Simplicity is the order of the day with today’s post – the ultimate comfort food of tomato soup and a toasted sandwich. But just because it is simple, doesn’t mean there should be any compromise on flavour, and these recipes have maximum flavour with minimum fuss. Not as minimum as opening a tin, I grant you, but for just five active minutes of your time, this soup can be supped in just under an hour and is so simple, after the first time you won’t need to refer to the recipe ever again.
But do keep coming back to the blog, because I’d miss you otherwise!
This soup is extremely low in fat, gluten-free and vegetarian/vegan.
Makes approx. 1.5 litres
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes – Aldi ‘Sweet Harvest’ are best for colour/flavour/value
2tbs vegetable oil
3tbs concentrated tomato paste
1 litre vegetable stock or water + bouillon
1 large potato to make 300g once peeled/cubed
salt & pepper to taste.
- Pour the chopped tomatoes onto a shallow ovenproof fish and spread out into a thin layer.
- Place in the oven and turn the heat to 220°C, 200°C Fan.
- Bake for 30 minutes, stirring thoroughly after 15 minutes, or until no excess liquid is visible.
- While the tomatoes are baking, peel and chop the onion.
- Add the oil to a saucepan, then add the onion and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally. The object is to concentrate the flavour through evaporation, without allowing the onion to caramelise.
- When the tomatoes are done, scrape them into the saucepan with the onion, and add the tomato paste, stock and cubed potato.
- Cover and simmer on medium heat for 10-15 minutes or until the potato is cooked.
- Use a stick blender to puree the soup.
- Rub through a fine-meshed sieve for extra smoothness.
- Return to the pan and warm through.
- Taste & add salt and pepper as liked.
- Add garlic: peel up to 6 cloves of garlic and toss them in the oil. Lift out and stir into the tomatoes to roast in the oven.
- Spice it up: red pepper flakes, cayenne, paprika or herbs such as rosemary or basil.
- Crunch time: Make some sippets by dicing bread into 1cm cubes and either frying them in a pan with oil or bake in the oven until crisped and brown.
- Meatify me! : Make some little meatballs from beef or lamb mince, fry them in a pan, drain on kitchen roll and add to each bowl before serving.
- Creamy: Add a little double cream or creme fraiche if liked, but in all honesty, it doesn’t need it.
- Fast Forward: If you need this even more quickly, this can be ready in as little as half the time. Once the tomatoes are in the oven, put everything else in the saucepan and simmer while the tomatoes bake. When the tomatoes are ready, stir everything together and blitz smooth.
Regular listeners will recall that over the winter I was without my oven, which included the grill I used for making toast. Yes, my kitchen is so small, I can’t afford to sacrifice the counter space for a toaster. So I used this method to make toast in a large non-stick pan, which makes delicious and perfect toast if you are prepared to wait the 10 minutes it takes to brown.
More usually, I use this method for toasted sandwiches because kitchen….small….no counter space…..etc, etc. but also because the toasted sandwiches it make are so much nicer than the ones I see made elsewhere AND it gives me a chance to have a bit of a rant, so here goes.
- Butter on the outside of the bread.
So greasy, and so messy too. I mean come on, people, we’re living in the 21st century with all its wonderful technological advances and more kitchen gadgetry than you could shake a stick at, which includes non-stick pans! There’s simply no need to go slathering on great schmears of butter on every available bread surface. Lay a slice of bread in a dry non-stick pan over heat, and it will brown, no fat needed.
- Squished bread
Whether by panini press or, if you’re old like me/in the UK/ both, by those electric sandwich makers, I’m just not a fan of bread being compressed and then welded together by melted cheese the temperature of LAVA. If you need industrial equipment to force your sandwich down to a manageable height for your mouth, you’re doing it wrong.
- Squished fillings
I like to savour every one of the additions to my melty cheese sandwich filling, which is tricky to do when it is squirting out the sides from being squished by some gadget.
