A couple of weeks ago I was invited along to the Jamie Oliver cooking school to learn how to cook a roast pork belly; Jamie Oliver essentially saved Christmas.When I first arrived in the UK I was a wizard in the kitchen out of necessity; I was skint and couldn’t afford any food with packaging. I made everything from scratch (including Nutella because it was 50p cheaper than buying it) and was confident trying something new or tweaking old favourites. Fast forward four years and one stressful job later and takeaways reigned supreme. I was incapable of cooking the most simple of dinners. These days I have a fridge to myself and am vaguely more stable, so the land of cooking is in my sights. I wanted to cook something spectacular for Sinta-Thanksgiving and thankfully (see what I did there) I had one week between the Jamie Oliver Cookery School and the big day to perfect my roast pork belly.
The thing with pork belly is that is a cheap cut of meat, and as long as you have time to cook it to death then it is affordable and quite hard to screw up. Pork belly has such a good amount of fat in it that it is you can’t overcook it, making it ideal for easily distracted millennials. As you might notice above my pork belly had nipples, which meant we had to spend at least ten minutes making jokes about nipples – see, easily distracted.
To have a go yourself you cut up a random selection of vegetables (these are just to stop the pork touching the juices, and you can use them later for the gravy) and then balance the pork belly on top. Using a fiercely sharp knife you need to score the top and then literally rub salt (and some herbs) into the wound. And that is pretty much it for the pork. The magic really all happens in the cooking – high oven for 15 minutes or until the skin starts to bubble, then throw in 500ml of stock and cook for 2-4 hours. Seriously just leave that sucker in there and maybe add some white wine to the tray when there is half an hour to go.
I really liked the style of the classes, you prepare your own pork belly over a glass of wine (a very important part of cooking), and at the end you sit down as a group and eat the one that was cooking throughout the class. Here is the magic bit, you take home the one you prepared during class – you even get to keep the tray it is in. I was thinking that I would learn to cook it in the class and then replicate it from scratch the following weekend, but actually I was able to just take my nippley pork home and throw it in the freezer. When it came to the day all I had to do was defrost and cook.
I have been to a few cooking classes in my attempt to be a functioning human adult, and this is by far the best. You got your own station which means you had to practice every step yourself. It was very relaxed with plenty of time for questions and to swap pork belly horror stories – aka as well as being a fun evening it actually helped me learn how to cook. A winning formula really. Check them out on twitter here.
I felt like getting a bit creative in the kitchen, and based on the ingredients in my pantry this is what I came up with!
1. Take a handful of grapes and cut them in half. Put them in a pan with 2tsp of balsamic vinegar and cook on a medium heat until they look syrupy (you may want to mush them with the back of a fork when they are almost done);
2. Roast half a handful of crushed pistachios (not salted) over a low heat and then put aside to cool;
3. Cut half a leek into half cm rounds, and fry in a little olive oil with a pinch of black pepper;
4. Throw rocket, leeks and pistachios on a plate and then drizzle the balsamic grapes over top.
The number one reason that I like markets in London is the chance to try different produce. If you only shop in a supermarket you will see the same fruit and vegetables every time you go – no matter what brand of supermarket or time of year it will by and large be the same.
Whereas a place like Borough Market is not only seasonal, but also has variates of vegetables that I never knew existed. So when I was wandering round Borough Market trying to decide between Notes, Monmouth or Rabot Estate for coffee I was of course looking for anything new. And then I saw them…the massive round purple eggplant.
So what was the massive round purple eggplant like? Slightly sweeter than your normal, but the best part was the size – you could have huge eggplant steaks that you would never get out of the standard supermarket variety.
A debate was raging on Facebook. Some friends in New Zealand had posted a link to an Ice Cream Bread recipe and everyone was wondering if it was a hoax or if it was possible. I thought the ice cream bread might actually work, it is essentially a soda bread with ice cream instead of buttermilk and with baking powder as the raising agent. My fellow social media debaters were in New Zealand and all the supermarkets were closed for the night, but thanks to the 13 hour time difference it was lunchtime in London – cue runawaykiwi running to Waitrose to pick up some ice cream.
I decided to try and make ice cream bread for one (to stop me eating an entire tub of ice cream!) so I based the proportions on the soda bread I made a while ago.
100ml vanilla cream
1/2 cup (or 125g) of self raising flour*
Wait for the ice cream to have melted a bit – buy the time you get it home from the supermarket it should be melted enough. Mix the melted ice cream and flour together and squish together till it forms a ball. Divide into two and put in the mini loaf tins you had left over from your Fêted afternoon tea a few weeks ago. Bake for 25 minutes in a 180°C oven.
Well it worked in the sense that it resulted in something edible, but it was not as crazy or astounding as I thought it would be. The ice cream bread was essentially just a really sweet scone. But at least the novelty value was high and it was super quick to make – and I think it would be fun to try with different flavours of ice cream.
The big question still remains, if you made this with cookie dough ice cream would you get a sweet bread with cookies in it?
*if you don’t have any you can just use 1/2cup normal flour and 1/4tsp of baking powder