This week I’m finally getting to write about when I met chef Ben O’Donoghue a few months back. It was actually a PR event and the first I’d done in more than a year. Technically we were there to talk about how effective Fairy dishwashing liquid and dishwasher tablets but it provided the perfect opportunity to eat sweet, spicy, sticky pork for breakfast.
I’ve loved Ben’s cooking from a lifetime ago when he did a series in the UK called The Best. He, along with Paul Merrett and Silvana Franco, would each cook to a certain theme – the best sandwich, tasty fish suppers, cool salads – then their dishes would be presented to a group of punters who’d choose their favourite dish. They did an Australian version, which Ben was also in, but it didn’t have the same vibe as the UK one.
Anyway, I love his style of cooking and he’s about to open new digs in BrisVegas so if you’re up that way you’ll need to go and check it out.
Things I did differently:
- Ben uses 100gm of horseradish in the sauce – I felt it was way too much so just used a heaped tablespoon
- I have made the sauce and left out the horseradish and rum and it is still a very tasty sauce
- Play with the amount of chilli flakes but it does mellow. My non-spicy eating children love it. I’ve settled on using 2 teaspoons.
Twice cooked pork with bbq sauce
Adapted from Ben O’Dohoghue
The Chef and I - Ben O'Donoghue's twice cooked pork belly with bbq sauce
- 1.2kg pork belly spare ribs (also called rashers)
- enough coca cola to cover
- 2 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- ½ bunch coriander
- 1 long green chilli
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup malt vinegar
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 1 tbsp dried chilli flakes (or to taste)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 50g creamed horseradish
- 100ml rum
- Put the pork into a baking dish and pour enough coke over it to cover it
- Add the star anise and cinnamon stick and bake at 180C for about 1½ hours, turn it half way through
- Once it's cooked pull it out of the oven and leave it to cool slightly. You can leave it in the cooking liquid but then discard it once you move onto the next step.
- Combine the sugar, vinegar, saucem cinnamon stick and chilli flakes in a saucepan
- Bring it to the boil and simmer into really quite thick
- Add the horseradish and rum and cook for another five minutes or so
- Liberally smear the bbq sauce all over the pork
- Heat a chargrill pan or you can grill them in the oven
- Cook them long enough that the marinade is caramelised - some burnt pits are fine! - then turn them over and do the same.
- Serve with rice or even an Asian-style coleslaw
- You should have a bit of the bbq sauce left for next time or to smear on sandwiches
Pork, potato, pastry – the holy trinity
So how’s all that ham going? I basically lose interest with it the minute Christmas lunch is over so much of my time is occupied with recipes using the leftover ham. To, you know, use the remaining SIX kilos of it.
Christmas was wonderful. A relaxed day here feeding family with lots of laughter, delicious food and plenty of sparkling shiraz.
It was followed by my MIL’s birthday celebration, also here. It will go down in history as the Festival of Ham. With cheesecake. Divine divine cheesecake.
The boys have all been rather delicious – I believe I will look back on this next little episode of our lives with a full heart. My boys are not babies anymore and who they will be is slowly revealing itself – a process I feel absolutely blessed to witness. Even if at times my head wants to explode from the less pleasant aspects of it.
Oscar loves his basketball hoop for the trampoline – possibly the finest example of highway robbery by a company I’ve ever been party to. Felix is smitten with his cruiser skateboard and ZOMG he will be 13 this year and that makes my chest tighten. Jasper got his long-pined-for Halo rocket ship. A Megabloks hellzone. There were three lots of tears on Christmas Day at being so overwhelmed by it. I ended up building most of it. Ask my chiropractor how that worked out for everyone. Grover was conflicted, apparently Santa “got it wrong” with his Lego but all was forgiven with a Dr Who sonic screwdriver.
Mum’s left knee has totally packed it in – she’s basically incapacitated so between the two of us we cut quite a pair.
What better way to counter chronic pain and, in mum’s case, now unavoidable joint replacement surgery in 2013 than eating ham. A lot of ham.
It’s a pie of promise (with a quiche in the background for good measure)
Ham and potato pie
- Shortcrust pastry – you can NOT go past Maggie Beer’s sour cream pastry, it has revolutionised my fear of working with pastry – it’s hugely forgiving, ridiculously easy to work with and tastes DIVINE.
- 5-6 waxy potatoes – cooked, peeled and cut into 1/2-1cm slices
- 700g ham, sliced thinly off the bone
- handful fresh basil, finely chopped
- handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- salt and pepper
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/3 cup milk
layer upon layer upon layer
- Preheat oven to 180C and grease a 24cm springform tin
- Roll out 2/3 of the pastry to about 3mm thick and line the tin – try and do it in one whole piece but don’t stress if it breaks – just smoosh the broken edges together
- Place a layer of the potatoes in the bottom, top with ham, then scatter over herbs and seasoning – go light on the salt depending on how salty your ham is
- Keep layering and end with ham and herbs then press the filling down firmly
- Mix the eggs with the milk and cream, pour over the layers then pop a pastry lid on the top, cut some slits in it and glaze if you feel so inclined
- Let it sit for 1/2 hour and then bake for 1-1.5hrs. I always bake it for 1.5 and it comes out a treat – just stick a knife in it and if it’s piping hot it’s good to go.
