Recipe: Pulled ‘Pork’ with Jack-fruit

What’s large, green, and roughly the size of a child? If you’re a bit of a know-it-all like me, chances are you would have answered durian. But it’s not – the answer is jack-fruit. Hailed as drought and pest resistant super crop, the Guardian thinks we’ll soon be seeing a lot more of jack-fruit on both vegetarian and omnivore menus  alike.

Jackfruit on the tree

Having been a veggie for nearly ten years now, I have to admit I haven’t been very adventurous beyond the old cheese and pasta combination. Until recently. A large part of that has been living in wonderful London where interesting ingredients on the whole are much more widely available than in New Zealand (check out souschef.co.uk for a literal taster), and partly working on a few adventurous food brands such as Lurpak, which prided itself on being a go-to for creative cooks, and Magimix, which is an amazing set of whizzy kitchen appliances.

It was with a sense of trepidation I picked up some jack-fruit cans in my local Asian supermarket (Longdan Express, in Shoreditch). You can buy it fresh locally, I’ve heard Brixton Market has it, but I wasn’t fussed.

Jackfruit

Pulled Jack-fruit – adapted from Club Mexicana’s recipe

  • 1 tsp chilies, finely chopped – I used Very Lazy chopped red chilies to save myself time/money on an ingredient I don’t use very often!
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped – again, I used Very Lazy chopped garlic. 1 tsp = 1 clove
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 0.25 tsp cayenne
  • 250ml tomato sauce
  • Juice of two limes
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 tins of jack-fruit in brine (this is still quite an epic feast)
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard

Fry the garlic & chilies in oil for a minute in a saucepan. Add all the spices, stir and cook until fragrant. Add tomato sauce, lime juice and brown sugar. Stir until all the sugar has melted. Partially cover and keep cooking on a low heat until sauce has thickened to the consistency of ketchup.

Drain and thoroughly rinse the tinned jack-fruit. It is quite creepy if you’re not used to meat as it feels rather fleshy! Use your hands to tear the strands of jack-fruit apart – it will certainly start to feel meat-like (kind of reminds me of tuna?)

The jack-fruit does have a harder core, much like a pineapple, so take a knife to these pieces if needed. Also, the seeds are large and a little slimy, you can flick these out with a knife if you so wish.

Heat oil in a fresh pan and add the pulled jack-fruit. Cook until “it gets a bit grey and loses some moisture.” Add the Dijon mustard and stir in.

Pro tip: Always use a wooden or plastic spoon when you’re handling mustard… Mustard has the power to corrode metal spoon, which can play with the flavours.

Pulled Jackfruit

Add about half the BBQ sauce (more if you want a very sticky dish) and stir in to coat. Cook until it’s almost starting to get a little crispy and sticking to the pan a little. If it’s sticking a lot, feel free to add a dash of water and keep it moving.

Serve as you would normally enjoy some hot pulled pork (or not!) – in tacos, in a sweet burrito wrap, stacked with guac, slathered in sour cream. Whatever takes your fancy. Sadly no pictures of my final creation, but here is the pulled jack-fruit; which very nearly tricked the omnivores I fed it to!

Pulled Jackfruit

Kitchen diction

Let’s play a game of kitchenary… and demystify some of the language of food.  Despite my love of food and great hoard of cookbooks, some terms still escape me. Especially when I’m sat looking at a menu for 3.5 seconds while a waiter huffs down at me – I go blank and feel kind of dumb.

But as they say, knowledge is power and I’m taking the power back! These a few of the mysteries I unravelled over a meal with friends at Beagle, Hoxton on Saturday night:

chanterelles

GIROLLES: Small and fragrant, these golden mushrooms are also known as chanterelles. They have an ‘almost fruity and quite peppery’ taste, and are wonderful enjoyed simply sautéed and on toast. You’ll find them fresh between June and October in Europe- so they’re at their best now.

GNUDI: This is a fun one to say. Partnered with the girolles in a sage butter sauce, gnudi are a close cousin of gnocchi. However, you’ll find these dumplings are simply made with flour and ricotta. This undoubtedly will be making an appearance in my kitchen soon, as they were utterly delectable.

PERROCHE: A soft white fresh goat cheese, with a subtle lemony taste. I had this with a light summer veg salad, including freshly podded peas – however it looks like broadbeans and artichokes are also exceptional partners.

