With just over three weeks left ’til we fly to London, Maggie and I have been quite busy crossing off items on our ‘to-do’ list. However, we still made time last week to prepare some delicious meals.
We began with pork belly, using a modified version of a recipe by Australian chef Neil Perry. This is our favourite way of cooking pork and the result is very flavoursome, with crisp crackling and tender, juicy meat. We usually partner it with some steamed bok choy, Basmati rice and, in Weber season, a beetroot and carrot parcel.
We use the same ingredients as Neil Perry to prepare the marinade, except for the addition of 2 to 3 tsp of grated ginger. However, our method varies in a few ways.
- Use a mortar and pestle to smash the garlic and star anise with the brown sugar and ginger to form a paste. Add the five spice, pepper, soy sauce and wine and mix thoroughly.
- Place the pork in a glass or ceramic dish that will hold it snugly. Spoon enough of the marinade down the sides of the dish to ensure that all of the flesh is sitting in the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours (or longer, if that’s how your timings work out). Any leftover marinade can be safely frozen for subsequent use.
- Remove the dish from the fridge at least one hour before you roast the pork. Transfer the pork to a plate and discard the marinade. Rub salt on the skin of the pork and into the score marks.
- It will take about 1-1¼ hours to cook the pork and crisp up the skin, cooking at about 180C in a fan forced oven on the second highest shelf. However, we prefer to do this in our Weber Q in roasting mode, turning the pork skin-side down for the last 20 minutes.
- Rest the pork for 15-20 minutes before slicing to serve.
- For the best eating experience, cut the pork into slices that are no wider than 1cm
We usually cook a piece of pork belly weighing about 700g. This gives us leftovers to go into a dish of fried rice (see below) or, in Maggie’s case, a workday lunch.
Over the next few days, we made a few other favourite dishes: chicken and leek casserole; lemon & yoghurt cake, to share with Maggie’s work colleagues; a pot of minestrone, to share with Iris; and cauliflower soufflé, a perfect late-winter dish.
On Thursday, we went down to Ashburton Meats, to collect ingredients for a planned dinner party; and to Eat Fish, to buy some seafood to cook for Thursday’s evening meal. After a brief negotiation – I was putting the case for calamari – we settled on a couple of fillets of fresh, wild-caught barramundi.
As readers from Australia and south-east Asia would know, barramundi is a species found in freshwater or in waters where ocean and rivers meet. It is native to Northern Australia and to other tropical locations adjoining the Indian Ocean. It often appears on restaurant menus, usually steamed – very popular in Thai cuisine – or with a crispy skin, with Asian or tropical flavourings. It might seem a little sacrilegious, but we decided to use our fillets – skin removed – to make a mild fish curry.
The result was very, very satisfying – Maggie is still talking about it! I drew on elements from two different recipes. My version still needs a bit more work before it will be ready to codify; that will have to wait ’til later this year.
We had invited our friends Janet & Gary to join us for dinner the next evening. The main course was beef short ribs, marinated overnight and cooked according to a recipe we adopted last year. This is definitely a dish for the winter months – long cooking, rich flavours!
We served it with a mash of potato and cauliflower, and a dressed salad of toasted walnuts and baby spinach leaves. The mash goes particularly well with beef. When making it, I use two parts spud to one part cauli and add the latter about 9 minutes before the potatoes will be ready. As there is no starch in cauliflower, you must drain the vegetables very well before you add some dairy – butter, sour cream and a small amount of milk. I added mild English mustard this time to complement the ground pepper component of the marinade for the ribs.
For dessert, we served some fresh berries with lemon sorbet – light and refreshing.
Come Sunday, we had our mildest weather conditions since early in June, when we were last able to use our Weber Q. Trusting the forecast, we had taken an 800g piece of boned lamb leg out of our freezer on Friday.
We decided to add some flavours to the inside of the piece, so Maggie used a sharp knife to cut an incision down the middle of the meat’s inner surface, and then sideways in both directions to make something like a book opening. Next, we smeared the middle section with Dijon mustard – trust me, it goes well as a lamb flavouring for cooking purposes – then a layer of leftover baby spinach leaves, some crumbled fetta and another spinach layer. Maggie folded the side flaps over the top of the spinach, brought the two long edges together and secured them with kitchen string. The result was as tasty as it looks, and there is enough left over for another meal during this coming week.