Wednesday 24 November 2010

Brined & Roasted Pork Belly

This recipe is adapted from the one out of the excellent Nose to Tail Eating by Fergus Henderson. I've reduced the amount of brine and cut the brining time down to 1 day.

The brine
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 300g sea salt
  • 6 cloves
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 litres water
Bring all the brine ingredients together in a pot and bring to the boil so the sugar and salt melt. Pour into a container and allow to cool.

The Recipe
  • 2kg piece of pork belly, with skin on
  • 2 onions,
  • splash of olive oil
  • a pinch of coarse sea salt
  1. Get your butcher to score the rind of a 1.5kg to 2kg pork belly or do it yourself with a sharp stanley knife
  2. Place the pork belly into a large piece of tupperware (Lakeland Plastics 6 Litre containers are great for this)
  3. Cover with the brine and leave in the fridge for 24 hours
  4. Chop the onions and pace on the base of a roasting tray.
  5. Lay the belly on top. Rub the skin with a little oil and then the salt.
  6. Place in a medium to hot oven for approximately 1.5-2 hours.
  7. When cooked you should have crispy skin on top of soft and giving fatty flesh.
  8. Lift off the onions and serve.

Wednesday 10 November 2010

Flatbreads Cooked On A Barbecue / BBQ

The basic recipe comes from the second Moro cookbook - Casa Moro and while they talk about cooking it in your oven, I think its even better cooked over a charcoal BBQ


  • 450g strong white bread flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried yeast ( Hovis Fast Action Yeast is the best I have found so far)
  • 300ml warm water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  1. Place the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Mix one tablespoon of oil in
  3. Dissolve the yeast in the water and pour into the flour a bit at a time while mixing. You can do this by hand, or in a food processor with a dough hook
  4. Around halfway through, add the second tablespoon of olive oil
  5. Now transfer the dough to a floured surface and continue to knead well for about 5 minutes until the dough is no longer tacky, but soft, elastic and smooth.Add more flour a little at a time if it is too sticky.
  6. Oil a large bowl and place the dough inside it and cover with a cloth to rest for an hour in a warm place.
  7. Divide the dough into four and, on a very well floured surface, roll out each piece into a rough circle 3mm thick.
If you don't have a airing cupboard, boil some water and pour into a large mug. Place this into a microwave with the bowl and close the door. The steam will keep the microwave warm and help the bread rise

If cooking on a BBQ
  1. Get your charcoal really hot - you need a good red glow from them and you shouldn't be able to hold your hand over them for more than a second
  2. Put your circles onto the griddle and watch like a hawk - after a couple of minutes the bottoms will start to crisp up and you'll need to flip them over to avoid them getting too burnt
If cooking in the oven
  1. Transfer to two large baking sheets that have been lightly floured.
  2. Put in the oven immediately and bake for 5-10 minutes until the bread is cooked.
  3. Each bread should partially bubble up and colour slightly, yet not be totally crisp.
If cooking in a frying pan
  1. Take a solid frying pan (not a flimsy cheap non-stick pan) and place it on your hob for 5 or 10 minutes to get really hot
  2. Lightly oil it with some sunflower oil on piece of kitchen roll
  3. Place the bread in the pan and cook for a couple of minutes each side

Thursday 4 March 2010

America... Wake Up and Listen to Warren

It seems if you want to polarise America, get people talking about reforming the healthcare system.

Now one of the richest and most succesful men in America, Warren Buffet has waded in.

He has compared the runaway cost of heathcare to an economic tapeworm and pointed out that America spends 17% of its GDP on healthcare wheras other countries with more centralised healthcare systems only spend 9%

Tricky one for the Republicans / Right wingers / Tea party folk who've been using term socalised medicine to imply its socalism via the backdoor.

When someone such as Warren Buffet who is:

1) Very successful investor and businessman
2) Clearly not a socialist

Says something needs to be done, it'll be interesting to see how the right counters this

RIP Michael Foot

Growing up in the 1980's in one of the most conservative parts of the country made me a bit of a Tory boy, luckily a stage I quickly grew out of it.

