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.

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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

Paprika Cured Pancetta

Finished bacon. Ready for slicing. Rolled to fit through my slicer

I’ve been wanting to make something like this ever since I visited the London Charcuterie Festival last year and saw a brick-red piece of cured pork on sale among the other treats on the Flavours of Spain stall. After a brief chat with them on Twitter, they confirmed that it was a cured pancetta dusted with paprika. Not having had a recipe to work from, I’ve had to use a lot of guesswork and the result is quite different to the bacon I saw that fateful day; it is, however, absolutely delicious and one to be recommended if you have the patience to wait four weeks for your bacon. I’ve already used mine in a smoky tomato soup, as a wrap for chicken and, of course, in a sandwich.

Weighing out paprika.

Jon’s Paprika Cured Bacon
800g belly pork
28g salt
12g dark brown sugar
4g black pepper
5g smoked paprika
5g sweet paprika
4g garlic powder
3g red pepper flakes
3g Prague powder #1
2 or 3 crumbled bay leaves

Take your belly pork and carefully remove the skin, taking care to leave a decent layer of fat on the meat.  Set aside whilst you weigh out and combine your salt and spices.

Rubbing spices into pork

Place the piece of pork in a freezer bag and rub it thoroughly with your seasoning mix, being sure to work it into all of the folds of the meat.

Bacon, rubbed with cure and ready for the fridge.

Seal or wrap your meat in the bag and place in the fridge for a week to cure, turning and rubbing as per usual to ensure that the cure is evenly distributed. After about a week, remove the bacon from the bag and place on a rack in the fridge to dry. By this stage,  some of the moisture will have seeped from the meat and helped to further distribute the cure.

Leave the meat in the fridge for anything up to four weeks by which time the flesh will have dried out and darkened and the flavour will have intensified considerably. This bacon is now ready to use however you want. I had to roll mine to fit it through my slicer but you could easily cut rashers off with a knife. It has a heady smoky paprika aroma and a deeply savoury taste. I want to make this again and maybe try smoking it as I think that will really intensify the flavour even more. I’ll update this post if I do.

Pancetta

Pancetta, Pork, Bacon, Cured, Herb Crust

Pancetta, cured and ready for slicing.

One of the great advantages to curing your own pork is that it’s a great way to develop zen like levels of patience. The actual hands on effort of making your bacon or whatever is minimal and the only investment is in waiting time.

The sweetcure bacon that I made recently was cured for two weeks which resulted in a delicious, firm rasher that tasted amazing. However, I wanted to try making a bacon with a longer cure time that had an even more intense flavour. Italian stlye pancetta seemed like the ideal candidate as it had both toothsomeness from the longer cure and an intensity of flavour from the herbs used to season the cure.

While I was in Nottingham recently, visiting relatives, I managed to pick up some really good pork belly in Gonalston farm shop. Gonalston is somewhere between a traditional farm shop and a branch of Whole Foods marooned in the Nottinghamshire countryside and they take real care to ensure that their meat is both ethically and locally sourced.

With a really good bit of pork as a starting point, the next step was to devise the cure. This was based very loosely on the basic bacon recipe in Charcuterie with aditional salt and of course the selection of herbs and spices that elevate the dish far beyond ordinary bacon.

The recipe follows:

Jon’s Pancetta
850g Belly pork (trimmed weight)
25g Salt
12g Dextrose
5g Celery salt
4g Fennel seed
3g Red pepper flakes
3g Fresh thyme leaves
3g Oregano
3g Black pepper
3g Garlic powder
3g Prague powder #1
3 small bay leaves – crumbled

Pork, Thyme, Bay, Fennel Seed, Red pepper flakes, Oregano

Trimmed pork and pancetta cure ingredients

The first step in making your pancetta is to skin your pork and cut the meat away from the ribs. Cut the ribs away from the belly and set aside for another meal. Pork ribs, smoked, marinated, or just plain make a great dinner for one and are a perfect accompaniment to beer and televised sport.

Separating the ribs from the meat.

Once you meat is deboned, trim it so it’s roughly square (again, set aside the trimmings and use next time you make sausages) and set aside whilst you make your cure.

Roughly crush the fennel seeds and combine with all of the other ingredients (except the pork – yet!) in a bowl. Mix thoroughly to ensure that all of the ingredients are evenly distributed throughout the cure.

Sprinkling the pancetta with cure.

Take the trimmed pork and place it in a bowl large enough to accommodate it comfortably. Next take your cure and spread it evenly across the meat, being sure to work it into all of the meat, using your hands if necessary.

Meat rubbed with cure. Ready for refrigeration.

When your meat is fully covered place it in a plastic bag along with any excess cure and place it in the fridge for five days to a week, turning every couple of days and massaging the meat through the bag to really help the cure penetrate the meat. After a week or so, take your pancetta and place on a rack in the fridge. Some people like to wrap the meat in muslin at this stage but I didn’t bother.

Set aside the pancetta for anything up to four weeks. Anything longer than this and you probably want to use Prague powder number #2 as this is better for longer cures.

After this time your pancetta is basically ready. By now, the meat should have got much darker and be very firm to the touch.  Compare the photo below to the raw meat above.

Pancetta after 4 weeks.

Before you slice the meat, it’s worth thinking about how you’re going to use it. Pancetta is great in a posh bacon sarnie or for wrapping meat  but it’s equally good cubed and stirred through pasta or even sliced very thinly and eaten raw. I decided to cut half of my bacon into thin rashers using the meat slicer and half into one centimetre cubes using the slicer and a knife.

Cubing Pancetta. 'Dead Homies' T Shirt optional.

