Monday, 27 May 2013

Hoisin Belly Pork and Noodles

Belly Pork slices....

This is one of my favourites. I love belly pork if it's cooked right and, for me, the wonderful Chinese flavours of this dish means I cook it regularly. 

Hoisin sauce can be bought in a jar or packet and enhanced, or it can be made from scratch. I do both and sometimes I just use the jar with no enhancements but I do look for a ready made sauce with no silly ingredients like MSG or E numbers. That's not as easy as it sounds but I'm going to assume that you'll be using a bought sauce with perhaps a few extras:

Other Hoisin sauces are available - but not as good!


Sliced Belly Pork (enough for however many people you are feeding)
A jar or packet of hoisin sauce
Medium Egg Noodles. Enough for the serving
Sweet or normal soy sauce
Chopped spring onions
Chopped chili
Chopped garlic
Chopped coriander
Star anise (one or two pieces) 

First, I like to cook the belly pork on its own for about half an hour or so in a low oven - 150 degrees or so, covered, on an oven proof dish. This allows you to pour off some of the excess fat, which can spoil the dish if not removed. 

Then I add the hoisin sauce, completely emptying the jar by swilling a splash of water around, and completely pasting it onto the pork. Add your extras if you wish at   this stage and then re-cover and place in the oven for another hour or so. That's it for the pork, except that I uncover it for the last 10 minutes, which allows it to crisp up a little. 

Put the noodles into boiling water with plenty of salt until they are soft and then drain them thoroughly before serving on a dish.  At this stage I add a dash of sweet soy sauce, but you can use a normal one if you wish. The pork is served on top but I often stir in some cooked peas too, to give a little colour and freshness.

I hope you like this one as much as I do.

Serve on a bed of noodles..

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Morel Mushrooms (Morchella)

Growing on a bed of bark chippings....

There are a few variations of these Spring Wonders - they are polymorphic in appearance and therefore vary in colour and shape, but with the honeycombed cap they are readily recognisable. There is one mushroom that could, in theory be mistaken for a morel - the false morel, but it is rather obviously different. It is very poisonous, though this toxicity is greatly reduced by cooking thoroughly, but, as always, please make sure that you check before you pick.

However, the True Morel is delicious, but even it should be cooked completely as it contains small levels of hydrazine which can cause tummy upsets. It's easy, really - don't eat Morels raw. But then why would you? - they are delicious sautéed in butter with a handful of chives and the tiniest dash of lemon at the end. or shaved thinly, shallow fried very gently and sprinkled onto scrambled eggs.

One more warning - due to this honeycomb like structure of the cap - they should be tapped out when cut, brushed and sliced carefully to allow all extraneous wildlife to vacate their newly found habitat, before eating.

Please take my word for it - this mushroom is worth all the trouble. Its nutty flavour is unique and redolent of misty, musty spring mornings, as the sunshine filters through the verdant green of early spring foliage and a pheasant coughs and stretches its wings, shaking off the light dew of a clear night. One can almost taste the woodland.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Veggie Jobs for May

Poly tunnel looking lush

Well it has been a slow start to the year, but fear not, the vegetables WILL catch up. In fact Monty Don was recently castigated for suggesting that one needn't run to the Garden Centre to stock up on ready grown plants because even if you plant seeds now, this late, they will soon catch up as the daylight hours lengthen and the days warm up.

Warm up? We have had a couple of days where the temperature has nudged into the twenties, but they have been noticeable by their limited number rather than their warmth.

I have managed now though to get out and finish planting all my chitted potatoes, my beans are coming on well in the Poly Tunnel and so are my herbs, tomatoes, courgettes, sweet corn and strawberries. My Chilies are well behind but I'm sure they'll catch up. I have dug over my outside beds and covered them with polythene cloches to try and keep the soil warm and cat poo free.

The bean poles are up - in a cross shape so that the beans can hang freely rather than get caught up on the inside where it is dark and access is difficult. Don't be tempted to allow the beans to grow on the inside - they won't do as well. Chard, carrot, parsnip and beet root seeds are down in the ground outside and my salad trays are started off and doing well. My broad beans are in flower as is one of my peas, my Chervil looks vibrantly green and tastes great, but my basil is conspicuous by its absence. 

Things are progressing well. 

I'm frequently asked what people should grow in their gardens and I mostly give the same answer: you should grow vegetables or fruit that you like, but don't buy often because they are expensive, or plant what you love to eat a lot of. For me the former consists of fruit like raspberries, strawberries and blueberries or perhaps Borlotti beans and some rarer herbs. The latter would include all the salad stuff for summer, Italian tomatoes, pink fir apple potatoes, beans of all varieties, carrots, herbs and beetroot which my wife loves. 

Potatoes are easy to grow in pots or in in unworked soil if you have to because they will move the earth for you! Rhubarb enriches soil and beans will keep growing the more you pick. I use so many herbs on a daily basis that my back courtyard is full of all of them from bay to rosemary, sorrel to chives and thyme to a huge clump of oregano.

It's a time of busyness but also a time of optimism for the coming glut of food. Well, I hope so anyway. I'll keep you updated....

Salad trays are very useful...

Monday, 13 May 2013

Trout Fishing - The Recipes - Trout en Croute

The disadvantage of catching lots of trout lies in the search for interesting ways of preparing them other than the standard recipes. I thought I might share some of those that I come across and hope that you may find them tasty, interesting and adaptable.

Not everyone likes trout, not all of us catch them, but it's a lovely, firm fleshed fish that can be caught or bought almost everywhere. It's worth looking for it in the Fishmongers as it is usually a farmed fish and therefore relatively inexpensive.

This dish sounds difficult but is, in fact pretty straightforward. Here are the ingredients:

Two fillets of trout if quite large or 4 medium ones
A packet of ready rolled puff pastry
200 mls double cream
A large double handful (football sized) of fresh baby spinach, blanched in boiling water for a minute and refreshed in ice cold water, then squeezed dry in a clean cloth and finely chopped.
A handful of chopped chives
One free range egg, beaten

First the trout: Half will be used as whole fillets and half will be "moussed" by blending it with the double cream, chives, salt and pepper. Add the double cream until a paté like consistency has been achieved. Skin the remaining fillet/s and make sure there are no bones in situ.

Add some light flour to a surface and lightly dust your rolling pin just to roll out the puff pastry to the thickness of a pound coin. Remembering that the pastry has to cover all the fish and its toppings, place a layer of cold, dry spinach onto it, the the fillet/s of trout with a seasoning of salt and pepper, then coating of the mousse and add another layer of spinach on top of that before folding the puff pastry over and crimping all the edges. You can do this so that it resembles a large Cornish Pasty or you can cut the puff pastry so that it has a base and a cover as I have done in the photo above. Now brush the beaten egg all over and place the whole thing on a baking tray covered with parchment paper or a silicon sheet and place in a pre-heated medium oven (170-180) for about 30 minutes or until the pastry is a lovely golden brown.

You can then serve it hot with vegetables of your choice or cold like a pie or pasty