Tuesday, 6 January 2009

So I don't forget what I did...

Apologies if you were expecting a deep and meaningful analysis of life today, but I have to put this down somewhere. Also, I need to pay attention and get some things ready for tomorrow. I'm not procrastinating AT ALL. Ahem.

Chilli Pork Stew

The following was adapted from a Jamie recipe I've liked the sound of for ages, but I wanted to make it with chilli spices rather than goulash spices, because those were what I had... Amounts only differ from his recipe when I used what I had to hand rather than what he required, and as I say I've changed the flavourings. The kidney beans are extra, mostly added because I knew my piece of pork was a bit small. However, I thought they worked quite well anyway because their slightly more solid and grainy texture contrasts nicely to the soft silkiness of the stew.

- 1.5kg pork shoulder, fat on (mine had skin on too, I spent a while taking it off and leaving the fat on - would have made ace crackling! Came from the pig lady at the Sunday market, who grows free range pork about 20 miles away, if that, it's ace.)

- 5 large peppers, ideally a mixture of colours

- 2 large red onions, sliced into half moons

- Quite a lot of hot red chillis. I used a random selection of types, including some smoked chipotles and some canned chipotles I was kindly given, but if I was doing it again I'd probably go with 2-3 habaneros? Or 6 ordinary red ones? The dish makes about 6 servings, so if you go with about how much chilli one person might eat and multiply it up, and then add a bit it should be about right. I think that this dish was considerably less spicy when I tasted it at the start than it had become when we sat down to eat it, and anyway once you add sour cream it's a lot softer... I think the smokiness was particularly good, actually, so if there are smoked chillis go with those. I might have added some smoked paprika if I hadn't had the chillis, that seems easier to get, but I have found it quite overpowering in the past. Toasting dried chillis in a pan until they go black is another technique for getting that flavour, I believe, but I haven't tried it.

- NO GARLIC (I only add this point because I was surprised that I was cooking something with no garlic.)

- Half a large (350g) jar of roasted peppers, drained and sliced

- 1 tin good quality peeled plum tomatoes

- A bunch of fresh oregano/marjoram. I had dried, and used about 2 dessertspoonfuls...

- 1 heaped dessertspoonful of cumin (I LOVE cumin)

- 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar (The recipe actually calls for red wine vinegar, but Sainsburys annoyingly didn't have any. This seemed to work fine!)

- 1 tin kidney beans in water, drained

- Olive oil, for frying

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade. Score the pork through the fat right down to the meat and rub all over with salt and black pepper. Heat a slug of olive oil in a large stew pot with a lid (like the one my parents bought me for Christmas, it's BEAUTIFUL), and fry the meat fat-side down on a medium heat for about 15 minutes to render out some of the fat.

Remove the meat and set to one side. Add the onions, stir, and cook for 10 minutes until softened. Meanwhile, toast the cumin seeds in a dry frying pan until fragrant, and then crush in a pestle and mortar. Add the fresh peppers to the pot (in stages, if like mine the pot is only just big enough and you have to cook the peppers down a bit (about 20 minutes with the lid on) before trusting that everything will fit!), and then add the oregano, chillis of whatever sort, NO GARLIC, cumin, tomatoes, jarred peppers and the vinegar. Season well, with loads of pepper in particular (I add so little salt to my food unless I'm cooking lentils or beans, which seem to need it more than anything else - I just add vinegar or citrus juice to other things, and pepper if I'm cooking Western food. I do use a load of salty ingredients, like cheese or soy sauce, or the canned chillis here, so it's not like there ISN'T salt. I am more or less guaranteed high blood pressure though, so I probably under-salt things out of trying to behave more than I would if I was purely cooking for taste...), stir it all around and bring to a simmer for 5 minutes or so.

Return the pork to the pot, put the lid on, and shake to mix everything together (again, my pot wasn't quite big enough, and it's also bloody heavy, so I just took about half the things out of the pot, put the meat in and pushed it down among the veg, and put everything back on top). If the meat isn't completely covered, top up with hot water or red wine if you happened to have some open, then stick the pot in the oven for about 3 hours.

Test towards the end of the cooking time - the meat should be completely falling apart. If it's not, put it back for a while. I suspect it's pretty hard to over cook; such things are. Shred the meat up a bit with two forks, so that it's easy to serve and everything is properly covered in sauce. Add the drained kidney beans, stir, and return to the off-but-still-hot oven to warm through while you cook some rice - brown is actually better then white for this, I think. Just something about the texture.

Serve with rice, soured cream, garlic bread which should be eaten with everything*, and a sprinkling of parsley if feeling decadent.

I was REALLY pleased with this. And spent too much of today dreaming up more stew recipes. Have to go and find the right piece of meat though. The fat content is so important - fat and flavour, and all of that. This will be a trip, finally, to Andy Northrop's the butchers on Mill Road. About bloody time. I also need to try and use the veg in season. Peppers from Spain are not de rigeur in any sort of eco-friendly sense. I know that Spain is nearer than Israel where other out-of-season peppers come from, and therefore not so bad on the airmiles counter, but there are serious water issues with Spanish veg. I don't know a great many of the details, but it's the kind of thing my mum knows about. Something to do with water imports and rationing and the water management of the entire Iberian peninsula. I probably ought to look into it, because I may arbitrarily be not choosing my veg from Spain when other European countries have their own issues, but I'm pretty sure that the Spanish situation is quite important. So, it's UK-grown root veg, leeks, cabbages and mushrooms. MANY mushrooms. That's a beef stew, there. All served with cabbage or spinach or something like that. I could do a Chinese flavoured pork thing with those stir fried and added at the end. Tinned tomatoes and tinned butter beans and chickpeas, with some harissa and citrus (I MUST try and pickle some lemons, it's SO easy...) and red wine for a lamb tagine thing maybe. Rogan josh. I sent the old Robinson crew a very long email detailing stew plans this afternoon - I was bored in the middle of our discussion of the reunion later this month. Right. MUST get on now...

*It may have come to your attention that I have just remembered what the html tag for strikethrough is and am overusing it. Hush.


  1. no Garlic in chillie might be an abomintion

  2. That's what I thought. It tasted it ok though! Next time...