Monday, 27 July 2009

Smokey Pork and Pepper Stew

"Tiiiime, is on my side, yes it is!” Mr Jagger once belted this out with his Stones, probably after realising how rich he was and reality hitting home that he probably didn't have to do anything else ever if he didn't want to. 40 odd years on they still keep ploughing on; I wish they would get the hint.

For little old me I too have, albeit briefly, time on my side for the first time in years. In September I'm off to fulfil what I should have done years back when I finally become a teacher. So until the hard work begins then, I'm taking it steady and enjoying my final weeks of freedom.

Aside from maximum time with the nipper, this freedom inevitably entails lots of food related activities. I've cleaned out the demi johns ready for some summer wine and champagne making and the jars sterilised for lots of jam making. And although quick suppers are still the order of the day, with lots of exciting salads hitting the family table, I can indulge more in some good old slow cooking.

Slow braised well worked joints such as shoulder, brisket and blade are being marinated in all kinds of herbed spiced sauces before cooking until melting point. Pork shoulder still remains one of my favourite joints to cook with and this meal, a kind of Hungarian goulash, remains a true family classic and the kids love it. A sauce containing plenty of char-grilled pepper, zesty orange and smokey paprika breaks down the meat seductively. You need time on your side and a little patience, especially when the tummy rumbling smells fills your home, but it is time and patience more than worth dedicating.

Smokey Pork and Pepper Stew
Feeds 4

6 red peppers
1-1.5kg pork shoulder, boned and skinned
1 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
1 onion, chopped roughly
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 tbsp paprika, smoked or un-smoked
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tin of tomatoes
Zest and juice of 1 orange
A pinch of chilli
Salt and pepper
2 handfuls of fresh parsley, roughly chopped

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 160C/GM3. Put the peppers straight onto the gas hobs and cook, turning regularly, until blackened. Pop into a plastic bag and leave to cool. When cool, remove the skin as best possible (don't be tempted to wash) and remove the seeds. Chop up into a pulp and put into a bowl with any smokey juices.
2 - In a large frying pan or flameproof casserole dish, add the olive oil then add the pork. Cook, turning regularly, until golden all over. Remove and keep aside.
3 - Add the onions then slice the remaining peppers and add them. Cook, stirring regularly, until softened and beginning to colour. Add the garlic, paprika and tomato puree and cook for a further minute.
4 - Add the tomatoes, zest and juice of the orange and a pinch of chilli. Taste for seasoning. Stir thoroughly then add the pork shoulder. Pour in water until it just hits the top of the pork. Stir again then put on the lid and place in the oven. Cook for 2 and a half hours. Check it is done by trying to prise open the meat with two forks. If it doesn't come apart easily put back in the oven for 30 minutes then try again.
5 - When cooked, separate as much meat as possible so that it breaks up into the whole stew. Taste for seasoning then stir in the parsley. Serve with plain boiled rice, a spoonful of yoghurt or soured cream and more fresh parsley.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Cherry and Ginger Cordial

When we were kids I can vividly remember getting more than excited at the sound of the 'pop van' arriving in our street. My cousin Jannine and I would race out with the empties, swap them for a penny each and then choose our favourite pop to guzzle.

Jannine's was pretty much Cream Soda every time but for me it was Cherryade. Now I don't want to come across all northern and downtrodden but I think the closest I every got to an actual cherry was a bag of cherry lips (remember them?) and that artificial cherry flavour and colour seemed to pass onto the drink form perfectly. Those 70's summers were happy days for us and amazingly, the 'pop van' seemed to make it just that bit more special. We were easily pleased.

We don't get 'pop vans' these days and I can't remember the last time I saw any cherryade. That of course if probably a good thing. But you can simply make your own cherry cordial with a bag of juicy cherries that replicate the actual flavour of cherry as opposed to E287 and E992 which I drank in large quantities all those years ago.

The ginger in this 'cordial' is optional but adds an interesting heat. And from this you can make an instant sauce for duck, a filling for a sponge cake, a sauce for ice cream or the way I like to do it, in a glass with lots of ice and soda poured on top for a rustic home made cherryade. Push it through a sieve if you don't like 'bits' but sometimes life is just too short.

Cherry and Ginger Cordial

200g cherries, stoned
1 piece of stem ginger, roughly chopped
2 tbsp ginger syrup from the jar
4 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp water

1 - Put the cherries, stem ginger, ginger syrup, sugar and water into a pan. Bring to the boil then simmer for 5-10 minutes or until the cherries are really soft.
2 - Pour it all into a blender and blend until smooth then pour into a sterilised bottle. It will keep in the fridge for 2 weeks.