Back in the early 80's Michael Foot was seen as a bit of a dangerous leftie who would leave us at the mercy of the Soviet Red Army tanks ready to invade.

While I still disagree with some of his views, the more I read about him, the more time and respect I had for a man who clearly stood by his views and principles even if meant time in the political wilderness

While most people thought of him as a pacifist for his views on unilateral nucelar disarmament, they didn't know that he was equally vocal on the use of force when he felt it was right.

For example;
  • In 1940, his booklet denouncing appeasement sold over 250,000 copies
  • He was vocal supporter of Nato involvement to stop aggression in Yugoslavia
A few more politicans such as him who are prepared to stand up and not worry about what others think should surely raise the publics respect for politicans.

Today's obituary in the Guardian sums up his life pretty well

Would A Hung Parliament Be Such A Bad Thing?

With a general election now only a couple of months ago, it is possible that we may end up with a hung parliament for the first time since WW2

While the joint wisdom (and I use that term very lighly) of the Daily Mail and currency traders don't seem to think so, would be be such a bad thing?

Timothy Garton Ash in todays Guardian points out a couple of very salient facts

1) World War 2 was won with a coalition parliament

2) Germany who has the strongest economy in Europe has known nothing but coalition governments

His conclusion is that it would strengthen parliament and take back powers from what has become an overstrong executive

The full article is here: Don't be afraid of a hung parliament

Thursday 18 February 2010

Laverbread and Cockle Gratin Recipe

I first had this at the King Arthur Hotel in the Gower and have been trying to replicate this ever since. Laverbread may be a little tricky to get hold of unless you live in Wales, but its worth getting hold of.

For this need you'll need the following ingredients
  • 150g pot of Laverbread - Swansea market is excellent for this if nearby
  • 200-400g of cleaned cooked cockles - you can buy these from fishmongers
  • 4 slices of day old white bread
  • 4 slices of good free range bacon
150g Strong Cheddar - Little Black Bomber is perfect for this
  • 2 oz butter
  • 2 oz of flour
  • 1 pint of milk
To make it:
  1. Turn your oven to 190C / 375F
  2. If the cockles appear a little gritty, run them under the tap, otherwise leave
  3. Melt 2 oz of the butter in the microwave in a large bowl and add 2 oz of flour
  4. Mix together to create a paste / roux and add the milk and whisk ensuring that all the paste has been mixed in
  5. Microwave on full power for 1 minute, take out and whisk
  6. Repeat until the sauce is starting to thicken
  7. While making the sauce grate your strong cheddar and put to one side
  8. Remove any rind from the bacon, chop up and put to one side
  9. Remove the crusts from the bread, tear up and put into a food processor
  10. Pulse until you have fine breadcrumbs
  11. Once you white sauce starts to thicken, add the cockles, bacon and cheese
  12. Now add a spoonful of laverbread and taste. Laverbread is fairly strong tasting so try the sauce and see what you think. You should be able to taste it without it being overpowering
  13. Pour the white sauce mixture into an overproof dish and sprinke the breadcrumbs over the top
  14. Put in oven and bake for 15-20 mins
  15. Serve with some crusty rolls which can be torn up and dipped in

Monday 25 January 2010

The Maths behind Alice in Wonderland

Ever since Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland was first published, people have tried to interpret exactly what it means. The Freudians had a field day trying to unravel the dark journey into the world of the subconscious.

A recent article in the New Scientist magazine suggests they may have been barking up the wrong tree. Research by Melanie Bayley suggests that the book was a biting satire on the radical new ideas in mathematics that were emerging towards the end of the 19th century.

Lewis Carroll was a pseudonym for Charles Dodgeson., a mathematician at Christ Church Oxford. It appears he was rather conservative and disliked the new style of maths that detached itself from the physical world.

While some of the maths went right over my head, its a fascinating read into how someone communicated their ideas through fiction, allegory and story telling.