Monday, 12 September 2016

Slow Cooker Cassoulet with Belly Pork

As summer comes to an end and we become firmly entrenched in autumn, the time of light meals and salads also finishes. We're back into hearty meals territory, and for this reason i've dusted off the slow cooker.  You can also cook this in the oven with a casserole dish, if you don't have a slow cooker. 

The fact that we're in the post-summer months, you may be having to tighten the purse strings a bit as well, so this should sort you out! 

Cassoulet is cheap, simple to make and hearty. I've gone through my reciept from Aldi and all the main ingredients come to £6 or less. For this recipe, i'm using the cheapest cut of meat you can buy - belly pork. It's pretty fatty and chewy, so most people tend to avoid it. However you can easily trim the fat, and slow cooking belly pork makes it wonderfully tender. 

As always, you don't have to use belly pork. Another recommendation would be boned, skinless chicken thigh and some bacon lardons, or cubed beef/lamb. As for the vegetables, you can bulk out a cassoulet however you like, use whatever quantity of tomatoes, onions or beans you prefer - what i've used here is merely a guideline.

You will need the following ingredients:

1kg Belly Pork Slices
2 Cans of Chopped Tomatoes
1 Can of Mixed Beans
1 Yellow or White Onion
6 Cloves of Garlic or Garlic Paste
Olive Oil
Chicken Stock Cube

Utensils Needed:

Large Non-Stick Frying Pan
Wooden Chopping Board
Chef's Knife
Wooden Spoon
Slow Cooker or Oven-Proof Casserole Dish

Unless you're using the oven to make this, with a casserole dish, there's no need to pre-heat anything. If you are however using the oven, pre-heat it to Gas Mark 2 (300° Fahrenheit / 150° Celsius). 

First, take the belly pork slices, trim the extraneous fat from the outside. You can either render this for lard, or discard it. Dice the pork into large chunks. 

Add to the frying pan with a drizzle of olive oil, a heaped spoon of garlic paste, or three cloves of chopped/sliced garlic, and a dusting of thyme. 

Brown for around 15 minutes on a high heat, and you should end up with something that looks like this:

Once it's browned off, put the pork into the slow cooker.

Next, slice the onion thinly as you can and add to the frying pan with a touch of olive oil, the remainder of the garlic cloves, or another heaped spoon of garlic paste, plus thyme and a good grind of salt. 

Sauté for at least 10 minutes on a medium heat, until they're soft & translucent. Try not to caramelise them too much, you don't want burnt edges!

While the onions are sauteeing, take the stock cube, put it in a small bowl and add just enough boiling water to cover it. Break it up with a fork and stir until it's a very concentrated broth. 

Add to the sautéed onions and turn the heat up to start it simmering. Keep stirring throughout. 

At this stage add your cans of tomatoes, and the beans. Make sure you drain and rinse the beans before adding them to the pan. Bring to a simmer for around 5 minutes, stirring regularly. 

Turn off the heat and then add the tomatoes, beans & onions to the slow cooker. Stir through so the pork isn't sitting at the bottom, and turn the slow cooker on. It'll be ready to eat in about an hour, but the rule of slow cooking in general is the longer you cook it, the better it'll taste. I typically do mine for at least 6 hours on the 'high' setting, then turn down to 'low' for another hour.

By which point, the pork is deliciously tender and will fall apart if a spoon even approaches it. Ideal serving suggestion? A spoon! :D

Seriously though, you can serve with whatever you fancy, but often just a nice slice of farmhouse bread and butter is enough, as the cassoulet is pretty filling. 


Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Beef Enchilada's

Okay, if you're hungry, Mexican food will definitely fill you up. Forget that 'Old El Paso' crap you see on the shelves in the supermarket - this is the real deal, from scratch (as much as possible).

Now, this is a fair warning - this recipe will feed FOUR people, so please bear this in mind and scale up or down accordingly. As with my other recipes - if you don't eat beef, you can use lamb, turkey or pork mince - even diced chicken if you like, it's entirely up to you.

