Posts

Root Beer Beans


Two things struck me after visiting the Pitt Cue Co last week. Firstly, it’s most delightful to be able to drink cocktails on the South Bank in the midst of people on half term. Secondly, pork fat makes everything better. I’m not especially enamoured of baked beans. I rarely ate them as a child, repulsed by their sickly sweetness, lurid orange tang and ability to make everything else on the plate soggy.Spending several months in Boston didn’t even convert me since I was a vegetarian at the time and couldn’t actually sample the porked-up version. My ephipany came when I tried the root beer beans on the side of Pitt Cue Co pulled pork last week. Even though they are kidney beans, which I hate, the taste was so good I found myself calling in to buy some unsoaked haricot beans on the way home so keen was I to have them again, preferably in a larger portion…
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Bloodlust: six black puddings and a beer for breakfast…

Ever since some bright spark had the idea to stuff intestines with coagulated animal blood, flavourings and other assorted filler ingredients, humans have been making the most of their livestock’s leftover bits, enjoying the results greatly. As a result almost every culture has some kind of black pudding tradition. Miss South and I have been enjoying black pudding in various forms for some time, and as our appreciation and fascination with blood sausage has grown, we’ve idly contemplated a sanguine side-by-side comparison of various favourites. So we finally did it, pitting six of the best we could track down next to each other. But before you read about that, I should make a confession.

I didn’t like black pudding as a kid. Not at all. Miss South and I had it once at the house of a family friend (both it and white pudding, another traditional Irish favourite) and it put me off for a long time. To be honest, I don’t think it was the taste or texture as much as the knowledge at the back of my mind of what it was made from. I wasn’t especially squeamish but it was just too ‘bloody offal’ to contemplate, nevermind enjoy eating. Besides, it wasn’t a family favourite so we had little exposure to black pudding: indeed our mum thinks our modern love of the black pudding is very very wrong, and she’s rarely judgemental about food. So I start this post knowing black pudding can be divisive and disgusting for many folk.
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Pork chops and spring gems

After the harsh winter (thankfully an ever-more distant memory now we’re firmly into May) the recent bout of superb spring weather has brought welcome warmth and cheer in more than one way. Spring heralds two of our favourite fresh British delights: wild garlic, and asparagus. We’ve already written about both on several occasions, but with seasonal goodies this great, I’m not ashamed to sing their praises a little more. They provided the perfect partnership to prime Pennine pork last month.
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Lupita

After meeting a few friends for a refreshing wheat beer or two at the Sam Smith’s run Lyceum Tavern on The Strand on Friday night, we grew peckish and set off in search of some food that would hopefully be well priced and not the overpriced microwaved stuff that Covent Garden seems to serve to its tourist population without shame. To try and prevent this, my always-in-the-know friend A suggested we try the fairly newly opened Lupita on Villiers Street for some Mexican flavour…

I know it is terribly fashionable for foodies and food bloggers to bemoan the fact that compared to the USA we just don’t have very good Mexican food available here in the UK. This may be true, but the USA does have a thriving Mexican population thanks to sharing a land border with them. Yet the Americans very often can’t access good curries and Indian food because they don’t have the same cultural affiliations with the sub-continent as we do in the UK. I always think the eye-rolling about Mexican food in the UK is a tad affected, even if you are pointing out that mediocre Tex Mex dominates here.

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A Classic in Coke…

As a family, we don’t have many Christmas traditions (unless supping a lot of cava counts as a tradition?) but one thing has come to symbolise Christmas more than any other foodstuff and that’s a ham. More precisely, a ham cooked in Coca Cola as suggested by Nigella Lawson in her classic cookbook How to Eat.

Cooking with Coke has become quite fashionable over the past few years and the world seems to split into two camps about it, with those who are highly sceptical about it and those, like me, who embrace it wholeheartedly and seek any opportunity to add Atlanta’s finest to a dish from cake to Christmas ham. So I would be most disappointed not to get off the plane in Belfast to discover a perfect pink ham in the fridge waiting to be transformed into a smoky spicy sweet sensation in time for Christmas Eve supper.

Not only is the ham beyond tender and moist after its soft drink with vegetable extracts bath, it is also the easiest thing in the world to make. All you need is one plump piece of pork, about 2 litres of Coke and an onion or two studded with cloves, a large pot and a full stomach so as not to be driven wild as the ham infuses and cooks over the next 2 or 3 hours. Simply cover the ham in the liquid, add your onion and bring to the boil. Turn down to a simmer, place a lid on the pan and leave to just cook slowly at roughly an hour per kilo. I usually go off and finish wrapping my presents feeling utterly festive and increasingly hungry…

Normally we simply take the ham out to cool before serving in a selection of sandwiches, suppers and side dishes, omitting the crust Nigella mentions as it’s a bit too mustardy for our liking, but this year, we decided not to get stuck in our ways and try something new, glazing the top of the ham with a mix of black treacle, mustard and homemade quince jelly before blasting it in the oven to get a dark sticky crust to add another dimension to the barbecue influenced meat.

The glaze takes no time at all to make up, as I simply put some Meaux mustard, treacle and quince jelly in a pan to melt down, adding a splash of soy sauce and some tamarind paste and allowing it to all meld together before brushing it over the snow white fat on top of the pink porker and popping it in the oven for 15 minutes at 190 degrees. I then took it out, reglazed it and put in the oven again at 220 degrees for another 10 minutes.

After resting it for 20 minutes, it made the most amazing sandwich. Malted bread spread with mustard, the remains of the glaze and spiked with home made sweet pickles, it was soft and juicy with the right amount of salt and a delicious spiced flavour with a sticky sweet yet umami topping. The minute the sandwich was finished, we were reaching for another slice of the ham, unable to get enough of it. This is one tradition that gets better with every passing year!