Pig out


“So THIS is why the big bad wolf wanted to eat the 3 little pigs”!
So said my 6-year old after his first-ever taste of pork belly crackling. We were a bit startled by his cheerful nonchalance! He couldn’t get enough of it, those oily little fingers reaching out for more and more; and frankly neither could I. I hadn’t had crackling in years, and before last weekend had never actually cooked it myself.
Oh boy was it good; and the beautiful melt-in-your mouth meat it encased was pretty damn excellent too.
I weighed up Jamie and Nigella‘s cooking methods. Jamie gives his pork a sharp burst of high heat to start with, then turns the oven down for the slow-cooking process. Nigella cooks hers in reverse, slow-roasting first with a hot blast at the end. I chose Jamie’s technique as it required my attention at the start of the process, then could be ignored until finished – ideal for weekend cooking.
I improvised and threw together a simple zesty marinade which worked a treat. The lovely pork belly was served up in soft tacos with pineapple ginger relish, a concoction I made up by adding bits and pieces to the saucepan until it tasted nice, and hot damn did it go well with the pork!
These tacos are my version of one of my favourite Mexican dishes – Al Pastor style pork and pineapple. You can sample the real deal in Melbourne at Mamasita, Fonda and our local, Eat Drink Love Taco in Carlisle Street. Al Pastor style pork is cooked on a huge vertical spit and served up in tortillas with finely chopped onion, lime, coriander and fresh pineapple. So good!
Amazingly we had quite a bit of leftover pulled pork, which I used the next night in a fab mixed rice salad with lime and peanuts; using Rice Plus, a locally-made product my friend Judy got me hooked on. It’s fantastic, a combo of black sesame seeds and grains including brown rice, black rice, red basmati, millet and quinoa. I always have a pack in the cupboard. I’ve made this salad a few times, and usually add chopped leftover roast chicken, but the pork was a fabulous inclusion. This recipe makes enough salad for lunch the next day (nothing better than lunch waiting in the fridge for you in the morning). My boys love the salad too, although I modify theirs slightly – see ‘fussy kid tip’ below. Now, onto the recipes…

Slow-cooked pork belly with cracklingPork belly tacos with pineapple relish[Recipe 1] Slow-roasted pork belly tacos with pineapple ginger relish and crackling

Ingredients (serves 4–6 for two meals, ie. tacos serve 4, salad serves 6):
2 kilo (4 lb) whole free-range pork belly
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons sea salt
1½ cups freshly-squeezed orange juice
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 corn cobs, silk and husks removed (to reserve for the mixed rice salad)
Olive oil, extra, for brushing corn
Pineapple ginger relish, to serve
Fresh coriander (cilantro), to serve
10 white corn tortillas, to serve (mine are from El Cielo)

Score the thick pork skin with a very sharp knife, in rows. Don’t cut all the way down to the meat – about 5mm (.2″) deep is perfect. Brush the skin all over with the oil, and sprinkle with salt.
Mix the orange juice, cumin, cinnamon and paprika together and pour into the bottom of a shallow, heavy baking pan. Pop the pork piece on top. Brush the marinade up the sides of the pork. Don’t brush the skin, as it should remain dry.
Note: if you’re using a baking dish that’s tricky to clean, you may wish to line it with a couple of layers of foil.
Allow the pork to marinate, uncovered, for at least 4 hours, or overnight. Keeping it uncovered allows the skin to remain nice and dry which is a must for good crackling.
Preheat oven to 250°C (480ºF).
Roast the marinated pork belly for 30 minutes.
Turn the oven down to 150°C (300ºF) and roast for a further 3 hours, until skin is golden and crispy. With 30 minutes of cooking time remaining, place the oiled corn cobs in the oven on a separate small tray, and roast together with the pork, turning once after 15 minutes. Total cooking time is 3½ hours.
♦ Remove the corn cobs and reserve both for the mixed rice salad.
Remove the pork from the oven and allow to rest, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
To serve, remove the crispy crackling from the top and break into pieces. Pull the pork belly apart with two forks.
♦ Reserve 1–2 cups (as much as you can spare) cooked pork for the mixed rice salad.
Serve the remaining pork belly with warmed tortillas and pineapple ginger relish, scattered with coriander. Serve the crackling on the side.

