BBQ style ribs with fennel, chilli and lime slaw

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Mmm ribs. Everyone loves ribs. For me, it’s something about gnawing the tender, sticky, spicy meat off the bones, getting sauce all over my face and just generally making a delicious mess. I had some pork ribs left over from making Suffolk black bacon the other week and paired with some sticky sauce and a really fresh, sharp coleslaw, they made an astonishingly tasty and well balanced dinner.

BBQ Style Ribs
Ribs. About half a rack per person.
BBQ Rub. Enough to coat your ribs + more for dusting.

Sticky Rib Sauce
4tbsp ketchup
4tbsp cider vinegar
3 tbsp spice rub
1/2 cup water

Fennel, green chilli, and lime slaw
1/4 head red cabbage
1 small head fennel
1 large shallot
1 carrot
1/2 green chilli
1 bunch coriander
Juice of 1 lime
Glug of olive oil
Salt
pepper
Sugar

First, prepare your ribs. Some people take a lot of time to trim off all the extraneous fat but I don’t bother, the one thing I do do is remove the thick layer of membrane from the bony side of the ribs. This allows all of the flavours of your spice rub to fully permeate the meat. To remove the membrane, take a small knife and work it under the membrane on one side of your ribs. Work the knife underneath until you can grab hold of the membrane and slowly pull it off. If you’re lucky, it’ll come off in one go. If not, simply stick the knife under and try again. I found this link useful here.

Take your ribs, rub them liberally with spice rub, and set aside. I ended up leaving these for 48 hours. Mainly because I was in the pub, but anything from a couple of hours is fine, you just want to leave it long enough for the meat to absorb some of the spices.

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When you’re ready to cook, preheat the oven to about 170 degrees.

While the oven is heating up, combine the ingredients for the barbeque sauce in a small pan and gently heat through to melt the sugar in your spice rub. You’re going to want some of this to baste your ribs with as they cook and more to brush on before you serve.

Put the ribs on a baking tray and, when the oven is hot, chuck the ribs in.  Cook the ribs for 45 mins to an hour, basting frequently with your barbeque sauce in order to build up a nice, sticky sweet crust.

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Whilst your ribs are cooking, you can turn your attention to the slaw. This really couldn’t be easier.  Simply take a mandolin or sharp knife and shred your cabbage, fennel and shallot into a bowl. Grate or julienne the carrot and chop the chilli (seeds in or out, your call) and coriander. Squeeze over the juice of a lime, pour in a good glug of olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and a sprinkle of sugar.  Mix thoroughly to combine and set aside until your ribs are cooked.

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After about 45 minutes to an hour, your ribs should be nicely tender with a delicious sticky sauce clinging to them. Take them out of the oven, give them a final generous brush with sauce and maybe a little sprinkle of spice rub and serve immediately with the slaw. You might want a portion of fries or a jacket potato on the side and you’ll definitely want a big stack of napkins to mop your face with. Don’t be ashamed to make a mess as your tear and suck the tender spicy meat of the bones. Let your caveman side out!

 

 

 

 

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

Crêpe Complèt

load of Crêpe

Every year, pancake day comes around with unerring regularity. Having lived through 29 of them now, you would think I might actually remember one of them before it actually happens. I’m sure if I were a more organised person I’d have planned, cooked and written about the following recipe weeks ago in order to give people time to cook it for pancake day themselves. Unfortunately, I’m not that person and so here I am, giving a porky pancake recipe a week after Shrove Tuesday. Fortunately this recipe is damn good whenever you make it and I doubt if many of you are giving up dairy for Lent anyway. If you are, well it’s not too long until Easter….

I love pancakes in all their forms, from big fluffy american style ones, through to your classic pancake day pancakes, complete with icing sugar and a squirt of jif lemon from one of those weird lemon shaped bottles. I think my favourite pancake though has to be the classic breton crêpe: wafer thin, light brown and deeply nutty and savoury down to the use of buckwheat flour.

