Saturday, November 22, 2008

Roast Pork with (special) Apple Sauce

If you roast a lot then like me you probably rotate your meats. I'm not exactly fastidious in this, but I do try and experiment and keep things moving on the culinary front, so last weekend it was time for pork to make a welcome return to the table.

When it comes to pork the joint that I usually plump for is rolled spare rib. It's pretty cheap compared to leg, and has a good blend of different textured meat and fat. There's always a great bit of crackling to be had from the top, and leftovers galore - and fab leftovers this week - but first the main event.

Pork will always be synonymous with crackling in my head, so when I roast a piece it's really important that I get some cracking good stuff off it. As such I tend to use a blend of recipes from people who I trust, such as Hugh F-W and Delia (although she has a bit of a dark cloud over her these days - what's with all that rubbish about plastic dinners?). My preferred technique is to rub with salt and then whack in a really hot oven for 20, then down slightly lower for at least 30 mins per pound or so (and this is with meat that's been out of the fridge for at least an hour). And most importantly don't baste! Just leave the fat be and it will crackle up wonderfully. But then there's the problem with the rest ...

If you cook then I'm sure you've come across this yourself, resting the meat somewhere warm covered (for me often the far side of the kitchen) means the crackling will soften up a bit. What I tend to do is take the crackling off once the meat's out of the oven, and then whack it back in the oven again (but on a lower heat) so that it stays crisp. This has the added benefit that a little more fat will drip off, so you can feel slightly (just slightly) better about eating roasted pig fat neat ...

Roasties and crackling back in the oven

And to go with it? Well I usually do mash, but for some reason plumped for roasties this time around, and they were pretty tasty roasted in the fat from the spare rib. And then apple sauce - I'm very fond of the stuff with meat (although the Italian hasn't yet seen the light), and this time around tried something a little weird by adding not just a clove but some Pastis into the mix. Turned out this wasn't such a daft idea - the aniseed flavour works a treat with both the apple and the pork. If you fancy a change then just introduce a small splash of the stuff into your apple sauce - I reckon you won't be disappointed.

Apple sauce, warmed by the wood burner. Actually a bit overwarmed - still getting used to the power of this thing!

The final dish, just before adding the gravy and apple sauce

Finally we rounded it off with more apple in the glorious shape of a traditional English apple pie (although in this case prepared by an Italian), and then spent the rest of the afternoon feeling enormous. Just what Sunday's were made for.

Apple pie resting in the fridge before baking

And the leftovers? Well that's another post, but let's just say I went a bit east for inspiration, and took my new dumpling book for a spin ...

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Pot Roast Brisket with Basil Dumplings

I love a piece of brisket now and then, but it can be a tricky thing to cook and I've overdone it once or twice, which is never a good thing. Lately I've taken to curing it first to create a kind of corned beef, and I'd really recommend it if it's not something you've had a go at. My favourite recipe so far is from Fergus Henderson's Nose to Tail Eating (now that's a well named book) which is simple, but has lots of strong flavours which tuck themselves nicely into the main flavour of the meat.

Once the meat had cured this time around it kind of fell apart into four large pieces, which I left whole and bunged in with plenty of onions, carrots, swede, potato and beef stock, plus bay leaf & thyme. It then went on our new wood burning stove - we've been experimenting with cooking on it, but it's early days!

The picture shows it with the basil dumplings added. I wouldn't use basil normally, but we had some left that needed finishing up (well, it probably needed throwing away really, but I hate doing that) so in it went. I should add that the Le Creuset pot that the pot roast is in (OK, well perhaps 'stew' might be more accurate!) I found at the local dump for £1. Weird how great stuff like that is thrown out sometimes, but good for those of us who don't mind reusing what others don't want ...

The stove did a great job in the end of cooking it through, and I think will be a fab addition to the house - and that's apart from being a brilliant way of heating the house without relying on fossil fuel. The cat certainly likes it at any rate.

All in all a great meal for very little cost, and perfect for this time of year, although you might want to go easy on the dumplings!


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