Rillons

So, it’s been a while since I posted anything up here. So long in fact that it feels kind of strange to be writing a blog post. Anyway, rather than make a load of excuses about why I haven’t posted recently or resolutions about how I’m going to blog more in 2013 (I’ll try, alright?) I thought I should just get on and tell you about why I’m writing this blog post.

About six months ago I was walking past the Sillfield Farm shop at Borough and noticed that they were selling off huge hunks of rare breed pork belly for super cheap. Consequently, I ended up with a couple of kilos of tasty belly pork which I promptly froze and they’ve been sitting in my freezer waiting for me to use them ever since. Every time I’ve opened the freezer, it’s been sitting there reminding me that I still haven’t cooked it. Eventually, I couldn’t stand it any more, knowing that it was in there like the tell tale pig, so I defrosted it, reasoning that would force me to cook it.

But what to make? Given that it’s Christmas, my house is already awash with a surfeit of roasted meat and much as I love roast pork, I couldn’t quite face any more rich roast meat so I decided on using some of the meat to make rillons, juicy tender cubes of belly pork, slow cooked in fat and aromatics and then preserved under a layer of lard. REALLY TASTY!

This recipe is very similar to the one for rillettes that I made a year or so ago, the main difference being that I’ve cooked them with some extra aromatics and haven’t shredded them like you would do with rillettes.

You can use rillons much like you would rillettes, spooned straight from the jar and spread on toast.

They’re also amazing when refried until  crispy and served with potatoes, spring greens etc. They make a perfect store cupboard food for when you don’t have the time or inclination to make something fancy as they keep for ages!

Rillon ingredients. More green than pink...

Rillon ingredients. More green than pink…

Jon’s Rillons
800g belly pork
2 tsp celery salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
2 tsp fresh picked thyme leaves
4/5 garlic cloves
150 ml white wine
3 bay leaves

Preheat your oven to a super low setting,(Gas Mark 1/4 or about 80c)

Whilst it is coming up to temperature, take your belly pork, derind it, and chop it into cubes of about an inch in size.

Cubing the pork with my favourite jamon knife.

Cubing the pork with my favourite jamon knife.

Next, place the pork in a large casserole dish with a close fitting lid. Add all of the other ingredients and mix thoroughly.until the meat is well covered in seasonings. Make a lid for the casserole dish using foil before adding the actual lid. This will ensure that the meat gently steams in its own juices and makes it super tender.

Ready for the ole low'n'slow.

Ready for the ole low’n’slow.

Put the pork in the oven and cook for at least 8 hours. It’s good to cook overnight or whilst you’re out at work. It doesn’t matter if you cook it for longer than eight hours, it’s only going to get more tender. When you’re happy that the pork is thoroughly cooked, remove it from the oven and discard the foil. By this time the meat should be meltingly tender and relaxing in a jacuzzi of its own fat.

Carefully strain the meat through a sieve to separate out the fat. Reserve the fat.  You may want to discard the garlic or leave it in there. I got rid of mine as it’d oxidised slightly and gone an unattractive green/blue colour.

Packing Pork

Packing Pork

Take your pork chunks and pack them loosely into sterilised pots or jars before pouring over the liquid fat to create an airtight seal around the meat. Set them aside to cool and there you have it; a finished jar of rillons. Dig in!

Finished jar of rillons.

Finished jar of rillons.

Souvlaki

Finally, it seems summer has arrived. After hiding from us for most of the year, it seems the sun has finally decided to put in an appearance. Of course, being Brits, we’ve all thrown off our clothes, grabbed as much booze as we can carry  and hightailed it to the nearest park or garden. In amongst the warm grog, overenthusiastic frisbee and ill-advised toplessness, the food component is frequently overlooked, either relying on a supermarket picnic or some cheap sausages on a disposable barbecue.

Meat in a bath of herbs.

