Crispy Asian Roast Pork Belly Salad

This is a delicious way to eat pork belly with crunchy crackling and moist roast pork tinged with the flavours of Asia – soy sauce, coriander, chilli, and hints of black vinegar. All it really needs is some steamed greens and jasmine rice on the side for a complete meal. It would also be a very good pre-prepared dish made for sharing or as part of a buffet.

i have read many very different techniques for getting crunchy crackling but I just stick to the simple method of keeping the pork uncovered in the fridge for an hour or two and then drying with a cloth and rubbing the scored skin with generous amounts of salt before putting into oven. (Seems to work every time for me.)

And, as most of the prep and cooking time is just drying out the pork in the fridge and then roasting in the oven, you can get on and do other things without too much fuss.

Prep time: 2.5 hours  Cooking time:2 hours
Ingredients:

750g boneless pork belly, with skin scored both ways into cross-hatch
2 tablespoons soy sauce for marinade
2 tablespoons salt

Salad
half a bunch coriander chopped
1 red chilli finely chopped
1 eschallot or half a red onion very finely sliced
2 tablespoons Chiangkiang black vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce

Method
Dry out pork belly uncovered in fridge for at least 1 hour or even overnight
Put soy sauce on a plate or in a flat dish and carefully place pork, flesh-side down on top of sauce, taking care not to get any soy sauce on the skin – leave to marinate for an hour

Heat oven to 200 degrees celcius

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Pork marinating in soy sauce

Remove from marinade and carefully place on baking paper lined baking dish/oven tray.

Wipe skin once more then rub salt thoroughly into skin and in between scoring

Place pork in oven, and cook at 200 degrees celcius for 30 minutes, then reduce heat to 170 degrees and cook for a further 1 hour 15 minutes. Turn heat to maximum using the top grilling element to grill the pork until crackling starts to crisp up, about 10-15 minutes. Keep a close eye on the pork at this point as the skin can burn easily.

Meanwhile, chop coriander and chillies and slice onion finely,and set aside.

Remove from oven and rest about 25 minutes until medium warm, then cut into cubes, trying to keep crackling and meat connected where possible.

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Crispy roasted pork belly

Mix herbs, onions and chillies with black vinegar, soy sauce and sesame oil.

Cut pork into cubes along the scored “lines”

Layer the pork with the herbs mixture, drizzling the dressing over the pork.

Serve with steamed greens and jasmine rice. I also like steamed pumpkin with salted black bean sauce with it and I promise to post that recipe soon.

Serves 2-3 with other accompaniments.

image Crispy Asian Pork Belly Salad with steamed greens and pumpkin[/caption

Indian Spicy Mint and Coriander Chutney

This crunchy, spicy mint and coriander chutney, which is almost like a pesto, goes brilliantly with grilled meats, prawns and fish. It is a great accompaniment for any Indian meal, Aussie BBQ or just spread on toast! I have also used it as a chutney with cheese and biscuits.

Easy and quick to make, it will keep well in the fridge for up to a week. Best to bring to room temperature before serving.

Traditionally made by roasting and then grinding the peanuts, I cheat and use super-crunchy peanut butter which works very well to bind the herbs into a pesto like texture.

Prep time: 10 minutes  Cooking time: 15 minutes
Ingredients:
1 bunch mint – leaves removed from stalks and washed well
1 bunch coriander – with roots removed, washed well and chopped into large pieces
1-2 red chillies chopped into large pieces
2 cloves garlic and equal amount of ginger crushed to a paste
1 medium onion finely diced
1 medium ripe tomato finely diced
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon cummin seeds
1 stick cinnamon
2 tablespoons super-crunchy peanut butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Method:
Whizz coriander, mint and chillies in a food processor until finely chopped

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Mint, coriander and chilli chopped finely in a food processor

Heat oil in non-stick frying pan, add cinnamon, cummin seeds and mustard seeds and cook until mustard seeds pop, but be careful not to burn

Add onions and cook slowly over medium-low heat until translucent

Add ginger and garlic paste, tomatoes and a pinch of salt and fry with onions until soft and slightly caramelised

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d garlic with onions and spices

Add mint, coriander and chilli mixture and heat through

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Add mint, coriander and chilli to tomato onion mixture

Just as leaves start to change colour, add peanut butter and mix through as it starts to melt, cook for 1 minute, then remove from heat

Allow to cool slightly so peanut butter firms up again, then serve warm or at room temperature as an accompaniment.