The pancetta is absolutely fabulous. Gently fried or grilled, it gives a really herbal fragrant bacon with a distinct but not overpowering tang of fennel that provides a wonderful base for a variety of dishes. Raw, it’s just as good, with a taste like Parma ham and the complexity of flavours from the Italian herb blend. Try it!

Finished pancetta. Sliced and cubed.

Rillettes De Porc

Recently I’ve had a real craving for rillettes, the shredded, slow cooked pork, preserved with fat and herbs. One of the great joys in life is a freshly baked baguette, slathered with rich, smooth rillettes and served with cornichons and sliced shallots and it seems every time I’m in France I gorge myself silly on it. It’s not so easy to come by in this country, however, but it is obscenely simple to make.

Pork Belly, Thyme, Bay, Salt, White Pepper, Celery Salt

Soon to be rillettes

On a whim and a recommendation, I decided to buy a copy of Lindy Wildsmith’s book Cured. This is a really excellent and informative books and has a very good selection of paté, confit and terrine recipes including rillettes. What surprised me was how incredibly simple they are to make. There is an investment in time, so they’re best done on a weekend but apart from that it’s incredibly simple.

The recipe below is an adaptation of Lindy’s recipe with a few tweaks to bring out some more autumnal, herbal flavours.

Jon’s Rillette Recipe
500g belly pork
1tsp thyme
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp salt
1 tsp celery salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3 bay leaves
125 ml water.

You’ll also need a casserole dish and some sterilised pots to pack the rillettes into.

Pork inna pot. Ready for the oven.

Cube and skin your belly pork and place in a large casserole dish along with all of your other ingredients. Mix well and pour in just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan, about 125ml. You can also throw the skin back in if you want to render extra fat from it. Seal the pot with a tight fitting lid. You might want to put a layer of foil between the pan and the lid if the lid is not especially tight.

Sealed in nice and tight so the flavours don't escape. This is the ADX of pots.

Place in a very low oven (Gas mark 1/4 or 80c or as low as your own will go) and cook for a minimum of eight hours. Mine went in early evening and came out at about 10am, after a grand total of 16 hours which perfumed the house with a delightful porcine aroma and made me wake up craving meat.

After 16 hours of slow cooking the meat is incredibly tender, if slightly unattractive.. You can see the rind in the background.

After a night in the oven, the pork should have cooked down into delicious, melt in the mouth chunks and all of the fat should have rendered into liquid. Remove your pan from the oven and strain through a sieve, being careful to reserve the fat that runs out.

When the meat is cool enough to work with, remove the bay leaves and rind, if using (this can now be discarded) from the stewed pork and set aside. Return the pork to the cooled casserole dish and proceed to pull it apart using two forks until it is completely shredded. While you do this, add in about a quarter to a third of the reserved fat to keep the meat moist.

Shredding with forks.

Take the bay leaves and lay them in your rillette pots. Next, take the shredded pork and pack it firmly down into the container. When all the pork is potted, take the remaining strained pork fat and pour it evenly over the meat to create a seal.

Rillettes. Waiting for a good greasing.

Set aside to chill until the fat is set firm and there you have it, finished rillettes.

These are wonderful spread on toast, stirred through a jacket potato, or even fried up with some savoy cabbage as an impromptu supper. They’re also great to keep in the back of the fridge in case of pork emergency as they keep for ages under their protective layer of fat.

mmmmm rillettes.

Miso Ginger Pork

This was something I cooked for myself from store cupboard ingredients last week. In a lot of ways it’s similar to the gochujang pork recipe I blogged a few weeks ago, but I make no apologies for that as this is the food I tend to eat when I’m catering for myself at home. It’s not quite a five minute meal, but it’s not far off.

This differs from the Korean dish as the fiery chili heat is replaced with the bite of fresh ginger, which provides warmth and spiciness, but also a freshness and sharp citrus-like kick. I would have added some Beni Shoga if I had some to hand as that would have given it another level of complexity.

Miso Pork Ingredients

The use of miso gives the dish a deeply savoury flavour that is perfect comfort eating, particularly now the evenings are getting darker and colder. I made it in these quantities because I happened to have 600g of frozen pork shoulder in the freezer that I’d earmarked for sausages and I really didn’t fancy braving the frozen tundra of the Walworth Road in search of fresh meat. This will serve two comfortably.

Jon’s Ginger Miso Pork
600g pork shoulder, cubed
2 large onions, thinly sliced
6 cloves of garlic, grated
A piece of ginger about as large as your thumb (bigger if you have small thumbs) grated.
2 heaped tsp white miso paste disolved in half a cup boiling water
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp shaoxing rice wine
Pinch white pepper
Sesame oil
Pinch MSG (optional)
Beni Shoga (optional)
1 carrot, cut into matchsticks. (optional)
Coriander to serve
Tenderstem broccoli
Udon noodles

Take a heavy based frying pan or wok, add a splash of sesame oil and heat until the pan is smoking. Add in your pork, ginger, and garlic and cook for a couple of minutes. Then add the thinly sliced onion and keep frying until the meat is seared.

Frying off pork and onions.

Add the carrot (if using) and stir-fry for another minute or two.  Next add the dissolved miso paste, soy sauce, rice wine and msg (optional).  Cover and cook for another five minutes or until the sauce has thickened.

Reducing the miso sauce.

In the meantime, prepare your noodles and any vegetables you might want. I find that steamed broccoli or pak choi dressed with some sesame oil is a perfect accompaniment.

Assemble your noodles, miso pork and vegetables in a bowl and dress with coriander, fried garlic flakes, shichimi powder and beni shoga. Eat with cold beer. Be content.

Mmmmm. Miso pork.