes depending on how long you have.  Heat the oil in a small frying pay and add the salmon skin side down.  Cook until the colour has changed half way up the fillets then turn and cook the other for about 5 minutes, adding the marinade for the last minute.  Let it bubble but don’t let it cook and reduce too much or it will become over salty.  Peel the skin off the salmon then serve pouring over the sauce and strewing over the spring onions and coriander if using.  Serves 2.

Spring Lemon Cake

I can’t tell you how many lemons have been squeezed and cakes made here in the name of research.  Lemon drizzles, lemon curds, lemon polentas and of course there is the layered beauty that features here in Lemon Cake and the 1970’s (May 2013) and often graces our table as our Easter Cake*.

I’m happy to eat a lemon based cake any day of the year but in Spring it seems even more appropriate.  That bright yellow zip and zest works perfectly when there is still a nip in the air but green shoots are on show and the hope of sunny days feels well founded.  This then is a cake for teatime, picnics or rainy days, trips to the beach, eating outside or in front of the fire and, of course, for all those school bake sales.

This modest looking little loaf cake has been tried and tested in many incarnations and this  is my favourite.  It couldn’t be easier, is very quick and a doddle if you have children who want to make a cake.  If you don’t have any lemon curd don’t worry it will still be delicious but it’s worth having a jar of good curd in the fridge for such occasions.  You can stick with a crunchy sugar and lemon drizzle if you prefer but this lemony icing is our perfect topping.  Finally, whilst I am a huge fan of butter, it has become quite expensive and Stork or similar works brilliantly here – if its good enough for Mary Berry, its certainly good enough for me!

Spring Lemon Cake

160g butter or Stork (see introduction)

120g caster sugar

Good pinch of salt

2 large eggs

140g self raising flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Zest of one large unwaxed lemon

2 tablespoons milk

2 tablespoons lemon curd (see introduction)

150g icing sugar

Juice of 1/2 – 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 180 and line a loaf tin.  Cream the butter or Stork and sugar together until light and fluffy, I use a stand mixer for this but a wooden spoon and bowl work a treat too.  Add the eggs one at a time with a spoonful of flour until well incorporated and then add the remaining flour, salt, baking powder, zest and milk.  Finally swirl in the lemon curd leaving a few streaks.  Put the mix into the lined tin and bake for 40 minutes.  Check after 30 and cover with foil if its brown on top before a skewer comes out clean.  Whilst the cake is cooling, mix the icing sugar and lemon juice (add the juice slowly as you may not need it all) and then pour over the top of the cake.  Leave to set and then tuck in.

 

 

 

 

*Whilst I know a Simnel Cake is the usual Easter offering and I love it, none of my immediate family like fruit cake (also my daughter is allergic to nuts).  Besides, we all know what happens to a cake when only one person likes it……

Blackcurrant Fool

Well, here is a blast of summer.   I’ve made no secret of my feeling that a weekend lunch isn’t complete without a pudding and we’ve tucked into no end of rib sticking treats appropriate to the colder months of the year.  Golden syrup sponge, plum galette, apple crisp, raspberry larder pudding and a whole host of crumbles have made an appearance recently.  Poking around in the freezer last weekend however I found a bag of blackcurrants which I’d picked last year and had been languishing in the icy depths since then.  Whilst my surprise clearly illustrates that I am not one of those with a list detailing the exact contents of the freezer, the weight and when it was frozen etc – I was jolly pleased with my find.

Thawed and simmered briefly with sugar I mixed them with cream and yogurt and we delighted in that mouth puckering, tangy, fragrant hit that is unmistakably blackcurrant. Should you have any berries in your freezer I highly recommend making this or simply buy a bag of frozen berries – I use them all the time in the winter for various recipes.

Blackcurrant Fool

Don’t worry if you have a few less (or more) blackcurrants – a fool is pretty forgiving and 20/30g either way won’t make much difference.  Equally if you need to use a bit less cream or yogurt the end result will still be fruity and delicious.

500g blackcurrants

100g caster sugar

200g double cream

200g Greek yogurt

Simmer the blackcurrants for about 10 minutes with the sugar until the fruit has broken down and the juices have become syrupy, cool.   Whisk the cream until soft peaks hold, add the yogurt, mix again briefly and then swirl in the blackcurrants.  Combine as much as you want – I like to seem some seams of pure blackcurrant but it is up to you.  This served 4 with a bit left over for someones breakfast.

 

Chicken with Flageolet Beans, Leeks and Rosemary

I am on a bit of a mission to increase our intake of pulses – they are cheap, filling and with a little magic can be quite delicious.  I love them (now) but one of my children isn’t mad about them so inevitably I have a bee in my bonnet to think of delicious ways to serve them up.  To be fair I didn’t really like pulses much when younger and would pick them out of a cassoulet or chilli and line them up around my plate.  It was always disappointing then to be asked to finish them, at this point cold and without anything more palatable to help them on their way.