The good news is, you don’t have to suffer any of the above with my patent-pending, counter-space-saving, practically-foolproof method of toasty sammich creation! The outsides of the sandwich are crisp, browned and free from grease and the insides are warm and melty. And so without further ado, on with the method!
The Non-Gadget Toasty Sammich Method
- Put a clean, dry non-stick pan on medium-low heat to warm up.
- Take 2 slices of your bread. Now it can be artisinal sourdough, or pre-sliced from a bag, no judgement here. This method will work beautifully with all types of bread.
- Lay one slice on something that will help you transfer the sandwich to the pan – a palette knife if your balance skills are good, a cake lifter if they’re not.
- Add a layer of butter onto the bread (optional). You can use other things such as mayonnaise or chutney if you prefer.
- Whatever cheese you’re using, add half in a layer over the bread. Either cut it in thin slices or dice it in 5mm cubes. The smaller/thinner the cheese pieces, the more easily they will melt.
- Add any additional flavourings. Purists maintain there is only ever cheese in a toasty cheese sammich (see top photo) but I am of the opinion that cheese is merely compulsory, not exclusive. There are some suggestions below for fillings that pair well with tomato soup. Season with salt and pepper to your taste.
- Finish with the rest of your cheese. When this double layer of cheese melts, it will gently cradle the rest of your sandwich ingredients and hold them together so that your sandwich doesn’t fall apart, even when cut.
- Add the final piece of bread, buttered or not, as you like, and press down gently.
- Transfer the sandwich to the pan.
- To help melt the cheese effectively, cover your sandwich with a lid, preferably one that doesn’t press down upon the sandwich itself. If you non-stick pan has a lid, then use that. Personally, I use a lid from a small saucepan that sits snugly over the whole sandwich but is deep enough not to compress it. Ensuring the cheese is mostly melted before you turn the sandwich will help keep your filling where it is supposed to be – inside the sandwich. A lid will trap the heat underneath, effectively making a little oven and help to melt the cheese faster.
- When the underside of your sandwich is browned, (depending on the heat of your pan, around 5 minutes), slide under your utensil of choice and gently turn it over. If the cheese is melted, then you can leave off the lid, which will also keep the toasted top of the sandwich from becoming soggy through trapped moisture.
- Toast for a further 5 minutes until the underside is browned, then lift out of the pan.
- Cut your sandwich with either a pizza wheel, or with a sharp, serrated knife: don’t saw at it, make a sharp, forward-and-downward motion with the knife. You can see from the picture below, how beautifully crisp, dry and unsquished the toast is, and how the filling is melted but still held between the bread.
- Overnight Bread, vintage cheddar. If you’re in the UK, I can recommend (black pack) Collier’s Welsh cheddar, Wyke Farms Vintage cheddar (in a green pack) or a newly-discovered favourite Welsh slate-cavern aged cheddar from South Caernarfon Creameries, available at Sainsbury’s deli counters.
- Overnight Bread, diced Brunswick Ham, thinly-sliced Jaz/Braeburn apple, vintage cheddar.
- Sliced wholemeal bread, mix of finely diced mature cheddar & Gouda, thinly-sliced pickled cucumbers/gherkins. NB For best results, be sure they are brined and not in vinegar.
- Bacon or Bacon Jam, mature cheddar, de-seeded, diced tomato (not pictured).
- Cheese and chutney (not pictured).
Scotch Eggs are delicious, I think we can all agree that that is fact. Alas, they are also usually deep fried, and can thus be prone to being either overcooked or dry, or greasy or, heaven forfend, all three. Something needed to be done!
Behold my new creation – The Scone Egg™!
Everything you love about scones and Scotch eggs in a single, warm, comforting bundle of deliciousness!
These are also a natural progression from some savoury scone variations I included in MY BOOK </subtle>. If you’ve got a copy, you will find the scone recipe on page 248. A couple of pages later, there are some suggestions for customising a basic scone recipe. The savoury scones are very popular with The Lads that look after my car, at my local garage.
