I have a tendency towards compulsive behaviour. Nothing pathological but my Tigger-esque enthusiasm for the things and people I love lead me to not be able to get enough of the good stuff. I will listen to a single song on repeat for hours when pottering about at home alone. I love watching a whole series of something in one go on a lazy Saturday if all I have on my to do is flicking through cook books, planning the meals for the week ahead. If Hungry Hubby is otherwise engrossed in the football, lately I’ve taken to watching reruns of foodie programmes on my laptop on 4OD. And what a brilliant resource it is! I’ve watched pretty much all they have available at the time of writing which includes Cook Yourself Thin (for when I am channelling “my body is a temple” thoughts); Gok Cooks Chinese (for a fashionista, that man can really cook!) and of course, the ever present, ever passionate Jamie Oliver – there being everything from his Christmas Specials to the show which inspired this post, Save with Jamie. Say what you like about the man but there is no debating he has his heart in the right place, he listens to his fans and maintains a light hearted, not taking himself too seriously sense of humour which is endearing to say the least.
Let me introduce you to a slow cooked half pork shoulder. The TV series and a book to accompany it are billed to save you money by teaching you techniques to waste less, shop smarter and also to encourage cooking at home over the evil take away. Each episode and chapter focusses on one meat and then gives you recipes for how to cook it and utilise the significant leftovers to make tasty and interesting meals. I felt ever so slightly embarrassed when my butcher asked me how many I was feeding when I ordered a 15lb pork shoulder and answered, sheepishly, “just two with leftovers”. He laughed and scoffed that it would make a lot of leftovers indeed! I ordered the rib end as he told me that had slightly less meat than the hock end (the bit with the shoulder bone in). Please adjust your order to your needs. As I have never frozen cooked roast meats, I turned to my foodie community for advice and it seems, everyone does it! I felt reassured by my knowledgeable foodie friends that it wouldn’t be wasted. You don’t lose any of the texture by freezing and it furnishes your deep freeze with a supply of affordable, quick to prep meals in the weeks to come.
Once we had picked up our joint early one Saturday morning in February, which Hungry Hubby walked home in his back pack, I carried the other bits and bobs we would need for our first pork feast and the hard slog was over. The butcher had scored the rind for me and all I had to do was slice up some onions to use as a trivet to cook the meat on and grind some fennel, chilli flakes and seasoning to make a rub with. I used my long pepper as this was a special recipe and it’s heightened notes of spicy flavour seemed perfect for this porker but do use ordinary black peppercorns. You cook on super hot for a 90 minutes at which point you drain off the pork dripping (sieve and save if you like, another frugal but flavoursome way of Saving with Jamie…) then return to oven for a low and slow roast until the meat falls apart with minimal persuasion. The smells which filled the Apple Chapel were tantalising that Saturday I can tell you! It almost disappointed me how little I had to do in making such a magnificent feast.
I was after a simple meal to begin our journey into the Pork Chapter, pulled pork with homemade ‘slaw, soft yogurt bread rolls and a little stuffing essentially ended up being a DIY hog roast affair. I was blown away! Hungry Hubby was delighted – he loves a hog roast and it can be all the temptation he needs to come shopping with me in there winter when stands selling it litter the city centre streets… Having never been one for roast pork with a bit of an aversion to the smell of cooking piggies (apart from smoked bacon of course!) it’s not a meat I cook often but this experience has converted me. I will be venturing back to the amused butcher and ordering another half shoulder sooner than he thinks! Cooking a couple of apples – one eating, one cooking, or Bramley – alongside the pork made the easiest apple sauce you can imagine. I sweetened with a little sugar but please taste yours to see if it really needs any. Once we had eaten our fill, we pulled the pork and bagged it up for the freezer. We managed to get 12 bags with 150g of roast pork from a 15lb joint after our initial meal. This actually worked out to be the perfect portion for us two.
The next recipe from my new book is our absolute favourite although I must tell you, here ends me following Jamie’s recipes verbatim. I think of them a blueprint to adapt to your own tastes rather than to be followed dogmatically. Actually, I think that’s the way he would want his recipes used. I have to say, having not long had a disappointing experience at our local dim sum restaurant, these Dim Sum Pork Buns were just wonderful. I used some wholemeal flour in the bun dough (which is essentially the same as the one from my favourite flatbread post) and instead of black bean sauce, I used whole, fermented black beans plus some sweet chilli sauce and minced fresh garlic to bind the pork filling. I also rubbed my hands with sesame oil to shape the buns with and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds before steaming. As Jamie says in the TV show, it is quite the naughtiest little mouthful of deliciousness he could give you! I urge you to try them, they are stunning. Eat with hoisin sauce and in an almost crispy duck experience with cucumber and spring onions on the side.
Down at the Apple Chapel, we are never far away from a home made pizza dinner. It sneaks it’s way onto our plates at least once a fortnight. This is an American Hot Pizza, again, inspired by Jamie not absolutely the same as his recipe. I had made some hot & spicy BBQ sauce earlier this week, which I used in place of the usual tomato one, piled high with shredded pork, fresh chillies, cheese and shallots. I used my favourite pizza base recipe – I find half the recipe is perfect for a pizza for two. If you set the dough to prove before work and utilise things such as this roasted meat, it really is faster to make your own pizza than dial for a Dominoes, and far more tasty it is too!
