Chinese Pork with Aubergines and Crackling

It turns out I love Chinese food. And although there is a place and a time for the sickly, bright red, sweet and sour sauce at the all-you-can-eat buffet (say, Sunday lunch somewhere in Zone 7), it doesn’t come close to making your own sweet and sour at home.

This is not quite it I suppose. Maybe somewhere in between a sweet and sour and the fish fragrant aubergine I had at Chilli Cool a few weeks back. I’ve been wanted to make something similar since then. And just in case that wasn’t exciting enough, I thought I’d use the skin to make some crackling. I don’t like waste, you see.

Please don’t get angry at me for the generic name I’ve given this dish. I didn’t follow a specific recipe and didn’t want to call it something that it isn’t. If you have any better suggestions I’d love to hear them!

The crackling was amazing, properly puffed up and with soft bits every here and there. It was in fact so good that we ended up eating it all before I could take a picture of it. I’ll be making this again.

Chinese Pork with Aubergines and Crackling

For the sauce
a small pork joint
3 tbsp chinese rice vinegar
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp red wine

Chop the pork in inch thick cubes and add all the ingredients in a bowl. Let it marinate for half an hour (or longer if possible – you can do it overnight in the fridge). Reserving the marinade, fry the pieces of pork over high heat until browned. If they are releasing too much liquid you can add that to the marinade. You don’t want them to simmer. When browned and with crisped edges, take out of the pan and set aside.

2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp sunflower oil
2 onions, chopped finely
3 garlic cloves, grated
3 dried birds-eye chillies, chopped
2 aubergines, sliced in fingers*
2 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
extra soy sauce or rice vinegar, to taste

* I threw in some courgettes and peppers because I had them in my fridge, but the aubergines were by far my favourite – no surprises there!

In the same pot used to brown the meat, add the oil and soften the onions. Add the garlic and chilli, fry for a couple of minutes and then add the aubergines (or any other vegetable you’re using). When they’ve browned a bit, add the meat pieces, the reserved marinade, the ketchup and sugar and enough water to cover everything. Let it simmer until the sauce thickens and the pork is tender. Taste and add more soy sauce or vinegar if you want it saltier/more sour. If the sauce is too thin you can use some cornflour to thicken it.

For the crackling

the skin of the pork, in one piece
vinegar (use some of the chinese rice vinegar from before)
salt

Score the skin and place it on a rack over the sink. Poor boiling water over it, pat dry and rub with the salt and vinegar. Roast in a preheated oven at 200 Celsius for about an hour. When it’s looking crispy, pop it under a hot grill to puff up. Make sure you keep an eye on it as it can go from puffy to burnt in seconds!

Serve the pork with some plain rice and a bit of crackling on the side.

Pork Souvlaki with homemade Pita (Greek #7 & #8)

When I lived in Greece there were some things I never thought of making myself. To be honest, I didn’t do a lot of cooking back then, being a student and all, and having my mum to cook yummy food for me! And it never crossed my mind to make some souvlaki with pita, given how many places there are around that make it so well! But in England, most Greek food places (fancy or not) try to prove every bad stereotype about Greek food true.

It was Tsiknopempti a couple of weeks ago (I am slow at posting recipes!) and I was also feeling quite homesick so I decided to put some Greek music on and make something traditional. Tsiknopempti is what in other countries is called Fat Thursday and because it is 10 days before Lent starts people eat a lot of meat, traditionally barbecued.  The name comes from the word tsikna which is the smell that meat has when grilled or barbecued.

Pork Souvlaki

a joint of pork shoulder
a small onion
2 lemons
olive oil
oregano
salt and pepper
skewers (soaked in water, so they don’t burn under the grill)

First of all, cut the meat into squares (sides approximately 2cm), keeping some of the fat on it. To make the marinade, grate the onion on the thick side of the grater and mix it with the meat, the juice of a lemon, olive oil, oregano and the seasoning. Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge, ideally overnight, but if you’re feeling impatient, for as long as you can wait.

When you are ready to cook it, put pieces on the skewers and cook them under a medium grill, turning the skewers round half way. You want them to be crispy on the outside but make sure you don’t overcook them.

Serve with some more lemon on the side and this easy and tasty pita bread. I am never buying pita from the supermarket again.

Pita Bread (recipe from Kalofagas)
makes approximately 6 big ones

3 cups plain flour
3/4 cup lukewarm water
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp active dry yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar

oil for greasing the pan
flour for dusting

Mix the water, olive oil, yeast, salt and sugar and leave for a few minutes. Add the flour slowly and mix with a wooden spoon until it becomes a dough. When it is too difficult to do it with the spoon, start mixing with your hands. When the flour has been incorporated, knead until the dough looks smooth. Cover with a kitchen towel and leave for half an hour.
Pull pieces off the dough, the size of an orange (although it depends on how big you like your pita!) and roll them out into 1/4 inch thick round sheets. Use a fork to poke holes into the dough, without going all the way through it.

Heat your pan and spread a little oil on it. Place your flat dough on the pan and cook on each side for about 2 minutes, or until golden. When each pita is cooked, put it inside a towel to make sure it doesn’t dry out while cooling down. Serve warm, or if you want to serve them later, let them cool down inside the towel and reheat on the pan.

It’s perfect Greek food, so easy to make, quite healthy and very tasty. Serve with some Greek salad, and my favourite Greek dips: Tzatziki and Roast Pepper and Spicy Feta dip. Actually, this pita is so yummy that a couple of times last week my dinner consisted of it and these dips.

Previously on Round the World in 100 Recipes:
Spetsofai
Stuffed Onions
Lihnarakia
Beef with Aubergines
Ladopita 
Cheese and Salami Pie

Next time on Round the World in 100 Recipes: It’s a cute animal, but it’s also pretty yummy.

Spit-roasting

In Greece, spit-roasting a whole lamb is an Easter tradition. Driving through town on a warm Easter Sunday, you can smell lamb being cooked in every house’s back garden. Of course, if you haven’t got a garden or the patience or in the unlikely event that the weather is bad you can always roast it instead. But it’s just not the same.

My boyfriend, because he is amazing, decided to make a spit. And being amazing, he managed to make it over a couple of days in the summer using bike gears, a car’s windscreen wiper motor and a computer’s power supply. It looks the part and it works like a dream!

In a few weeks we are going to have The Best Meat-Eating Party/BBQ featuring a whole spit-roast lamb but for now, just to warm up, we thought we’d do some chicken. Alex covered it in olive oil, salt, pepper and herbs and it got tied on the spit. We had also bought a couple of pork belly joints and one of them went on the spit at the same time.

They were looking cooked surprisingly early, about an hour later. The skin was crisping up nicely and the pork crackling looked great. When we cut the meat off, it was very juicy. I am not a fan of chicken breast, I find it boring and dry, but this was really good. I had it in a bap with some home-made Spicy Feta and Roast Red Pepper dip which is pretty easy to make and always goes down well at bbqs.

Just roast the peppers until the skins are black in places, let them steam in a bowl with a lid on the top and then peel them. Pop some chillies, the peppers, the feta and some olive oil in the food processor and you’re almost done! I usually add freshly ground pepper, paprika and some dried oregano. It goes well with most meats really or as a starter with some pita bread.

It was a beautiful night, probably the last one of the summer and the fire kept us warm as it got darker. I will post again with news from the lamb spit-roast mission, for now we’re trying to make sure we get the lamb with the head on, as well as some intestines and the liver to make Kokoretsi.