What started out as an attempt to combine all the deliciousness from a Breakfast Sandwich into a scone, took a bit of a detour and here we are at Scone Eggs! Soft, crumbly scone, spicy sausage, an egg that is still runny in the middle, and no deep frying!
These are ideal for brunch, either as is, or you could go completely over the top and combine them with all the fixin’s for Eggs Benedict. *dabs drool from keyboard*
To ensure a liquid center to your egg, they should be boiled for no longer than 5 minutes. This makes them a little tricky to peel, but if you follow the instructions below, you will be blessed with a much lower egg ruination rate. Alternatively, go for hardboiled eggs and make the whole process altogether less fiddly, and which would also make them more sturdy and therefore suitable for picnics, etc.
You will need some small individual pudding bowls to bake them in – I use foil ones like this – which can stand several uses with careful washing between bakes.
The key to baking a light scone is, as ever, the speed with which you can get them into the oven after adding the liquid to the dry ingredients, whilst avoiding being too rough with the dough. Have everything ready – eggs boiled and cooled, foil cases oiled – and your oven at temperature before stirring in the liquid and you should be able to have them in the oven in about 5 minutes.
I’ve specified more eggs, just in case there are cracks or breakages when removing the shell. In addition, depending on how thickly you wrap the scone mixture around the egg, you may get up to 6 Scone Eggs from this recipe. Or not. But you will most definitely get four.
6-8 large eggs
1 x 400g pack of good-quality sausages
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp coarse ground black pepper
½-1 tsp dried thyme
½-1 tsp dried oregano
½-1 tsp dried sage
¼ tsp celery seed
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
225g plain flour
30g unsalted butter
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1tsp cream of tartar
1 large egg
½ tsp salt
80ml plain yogurt
1 large egg for glazing
- Prepare the eggs.
- Bring a pan of water to the boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer (this will help keep the eggs from cracking).
- Add the eggs, gently lowering them into the water with a spoon. Allow them to cook for 5 minutes, then drain the water and cool them in cold water. The eggs will be easiest to peel once completely cold, so either add some ice or more cold water if necessary. For hardboiled eggs, cook for 10-12 minutes.
- Once the eggs are completely cold, remove the shell. I won’t go into just how many eggs I went through in the development of this recipe, but let us just say it was substantial and resulted in the method outlined below:
- Take a teaspoon and with the back of the spoon, tap around the ‘equator’ of the egg, making sure the shell breaks into small pieces.
- Then use the back of the spoon to break the shell around each end of the egg.
- With the point of a sharp knife, break away the shell from the ‘equator’ region, until you can peel both shell and skin away together, preferably still attached to one another. This is key in removing the shell smoothly and successfully. Sometimes bits of the shell will drop away leaving the skin intact. Use the point of the knife to break through until you can hold shell and skin together between your fingertips.
- Once you can hold both skin and shell together, peel around the middle of the egg, then peel each end.
- Lay the peeled egg carefully on a plate – its soft middle will mean it doesn’t hold its shape entirely, but enough until you’re ready to wrap the scone mixture around.
- Prepare the sausage
- Remove the skin from the sausages and put the meat into a frying pan over medium heat.
- Sprinkle with pepper, salt, herbs and spice to taste.
- Using a spatula, break up the sausage meat as it cooks.
- Continue chopping and turning the meat until cooked through. Set aside to cool.
- When cold, tip the cooked sausage into the bowl of a food processor and blitz very briefly to break up any large chunks. You don’t want it as fine as breadcrumbs, but at the same time no piece larger than about 1cm.
- Set aside.
- Make the scone mix.
- Preheat the oven to 220°C, 200°C Fan.
- Put the flour, butter, bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar, salt and egg into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until it resembles breadcrumbs.
- Tip the mixture into a bowl.
- Weigh out 200g of cooked sausage meat and add to the scone ingredients. Stir through.
- Whisk the milk and yogurt together.
- Check you’ve got everything to hand to get the scones into the oven, pudding tins greased, egg for glazing whisked, pastry brush handy, oven hot, etc.
