Sausage Wreath

Sausage Wreath

Wotchers!

Week Two on the Festive Food, and it was inspired one of my followers on Twitter (@BakesALotSue). In response to my call for Festive Food requests, she asked for something for a Boxing Day buffet that could be made ahead and then baked on the day.

So here we have my Sausage Wreath – with the bonus that if it all goes pear-shaped, you can nail it to the front door as a symbol of your seasonal Joyful Mood. H0. H0. H0.

Its basically a riff on sausage rolls, which always seem festive to me, especially when they are in one-or-two-bite sizes. A central sausage pie ‘dome’ is surrounded by a ring of help-yourself, tear-off-and-scoff mini sausage rolls. If you are Cunning, then you can mix and match fillings so that the dome has a separate filling, possibly even vegetarian, which would make this a great two-for-one special. It tastes great hot or cold, so it can stay on the table or sideboard for the rest of the day, for nibbling on. Not directly, of course – get a plate. We’re not animals here!

I’ve made mine circular, but you could make it any shape you like – a square or rectangle would probably be the most space-efficient. Your only limit is the size of the baking sheet your oven can cope with (and also freezer, if you intend to make ahead).

A word of caution: if you make the dome pure sausage-meat, it will take quite a bit longer than the rolls round the edges to bake. This means that, once cooked, the edges will need to be covered with foil to prevent them burning, until the central dome is cooked through, which you can check by using a digital thermometer. An alternative would be to make the middle filling something less dense, such as a mixture of (for example) salmon/cooked rice/spinach/hard-boiled eggs, similar to the Russian Coulibiac. Alternatively, you could use something along the lines of the Picnic Pie filling. Be creative. Go wild!

 Sausage Wreath

The additional flavourings are purely optional, but have the added benefit of making the filling much more interesting and allowing the ingredients to stretch even further. These instructions will cover the use of sausage-meat for the whole pie since, as already mentioned, it requires a little extra care in the baking.

800g good quality sausages
2 sharp apples – Braeburn, Jazz or Granny Smith
Onion to taste[1]
Chopped fresh sage and parsley to taste[2]
Salt and pepper
2 x 500g blocks of puff pastry [3]

1 large egg for glazing

  •  Remove the skins from the sausages and put the meat into a bowl.
  • Peel, core and chop/grate the apple and add to the sausage meat.
  • Chop the onions finely and add to the bowl with the herbs.
  • Season well.
  • Mix all together.
  • Check seasoning/flavourings by cooking a little of the mixture in a pan and tasting. Adjust accordingly.
  • To assemble the pie:
    • Diagram of pastry lining a dish

      Roll out one of the blocks of pastry and use it to line the bowl that will shape your central dome.
      Make sure it overlaps the edges by at least 15cm all round.

    • Diagram showing filling added to pastry lining.

      Add your filling and press down firmly, so that it will hold it’s shape when the bowl is removed.

    • Pastry covering the filling

      Roll out the second piece of pastry and use it to cover the filling in the bowl.
      Moisten the pastry on the rim of the bowl, to form a seal with the second piece of pastry.

    • Lay a chopping board, or similar, over the pastry and carefully turn the whole pie over,
      so that the bowl is now upside down & the pastry lying flat.

    • Overview of pastry will two fillings

      Fold the now top layer of pastry towards the bowl and lay a ring of the remaining filling.
      Leave a gap of about 5cm between the bowl and the outer ring of sausage-meat

    • Cross-section of pie filling and surrounding ring of sausage-meat.

      Brush the pastry either side of the sausage-meat with water.
      Smooth the pastry over the top of the sausage-meat and press down either side.
      Trim any excess pastry from the outside edge.

    • Crimp the edges of the pastry, then divinde the rim into snack-sized sausage rolls using the cuts as shown.

      Crimp the edge of the pastry, then divide the rim into snack-sized sausage rolls using the cuts as shown.
      Twist each roll about 45 degrees to the left, to form the crown brim.

