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.

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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.

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.

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.

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

Petit Salé

Ingredients. Pork looks menacing.

I’ve been wanting to try making a basic salt pork recipe for a while now. I’ve had a real craving to cook some classic french dishes like Cassoulet and Petit Salé aux lentils but that is hard to do without the star ingredient, petit salé. Petit salé is a very basic French dry cure salt pork, cured with Sel Aromatise and generally soaked before use, As with the Sel Aromatise recipe posted earlier in the week, this recipe is an adaptation of one of Lindy Wildsmith’s. I’ve made a few tweaks to the recipe to save time and cut out the soaking stage, the most important of these is reducing the salt content substantially.  I’ve also used a pinch of Prague powder to ensure that the meat retains its lovely bacon pink colour when cooked. This results in a beautiful, delicately spiced piece of pork that is equally at home in a soup, stew, or used to enhance the flavour of side dishes. It’s particularly good in my basic gumbo recipe that I’ll be writing about in a few weeks.

The pork I used for this was a tasty bit of belly that came from the Sillfield farm shop in Borough Market and came with thick creamy layers of tasty tasty fat on it (as well as quite a lot of hair. It’s strange starting a recipe by shaving your meat. I should do a post on porcine grooming at some point!)

Jon’s Petit Salé
700g pork belly, rind on.
30g sel aromatise
10g dextrose
2g Prague powder #1
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1g juniper berries, crushed.

The recipe for this,like most other bacons is incredibly simple so forgive me if the below recipe is slightly shorter than usual. It’s simply a case of some basic preparation then having the patience to wait until its ready. If however, you are confused by anything, I’d recommend casting an eye over my previous cured pork posts.

Take your piece of meat and trim off any loose bits of fat. A square or rectangular piece of petit salé is easier to cut than a misshapen piece. If your meat is hairy, you can shave it or use a lighter to burn off the excess hair.

Sprinkling the meat with cure.

Take your pork and place it in a freezer bag. Next combine your seasoning ingredients and rub them thoroughly into the meat. It makes sense to do this when it’s already in the bag as that way you won’t lose any seasoning. You want to aim for about 80% of your cure rubbed into the meaty sides and maybe 20% on the skin. My skin piece came from the butcher with the skin scored for roasting so I was able to work more cure in that way.

Meat wrapped, and ready for the fridge.

Wrap your meat in the bag and place in the fridge to cure, turning occasionally and rubbing the meat through the bag to work the salt and seasonings in. After about a week, take your meat out of the bag and place on a rack to dry. Place it back in the fridge and leave for another week to dry out by the end of which you’ll have petit salé ready to go. As I mentioned earlier, this is great in cassoulet, gumbo, or with lentils. You can also use it in place of ordinary bacon and the taste of it is just great; slightly spiced, salty and deeply porky.

Finished Petit Sale