Portuguese pork and clam stew with roasted capsicum sauce

We used to have this dish at the Petersham Portuguese Chicken Shop and Restaurant in Sydney before it burnt down in a terrible fire. I have never made it at home but thought I’d try it out for something a bit different. I did a bit of research on the Internet and checked a variety of recipes, some with and without the capsicum paste, before deciding on this version. The stew comes from the Alentejan region of Portugal and is usually served with fried potatoes but can be served with crusty bread or plain rice.

Marinating the pork in the milk and wine overnight tenderises the pork and gives it a lovely almost silky texture when cooked. The roasted capsicum paste can be made the day before as well if you want and adds a sweetness and a subtle spiciness that compliments the natural saltiness of the clams. The clams can be replaced by cockles but purging them by soaking in water is important to remove any grit.

So, please note the time required for marinating the pork and purging the clams below.

Marinating time: 8 hours or preferably overnight
Purge clams: 2 hours soaking in water to remove any grit
Prep time: 10 minutes  Cooking time: 1. 5 hours (including roasting capsicum)

Ingredients:
Roast Capsicum Sauce:
2 medium size red capsicums
8 cloves of garlic unpeeled

Pork Marinade
500g pork belly rind removed and cut into 2.5cm cubes
1 cup milk
1/2 cup wine
2 bay leaves
1/2 tspoon cracked black pepper
1/4 tspoon salt

Stew:
4 eschallots thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic crushed
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup vermouth or dry sherry
1/2 cup capsicum paste
1-1.5 cup chicken stock or water
1 kg of clams soaked in water for 2 hours, washed and drained
1/2 bunch of thyme tied with kitchen string
500g marinated pork belly removed from marinade and patted dry on kitchen towel
chopped parsley to garnish

Method
Marinate pork belly pieces in milk, white wine, peppercorns, salt and bay leaves mixture overnight or at least 8 hours

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Marinate pork overnight

Cover clams with cold water and soak for 2 hours, changing water a few times to remove grit

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Drain clams after soaking for 2 hours in water

Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees celcius and roast whole capsicums and unpeeled garlic cloves sprayed with olive oil until capsicum blisters and starts to blacken, after 25 minutes raise heat to maximum to blacken capsicum if necessary, turn capsicums through roasting process. Remove from oven and place capsicums, not garlic, in a plastic bag and tie a knot in it. The heat from the capsicums will create a little steam bag and make the skins peel off easily when you take them out. Skin, reseed and chop the capsicum flesh. Peel and chop garlic. Blitz capsicum and garlic in a small food processor to create a paste.

Heat oven to 180 degrees celcius.

Heat half the oil in an non-stick frying pan and fry pork pieces on high heat to brown on all sides. Remove from oil and drain on paper towel.

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Fry pork to brown

Heat other half of the oil in a heavy based casserole pot, then add eschallots and garlic and cook slowly until onions are translucent.

Add pork and 1/2 cup capsicum paste, vermouth or sherry to onion mixture in pot and place in oven, uncovered for 30 minutes.

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Stew pork in oven for 30 minutes uncovered

Add clams, stock and thyme. Cover pot and put back in oven for 15-20 minutes or until clams open.

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Add clams, stock and thyme

Remove thyme, garnish with parsley and serve with potatoes, rice or bread and a crisp, green salad.

Serves 4

Fish Briyani with Tomato Chutney & Turmeric Rice

This Fish Briyani is based on a recipe from my Aunty Vimala who inspired my interest in cooking when I was young. I can still vividly recall the enticing smells of spices cooking and the delicious flavour combinations that came from her kitchen. I wrote this recipe down, taking notes as she made it, when I last visited South Africa in 1997.

The spicy tomato chutney, fresh herbs, sweet caramelised onions and lightly fried fish combine to create a more-ish, layered fish dish that is delicious on its own or with youghurt, mango or mint chutney and pickles to the side.

This is a lovely dish to serve as part of a buffet lunch or dinner as it is actually nicer warm, rather than piping hot, and even better the next day.