    • Remove the bowl and cut slits in the sides of the dome to let out the steam.
    • Decorate with any leftover pastry.
  • If you’re making this ahead of time, stop now. Freeze on a baking sheet, and when frozen, wrap in foil and plastic to prevent freezer-burn. Thaw thoroughly.[4]
  • To cook:
    • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
    • Whisk the egg with a little water and brush over the pastry to glaze.
    • Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the rolls on the rim are cooked through and the pastry golden. NB The filling and the pastry are both rich with butter/fat,so you might want to bake this on a wire rack to let the excess drain off.
    • Remove from the oven and wrap the edge in foil to prevent the pastry from burning. Return to the oven until the dome is cooked. The internal temperature should be at least 71°C when measured by a Thermapen or equivalent. Depending on how firmly you packed the filling, this could be an additional 20-30 minutes or even longer.
  • To serve:
    • Run a knife around the edge of the dome, cutting a circle in the pastry, allowing  both the rolls to be pulled away easily and slices of the pie dome to be cut neatly.
    • Garnish with some sprigs of curly parsley.
    • Step back briskly two paces as the stampede begins. 😀

 

[1] Depending on how onion-y you like things, you could use chives, spring onions, shallots, brown onions, white onions or Spanish onions.

[2] 2-3tbs each of fresh, chopped – or half this quantity if using dried.

[3] Or you can make 2 batches of the quick puff pastry recipe method here. Replace the cocoa with plain flour obvs. and use 250g butter for each batch.

[4] It is possible to cook from frozen, but I haven’t, and considering the trickiness of getting this evenly baked, with the different cooking required of pie and rim, I think it might be unnecessary hassle – NOT required at this time of the year. If you feel confident, though, go for it.


Sausage Lasagne

Sausage Lasagne

Wotchers!

I love it when a plan comes together AND tastes fantastic – modest opener, no? In the endless round of needing to put a family meal on the table every day, there will obviously be some things that make repeat appearances on a regular basis. In this house, it’s sausages, and much as I love the great quality ones we buy (97% pork), just grilling or cooking them in a pan gets boring – mostly boring for me to make, but also a little dull to eat week in, week out.

So here’s a variation that’s just as tasty as sausages, but, more interestingly, in an equally delicious form: Sausage Lasagne! The already seasoned sausage meat goes so well with the robust tomato sauce and flavourful white sauce and – bonus – doesn’t need hours simmering on the stove top. I already had a batch of the tomato sauce in the freezer and lasagne sheets in the cupboard, and so only needed to whip up some white sauce to bring it all together. You can assemble the lasagne the day/night before and leave it overnight for the flavours to develop, or make it and bake it all in one go – after just one hour in the oven, it’s ready. I’ve added some healthy spinach to this recipe for a splash of eye-catching green, and the strong flavours of the sauces mean that the spinach can be easily passed off as parsley to suspicious family members.

*pokerface* Not that I’d ever do that.

*pokerface*

Moving quickly on…..

To speed things up, use your own white sauce and/or tomato sauce. I’m going to run through the recipes I used for both, purely as suggestions. The tomato sauce does freeze very well, and is then handy for rustling something up at short notice.

Sausage Lasagne

Important: The quantities given make a LARGE lasagne – probably enough to feed eight – quite deliberately. I highly recommend making it as is, because a) it’s really worth the effort and b) it freezes/reheats extremely well, so the remains can be frozen in individual portions for a speedy supper at short notice. If you’re cooking for yourself and/or have a small amount of freezer space, then you might want to make a half quantity and reduce the cooking time to between 30-40 minutes.

White Bechamel Sauce

The spices are optional, but they do give a more rounded flavour than just a plain milk/roux sauce.