- Using a rounded knife, gradually add the milk mixture, stirring the dry ingredients as you go. You might not need all of the liquid, depending on the moisture in the sausage, so proceed cautiously – you can still bake an overly moist scone mixture, but it might slip off the egg before it is fully cooked.
- When the mixture has come together, tip out onto a floured surface. With floured hands, roughly shape it into a circle, then divide it into quarters.
- For each egg, do the following:
- Take a piece of dough and place it in the palm of your left hand.
- Use your thumb and fingers to shape a hole or pocket into the dough. Be careful not to press the dough too thin – it should be 1.5-2cm thick.
- Take one boiled egg and place it into the pocket.
- Mould the scone dough around the egg until it is smoothly covered. Pinch off any excess dough and put on one side. You will end up with sufficient dough to wrap another 1 or 2 eggs.
- Decide which end of the scone is smoothest and then drop the moulded scone into a buttered pudding tin, smooth side uppermost.
- Place on a baking sheet.
- When all scones are formed, brush over the tops with the beaten egg.
- Bake for 15 minutes, turning the baking sheet around after 10 minutes to ensure even colouring.
- When fully cooked, allow to firm up for 5 minutes before gently easing them out of the tins. Run a knife around the edge first, in case the glaze has caused it to stick to the tin. Set onto a wire rack to cool.
- Enjoy at once.
 You DO have a copy, don’t you!? No pressure…..
 I take a box of warm scones in whenever my car needs some TLC.
 Caveat: as long as you eat them within 30 minutes of baking – as they cool, the yolk will continue to cook and longer than half an hour and it will be solid.
 Should be at least 90% pork, certainly not less than 85%. My UK recommendations are
- Black Farmer Premium Pork Sausages
- Debbie & Andrew’s Harrogate Sausages
- Sainsbury’s Ultimate Pork Sausages, Taste the Difference Range
This list is by no means exhaustive, they are just the brands I have tasted and can vouch for personally.
Just because lunch is a sandwich doesn’t mean it has to be ordinary.
For this recipe, I’ve taken the Swedish smörgåstårta and shrunk it to an individual serving size.
Three layers of dense, nutty rye bread are sandwiched together with two complimentary fillings – pea hummus and a fresh mixture of creamy goats cheese and petit pois. Wrapped in a ribbon of cucumber and topped with pea shoots, mint and a scattering of more peas, lunchtime just got deliciously elegant.
- Rye bread – for deliciously dark colour contrast and firmness to hold up the layers.
- Petit Pois – lovely bright colour and their sweetness contrasts well with both the earthiness of the tahini in the hummus and the sharpness of the goats cheese. Fresh peas in pods are always going to be rather mealy in comparison, unless you grow them yourself and can pod/cook them within an hour of picking.
- Goat’s cheese – The dazzling white is a great contrast against the dark of the rye bread and the bright green of the peas. The soft variety available in a pot allows for easy spreading and mixing. Alternatively, use cream cheese or mascarpone or ricotta.
Whether a single serving for a weekday lunchbox or buffet-level numbers for a weekend event, you can make short work of this sandwich by partially assembling the day/evening before.
Proceed up to the point where the sides and top are coated with the cheese and then stop. Wrap the sandwiches in cling film and refrigerate overnight. Pick out your pea/mint/salad shoots and store, with the remaining peas, in the fridge in a plastic box lined with a dampened sheet of kitchen roll. Finish off the sandwiches just before serving.
Pea, Goat Cheese & Mint Glamwich
Makes 2 sandwiches – 1 serving.
For the pea hummus
3 sprigs mint
100g frozen petit pois
1tbs natural yogurt
juice of up to 1/2 a lemon
black pepper and salt to taste
- Put the mint sprigs into a pan and fill with cold water. Bring the water to a boil.
- Tip the frozen peas in and bring back to the boil.
- Drain and rinse in several changes of cold water (to preserve the bright colour). Remove mint and discard.
- Tip onto a paper towel to blot up the excess moisture.
- Weigh out 50g of peas and set the rest aside.
