Cook-Along Friday

#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.

Cook-Along Friday

#CookalongFriday – Chicken two ways!

Keith’s challenge for me this week was this:  Make one meal, get another one from the remains of the first.  This is always difficult in my household as we usually devour everything on the table and fight over the scraps.  However, by stretching the bounds a little, here we go…

Roast chicken followed by a spectacularly simple chicken soup.

Roast Chicken

For this, I use one of my favourite kitchen gadgets.  The Chicken Beer-roaster.  This is the technical evolution of the old “shove a can of beer up the chicken’s bum and stand it on the braai” school of cooking in South Africa.  I got mine from but I’m sure others are available.  We were so impressed by this marvel that we bought several of them for Christmas presents last year.  All have been tried, sceptically, and then embraced.  You can, of course, roast your chicken on a tray, using a rotisserie, or whatever means you like.


  • 1 family roasting chicken.  Obviously.
  • Beer, for the beer-roaster.  The beer chosen does affect the taste of the chicken, you can use fruit juice if you like.
  • Flour, 1 or 2 tablespoons
  • Paprika and salt
  • Cumin seeds
  • Vegetables for roasting.  This leads into the chicken soup recipe, so you’ll need plenty…
    • Sweet potatoes, 4 or 5
    • Potatoes, 4 or 5
    • Shallots, small bag of, peeled.
    • Butternut squash, 1 medium
    • Whatever else takes your fancy – celery, leek, tomatoes, peppers of all colours, carrots, ask the kids!


  • Rub salt and paprika into the skin of the chicken
  • Chop the veg into 2-3cm cubes, peeling potatoes, sweet potatoes and squash.
  • Oven to 200C


From this:

IMAG0425 to this…


  1. Put the beer into the beer-roaster, put the chicken in pride of place (there’s a reason we call every chicken we roast “Roger”) and put it in the oven.  It’ll take 90 minutes to roast, so give yourself an hour on the timer and go do something else.
  2. When the timer goes off, spread the roast veg on a roasting tray or two (you want to make sure there’s plenty of leftovers for stage 2 later).
  3. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper and cumin seeds.
  4. Open the oven, scoop some of the prepared veg into the tray around the base of the chicken, put the trays in where there’s space, close the door.  Give yourself 20 minutes on the timer and go play, set the table, that sort of thing.
  5. Remove the chicken and set on a rack to stand while you finish off.
  6. Put the beer and juices from the roaster into a small pan, add the flour and heat, stirring, until it thickens.  Best gravy you’ll get from a chicken!
  7. Serve up!

Chicken Soup

Taking the leftover vegetables and the bits of chicken that are hard to get off the carcass, you can make a very simple, superb soup.

The only extra ingredient you need is 2 pints of chicken stock.

  1. Into a large pan, put the chicken stock, the leftover roast vegetables, the leftover chicken bits and (if you’re lucky) some leftover gravy.
  2. With a hand blender, blitz the lot until smooth.
  3. Heat.

That’s it.  Dead simple chicken soup.  Chicken optional.  The more veg you’ve got left from the roast chicken, the better, and the more sweet potato there is in the leftover, the better.

Of course, you’ll need pudding to go with all this lovely stuff, and Keith’s got that covered over at the Diary of a Reluctant Housedad.  Enjoy!

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Cook-Along Friday

Cookalong Friday – Testing the Chefs: Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals #cookalongfriday

Jamie Oliver's 30 Minute Meals

For Christmas, my wife received Jamie Oliver’s book “30 Minute Meals” as a Secret Santa present.  We don’t know exactly who from, but it was an inspired choice.  Since then we’ve been working through those recipes at a rate of 1 a week, usually on a Sunday night.  Do they live up to their claims?  Can you really cook a 2 course meal in 30 minutes?  Yes and sort of.


As he says in his introduction, you have to be in the right frame of mind.  The “30 Minute Meal” frame of mind.  You have to set aside distractions, ignore the mountains of rubbish and washing up that build up around you, and you’ve definitely got to own a Magimix.

When you watch the great man at work in the TV programme that accompanies the book (or is it the other way around?) you can see he knows these recipes inside and out.  He could do any one of these meals given the ingredients and the name of the recipe.  My wife spends a good length of time reading and re-reading the recipe so that she only needs the book for reference (for it is usually her cooking whilst I field the kids and generally sous-chef for her on a Sunday).  If you’ve got to go back to the book (and back and back again) you’ll never do it in 30 minutes, as I found out when it was my turn to give one of these a go!


Be warned, cooking these meals will increase the cost of your weekly shop.

After a while you do build up a stock of some of the more common ingredients, and you start thinking about investing in shares in an olive oil company because he uses a lot of it!  Lugs and lugs of it, to use his own terminology.  But there’s usually 1 thing we have trouble getting hold of here on our lonely rock.  He’s got this thing about chicory in salads and I cannot find that for the life of me!  We’ve substituted baby lettuce, Chinese leaves, anything that seemed likely to make a good salad.  And, trust me, the salads in this book are extremely good indeed.  Frozen mango chunks was the last ingredient we couldn’t find.  Neither of the supermarkets up here stocked it, so we subbed in some frozen berries and the ice cream came out just fine.

Portion Size

This is an area where Jamie and I disagree.  Where he says it serves 4, I say it serves my family of 7 comfortably with leftovers to pick at later.  Where he says it serves 6, that’s about right for us.  The only thing we’ve never had leftovers from are the deserts.

T-30 Minutes.  Action!

Right.  This is where the story really starts.  You’ve read through the recipe, you’ve done the preparations he’s suggested in step 1 (fitting the right blade to the Magimix, boiling the kettle, getting a pan on to boil, the usual stuff).  You’re all ready to go.  Now the kids can really help out by either (a) keeping the kitchen tidied or (b) keeping each other occupied in a non-painful way in another room.  Anyone who can stay out of the way of the knifes can help.

Although Jamie Oliver quite happily handles everything on his own on TV, I’m pretty certain there’s a team of underlings bustling around during the cut scenes, the commercial breaks, all helping with the tidying up.  So that’s job 1 you can give to a helper.  Have an area set aside for stuff that’s finished with and get someone monitoring that.  As soon as a bowl, a dish, a wrapper enters that area, get it in the right place.  Load the dishwasher, get it washed up, chuck it in the bin, whatever’s appropriate.  Job 2 is getting the table set and ready.  Having read through the recipe you’ll know what you’re needing in terms of eating irons, so dispatch a helper to get those lined up.  If you can get plates onto the table as well, go for it.  There’s only a few of his meals that serve up directly into plates/bowls.

The Verdict

Is 30 minutes long enough?  More or less, yes.  If you’re prepared, if you’ve got at least 1 helper, if no-one phones and wants to talk about last night’s Doctor Who.  Will your kitchen be a mess at the end of it?  Yep.  Unless you’ve got some extremely good helpers!  We usually manage to keep on top of most of the mess, working directly into the dishwasher.  Are the meals good?  Definitely.  His salads are excellent, his deserts have been requested again and again.  The fact that the entire process is wrapped up in 30 minutes means there’s no lengthy preparation, no “and marinade this for 6 hours prior to cooking”, nothing that complicated.  Do the kids eat them?  Yes.  Yes, yes, yes.  All 5 kids have returned a positive verdict on the meals we’ve cooked.  Where there’s been something they didn’t like, it was one part of the overall dish and nothing to be concerned about.  What’s going to happen when we’ve done the lot?  Ah, there’s an app for that – I downloaded his 20 Minute Meals app to my phone the other day.  It’s rather good!

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