Neil Perry’s Sweet Black Vinegar Pork Belly

Serves: 4

Nat cooked this dish from Neil’s book Balance and Harmony as part of a long Sunday lunch and it was just so good.

This is not your local Chinese “sweet and sour”. Not by a long shot.

It isn’t a complex dish either. Just start the night before and with a bowl of rice, some sliced spring onions and roasted sesame seeds…

Lordy.

Ingredients

500gm boneless pork belly cut into 3cm thick pieces across the grain
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp shaoxing
2 tsp light soy sauce
2 1/2 tbsp peanut oil
1/3 c soft brown sugar
4 tbsp Chinkiang vinegar
Finely sliced spring onion and roasted sesame seeds to serve

Method

  1. Mix together 1/4 tsp of the sea salt, sugar, shaoxing, soy sauce and 1/2 tbsp of the peanut oil, add the pork and leave to marinate for at least2 hours, or overnight. Remove the pork from the marinade and pat dry with paper towel.
  2. Heat a wok until smoking. Add the remaining oil and, when hot, stir fry the pork in batches for about 4 minutes, turning occasionally, until well coloured on all sides. Return all the pork to the wok and add the brown sugar vinegar, remaining salt. And 1 1/2 cups water. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a low simmer. Cover and cook for 1 – 1 1/2 hours, or until the pork is very tender. If the sauce is a little thin, remove the pork from the sauce and return the wok to the heat. Boil until it has a syrupy consistency, then pour over the pork. Sprinkle with the sliced spring onion and sesame seeds.

Pasta Genovese

Serves: 4 – 6

This classic pasta really is brilliant.

Nat found it in my mother’s collection of recipes and alongside a focaccia Nat cooked, nobody ate a better lunch in our part of town that day.

I love the cooking of the potatoes with the pasta. Which together with the wonderfully simple pesto and the prosciutto, it just so wonderfully rustic.

Just add plenty of Parmesan, open a bottle of white and there you have it… classic.

Ingredients

Dried linguini or tagliatelle
6 small baby potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly
100gm baby green beans, trimmed
Grated Parmesan
Thinly sliced prosciutto
2 c tightly packed basil leaves
50gm pine nuts
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
150ml olive oil
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Method

  1. Process the basil, pine nuts and garlic to a paste, stir in the olive oil and 100gm Parmesan: season.
  2. Cook the pasta in salted water and 5 minutes before the cooking time is done, add the potatoes.
  3. Just before draining, add the beans and cook briefly. Drain, retaining 100ml of the pasta water.
  4. Add a generous amount of the pesto to the pasta water together with some additional Parmesan, toss together all the ingredients and serve with prosciutto slices draped over.

Nomad’s Roast Pork Shoulder with Ajo Blanco

Serves: 6 – 8

Goodness gracious, this is an extraordinary pork by Jacque Challinor of Nomad (a great Sydney restaurant) fame.

One of the best porks I have had and even better than the pork shoulder in milk my kids ask me to cook at least once a month.

No question, the brining over night plays a big role here. Ditto the spice rub and Ajo Blanco which just adds another layer of special.

Brining.
And twining.

Though I served it warm on wonderful, light and crunchy bread rolls, French butter, a good dollop of the Ajo Blanco, rocket and a good piece of crackling.

The whole thing is a bit of a labour of love, though everyone at the picnic where I served this up agreed: it was the best they had ever had.

Let’s agree that this is the new gold standard.

Ingredients

375ml sea salt
1 tbsp black peppercorns, toasted
1 tbsp fennel seeds, toasted
1 head garlic, halved
1 bunch parsley stalks (reserved from the spice rub)
4 fresh bay leaves
1 bunch thyme
1 boneless pork shoulder (about 3.75kg), skin on and scored
250gm flat pancetta, thinly sliced

Ajo Blanco

25gm crustless sourdough bread
90gm blanched almonds
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 1/2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 tsp sherry vinegar

Spice Rub

1 tbsp celery seeds
1 tbsp fennel seeds
5 black peppercorns
6 garlic cloves
1/2 c (loosely packed) flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/2 c (loosely packed) sage
100ml extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp finely grated lemon rind