600ml whole milk
1 onion
4 cloves
2-3 bay leaves
1 strip of lemon zest
1/4 of a nutmeg – left in one piece
1 blade of mace
1tbs black peppercorns
40g butter
40g plain flour
salt and pepper to taste

  • Stick the cloves into the onion, just below the middle, so that they sit under the surface of the milk when the onion floats.
  • Put the milk, onion and the rest of the flavourings into a small pan and heat slowly.
  • When the mixture is almost at a boil, remove from the heat, cover and set aside to infuse until cool.
  • Strain the flavourings out of the cooled milk.
  • Clean the pan and return to the stove top.
  • Melt the butter in the pan and stir in the flour to form a paste.
  • Gradually add the milk a little at a time, stirring it smooth each time.
  • When all the milk has been added, turn the heat to low and let it simmer for five minutes to ‘cook out’ the flour. If you don’t do this, your sauce will taste ‘floury’.
  • Once the sauce has simmered enough, season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Cover the sauce with cling film until required. Make sure the cling film touches the surface of the sauce to prevent a skin forming.

Tomato Sauce

This probably doesn’t qualify as a traditional tomato sauce, but it has a great, rich flavour that goes well with the cooked sausage and has a bonus of loads of flavoursome veggies hidden inside. This will make more sauce than you will need for the lasagne, so freeze the extra.

1 onion
2 carrots
3 sticks celery
2tbs olive oil
100ml tomato paste
150ml red wine
1tbs dried oregano
1tbs dried basil
2 bay leaves
2 x 400ml cartons chopped tomatoes
pepper and salt to taste

  • Put the onion, carrots and celery into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until finely chopped.
  • Heat the oil in a large pan[1] over medium heat, and add the chopped vegetables.
  • Stir over medium heat until the moisture in them has evaporated. Hint: If there’s clouds of steam rising from the pan, there’s still moisture. Stir regularly.
  • When all the moisture has evaporated, add the tomato paste and stir.
  • Continue stirring until the tomato paste has caramelised. It will turn from a dark red to more of a brick-coloured, orangey red.
  • Add the red wine and stir thoroughly.
  • Add the rest of the herbs and the chopped tomatoes and simmer over a low heat for an hour, stirring occasionally. If you have a splash guard, you might want to cover the pan to protect your stove top, but you don’t want to cover it closely – the evaporation will intensify the flavours.
  • Remove the bay leaves (or not, your choice – sometimes I forget them and they get blitzed along with the rest of the ingredients – it’s not the end of the world) and puree the sauce smooth with a stick blender or by using a blender attachment on your food processor.
  • Return the pureed sauce to the pan and season with salt and pepper to taste.

To assemble the lasagne
2 x 400g packs good quality sausages [2]
260g fresh baby spinach leaves[3]
600ml tomato sauce
600ml white Bechamel sauce
250g lasagne sheets
150ml low fat creme fraiche
100g grated vintage cheddar

  • Remove the sausage meat from the skins and add to a large pan.
  • Stir over medium-high heat, breaking up the larger pieces of meat with a wooden soon, until it is just cooked through.
  • Add the tomato sauce and bring to a simmer.
  • Remove from the heat and stir through the spinach – the heat of the sauce will wilt the spinach and it will keep a lot of its glorious colour.
  • Select a large dish to construct your lasagne.
  • Spread a thin layer of the sausage sauce in the bottom of the dish.
  • Add a layer of lasagne sheets over the top. Feel free to break the sheets up in order to make them fit.
  • Add a layer of meat sauce, then a layer of white sauce.
  • Continue layering until all the components have been used up.
  • OPTIONAL: I like to use a top layer of low fat creme fraiche and a sprinkling of cheese, in order to give a little sharp tang to what is a rather rich dish. You can, of course, omit either or both and finish with the Bechamel, but to be honest, I’ve usually miscalculated and run out by the time the dish is full. 😀
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
  • Bake for 1 hour, until cooked through and bubbling.

To enjoy later

When the lasagne has cooled to room temperature, cut it into portion-sized pieces – as it cools, it will firm-up nicely, so the pieces should stay intact rather well. Put each piece in a ziplock bag, box or wrap in cling film and freeze.

Once defrosted, put the piece or pieces into a dish, cover with foil and put into a cold oven. Turn the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan for 20-30 minutes until heated through. You may like to sprinkle a little extra cheese on the top to freshen it up. If, after this time, you’re not sure that it’s hot enough, a quick zap in a microwave (be sure to swap the foil for cling film) for a minute or two should do the trick.

