Slow Cooked Pork Belly

I always thought there was great mystery to cooking pork belly, slow enough to be tender but not too long as to dry it out.  Turns out the slow cooker does all the hard work and all you have to master is the crackling at the end!

pork belly chinese slow cooked

Mix the following in a medium jug:
~ 2 tbsp brown sugar
~ 1/2 – 3/4 cup chinese cooking wine (from asian grocer)
~ 2 star anise (whole)
~ 1 cinnamon stick

Place your pork belly in the slow cooker (mine was about 1.8 – 2 kgs)
Pour over the above mixture
Slow cook on medium for 5-6 hours
TIP:  During the cooking, check that the cooking wine doesn’t evaporate entirely, but the belly shouldn’t be immersed in it either

About half an hour before you are ready to serve, heat your oven to 240C
Take the pork belly out of the slow cooker and place on a flat baking tray
Score the fat with a super sharp knife, either vertically or on an angle – be careful as the fat will be hot so it may spray out when pierced!
TIP: You could score the fat before the slow cooking, but it may mean the belly falls apart entirely during the cooking, so I left mine in tact until crackling stage

Grind sea salt generously over the scored fat
When your oven is piping hot, place the tray with the belly in the middle rack for 15 mins
TIP: Check after 10 to make sure it isn’t burning – all you want is for the top to crackle and then it is ready

I served this with a red cabbage/carrot/coriander salad and some blanched broccoli.

pork belly chinese slow cooked

pork belly chinese slow cooked

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Healthy Beef Meatballs

Just by adding a few things to a traditional meatball/rissole recipe gives them some great flavour and extra nutrition!

Mix the following in a large bowl:
~ 400g lean beef mince
~ 1 small red onion, finely diced
~ 1 medium carrot, grated
~ 1 medium egg
~ 1/2 tsp ground cumin
~ 1 tsp ground coriander
~ 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
~ 1/2 tsp crushed garlic
~ 1/2 tsp crushed chilli (however much you like really!)
~ 1/2 tsp tomato paste
~ few drops of Worchester Sauce
~ salt & pepper

The mixture should be relatively wet, so to reduce the wetness I added quinoa flakes (around 1/4 cup total) until the mixture was a good consistency to roll into balls
Roll the balls in flour (I used Orgran plain flour as it is wheat free)
Place them on a baking tray lined with baking paper
Spray with Coconut Oil Spray and bake at 180C for 20-25 mins (turning half way)
I served with some blanched broccoli and green beans

beef meatballs quinoa


beef meatballs quinoa

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Slow Cooked Beef Brisket

So far, this recipe is the winner for my slow cooker challenge!

After slicing into the brisket cut of meat, there was quite a lot of fat throughout it, so I removed a large amount of the hard fat, but left the top layer of softer fat there, to melt away while cooking.

Time: 7 hours
Serves: 4-6

beef brisket spiced slow cooked

Prepare the rub in a small dish with the following spices:
~ 1 tsp sweet paprika
~ 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
~ 1/2 tsp cumin
~ pinch of salt and pepper

Drizzle some olive oil over the meat (ours was about 2.3kg before the removal of the fat) and massage in the spice mix a few pinches at a time (I didn’t want to over power the meat with the spice rub)

Place 2 sliced onions in the bottom of your slow cooker with about 1/4 cup water
Place the spice-rubbed meat on top

I also added a ‘sauce’ made up of the following and poured this over the top of the meat before cooking:
~ 2 heaped tsp brown sugar
~ 1 tsp Worcester Sauce
~ about 1/4 cup max of beef stock (just to loosen the mixture)

Cook in the slow cooker on high for 6 hours then turn to low for the final hour
After about 4 hours, I needed to scoop some of the excess liquid and fat out, as I found the brisket was starting to become submerged in it.

The meat will literally fall apart as you take it out of the slow cooker, but that is the best part!

I served this with some spiced corn on the cob, chimichurri sauce, mashed carrot and parsnip as well as some steamed greens

beef brisket spiced slow cooked

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Delicious Resting Sauce for Beef Steak

To really make your beef steak taste amazing, try this easy ‘sauce’  from Jamie Oliver.

On a board, finely chop half a large bunch of flat leaf parsley (about 1/2 cup when it has been chopped finely)
Add to it the following:
~ 1-2 tsp dijon mustard
~ juice of half a lemon
~ olive oil
~ salt and pepper

Mix around on the board until it has a thick consistency.  (Add more oil/lemon juice if you need to)  Spread it out to cover the board.