Method

  1. Stir salt in 3.75 litres water oil a large saucepan over a high heat until it dissolves (15 – 20 minutes). Remove from the heat, add the spices, garlic, parsley, bay leaves and thyme, cool and then refrigerate until chilled. Transfer to a large non-reactive container, submerge pork in the brine (keeping the skin above the brine) and refrigerate over night.
  2. For Ajo Blanco, soak bread in 125ml water for 2 – 3 minutes, then squeeze out excess. Process almonds in a food processor until finely ground, add bread, garlic and oil and blend to a paste. With motor runnings, slowly add 250ml cold water and process until smooth. Add vinegar, season, strain and chill. Make this a day ahead.
  3. For spice rub, dry-roast spices until fragrant. Crush with a mortar and pestle, add garlic and herbs, crush to a paste and stir in the olive oil and lemon rind.
  4. Preheat oven to 180c. Rinse the pork (not the skin) under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Pull out the flesh ready to truss and rub the spice all over. Roll in a cylinder, ready to truss and wrap and flesh in the pancetta. Tie at intervals with kitchen string, place on a rack in a roasting pan and roast for 3 – 3 1/2 hours.
  5. Increase oven to 225c and roast until skin crackles. Remove from the oven, rest for 30 minutes, then carve and serve with the Ajo Blanco.

Gary Rhodes’ Puff Pastry Scrambled Eggs and Leeks with Ham Crème Fraîche

Serves: 4

Many years ago – like 25 – my mother and I would watch Gary Rhodes and his British cooking show.

Rhodes, Gary (crop).jpg
A wonderful guy, a brilliant chef.

He was not only an incredibly talented chef, though came across as a lovely, calm and collected guy.

Sadly, he died prematurely in 2019 though I remember the tributes at the time from people such as Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver. One quote from the time from Michelin star chef Tom Kerridge described Rhodes as “one of the greatest British chefs who almost single handedly put British food on the world stage”.

My goodness.

All those years ago, my mother bought his two books and we cooked a number of his dishes. Just wonderful, wonderful French cooking.

Twently years later, I am telling Nat about Mr Rhodes and the wonderful books I used to cook from, long out of print of course.

Unbenowst to me, Nat tracks them down in a second hand book store (this is the sort of person Nat is!) and we are back in business.

Five weeks into lockdown in Sydney, Nat and I agreed we needed a break. Home schooling, work, renovating an apartment for sale, endless activities to entertain the kids, endless loops around the park to keep sane, we needed some time for ourselves.

So we took Wednesday off. I lit the outdoor firepit and put the Champagne on ice.

And served this decadent dish as the first course.

My lordy it is fine. Absolute dinner party material.

I said to Nat it reminded me of the food I ate in Chartres (France) many years back. Delicate, so tasty, so bloody good.

Update from my mother. This is me on the far right in Chartres. Haven’t changed a bit.

To say that we had the best afternoon since lockdown would be an understatement. And I can assure you that this starter (along with a cold Champagne) was a strong contributing reason for it!

Ingredients

225gm puff pastry
Flour for dusting
50gm butter plus two large knobs for cooking
5 eggs
1 large or 2 small leeks
3 or 4 thick slices of leg ham
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
6 tbsp vegetable stock
3 tbsp crème fraîche
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Champagne for serving!

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c.
  2. Cut 2 10cm x 10cm squares of puff pastry and then cut them diagonally in half to make four triangles. Beat one of the eggs and use to brush the pastries, and bake in the over for 20 – 25 minutes until risen and golden brown. Remove the tray from the oven and set the pastries to one side.
  3. Split the leeks in half lengthways, removing the outer layer. Finely slice the halves, washing off any grit in a colander. Leave the leek slices to drain.
  4. To make the ham crème fraîche, cut the ham into a 5mm dice and set aside. Heat the white wine vinegar in a saucepan. Once almost all evaporated, add the stock and simmer until reduced by a third. Whisk in the crème fraîch, followed by the measured butter. Season.
  5. Cut through the pastries, separated the risen lid from the base. Keep the pastry tops and bases warm.
  6. Melt a knob of butter in a large saucepan and once bubbling, add the leeks. Cook on a medium heat, stirring from time to time to ensure an even cooking, for 5 – 7 minutes, until very tender.
  7. Whilst the leeks are cooking, add the remaining eggs to the one used as an egg wash, beating with a fork to emulsify. In another saucepan, melt the remaining knob of butter and once bubbling, add the eggs. Season. As they cook, turn the eggs with a spoon reasonably vigorously, capturing every corner of the pan. When they have reached a very soft, scrambled consistency, remove the pan from the heat. This leaves you with just a minute to ‘build’ the rest of the dish while the scrambled egg thickens.
  8. Add the ham to the sauce, warming it through. Place the pastry bases on warm plates and spoon the cooked leeks loosely on top of each. Turn the scrambled eggs just once more, then spoon on top of the leeks and drizzle the ham crème fraîche around and over. Finish by placing the pastry lids on top.