  • Reserved cooked pork can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 3 days.
  • Fussy kid tip: my boys loved their pork tacos with fresh guacamole instead of the pineapple relish. I served them a bowl of fresh pineapple on the side.
  • When using coriander (cilantro) leaves, freeze the white roots. They’re great for adding to home-made stock, or pounding into a paste for flavouring curries and stews such as Black bean, coconut and fish stew. Strip the tiny ‘hairy’ roots off before using.

Mixed rice salad with pork and peanuts

[Recipe 2] Mixed rice salad with pulled pork, lime and peanuts

Ingredients (serves 6):
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red (purple/Spanish) onion, finely chopped
2 cups (450g pack) gluten-free RicePlus, uncooked
♦ 2 reserved roasted corn cobs, kernels removed with a sharp knife
1–2 cups reserved cooked pork belly, chopped
Sea salt

1 cup coriander (cilantro), chopped
1 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
60g roasted peanuts, chopped, to serve
Lime and ginger dressing:
2 limes, juiced and zested (⅓ cup juice)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon honey, warmed slightly
1 teaspoon dried red chilli flakes
1 heaped tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and fry the onion over a medium heat for 3 minutes, until just soft.
Add the Rice Plus and 4 cups of water to the saucepan and bring to the boil. Turn down heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to rest for 10 minutes (this will help any excess liquid to be absorbed).
♦ Add reserved roast corn kernels and reserved pork. Season well with salt.
(At this stage you may like to decant some of the undressed salad to serve to kids – see tip below).
Make dressing by combining ingredients in a screw-top jar. Shake until combined. Pour dressing over salad and toss gently. Add coriander and parsley and serve, scattered with chopped peanuts.
Serve at room temperature.

  • Fussy kid tip: For 2 kids, remove 2 cups of the rice salad before you add the dressing, coriander and parsley. You can serve it with reserved pork, but if you wish to keep the pork all to yourselves (bwahahaha – evil laugh); do as I do and stir a small, drained can of tuna in olive oil through the rice salad. Both my boys love this. A classic tuna, corn and rice salad! It’s equally nice made with leftover chopped roast chicken too. My 6-year old adds a huge slosh of tomato sauce (ketchup) to his, and the 10-year old stirs through some mayo.


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Texan-style pulled pork is one of our favourite, er, pig-outs. It’s totally lip-smackin’, and goes down beautifully with caramelised apples and a glass of cider. My boys just love it. You’ll need to whip up a batch of my home-made kick-arse BBQ sauce to cook the pork in – it’s lovely and tangy, with a bit of bite; and is super easy to make. It yields a large quantity of sauce and it freezes well, so you can make these recipes again at a later date.
The pork is slow-cooked for at least 4 hours, so it’s most definitely a weekend meal. Reserve half the pulled pork, and some of the BBQ sauce though; and you can serve up amazing Pork po’boys with apple slaw as a second meal in no time.
Po’boys are traditional Louisiana-style submarines stuffed with any type of warm meat or fish (chicken, roast beef, shrimp, oysters, crab, fried catfish or… pulled pork). They’re always dressed with salad and we love stuffing ours with apple slaw – can’t have pork without apple 😉
The key to a perfect po’boy is the bread – it must be crusty with a soft centre. The long white rolls sold at Vietnamese bakeries fit the description perfectly.
There are countless theories as to the origin of the term po’boy, but the most widely-accepted story (which I discovered here) is that they were invented by Clovis and Benjamin Martin, brothers and former streetcar drivers who opened a restaurant on St. Claude Avenue in New Orleans in the 1920s. When streetcar drivers went on strike in 1929, the brothers took up their cause and created an inexpensive sandwich of gravy and spare bits of roast beef on French bread that they’d serve the unemployed workers from the rear of their restaurant. When a worker came to get one, a cry would go up in the kitchen: ‘here comes another poor boy!’ The name was transferred to the sandwiches, which eventually became known as ‘po-boys’.
Gawd, all this talk of 1920s America has reminded me of Boardwalk Empire. Season 3 starts in 8 days. Not that I’m counting sleeps or anything…
Ciao for now.