Don’t put off by the number of steps and spices, it really is a matter of making each of the components seperately and then combining into the completed layered dish. Once you’ve done the prep it’s just a matter of putting it in the oven and because it can be prepared even a day ahead and reheated in the microwave it is excellent for entertaining.

Preparation time: 30-35 minutes Cooking time: 60 minutes
Ingredients:

700g firm white boneless fish fillets like snapper or flathead, cut into medium size pieces (I used small flathead fillets in this recipe)
1 1/4 cups basmati rice par-boiled with 1/4 tspn turmeric to make it golden in colour

2 medium size brown onions sliced thinly
3 medium size ripe tomatoes chopped
5 cloves garlic chopped roughly
Large Knob (equal to amount of garlic)of ginger peeled
2 sprigs of curry leaves
2-4 small green chillies chopped finely
4 tablespoons coriander leaves and same amount of mint leaves chopped
1.5 cups chicken stock
5 tablespoons or so vegetable oil
1 tablespoon of butter

Dry Spices – (see quantities in method below)
Chilli powder, cummin powder, turmeric, fennel powder, cinnamon sticks, cummin seeds, fennel seeds, salt, sugar

Method:

1. Crush ginger and garlic together in a mortar and pestle.

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Marinating fish fillets for briyani

2. Marinate fish fillets, for half an hour, at least with 1/2 tspn chilli powder, 1/2 tspn turmeric, 1/2 tspn cummin powder, 1/4 tspn fennel powder, 1/2 tspn crushed ginger and garlic, pinch of salt and 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.

3. Par boil basmati rice with 1/4 tspn turmeric, strain and set aside. Make sure rice is only half cooked or it will turn gluggy when cooked in oven.

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Par boiled basmati rice cooked with turmeric

4. Make tomato chutney: Heat oil over medium heat in heavy based pot, add 1-2 cinnamon sticks, 1 tspn cummin seeds, 1 tspn fennel seeds, curry leaves from both sprigs and fry until fragrant; add 3/4 of the sliced onions and fry gently until translucent, add 1/2 tspn chilli powder, 1/2 tspoon fennel powder, 1/2 tspn turmeric powder, 1/2 tspn salt, 1 tsp. sugar, add green chillies and rest of the ginger and garlic and sautée gently for 1 minute being careful not to burn spices, add tomatoes and 1 cup of chicken stock and simmer for 20-25 minutes until tomatoes degenerate and stock evaporates and oil starts to reappear. The resulting chutneys should be moist but not watery. Taste to see if extra salt is needed.

5. Pre-heat oven to 150 degrees Celsius

5. Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in pan and fry fish fillets for 1 minute on each side to “seal” – remove from oil and drain on paper towel.

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Lightly fried “sealed” fish fillets

6. Chop coriander and mint roughly

7. Assembly: coat medium size ovenproof dish with 1 tablespoon of oil, put a thin layer of rice on the bottom, put a thin layer of tomato chutney over rice(remove cinnamon sticks from chutney), sprinkle 1/2 of fresh herbs over the tomato chutney, place all the fish gently on top of the chutney, put remaining chutney over fish trying to spread evenly across dish, sprinkle remaining mint and coriander on fish, add remaining rice to cover fish. Using a spoon sprinkle 1/4 cup of stock over rice. Cover dish with foil or lid and place in oven for 35-40 minutes. Check on dish to add more stock if rice is drying out too much. Ten minutes before the end, add little “dollops” of butter across surface of rice, cover again before placing in oven for last ten minutes.

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Layer rice, chutney, fresh herbs and fish

8. Fry remaining sliced onion in oil or butter until golden brown and lightly caramelised, drain on paper towel.

9. Remove dish from oven, sprinkle with onion and herbs for coriander and mint for garnish. Allow to rest for 10-30 minutes.

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Fish Briyani garnished with fried onions and fresh coriander and mint

10. Serve as a feature dish in a buffet with yoghurt raita, salads, pickles and chutneys of your choice.

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Fish Briyani with tomato chutney and turmeric rice

Serves 3-4 depending on size of serves

Mussels in Thai Broth

An easy, healthy and delicious main courses or starter – can be served with crispy bread rolls or jasmine rice. Make sure you use fresh mussels. It’s all the better made using homemade Thai prawn stock(see recipe below) but bought fish or chicken stock will do if you are short on time.

