chicken fried pork

Chicken Fried Pork

chicken fried porkBelfast folk of my vintage may well remember the Chicago Pizza Pie Factory (where the Stiff Kitten was down the side of the cinema on Dublin Road.) Then again, they might not as it was primarily famed for its cheap Monday night cocktails and extremely lax ID rules.

It did also serve food. The Chicago deep dish pizza the name suggests and other bastardised ‘Murrican dishes were all on the menu along with the implausible sounding chicken fried steak. Pre-internet we thought this must be made up. How does steak ever resemble chicken?

Unsurprisingly, finding out wasn’t one of the pressing ambitions of my adulthood and I’d forgotten about the whole thing until I had a drink with a friend recently. She’d just come back from Texas and showed me a mouthwatering selection of food on her phone.

Maple bacon doughnuts, moon pies and right there, a chicken fried steak. Turns out it’s a good old Texan tradition and takes those thin cuts of steak Americans love and coats them in the same breading used for fried chicken and serves it up with white gravy. And that’s how steak resembles chicken it seems.

On my current low fodmap diet, I eat a lot of meat. And more specifically, a lot of pork shoulder steaks. Admittedly very tasty, they are also about the cheapest cut of meat around that doesn’t need a tonne of flavouring added to it since practically every marinade, sauce or seasoning going has something in it I can’t eat these days.

I decided to jazz up my third pork shoulder steak of the week by turning it into chicken fried pork. I turned to my bible of anything remotely American and food related and read up on chicken fried steak on Serious Eats and got to work tweaking the recipe.

Most US recipes serve 6 so it’s always a mathematical challenge for me to scale them down while converting from their tedious obsession with volumetric measuring. I basically eyeballed this one so if the measurements are slightly out it’s probably that and the fact flour and liquid always varies a bit.

Chicken Fried Pork (serves 2)

  • 2 pork shoulder steaks (approx 150g each)
  • 50g cornflour
  • 1 egg
  • 100ml buttermilk, yoghurt or soured milk
  • 100g plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch monosodium glutamate powder (optional)
  • salt and pepper
  • 450ml vegetable oil for frying

Start by bashing your pork shoulder steak out thinner. I folded mine in greaseproof paper and whacked it with the palm of my hand until it was about  1/2 inch thick. I don’t have a meat mallet and find a rolling pin gets meat thin and bruised. Plus I’d had a frustrating day and beating something senseless helped.

Set the steaks on some kitchen roll to absorb moisture and lay out your breading station so you can work easily. Put the cornflour on a large plate. Crack the egg into a shallow dish and add about 25ml of the buttermilk to make it looser in texture.

Put the plain flour in another shallow dish or bowl and add the seasonings and baking powder. Be generous with the salt and pepper. I also used a bit of Old Bay Seasoning since it’s all fancy pants American.

I’m a big fan of the MSG powder as it adds an extra umaminess to things and I’m so limited in my choice of seasonings now. If you have issues with it or can’t get it (mine is labelled Chinese Salt) just add a wee bit more salt.

Start adding the remaining buttermilk a couple of teaspoons at a time to the seasoned flour and rub it in with your fingertips so you end up with a sandy breadcrumb-like mixture that’s wet but not sticky. You may not use all the buttermilk so add any remaining to the egg.

Set out a baking rack and start prepping the pork. Press it into the cornflour, coating well but shaking off any excess. Dip into the egg mixture, again removing any excess. Press into the seasoning flour breading and lay on the baking rack to rest for 10 minutes. Repeat with the other steak.

I’ve always had trouble with my coating on fried chicken falling off and it turns out that resting the breading before frying does wonders to stop it. I also find deep frying easier for coated things so that’s what we’re doing here.

Fill a deep pan or wok with the oil and using a thermometer, heat the oil to exactly 190℃ and carefully using tongs add one of the breaded steaks to the pan. I fried mine for 4 minutes in total, turning 4 times so each side got 2 minutes but evenly spaced.

Lift out and place on the clean end of the baking rack and fry the next steak. The baking powder causes the breading to puff up slightly and if you put the fried steaks on kitchen roll to rest, the crisp puffed up coating goes soggy and limp, so the rack is a better bet. Just keep your raw and cooked meat separate.

