Many of you may have picked up that, following my rather sanctimonious advice about healthy eating and improved lifestyles, I’ve done nothing but give recipes loaded with fat and sugar. I apologise.
By way of explanation, it’s because a) there’s little point in me giving out recipes for grilled fish and salad, because you’re all perfectly capable of doing that yourself and b) because I can be a recalcitrant little blighter at times, and I like making the recipes I do in spite of advice to the contrary.
My job is to titillate the tastebuds, surely?
Providing you’re not all munching on such luscious dishes three times daily every day, I think you’ll be fine.
This week’s recipe comes from a conversation on Twitter, which, for those of you stuck back in the Dark Ages, is a neat little social media tool on the Internet which allows people to post short, timely messages to one another.
As a news feed it’s second to none because of its lightning-fast reactions to breaking stories, but it’s also brilliant for ‘niche’ interests such as cooking.
I can dip at will into an endless stream of conversations and titbits about all aspects of food, from the very best Michelin-starred chefs in the world right down to what roadside café on the A61 serves the best bacon roll.
Ask Twitter where to get a decent meal in the wilds of Borneo, and you’ll likely get a response almost immediately.
People tweet to me from as far away as China and Argentina, and in turn I let them know what I’m cooking occasionally, and where I’ve been to eat recently.
The end result of all this global gossiping is an ever-building resource of interesting recipes and ideas that would in all likelihood never have occurred to me.
One tweet mentioned a certain pub in south London that had just started serving an amazing range of modern pub snacks, the best of which almost made me book a ticket down to King’s Cross immediately; it was a small pot of pork cracklings served with a dip of freshly-made tart apple sauce.
Can you imagine anything nicer to crunch on whilst enjoying a pint of good hand-pulled ale?
I’ve been unable to think of much else since this revelation came to light, and so I had my idea for what to cook this week, obviously, with a few embellishments and twists.
So to our recipe – pulled pork rolls.
Pulled pork is an American classic. It is essentially slow-cooked pork belly or shoulder, which is braised until it’s so tender it can be flayed into fine shreds, often in a heady broth of tomatoes, spices and sugar, accentuating the sweetness of the meat.
In this recipe I’ve made a nice sweet/salty marinade in which to steep and cook the pork, and we’re taking the rind off to begin with, so we can make the cracklings to dip into a little pot of sharp home-made apple sauce.
The sticky, tasty pork is then loaded into pillowy-soft white rolls with plenty of lettuce to provide that satisfying crunch, essential for texture and sheer pleasure.
The only problem with this recipe is that there’s never enough.
It’s one you’ll make over and over again.
1.5kg piece local pork belly, rind intact
For the marinade:
1 large onion, chopped roughly
4 large cloves garlic, chopped
6 thick slices pickled jalapeno pepper
1 tbsp tomato purée
2 tbsps Dijon mustard
180ml white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon paprika
A good squirt of tomato ketchup
A splash of lemon juice
2 tsps Worcestershire sauce
60g Unrefined light Muscovado sugar
Pinch of Maldon salt
Approx 1 ½ litres chicken or pork stock
For the apple sauce:
100g apples (nice tart cookers like Bramleys, please)
A splash of lemon juice
A pinch of sugar (optional)
4-6 soft white floury baps or rolls
2 little gem lettuces
Firstly, make the apple sauce by peeling, coring and chopping the apples, and simmering them to a smooth thick purée with a little water and a splash of lemon juice.
Sweeten with a little sugar if necessary. Refrigerate the purée until needed.
To make the marinade, whizz all the ingredients, except the stock, in a blender until smooth.
Using a sharp knife, remove the rind from the pork belly in one piece (your butcher may helpfully do this for you) and reserve for later.
Pop the whole pork belly piece into a freezer bag or suitable container and cover completely with the marinade, rubbing it into every nook and cranny.
Refrigerate the pork overnight.
Next day, heat the oven to Gas4 / 180C. Place the pork and the marinade into a suitable ovenproof dish with tight-fitting lid.
Add the chicken stock and braise in the oven for 3-4 hours, turning the pork once halfway through, until the pork is incredibly tender.
Remove from the marinade and quickly shred with forks into thin strips; it works best if the pork is still hot. Place in a bowl.
In a saucepan, reduce the marinade by half, and add enough of it to the pork as you prefer. I used about half.
Any remaining sauce makes a good accompaniment to cold roast meats. Keep the pork warm.
Turn the oven up to its highest setting.
Score the pork rind and place on a lightly-oiled tray. Season well with salt and a little extra olive oil (this helps the surface temperature increase, giving cracklier crackling) and roast the fat on the middle shelf until it has fully bubbled and crisped.
Quickly cut into suitable finger-sized pieces and keep warm.
To serve, split your rolls and fill each with plenty of hand-torn Little Gem leaves, then load up with the shredded pork.
Serve the crackling strips separately, with the apple sauce to dip.