This souvlaki recipe is a really easy and quick summer treat that is equally at home on your kitchen grill as it is on a disposable BBQ down the park (but don’t burn the grass!) Serve it with flat bread, salad, chilli, and garlic sauce. As with most other recipes I make no claims to authenticity. This is my take on the classic Greek kebab but I’ve made some changes. The first time I made this, I only had white wine to hand (quelle horreur!) so I used that and I’ve since found that I prefer it that way. It somehow tastes more vibrant.

Jon’s Souvlaki
500g pork shoulder
2 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp dried mint
2tsp garlic salt
(or 1tsp salt and 1 tsp garlic powder/1tsp salt and 2 cloves crushed garlic)
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup white wine

Combine all of the ingredients except the pork in a large bowl and stir to mix.

De-rind the pork shoulder and trim off any excess fat before cutting into thin strips. Next place the pork in the marinade and leave for anything from 1-24 hours. It’s a pretty robust marinade so the meat will start to pick up flavour quite quickly but the longer you leave it the better. Interestingly, the lemon juice in the marinade will start to ceviche the pork and it will take on a white tint.

Marinating meat

When you’re ready to eat, simply take the meat and cook it however you would like. You can thread it onto skewers and skewers and grill it over hot coals, basting it with marinade. If, like me, however, you don’t have a garden (bloody London living!) then these are almost as good cooked under the grill or on a griddle pan.

Souvlaki pieces sizzling on the grill.

Serve them in a pitta or flatbread with some salad, chilli sauce and tzatziki or hummous (or both). Souvlaki is also really good served cold. Last time I made this I made double quantities and we took some on a picnic wrapped in flatbread with some home smoked cheese. Simply divine…

A Birthday treat. Bacon and Pecan Muffins with bacon caramel sauce

Recently my good friend Paul was in London for a Major Lazer gig at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire and it was a good opportunity for a few beers and a catch up on life. Among many other things (animator, bass player, tattoo enthusiast), it turns out that he’s actually a damn fine chef. I met Paul in The Reliance in Old Street where he greeted me with a parcel of ‘birthday treats’.

Alongside a sinister looking bottle of ‘Cheepe Drank’ (actually a pretty nice own brewed pilsner) was a package wrapped in silver foil and a recycled carbonara carton filled with a dark brown sauce. Eagerly, I tore off the wrapping to find some dark sticky buns topped with pecan nuts and cubes of crispy bacon. Needless to say these were AMAZING: sweet, salty, and very very addictive. The recipe was a combination of two recipes, this one and this one and perhaps if Paul is feeling very nice, he might set out his method in the comments below…

Szechuan Aubergine

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything about pork. Looking back over the last couple of posts, there has been bread and even cheese but not much pork. On the face of it, this is another one of those recipes. I mean, it even looks sounds vegetarian right? Don’t worry. It’s not. In fact, this recipe is a damn sneaky way to smuggle extra pork into your diet under cover of a vegetable dish. The smoky aubergine, umami sauce and numbing qualities of the Szechuan peppercorns combined with the slightly fatty pork mince make a dish that is simple enough for a quick midweek dinner but special enough to serve to your mates either as a main dish or as part of a larger Chinese meal.

Ingredients

I have to be completely honest here. I can’t speak for the authenticity of this recipe. I’ve eaten dishes like this in restaurants like Leong’s Legends and the Empress of Sichuan in Chinatown, London and this is my attempt to replicate them.

Jon’s Szechuan Aubergine
2 medium aubergines
2 onions, sliced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 tbsp grated ginger
2 small red chillis or more to taste
1/2 – 1 tsp Szechuan pepper, roughly crushed in a mortar and pestle
1/2 tsp five spice powder
2 tbsp rice wine
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp water
500g minced pork
Sesame oil
Pinch MSG (optional)
Spring onion and coriander to serve.