You will need the following ingredients:

750g / 1.65 lb of Lean Minced Beef
1 Can Pinto Beans
1 Can Black Eye Beans
1 Can Chopped Tomato's
1 Green Bell Pepper
1 Red Bell Pepper
1 Red Onion
200g / 7 oz of Fresh Coriander
Ground Cumin
Smoked Paprika
Cayenne Pepper (optional)
Tomato Puree
Garlic Puree or 6 Garlic Cloves, crushed & chopped.
3 OXO Cubes
50g Butter
2 Tablespoons of Plain White Flour
600g / 1.3 lb of Grated Cheese of your Choice
Olive Oil
Semi-Skimmed Milk
8 pack of Tortilla wraps.

Utensils Needed:

Large Non-Stick Frying Pan or Large Non-Stick Saucepan
Medium Non-Stick Saucepan
Oven Roasting Tray
Wooden Chopping Board
Chef's Knife
Wooden Spoons

Preheat your oven to Gas Mark 4 (350° Fahrenheit / 180° Celsius).

First, you'll want to chop all the vegetables, and the coriander. Chop the onions especially fine if you can, or use a food processor to make this part easy. Remove the stems from the coriander and finely shred the remaining leaves. Fry off the coriander and onion with the garlic puree in some olive oil.

I've used a large, flat pan to do this - the quantity will require a sizeable pan. If you don't have a suitable frying pan, use a saucepan instead.

Next, add the diced green bell pepper and sautee until soft. 

At this point you want to add the minced beef and brown it off with the OXO cubes. This will take a while even on a high heat. If you're using a substitute such as lamb or turkey mince, be aware that you'll end up with more moisture or fat depending on which you use, so you may have to strain some of the excess off with a spoon. If you can't get OXO cubes, any powdered beef stock should do - 1 tablespoon worth, roughly.

For the spices, it's entirely down to personal taste. I like my Mexican food fairly spicy, so i add a half teaspoon of cayenne pepper and two heaped teaspoons of smoked paprika. Cumin however, gets the largest helping in this process as it's the primary aromatic - you want at least 4 teaspoons of ground cumin. Mix through thoroughly. 

Strain both cans of beans and give them a quick wash in cold water, before adding them to the pan and mixing through. Leave to cook for at LEAST 15 minutes at this point, stirring regularly.

Afterwards, add your can of chopped tomatoes and a tablespoon of tomato puree. If it thickens too much, add a little water. Likewise, if it's too thin, add more tomato puree.

Leave on a low heat to simmer - if you lack the stove space for this and another pan, it's alright, no need to panic! Just take it off the heat & leave on one side - you can re-heat this later on.

For the cheese sauce, you want to start off with melted butter in a non-stick pan.

Now add the flour, a teaspoonful at a time, making sure to stir constantly, so as to eliminate any lumps.

Once it's turned into a smooth, but thick paste, add 400g of the grated cheese in small handfuls...

...and add milk, a little at a time. Again - stir through until all the cheese has been used up. You'll want to make a slightly thinner sauce, as it'll thicken on standing.

You should end up with a velvety smooth cheese sauce.

Now to the construction phase! Place your oven roaster to one side, close to the board, with the enchilada filling on the other, with the tortilla's on the board. I find that it helps to prick a few holes in the tortilla package and microwave for about 30 seconds to warm them up, making them easier to roll.

Take a heaped serving spoon of the filling, and place in a line in the middle of the tortilla wrap. Roll the tortilla by folding the bottom edge up, around the filling, and continue rolling.

If you roll them one at a time and place them in the roasting tin, it's easier than rolling them all in one go and then placing them. Once they're all in, pour the cheese sauce over the top, trying to cover them all, and sprinkle the remaining 200g of grated cheese on top.

Put in the oven for approximately 20 to 25 minutes, until the cheese on top is bubbling away nicely and browning slightly. Serve with Guacamole (recipe from July 2014) and Sour Cream. Works nicely alongside the Salsa (also from July 2014). Now, i know some people serve this with Mexican rice as well, but i have yet to meet anyone who can eat TWO of these and still have room for rice as well!

Now go forth and enjoy your Mexican food! :D