Adam Liaw’s Salt & Pepper Pork Belly

Serves: 4

There are a couple of chefs and cooks that I put blind faith in.

Adam Liaw is one of them.

When I saw his new book, Asian After Work, a quick skim and it was clear it had to join the house. Nat and I browsed through it in the kitchen that night and I swear, there is not one recipe we would not cook.

It’s that good.

This pork belly is just wonderful and quite a surprise from Nat who is suspicious of pork belly on calorie grounds.

Made my night and teaches that pork belly is not exclusively about slow cooking and crackling.

Ingredients

500gm piece of pork belly, skin and bones removed
1 tsp sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 bird’s eye chilli, sliced
2 spring onions, white and light green parts, trimmed and sliced
1 tsp salt flakes
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
A handful of coriander leaves to serve
Boiled Jasmine rice to serve

Method

  1. Slice the pork into 1cm steaks, then cut into 3cm squares about 1cm thick.
  2. Heat a wok or frypan until very hot and add the sesame oil. Fry the pork in batches until well browned on all sides and cooked through. Set aside.
  3. Poor out any excess fat from the pan and add the garlic, chilli and spring onions. Toss over very high heat until the garlic starts to brown and the mixture is very fragrant. Return pork pieces to the wok, add the salt and black pepper and toss to coat well.
  4. Transfer to a warm plate, scatter with coriander and serve.

Chicken and Mortadella Agnolotti Del Plin

Serves: 4 (as an entree)

Another brilliant pasta from the cookbook Saturday Night Pasta, served as I walked into the house this afternoon after a few meetings in the city.

What a treat!

This is one-hat pasta. And served with a cold Champagne, it’s wonderful one-hat.

Reasonably simple too: which the best pastas are.

I know that making fresh pasta is sometimes a bit of a hurdle, though it really does make this dish. Ditto the burnt butter.

And when combined with the wonderful chicken and pork mixture…

Just do it.

Ingredients

250gm chicken mince
150gm sliced mortadella
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus extra to serve
3 tbsp finely snipped chives
1 egg
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Flour for dusting
1 cup chicken stock
3 tbsp salted butter, roughly chopped
10 sage leaves

Fresh Egg Pasta Dough

200gm (1 1/3 cups) flour plus extra for dusting
2 eggs, beaten
Good pinch of salt

Method

Fresh Egg Pasta Dough

  1. In fairness to the author of the book – Elizabeth Hewson – her description of how to make this basic dough is not only detailed, though provides the guardrails to make sure you would find it hard to stuff up. When to add water, when to…. etc.
  2. Nat loves making dough though she doesn’t have much time for it.
  3. So essentially, knead all of this into a ball. Nat used a KitchenAid and let it rest for an hour and if this doesn’t work for you, perhaps explore further on how to make pasta dough: it isn’t hard either way.

For the restPlace the chicken mince, mortadella, Parmigiano Reggiano, chives, egg and a generous pinch of salt in a food processor and blitz until combined: set aside in the fridge whilst you make the pasta, or up to 2 days.

  1. Flour your bench and roll your pasta dough to about 1mm thick (setting 3 on a hand pasta roller). You want a long piece of pasta dough about 10cm in length.
  2. Lay the pasta dough on the dusted bench and dot half a teaspoon of the filling about 3cm apart in the middle of the pasta sheet. (See photo below to guide you.) Fold the pasta over and seal, squeezing out any air as you seal, ensuring the sheet evenly stretched over the filling.
  3. Trim and start pinching close the pasta, all the way down to the filling: and there you have agnolotti which should now be placed on a dusted tray ready for cooking. Get your water boiling and boil the agnolotti until it rises to the top and is ready.
  4. At the same time, place the stock, butter and sage leaves in a large, deep frypan and over a high heat bring to a boil. Burn as far as you want. Transfer the cooked agnolotti to the butter mixture and swirl. Serve with plenty of Parmigiano Reggiano and a good crack of pepper.

The Bourke Street Bakery Pork and Fennel Sausage Roll – An adaptation

Makes: 24 half sausage rolls

For a family picnic today, I was assigned sausage rolls.