- Leave it to sit for 10-15 minutes once it’s done and then serve with a simple green salad.
Tasty AND pretty.
Dumplings make everything better. That’s it really. I had a complete brain fart the other week but a dumplings session with Woogs, Sarah and the world righted itself toot sweet.
And don’t be nervous about working with the gow gee wrappers, they are remarkable robust and if sealing them with the little fancy folds is too intimidating then just moisten the edges fold the pastry over and voila, gorgeous half moons of goodness.
Now, what follows is two recipes for you. The first is the one I have always used in the past, the other from Adam Liaw, winner of Season 2 of MasterChef Australia. I made this on the weekend and think it worth including here. The flavour is a lot more delicate and look, it’s just so easy.
I tend to make a big batch of the filling and then freeze containers of what is left over so I can whip up another batch down the track. Sorted.
Goodness on a plate.
Pork and garlic chive dumplings
- 250g fatty minced pork (do not come over all healthy on me, you need the fat for flavour)
- 1 egg
- 1tbsp very finely grated ginger
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped garlic chives
- 2tbsp Shaoxing wine
- 40 gow gee wrappers
- Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well, for a good 10 minutes and season well
All about flavour
Adam Liaw’s pork dumpling filling
- 1kg fatty pork
- 1 cup finely chopped and blanched Chinese cabbage
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2tsp grated ginger
- 1tbsp white vinegar
- 2tbsp cornstarch
- 1tsp salt
- 1/2tsp white pepper
- Mix all the ingredients together and knead for about 10 minutes. Refrigerate for 30 minutes
- Use it as is or add other flavourings now. (I’ve used some rehydrated Chinese mushrooms finely chopped and finely chopped water chestnuts)
To assemble and cook:
- Place a heaped teaspoon of mix in the centre of the wrapper, dab water around the edge and seal. Make sure there’s no air in the pocket with the meat. Either seal as a half moon shape or then bring the bottom of one side up, and again and again to make a little parcel.
- If using in a soup or to simply boil, drop into boiling water and once they rise to the surface cook for a further two minutes and then remove.
- For pot stickers – heat a little oil in the frypan and add the dumplings. Brown a little and then add water half way up the sides of the dumplings. Keep cooking, shaking the pan a little every now and then until the water has evaporated and the dumplings are left to fry again.
- Serve with the dipping sauce.
Ready for cooking
Pot stickers, gyoza, whatever you call them they’re tasty
So Felix wanted to make dinner – how cool is that! He looked through my recipe file and pulled out pork dumplings. This is great food for kids to cook. Easy to mix, easy to compile and DELICIOUS.
Pork Dumplings with dipping sauce
- 500g pork mince
- Bunch of chives, chopped finely
- 8-10 water chestnuts, chopped finely
- knob of ginger, grated
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 1 egg
- pinch of salt
- 1 1/2 packets gow gee wrappers
- Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil
- Combine all the ingredients in a bowl
- Have a little bowl of water on your kitchen bench
- Place a scant teaspoon of the pork mix in the centre of a wrapper, dip your finger in the water and run it around the edge of the wrapper, pinch the sides together to seal
- Put dumplings into the water, when they rise to the top cook for a further 2-3 minutes then drain
- Serve with the dipping sauce.
- 1/3 cup black vinegar
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- knob of ginger, grated
- 1 garlic clove, very finely sliced
- Fresh chilli to taste
- Mix together
The other week I dragged the boys to the Growers’ Markets. My main goal was to stock up on some pork products from these guys. By the time I got there – and it was only around 9am – they had no pork neck, no belly and no pieces to roast left. But she had pork cheeks and I thought, interesting. Cindy said to slowly braise them in some veggies but nothing too strong so as not to distract from the pork.
So I did a shout out for ideas and between Joke, Badger and Blackbird I came up with something that at the end of the day was nothing like I’d planned or envisioned but lovely all the same. It was – as is the rule – even better the next day.
There’s no real quantities here, just a journey.
Take some exquisite, organic, heritage English Large Black pork
add some lovely chopped onions, carrots, celery, granny smith apples and sage
brown off the pork cheeks in your new – and FIRST one ever owned – Le Creuset pan
then do the same to the same to the veggies and apples
Put it all back into the pot and cover with a mix of clear apple juice and stock and then cook for two hours or even more (I think mine was in for 3, or maybe even 4)
Pull the meat out
and struggle to decide what to do with it. Shred it? slice it? There was a LOT of fat. (Next time I’m following Joke’s suggestion and going to cure them.) While reducing the saucey veggies down on the stove top.
Return the meat to the sauce and add the finely grated rind of a lemon.
Serve with crusty bread