————————————————

[1] Use a stainless steel saucepan or an enamelled cast iron pan. I’m of the opinion that the acidity in tomatoes has ruined my non-stick pans in the past, and so I’ve now banned myself from putting tomatoes into any of my non-stick pans.

[2] I use Sainsbury’s ultimate 97% pork sausages.

[3] Or greenery of your preference. Blanched kale is terribly good for you – bit more difficult to pass off as parsley, though.


Sausage Inna Bun

Sausage Inna Bun

“Meat pies! Hot sausages! Inna bun! So fresh the pig h’an’t noticed they’re gone!” Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler

— Terry Pratchett – Moving Pictures

Wotchers!

Some time ago, the question “When were sausage rolls invented?” popped into my head, and so I decided to mount a culinary expdition to try and find the earliest recipe for these popular snacks.

So I set off on my recipe hunt and found that, although the earliest sausage roll recipe that I could find[1] dated as far back as 1828[2], the recipe I found most interesting was one by Charles Elmé Francatelli, published in 1852. Although something of a celebrity chef to high society in London, as well as (briefly) being chef to Queen Victoria, Francatelli was considered to be a culinary economist. He was often quoted as saying that he could feed a thousand families on the food wasted in London in one day. Francatelli’s book “A Plain Cookery Book For The Working Classes” offered simple and wholesome recipes for those less well off.

Francatelli’s sausage roll was made using a bread dough enriched with either butter, dripping or suet instead of pastry. A sausage inna bun! And those of you who are familiar with the Discworld novels of Terry Pratchett will know that these are the fall-back sales item for C.M.O.T.Dibbler when his get-rich-quick schemes invariably go pants down.

I also like this idea because, even with Francatelli’s enriched bread dough, it would be much lower in fat than pastry, and much more satisfying. I tried the variations suggested, and, I’ve got to be honest, the suet pastry wasn’t very pleasant to eat cold. It was a bit funky (to my tastes) eaten warm, too. So my suggestion is to either use butter or beef dripping, especially if the sausages are made of beef. Alternatively, you can use a regular bread dough mixed with either all milk or half milk and half water, to give a softer, billowy crumb and crust.

Having said all that, I’m not going to be giving a recipe for either bread dough or sausage mix. What I’ve got for you today are some suggestions as to how you could make deliciously unusual savoury snacks using little more than these two simple items. Using bread dough in much the same manner as you would pastry, you can easily  ring the changes and keep this snack food both tasty and interesting.

Each of these variations either use white bread dough, risen and knocked back after the first rise or bread rolls.

1. Plain bread dough sausage roll.

  • Roll some bread dough out to a thickness of about 1.5cm.
  • Brush the surface of the dough with water to encourage the sausage meat to stick.
  • Remove the skin of the sausages and roll them in the dough, pinching the edges together .
  • Cut slashes along the top of the dough and brush with beaten egg.
  • While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Bake for 15-18 minutes until both the dough and sausage are cooked and golden.

2. Spiral sausage roll (see top photo)

  • Roll some bread dough out to a thickness of about 1.5cm.
  • Brush the surface of the dough with water to encourage the sausage meat to stick.
  • Remove the skin of the sausages.
  • Cut the dough into strips 3cm wide.
  • Take one strip and wind it around the sausage, making sure both ends finish underneath.
  • While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Brush the dough with beaten egg and bake for 15-18 minutes until both the dough and sausage are cooked and golden.

Sausage Rings in Bread

3. Sausage Rings in Bread

  • Proceed initially as for the plain sausage roll.
  • Once the sausage has been wrapped in dough, brush the outsides with water and slice it into six pieces.

Arrangement of the sausage rings

  • Arrange the slices of dough-wrapped sausage as per the diagram above. The water will help the dough stick together.
  • Sprinkle a little grated cheese and chopped herbs (parsley/thyme/rosemary/savoury) over the top and set aside to rise.
  • While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Brush the dough with beaten egg and bake for 15-18 minutes until both the dough and sausage are cooked and golden.