- Put the 50g of peas, tahini, yogurt and a squeeze of lemon juice into a spice grinder or small food processor and blitz to a paste. Taste and season as required. Use more lemon juice or yogurt if the paste is too thick or too cloying. NB To make this hummus vegan, use olive oil instead of yogurt, and add a little extra lemon juice.
Cheese and pea mixture.
50g soft, spreadable goats cheese
40g cooked petit pois
salt and pepper to taste
- Stir the peas and cheese together.
- Season to taste.
2 slices rye bread – packs in the supermarket tend to be uniform i size and handily pre-sliced.
1 cucumber (not all of this will be used)
more spreadable goats cheese (or cream cheese/mascarpone/ricotta)
pea shoots, mint sprigs, the remaining 10g cooked petit pois
- Cut each slice of rye bread into thirds.
- For each slice, spread one third with a thick (1.5cm) layer of the pea and goats cheese.
- Lay a second piece of rye bread on top and spread thickly with the pea hummus. Any leftover hummus can be eaten with carrot/celery sticks for a more substantial lunch.
- Add the final layer of rye bread. Repeat for the second sandwich.
- Spread the sides and top of the sandwiches with a thin layer of goats cheese. This will help the salad shoots and cucumber adhere and also keep the sandwich from drying out.
- Arrange the pea shoots and mint sprigs over the top of the sandwich, pressing them lightly into the layer of goat’s cheese.
- Using a Y-shaped peeler or mandolin, cut a thin ribbon of cucumber for each sandwich. Press the cucumber between a sheet of kitchen roll to absorb the excess moisture.
- Wrap the sandwiches in the cucumber ribbon, neatening the sides. Depending on the size of the ribbon, you may require more than one to fully wrap the sandwich.
- Sprinkle the remaining 10g of petit pois over the top of the sandwiches and enjoy!
This week it’s more a variation on a theme, rather than a completely new recipe.
Deliciously savoury cheese scones, fortified by the inclusion of some fresh vegetables in the middle – ideal for lunchboxes, picnics, to accompany soup or salad, or even as a mid-morning or afternoon snack.
I thought they looked especially pretty with a single piece of veg inside. Other suitable contenders might be small, vine-ripened tomatoes (peel them and place with the stalk to the side in order to look prettiest when cut) and whole, caramelised shallots.
Of course, you could just as easily cut the vegetables into dice the same size as the cheese, but I quite like the surprise element of the scones appearing to be plain, albeit of a rather generous size.
The recipe I have used as a starting point is the one for Mrs McNab’s scones from my book. As an unsweetened recipe, it is perfect as a blank canvas which can be tweaked to your own needs. Here are a few tips I followed when tweaking:
- Choose your cheese and vegetables according to your personal preference. I used cheddar for the scones with cauliflower and mushroom, although it doesn’t show up much. A more striking alternative might be Double Gloucester or an aged Red Leicester. White feta/goats cheese goes well with both the broccoli and the beetroot. Alternatively, a pale and crumbly Cheshire or Caerphilly cheese or even a blue cheese would also be suitable.
- Cut cheese into 1cm cubes. Grated cheese tends to blend into the scone mix and get rather lost. One of the first batches I made of these scones had 100g grated Parmesan in and you could barely make out any cheese flavour at all. The cubed cheese gives a great hit of cheesiness because it is nestled in the plain scone mix, which gives it a great contrast.
- Whenever you have cooked cheese in a recipe, add a little mustard powder. It won’t be detectable, but it will give a great boost to the flavour of the cheese.
- Make sure the vegetables are partly cooked. The cooking time for scones is so short, the heat won’t penetrate enough to cook them, merely warm them through. I roasted the cauliflower for a bit of extra flavour and blanched the broccoli for 5 minutes. The mushrooms were poached in stock for 30 minutes and the beetroot I bought ready cooked.
- Add some pepper to the scone mix.
- Bake the scones in deep muffin tins to give them a good shape.
Vegetable Cheese Scones
Makes 12 large scones. You can make more if you reduce the size of the scones and use small vegetables.
