How does your garden grow?

The long cold winter seems like just a memory here in London (apologies to our  less lucky Northern readers!) and my little garden has been responding well to the fabulous warm sunny weather we been having since late June with things starting to crop abundantly… Read more

Royal China, Queensway

I seem to have got out of the way of meeting friends for tea and cake once a week and developed an obsession with Asian food and jasmine tea instead. After whetting my appetite at Pacific Plaza the other week, I’ve been craving dim sum daily. Eventually I gave in to these urges and went to visit the highly esteemed Royal China on Queensway for some of the best dumplings in town. Read more

Respect your Elderflowers

Barely a week shy of the Summer Solstice, I think we can safely say summer is here and June’s Invisible Food Walk was ready to celebrate this good news with the lovely scent and flavour of elderflower. After the success of the dandelion fritters last month, dipping these beautiful blooms in batter seemed like a winning option!

We went to Wyck Gardens where there are several beautiful big elder trees just ripe for the picking. Several large bags were filled and as the sun came out we all felt cheered by the beautiful light summery scent the flowers left on our hands. We pottered round looking for other early summer plants and generally enjoying the day, before picking up some salad ingredients at the Angell Town community herb garden.

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Chilli Cool, King’s Cross

I have officially been bitten by the Sichuan bug. Less than a week after my visit to Ba Shan I found myself suggesting a trip to Chilli Cool to some friends to quell my new found cravings for chilli, peppercorns and pork…

Having heard great things about Chilli Cool from various people including the lovely Helen at Food Stories who voted it her joint favourite restaurant in London last week, it wasn’t difficult to round up an eager table of four fellow diners and make our way to this unobtrusive part of King’s Cross in search of Sichuan spice.

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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!