I know it’s easy to love sausage rolls, though is it in reality?

It’s so hit and miss.

The ones from petrol stations are terrible.

And patisseries can sometimes nail their brief, though so often they’re over the top. Too clever by half, too complicated, too much to process.

Sausage rolls are about comfort and flaky, oily pastry. Not something excessively gourmet and challenging: I have a hangover, I just want a coffee and sausage roll amazing-ness.

Bourke Street Bakery – a bit of a Sydney institution – is famous for its pies and sausage rolls. Their pork and fennel sausage roll is pretty amazing.

Though it is on the gourmet end of sausage rolls. The beef bourguignon end of pies if you know what I mean.

Which is why this adaptation of their sausage roll is genius!

It just rolls. It nails true brief.

It is what every patisserie should have on offer from 8am on Sunday morning.

I’d order 6. And several coffees.

I really wanted to cook something special when given the sausage roll brief for today’s picnic.

Why?

My sister in law Court (Coco, CD) and her husband Greg (Gweggy) pulled the broader family together for a post-Christmas BBQ; and a casual gender reveal.

Yep, they’re having baby #1.

And it’s a girl!

Nat and I love these guys.

They make us so happy. Long lunches, late autumn nights by the fire, plenty of wines, too much laughing. (Dancing with Court last year at my 40th, I was pushed fell down and limped for a week: didn’t even blame her!)

We are so proud of you guys. We are so happy for you. You have babysitters for life.

As I’ve previously said, these guys love their food though assume that during the first few weeks of babydom these sausage rolls will make an appearance at their doorstep. Plus curries, pastas and even a pork shoulder.

Go nail this Team K!

We love you.

Ingredients

1tsp fennel seeds, plus extra to sprinkle
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 medium brown onions, peeled and diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
8 sprigs sage, picked and finely chopped
3 sprigs rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped
5 sprigs thyme, leaves picked and finely chopped
20gm unsalted butter
2 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced into 1/2 cm
1.5kg pork mince
100gm breadcrumbs
1 egg, beaten
Puff pastry
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Method

  1. Toast the fennel seeds in a large frying pan over a low heat for 2 minutes until fragrant. Crush lightly in a mortar and pestle and set aside.
  1. Using the same pan, heat the vegetable oil over a low heat. Sweat the onion and garlic until lightly caramelised. Take as long as you can. This is where the flavour is! Add the toasted fennel seeds, sage, rosemary and thyme and set aside to cool.
  2. In a separate pan, melt the butter over a medium-high heat: add the apples and toss gently in the butter for a few minutes until softening. Add the sugar and cook, stirring constantly, until the sugar is lightly caramelised. Add the vinegar to deglaze the pan and set aside.
  3. Combine the mince, breadcrumbs, apples and onion mixture. Season well and mix through with your hands until well combined.
  4. Thaw your puff pastry from the freezer. You’ll need around 7 – 8 sheets based on the quantity of pork mixture. Divide the pork mixture evening and roll your sausage rolls, with the mixture being a cylinder about 1/3 of the way down each sheet. Ensure that the seam sits under the meat.
  5. Make a few fork punctures at the top of each sausage roll. Cut the the sausage roll in half or quarters depending on what you are catering.
  6. Beat your egg and egg wash all over the pastry. Sprinkle with fennel seeds.
  7. Bake on baking trays lined with baking paper at 180c for 30 – 40 minutes or until golden brown.

Pork Shoulder cooked in Milk

Serves: 6 – 8

As a teenager, every year for my birthday I would request my mother cook pork shoulder in milk.

It is a classic Italian dish and it cannot be beaten.

The milk keeps the pork incredibly moist and breaks down the meat. As it reduces, you’re left with a wonderful gravy.

It is also so simple to do. One pot, so little prep.

Served with some mash and some steamed beans then sautéed with some butter and toasted, slivered almonds.

Good Lordy.

This version of the classic dish I found online adds slices of lemon and genuinely, it is a world-beater.

Our kids could not believe themselves. They’ve asked several times since if I could cook it again.

It’s summer in Sydney so it might be a few months, though I cannot wait.

The first hint of cold in Autumn and this dish is back.