Sausage and Sauce Open Pies

4. Sausage & Sauce Open Pies

There are two versions for these open pies, small, circular pies and larger, oval pies. Both are made with sliced, cooked sausages – ideal Déjà Food suggestions!

Circle Open Pies

  • Roll some dough out to a thickness of about 1.5cm.
  • Brush the surface of the dough with water to encourage the dough for the sides to stick.
  • Using a plain circle pastry cutter of whatever size you fancy, cut out the bases for the pies and place on a parchment-lined baking tray.
  • Cut some strips of dough and roll them into ropes, then coiled them around the edge of the bases, as if making a coil pot. Use a few more dabs of water to ensure the dough sticks together. You only need 2 or 3 coils of dough to make the sides.
  • Add the filling now – so that the dough can rise around it and (hopefully) hug it all together.
    • Put slices of cooked sausage in the bottom of the pie.
    • Add 1-2tsp spicy sauce, brown sauce or chutney on top. I used Sainsbury’s Basics Tomato chutney left over from the Cheese and Potato Pies.
    • Sprinkle some grated cheese over the top and set aside to rise.
  • While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Brush the dough with beaten egg and bake for 12-15 minutes until the dough is cooked and golden and the filling hot.

Oval Open Pies

For a more substantial pie:

  • Shape some dough into a ball, then roll it out to an elongated oval shape.
  • Dampen the edges with some water.
  • Arrange the filling along the middle of the dough as above (sausage/sauce/cheese).
  • Fold one long side of the dough up and around the filling.
  • Fold the other side around the filling too, and pinch the ends together.
  • Tuck any extra dough at the ends underneath, to prevent the sides of the pie unravelling.
  • Set aside to rise.
  • While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Brush the dough with beaten egg and bake for 12-15 minutes until the dough is cooked and golden and the filling hot.

Sausage Breakfast Bun

5. Sausage Breakfast Bun.

I’ve called this a Breakfast Bun, but they are delicious at any time of the day! This is a little different to the other recipes in that it uses cooked bread rolls, rather than the raw dough, so also super quick if you have ready-made rolls. These rolls also use sliced, cooked sausage.

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
  • Slice off the top of the buns and scoop out the crumb, leaving a wall of crust/crumb about 1.5cm thick. Whizz the crumb in a food processor and freeze the breadcrumbs for another use.
  • Add the filling – I just used sausage, egg and cheese – but it occurred to me afterwards that these rolls might be improved with some sauce/chutney/salsa – you decide.
  • Add sauce to the bottom of the roll if liked, then arrange a layer of sliced, cooked sausage over the top.
  • Crack a raw egg over the sausage.
  • Sprinkle the top with grated cheese.
  • Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 20-35 minutes. If you’re eating these roll straight from the oven, you might like to have the yolk of the egg still runny. If baking them for consumption later, I’d recommend cooking for the full 35 minutes, so that the yolk is cooked solid.
  • If you want to crisp up the tops, add them to the baking sheet for the last 10 minutes.

[1] I’d be really interested to learn of an earlier recipe – do let me know!

[2] A treatise on the art of baking, with a preliminary introduction, shewing the various productions… with a number of valuable receipts, original and selected for the baker and domestic circle, (1828), John White, Anderson and Bryce, Edinburgh.


Roast Pork In Milk

Roast Pork in Milk

Wotchers!

And welcome to the most un-kosher recipe ever.

If this offends you, look away now – but for everyone else, let’s just admire the incredible awesomeness that is Roast Pork in Milk.

Because that’s all it is: pork, milk.

Not even salt and pepper.  It tastes that good.

In essence, this is a cross between a classic Italian dish (Arrosto di maiale al latte) and pulled pork: a joint of pork cooked long and slow in the oven for hours. But the inclusion of milk as a cooking liquid has an unbelievably delicious effect on the meat. The pork remains moist and fall-apart tender, and the sauce becomes creamy and richly flavoured with the meat juices.

