Nuoc Cham

Nuoc Cham is the basic Vietnamese dipping sauce found in every home, cafe or restaurant in Vietnam. Its salty sweet taste complements everything from grilled meat and fish to tofu and vegetables. It’s also great with plain boiled rice or used as a salad dressing and makes a perfect accompaniment to the pork recipe I will be posting tomorrow.

Nuoc Cham keeps well in the fridge so you might as well make more than you need and have some on hand for whenever you need to give something a Vietnamese twist

Vietnamese Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce

Lemongrass pork with nuoc cham dipping sauce.

Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce
Juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp light brown sugar
2 1/2 tbsps fish sauce.
125 ml water
2 -3 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
1-2 small fiery red chillis, sliced.

Combine all the ingredients in a clean jar.Shake to mix and refrigerate until you need it. It’s that simple. Serve with grilled meat, fish, dumplings, etc.

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Festive Chestnut, Sage and Leek Sausages.

So, the Christmas madness is over and I have returned to London content, well fed, and with some porky presents under my arm, including a copy of the Ginger Pig Meat Book, a piggy mug and a shiny new electric mincer.

Sage, Pork shoulder, chestnuts

Much as I love playing with pork, I was incredibly busy in December and ran out of time to make any pig products for the Christmas table. However, a few festive glasses of prosecco, combined with an unexpectedly early office closing time gave me the inspiration and time I needed to create a quick festive banger recipe. After a bit of thought and festive cheer, I came up with the following sausage: fit, in my opinion, to grace anyone’s Christmas dinner table.

Jon’s Christmas Sausages
800g pork shoulder
150g back fat
150g breadcrumbs
350g leeks
200g pre-cooked chestnuts (the ones that come vacuum packed)
18g salt
6g white pepper
2g mace
1/2g cloves
3g fresh sage ( about 3 sprigs)
125 ml water to bind
Butter, for frying.
Hog casings (about six feet)

Soak your casings in clean cold water and set aside.

Next, derind and cube the pork shoulder and back fat into mincer sized cubes before putting in the freezer for 20 minutes or so to chill.

Finely chop the leeks by hand or in a food processor. Melt a little bit of butter in a lidded frying pan, then add the leeks, cover and cook gently for 20 minutes or until they are completely soft. Don’t worry if the leeks caramelise slightly, this will help bring out their sweetness. When the leeks are completely softened, set aside and leave to cool.

Leeks cooking slowly in butter. Sweet and delicious.

If you’re making this recipe in an (ahem) ‘festive’ manner as I did, now might be a good time to pour yourself a drink. I found that Crouch Vale Brewers Gold really helped to get me into the Christmas spirit.

Chestnuts and sage in the food processor.

Finely chop the sage (again a food processor will make things quicker here) and then coarsely chop the whole prepared chestnuts. You can use fresh chestnuts if you like but i don’t really think its worth the hassle.

Set up your mincer with a coarse plate. Next, remove the meat and fat from the freezer and slowly grind it, alternating between cubes of lean meat and fat as far as possible to ensure that the meat is evenly mixed.

Minced pork. Manual mincer.

Transfer the meat to a chopping board or large mixing bowl and combine thoroughly with the leeks, breadcrumbs, chestnuts, and seasoning. Basically, everything except the hog casings. Mix thoroughly until it’s well combined. You can use some cold water here to help things bind.

Ingredients waiting to be combined.

Fry off a small piece of sausage meat and taste to check for seasoning. Adjust as neccessary until you have a sausage you can be proud of. Remember that the flavours will develop when you rest them so don’t worry if the seasoning aren’t too upfront at this stage.

At this stage you can take the meat and use it as stuffing either alongside or stuffed into the neck cavity of a roast turkey,chicken or other bird you fancy for for a feast dinner.

When you’re happy with the flavour of the sausagemeat, set aside to chill in the fridge then rinse your sausage casings inside and out to remove any excess salt.

Fit your mincer with a medium stuffing tube and thread on the casings. Remove the sausage meat from the fridge and stuff the sausage casings until you’ve used all of your meat and have a long and slightly imposing coil of sausage in front of you. Link off the sausages evenly and set aside, uncovered, on a rack in the frige for 24 hours to allow the flavours to develop and to allow any excess moisture to escape.