VICHYSSOISE: If vichy means water in French, vichyssoise is the feminine. In cooking, this usually translates to a thick soup made of puréed leeks, onions, potatoes, cream, and chicken stock. At Beagle, they serve theirs with watercress and buttermilk, which sounds light and delicious – but I am yet to try it.

Wild foods: Blackberry pickle

Hackney wilds

I am a hunter-gatherer at heart. I love looking back on my wild, tangled childhood, when I spent hours combing the beach for seaweed, following my grandmother out to her whitebait spot, or following my Mum on a wild mushroom and freesia hunt. There’s something to be said for making something beautiful and tasty for free. However, I don’t really know that much about British flora and fauna. So when I spotted the opportunity to learn about foraging at the Tower Hamlets Cemetry Park, I leapt at the chance.

A group of seven of us learned about everything from Fat Hen, a spinach-like weed often found on cultivated land, to wild fennel, juniper berries – which take two years to ripen! There was also an opportunity to check out the very poisonous deadly nightshade in the flesh, and I was also ‘lucky’ enough to experience my very first nettle sting. No one in the group could believe I’d never met a nettle before!

Blackberries

One of the highlights of the day for me was the chance to indulge in a British classic, blackberry picking. Blackberries can be found in hedgerows (and surprisingly, urban Hoxton) from July to October. We got stuck into picking from a large thorny patch on the edge of a park, right by the railway. It’s a good idea to actually taste as you pick, as the flavour profile of berries can vary from plant to plant. It took a while to nip and pluck all the berries, leaving my arms looking  they’d been attacked by an army of kittens, but we enjoyed a decent haul. Terry also told us that you can buy thorn-less plants now – definitely an idea for the garden!

Box of berries

There you have it, 1.5kg of wild blackberries, ready to be turned into a tasty blackberry pickle, which we made back at HQ. Terry says he chose this recipe as it’s unusual to see a savoury take on a famous preserve:

PICKLED BLACKBERRIES
{
From Rosamond Richardson’s book Hedgerow Cookery (pictured below)}

Ingredients

  • 500g sugar
  • 300ml vinegar
  • 1tsp allspice
  • 1tsp cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1kg blackberries

Method

Dissolve the sugar in the vinegar over a gentle heat. Put the spices in a muslin bag, and put them in to simmer for several minutes. Add the blackberries and cook for between 10 and 15 minutes. Remove the spices, pack the blackberries into hot jars, and then boil the vinegar down until it turns syrupy. Cover the blackberries with the vinegar, and seal the jars.

These pickled blackberries are delicious with bread or served with crackers and a nice and squidgy cheese like brie (it works best with creamy flavours).

Hedgerow cookery

Empty jars

Red onion jam

When life gives you 5kg of onions on a chilly Sunday afternoon, what do you do? Make red onion jam, of course!

Take 8 red onions, peel and dice them. Put onion into a large, thick-bottomed pot (the thick bottom distributes heat more evenly – I use my £8 Le Crueset saucepan). Add two fistfuls of juicy golden sultanas, and a few slugs of balsamic vinegar. Add two cups of sugar, then pour 2/3 of a bottle of cheap red wine over the mixture. Season with rock salt and freshly cracked pepper, for luck.

Heat the pot on a high heat until the mixture is boiling, then turn down to a simmer. Then you wait. It might take up to two hours, but aside from the occasional stir, leave the mixture to reduce. The sultanas will be plump with wine; the onion will become a sticky sweet mess. You’ll have a thick, syrupy jam – which goes well with almost everything, but is particularly good slathered on a slab of blue cheese, and eaten between two pieces of toasted bread.

Cook the books

I scored these two very shiny and pretty cookbooks for a fiver at Oxfam Dalston:

Cookbooks

Heston’s Fantastical Feasts by Heston Blumenthal, and Creole by Babette de Rozières. I bought the Blumenthal book mostly because it has instructions on how to make lickable wallpaper, a la Willy Wonka. But I am more excited about the Creole book, described as a “colourful and sumptuous celebration of West Indian Creole cooking”.

Vegetables of the West Indies

Rice with Beans

Coconut flan

Just a bit of a preview before adding the to the towering pile of books next to my bed – aren’t the pictures luscious? Can’t wait to make some of the sweet dishes from the Creole book, like coconut flans with caramel, and try some traditional Guadeloupean ti’punch – a white rum and lime mix.

Currently Reading (And Listening To)

I  am on a real foodie kick at the moment! I just – belatedly – finished the last few pages of Gabrielle Hamilton’s Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef (which was very good, my tardiness wasn’t a reflection of the book’s quality at all), and have spent many happy hours leafing through the The Flavour Thesaurus for cooking inspiration. And now Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain.