Of course, you CAN follow the traditional method: buy a whole pork loin, score it, season it, tie it, fry it in oil so that all the sides are browned, add herbs, bacon, onions, lemon zest blah, blah, blah – or, you can be like me and just sling a joint in a pot and slosh milk over it.

I did actually begin by making the classic Italian version, but over time, if I was out of something or I’d forgotten to refill some herb – I just made it without. This has culminated in reducing the recipe to just two ingredients. The fact that it tastes so good with just two ingredients is a constant source of enjoyment to me. So easy. So delicious.

There is, however, a teeny-tiny down-side, though – but I don’t want you to be put off by it, for there is a solution. During the prolonged cooking, the milk breaks down and the milk solids form clumps that float in the rest of the liquid/juices. It looks curdled. But a quick whizz with a stick blender, and it emulsifies together into the fabulously creamy sauce you see above. What I’m completely bemused by is the fact that a lot of people serve it un-whizzed and curdled. Still, each to their own.

Cook as big a joint as you can afford. It freezes well, and needs only a splash of milk on reheating to return the sauce to its creamy deliciousness.

Roast Pork in Milk

1 x big lump of pork – the cut doesn’t really matter. I tend to buy pork leg when it’s on offer, because the meat itself is quite lean. The thick skin and fatty layer underneath keep the meat moist, and just peel off altogether at the end of cooking. Pork shoulder is also fine. With the long cooking time, the size doesn’t really matter either – you’re merely limited by the size of pot you have. I use a large casserole to keep it simple, because it can go straight onto the stove if the sauce needs reducing a little.

2 litres of milk – this might seem a lot, but it does reduce down during cooking, and the more milk you add, the more sauce you’ll end up with. If you don’t want to add it all at once, top it up halfway through cooking.

  • Put your joint of pork into your casserole.
  • Pour over the milk.
  • Put it, uncovered, into the oven and turn the heat on to 160°C, 140°C Fan.
  • Turn the meat over in the milk every hour, so that it stays moist.
  • Add more milk after 2 hours if liked.
  • After 4 hours, remove the casserole from the oven.
  • Lift out the joint – be careful, it will be very tender and might fall apart.
  • Use a stick blender to whizz the curdled sauce to smoothness. If the sauce isn’t completely smooth or you’d like a slightly thicker sauce, set it to simmer on top of the cooker while you prepare the meat.
  • Lift off/peel back the pork skin. Remove all traces of fat and connective tissue and either cut the pork into more manageable chunks, or slice it.
  • When you’re happy with the consistency of the sauce, add the meat back into the casserole and warm through.
  • Serve with plain boiled rice or riced potatoes and green vegetables.

Pork Adobo

A bowl of Pork Adobo

Wotchers!

This recipe is my latest favourite pork recipe. Quite apart from the amazing flavour, I love the incredible contrast of the dark, chocolate-looking sauce with the pale colour of the pork when the chunks are cut open.

Despite the Spanish-sounding name, this recipe originates from The Philippines. When the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, they noticed that this traditional dish used a similar method – using vinegar to braise – to a Spanish dish, and re-named it adobo. The original name has been lost to history.

Another reason why I love this recipe is it’s a ‘bung it all in the slow cooker’ dish. Apart from assembling the ingredients, there’s precious-little prep-work. Personally, I like to put in a little bit of time at the end of cooking, and puree the sauce, but that’s just to make it more appealing for a family meal – it turns it into a rich, smooth, glossy, deep chocolate-coloured sauce. The first time I made it, I just blitzed everything in the liquidizer, forgetting about the quantity of peppercorns. My daughter (7) loved it, but it was right on the borderline of her spice tolerance, so a better approach would be to tie them loosely in a piece of muslin so they can flavour the sauce but can be easily hoiked out before puréeing.