My batch were served as part of an an enormous Christmas dinner alongside a beautiful free range turkey from a family friend’s farm in Yorkshire as well as all the trimmings. The sausages were in good company as we also had some from the mighty Johnny Pustzai as well as pigs in blankets from Crossroads Farm. Thankfully, mine more than stood up to the other contenders with a rich, decadent savouriness and a great texture. One to make for a feast.

Mixed christmas sausages. Mine at the back, Crossroads farm in the middle, Johnny Pustzai's at the front.

Adventures With The Duck: Confit Duck Legs

Adventures with the Duck. Yep. You read that right. It’s an anatidaen takeover!

Pigs are wonderful and versatile creatures who offer up their bounty in a multitude of ways but, as a biblical figure never said, “man cannot live by pork alone” and with Christmas fast approaching, now’s the time to treat yourself to some of the less everyday meats.

I recently bought a whole duck, mainly because I’m a very whimsical shopper. Liz despairs when I go shopping because I never come back with the things we need and alway come back with a million things we don’t. I’m basically this guy. On this occasion however, I stand by my claim that this was a worthwhile investment. Ducks are not the cheapest of creatures but given that you can buy a whole duck for only a few pence more than a couple of breasts, it’s good to know what you can do with your bonus ‘free’ meat.

Making confit duck legs is a process very similar to the rilettes I blogged about a few weeks ago and leaves you with beautiful, crispy duck meat that keeps for ages as well as lots of wonderful flavoured fat that you can use for making incredible fried or roast potatoes or just for spreading on toast as a guilty snack. It’s also incredibly easy, and has the added satisfaction of knowing you’ve made something at home that you’d otherwise only get in a restaurant, or would pay a lot of money for in a fancy deli.

Before I get started with the recipe, I should say a few words about jointing your bird. I’ll just cover the legs and wings here and cover the breasts in my next post. You can apply the same principle to pretty much any bird and it almost always works out cheaper than buying individual portions.

Take the duck and lie it on its back on a chopping board. Pull one of the legs away from the body slightly and carefully make an incision between the breast and the leg, exposing the joint that connects the leg to the body. Gently but firmly pull the leg away from the body, twisting it away from you until you feel the joint pop out of its socket. With the joint  dislocated it’s easy to cut away the flap of skin and fat that holds the leg onto the body.

Psycho with a cleaver.

Pulling the leg away from the body. Slightly sinister tshirt.

Turn the bird round and repeat until you have two duck legs ready for confiting. You can also use the same technique on the wings and throw them into your confit for a little extra treat if you want.

Jon’s Confit Duck.
2 duck Legs
2 duck wings (optional: the wings don’t tend to have much meat on so it’s up to you if you use them for this or not)
20g salt
5g celery salt
2g black pepper
2g garlic powder or 4 minced garlic cloves
3 bay leaves crumbled
4 sprigs/1tbsp thyme
750g-1kg duck fat or lard.

First place your duck legs (and wings if using) in a glass or ceramic bowl just large enough to hold them comfortably. Take the garlic, herbs,salt and pepper and mix together thoroughly before rubbing them all over your pieces of meat. Return to the dish, cover and refrigerate.

Duck legs and wings resting in salt and herbs.

Leave your duck legs in the fridge for a couple of days, turning them over half way through. By this time the salt will have drawn a lot of moisture from the legs and they will be sitting in a herby brine of their own making. Remove them from this, brush off any clumps of salt that are stuck to them and pat them dry. In the mean time, take a small blob of duck fat and place in a frying pan over a high heat until the pan is hot but not quite smoking.

Quickly brown off your legs (and wings) on all sides along with any herbs from the brine. This should only take five minutes or so. While the meat is frying, put your oven on a low heat (around 150º c / gas mark 2)

Browning the duck pieces in their own fat.

Transfer your meat and any pan juices into a roasting dish just large enough to accommodate all the pieces snugly and spoon over duck fat until the pieces are completely submerged along with any remaining herbs from the pan.

Duck Legs and added fat

Duck pieces with vanilla ice cream..err...duck fat.

Place the meat in the oven and braise it gently in its own fat until it is completely tender. This should take a couple of hours but there’s no harm for leaving them in for three. There is very little danger of overcooking this.

I found I didn’t have quite enough fat to completely cover the meat so I had to turn the pieces over every 45 minutes or so to prevent the exposed pieces from drying out

Duck legs after an hour in the oven.