As much as we love pizza, we also love fajitas. This was a blinding recipe this one. I used Old Bay Seasoning in my refried beans and as we had plenty of tortillas in, we made use of them rather than making a journey to go get the Crispy Pork Tacos Jamie O recommends in his recipe. Also, we really do not like the evil green pepper at all so we just had a simple side salad to serve, dressed with a little marinated feta rather than the pickled veg side dish in the book. Another keeper and infinitely customisable. It would make a great fuss free meal for friends. Crack out those Coronas…
Another use of the leftovers was in Jamie’s Baked Risotto with Pork Stuffed Peppers, halved and roasted filled with the leftover pork in a parsley and tomato sort of relish. Really different and good as a whole to eat but the risotto in itself was a little uninteresting to eat flavour wise even after adding some white wine to the stock and a healthy amount of parmesan. Plus it took double the stated time to cook and as a result was, as a result, a stressful dinner to put together – I thought it would have been hands free but I was up and down to the oven so much to see if it was cooked, it’s not a method I will repeat.
Again in the Italian arena, Jamie gives a recipe for Slow-Roasted Pork Ragu. What it lacked in the depth of flavour delivered by a ragu which bubbles down on the stove top for hours (like it does for my lasagne), it made up for in ease of cooking and a lightness and freshness you don’t normally associate with rich meat pasta sauces. I served it with some ciabatta rubbed down with garlic then griddled to dip into extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar and that night, me and hubby sank into a comfortable carb coma on the couch with a movie. It’s a hard life, recipe testing people… 😉
Now, all of the meals you see above were eaten over the course of several weeks. The last thing I wanted was to bore us to death of roast pork before we made a dent in the freezer stash so I rationed it to one to two meals a week. The final leftover dish we made was our second favourite after those mind blowing dim sum buns. BBQ Pulled Pork, Waffles and ‘Slaw. It was mostly prompted by my recent acquisition of a waffle maker. Which brings us back to my compulsive behaviour – I am up to my ears in waffles in the search of the best recipes and will share them when I’ve tried them out some more. Again, it’s tough being a blogger 😉 I fiddled with the recipe and made a buttermilk version of the one in Jamie’s book. It was a some kind of wonderful after a particularly tiring day at work for us both!
We really got some mileage out of this piggie, as well as that BBQ sauce recipe. At the time of writing I have lost the sauce recipe so I can’t share it with you but it was a nice light one with very little added sugar and salt so didn’t feel like I’d simply poured jars and tubes of processed sauces and seasonings together. I will hunt it down as it was very useful for a number of these dishes… It cost us just £22 for the pork and we easily got 12 meals for 2 out of it which makes the meat portion only around 90p per portion! And it was excellent quality, free range meat from a local butcher too.
Whilst I am not convinced that the book and TV series succeed in delivering ways and means to cook well when you live truly on the breadline, as I am fortunate enough to no longer be there I can appreciate it for its wonderful meal ideas and love using it to create my own versions of Jamie’s recipes. Whilst I typically shy away from chefs in favour of home cooks and Jamie has a career firmly rooted in professional kitchens, this series in particular reconnected me with his food and has had me reaching for his other books on a regular basis for everyday inspiration. I’m looking forward to making this pork again in the near future but I will use the leftovers in my own recipes now I am confident that freezing roasted meat does not change the texture nor does reheating it in many and varied means as we see above. Having the wherewithal to make midweek meals at the drop of the hat, when the pennies are running towards the end of the month and you don’t have the time or energy to roast something for hours to get that super tender, fall apart texture only delivered by slow roasting; this way of cooking ahead at the weekend when you do have the time is the working foodie’s saving grace. I found the pork defrosted very quickly in my fridge so I could take a packet out at lunch time and it would be thawed by the time I returned home from work. The lamb and beef chapters are very enticing too – Easter being around the corner, I feel a whole shoulder of lamb calling me. There is a vegetable chapter too and I can wholeheartedly vouch for those recipes too but I feel I have waxed lyrical long enough so they may be a tale for another day!
Here’s the method for making your own slow roast pork shoulder.
- A half pork shoulder, hock or rib side
- 1 tbsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 1 tsp chilli flakes
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 10 bay leaves
- 3 onions, quartered
- 1-2 Bramley or 2-4 eating apples
- Sugar to taste
- Preheat your oven to 220°C.
- Grind the fennel seeds, pepper, chilli flakes and a good pinch of salt in a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder.
- Rub into all the nooks and crannies of the pork.
- Drizzle the oil over the meat and rub in well.
- Pop in a large roasting pan or dish and roast for 90 minutes. When the time is up, pour the drippings collected so far into a dish and save if you like (it will keep in the fridge in a sterilised jar for several weeks) then pop the onions and bay leaves in the bottom of the dish, sit the pork on top and add 750mls of water.
- Reduce the heat to 130°C and cook the pork for another 4-5 hours. Test it at 4 hours to see if the meat pulls away in shreds easily, if not, give it another 30-60 minutes.
- During the last 2 hours of cooking, if you want apple sauce to go with, sit the apples next to the pork having cut around their equators to stop them exploding in the hot oven!
- When the apples are soft, mash them up and add sugar to taste if using sour apples.
- To freeze any leftover meat, shred it as soon as possible and leave on a large tray or shopping board until cold. I would recommend 75g per person for most recipes to use the leftovers in but weigh it and see what you think. Bag it up and freeze labelled with the date too. I would use it within 2 months and defrost it in the fridge – this only took a matter of a few hours in my fridge.