Thursday, December 29

Ground Pork with Thai Basil and Chilli

For boxing day I had some friends over and decided to do an alternative Christmas feast by whipping up a bit of a Thai banquet. This was the main course and I have posted this out of "course order' as it occurred to me that this dish would work really well with leftover turkey minced up instead of the pork. I'm probably too late and you may well have eaten it all by year maybe!

You really have to go to town here with the quality of the meat. Get the best quality free range pork you can afford, preferably dry aged for a week or two. If necessary buy some good pork steaks and get your butcher to coarsely mince them for you.   Thai basil has a wonderful aniseed flavour but Italian basil works well if you cannot find. I use the big chillies in this as they are not so potent and you need a lot of chilli for the flavour, but feel free to use the thai birds eye ones if you are a chilli fiend. Serves 4:

2 large skinless chicken breasts
2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 fat red chillies, seeds in or out, finely chopped
10 green beans, finely chopped
500g course pork mince
1 tbsp thai chilli sauce – the smooth one, not the one with bits in
3 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp sugar
1 lime
3 very large handfuls thai sweet basil or 1 handful of italian basil, leaves only. 

Blitz the chicken breasts in a food processor until roughly chopped and add to the pork mince – the mix of chicken and pork works really well.  

Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan until very hot. Stir fry the garlic, beans and chilli until the garlic starts to turn golden at the edges. Throw in the pork and chicken mince and fry until the meat is cooked through - approx 4 to 5 mins. Add the sugar, fish sauce and chilli sauce, and the juice of the lime and mix well.

Throw in the basil leaves and bubble for a further minute until the basil has wilted. Taste and season by adding more fish sauce, lime juice and sugar if necessary. Serve with steamed rice.

Tuesday, December 20

Smoked Bread, Bacon & Maple Roast Tomato Sarnie

As a chef Christmas can be a bit of a nightmare. It has been so busy that I have not really had time to blog but trust me...this one is a winner and worth the wait. 

In my local branch of Waitrose I found some organic malted bread flour that had been oak smoked......I had to have it. The resulting bread had a great malty taste and a background twang of smoke. I'm really happy with how the loaf turned out and can imagine it working extremely well on a cheese board, or with some rough pâté de campagne. For 1 loaf and a sandwich for one hungry person:

Smoked bread flour - 1kg
Warm water - 700ml
Salt - 20g
Fresh Yeast 20g (or dried yeast 10g)
Quality unsmoked streaky bacon - 6 rashers
Cherry tomatoes - a handful
Maple syrup - a good drizzle
Rocket - a handful
Quality mayo - 2 tbsp

Richard Bertinet is the master Baker of the South West and I was lucky enough to work with him in his cookery school for a couple of weeks. I now always use his basic recipe for quantities of yeast and water to flour. I also use his method of kneading. Watch this to see how to do it:

Rather than use a loaf tin, I shaped my loaf by hand after the first prove on an oven tray then baked at 250c for approx 30 mins turning occasionally until the base is crispy and sounds hollow when tapped. Allow to cool on a wire rack until just warm. In the meantime season your tomatoes, drizzle with maple syrup and roast in the hot oven until they colour and split their skins. Roast the bacon at the same time until crispy. 

Rub your bread with the bacon fat then slather with mayo. Fill up the sarnie with rocket, bacon and the lovely tomatoes. 

Sunday, December 11

Goan Pork Vindalho

Historically Goa has a strong Portuguese influence and this dish typifies the resourcefulness of the indian people, taking foreign ingredients and making it into something unique and wonderfully Indian. Vindalho is derived from two Portuguese words, vin (wine) and alho (garlic), the wine bit meaning the wine vinegar introduced by the Portuguese invaders. Don’t get me wrong, this is a spicy dish, but it’s not as hot as you might expect and the vinegar gives a refined sourness rarely found in mainstream curries – come on, be brave….!


1 tsp black peppercorns

1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
8 cloves
2 tsp crushed red chilli
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp hot chilli powder
½ tsp ground turmeric
8 fat cloves of garlic, crushed
thumb sized piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
6 tbsp red wine vinegar
750g chunky cubed pork, preferably outdoor reared
1 medium onion, peeled and roughly chopped
3 tbsp oil
1 piece cinnamon bark
1 400g tin of quality chopped tomatoes
1 green pepper, deseeded and roughly chopped
1 tsp sugar
salt to taste

Roast the peppercorns, mustard seeds, cloves, crushed red chilli and cumin seeds in a dry pan until fragrant taking care not to burn. Place the roasted spice mix in a pestle and mortar and grind to a fine powder.   Mix the paprika and turmeric into the spice mix, then add the garlic and ginger and pound to a thick paste called a ‘masala’. Add half the masala to the pork with 4 tbsp of the vinegar and rub in thoroughly. Allow the pork to marinade overnight in the fridge.

Fry the onion in the oil until golden brown. Add the pork and it’s marinade, along with the remaining masala paste and the cinnamon bark. Fry for a further 5 mins until everything is well combined. Add the tomatoes, green pepper, sugar and remaining vinegar along with 100ml of water. Cover and simmer over a low heat for 20 mins until the pork is tender. You can add a little more water if the sauce gets too thick during cooking.    

At this point you need to taste the sauce and season accordingly. The sauce should be thick and red with a hot and sour taste. You can balance the acidity to your taste by adding a little more sugar or vinegar just before serving. Get a cold Kingfisher beer at the ready....!