When your duck legs are cooked, remove from the oven and rest for five minutes. Pour off the fat and seasonings and reserve.

Duck legs after three hours in the oven. Most of the fat strained off.

Place your duck pieces in a pot (ideally with a lid) large enough to accommodate them as snugly as you can. That way you will need less fat to cover them. Pour over the reserved cooking fat and add any more as neccessary until the pieces are completely submerged.. Don’t worry about using a large amount of fat. It isn’t used to excess in the final cooking but will keep and can be used for a variety of things including making the last word in crispy roast potatoes.

Confit duck, finished and waiting to cool.

When your meat is completely submerged in fat, set it aside and leave to cool. Sit back, pour yourself a little reward and bask in the glory of having made a beautiful thing.  When the fat is cool, cover with a lid, muslin, or cling film and refrigerate. These will keep for a few months in the fridge under their protective layer and the knowledge that you have some delicious seasoned duck legs ready to go at a moment’s notice is a wonderful thing.

Ruhlman, Charcuterie, Confit Duck Leg

Finished confit duck ready for use whenever I want. Resting on a copy of 'Charcuterie'.

When you’re ready to serve the duck legs simply remove them from the fat and crisp them them up in a hot frying pan with a little of the fat until they are heated all the way through. These are great as a simple supper with some dauphinoise potatoes or served as part of a cassoulet. I’m sorry I don’t have a cooked photograph for you but I’m going to use mine for a very special recipe in the new year…

Carnival Time: Jerk Pork Bangers

Scotch Bonnet, Coriander, Pork

Sitting here on a cold and bleak November day there is nothing I would like more than to be back at Notting Hill Carnival, dancing to soca, drinking warm Red Stripe, and eating jerk chicken from a polystyrene tray. While I can’t control the weather, I can turn the heating up, put on a bootleg CD from the market, pour some rum and make some jerk pork bangers.

This is a recipe I’ve been meaning to write up for a really long time as it’s one of the first I made since starting this blog. Its really simple, really tasty, and looks really impressive. You can make your own jerk seasoning if you want, but I think the premixed ones you can buy are really good.

This recipe doesn’t use much salt as jerk seasoning tends to have plenty of salt in it already. If you want to make your own, you might want to put another spoonful of salt in. The recipe follows.

FIYAH!!!!

Jon’s Jerk Pork Bangers
600g Pork shoulder
120g Back fat
100g Breadcrumbs
20g Jerk seasoning powder (I used Rajah. Tropical Sun is also good)
12g Salt
6g Garlic powder
1/2 Scotch bonnet chilli (deseeded). More if you’re feeling adventurous.
1 Bunch fresh coriander (75-100g)
Water to bind, about 100ml
Hog casings – about 6 feet.

First, set aside your hog casings in clean cold water to soak for a couple of hours to remove excess salt. Next de-rind and cube your pork and back fat and place in the freezer to chill right down. This helps it go through the mincer more easily and means you don’t end up with meat paste all over the shop.

Take your coriander and chilli and finely chop. You can do this by hand but a blender or food processor makes the job a lot faster.

Coriander and Chilli, Blitzed

Next measure out your spices. This recipe doesn’t call for a lot of extra salt as there is already plenty contained in the jerk seasoning. If you don’t happen to have scales for weighing spices then a rough estimate for this recipe is  2 1/2 tbsp jerk powder, and 1 1/2 tsp of both salt and garlic powder.

By the time you’ve prepared your seasonings, your pork should be thoroughly chilled and ready for mincing. Fit your mincer with a coarse plate (number 8 ) and slowly feed your pork shoulder and back fat through until it’s all thoroughly minced.

Herbs, Spices, Meat

Next take your herbs, spices, breadcrumbs and pork mince and combine together in a large bowl, mixing thoroughly until all of the flavours are blended. You may want to add some water to help things stick. I chose to wear gloves for this bit. No one likes scotch bonnet in the eye…or worse….

Mixing by hand.

When your sausagemeat is thoroughly combined, fry a small piece and check for seasoning. You may want to add a touch more jerk seasoning. Remember that the chilli heat will get stronger when you leave the sausages to rest. You can also serve them with jerk sauce if you want more heat.

Fit your medium stuffing tube to your mincer and slowly stuff the mixture into your soaked hog casings until you’ve fed all of the mixture through. Twist the sausages into links and leave to rest in the fridge for 24 hours to let the flavours combine before cooking or freezing.