Anthony Bourdain

I’ve been hearing for years that Anthony Bourdain is a bit of a badass, and then a copy of Kitchen Confidential showed up in my Christmas stocking. Funnily enough the parts I’m enjoying thus far, are those moments from a softer time:

My brother and I were reasonably happy here. The beaches were warm, there were lizards to hunt down and exterminate with readily available pétards, firecrackers, which one could buy legally (!) over-the-counter. There was a forest within walking distance where an actual hermit lived, and my brother and I spent hours there, spying on him from the underbrush. By now I could read comic books in French and, of course, I was eating – really eating. Murky brown soupe de poisson, tomato salad, moules marinières, poulet basquaise (we were only a few miles from the Basque country). We made day trips to Cap Ferret, a wild, deserted and breathtakingly magnificent Atlantic beach with big rolling waves, taking along baguettes and saucissons and wheels of cheese, wine and Evian (bottled water was at that time unheard of back home).

A few miles west was Lac Cazeaux, a fresh-water lake where my brother and I could rent pédalo watercraft. We ate gaufres, delicious hot waffles, covered in whipped cream and powdered sugar. The two hot songs of that summer on the Cazeaux jukebox were Whiter Shade Of Pale by Procol Harum and These Boots Were Made For Walkin’ by Nancy Sinatra. The French played those two songs over and over again, the music punctuated by the sonic booms from French air force jets that would swoop over the lake on their way to a nearby bombing range.

There’s something about food & music isn’t there? The two seem inexplicably linked. Laura Vincent of Hungry & Frozen always lovingly lists her current sounds, and Turntable Kitchen matches recipes with records. How does Tame Impala with creamy couscous sound? I think they’ll even post you out a pack of ingredients with a song to match.

Music while dining matters too. I read an interesting article on the sometimes inspired, sometimes insipid music choices of restaurants and pubs and how they shape the experience.

Likewise, last night’s Mexican feast at Thor and Liv’s place probably would have had an entirely different atmosphere if we weren’t stuffing our faces to the sweet tunes of Mariachi El Bronx. (By the way, thinly sliced green apple, dressed with fresh lime and Swedish black salt is incredible. Think of that if you listen to the Mariachi song.)

What do you like to listen to when you’re eating, cooking, or dreaming of food?

Christmas Time, Mistletoe, Wine, Russian Fudge

making fudge

This Christmas I was feeling rather lonely and discombobulated, without my favourite people. It’s all a bit strange to me, you see, the cold weather, the piping hot fruit mince pies, the grey skies and the duck boots. Plus Thom and I moved into a big empty flat on December 21st, and I was busy finishing up at work. So no tinsel or trees for us. I was almost sniffling when I thought about what I’d be missing out on. Summer. Crickets and cicadas. A cool strawberry daiquiri or five. Sandy beach towels. Endless sunshine. Fudge.

You see, every year in late December, I team up with my siblings or my mum to spend a day making fudge. It’s one of my family’s holiday traditions to make mountains of sugary treats, and distribute them to call our friends and whanau. Sometimes there’s pink and white coconut ice, and sometimes there’s chocolate slices, but there is always Russian Fudge, delicious and golden.

But here I was, stuck on the other-side of the planet. What I wouldn’t I have given to sit in the kitchen at Omaha, listening to it on repeat and argue with my sister?  I would have happily listened to the awful Christmas CD my mum has been thrashing since 1992. Usually the cloying renditions of Feliz Navidad! et al makes my right eye twitch, but even the thought of it was making me dreadfully homesick.

On Christmas Eve Eve, on a last-minute trip to a department store to pick up more presents, we stopped by the kitchen-department. After extensive consultation and comparison, Thom decided to buy me a hand mixer. And after he left for work that night, I found myself on a mission.

Despite never making it alone, nor having my family was not here to gorge on the results, I decided to give myself a pep talk and make some Russian Fudge. For tradition’s sake. In our tiny local Tesco, I spent half an hour scanning the aisles for Golden Syrup and wondering if England even had it. Eventually I found it, and rushed home, gleefully. Soon enough, I had toffee boiling on stove and was sneaking a spoonful of sickly condensed milk. Then I started beating the fudge into reluctant submission, and the smell of a straining motor filled the kitchen… and  it finally felt like Christmas!