The major tweak that I made to the recipe was to use kecap manis instead of regular soy sauce. Soy sauce can be a great flavour addition to many dishes but it is extremely salty, and for this dish and the relatively large quantity used, the kecap manis was less salty and even more rich in flavour. It also contributed majorly to the beautiful dark colour of the sauce. The other change was to use rice wine vinegar instead of regular vinegar. It is less harsh that either white or malt vinegar. If you have difficulty sourcing rice vinegar, then balsamic would be a suitable substitution, either regular or white.

This recipe deliberatly makes a large quantity, some to eat immediately and then there’s plenty to freeze for later. You can easily halve this recipe, though, if your slow cooker is small or you’re not sure if you will enjoy pork adobo.

Pork Adobo

1.5kg leg pork – great value when on special offer
250ml rice wine vinegar
250ml kecap manis
500ml water
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
6 cloves of garlic
1 large onion

  • Remove any skin and excess fat from the pork.
  • Cut the pork into large (5cm) pieces – this is mostly to make sure the pieces don’t fall apart because of the extended slow cooking.
  • Chop the onion and garlic.
  • Tie the peppercorns loosely in a piece of muslin.
  • Put all the ingredients into the slow cooker on low for 7-8 hours.
  • To finish:
    • Pick out the pieces of pork, set aside and keep warm.
    • Remove the muslin bag of peppercorns. Remove the bay leaves if liked – personally I leave them in.
    • Puree the sauce either by using a wand blender or by pouring the sauce into a liquidiser.
    • If the sauce seems too thin, pour it into a pan and simmer until it thickens up.
    • Return the meat to the sauce and heat through NB: If you’ve made a full quantity of the recipe, then just reheat the meat and sauce that you will need and set the rest aside to cool. When cold, package in suitable containers and freeze.
    • Serve with Noodles and Rice and green vegetables.

Pulled Pork Sandwich

Pulled Pork and Coleslaw Sandwich

Wotchers!

Today is a bit of a two-for-one deal – there’s a lovely recipe for pulled pork and also an awesome serving suggestion.

Another pulled pork recipe I hear you cry? Yes, I know it’s barely a couple of weeks since the last one, but whilst the other recipe was almost elegant in its simplicity, this recipe shows how, with the addition of a few ordinary ingredients, you can create a dish of an altogether different character. Lets call the previous dish a Level 1 recipe. This one moves it on a bit to Level 2, with a dark, rich and spicy cooking liquid. Level 3 would bring even more intensity of flavour with the addition of a dry spice rub – we’ll get to that sometime later.

I grew up in the orchards of Herefordshire (not literally you understand – gimme a break here, I’m trying to be lyrical), and so to me, the link between apples and pork is a natural one. In the old days, pigs would be allowed into the orchards to eat up all the windfalls, and this would add flavour to the meat. The British custom of eating apple sauce with pork isn’t just an idle tradition – the acidity of the apples helps counteract the fattiness of the meat (see also vinegar with fish & chips, mint sauce with lamb, gooseberries with mackerel).  Throw in some cider, cider vinegar and Bramley apples and this is a veritable pork-apple-festival on your tastebuds!

This is also another of my favourite types of recipe – set it and forget it in the slow cooker. The only downside of this low-maintenance style of cooking is having to endure for hours all the wonderful smells wafting through the house. If you don’t have a slow cooker, you could always use the oven on very low – for example 80-100°C – but it would require a little more effort (sealing the roasting tin with foil and basting every hour or so) to ensure the joint didn’t dry out.

Apple-Baked Pulled Pork – serves 10-12
2-3kg of pork shoulder joint(s) – boned and rolled if preferred, but bone-in is also fine. Whatever can fit in your slow cooker. I use 3 x 1kg joints.
2 medium onions
2 Bramley cooking apples
300g dark muscovado sugar
150ml apple juice
60ml Worcestershire sauce
60ml Dijon mustard
120ml cider vinegar
1tsp salt
1tsp pepper
1/2 tsp ground ginger