Finished sausages, resting on a rack.

These sausages have a really lovely heat to them, which combined wih the freshness of the coriander and the depth of flavour of the jerk spices makes a sausage that is perfect for bringing carnival vibes to the bleak midwinter. Serve it with rice and peas and jerk sauce for authenticity or just stuff it in a roll with some ketchup for a breakfast pick me up.

Jerk Pork Banger, Potato Wedges, Pomegranate and sweetcorn salsa.

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.

Double Smoked Sweetcure Back Bacon With Juniper and Black Pepper

Home smoked sweetcure bacon....as part of a 'balanced' breakfast.

I was really pleased with my first attempt at bacon earlier in the year. It yielded a delicious mild tasting bacon with just a hint of smoke that came from the hickory smoke powder I used.

However, I did feel slightly like I was cheating by using smoke powder. Particularly when I realised how simple cold smoking was. I’m not going to go too deeply into the smoking process here because it really deserves its own post which I will write soon but I will say that immersing bacon in oak smoke is a a truly wonderful thing.

Because oak smoke is an intense flavour, any seasonings that go into the cure have to be equally robust if you want them to stand up to the smoke. I chose black pepper, juniper, and brown sugar which, when combined with salt, make a delicious, aromatic, salty sweet bacon which is perfect for breakfast.

I also wanted to use a different cut of pork. Streaky bacon is great (and supermarket streaky is usually British which for me is preferable from an ethical point of view) but back is my favourite when it comes to the breakfast plate.

The recipe follows.

Ingredients.

Jon’s Sweetcure Bacon with Juniper and Black Pepper.
1kg Pork loin
35g Salt
25g Dark brown sugar
2g Prague powder #1
4g Juniper
3g Black pepper

Juniper, Microscales,

Weighing juniper berries

Combine the sugar, salt and Prague powder in a bowl.  Roughly crush your juniper berries and peppercorns and add to the bowl. Mix well, ensuring that all of the ingredients are evenly distributed through the cure. This is vital as it prevents the nitrites from the prague powder becoming too concentrated in one spot in your bacon.

Take your loin of pork and rub it all over with your cure, ensuring you work the cure into all the nooks and crannies of the meat.

Pork loin, Salt, Brown Sugar, Juniper, Prague Powder

The loin, rubbed with cure.

When your meat is well coated transfer it to a freezer bag and seal. Place it in the fridge for a minimum of a week, turning and massaging every other day to ensure that the cure is evenly distributed. Don’t worry if any water leeches out of the meat. This will help to brine it and ensure that the cure penetrates right to the heart of the loin.

After 10 days or longer remove the meat from the bag and rinse under cold water. Pat dry and transfer to a rack before refrigerating for another 48 hours or so. This helps the smoke adhere to the outside of the bacon in the smoker.

Bacon, Cheese, Brie, Chicken Wings, Oak Smoke

Pork loin in the smoker alongside cheddar, brie and chicken wings.

Fire up your smoker and smoke the bacon over oak chips for a minimum of eight hours. My smoker runs for 11 hours which was long enough for me to go to the London Charcuterie Festival in the day time and go out for my mate Sam’s 30th birthday in the evening. On my return from the pub at some shameful hour of the morning I took the meat out of the smoker and transferred it to the refrigerator overnight.

The following day I fired up the smoker again and smoked the bacon for another 8 hours. The idea being to allow one layer of smoke to settle on the meat before giving it another smoke to really intensify the smokey flavour.

Bacon, Pork Loin, Cold Smoked. Oak Chips, Macs BBQ, ProQ

Finish smoked bacon. Lovely colour from two layers of oak smoke.

The bacon is now basically finished. All that remains is to slice it into rashers.  I left mine for another 24 hours after smoking to really make sure the smoke had settled on the meat.

You can slice it by hand but an electric slicer will ensure evenly sliced rashers and will allow you to slice a large amount of pork very quickly.

Slicing Bacon. A serious business.

Finished sliced bacon.

Your bacon is now finished. It’ll keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks or you can freeze the rashers individually and use them when you need a porky fix. They are sublime as part of a cooked breakfast and perfect for a late night emergency bacon sandwich.

A perfect Sunday breakfast. Home made bacon and smoked white pudding with fried egg, toast, and chilli sauce.

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.