Sunday, 15 January 2012

Slow Cooker Asian Pork and Aubergine

This is an incredibly simple slow cook stew that celebrates the great flavours of south east Asia: hot, sweet, salty and sour.

Use a cheap cut of pork such as the shoulder or steaks from the leg and the meat will just fall apart at the touch of the fork. The aubergine, vast in number at the start of the stew, absorbs and melts into the sauce making it rich and velvety.

I can't really sell it enough - just make it and enjoy it with plain rice and perhaps a baked sweet potato. It will be a good decision.

(This recipe is for a slow cooker but can be replicated for cooking in an oven set to GM2/150C.)
Sunflower or vegetable oil
1kg pork shoulder, cut into large chunks
2 aubergines, cut into chunks
1 tbsp demerera sugar
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 tbsp tamarind paste mixed with a little hot water
1 large onion, chopped
A large pinch of dried chilli flakes
1 thumb size of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 tbsp fish or soy sauce
Fresh limes
Fresh coriander

1 - Pre-heat your slow cooker.
2 - Heat up a tbsp oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Add the pork and quickly brown all over. Remove to a plate.
3 - Add the aubergine and quickly brown all over. Return the pork and stir in the sugar. Cook, stirring all of the time, to caramelise the sugar. Tip into your slow cooker.
4 - Heat up another tbsp oil and add the onions, ginger, chilli, star anise and cinnamon. Cook until softened then add to the pork and aubergine.
5 - Pour in 200ml water, the tamarind and the fish sauce. Cook on the medium setting for 5-6 hours until the pork is meltingly tender. Stir in a handful of chopped fresh coriander.
6 - Time to tweek with the flavours. Squeeze in the juice of one lime and taste. You want the right balance of salty, sweet, hot and sour. Adjust the quantities of fish/soy sauce, sugar, chilli and lime to your tastes.
7 - Serve with plain boiled rice, fresh coriander and wedges of fresh lime.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Very healthy banana and walnut cake

Okay, okay, I know that the word 'cake' and healthy should never be associated with each other. It's like no alcohol beer - it just doesn't seem right.

However, after a whole month of excess and the need for cake in our staffroom, here is the solution. It's the easiest cake in the world. Just bung it all in the food processor, blitz, pour into a baking tin and bake.

It's sweet, it's moist, it's fruity and sticky. It's a cake with hardly any fat or added excess sugar. So it's still a cake, just a bit easier on the gut. Honest. Oh, and it's a great way to use up those black bananas we always throw away.

4 very ripe bananas
200g self raising flour
50g oats
2 eggs
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
50g walnuts
6 tbsp runny honey
A handful of sunflower seeds

1 - Preheat the oven to 180C/GM4.
2 - Put all of the ingredients into a food processor and blitz.
3 - Pour into a greased loaf tin. I use the silicone baking equipment; no need to grease and easier to get out. Sprinkle with sunflower seeds and bake in the centre of the oven for 45-50 minutes.
4 - Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Broccoli, Stilton and Potato Soup

The new year brings all kinds of promises in the guise of resolutions as we moan about our swollen, festive food and booze attacked bodies. Me included.

One promise I am making this year is to - no surprises here - get slimmer. Soups are a great way to fill you up with the right things without piling on the pounds and they are so easy to make.

Broccoli and Stilton are a classic combo in a soup. Don't add too much Stilton, just enough to give it a cheesy bite and the addition of potato helps thicken. Eating plenty of broccoli is also a great way to start the year with a healthy kick.

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large head of broccoli, roughly chopped
2 large floury potatoes, peeled and diced
1 onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, sliced
1 litre of vegetable stock
100g Stilton cheese, crumbled
Salt and pepper

1 - Heat up the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the vegetables and sweat in a low heat for 10 minutes until softened.
2 - Add the stock and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes until the potato and broccoli have softened.
3 - Crumble in the cheese then blend until smooth using a hand blender or food processor. Taste for seasoning. Serve with additional Stilton crumbled on top.