Many, many moons ago when the earth was young, and Liz and I had just met we went on a short break to stay with a friend in Nice in the south of France and it was there that I had my first crepe complet as an adult. Ham, cheese, fried egg, and basil sealed up in a featherlight batter of buckwheat flour and scoffed down on the beach as the sun set over the mediterranean. There are few things better. Since then I’ve eaten an awful lot of crêpes and whilst they may not have had the romance of these formative ones (A woman who can still love me with melted emmental stuck in my beard is clearly a keeper!) they have all been damn good.

For a foolproof crepe recipe, I always use my own variation of the one in the bible of high gastronomy, The Usborne First Cookery Book. You can even make the crepes up in advance and just fill and reheat them when you’re ready. The recipe follows

Jon’s Crepe Complet

Batter
125g plain flour
75g buckwheat flour
50g spelt flour (or other wholemeal flour)
2 eggs
3/4 pint milk
1/4 pint water
1 tbsp melted butter

Filling
2 shallots, thinly sliced
Good quality cooked ham. 1 slice per crepe
Emmental Cheese, grated
Eggs, 1 per crepe

To finish
Espelette pepper (optional but it’s bloody good)
Green herb sauce

For the green herb sauce
1 clove garlic, blanched in boiling water
1 bunch basil
1/2 bunch parsely
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar

First make your batter. Start by sieving the flours into a large bowl. You’re doing this to help get some air into the batter rather than  sieve out impurities so feel free to tip the grains that have accumulated into the sieve back into the bowl.

sieved flour

Make a well in the centre of the flour and crack in your eggs. Now whisk the flour into the eggs before gently adding in your water milk and salt. Continue whisking until all of the flour is combined and you have a thin and light batter. Finally slowly fold in the melted butter and whisk for another minute or so. The batter really improves with standing so set it aside for an hour or so if you can.

Eggs in a flour well

While the batter is standing, thinly slice the shallots and fry them in a little butter until they’re completely soft and very lightly coloured.  Set them aside until ready to use.

Next make your green herb sauce. Throw all your ingredients into a mini chopper and pulse until combined. Alternatively you can chop the herbs and garlic by hand and combine in a bowl with the oil and vinegar. Set aside to chill until you’re ready to serve.

Green sauce ingredients

When you’re ready to eat, melt a small amount of butter over a medium heat in a large frying pan. You will only need a very tiny bit. I tend to wipe round the pan with some kitchen roll dipped in butter before frying each crepe.

When your pan is hot, add a ladle of batter to your pan and roll it around until the batter touches the side. Fry gently until browned on one side. This should take 3-5 minutes.

Flip your pancake. You can do this as flamboyantly as you like. Me? I just tend to turn it over with a spatula. Showboating in the kitchen is all well and good but no one likes a floor pancake.

You can now proceed to fill and serve your pancakes or simply cook the crepes and fill and reheat at a later date. As I was making these for dinner, I did it all in one go.

Filling a crepe

To fill, place a slice of good quality ham in the centre of each crepe. Cover generously with cheese and a spoonful of the fried shallots then very carefully break an egg into the centre. Immediately fold in the side(s) of the crepe to make it into a square shape and continue cooking for a couple of minutes. Remove from the hob and flash it under a grill for a couple of minutes until the yolk is set. Transfer to a plate, drizzle with your green herb sauce and dust with espelette pepper if available. Pure indulgent pleasure.

Revitalising Green Gumbo

Gumbo ingredients

Traditionally, gumbo is a Cajun/Creole stew thickened either with a roux or okra and containing cured pork and sausage, green vegetables and classic Cajun spices like paprika, allspice, and cayenne. My version is a little lighter and closer in consistency to a soup (as I don’t tend to thicken it) and makes an ideal, quick midweek supper or a perfect packed lunch (which has the added advantage of making co-workers jealous)

The combination of iron-rich green vegetables, spicy broth, and tasty cured meat is a truly uplifting one. Joyful, hearty, and nourishing, this a perfect dish for chasing away late winter blues. It’s also a good way to use up leftover green vegetables. Feel free to swap ingredients around; use cabbage if you don’t have cavolo nero or courgettes in place of broccoli. Whatever you want. The recipe follows.