Season and oil your beef steaks, cook them to your liking in a fry pan
Place on the parsley/dijon sauce and rest for at least 10 minutes
Turn and coat in the sauce then serve – delicious!

parsley dijon sauce for beef steak

parsley dijon sauce for beef steak

parsley dijon sauce for beef steak

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Bacon and Egg Pie

This is an easy tasty pie – great for a rainy Sunday,picnics or even have it cold for breakfast/lunch the next day.

bacon egg pie shortcrust pastry

First you will need to make the shortcrust pastry and allow it to rest.  Mix together the following in a food processor:

~ 250g plain flour (I used gluten free, wheat free flour from Orgran)
~ 125g unsalted butter, chilled, finely chopped (it is important that this is chilled)
~ pinch salt

When it becomes like breadcrumbs, add in 1 egg, whisked with 1 tbs chilled water while the food processor is running,
Process until mixture begins to form large clumps, stopping machine before mixture forms a ball.
Knead gently to bring together, then shape into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Once the pastry has rested, roll it 2/3 out to about 0.5cm thickness, and then lay across a greased dish that you will bake your pie in (the other 1/3 will be for the lid).  The pastry should go up and over the sides of the dish

~ 4 rashers of bacon, trimmed and diced
~ 6-8 eggs
~ 1/2 cup grated cheese
~ salt and pepper
~ few pinches of smoked paprika

Lay about 1/3 of the bacon on bottom of pie (not too much or the base will become soggy from the rind/fat)
Break in 3 eggs over the top (keep yolks whole if you can)
Sprinkle over half of the cheese
Season with salt, pepper and paprika
Layer more bacon and 3 more eggs
Sprinkle the rest of the cheese and bacon on top

Roll out the rest of the pastry to about 0.5cm thickness and cut to fit the shape of the pie dish
Place pastry lid on the top and scrunch the pastry from the sides up to meet the lid
Cut a few lines to let the steam out
Brush the lid with a little milk
Bake for 45 mins at 180C
Leave to cool before cutting

bacon egg pie

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Sticky Asian Style Pork Neck

This was the first time I had used this cut of meat and all my research was pointing to the same recipe – Donna Hay‘s!

And it was definitely worth it.  This recipe is pretty much fool proof and so good you will want to make sure you have some good company to share with!

sticky asian style pork neck

Preheat the oven to 180C
In the bottom of a cast iron casserole dish, scatter the following:
~ 1 tsp grated ginger
~ 4 cloves garlic (or 2 tsp crushed garlic from a jar)
~ 1 medium red chili, halved and de-seeded
~ 4 star anise (whole)

Place the pork neck on top (mine was about 1.5kg)
Mix the following in a jug:
~ ½ cup brown sugar
~ 1 cup (250ml) Shaoxing (Chinese cooking wine) – I found this for $2 at my local asian grocer
~ ½ cup oyster sauce
~ 1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice

When the sugar is disolved in the jug, pour the mixture over the pork.
Place in an oven for 2 hours, turning after 1 hour
Baste the pork in the juices
Increase heat to 200C and cook for further 30 minutes until sticky and golden (check around 15 mins to ensure it doesn’t burn)

I served this with coconut rice and blanched greens

sticky asian pork neck slow cooked

N.B. I have also done this recipe in a slow cooker, using the same quantities of sauce.
Place all ingredients into slow cooker, leave to cook on high for 8-9 hours (as long as you can!).
About 15 minutes before serving, take the pork out (be careful as it will probably fall apart) and then strain the liquid into a saucepan to reduce on med-high heat, to make a sticky thick sauce.

** I’ve made other variations along the way:
– add some sichuan pepper instead of chilli
– swap out the brown sugar for a few teaspoons of molasses
– leave out the oyster sauce completely
– use pork shoulder instead of neck/sirloin

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This is a great dish when you have a bit of everything in the cupboard, but nothing at the same time – just throw them all together for a delicious Korean inspired dish (serves two)

Place 1 cup uncooked brown rice and 2 cups water in a rice cooker and leave to cook while preparing the rest of the dish

Place the following in a bowl to marinade:
~ around 500g chicken thigh, boneless and sliced into small-med pieces
~ splash of soy sauce (enough to coat all the chicken)
~ few drops of sesame oil
~ splash of white wine vinegar
~ about 1/2 tsp oyster sauce (optional)
~ about 1/2 tsp crushed garlic (jarred or fresh)
~ 1/2 a fresh chili, finely diced
~ salt and pepper

Fry the following in a little butter, salt and pepper and set aside:
~ 6 button mushrooms, sliced finely
~ 1 courgette, sliced finely

Prep the following for toppings:
~ 1 carrot, peeled and sliced (or grated)
~ 1 radish, sliced finely with a mandolin (or vege peeler)
~ 1/2 bunch coriander leaf, chopped chunky

Cook the chicken in a fry pan on high heat for about 5-10 minutes
Add a few french green beans towards the end for a few minutes (optional)

To put the dish together:
~ place rice in bowl
~ add chicken and beans on top
~ add mushrooms and courgettes
~ top with carrot, radish and coriander
~ place a fried egg on the top

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Lamb with Lentils & Cauliflower

After slow roasting a lamb shoulder for Sunday lunch, there was plenty of leftover meat so I created this easy dish to use up the leftover meat – it’s kind of like a cross between a pilaf and a fattoush!