Ingredients

1kg deboned pork shoulder, rind scored
Extra Virgin olive oil
1 head of garlic, split in half horizontally
4 sage leaves
3 sprigs thyme
5 thin slices lemon, seeds removed
4 cups full fat milk
1/2 cup cream

Method

  1. Decant a good bottle of red. You’re going to need it!
  2. Dry the skin of the pork shoulder and dry well. Sprinkle with salt and leave in the fridge uncovered for a day.
  3. Heat the over to 180c. Heat a large, heavy pot/casserole over a medium heat, add some oil and crisp up both the skin of the pork and brown the pork on all sides.
  4. Place the pork skin-side up and add the garlic, sage, thyme, lemon and 3 cups of the milk ensuring that milk does not go on the skin. Roast for 45 minutes, uncovered, until the crackling is golden.
  5. Place the lid on the pot and cook for 2 hours 15 minutes, adding the additional cup of milk halfway through.
  6. When done, stir in the cream and season. Enjoy!
Pork and Leek Sausages

Pork and Leek Sausages

Makes: 20 sausages

There certainly are a lot of corners to the Internet and sausagemaking.org is definitely one of them.

A very friendly, passionate one.

The forums aren’t updated particularly regularly, though enough that when I visit there are new recipes. And when one is added, there is plenty of advice.

Like the use of rusk in sausages. Where apparently, all pros use it.

Not as a wartime filler, though as a necessary accompaniment to any good sausage. Moisture retention and all that. You can buy rusk from the supermarket in biscuit form and food process it to dust.

Experience has also told me that pork sausages made from pork shoulder alone are not moist enough and you must add fat. 20% of the meat weight: so 1kg pork shoulder, 200gm pork fat which any good butcher can provide. (Or cut it from a pork belly.)

Adding rusk and the fat to these sausages was the revelation.

We are officially butchers.

And wow, aren’t these pork and leek sausages a great way to reach that distinction.

Ingredients

1kg pork shoulder
200gm pork fat
200gm leek
125ml water
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp sage (dried)
1/2 tsp ginger (we used fresh, though powdered is fine of course)

Method

  1. Cut the pork and pork fat into 3cm pieces.
  2. Cut the leek into 1cm cylinders and slowly cook in olive oil and some salt until soft.
  3. Combine the ingredients, mince and stuff into sausage casings.

Bacon, Tomato, Comté, Cheddar, Spring Onion and Pickled Mustard Seeds Toasted Sandwich

Serves: 4

Already two late-night toasties down over the Christmas holidays, we decided to toast a third, closer to the classic “ham, tomato, cheese”.

However this recipe – from the excellent Chefs Eat Toasties Too – completely dials up the classic in a number of important ways.

Firstly, bacon.

🐖

Which, with all due respect to ham, is a clear checkmate move.

Then, there is the Comté (We substituted Gruyère) AND the cheddar.

Another checkmate, especially with the thinly sliced spring onions.

The real cracker however are the pickled mustard seeds which take the sandwich to restaurant-level.

You will forever look down on the ho-hum ham, tomato, cheese after toasting this late-night toastie.

Ingredients

8 slices white sandwich loaf
140gm unsalted butter, softened
1 tbsp hot English mustard
12 cold-smoked bacon rashes, cooked
4 small ripe truss tomatoes, thinly sliced
Salt flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
160gm Comté (Gruyère), grated
100gm cheddar, grated
2 spring onions, white part only, thinly sliced

For the pickled mustard seeds

100gm yellow mustard seeds
50gm caster sugar
2 tsp salt flaked
150ml Chardonnay vinegar (we used white wine vinegar)

Method

For the pickled mustard seeds

  1. Place the mustard seeds in a small saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil then remove from the heat. Drain the seeds and discard the water. Refresh the seeds in cold water and return to the saucepan. Repeat the previous step three times and reserved the blanched seeds in a bowl or jug.
  2. Heat 75ml of water and the sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat and stir until dissolved. Remove from the heat, add the salt and stir until dissolved. Stir in the vinegar then strain the pickling liquid over the seeds. Place in the refrigerator, covered, for a minimum of 1 hour.
  3. The seeds will last for 2 months.

For the sandwich

  1. Butter four slices of bread and scrape a thin layer of English mustard on each slice. Place three rashes of bacon on each and add tomato slices on top and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Combine the grated cheeses in a bowl with the spring onion and evenly distribute this mixture on top of the tomato.
  3. Spread butter on the remaining slices of bread and spread the pickled mustard seeds on the other side. Close the sandwich with the buttered side of the bread on the outer.
  4. Toasted in a sandwich press, buttered sides on the hot grill, until golden brown and crispy.