Pork Shank


Finished dish

Finished dish

Yesterday I found myself in a branch of Morrisons in search of their Ten Pound Pimms’ offer. Sadly Camberwell was very lacking in refreshing summer beverages, but managed to redeem itself with an abundance of delicious pork products. I resisted the temptation to stock up on pork dripping and bacon ends, but I did succumb to a splendid looking pork shank.

I’ve never seen one of these before, either to buy or on a gastro-pub menu, despite the ubiquitousness of the lamb shank, but the price made me look again. Just over £2 for a kilo or so of shank appealed to my currently lean finances (even if I’m probably going to hell for buying intensively reared meat.) The label suggested roasting it and even at the counter my mind wandered to making something wholesome and hearty with Puy lentils…

Back home, I turned my attention to my cookbooks for a little bit more information on cooking the shank, but found them all somewhat lacking. Google was next up and it also offered surprising little in the way of advice, especially as there seemed to be no distinction drawn between pork shank and ham shank. Having established that as mine was actually pork, so I didn’t need to soak it, I realised that most of the braising recipes required a slow cooker or a tonne of ingredients I didn’t have. I decided to go with what the label suggested and keep it simple!

After leaving the shank out all afternoon to come to room temperature and dry the skin out, I seasoned it and sealed it in a casserole with a bit of olive oil until the skin started to colour nicely. Since I wasn’t planning on eating the skin, I didn’t attempt to get to crackling proportions. I then softened an onion and several whole cloves of garlic in the remaining oil, before adding some home grown sage and oregano and a few cupfuls of gorgeous glistening green Puy lentils. I added a good glug of homemade chicken stock, topping up with water until the lentils were well covered and plonked the pork back on top. Lid on, the whole thing went into a oven at 190˚.

Two and a half hours later, I opened the lid of the casserole to pork and legume heaven. The meat was soft and tender and easy to carve. But the lentils were the star of this show. Shot through sweet morsels of caramelised onion and hints of garlic and rich with pork juices and chicken stock, these were so good I could happily have climbed into the casserole and bathed in these beauties to get maximum enjoyment. Even if I had made twice the amount, I still wouldn’t have made enough of them…

As it was, I have enough lentils for 3 portions and enough pork for about the same, plus a bone to try making more stock or flavouring another dish, making this combo both delicious and economic. I’d like to try making it again with more ethically raised pork as it would make me feel less guilty and would probably be more tasty as well! I highly recommend picking up a pork shank if you happened to be in a Morrisons or a decent butcher. The knobbly wobbly bits of the animal often excel themselves and this cut is no exception!

Chorizo Colombiano

After our epic Colombian lunch the other day, Mister North and I did eventually manage to work up an appetite again and turned our attention to the stunning chorizo Colombiano we had already picked up from Carniceria butcher in Brixton Village.

Chorizo Colombiano is less like the cured Spanish product and more like the great British banger, featuring raw chopped pork, garlic and coriander in a casing. It varies from our sausage in size, looking big and plump enough to use as a draught excluder in a pinch! Slightly greedily we bought 4 of these meaty beauties for a mere £3.60 and decided to make a slow cooked stew with them.

Having been reading the extremely comprehensive The Art of South American Cooking by Felipe Rojas-Lombardi earlier in the week, we agreed that the stew needed long slow cooking, robust flavours and some heat behind it. We bought some black beans and scotch bonnet peppers at the market and decided to make the rest of it up as we went along!

This primarily involved sauteeing a red onion and some scallions over a high heat before adding two of the sausages chopped into chunks along with some chopped carrots and potatoes to brown slightly. Meanwhile we blitzed two scotch bonnets, 3 or 4 cloves or garlic and a good dollop of green seasoning in the hand blender to make a piquant paste which was then used to coat the meat and vegetables as they softened.

Once everything was gently softened, we added a tin of black beans and some liquid with a portion of my homemade home grown slow roasted tomato sauce and a glass or two of water before popping the Le Cresuet in the oven at 140˚C and going out to drink mojitos for an hour or two…

When we came back, the whole flat smelled amazing. On closer inspection the stew had thickened up beautifully as the sauce had reduced and the sausages had broken down to a texture similar to coarse mince rather than remained in chunks. We took the lid off the casserole pot and popped the stew back in for another hour or so to allow the flavours to mingle and mellow nicely.

Kicking ourselves that we hadn’t gone the whole hog and got some quinoa to go with the stew, we opted to serve the stew as it as was without a carb on the side to get the full flavours. And what flavours they were! The sausages were rich and toothsome with a good flavour of garlic throughout while the sauce had a sweet fruity undertone from the tomatoes and the scotch bonnet peppers coming together in a tantalisingly tingle of heat in the mouth. The whole dish was just packed with flavour and texture and was the perfect one pot dish.

We used two of the sausages and got two good portions of the stew each from it, albeit bulked out slightly with rice or couscous on the second night, making this one of the best value meals I’ve had in a while! Despite this frugality, this was a stew that you could serve to anyone for dinner with pride. Simple, hearty and flavoursome; when stew is this good it almost makes me glad the weather is still so miserable so I can indulge in a warming bowful for longer!

Asparagus and Hollandaise sauce…heaven on a plate!

It is of course asparagus season right now here in Britain and I like to do my patriotic duty by eating as much of it as possible. After buying yet more at the farmers’ market yesterday, it came to my attention that about the only way I haven’t sampled this delicacy is the traditional way with hollandaise sauce… Read more

Buffalo Soldier

My regular Sunday morning trip to Brixton Farmers’ Market always involves fresh soft pretzels from Luca’s Bakery, but I managed to branch out from just baked goods this week and I couldn’t resist picking up a few seasonal goodies in the shape of some British asparagus, fresh garlic and buffalo steak for the rest of the week.

The buffalo steaks came from the amazing Alham Wood Cheeses stall which is so low key in the market I’m not sure it even has a sign. Only my finely honed mozzarella radar meant I noticed it…but it has some superb well matured cheeses as well as a small selection of buffalo meat each week. This stall is not to be missed if you are a serious cheese lover. They supply the succulent mozzarella for the top class pizzas at Brixton institution Franco Manca and it is a treat to be able to add this exceptional product to dishes at home.

My eye was drawn to the juicy looking organic buffalo frying steak. Two well sized thin cut steaks weighing in around 180g cost an incredibly reasonable £2.34, reminding me that it is possible to eat ethically raised higher welfare meat even on my limited budget. The fact that buffalo meat is also very low in fat and cholesterol was simply a bonus. I was definitely looking forward to trying buffalo meat for the first time! Read more

Green wet garlic, red meat and blue cheese…

Sirloin with shallot and wet garlic, finished with Blacksticks Blue

As part of Miss South’s trip north at the end of March I wanted to ensure we could enjoy what is rapidly becoming a prerequisite for our family gatherings: excellent beef steak. As usual the wonderful Stansfield’s of Tod market was able to supply the required cuts, in this case two glorious Yorkshire sirloins. Once I’d bought these I picked up a brace of oh-so-fresh wet garlic bulbs from Alex Med – the first of the year – and decided that this, alongside a few rogue shallots which were crying out to be used, could provide the basis of a very pleasant main course. With a starter of Woodcock and a dessert of Buckfast sorbet this was shaping up to a helluva meal… Read more