Pulled pork with caramelised apples. One Equals Two.Pulled pork with caramelised apples and BBQ sauce. One Equals Two.[Recipe 1] Pulled pork with BBQ sauce and caramelised apples

Ingredients (serves 4 for 2 meals):
1.75 kilo (3.8 lb) piece free-range boned pork neck (pork scotch fillet)
1 cup home-made BBQ sauce, plus extra to serve
Caramelised (caramelized) apples:
2 tablespoons (30g) butter
2 large green apples, cut into eighths
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon verjuice (verjus)*

Preheat oven to 150°C (300ºF).
Place pork into a small, close-fitting, ovenproof pot.
Add 1 cup of cold water to the home-made BBQ sauce and stir well. Pour over the pork piece. Cook, covered, for 4–5 hours, basting with the marinade once every hour, until the pork is very tender. Test to see whether pork is tender after 4 hours. If not, return to the oven for a further 30 minutes and check again.
Meanwhile, make the caramelised apples. Melt butter in a heavy-based frying pan. Add apples and brown sugar. Cook, covered, over a medium-high heat until the apple is golden brown and caramelised, about 8 minutes. Reduce heat and stir in verjuice. Simmer for 1 to 2 minutes on high, uncovered, stirring constantly. Remove pan from heat and set aside. Apples can be warmed when pork is ready to serve.
Remove pork from pot, place on a board and allow to rest, completely covered with foil, for 15 minutes.
♦ Reserve ½ cup pan juices for the Pork po’boys with apple slaw.
Discard remaining pan juices. With two forks, pull the meat apart into shreds.
Reserve half of the pulled pork (about 2–3 cups) for the Pork po’boys with apple slaw.
Pile remaining pork onto a large platter. Place warmed caramelised apples and extra BBQ sauce into serving bowls, and allow everyone to help themselves. Yummo.

  • *Verjuice (or verjus) is made from the juice of unfermented grapes. The wonderful Maggie Beer, Australian cook and writer, has been producing verjuice since 1984. Hers is available world-wide, in large supermarkets and specialty food stores. If unavailable, replace with apple cider vinegar or white balsamic vinegar.
  • Reserved pulled pork can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.
  • Fussy kid tip: I peel a couple of the caramelised apples and puree them for my boys – pulled pork and apple sauce! Yum.

Apple slaw. One Equals Two.Pulled Pork Poboys. One Equals Two.

[Recipe 2] Pork po’boys with apple slaw

Ingredients (serves 4):
4 crusty French bread rolls, split lengthways
2–3 cups reserved pulled pork + ½ cup reserved cooking juices (see recipe 1)
Apple slaw, to serve
1 cup home-made BBQ sauce

Cut through bread rolls.
♦ Lightly warm the reserved pulled pork. This can be done carefully in a small covered saucepan, or in the microwave (drizzle with the reserved cooking juices, cover with cling film, and microwave on high for 1–2 minutes). Don’t make it too hot!
Stuff the bread rolls with the warmed pulled pork.
Add apple slaw and drizzle with home-made BBQ sauce. Serve immediately.

  • Fussy kid tip: My 5-year old isn’t too keen on coleslaw so I serve his po’boy with avocado, grated carrot and tomato sauce (ketchup). We polish off the leftover coleslaw for lunch at work, with sliced poached chicken stirred through.