Rest the steaks for at least 5 minutes but up to 10 is fine. The coating insulates the meat and keeps it pretty hot. I served mine with a baked potato and a quick slaw of grated red cabbage, carrot and daikon in a dressing of buttermilk, cream cheese and a dash of vinegar. But quite frankly, you’ve just deep fried pork for dinner, you could serve it with anything and it’ll be awesome.

And awesome it was. The coating was light and oh so crunchy and the pork was perfectly cooked and lovely and tender. I chose not to serve the white gravy beloved of Americans because it seems weird to me to get the coating so crisp and then make it soggy. And because I forgot…

It was still one of the best dinners I’ve had in ages though. I sense a lot more fried breaded things in my future. I’ll try a spelt version next for the fodmappers out there who can’t do wheat. I’m generous like that.



pig cheek ragu

Slow Cooker Pig Cheek Ragu

pig cheek raguThere is always room in my life for pig on a plate. From bacon, just crisping round the edges to slabs of Christmas ham in Coke or a grilled glistening chop or chorizo jam, I love pork in all its forms. It was of course, the one thing that tempted me from vegetarianism in all those five years and I still feel no qualms about the bacon sandwich eaten late at night up one of the Mourne Mountains after a long day’s walking on my Duke of Edinburgh Silver expedition. I went back to instant couscous the next day and avoided porcine temptations for years more.

But when a rare steak lured me back to omnivorousness once again, it was pig that kept me there. Just around the time Babe hit cinema screens, I was incapable of cooking anything with pork in it without gleefully exclaiming that ‘pork is a nice sweet meat‘ like a demented CGI mouse. More than anything else I eat, I am most able to separate the cuteness of piglets from their taste and texture and the only thing I feel guilty about is my inability to feel guilt about it all.

At first the attraction was that pork is pretty easy to cook. Compare grilling a pork chop to getting a steak just right and you’ll see what I mean. I wasn’t a confident cook at all (if you’d told the 19 year old me that I end up writing two cookbooks, I’d have laughed myself inside out) and meals that were easy to make really appealed. Pork is also often lower in fat which as someone who had just had their gallbladder removed was crucial and combining all these factors with the fact pork is the most affordable meat for free range or higher welfare standards, I’ve cooked it a lot over the years.

We all know that you can eat everything on a pig except the oink and I find it a good way to keep expanding my horizons. Black pudding is a borderline North/South Food obsession and I’ve certainly been won over to the taste if not the texture of trotters, so it was inevitable that pig’s cheeks would call to me. Technically classed as offal as they come from the head, they are in fact pure muscle and perfect for low slow cooking to help the meat fall apart in a tender tangle. Very inexpensive at around £2 for 4, they’ll easily feed 4 people cooked well.

I get mine in Morrisons or Waitrose (and yes, that £2 price is correct for Waitrose as part of their Forgotten Cuts range) and tend to make a massive batch of this ragu in the slow cooker before portioning it up and freezing it until needed. It makes a lasagne of such beauty it’s hard not lick your lips as you describe it. It also goes well with either baked potatoes or as a porky version of cottage pie with cauliflower and potato mash on top. I served it simply here on top of some rigatoni with a hearty sprinkle of parmesan for the first properly autumnal day here in London.

It’s a slow cooker dream and makes a nice change from the ubiquitous pulled pork. I’ve made it without onions as I don’t eat them and I suggest you leave them out too. They bully the soft sweetness of the meat into something less soothing. Read more

slow cooked pork

Slow Cooked Spiced Pork

slow cooked pork

Much as I love cooking, I’m less inclined when the weather is warm. My kitchen is quite small and my hair can’t take standing next to a hot oven or over a sink of steamy suds without expanding to an enormous size. I make a lot of salads and sandwiches and usually rediscover the George Forman grill for cooking summer veg without heat or hassle.

This year though I have a new trick up my sleeve: the slow cooker. Sitting quietly in the corner, just getting on with things, it’s a great way to whip up proper food without heating the house up or having to be indoors when the garden looks so inviting in the brief flashes of sunshine. I had such good results with cooking ribs in the slow cooker recently, I decided to do my take on the pulled pork craze sweeping street food circles at the moment.

