2013 – Life on the blog

Apparently I’m averaging 15 visitors a day to the blog at the moment. While that doesn’t sound like a lot when you think of how many people use the internet, I’m pretty happy with that. 15 of you out there think it’s worth spending some time reading what I’ve posted. Overall, this works out at between 5000 and 6000 hits. According to my Analytics dashboard, I’m picking up new readers at a decent rate, roughly 2/3 of all visitors to my blog are new ones!

As for how people are finding my blog, there’s the obvious – search for “files and records”, the food…

  • turkey pork curry – 17
  • monkfish for kids – 8
  • minty chocolate fridge cake – 8

the geeky…

  • chromedeck sheets – 9
  • gtd pdf templates – 13
  • the data retrieval service encountered an error during connection to the data source – 2 (but both useful!

and the downright strange…

  • Is Tree-Fu Tom Satanic? – 12!!!!!
  • up helly aa smurf suit anderson high school – 1
  • beard wizard – 1

Okay, so the words “Tree-Fu Tom” and “Satan” appear in the same paragraph, but that’s only because I was praising Tree-Fu Tom and Peppa Pig, and Andy Hamilton voices Mr Elephant in Peppa Pig. In case the connection’s not obvious, Andy Hamilton writes “Old Harry’s Game” and provides the voice for Old Harry himself. I’m not helping, am I? That’s now 2 pages on the blog that’ll provide hits for “Is Tree-Fu Tom Satanic?”.

And as for the top posts of the year…

A close 6th place comes What a difference a week makes!, the turning point in our recent move from Shetland to Lincolnshire.

I’d like to thank each and every one of you who spends time reading my ramblings. If I could change one thing, it’d be getting a bit more feedback! Did my recipes help? Do you agree with what I’m saying? Disagree? My most commented-on post this year was this: Silent Sunday – 17th March 2013, and it’s a single photograph.

Have a very happy new year, and see you in 2014!

You had me at Pulled Pork – @thespicemen – #recipeshed

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!

One of the Incredible Spice Men and the Dean of Agriculture of Dalhousie University, Canada.

 

The other one of the Incredible Spice Men

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yep.  Goan pulled pork with cinnamon and clove marinade.  The recipe’s over at the BBC’s website, http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/pulled_pork_with_66521, so I’ll wait while you go there and hit print.  Trust me, you’ll want to keep this one.

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:

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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.

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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.

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Strange camera artefacts on this! The marinade doesn’t have those white fuzzy bits, honest!

Rub the marinade into the pork and, as with all the best marinades, refrigerate overnight to let the flavours really get in there.

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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.

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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.

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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:

IMG_20130823_185134 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.

Look forward to the next show on Monday night!

#CookalongFriday – Slow Roast Pork Retaliation

Keith had his way with a moderate-sized slab of pork a week or two ago.  Now it’s my turn…

This is pretty much the ultimate in fire-and-forget cookery.  It goes into the oven one day, you get it out later.  Much, much later.  The following day, usually, although if you get it in before breakfast it can be ready for dinner time depending on the size of the slab.  I’ve had 12 for dinner with this dish, everyone’s eaten until they’re fit for exploding and there’s still been leftovers to make sandwiches with later in the week.

I can’t claim credit for this dish, it comes from the absolutely superb Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall book, “The River Cottage Meat Book”.  This book is known in our house as “the big book of meat” and is pretty much exactly that. There’s chapters in there on buying the right meat, what to look for in the assorted meat groups, what to do with the different bits (including heads and knuckles!).  It’s an enjoyable read (assuming you’re not vegetarian) and has some fantastic recipes.

The Paste.

For the spices…

  • 2 star anise
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 1/2 a cinnamon stick
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns

Grind, mix, keep in an air-tight container.  You’ll need 1 tablespoon of this and the rest will keep happily for another day.

For the paste itself…

  • 5 large cloves of garlic
  • 5cm fresh root ginger, grated
  • 2 teaspoons dried chilli flakes (for the kid-friendly version, substitute paprika or dried bell pepper)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower oil (Hugh recommends groundnut oil if you’ve got it)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of the spice mix.

Mix everything together into a wonderful aromatic paste.  If using chilli flakes do not, repeat do not scratch your eyes/nose after mixing the paste.  I do these things so you don’t have to.

The Pork

  • 1 whole shoulder of pork, on the bone.  5-8kg depending on how many people and how hungry you expect them to be.  Buy generous here, the smell will be driving you mad by the end of cooking and if you’ve got to make pork sandwiches with the leftovers (or rissoles), then quel domage!
  1. Oven to 230°C – Very hot.
  2. Score the rind of the pork shoulder to a depth of 1/2 – 1cm, lines about 1cm apart, with a very sharp knife.
  3. Place the shoulder, skin-side up, on a rack over a roasting tin.  Rub a generous half of the spice paste into the scored rind.
  4. Place the joint, on the tin, into the oven for a half-hour blast at this high heat.
  5. Take the meat out, (very carefully, it’s hot) turn it over and use a knife or spoon to smear the rest of the spice mix into the underside of the joint.
  6. Pour a glass of water into the roasting tin, put the oven heat down to 110°C, replace the joint.
  7. Wait.  16-24 hours is a good wait (though it can be done in less with a smaller joint).  We tend to do this first stage the night before we’re going to eat, turning the oven down at about 11PM, midnight, thereabouts.  If you’ve got a really big joint, and are wanting to eat the following evening, you can bring this forward to 6 or 7 PM, providing someone’s an early(ish) riser who will…
  8. About halfway through the cooking, turn the joint skin-side up again and baste with the fat and juices that have accumulated in the pan.  The smell when you open the oven for this bit is just heavenly.
  9. 45 minutes before you want to eat, jack the heat back up to 230 to crisp up the crackling.  Keep an eye on it now to make sure it doesn’t burn.

To serve…

  1. Remove from oven.
  2. Remove the crackling and break into pieces for everyone to nibble on.
  3. Place in the centre of the table.  Let everyone admire.

We tend to serve this with mashed potatoes or roast veg.  We have been known to serve it just with bread rolls and an assortment of mustards and chutneys.  The trick is to keep it simple.  This is not a roast that requires “all the trimmings”.

If you have enjoyed this, I exhort, plead and nigh-on beg you to purchase a copy of The River Cottage Meat Book from whichever source you find most convenient.  And then pay a visit to The Reluctant Housedad to see what Keith’s cooking today.