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

Lazy lemon curd pudding

Lemon curd

This very simple sponge pudding is perfect for using up bits and pieces from around the kitchen, and saves you the five minute walk to the store when you’ve got a sugar craving. Lemony? Check. Lazy? CHECK!

Lazy lemon curd pudding

50g melted butter
50g caster sugar
50g self raising flour (if you have plain flour, add half a tsp. of baking powder)
1  egg, beaten
2 Tbsp. milk
Tbsp. of lemon curd

In a medium bowl, melt the butter. Let it cool a tiny bit, then mix in the egg and milk gradually. Fold in the flour gently. Put 2 hearty tablespoons of lemon curd and a sprinkling of frozen berries in the bottom of microwave-safe bowl. Pour over the batter. Cover, and cook for 3 – 4 minutes on full power, or until the pudding appears set when gently jiggled, and the top is sticky (you might need to check it a couple of times). Serve hot.

Yield: Perfect for two greedy people, or three responsible and moderate individuals.

Oh my crumble: recipe

Pear & Blueberry Crumble

I’ve covered crumbles previously, with Leon’s lovely recipe, and with the weather changing from autumn into a definitively wintry vibe, I thought it was high time I baked one again.

It was Mark Bittman who said “There’s nothing you can do with an apple that you can’t do with a pear.”, and with a clutch of slightly elderly pears on hand, it was time to road test them in a crumble. Oats stop the topping being a total flour-fest (which I find to be rather lumpy sometimes) and give it a crunchier texture.

Pear & Blueberry Crumble

For the pear filling:
6-8 pears (of any variety) – or one tin of pears in juice
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
¼ cup of water – or simply the juice, if using tinned pears

Handful of frozen blueberries

For the crumble:
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup of rolled oats
1 cup of cubed, room temperature butter
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp ginger – optional

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.

Peel and core the pears, chopping the flesh into large chunks. Heat in a saucepan with brown sugar and a little water until you reach the desired consistency – softened but still solid. At the last-minute, stir in your frozen berries, and take your pan off the heat, and leave to one side.

In another bowl, rub the butter together with flour, oats, sugar and cinnamon to make crumble. Cool hands are your best tool here – you want a rustic look, not fine breadcrumbs.

Put the filling mixture in an oven proof dish. Spoon the crumble mixture evenly on top, filling any gaps. Cook the crumble at 180C for about 40 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Serve warm, or at room temperature, with a helping of ice-cream or thick yoghurt (my housemates and I enjoyed it with passion-fruit flecked yoghurt, which was a winner).

Yield: 6 hearty servings

N.B. If you find yourself with too much crumble topping, put it in a Ziploc bag and freeze, you’ll be able to use it later, straight from frozen, for micro-crumbles (an earthenware cup of crumble for one!), or any other crumble emergencies you may face.

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.

Cranberry + orange

Cranberry and orange biscotti

I’m becoming a lot more domesticated in my advanced years! Biscotti, drizzled with milk chocolate, that I made last week for a charity bake off. While my chocolate drizzle was all over the show, and I didn’t win the Olly Murs tickets up for grabs (insert sarcastic sniff here), I was very happy with the flavour. The pairing of orange and cranberry is definitely my new jam. It’s very elegant, and feels quite right for autumn.

One day after making these, with leftover ingredients, I freestyled on a banana bread recipe – adding two handful of cranberries, orange zest, and using ricotta to replace the butter component. This twist was totally delish, as they say.

Orange and cranberry biscotti

1/2 cup softened butter
3/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon orange zest
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped dried cranberries
3/4 cup toasted and chopped almonds
Chocolate for melting (I always use buttons)

1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees °C

2. Cream together butter and sugar in a bowl. Beat in eggs. Stir in the orange zest and juice. Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon, stir into the creamed mixture; then add in the almonds and dried cranberries, making sure every piece is swamped with the cake mix.

3. On a generously floured surface, divide the dough in half. Roll each half into a log about 1 1/2 inches wide and 10 inches long. Set the rolls lengthwise on a baking sheet at least 3 inches apart, and shape.

4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the oven, until firm to the touch and slightly brown on the top.

5. Take out and cool for 10 to 15 minutes, then slice each log crosswise, at a diagonal, into 1/2 inch wide slices. Lay them cut side down on the baking tray and return to the oven for ten minutes, then turn them over and bake until golden.

6. If you are feeling fancy, wait for your biscotti to cool, then melt chocolate, and drizzle generously over the top. Put slices in the fridge to set for an hour.

Plum-cake

I love plums. The smell of them takes me back to being a kid running loose in my aunt and uncle’s orchard. My tribe of cousins and I were forever in trouble for climbing the trees and attempting to scoff all the fruit before it was ripe (hello tummy aches). We’d tear strips of fluffy lichen off the plum trees, and fashion them as beards, and attempt to feed plums to the ponies in the next paddock. These delicious, juicy little fruits are in season now and what better way to make the most of their abundance than by making plum-cake? This recipe/video by Thomas Blanchard is particularly tasty – I love the floating typography.

Biscotti

biscotti

This weekend’s baking adventure: chocolate and almond biscotti. It’s one of my favourite nibbles, but always seems too expensive to justify buying in cafes… so I decided to give it a go. To my surprise, it was really easy to make, even the part where I had to blanch a cup of almonds and pluck the skins off by hand.

The secret to biscotti’s crispness is double baking. Round one, you bake it in log form for 25 minutes, then take it out, rest it and slice it. The sliced biscotti are then put back in the oven for another 20 minutes to get nice and crunchy. The results were delicious – and even better the next day. I’m definitely going to make some more and experiment – pistachio and white chocolate sound good to me!

Recipe: Chickpeas, Spinach & Cauliflower Couscous

Every winter my body seems to go crazy – trying to hoard ALL of the sugary carbs. So this year I have made a concerted effort to eat more vegetables. This chickpeas, spinach, cauliflower, and couscous dish was just the ticket (and has no animal products too).  The original recipe called for raisins, which I detest, so I threw in a handful of dried cranberries instead. Yum.

Chickpeas, Spinach & Cauliflower Couscous

{Adapted from a Cinnamon Girl recipe}

A handful of almonds, preferably sliced
2 cups of cooked cauliflower florets
A can of chickpeas
1 cup of spinach
4 cloves of garlic
A handful of dried cranberries
1 small onion, diced
2 spring onions, diced
3 tablespoons of garam masala
Olive oil
3 cups of couscous

1. In a large skillet sauté onion in a glug of olive oil over medium-low heat until tender. Add garlic, sauté until fragrant. Add more olive oil and mix in garam masala. Cook for 2-3 minutes.

2. Add cranberries, cauliflower, chickpeas, and spinach. Cook on a low heat stirring often until heated through and spinach wilts, and the cranberries are plump.  Season well with salt and pepper.

chickpea

3. Prepare couscous as you normally would. Fluff up cooked couscous and mix into the chickpeas mixture along with the spring onion and almonds. Serve and enjoy! It’s just as good the next day, when the flavours have time to really soak into the couscous.

dinner

 

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.