Cut your aubergine into spears about 2 inches long. Take a decent heavy bottomed frying pan, add a good glug of sesame oil and heat to a medium high temperature. Add the aubergine and fry on all sides until golden brown. Don’t worry if you char them a little bit, it’ll all add to the character of the dish. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Turn down the heat to medium and add the onion, garlic, chilli, ginger and minced pork to the pan. Stir-fry for a couple of minutes or until the pork has started to colour and give up some of its juices then add the Szechuan pepper, five spice, and MSG if using. Continue to cook until the pork has lost its pink colour and the onions have softened.

Cooking up treats

Add the rice wine, oyster sauce, soy sauce and water to the pan and continue to cook over a medium heat. Next, return the aubergines to the pan and keep cooking until they’re softened and there you have it, Szechuan aubergine. Top with coriander and spring onion and serve with boiled rice.

Szechuan Aubergine

Baking With The Pig – Sage and Onion Beer Bread

This is a guest post from liz545

While Jon’s been making sausages, I’m usually behind the camera, playing sous-chef and chief sub editor. But I’m also a keen baker, making everything from bread and cakes to pastry for sausage rolls.

Finished loaf

If you’ve been inspired to make some delicious sausages, or cure your own bacon, the next logical step is a sandwich, right? And there’s nothing better than a sandwich on home-made bread. I love a good sourdough loaf, but if you’re pushed for time, beer bread is the answer.

If you’ve never made bread before, this is a great place to start, because it’s fast, easy, and you’ll probably already have everything you need to make it. It relies on baking powder instead of yeast as the main leavening agent, with the yeast in the beer giving it a little extra lift and flavour. It doesn’t really matter what beer you used – I used a dubiously named ale that Jon had knocking around, but most lighter beers would work. (It may have been a dubious beer but I’d still have liked to drink it. Grrr. – Jon) Stout or porter might be a bit heavy, though.

The mix of wholemeal and white flour means it’s robust enough to stand up to a hearty sausage, and the sage emphasises the flavours nicely. This recipe is very adaptable, so feel free to play around with the flavourings. Cheese, fresh herbs, or some sautéed bacon would all work well mixed in here.

A note on measurements
I’ve used a standard American measuring cup that holds 250ml. If you don’t have one, you can use any teacup or mug, so long as you keep the proportions the same (i.e. two parts flour to one part beer).

Sage and onion beer bread
1 large onion, chopped
1 tbsp. oil
1½ cups wholemeal flour (I used spelt, but you could use rye, or whatever brown flour you have on hand)
1½ cups plain white flour
1tbsp sugar
1tsp salt
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. dried sage
1½ cups beer

Preheat the oven to 190°C and grease your loaf tin. Sauté the onion in a little oil until it’s translucent and a nice golden colour, then leave it to cool down a bit before adding it to the rest of the ingredients.

Combine the flour, sage, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Slowly stir in the onion mixture and the beer and mix just until combined. With quick breads you don’t want to over-mix it, so it’s ok if it looks lumpy, as long as there aren’t any pockets of dry flour.
Pour the batter into the loaf tin, brush with egg or melted butter if you want, and bake for about 45 minutes or until it’s golden brown and a skewer/knife comes out clean.

Finished sliced loaf

Let the bread cool in the tin for ten minutes, then finish cooling on a rack before slicing.

Cheese Making – First Attempt

I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of making cheese but I’ve never progressed beyond intrigued into actually doing it. Until last Saturday, that is, when I happened to find myself at Borough Market, talking to a gentleman who sold raw milk and thought “why not?”

As this isn’t technically a pork adventure I’m not going to write about it here. Yes, I know I’ve covered non pork food here but whatever…it’s my blog and I can do what I like! Perhaps when I’ve perfected the recipe, I’ll go into more detail. Instead, I’ve written a few notes on it over on the Adventures with the Pig Facebook page if you want to give it a go. Feel free to leave comments letting me know how you got on!

