Chinese Twice Cooked Pork

The basic core of this dish is twice cooked pork belly. It can be varied any way you fancy. Traditionally it is made with a spicy chilli red bean paste and is quite fiery. But any sort of stir-fry with sauce will work. It’s the core protein, the pork belly, that is at the heart of the dish. You need to start a few hours in advance to cook poach the pork and then chill it.
If I see a cheap piece of pork belly than I often buy it and do the first cook. I then portion it up into chunks (but not small slices) and freeze it. Then it just needs to be defrosted when you feel the need for a tasty stir-fry.
Quantities for two. This is a hoisin variant.

Ingredients

  • A piece of pork belly about 15cm long and 6cm wide
  • 2 Star anise
  • ½ cinnamon stick
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 garlic clove finely sliced
  • 1 thumb sized piece of ginger peeled grated
  • 1–2 chilli chopped, seeds in or out, according to taste
  • 4 spring onions tidied and chopped into 6cm lengths
  • 2-3 bok choi pulled apart, bigger leaves halved (some tender stem broccoli would work fine here), or some cabbage
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 100-150ml chicken stock

Method

  1. Submerge the pork in a pot of cold water with one star anise and cinnamon stick. Bring it to the build and simmer gently for about 40 minutes. This is the first cooking of the pork.
  2. Once cooked remove and allow the pork to cool, then place it into the fridge to chill. (you could freeze it at this stage to have some ready when needed.)
  3. Once chilled remove and cut off the rind carefully with a sharp knife. Then slice the pork belly into 3mm slices.
  4. Heat enough oil to deep fry the pork belly in a wok, about 2-3cm will do. Fry the meat in batches and keep the cooked pieces in a warm bowl with some kitchen roll to absorb excess fat that drains.
  5. When the pork is cooked drain out most of the fat leaving just enough to stir fry the rest of the dish.
  6. Cook the garlic, chill and ginger for up to 1 minute in the hot oil, but don’t burn it.
  7. Add the spring onions and bok choi, frying them for 1-2 minutes.
  8. Add the cooked noodles soy sauce and hoisin for 30 seconds or so then add enough stock to make a sauce, you may not need too much. It should only need a minute or so to be ready.
  9. At the end add back the pork and serve.
Serve with some steamed or boiled rice. I use Jasmine rice.
Could also be served with some egg noodles.

Ragu (Bolognese Sauce)

This is now my favourite Ragu sauce for pasta. It’s not a traditional Bolognese sauce but this is how I like it.
You can do this with beef, or pork, or a mix of pork and beef. I like the mixed pork & beef mince. You can either get pork and beef and grind it yourself or you can buy it ready minced.
I suggest you make a double batch. Have a fresh egg pasta, ideally tagliatelle, with the sauce. Or Gnocchi is good. Bag up a couple for the freezer. Or make a lasagne. A homemade lasagne with fresh homemade pasta sheets is a bit of work, but a joy.
Serve with grated parmesan or a lovely creamy pecorino if you have.

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 2 medium onions
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 50-100g of pancetta (it’s even better if you can get proper Italian pancetta)
  • 2 garlic cloves, cut in half lengthwise
  • Bouquet Garni – Sprig of rosemary, Sprig of sage, Couple of fresh bay leaves. Chopped basil stalks can be good too if not too woody and just added to the soffrito.
  • Half bottle of drinkable red wine
  • Tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 1kg good fresh tomatoes, peeled and deseeded, then chopped. (Alternatively, I frequently use a couple of tins as the fresh ones are often poor)
  • 500g Minced Beef
  • 500g Minced Pork
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Finely chop the carrots, onion, celery. And the pancetta into matchsticks
  2. Put a decent amount of olive oil in a pot and fry off the carrots, onion, celery, with the garlic cloves in a pot and fry them moderately to make the soffritto. Keep stirring and the aim is to sweat them off but not brown them too much.
  3. Fry the pancetta until slightly crispy and add to the soffritto.
  4. In a separate frying pan brown the mince in some oil. Do it in parts. Grey steamed mince is not what we want. This needs a properly hot pan and the mince needs to brown. A slightly golden colour as the mince ever so slightly crisps is the desired outcome. You can actually hear the change in sound from a hiss to a more crackly sound as the mince begins to caramelise. This is what makes the flavour in your ragu. Put the cooked mince in with the vegetables and repeat until you are done. (Tom Kerridge cooks the mince spread thinly on a baking sheet and in a very hot oven until quite golden, I’ve not tried yet but seems like it could be easier and less smoky in the kitchen.)
  5. Now add the herbs in the bouquet garni to the pot, turn the heat up and add the red wine. Stir and cook it off until almost all of the wine is gone.
  6. Add the tomato paste and the tomatoes and stir it in. Bringing back to a gentle simmer.
  7. Put a lid on it and put it in a medium oven for about 90 minutes. Check it every 30 minutes or so. If it’s too wet and sloppy then leave the lid off so it reduces a bit. Don’t be frightened to give it another 30 minutes if it needs it.
  8. When you take it out the sauce should be rich and thick. If it’s not you can put it on the stovetop and reduce it down, but stand over it, stirring all the time or you will burn it.
I bag it up in single and double portions and freeze it so it’s a source of convenient meals. It’s one of those great discoveries in the freezer when you can’t be bothered doing much cooking and you find a leftover bag of ragu. A quick microwave and a boiling of spaghetti produces a delicious emergency dinner.