food for thought

by michelle

Archive for the ‘pork, ham & bacon’ Category


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New York’s second-largest Chinatown in Flushing, Queens, is worth a visit. It really feels like you’ve been transported to China. We headed for the Golden Shopping Mall, home of Xi’an Famous Foods, where we intended to try Xi’an noodles. But the call of dumplings was too strong and I have to say they were some of the best I’ve ever eaten!

We ate excellent pan-fried dumplings with chilli oil and vinegar…..

….but the steamed dumplings in spicy chilli sauce were truly amazing. They were served with chilli oil and sesame paste and topped with choy sum and spring onions. The casing was super thin and the filling was a wonderfully tasty mix of pork and chives.

I forgot to take a photo of the pan-fried dumplings, so the one above is modified from an image by Ken Marshall licensed under CC BY 2.0



Written by michelle picker

September 26, 2018 at 11:10 pm

christmas 2016

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Christmas day 2016 was a hot 37ºC day, so we opted for some cold dishes in our 5-course menu.

We started with an amuse-bouche of naked cherry tomatoes from this recipe by Chef John. This method really brings out the flavour in tomatoes.

The second course was a wonderfully fresh chilled green gazpacho soup with burrata cheese, also a Chef John recipe.


For the third course I served cured salmon which I made following this recipe. If you make this recipe be sure to make the dressing a day ahead – it improves with time.


Our fourth course was a roasted porchetta served with roasted potatoes and carrots and a dragoncello sauce which I recently learnt to make at this masterclass.


Dessert was a brandy ice cream with a chocolate shell served with brandied prunes.



Here’s an inside view of the ice cream.



And finally, with coffee and tea, some delicious rum and apricot balls thanks to Carolynne.

pork fillet with sage and garlic

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Succulent, pink and juicy, these pork fillets were cooked by the sous vide method. Hassle free and perfect for Christmas lunch!


Salt the pork fillets with approximately ½ a teaspoon per 450g (1lb). At this stage I sealed mine into a cryovac bag, however it’s possible to re-create this method using a very well sealed ziploc bag and expelling as much air as possible. The fillets should be cooked in a 60ºC (140ºF) water bath for 1 – 4 hours (also possible using a thermometer but needs more attention to keep the temperature even). When you’re ready to serve, remove the pork from the water bath. Heat some olive oil in a pan until very hot. Sear the fillets briefly on all sides then add a generous amount of sage leaves, some garlic and butter. If you have any liquid from the meat you can also strain this and add it to make a sauce. Serve immediately. I served mine with organic broccoli and carrots cooked with garlic, chilli and lemon.


Written by michelle picker

December 12, 2016 at 5:57 am

pork cotoletta + 3 veg

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Cotoletta is the Italian version of the ubiquitous Schnitzel. Unlike schnitzel, though, it is not usually breaded with egg but dipped in oil and then breadcrumbs and often grilled, not fried. It’s also often cooked with the bone in. Traditionally veal, I chose pork for this meal and made Italian vegetable accompaniments. The 3 veg I served with my meal were carrots tossed in parmesan; zucchini with onions and peas; and potatoes baked with fennel and porcini mushrooms.


For the Cotoletta, make sure you have free-range, good quality pork cutlets. Coat them with breadcrumbs (by whichever method you prefer) which are seasoned and flavoured with oregano. Cook over medium heat until the meat is just cooked and the crumbs are golden.


This carrot recipe is adapted from Leaves from our Tuscan Kitchen by Janet Ross & Michael Waterfield. Slice the carrots into thick rounds and cook in a little water until just tender. Set aside, retaining the cooking liquid. In a saucepan melt 30g (1 oz) of butter and add 30g (1 oz) of flour. Cook this roux then add the remaining carrot stock and reduce until the sauce is the thickness of double cream. Add 30g (1 oz) each of cheddar and parmesan and return the carrots, mixing well until the cheese is melted and the carrots well coated. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.



Thickly slice some zucchinis and onions. Place them in a saucepan or frypan with a lid along with some olive oil, oregano, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Close the lid and cook over moderate to high heat, tossing occasionally, until the zucchini is browning a little but still firm. Add some peas and continue to cook until both the zucchini and peas are just cooked. Drizzle with a little lemon juice before serving.



This potato, fennel and porcini recipe appears in River Cafe Cook Book Two by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers.