~ 3/4 cup dry french green lentils – boiled for 20 mins and drained
~ 2 cups cauliflower florets
~ 1/2 tsp cumin
~ 1/2 tsp ground coriander
~ 1 tsp flour
~ 1/2 red onion, sliced and then halved
~ 2 cups leftover lamb shoulder meat, chopped into chunky pieces
~ handful of green beans, cut into 5cm pieces
~ handful almonds, chopped
~ juice of 1 lemon
~ salt & pepper
~ olive oil
~ 2 tomatoes, diced
~ handful of feta, crumbled
~ fresh coriander leaf

Place the cooked lentils in a large bowl with juice of 1/2 lemon, olive oil, salt & pepper
Coat the cauliflower in cumin, coriander & flour and pan fry with a little olive oil, adding water in small amounts as it fries
Place in the bowl with the lentils
Saute the red onion in a pan until soft, then add the lamb meat and green beans
Add the almonds for the final minute or so, then add everything to the bowl with the lentils and cauliflower
Throw in the tomatoes, feta and fresh coriander as well as the juice of the other 1/2 of the lemon
Check seasoning and add salt & pepper if required

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Individual Lamb Shank Pies

After a delicious Sunday dinner of Lamb Shanks slow cooked in red wine, we had some of the meat leftover so what better way to use the leftover meat, than to make it into individual lamb shank pies!

To start with, I took out a sheet of puff pastry from the freezer to thaw while I made the below sauce base:

~ 2 celery sticks, sliced finely
~ 1 carrot, diced finely
~ salt and pepper
~ 25g butter (about 1 tbsp)
~ 2 tbsp plain flour
~ 1/2 – 3/4 cup stock (I used chicken stock but vege, beef, veal stocks would work as well)

Heat the oven to 180C
Fry the celery and carrots in a medium pan until they are soft
Season with salt and pepper
Add in the butter, and when it is melted, sprinkle the flour in to the mix
You should see the flour absorb the butter and the mix becomes quite thick
Continue to fry for a minute or so, making sure it doesn’t burn or stick to the pan
Slowly add in the stock, stirring until the mix becomes saucy

Once I had the sauce mix ready, I added in the leftover lamb shank meat (about 2 cups worth, so if you had more than this, just increase the quantities in the sauce mix above)
Stir through, breaking up the meat
Split the meat mix into individual ramekins or any other oven proof dish that is suitable
Cut puff pastry into shapes that are slightly larger than the dish/es you are using
Wait for a few minutes for the mixture to cool slightly then pop the puff pasty lid on top
Scrunch the pastry around at the sides of the dish and brush lightly with milk (you could use egg but since I only had 3 small ones, milk did the trick) – make sure you make a cut across the top so the pie has a place for steam to escape
Bake for 15 mins at 180C (they may take a little longer depending how big the pies are)

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Lamb Pilaf

This is a great one pan, one pot dish if you are feeding the masses! It is packed with flavour and perfect for a cold night.

~ 1/4 small pumpkin, peeled and diced
~ 2 cups chicken stock
~ few saffron threads
~ 1 brown onion, diced
~ 500g lamb mince
~ 1 cup jasmine or basmati rice
~ cinnamon quill
~ 1/2 cup sultanas
~ handful green beans, cut in half
~ 3 tomatoes, diced
~ 1/3 cup slivered almonds (or chopped whole ones)

To Serve:
~ greek yoghurt
~ fresh coriander leaf

Roast the pumpkin in the oven for about 20 minutes at 180c
Place the chicken stock and saffron in a medium saucepan/pot turn to medium/high
Heat a large fry pan and sauté the onions until soft
Add the mince and brown, breaking up as you go
(At this point you may like to drain the mixture as it can be quite an oily meat)
Add the cinnamon, rice and sultanas and continue to cook for a few minutes

Add in the chicken stock, which would have come to the boil by now along with the rice
Reduce heat to med/low and cover to cook for around 12 minutes (you may need to add a little more chicken stock/water if the mixture dries out before the rice is cooked)
Towards the end, add in the beans and stir through (they will braise a little in the heat)
Finally add the pumpkin and stir through, then the tomatoes.
Sprinkle over the almonds when in the serving dish.

Serve with greek yoghurt and fresh coriander leaf

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