This is a delicious combo then, leeks and beans to please me and crispy skinned chicken to please us all.  Don’t panic that four thighs aren’t enough, this is surprisingly filling and you can always serve another green veg or perhaps a crusty baguette and salad alongside.

The leeks, flageolet and rosemary work particularly well together and this makes a great side dish to roast lamb.  Pop it into an ovenproof dish, top with breadcrumbs and finish in the oven until crispy above and bubbling beneath.

Roast chicken with leeks, flageolet beans and rosemary

You can of course use dried flageolet, just remember to soak and cook them according to pack instructions prior to using them below.

4 chicken thighs

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large or two medium leeks

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 sprig rosemary, leaves finely chopped to yield around 1 teaspoon

1 tin (400g) flageolet beans, drained and rinsed

250ml chicken stock

2-3 tablespoons double cream

Chopped chives or parsley (optional)

Heat the oven to 200, put half a tablespoon of the oil into a roasting tin, turn the chicken in the oil, season with salt and cook for half an hour.  Heat the remaining oil in a large frying pan and cook the leek gently, without colouring, until soft.  Add the garlic and rosemary, cook for a minute or two then add the beans, stock and cream.  Simmer for about 10 minutes until a little reduced then check for seasoning.   After its 30 minutes remove the chicken from the oven, add the leek mixture to the pan without getting sauce on the now crispy skin and return to the oven for a final 5-10 minutes until gently bubbling and gold skinned. Scatter over the chives or parsley if you are using them.  Serves 4.

 

 

Tarte Tatin

Well this is a proper treat and even better supremely easy to make with only 5 ingredients! That combination of tangy apples bathed in caramel sauce with a crispy, flaky pastry base, just fabulous.  Whilst there are many recipes out there for Tarte Tatin, this one is so simple and delicious that I rarely deviate.  It works like a dream and there is never any left over.   By the way if you are a fan of salted caramel puddings just up the pinch of salt in the ingredients to about 1/2 a teaspoon and voila you will have Salted Caramel Tarte Tatin.

A frying pan with an oven proof or removable handle is ideal but if you don’t have one just cook the apples in a regular frying pan and then transfer to a baking tin before topping with pastry and putting in the oven.  I use a 20cm le creuset that I have had for ever and these amounts work a treat and we easily finish it between the four of us.  I have also used a 30cm saute pan (also le creuset) which make a great big tarte but I did need a little help turning the pan over on to the waiting plate.

Tarte Tatin

I tend to use a pack of ready rolled puff pastry for this.  With a bit of careful cutting out (and patching for the second) I can get two circles of pastry out of one roll so either make another tarte tatin, freeze it or make the Onion Tarte Tatin with Blue Cheese (February 2014)…. just saying.

4 large eating apples, Braeburn are ideal, peeled, cored and quartered

60g butter

50g caster sugar

1 pack ready rolled puff pastry (usually around 375g)

Pinch of salt (see introduction)

Preheat the oven to 200.  Unroll the pastry and measure out a circle using the top of the pan.  Melt the butter with the sugar and add the apples along with a pinch of salt.  Cook for around 20-30 minutes until the apples are tender but not collapsing.  As it bubbles a caramel will form.  Turn the apples a couple of times for even cooking.  Remove from the heat, ensure all the pieces are round side down then extremely carefully place the circle of pastry over the apples and tuck the edges between the side of the pan and the apples.  Put in the oven for 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden and puffed up.  Take the pan out remembering of course that the handle will be hot and let it sit for a couple of minutes to settle.  Using a plate with a lip so you don’t lose all the sauce, invert this over the pan and quickly turn both so that the tarte ends up on the plate pastry side down, apple side up.  Adjust any apples that have slipped out of place and serve with cream.  I divide this into quarters for the four of us but reckon I could eat half without much trouble….

 

Baked feta with chilli and herbs (or olives)

 

Tapas, mezze, picnic, however you refer to this style of eating I loved putting a load of different dishes on the table to pick at. Whether as lunch itself or simply a couple of things to whet the appetite before the main event.   You will find many such recipes on these pages Cheese Gougeres (November 2016), Moutabal (February 2017), Artichoke Crostini (March 2013), Grissini with Rosemary (May 2015) are a few.  More often than not the little plates I serve are vegetarian and it has often been a good way to entice my children to try something different.  Rather than being faced with an entire supper of something new and unfamiliar – this is an opportunity for them to try something whilst knowing there is a myriad of old favourites to tuck into at the same time.

I am a little ambivalent about feta.  If it is mild I am happy to tuck in, enjoying its salty edge.  Too strong or mature however and it ventures into that hirsute, goaty thing that I struggle with.  In this recipe use whichever type of feta you prefer – you can even find feta style cheese now that only contains cow’s milk.

This baked feta graced our table on Saturday evening amongst some other goodies.  I served it with homemade little tortilla chips (don’t panic the chips are homemade not the tortillas – find the recipe in Girls’ Night In, February 2014) and this was the first empty plate, it literally disappeared before my eyes. Warm, soft, salty with a bite from the chilli – this could be one of the most moreish things I have eaten.

