pork spelt salad

Pork and Lemon Balm Spelt Salad

pork spelt salad

If I’m honest, I have blogged little recently and cooked even less. Other people get inspired by hot summer weather and create wonderful meals of seasonal produce to be eaten outdoors. I tend to hide indoors eating a Magnum for dinner in front of an open window which is blissful but hard to write about.

My summer eating has also been cramped (literally) by the whole Fodmap thing. All stone fruit are a no-no. One small roasted flat peach the other week made me so ill I had to spend the next day in a darkened room with a fruit induced hangover basically. Asparagus is out. So are avocados. Corn and peas are only allowed in homeopathic amounts. Cherry tomatoes are causing issues. My innards wish it was mid winter and they could have some nice swede and curly kale.

Thank god for spinach is all I can say. Sometimes you just need something green and leafy and it does the trick. But it’s not what I’d call filling so I’m always looking for ways to bulk it up a bit. My friend Alex is a fellow Fodmapper who has issues with the wheat-rye-barley school and she introduce me to pearled spelt recently as a barley alternative.

Sadly much more expensive and only really available in Waitrose or through Sharpham Park, pearled spelt looks very like pearl barley but is more robust and hearty. It would be great in soups where I love that chewy grain texture but I’m wishing winter back again to talk about that, so I made a spelt salad.

I’m eating a LOT of meat right now. I’m trying a higher protein diet for gut issues generally while I learn more about leaky gut syndrome and auto immune illnesses (warning: Google is full of woo on this subject so read carefully) and because with most fruit and veg and all pulses being excluded and cheese limited, I don’t have many other choices. You need much more protein to fill you up when you can’t really bulk up on fibre as well. I’m trying to eat a variety of types of meat and fish and vary the cuts to keep it interesting.

I got a pork tenderloin inexpensively in Tesco recently (somewhere I alamost never shop but went into to enjoy their air con). Still a well priced cut, there’s no waste on it and a whole one does me about four meals. I combined it with some impulse purchase lemon balm, green beans and spinach and drizzled it with a lemon vinaigrette. It was delicious, but if anyone has any tips on giving vinaigrette a new twist or can suggest other Fodmap friendly dressings, please let me know!

Pork and Lemon Balm Spelt Salad (serves 4)

  • 450g pork (I used tenderloin or fillet)
  • 150g spelt (uncooked weight)
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced and 1 lemon sliced
  • 1 courgette, sliced
  • 150g green beans
  • 1 tablespoon garlic oil
  • 1 big bag spinach
  • 50g green olives
  • 4 stalks lemon balm
  • small handful fresh parsley
  • small handful fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar with a dash of lemon juice
  • 1 heaped teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper

Start by soaking the spelt in cold water for at least half an hour if you have time. I did mine in the morning and left it all day. It makes it quicker to cook, saves on labourious washing and gives a lovely texture to the cooked grain.

Add the soaked spelt to a large pan and cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer and cook for about 20 minutes or until the spelt still has slight bite but is cooked. Drain and allow to cool for about 15 minutes.

Season the pork well. Seal it on each side for about 2 minutes to add some colour and then lay out some tinfoil and set the sliced lemon on it. Wrap the pork up in the foil like a parcel and pop in the oven for 12 minutes on 180 ℃. Leave to rest for 5-7 minutes and then slice thinly.

While the spelt is cooling, slice your courgette and fry in the garlic oil (remember Fodmaps are not oil soluble so garlic oil is fine). When they are cooked, dry fry the green beans in the remaining oil until slightly softened. Add both to the cooked spelt along with the lemon juice and zest.

Make the vinaigrette by combining the olive oil, vinegar and mustard and mixing well. Tear the lemon balm with your hands. It will discolour if you use a metal knife. Toss it into the spelt along with the sliced pork and add the chopped parsley and chives. Add the spinach and the olives and toss it all well so the warmth of the pork wilts the spinach just slightly.

Serve and eat outside if possible to give you that proper summer feeling. Excellent with a Magnum for afters too, preferably a Dark Espresso one…

 

 

duck bacon

Duck Ham or Prosciutto

duck bacon

A few years ago, I discovered how easy it was to make your own bacon and Mister North and our mum followed suit, making their own guanciale and bacon on several occasions. It’s certainly given carbonara and an Ulster Fry a new lease of life in our family.

I’d wondered for a while if you could cure pig’s jowls or belly, what else could get the sugar-salt-saltpetre treatment and decided to try making duck bacon for Christmas. I got massively distracted and the duck breasts I bought for the purpose got left in the freezer until a few weeks ago. I wanted something simple but effective to make while working on other stuff and this seemed just the ticket.

On a semantic note, I found it hard to tell what the difference between duck ham and duck bacon was when researching the idea. Tim Hayward in Food DIY uses a cure close to my bacon recipe but calls it ham and most recipes from American food bloggers seemed to call it bacon when it had been smoked rather than simply cured and air dried. Lots of other people described it as duck prosciutto. I’m still not sure what to call it apart from very easy and incredibly delicious.

Duck Ham/Prosciutto/Bacon

  • 2 duck breasts
  • 200g sea salt
  • 200g sugar
  • 3 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon juniper berries, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup or treacle
  • 1 tablespoon lapsang souchoung tea leaves
  • 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon saltpetre (optional)

This is ridiculously easy and works just as well without the saltpetre as with, but had a slightly richer more ruby colour to the meat when I used it. The lapsang souchoung tea leaves add a smoky note that works beautifully without having to start rigging up a smoker or adding the heat of any kind of chilli.