  • Peel and roughly chop the onions.
  • Peel, core and chop the apples.
  • Put half of the apples and half of the onions into the slow cooker.
  • Arrange pork joint(s) on top and scatter the rest of the apples and onions over.
  • Mix all of the remaining ingredients in a saucepan and warm over gentle heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
  • Pour liquid into slow cooker, cover and cook on low for 12 hours.
  • Remove the meat and allow to drain in a sieve.
  • When cool enough to handle, remove the skin and fat (the meat will just fall apart) and discard.
  • Cover the meat with foil and keep warm.
  • Strain the cooking liquid into a bowl and reserve the apple and onion pieces.
  • Place the liquid in the fridge/freezer for 30 minutes to cool. As it cools, any fat will rise to the surface and solidify. It can then be easily removed.
  • Lift the solidified fat from the cooking liquid with a slotted spoon and discard.
  • Pour the cooking liquid into a pan and add the apple and onion pieces. Use an immersion blender (or alternatively a liquidiser) and puree to a smooth consistency. Bring to the boil and simmer until it has thickened to your liking.
  • Pour over the prepared meat and serve.

Alternately, make some delicious Tiger Rolls and some Apple & Fennel Coleslaw and serve up the awesome sandwich in the picture above. Not only are the flavours amazing, they compliment each other perfectly. Make the sandwich with the undressed meat and then drizzle with gravy to your liking. The contrast in texture between the cool crunch of the coleslaw, the hot, piquant, melt-in-the-mouth pork and the ‘crispy on the outside yet soft on the inside’ Tiger Bread make these sandwiches a cut above the rest.

Cost £1.20 per person (August 2011, Pork £4 a kilo)


Pulled Pork

A dish of Pulled Pork

Wotchers!

Pulled pork is an absolutely melt-in-the-mouth dish originating in the United States, where it is usually prepared by the barbecue long-and-slow method of cooking.  There are an almost infinite number of ways to prepare the meat – a quick search reveals over seven million hits – and that is just for recipes online, to say nothing of the numerous very jealously guarded secret recipes hoarded by barbecue experts. Some enthusiasts prefer to use a dry spice rub and then let the joint sit for 24 hours, other might swear by a tangy, vinegar-based marinade. The end result is meat of melting tenderness that can literally be pulled apart with a spoon.

Although I’ve experimented with a number of  different methods, this particular recipe is my absolute favourite because of its simplicity and the outstanding flavour of the finished dish. As if that weren’t recommendation enough, it’s an absolute breeze to prepare. The 12 hour cooking time is the only drawback, but since 95% of that time its just cooking away quite happily by itself without need for any supervision, its not exactly a hardship.

Pulled pork uses the relatively cheap shoulder cut of pork. If there’s a special offer on, I try and buy 2 or 3 1kg joints and let them all cook at the same time. There is a little work involved once the meat is cooked, but the result is 5 or 6 family meals for little more than 30-40 minutes of my time.

Start this dish the night before you’re planning to serve it.

Pulled Pork– Serves 10-12

2-3kg shoulder pork, cut into 1kg joints.
2 medium/large onions
500ml ginger ale

Equipment
Slow cooker

  • Slice one onion and put it in the base of the slow cooker.
  • Place the pork on top and scatter over the other sliced onion.
  • Pour over the ginger ale.
  • Cover and cook on low for 12 hours.
  • Remove the meat and allow to drain in a sieve.
  • When cool enough to handle, remove the skin and fat (the meat will just fall apart) and discard.
  • Cover the meat with foil and keep warm.
  • Strain the cooking liquid into a bowl and place in the fridge/freezer for 30 minutes to cool.
  • As the liquid cools, any fat will rise to the surface and solidify. It can then be easily removed.
  • Lift the solidified fat from the cooking liquid with a slotted spoon and discard.
  • Pour the cooking liquid into a pan and bring to the boil. Simmer until it has been reduced by at least half.
  • Pour over the prepared meat and serve.

Serving Suggestion: Baked potatoes and steamed vegetables, or noodles and rice with crunchy coleslaw.

Variation: Use a sweet cider, ginger beer, apple juice or lemonade. If you don’t have enough gravy, barbecue sauce makes for a tangy and equally delicious alternative.

Pulled Pork with Barbecue Sauce