Now this is a winning get out of jail free card if you need a last minute canapé or snack to go with drinks.  The warm soft feta has a completely different character to the cool white chunks more familiarly seen in Greek salads.  It takes on a delicate squidge that is enormously inviting and along with some chilli flakes and a sprinkling of herbs is the perfect mouthful to scoop onto a pita or tortilla chip. Packs of feta last for ages in the fridge and along with some hardy herbs you may have weathering the winter storms and chilli flakes in your cupboard you are all set.  Sometimes I add olives to the dish before baking, it depends whether I have any to hand and its very good either way.

Feta with Chilli and Herbs (or Olives)

The ingredients that follow are what I tend to have on hand and therefore what makes this a store cupboard saviour.  You can use chopped fresh chilli if you prefer and even pickled chillis for a different but very delicious vibe.

200g pack of feta

1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes, depending on how hot you like

A couple of sprigs of fresh thyme

25g black or green olives, pitted (optional)

Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 200.  Put the feta in a small ovenproof dish, sprinkle over the chilli and thyme, drizzle with oil and add the olives if you are using them.  Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until soft but not collapsing.  Serve with homemade pita chips, tortilla chips or whatever you like.

 

 

 

Olive, thyme and chilli soda bread

I made this recently to put out before lunch when friends came over and it was gone in minutes.  Served with a garlicky courgette dip it was just the ticket with some pre lunch drinks and kept the children more than happy.  As luck would have it this takes minutes to make and as such is something I regularly turn to.  Although I love making all kinds of bread and make a loaf of white or sourdough weekly, this is a great one to have up your sleeve when the clock is ticking and there is no time for proving and rising.

Whilst I might not have buttermilk in the fridge at all times, I always have yogurt to hand.  This, let down with a bit of milk, works a treat in place of buttermilk and means a loaf of this moreish bread is never more than about half an hour away.   My daughter adores olives and chilli so can polish off half of this loaf without thinking and it takes the sting out of the veggie soup or salad that often accompanies it.

Essentially a riff on my seedy soda bread, April 2013, I add some punchy flavours to this one.  The chilli is up to you but I think it works a treat with the olives and thyme.  There is a thyme plant outside the kitchen that manages to soldier on whatever the weather so along with some store cupboard olives this one is always a contender for lunch or supper.   Or serve as I did at the weekend with a dip, a herby labneh perhaps or hummus and you will have happy faces all round.

Olive, thyme and chilli soda bread

I make this with a mix of wholemeal and regular white flour but you can go with all white if you prefer or if that is what you have.  Buttermilk sometimes comes in 284ml tubs for some reason so just make this up to 300ml with milk.  If you are using yogurt, use 200ml and make it up to 300ml with milk.

150g wholemeal flour, plus a bit extra

150g plain flour

1 teaspoon fine salt

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

2 teaspoons soft brown sugar

300ml tub buttermilk (or yogurt, see introduction)

50g olives, I like a mix of green and black, chopped up a bit

1 teaspoon thyme, leaves only

1/2 teaspoon chilli (omit this if you like)

Preheat the oven to 200.  Put the flours, salt, bicarb, sugar, olives, thyme and chilli in a large bowl and mix.  Add the buttermilk and give it a good mix together.  Sprinkle some wholemeal flour on a baking sheet, make the dough into a ball, put on the tin, sprinkle a little more flour over and cut a cross in the top with a sharp knife.  Bake for 30-35 minutes until crusty, golden brown and sounds hollow when you tap the bottom.

 

 

Spicy Seeds

Drinks, cocktails, aperitifs – whatever you want to call them there is something rather civilised about relaxing with a good drink as the sun sets over the yardarm.   Ice clinking against glass heralds the end of the working day and whether you are in some top notch bar or your own kitchen there is nothing wrong with making the most of it.  Along with a delicious drink I like something to nibble at the same time.  Not necessarily as elaborate as canapés (not on a school night, come on) but certainly a little salty treat to savour.  Crisps can get a little greasy and nuts we tend to avoid as my daughter is allergic to them.  These seeds tick every box and prove a winner whenever I whip them up.

This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned these utterly moreish seeds but I thought they deserved another shout out.  So much better for you than crisps, this spicy snack is made in a matter of minutes and can be as spicy (or not) as you like.  I often put a bowl of these out before lunch or supper and they go in a flash, the tangy heat seems irresistable.

A great addition to a salad or to top off a bowl of hearty soup, these are properly useful to have in a jar in the kitchen.  Fill little cellophane bags with them and give to friends.  With a suitably festive ribbon these make a great Christmas present particularly if you are getting a little hamper together which I sometimes do.

Spicy Seeds

60g sunflower seeds

60g pumpkin seeds

30g pine kernels

1 tablespoon Worcester sauce

1/2 teaspoon Tabasco

Sea salt

Mix everything together and spread in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Bake for 5-6 minutes at 200, leave to cool briefly before adding a tiny sprinkle of salt and digging in.