Lay the duck breasts skin side up in a non reactive container. I used one of my many many tupperware boxes after having had ziplock bag disasters before.

Mix the salt, sugar, herbs, pepper and tea leaves (and saltpetre) together and add the maple syrup or treacle to it all to make a thick barely spreadable paste. Smear some onto the skin of the duck breasts and then turn over and cover the meat well.

Put the lid on the box and leave it all to cure in the fridge for 3 to 5 days. The cure will create a brine and it’s best to turn the breasts everyday in this to cure it evenly. I forgot about mine after 3 days and left it for another 2, ignoring it somewhat.

When you remember about it again, take the breasts out of the cure and wrap in a clean muslin cloth. Hang this little muslin parcel up somewhere not too warm and away from pets to air dry. I use the clothes airer in my bedroom but it would be fine in a garage or cold hallway as well.

After 5 days, unwrap your duck breasts and slice as thinly as possible to serve. It will have a subtle smoky and herby flavour that goes very well with a kale salad and roasted tomatoes for lunch or topped with sauerkraut, pickles and cheese in a Reuben inspired sandwich along with a quick Thousand Island style dressing with mayonnaise, ketchup, onion, gherkin and a little green chilli all blitzed up together. This was so delicious I forgot to take any kind of photograph of it. I think I barely used a plate I was so keen to eat it.

This is a great way to make a duck breast go a long way and serve several people making it both economical and incredibly impressive looking as a dish. Your use of it is only limited by your imagination!

steamed pastelle

Trinidad Pastelles for Christmas

steamed pastelleI’ve been working on several pieces for the Brixton Blog over the last few weeks about what different cultures and nationalities do for Christmas and my attention was particularly drawn to pastelles from Trinidad as these parcels of filled cornmeal steamed in a banana leaf sounded like the perfect way to try out my new electric steamer-slow cooker in style. I’ve also always wanted to use banana leaves and I’d never seen them until now to buy. If you can’t get them, then wrap your pastelles in greaseproof paper instead. These are traditionally eaten on Christmas Day but I think they’d be a great way to use leftovers in style so I’m publishing the recipe today so you can buy cornmeal alongside your Big Shop you’ll be doing later…

Originally published on Brixton Blog Read more

boxty 2

Brixton Boxty

boxty 2I have to admit that boxty wasn’t something I ate as a child. Popular in Monaghan and Leitrim, it’s a type of potato pancake made from grated potato, but it was so alien to me as kid, I basically thought it was made up until I was older. I first saw it as a real thing in my beloved potato bible The Humble Spud and I’ve been meaning to make it for years, but I disappeared down the tangent of rosti instead and forgot to back up until recently.

Half of you are probably lost by now. Isn’t a potato pancake just a potato pancake I hear you cry? Well, no, rosti are made with semi cooked grated potato with a high starch content, mixed with onion and fried on each side in butter and is eaten as a savoury side dish. Boxty uses raw grated potato before being fried and can be sweet or savoury. Potato farls are made with mashed potato before being cooked on a griddle and then often fried until golden. And I’ve never yet made a latke, but I’ll bring you breaking news about them when I do…

Some recipes for boxty use mashed potato in with the grated spuds but I thought I’d some pureed fresh corn instead since I have tonnes left over from a recent Brixton Bugle recipe. Combining corn and potato gives a autumnal feel and a taste of Brixton which I thought I’d enhance by adding some chopped Scotch Bonnets, fresh coriander and lime. I then served it with some grilled tomatoes for a really good brunch. Read more

rbbit

Slow Cooker Rabbit Stew

rbbitFor ages, it was tradition for me to go and visit Mister North in the countryside over August Bank Holiday weekend. My dancing all day at Carnival days are over so it was very relaxing to head to West Yorkshire to breathe in the fresh air, frequent country pubs and eat well.

Unfortunately I also cooked one of the worst meals I’ve ever made on one Bank Holiday visit. It was a rabbit stew of such dryness that it was almost completely inedible and every single time Mister North or I so much as think about eating or cooking rabbit, we mention it in hushed (and horrified) tones.

Rabbit is a very lean meat with almost no fat and thus it’s easy to cook all the moisture out of it. It’s also a meat that most people in the UK don’t regularly eat or cook because of a combination of it being seen as poor wartime food, the myxamatosis scare of the 70s and the Watership Down/Beatrix Potter effect. This means we don’t grow up learning how it should be cooked or eaten and have anything to compare our efforts too.

Even I took a while to get into the swing of cooking things I used to keep as a childhood pet, so getting the hang of rabbit took me time. The terrible rabbit stew came from a frozen wild rabbit and was then soaked in vinegar water to tenderise it. I won’t be repeating either of these things again. It might work better if I’d brined it though.

I also irrationally despise the tactic of cooking drier meats with bacon to bard them. I’m not entirely sure why this practice enrages me so much, but it’s also fairly pointless with the kind of lean back bacon in vogue these days. I seemed destined to never exorcise the ghost of the terrible rabbit stew.

Then as my slow cooker chronicles progressed and I was making seriously succulent stews, I decided to risk doing bunny in it. And it was fantastic. It was one of the dishes I enjoyed the most while recipe testing and I was really disappointed when it didn’t fit into my chapter structures and had to be set aside (hopefully for next time.) When I saw a wild rabbit at Herne Hill Market this August Bank Holiday weekend, I knew the time had come to revisit the technique, adding a beautiful big Bramley apple, some fresh tarragon and white wine this time. Read more