Additives. Bad things chucked into pre-prepared foods to make them last longer. E-numbered somethings that we don’t really trust.
Yes. And, at the same time, no.
Additives. Those little tweaks you make to a recipe to personalise it, make it your own. I enjoy these additives, I have 100% control over when and where they’re used and in what quantities.
Take, for instance, coffee. I like a pot of coffee on a morning, helps me through the emails. But I don’t always like a plain pot of black coffee. My top 3 additives are:
Ground cinnamon. 1/4 tsp of this into 3 tablespoons of coffee, add water and savour. Lovely.
Cayenne pepper. 1/8-1/4 tsp depending on how much of a kick you want.
Coffee Masala. This is a blend of a wide range of spices, not dissimilar to Garam Masala. 1/4-1/2 tsp of this and your coffee is transformed.
Now when it comes to baking, once I’ve done a recipe once or twice successfully, I can’t help tinkering… A little of this, a little of that, see what happens. Mostly it’s successful. My favourite recipe to play with is soda bread. Soda bread is the ideal vessel for your spices! I’ve had great success with about a teaspoon of one of the following:
Ground fennel seeds
Ground caraway seeds
They change the nature of the bread, lifting it above the humble soda bread and giving it a special something. The garam masala bread, particularly, went very well with damson jam. So much so that the loaf was largely devoured ahead of the scheduled meal it was supposed to have accompanied. Hey-ho.
Anyway. Point is, as long as you control the additives, you can have a lot of fun with them! So go on, spice it up!
Every now and then, I channel-surf. A few seconds here, a few seconds there, move on to the next. Snatches of Lewis explaining to his sidekick, Poirot gathering everyone together in the drawing room, New York accents explaining the best way to make bagels, Indian accents saying “…pulled pork with cinnamon and cloves”, Clarkson ridiculing the French. Stop! Rewind. Pulled pork? And then a double-take. Y’see I could’ve sworn I worked for one of these 2!
Alright, Clive, quick spin around the ingredients and then back to me. Basically the ingredients fall into 2 camps – one for the pork itself and one for the marinade. For the pork you need, well, pork. I’ve used roughly 2kg of rolled shoulder today but as this one slow-roasts for as long as you like, you could use pretty much anything. I bet this would work really well with chops! For the marinade, it’s all store-cupboard stuff:
Cinnamon stick (or Cassia bark which is much thicker), cloves, chillies (dried red and fresh green), garlic, ginger, onions, turmeric, tamarind paste, cider vinegar, brown sugar, sunflower oil, salt. I did have to buy the tamarind paste this week but only because I’d run out.
Dry-roast the dry spices over a low heat. Great tip on the TV show: If you can move the spices around with your fingers in the pan, it’s just right. If you don’t burn your fingers, you don’t burn the spices.
While they’re cooling, whack everything else in the blender and leave it running until it’s smooth. This is going to make plenty of the masala marinade so you’ll have lots left over to, say, beeroast a chicken later in the week (pays to plan ahead). Add in the spices, keep blitzing to break down the cinnamon and cloves.
Rub the marinade into the pork and, as with all the best marinades, refrigerate overnight to let the flavours really get in there.
The next day…
Obviously, the longer you can cook this thing for, the better it’s going to be. So with dinner at about 6, I’m getting this going at half eight. Oven to 180C, scrape off the excess marinade and put the roasting pan on the hob. Splash of oil and brown the meat on all sides.
Tablespoon or 2 of masala marinade over the meat before covering the pan with foil, sticking on the lid and putting it into the oven. It gets half an hour at 180C before lowering the heat to 110-120C and ignoring it for the rest of the day.
And now… The end result, most of it fell apart when I lifted the pieces from the pan, the rest needed vaguely harassing with a fork. I’m serving this with fresh white bread rolls, some extra coriander and a couple of chopped long green chillies to give the roll a bit of extra kick.
I’ve had an advanced taste, had to check it while I was shredding it, and I can say this is right up there with the best Mexican pulled pork recipes I’ve done. Absolutely superb. Now. Where’s that chicken…
And if proof were needed, a mere 15 minutes after serving up the dish looked like this:
and there were 7 plates being licked clean or having the juices mopped up with the last of the bread. Fortunately I had planned for the and the New York Cheesecake in the fridge was wheeled out as emergency pudding. We are all now extremely full!
The Incredible Spice Men (on Twitter, Facebook and all good Social Media sites) have a cookbook out – if anyone’s feeling generous I’d love a copy to review 😉 and if the rest of the recipes in there are as good as this one it’ll be worth it’s weight in gold. Or in turmeric, at least.