Saturday, September 26, 2009

Spicy pork and chilli pepper goulash

Serves 4-6

The idea of cooking a tough piece of pork in a lovely pepper stew to make it extremely tender and melt-in-your-mouth is something I find quite exciting. This dish, in particular, is one of my favourites and, unless you’ve got a strange aversion to chillies and peppers, you’ll definitely end up making it again and again. It’s also one of those dishes that tastes great when reheated the day after it has been made. You’ve got a whole range of chilli and pepper flavours going on, from smoked paprika to fresh chillies, and fresh peppers to sweet grilled and peeled ones.

2kg pork shoulder, off the bone in one piece, skin off, fat on
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
2 red onions, peeled and finely sliced
2 fresh red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
2 generously heaped tblsp mild smoked paprika, plus extra for serving
2 tsp ground caraway seeds
A small bunch of fresh marjoram or oregano, leaves picked
5 peppers (use a mixture of colours), sliced
1 x 280g jar of grilled peppers, drained, peeled and sliced
1 x 400g tin of good-quality plum tomatoes
4 tblsp redwine vinegar
400g basmati or long-grain rice, washed
1 x 142ml pot of sour cream
Zest of 1 lemon
A small bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Preheat the oven to 180c/gas mark 4. Get a deep, ovenproof stew pot, with a lid, and heat it on the hob. Score the fat on the pork in a crisscross pattern all the way through to the meat, then season generously with salt and pepper. Pour a good glug of olive oil into the pot and add the pork, fat side down. Cook for about 15 minutes on a medium heat, to render out the fat, then remove the pork from the pot and put it to one side.

Add the onions, chillies, paprika, caraway seeds, marjoram (or oregano) and a good pinch of salt and pepper to the pot. Reduce the heat and gently cook the onions for 10 minutes, then add the sliced peppers, grilled peppers and the tinned tomatoes. Put the pork back into the pot, give everything a little shake, then pour in enough water to cover the meat. Add the vinegar – this will give the flavour a nice little twang. Bring to the boil, put the lid on top, then place in the preheated oven for 3 hours.

You will know when the meat is cooked, as it will be tender and sticky, and it will break up easily when pulled apart with two forks. If it’s not quite there yet, put the pot back into the oven and just be patient for a little longer.

When the meat is nearly ready, cook the rice in salted, boiling water for 10 minutes, until it’s just undercooked, then drain in a sieve, reserving some of the cooking water and pouring it back into the pan. Place the sieve over the pan on a low heat and put the lid on the pan. Leave to steam dry for 10 minutes – this makes the rice lovely and fluffy.

Stir the sour cream, lemon zest and most of the parsley together in a little bowl. When the meat is cooked, take the pot out of the oven and taste the goulash.

You’re after a balance of sweetness from the peppers and spiciness from the caraway seeds. Tear or break up the meat, and serve the goulash in a big dish or bowl, with a bowl of the steamed rice and the flavoured sour cream. Sprinkle with the rest of the chopped parsley, and tuck in.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Christmas pudding

I know, it's barely the end of Summer and we're still making the most of what sunshine is left... but trust me, if you haven't already made this year's Christmas puddings, now is the time to do so. This delicious recipe has the seedy crunch of figs, a sparkle from hand cut peel and a slight tartness from the apricots and orange zest

350g sultanas
350g raisins, or currants
150g dried figs, chopped
125g candied peel, chopped
100g dried apricots, chopped
75g dark glacé cherries, halved
150ml brandy, plus some for flaming
2 apples or quince
2 oranges, juice and zest
6 eggs
250g shredded suet
350g soft muscovado sugar
250g fresh breadcrumbs
175g self raising flour
1 tsp mixed spice

You will need two 1.5 litre plastic pudding basins and lids, buttered, two old sixpences or two old coins, scrupulously scrubbed, two circles of greaseproof paper, buttered, large enough to cover the top of each pudding, with a single pleat folded down the centre of each. Soak the sultanas, raisins or currants, figs, candied peel, apricots and cherries in the brandy overnight. The liquid won’t cover the fruit but no matter; just give it a good stir now and again.

Mix the grated apples, orange juice and zest, beaten eggs, suet, sugar, crumbs and pour in a very large mixing bowl, then stir in the soaked fruit and the spice. Divide the mixture between the buttered pudding basins, tucking the coins in as you go.

Cover with the greaseproof paper, folded with a pleat in the centre. Pop the lids on and steam for three and a half hours. Allow the puddings to cool, and then remove the greaseproof paper, cover tightly with cling film and the plastic lid and store in a cool, dry place till Christmas.

To reheat: steam the puddings for a further three and a half hours. Turn out and flame with brandy.