Russian Fudge

{from the Edmonds Cookery Book}

3 1/2 cups sugar
125g butter
3 Tbsp Golden Syrup
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt
200g sweetened condensed milk (half a standard tin)
2 tsp vanilla essence 

Put all ingredients, apart from vanilla essence, in a pot and bring to the boil stirring all the time. Boil for roughly 20 minutes, still stirring all the time. In a bowl of cold water drop a little of the fudge mixture (test throughout the 20 mins of boiling), when it is at the soft ball stage (your drop forms a small ball on contact with water) remove from heat. Add vanilla essence and beat with an electric beater for about 10 minutes until you can see it starting to set. Pour into greased tin and place in fridge to cool and set.

It’s funny how scent triggers the heart of our memory system. I found the “Christmas Spirit”, courtesy of burning sugar and electrics. I also realised that while I may not have all my loved ones around me, I certainly am not alone (buying your girlfriend a beater = A+++), and that while I may not have sun, sand and warm temperatures, I can still bring a bit of my tradition to the Northern Hemisphere.

I hope you had a lovely holiday, and will enjoy a fantastic New Year, wherever you are.

Soup kitchen

Perhaps one of the signs of a great party is no photos. If so, this little dinner party I hosted last week, a “soup kitchen”, was one of the best. I have only have two snaps to mark an evening defined by big pots of soup, simmering gently on the stove. Thank you to my beautiful friends for supplying: cheap vino for the mulled wine, bread for dunking and great conversation.

If it’s the middle of winter and you’re out to feed a crowd, there is no better path to follow than the way of the soup. I made a creamy cauliflower and potato, and a vegan ‘French’ onion soup (it turns out golden syrup is a good replacement for the more ‘spensy Maple Syrup).

Soup Kitchen

Cauliflower and potato soup

{Adapted from Cuisine magazine}

100g unsalted butter
1 large brown onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
4 large potatoes, peeled and diced
1 litre vegetable stock
salt & pepper to taste
3-4 tablespoons Dijon or whole grain mustard
100ml cream

Melt the butter in a large saucepan, then add the onion and garlic. Fry until translucent. Add the cauliflower and potatoes. Pour in the stock and milk. Cover, bring to a gentle simmer and cook until the potato is tender. Optional: a few splashes of white wine. When the vegetables are cooked, remove from the liquid, purée with salt to taste and the mustard. Return to the saucepan and bring back to heat, stirring gently. Serve with cheesy toasted bread for best results.

Yield: 4 servings

 

Currently reading

Blood Bones & Butter - Gabrielle Hamilton

I love good writing about food, and Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chefby Gabrielle Hamilton ticks all the boxes. Hamilton is not only the chef/owner of Prune restaurant in New York’s East Village, she also has an MFA in fiction writing from the University of Michigan.

“I wanted a place with a Velvet Underground CD that made you nod your head and feel warm with recognition. I wanted the lettuce and the eggs at room temperature … I wanted the tarnished silverware and chipped wedding china from a paladar in Havana, and the canned sardines I ate in that little apartment on Twenty-Ninth Street. The marrow bones my mother made us eat as kids that I grew to crave as an adult. We would have brown butcher paper on the tables, not linen tablecloths, and when you finished your meal, the server would just pull the pen from behind her ear and scribble the bill directly on the paper like [the waitresses in France] had done. We would use jelly jars for wine glasses. There would be no foam and no ‘conceptual’ or ‘intellectual’ food; just the salty, sweet, starchy, brothy, crispy things that one craves when one is actually hungry.”

100s & 1000s Of Calories

Dearest Frankie Magazine has just emailed me to announce the release of their latest recipe book, Sweet Treats.

sweet treats is a nostalgic collection of 39 indulgent recipes from a time gone by. Delicacies range from peanut brittle, honeycomb and mint patties to caramel fudge, lollipops and coconut marshmallows. Each treat evokes memories of tuckshop lines and fete cake stalls. It will delight anyone with a sweet tooth!

I own their first book, Afternoon Tea (as does everyone in the house, it seems to live permanently on our kitchen table), so I’m really excited to check this compendium of sugar out. If the recipes are half as good as the styling…

[click the images for full-sized, readable recipes]

HOW AMAZING ARE THE CANDY HEARTS?! Could they be my new business cards? Or just favours to hand out to sexy strangers and the already beloved.

Things mine would probably say:

  • “You’re a hot babe”,
  • “Can I show you my narwhal?”,
  • “Totes rad”,
  • “Mega number one dreamboat”
  • “Vodka and soda, please”…

Typical. Anyway, Sweet Treats for the win!