Chinese roasted pork belly with quick-pickled cucumber

I recently picked up a bargain basement-priced copy of The Great New Zealand Cookbook (cracked spine – their loss, my stomach’s gain!). This little gem of a book has recipes from well known NZ cooks, chefs and bakers, and it’s pretty damn cool. Lovely photography, and a really great range of recipes.

This meal is the second time I’ve used the book, so it’s probably already paid for itself in intellectual property – or however it is that cookbooks pay for themselves.

So… onto the important part. This easy and tasty recipe is from Anthony Hoy Fong, and is essentially Chinese in origin, with a little NZ twist. The pork belly would be lovely on its own, but being a little bit greasy (as pork belly tends to be) the vinegary, fresh cucumber is the perfect accompaniment! And is often the case with a really good accompaniment, the flavors and textures all balance each other out perfectly.

Chinese pork belly

For the pork:

1.5kg boneless pork belly
1 tsp Manuka honey
1 tsp sugar
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp salt, and more for rubbing
1/2 tsp five-spice powder
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Fresh coriander and spring onions for garnishing

Score the pork flesh (to allow the marinade to penetrate the meat), then place on a rack in a clean sink and pour boiling water over both sides of the meat 2-3 times to tighten the skin. Pat dry with paper towels and place in a roasting pan.

Combine marinade ingredients and rub all over meat side, getting it deep into the scores. If you get any on the skin wipe it off with a paper towel (or it will stop the skin from crackling).

With skin side up, rub salt and oil over the skin and place in the fridge to marinate for at least 2-3 hours.

Pre-heat oven to 240c, place pork in the centre and cook for 20 minutes. Turn oven down to 160c, and place 2 cups of water in the pan. Cook for one and a half hours. Finish under the grill for 3-4 minutes until skin is dark and crackly. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for 15 minutes.

Roasted pork belly

For cucumber:

1 large cucumber
2 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp salt
1 medium red chilli, finely sliced

Peel the cucumber, remove seeds, then roughly dice. Combine the pickling ingredients in a bowl, then pour over the cucumber and toss. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving with the pork.

To serve

Cut the pork into strips, or bite sized pieces. Garnish with coriander and sliced spring onion. Serve with the cucumber, and some steamed rice.

The 80’s called… it wants its entree back!

Last night was a special occasion here in our house, so to celebrate I stuffed eggs! Yes, that’s right. We really know how to party.

My husband has a particular (peculiar) love of very retro food. Custard squares, asparagus rolls, club sandwiches… all the sort of stuff you’d find in what I call an ‘old lady tea room’. You know the kind of place – sausage rolls, shabby decor with plenty of crocheted doilies, tea by the gallon.

But there’s something quite comforting about food that’s gone out of fashion. It’s the kind of food you ate growing up, seeing it again takes you back in time to when you were young and carefree… who wouldn’t want to feel like that? Stuffed eggs just scream fancy 80’s dinner party to me – I’m not entirely sure if that’s what smart and cultured people were eating back then, but if my old cookbooks are anything to go by, it was probably on menus everywhere.

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To make my eggs, I hard boiled them then ever so carefully shelled them. I didn’t know this for a very long time, but ever since we’ve had chickens (and fresh eggs) and I hard boil their eggs I’ve noticed it’s particularly hard to peel fresh eggs, the whites just don’t hold together. The older the eggs are, the easier they are to peel – the shells just come right off. Which is kind of funny… because for many years I’ve discarded eggs that were really hard to peel, thinking they were old! PRO TIP

I halved the eggs, scooped out the middle and mashed the cooked yolk with diced cornichons, capers, some chopped parsley and chives, and a few tablespoons of good mayonnaise, a dash of white wine vinegar, and a half teaspoon of mustard. And a pinch of salt, and plenty of fresh black ground pepper.

I would have piped the egg mix back into the whites with a fancy nozzle (just like they would have in the 80s) but I hadn’t chopped the cornichons up quite as finely as I should have – they would have blocked the nozzle. So I just stuck it all into a small zip lock plastic bag, with a corner cut off, and piped it back in that way. Not quite as pretty, but still good!

P1020485A little dust of sumac on the top, and they were ready to eat! And as an endorsement of just how good they tasted… my daughter, who normally runs away at the sight and smell of egg, happily polished off three of them.

 

Last night we traveled to Greece for dinner

My children have a fascination for eating food from other countries.

I have a great big stack of cookbooks that don’t get nearly as much love (read: use) as they should.

I wish I had the time and money to travel more – exotic and faraway places intrigue me. (Not to mention the shopping…!)

So… once a week on a Sunday afternoon (after much heated mid-week debate) I take out one of my precious cookbooks from the shelf in the kitchen and start feverishly whipping up a feast – one from another country.

Much mess ensues, all pots and pans are used, food spreads across the kitchen bench and other nearby surfaces, the dishwasher whirs, the fridge is emptied of ingredients.

And our kitchen transforms into the country chosen for the week… this week, Greece. Opa!!

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Our feast this week consisted of:

Tiganites ntomates (fried crumbed tomatoes)
Tiropsomo with Feta, Kasseri and Thyme (Greek bread)
Asparagus with Eggs, Ladolemono and shaved Kefalograviera Cheese
Butter bean dip
Chargrilled haloumi in vine leaves (from our garden!)

All the recipes I used are from the wonderful Maria Benardis’ Greekalicious website or from her book “My Greek Family Table” (if you don’t have this book and love Greek food – hunt it down… not only are the recipes fantastic, but the book is a work of art, and the family stories are delightful! I highly recommend it).

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And dessert… (the most important meal of the day)

The dessert was my own creation – strawberries with rosewater, fresh walnuts (serendipitously picked up from market that day), strained yoghurt, and honey. Not sure how Greek that is… but it was the perfect end to our meal.

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Broad bean bonanza series – Bean, mint and ricotta ravioli

The broad beans in our garden have been taking over lately, so in an effort to use them up, eat seasonally, and try a few new recipes, I am starting Broad Bean Bonanza… a series of bean recipes that will continue until we run out of beans!

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Broad beans taking over from the broccoli and weeds!

 

My husband harvested the beans that were ready to eat, but there are still quite a few small ones left to keep growing.

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A bucket load of beans

Looking at the quantity  he had picked I was a bit reluctant to start shelling them thinking it would take absolutely ages, but once you get into a rhythm it’s really quite therapeutic!

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And the result… a whole bowl full ready for eating.

The beautiful sweet little beans look like jewels, they are almost too pretty to eat… I said ALMOST. When they are young and straight from the pod they don’t need to have the outside casing removed, they are full of flavour and crunch – I don’t blanch them either.

I crushed them with mint, ricotta, olive oil, salt and pepper to make a ravioli filling. Delicious!

Fresh pasta rolled out and ready for filling
Fresh pasta rolled out and ready for filling

And the end result… SO good! It was worth all the time and effort spent growing, weeding, watering, harvesting, shelling, and cooking.

Eating time!
Eating time!

The ravioli doesn’t need any sauce – you want to taste the filling. I served it drizzled with olive oil, and topped with parmesan, mint and pepper.