My local butcher had a piece of pork shoulder for around £4.50 a kilo and I knew that slow cooking would render it something special. It cried out for lots of spicing and a bit of chilli spiked heat and after marinading for 24 hours, it went into the slow cooker for 8 hours for a no effort meal. I ate the leftovers for several days afterwards, piled high on tortillas with shredded cabbage and salad like a homemade kebab, dotted through rice and packed into a sandwich and slathered with homemade salsa.

Read more

East meets West – wild garlic, Sichuan-style


This week we went foraging for what’ll probably be the last of this year’s wild garlic. It’s rare to be able to gather it so close to the start of June, and after a late start – disrupted by the snows at the back end of March – this year’s ended up yielding a good crop. I’ve made plenty of wild garlic butter; there’s a kilner jar of pesto in the fridge, ready to add a splash of bright viridescence to a bowl of pasta; and we’ve sprinkled flowers over half the dishes we’ve eaten this week. Forget the adage of ‘make hay while the sun shines’… more like make the most of nature’s most abundant free food while you can.


I love cookbooks, but it’s rare a cookbook excites and engrosses me as utterly as Fuschia Dunlop‘s Every Grain of Rice. Recommended by a swathe of foodie friends, I got it six weeks ago and have been rapt with attention… more so than her other writing. The sheer simplicity and balance of the many recipes chimes with my style of cooking; and the comprehensive yet conversational tone draws the reader in. As a result I’ve already cooked a broad selection of recipes from the book, with many more earmarked to try soon. However one recipe leapt out at me as soon as I opened the book… and it’s one of the very simplest. It’s called Stir-fried Garlic Stems with Bacon (La Rou Chao Suan Tai).

Read more

Too good to stop eating

Feijoada – the ultimate pork and pulses dish?


Ah, Feijoada: the national dish of Brazil, straddling the culinary and cultural tectonic plate boundaries of Africa, Europe and South America. Possibly the stoutest meal you’re likely to encounter, and enough to give any vegetarian a dose of the cold shivers.

Feijoada marries the southern European / Romance tradition of slow-cooked pork cuts and beans, but with the addition of west African and Amerindian flavours and techniques. It’s often described as originating from slave fare (the story being it was made up of scraps and offcuts of meat that plantation owners disregarded), but like many classic dishes comes loaded with myths and romanticised stories of its origin. Regardless, it reflects the melting pot culture of modern Brazil, which perhaps explains its extraordinary popularity across generation, class, race and region.

I vaguely remember reading about feijoada many years ago, amongst a glut of facts about Brazil gleaned from geography schoolbooks. At the time it didn’t really register…as a teenage boy I was focusing more on images of the impossibly gaudy and glamorous Carnaval and sugar cane-fuelled cars than meat-heavy dishes. A few years ago, as part of an impromptu South American-themed meal, a good friend brought her own version of feijoada, and that sparked my interest. Ever since I’ve resolved to make my own.

Regular readers are probably spotting a pattern here: yet another dish pairing pork products and pulses, and another opportunity to indulge in the joys of black pudding. Well yes, guilty as charged. And having access to some superb rare-breed pork from our friends at Porcus, I’m inclined to work my way through the world’s greatest pig ‘n’ bean dishes, one by one.

When it comes to feijoada there are a plethora of recipes out there. My well-thumbed go-to-guide for South American recipes, Felipe Rojas-Lombardi’s ‘The Art of South American Cooking‘, suggested one needs at least five types of pork in there, including the snout. Others suggest a bit of pork belly and sausage is enough. In the end I ploughed my own furrow, referencing recipes from the ever-enjoyable Flavours of Brazil blog and a smattering of others.

I’d previously procured a Tamworth tail and trotters (being able to source a pig tail generally points to it being raised ethically, as sadly most intensively-farmed pigs have their tails cut off) and had also set aside some artisan chorizo from the fabulous folk at Levanter Fine Foods. After visiting Miss South in Brixton, allowing me to pick up some genuine morcela de lamego from the wonderful Continental Deli on Atlantic Road, I was as ready as I’d ever be.

Here’s the final recipe: it took a day of preparation and cooking, but believe me, it was worth every minute.

Read more