Prep time: 10 minutes  Cooking time: 10 minutes
Ingredients:
1 kg of mussels, beards removed (do not use any broken mussels)
1 small brown onion finely diced
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
2 pieces ginger/fresh galangal finely chopped
1-2 hot red chillies chopped
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
6 coriander stalks and roots cleaned and chopped, leaves reserved for garnish
thai basil for garnish
750 ml prawn or fish stock
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Method:
Heat oil in large pot that has a tight fitting lid
Add onions, garlic, ginger and chillies and sautéed over medium heat until onions are translucent
Add coriander, stock, fish sauce and sugar
Add mussels, fit on lid and bring stock to boil.
Shake pan and check after 3-4 minutes, once mussels are open, garnish with coriander and basil leaves, and serve in deep bowls with soupy stock. (Throw out any mussels that don’t open)

Homemade Thai Prawn Stock
Ingredients
Heads and shells of 12 prawns
4-5 small pieces of galangal
2 pieces about 1 finger length of ginger
1 stalk lemongrass chopped
1 brown onion cut into quarters
4-5 coriander roots cleaned of any soil
3 cloves garlic
3 litres water

Method
Put all ingredients into stock pot and bring to a rolling boil
Simmer for an hour-1.5 hours
Strain to remove solids
freeze unused portions for use as a base in Thai soups and Curries

Review: Smorgasbord of Indonesian specialities at Hujan Locale

Hujan  Locale in Ubud is the latest offering in Australian chef and entrepreneur Will Meryck’s “chain” of contemporary Asian restaurants in Bali, including Sarong and Mama San in Seminyak.

Tucked away in Jalan Sri Wedari, off the main street – Jalan Raya Ubud, the atmosphere is reminiscent of a Singapore ore Vietnam colonial interior, featuring a mix of wood, bamboo, tiles and even a chandelier.

The warm, inviting interior is filled with diners the night we visit. Bookings are highly advisable. We asked for a table upstairs which gets the through breeze and views over the street to one side and a Balinese family compound on the other.

The menu features a diversity of dishes inspired by the various regions of the Indonesian archipelago with most ingredients supplied by local farmers. It is a smorgasbord of Indonesian delights and uncompromising in it’s inclusion of chilli and spices, so would not recommend if you don’t like spicy food.

We choose the Pig Ear’s served with sambal spiced aioli and a crackling and the Gorengan or “fried platter” to start with. Admittedly, this was probably a wrong combination as both dishes feature deep frying but the tomato chilli sambal, lemon, green chillies and aioli provide fresh,spicy flavours.

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Crispy Pig’s Ears with crackling and sambal aioli

Our favourites were the corn fritters and fried tempeh with bites of fresh green chilli in-between which is as the locals do! The serving size of the starters is very generous and the Gorengan Platter which also features delicious lumpiah (Spring rolls) and average curry puffs could be further refined for a smaller and more focussed offering. I found the Pig’s Ears interesting but rather chewy and flavourless on their own but okay dipped in the aioli.

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Gorengan platter with fresh green chillies and tomato chilli sambal

The mains we ordered, on the other hand, were really delicious! We had the Kari Kambing Aceh – slow cooked Sumatran Lamb Curry (with Australian lamb) with roti canai, the Karangasem Sambal Udang – prawn sambal and Pelecing Kunkung – stir fried water spinach.

The lamb cooked in a rich sauce with star anise, cardamom and  curry leaves was “melt in your mouth” perfect. The roti canai was not of the soft, fluffy variety that we are accustomed to but crispy, still providing a good medium to dip into the curry sauce.

The prawns are cooked with the heads off but shells and tails still on. The shells come off easily and are delicious to chew on, the prawns themselves are perfectly cooked, tender and sweet cooked protected in their shells but still redolent of the spicy sambal sauce.

The Pelecing Kankung, stir fried water spinach features spicy chilli and hints of sambal belacan(shrimp paste) with roasted peanuts scattered on top, is a perfect green accompaniment to the other two dishes.

The overall experience of Hujan Locale was very pleasant and a good way to get a sense of the smorgasbord of tastes available in Indonesian regional specialities. Once again we were too full to try the desserts.