Carne en salsa – Pork with peppers and potatoes

In Andalucía many restaurants will offer, as part of their menu, a dish called “carne en salsa”. Literally translated this is “meat in sauce”. In Andalucía this will be, pretty much without exception, pork. The dish will be served as a tapa in tiny terracotta dishes with a small piece of crusty bread, or you can order a media ración  (a half portion) or a ración  (a full portion). Full and half portions would most likely be served with chips (fries) or perhaps potatoes or rice and main dishes are usually shared with several different dishes ordered and everyone digging in.

20161122_101413

This is a loose interpretation of the dish, it wouldn’t usually have potatoes or chorizo included when it’s cooked, so leave them out if you want to be more authentic. If you have an earthenware dish to cook it in, go for it. The gentle cooking in these pots does something good special to the flavour. I used my slow cooker (then warmed it through in my Cazuela to serve), but this can be cooked on the stovetop or in the oven if you prefer.

Ingredients (to serve 4-6 as a main course)

  • 1kg pork shoulder diced into bite sized cubes
  • 2 fresh chorizo sausages, sliced
  • About 500g potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 2 peppers (any colour) diced
  • 400g tinned tomatoes
  • A pinch of saffron threads or half a teaspoon of turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon of sweet pimentón
  • ½ teaspoon of hot pimentón  (optional)
  • About 10 sprigs of thyme and a bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 large tablespoons of tomato purée
  • A glass of red or white wine (about 125ml)
  • A good slug of dry sherry (optional)
  • 125ml approx of chicken stock (extra if you cook in a conventional oven or stovetop)
  • 2 heaped teaspoons of cornflour  (optional)
  • Flat leaf parsley, finely chopped, to garnish

Put the pork, chorizo, potato, onion, garlic, pepper, tomatoes, saffron (or turmeric), pimentón,  thyme and bay leaf into your cooking pot or slow cooker. Season with the salt and pepper and mix.

Mix the tomato purée with the wine, stock and sherry and pour over the pork and vegetables. In the slow cooker cook on  high for about 4 hours until the meat is very tender. On the stovetop bring to a gentle simmer and cook, half covered for about 2 hours or until the meat is tender for about 2 hours. Check frequently, you may need to add a little extra stock.  In the oven, cook at a medium low heat for about 3 hours, covered, until the meat is tender. Check every 45 minutes and add extra liquid if needed.

When you’re almost ready to serve, if the liquid is too runny for your liking, add two heaped teaspoons of cornflour to a little cold water and stir in. Return the dish to the heat for about 20 minutes (slow cooker or oven) and 5 minutes (stove top) until thickened. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary, garnish and serve with plenty of lovely crusty bread.

When life gives you pomegranates…

Big Man was born in the beautiful province of Granada. In Spanish, the word Granada means “pomegranate”. The capital city is decorated with many pomegranate symbols from stone bollards to metal work and even man hole covers. Just over the border where our little home is, in the province of Málaga we get to enjoy the real thing in the shape of fruit. The pomegranate plant (which grows into a sizeable tree) produces stunning red flowers, similar to a hibiscus, which then become the beautiful and delicious fruit.

20161114_194644

We’re pretty spoiled as when it’s pomegranate season many neighbours gift them to us. Huge,  beautiful, deep red on the outside, sweet, juicy and ruby coloured jewels on the inside. In England we have to buy them. Sometimes we get lucky and one or two of the little fruits will be sweet, but they’re never quite the same…or as big! You never know what a pomegranate is going to taste like until you get to taste it. And as for peeling a pomegranate…I’ve tried every new way.

20161114_175326

To make the most of a less than sweet fruit, I came across a wonderfully simple recipe using chicken and ras-el-hanout. The slightly acid taste works well with the warm, rose-scented spice. And I’m sharing with you another way to peel a pomegranate. Cutting it in half and bashing it has never worked for me. Usually I end up with a worktop covered in juice and the little pips of fruit stubbornly refusing to drop out. This method still involves a little work separating the pips but it does seem to make the whole job a little easier and much less messy.

20161114_175420

Ingredients (to serve 4 as a main course)

  • 8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs,  diced into bite sized pieces
  • 1 onion (red, if you have it) peeled and finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic peeled and sliced
  • 2 rounded tablespoons of ras-el-hanout
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 350g bulghar wheat
  • The fruit of a small pomegranate
  • About 2 tablespoons of finely chopped mint, to serve
  • Olive oil for frying

Toss the chicken in half the spice mix and fry in a little olive oil until beginning to brown. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and continue to fry gently until the onion becomes transparent. Add the remaining spice mix and season lightly. Fry for a minute then pour in the stock.

20161114_175609

Bring to a simmer and cook for about 25 minutes. Add the bulghar, stir, turn the heat off and cover the pan. Leave to stand for about 15 minutes when the stock will have been absorbed. Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary. Stir through the pomegranate and garnish with the fresh mint.

An easy dish with just a few ingredients. Unless you’re still doing battle with your pomegranate…

If you enjoy the challenge  of pomegranate peeling, take a look at this lovely recipe using lamb and quince. Note the difference in colour of the fruit in this recipe which was made with a pomegranate bought back from Spain compared to the one in the photos above!

Vegetarian Hot and Sour Soup

Much as I enjoy a blue fillet steak or a bacon sandwich,  there are times when it feels good to lay off the meat and enjoy meals without. This doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice flavour though.  Hot and Sour Soup is perfect for days like these. Filling, warming, and full of exciting flavours. If you want to add cooked chicken or prawns though,  go ahead. Extra vegetables? Go for it!

20161109_202020

This version was inspired by a recipe from a much used and favoured cookbook, Gok Cooks Chinese. Although my predictive text called him God. He’s good, but not quite THAT good!

Ingredients (to serve 4 generously)

  • 1.5 litres of light, unsalted vegetable stock or use water
  • 50g approx of mushrooms, sliced  (I used chestnut with a few shitake)
  • 1-2 fresh red chillis, finely sliced (or a teaspoon of dried chilli flakes) depending on  how hot you like your soup
  • 50ml light soy sauce
  • Approx 3 heaped tablespoons of thinly sliced bamboo shoots (I used tinned, drained bamboo)
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and very finely sliced then diced
  • 5cm piece of fresh ginger peeled and grated (or use frozen chopped ginger)
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and grated or crushed
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 4-6 tablespoons of rice vinegar  (to taste)
  • Optional 2 heaped teaspoons of cornflour dissolved in a little cold water
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Finely chopped spring onion or chives to serve

Bring the stock to a gentle boil and add the carrot. Simmer for about 5 minutes then add all the ingredients except the cornflour, vinegar,  egg and spring onion.

Simmer for about 10 minutes then gradually add the vinegar, tasting as you go until it reaches a level of sourness you enjoy.

If you prefer a slightly thickened soup, add two heaped teaspoons of cornflour to about 50mls of cold water and add to the simmering soup. Allow to thicken (this will take a minute or two).

Turn off the heat and add the egg, whisking as you do to create fine ribbons of cooked egg. Serve garnished with the finely sliced spring onion and marvel that it was quicker to prepare than ordering and waiting for a takeaway delivery.

(For a gluten free option use tamari instead of soy sauce and omit the cornflour).