Preheat your oven to 200ºC (400ºF). Soak 60g (3 oz) of dried porcini mushrooms in hot water for 30 minutes. Drain and retain the soaking liquid. In a little olive oil fry the porcini with a little minced garlic and when browning, add 3 tablespoons of the soaking liquid. Continue to cook until the liquid is absorbed and the porcini are soft. In a very large saucepan heat some more olive oil and add some slivers of garlic and 1cm (¼”) slices of fennel, cut lengthways. Cook until soft. Now add 1cm (¼”) potato slices and the porcini mushrooms, seasoning well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix well then transfer to a baking tray and bake until the potatoes are cooked.


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These juicy Mexican beef and pork albondigas (meatballs) are enhanced by a smoky and fiery chipotle sauce.


For the chipotle sauce put 1 litre (35 fl oz) of tomato passata (sauce) into a saucepan with ½ a cup of canned chipotles in adobo sauce (available from Mexican food stores), 2 teaspoons of onion powder, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, ½ a teaspoon of ground cinnamon, ½ a teaspoon of dried oregano, 30g (1 oz) of unsweetened chopped chocolate and salt and pepper to taste. Stir well and place over high heat until the sauce begins to bubble. Reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour, being sure to stir every 10 to 15 minutes so it doesn’t burn. Meanwhile to make the meatballs preheat your oven to 205ºC (400ºF). In a large mixing bowl combine 1kg (2¼lbs) of mince making sure to break it into smaller pieces. Add 2 eggs, 1 cup of plain bread crumbs, 1½ tablespoons of minced garlic, 1 small minced onion, 1½ tablespoons of chopped coriander (cilantro), 1 tablespoon of dried oregano, 1½ teaspoons of salt, 1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper, ¼ of a teaspoon of cayenne pepper, ¼ of a teaspoon of ground allspice and ½ a teaspoon of ground coriander. Mix until all the ingredients are well blended but don’t overwork the mixture or the meatballs will be mealy. Form into walnut-sized balls and place them closely together on a baking tray. Cook in the top half of the oven for about 10 minutes, until just firm to the touch. Drop them into the chipotle sauce and simmer for 5 minutes. Serve with tortillas or rice and any of the usual Mexican accompaniments: black beans, salsa, avocados, pickled onions, cheese.

Written by michelle picker

June 9, 2016 at 5:44 am

porchetta + brussels sprouts

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Here’s some traditional Italian fare.


For the Porchetta you will need a skin-on pork shoulder. Score the skin and fat all over pork. Season the meat well with 1 tablespoon of salt or more, plenty of freshly ground black pepper, crushed dry chilli flakes, some grated lemon zest, plenty of diced garlic and some fresh (if possible) bay leaves. Fennel is also a good match. Drizzle with a little olive oil and massage the seasoning into the meat. Roll the pork, tying with kitchen twine at regular intervals. Cover the pork and refrigerate, preferably overnight. Remove the pork from the fridge 2 hours before cooking and make sure the skin is dry. Rub with a little oil and season with salt. Heat your oven to 230ºC (450ºF). Roast the pork for 35 minutes then reduce the temperature to 165ºC (320ºF) and continue to roast for between 1 to 3 hours (depending on the size of your roast) until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat reads 65ºC (150ºF). Allow the pork to rest for 15 to 30 minutes before serving.

This recipe for brussels sprouts comes from Leaves from our Tuscan Kitchen by Janet Ross and Michael Waterfield.


Cook 450g (1 lb) of brussels sprouts in boiling salted water until cooked through but not too soft. Drain and set aside. In a large fry-pan heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the brussels sprouts and cook over fierce heat until beginning to brown then add 1-2 tablespoons each of breadcrumbs and grated parmesan. Season with freshly ground black pepper and serve immediately.

Written by michelle picker

March 29, 2016 at 5:43 am

vietnamese pork skewers

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Try these Vietnamese delights next time you’re having a barbecue.


Combine 450g (1 lb) of minced pork with ½ a cup of Vietnamese fish sauce (Thai fish sauce is much stronger), 4 tablespoons of dark soy or caramel sauce (available from Asian stores), 2-3 finely diced brown shallots, 12 finely sliced garlic chives and 1 tablespoon of ground white pepper. Mix well, form into small meatballs and chill before threading onto skewers. Barbecue over coals if possible and serve over finely sliced cucumbers and carrots, garnished with plenty of fresh mint, Vietnamese mint and spring onions. Serve with Nước chấm dipping sauce: combine ¼ of a cup of Vietnamese fish sauce, 2 minced cloves of garlic, 1 finely diced small red chilli, 2 tablespoons of sugar and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.

Written by michelle picker

February 22, 2016 at 5:41 am