450g plain flour
60g unsalted butter
1 tsp salt
½tsp black pepper
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda 
2 tsp cream of tartar 
1 tsp mustard powder
1 large egg
150-200g cheese – cut into 1cm cubes
150ml plain yoghurt
150ml milk, plus extra to glaze
Assorted cooked vegetables
- Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C Fan.
- Grease a 12-hole muffin tin.
- Put the flour, butter, salt, pepper, bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar, mustard and the egg into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
- Tip the mixture into a large bowl.
- Add the cubed cheese.
- Mix the yoghurt and 150ml milk together thoroughly.
- Gradually stir into the flour and egg mixture with a knife. The dough will be very soft and rather wet. This is fine.
- Put a heaped tablespoon into the bottom of each cup of the muffin tin.
- Press the vegetable you are using gently into the scone mix.
- Spoon more scone mix over the top until the vegetable is completely covered.
- Smooth the tops and brush with milk to glaze.
- Bake for 15 minutes until risen and golden. Turn the baking sheet around 180° after 10 minutes to ensure even baking.
- Cool on a wire rack.
 Or use 4tsp baking powder.
This week’s recipe is another great comfort food and snack item that originates in eastern Europe, and migrated from Russia, through Germany and travelled with the food traditions of German immigrants to North America. Variations are also known as Fleischkuche, Runza’s, Kraut Pirok and Cabbage Burger.
A soft, white bread dough is stuffed with a mixture of seasoned beef mince, onion and cabbage – and that’s it. You’re thinking it sounds a bit plain and dull? Yes, me too when I first read about these, but reading the reviews of these buns on recipe sites and blogs, you discover that these simple stuffed rolls have a huge fan base out there – so much so that they are made commercially in the US. The mix of meat, onions and cabbage is moist and savoury and comforting. Sometimes the most flavourful things come from the simplest of ingredients.
These rolls are best served warm, and served with salad they can be a simple and tasty lunch. Alternatively, they also freeze well – great for grab-and-go weekday lunches, they will have defrosted by lunchtime can be warmed up either in an oven or microwave.
Although the basic recipe is delicious, you can also add a little extra flavourings to your taste. The most popular variation includes a little sauerkraut with the cabbage: I personally wasn’t keen, but then I only had shop-bought sauerkraut to try it with. Home-made sauerkraut is probably much better. The second variation I tried was to add a little cheese. I went with some grated Grana Padano (a strong Italian cheese similar to Parmesan, but much cheaper) for maximum flavour without adding too much bulk to the filling. I really liked this little addition, but please do try the original mixture too – it really is delicious.
You can use any cabbage, but I like both the colour and texture of the Savoy cabbage – it holds its colour really well and makes the filling look fresh and juicy as well as taste that way.
Bierocks – Makes 12
500g strong white flour
1 sachet fast action yeast
1 large egg
1 tsp salt
1.5 tsp sugar
100ml whole milk
100ml boiling water
500g lean beef mince
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 small Savoy cabbage, finely shred
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
grated Grana Padano cheese (optional)
- Make the bread dough:
- Put the flour, yeast, egg, salt and sugar into a bowl.
- Add the boiling water to the milk and add gradually to the mixture until it comes together into a soft dough. You may need more liquid, depending on the moisture in the flour and egg.
- Knead the mixture for ten minutes, cover and set aside to rise for an hour.
- Make the filling.
- Heat a non-stick saucepan over a medium high heat and crumble in the meat. No need to have any oil, even lean mince has a certain amount of fat in it which will come out as the meat cooks.
- Stir the meat around until it is browned and shiny.
- Add the onion and continue stirring while the onion softens.
- Finally add in the cabbage and cook until the cabbage has softened – probably no more than 2-3 minutes.
- Stir in the salt and pepper, remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
- When the dough is risen, tip out and pat down.
- Divide dough into pieces weighing 75-80g.
- Roll dough out into a 15cm square.
