“SO, MR guinea pig, what are this month”s recipes going to be then?”This wasn”t exactly the question my husband had been expecting. Mr V is used to me getting him to taste new recipes, but it wasn”t a question he was expecting from the vet. There he was in the back of the livestock trailer in the surgery car park, holding the front end of a ewe with a difficult lambing while Peter the vet was at the rear end doing what vets do.
“Well,” replied Mr V, casting an eye over the problematic progress at the back end, “it doesn”t look like it”s going to be new-season lamb!”
So, instead of English lamb, we”ve got Chinese-style pork. The slow cooking of a pork belly with the oriental and aromatic flavours of soy sauce along with the spice, star anise, produces a dish of authentic Chinese home cooking of the kind rarely found in restaurants.
The pork came from Egypt Farm, Rushlake Green where David and Erica Turton”s lean Large White x Landrace have claimed three Smithfield Championships and their high quality pork and sausages always attracts the longest queue of any of the stalls at our local Farmers” Market.
Returning from the Orient for a sweetened suet pudding, Sussex Pond Pudding is so named because of the large amount of butter in the middle which melts when it”s boiled and soaks in the mixture.
At some stage, a thin-skinned lemon, pierced all over, was introduced so that the lemon juice runs into the sauce during steaming and gives the pudding a marvellous tartness. If the lemon is left unpierced, it explodes when boiled and this variation is known as a “lemon bomb”.
As for this month”s starters, I have to admit that I”m not a big fan of cauliflower, but this soup transforms the vegetable into something completely different. It”s also a whole pot soup in that everything that starts in the pot ends up in the soup – no stock is needed and so doesn”t interfere with the creamy taste of the cauliflower. Adding a poached egg to the soup makes it into a more substantial dish. Meanwhile back at the vet”s surgery, no live lambs but just perspiration, inspiration… and a bill.
Serves 4 1 cauliflower (700g) 275ml (<00BD> pt) milk 275ml (<00BD> pt) water 60g (2 <00BD> oz) butter 55ml (2fl oz) double cream Salt and freshly ground black pepper Truffle oil, to serve (optional)
Chervil sprigs, to serve Break the cauliflower up into florets. Simmer them in the milk and water with a little salt and pepper until the cauliflower is soft. Puree the soup in batches in a blender, return it to the saucepan, bring it to the boil, then add the cream followed by the butter. Check the seasoning. Serve in warmed bowls and, if using, drizzle some truffle oil onto the surface of the soup or add chervil sprigs. (This gives the soup the special flavour).
Aromatic Braised Belly of Pork Serves 4
1 whole pork belly 1 carrot 1 onion 2 celery sticks 4 garlic cloves 3 star anise 200ml (7fl oz) soy sauce 2 tablespoons of vinegar 10cm piece of fresh ginger root <00BD> handful of peppercorns 1 tablespoon of redcurrant jelly 4 spring onions, to serve Oil
To prepare the pork, remove the rind, set aside for roasting separately. Remove the rib bones and discard, then roll up quite firmly and tie into a roll with string. Preheat the oven to 150C (300F/Gas 2). Chop up the vegetables and thinly slice the ginger. Heat a little oil in a roasting pan, when the oil is very hot, place the pork in the pan and brown all the sides of the joint. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add a little more oil to the pan and add the chopped vegetables. Cook for about five minutes then add the remaining ingredients together with 100ml of water. Return the pork to the pan, placing it on top of the vegetables and bring to the boil, simmer and cover. Place it in a low oven for at least 3-4 hours carefully turning the meat from time to time, until the meat is tender. To test, push a thin skewer into the middle of the meat – there should be no resistance. To have some crackling, increase the oven temperature to 200C (400F/Gas 6). Dry the rind and brush a little oil over the top and sprinkle with salt. Cook until crispy, watch that it doesn”t brown too quickly. Lift out the meat and set aside to rest and keep warm. Strain the pan juices into a pan and reduce until of a syrupy consistency, but don”t over reduce as the soy sauce may make it very salty. To serve, remove the string and cut the pork into thick slices. Spoon the sauce over the meat and strew with spring onions, new season asparagus and some crispy egg noodles.
Sussex Pond Pudding Serves 6
225g (8oz) self-raising flour 110g (4oz) shredded suet 1 large thin-skinned lemon Grated rind of one lemon 110g (4oz) butter, plus extra for greasing 110g (4oz) light brown sugar
Butter a 900ml (1.5 pint) pudding basin. Sieve the flour into a mixing bowl. Add the suet and one teaspoon of grated lemon rind. Add just sufficient water to mix to a soft dough. Roll out on a lightly floured surface into a 36cm (14in) circle and cut out a quarter of the circle. Set it aside for the lid and use the remainder to line the base and sides of the basin, brushing the cut edges with a little water, overlapping them slightly and pressing them together well to seal. Prick the lemon all over so that you go right into the flesh. (It is essential that your lemon should be juicy and thin skinned to get the full flavour). Cut the butter into small pieces and mix it with the sugar. Put half of the butter/sugar mix into the base together with the remaining grated lemon rind, add the lemon and surround it with the rest of the butter mixture. Roll the reserved piece of pastry into a circle about 1cm (0.5in) larger than the top of the basin, dampen the pastry edges and fit the lid. Seal well by pressing edges together. Cover with buttered kitchen foil, making a pleat across the centre to allow the pudding to rise. Tie around securely with string. Put a trivet into the base of a large saucepan, add 8cm (3in) of water and bring to the boil. Put the pudding into the pan, cover with a well-fitting lid and leave to steam for four hours, topping up the water. To serve, allow to rest for a few minutes before turning out on to a warmed serving plate. Run a round-bladed knife around the pudding to release it from the basin. Invert it onto a serving plate. When cut, the delicious buttery “pond” flows out. Serve either with a segment of the lemon from the centre of the pudding and with custard or with thick cream.