Shredding Cavolo Nero

Jon’s basic gumbo
300g chicken thigh fillets
200g petit salé
75g smoked sausage
1 large onion, sliced
2 sticks celery, sliced
1 red pepper, cut into pieces
100g Cavolo nero, shredded
100g spinach, shredded
100g tenderstem broccolli, chopped
3 bay leaves
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp oregano
1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
1.5 litres chicken stock

First, take your chicken thigh fillets and chop into bite-size pieces. Next, sprinkle the paprika, pepper flakes, garlic powder, cayenne, and white pepper over the chicken. Turn them a couple of times to coat and set aside.

Chicken rubbed with spices

Pour a splash of oil into a large soup pan and bring up to a medium heat. While the oil is heating, chop your petit salé into large chunks and slice the smoked sausage. When the oil is hot, add the marinated chicken pieces along with the herbs and bay leaves and fry for a couple of minutes until browned. Add your petit salé, smoked sausage, onion,celery and red pepper and continue to fry until the vegetables are soft.

Frying meat. Mmmm. Meat

Turn down the heat to a simmer and add between 1.5 and 2 litres of chicken (or vegetable) stock. Continue to cook for about 45 mins to an hour or until the flavours have developed. The soup should be a brick red colour and taste great: rich and spicy with pronounced herbal notes.

Steaming hot soup.

About 15 minutes before you’re ready to eat, add the shredded cavolo nero and chopped broccoli, stir, and keep cooking. Add the shredded spinach and half of the parsley a couple of minutes before you’re due to eat. Serve in deep bowls with a squeeze of lemon and the remaining parsley sprinkled over. You might also want a shake or two of tabasco if you like things a little picante.

Finished gumbo

Vietnamese Lemongrass Pork

Vietnamese Lemongrass Pork topped with toasted peanuts and spring onion.

Living in London, as I do, it’s pretty easy to find good Vietnamese food. From Deptford to Dalston, there seem to be new Vietnamese restaurants springing up every week and Banh Mi sandwiches are this year’s burrito in terms of food trends. Despite this, I still love to cook Vietnamese food at home as not only is it incredibly tasty, it’s also very quick and easy and so ideal for a midweek meal.

I’ve always adored the way the the savoury and slightly fatty taste of pork is balanced with fresh, cleansing flavours in Asian cuisine and this recipe is no exception. The heavy use of lemongrass in this dish really give a freshness to it which, when combined with the sweet and savoury tastes of the sugar and soy make for a beautifully balanced meal. The recipe below takes its inspiration from one on the fabulous Viet World Kitchen blog but I’ve made the flavourings more robust and used pork loin instead of shoulder because, well, I like it like that. The recipe follows.

Ingredients.

Jon’s Lemongrass Pork
300g pork loin, cut into steaks.
6 cloves garlic
1 onion
2 stalks lemongrass,
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp dark soy
1 1/2 tbsp light brown sugar
1 tsp roughly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp Vietnamese 7 spice powder
1/2 tsp msg

To serve
Spring onions
Toasted crushed peanuts
Nuoc cham

Take all of your ingredients except the pork and blitz them in a food processor or a mini chopper until you have a rough paste. This won’t look like the most appetising thing in the world at this stage but trust me, it’ll taste amazing.

Minced marinade ingredients.

Coat the pork steaks thoroughly in the marinade and set aside to marinade in the fridge for at least two hours but the longer the better. If you can leave the pork marinading for 24 hours or so then so much the better.

Take the marinated pork out of the fridge and let it return to room temperature. In the meantime, chop your spring onions and toast the peanuts over a medium heat using a large, dry frying pan.

Remove the toasted peanuts from the pan and sweep out any remaining crumbs. Add a dash of oil to the pan and bring back up to the heat.

Remove your pork loin from the marinade and fry until the sugar has caramelised and the steaks are a rich golden brown colour. This should take 10 – 12 minutes but don’t worry if it takes a little longer. You don’t want to cook them for too long though as loin can dry out if you’re not careful.

Slicing pork loin.

Remove your pork loins from the pan and rest them for five minutes or so before slicing them thinly across the steak. Top with some roast peanuts and spring onions and serve. I served this with stir fried broccoli, steamed rice and a basic dipping sauce. A delicious, quick, and simple midweek meal.

Lemongrass Pork, Brocolli cooked in rice wine, rice, dipping sauce.

Crazy haired man in Christmas jumper eats Vietnamese food.