- Put a measure of the cooled filling into the middle of the dough. I use an 80ml measuring cup.
- Add 1 teaspoon of the grated cheese, if using.
- Bring the corners of the dough together and pinch along the edges to seal in the filling. What you will end up with looks like the back of an envelope.
- Turn the buns over and place onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Dust the buns with flour and set aside to rise for 15-20 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
- Bake the buns for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned.
- Remove the buns from the oven and immediately cover the baking sheet with some tea-towels. This will trap the heat and create steam, which will soften the crust of the buns.
- Eat warm.
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
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)
This is more a set of assembly instructions rather than a complete recipe, but even if you haven’t made muffins from this recipe (and whyever NOT may I ask????), you can still enjoy this delicious way to start a lazy Sunday. All the preparation can be done the night before and the sandwiches left in the fridge overnight. In the morning, just 20 minutes in a warm oven and breakfast is served!
Now you might think that these sandwiches bear a marked resemblance to a breakfast menu item available at a well-known high street chain of food outlets (Lawks! What a convoluted way to avoid saying the M-word!). And you would be correct. It’s a great sandwich. I just think it can be made better and far cheaper at home.
Now this recipe includes mention of cheese. On the one hand, it’s a bit like gilding the lily, because you’ve already got two lots of protein in there, but then on the other, if you’re going to indulge in a luxurious lazy Sunday brunch sandwich, you might as well go the whole hog. Don’t feel obliged to use any cheese at all but, when melted, it does provide a lovely, squidgy ‘glue’ keeping everything together. I’ve tried these with several variations: Gruyere is very melty, Cheddar is also popular, but top marks go to those little foil-wrapped cheese triangles, which just seem to have the best mix of smoothness, cheesiness and creaminess without being either too overpowering or too oily.
Avoid pre-packaged ham if at all possible. Apart from paying extra for the handling and packaging, chances are that there’s a fair bit of water bulking out the weight, and nothing dampens the prospect of a delicious sandwich more than having to blot your sliced meat before using. Most supermarkets have deli counters where you can get delicious ham sliced to order and to your liking, sometimes straight from a whole joint. If you can find it, Brunswick is a very tasty smoked ham – a household favourite here.
I’m also including instructions for making the omelette. Omelettes were one of the first things I learned to cook as a child, so this is completely to my own taste, but then I am of the opinion that that is how everyone should approach cooking. I don’t have any truck with being told how an omelette should be – I’m going to cook it how I like it, and how I like it is without any runny bits thankyouverymuch. Feel free to disregard and do your own thing.
Breakfast Sandwiches – serves 4 (or 1 if you’re very hungry)
4 slices ham
4 portions of cheese (optional)
small pan for omelette-making
circular pastry cutter
2 baking sheets
- Make an omelette with the eggs: Whisk the eggs briefly, season with pepper (the ham is salty enough for us, but go with your own preference). Melt the butter in the pan and when it starts to bubble and sizzle, pour in the eggs. As the edges of the eggs cook, use a spatula to draw them to the centre. The uncooked egg will run into its place. This will create folds of cooked egg and make for a fairly deep omelette. If the finished omelette looks a little too wobbly for your liking, pop the pan under the grill for 2-3 minutes. It makes the egg puff up nicely.
- Use the pastry cutter to cut four circles of egg from the cooked omelette, and 8 circles of ham from the slices. If your ham slices are small, have 1 neat circle and a pile of trimmings – tastes just as delicious!
- Tear the muffins apart and spread each half with the cheese of your choice (if using).
- Lay one circle of ham onto the cheese and the circle of egg on top of the ham. Top with a second circle of ham and finally the other half of the muffin.
- Wrap closely in foil. Keep in the fridge overnight if preparing them for the following day.
- Preheat the oven to 170°C, 150°C Fan
- Lay sandwiches on one of the baking sheets and lay the second baking sheet on top. This encourages the muffins and filling to squidge together nicely.
- Warm in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the cheese has melted.
Cost: £3.60 Using home-made muffins and cheese triangles (July, 2011)