Semi Cured Chorizo

Chorizo Ingredients

Proper chorizo is one of my very favourite things in life. Cured and served cold or hot and freshly cooked, its robust paprika flavour and heavenly brick red fat are truly one of the best things you can eat. In fact,  I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to have a go at making my own. I think part of the problem is that chorizo has become ubiquitous. You can get a decent Spanish cured chorizo in a lot of corner shops round my way, particularly at Borough Market or the Portuguese deli in Vauxhall

What are less easy to find are the semi-cured cooking chorizo that impart such a delicious flavour to soups, stews and rice dishes. True, you can get them at Brindisa but they’re very easy and great fun to make at home and are considerably cheaper than bought ones.

Making this recipe also gave me a good excuse for me to show off my shiny new electric mincer. After many months of hand cranking my meat (I try to avoid bad sausage puns but sometimes I just can’t help myself) I was very kindly bought a basic electric mincer as a Christmas gift. The mincer works very well, although I’m still finding my way around it and am yet to master the art of using it for sausage stuffing. On the whole though, the new machine is super quick at mincing and best of all, it’s whisper quiet.*. Great value for saving time and effort.

The recipe follows. It make a very fine sausage but its one that I will inevitably come back to and tweak, fiddle and play with in my quest for a perfect chorizo. I’ll post any updates I do as and when in this post.

Spices

Jon’s Semi-Cured Chorizo
800g pork shoulder
150g pork belly
75g breadcrumbs
22g salt
2g Prague powder #1
10g smoked paprika
10g sweet paprika
7g garlic powder
2g oregano
1g ground chipotle
50ml white wine
Hog casings, about 6 feet

First soak your casings in clean cold water for a couple of hours to remove the salt in which they’re packed.

Cube the pork shoulder and belly into chunks small enough to feed through your mincer. Place in the freezer to chill for 30 minutes or so. In the meantime, weigh out all of your spices and mix thoroughly. When you’re ready to mince your pork, assemble your mincer and fit it with a coarse mincing plate. Remove your meat from the freezer and slowly feed it through the mincer until you have a big pile of minced meat in front of you. Transfer it to a large mixing bowl.

Mincing meat with my shiny new mincer

Using your hands or a spoon, slowly fold in your spices and breadcrumbs, adding enough white wine to bind. Make sure everything is thoroughly combined.This is especially important when you’re using Prague powder as you don’t want to end up with all of your sodium nitrite in one place. There’s a lot of discussion on the internet about whether cured food is bad for you but suffice to say, a big build up of sodium nitrite in one go will do you no good at all.

Thoroughly mixed chorizo sausagemeat

At this stage, you can decide whether to stuff your chorizo into skins. Loose, the meat is great with scrambled eggs or thrown into a tomato sauce to give it a smoky depth of flavour. If you decide not to stuff the mixture pack it firmly into a tupperware box with a lid. Cover and refrigerate for about a week, draining off any liquid that leaks out every couple of days.

Otherwise, remove your casings from their soaking water and rinse thoroughly inside and out to remove any excess salt. Slide the skins over your stuffing tube and proceed to stuff your sausages in the usual way. I have to confess that I haven’t quite got the hang of my new elecric mincer/stuffer so my sausage filling wasn’t as even as I’d like. However, practice makes perfect and I daresay, I’ll have properly stuffed bangers before too long…

Wrestling with an unruly sausage stuffer

When you have fed all of your sausagemeat through your mincer, remove the unlinked sausage from your stuffing tube and tie off. Link your sausages in the usual way and place in a rack in the fridge to dry for 7-10 days. By this time the chorizos will have darkened, lost some of their weight and will feel firmer to the touch. They’ll still need cooking before you eat them. They are brilliant fried gently then cooked with rice and peppers or just in a crusty roll with some peppery salad and aioli.

Chorizo cooked with rice, leeks and peppers. Served with green beans and a tomato vinegar sauce.

Next time I make this, I’ll definitely up the chilli quota but then they’ll be a different sausages. These are pretty mild sausages compared to a lot of other chorizos but that does allow the flavour of the paprika and oregano (always use good quality oregano otherwise you won’t taste it at all) to shine through beautifully.

Finished Chorizo

*It seems the evil empire have blocked that video. For those that don’t know its a fine Simpsons infomercial for the Juice Loostener.