New Years Eve ain’t what it used to be. In years gone by B and I would generally see in the New Year in a haze of fine and not so fine wine and be the last men standing at any party’s end. Now, with a lively three year old, the emphasis is more on fine food with great friends, a moderate amount of booze and a prayer that our hangover is not too hideous to withstand the onslaught of screaming children at 7am (optimistic I know) the following morning.
This year was ALL about the food! We were hosting a small dinner party with the Pettinger-Thomsons and their two kiddos. I selected a menu which was very brave for me and raised an eyebrow from my other half.
Scallops and minted pea puree served with a chilli pangritata
I love scallops but for some reason I have never cooked them. They are pricey little buggers which may be something to do with it! This recipe came from Gino D’Acampo’s new book ‘Italian Escape’. It is full of lush recipes that look stunning and seem simple to pull together. As promised by the lovely Gino, this starter was really quick to turn around on the night. I made the pea puree and pangritata ahead of time so all there was to do was some reheating and sizzling up those juicy scallops. It looked amazing and tasted fantastic. If you come to mine for dinner in the future, expect to be served this.
Slow Roasted Pork Belly with Chorizo and Sherry served with roasted garlic potatoes and wilted spinich with lemon and nutmeg
I am queen of the one pot – chilli’s, hearty stews, fragrant tagines, mousakka and the like. I do not often attempt to cook a large hunk of meat and had never ever cooked pork belly before. My husband and family cried out – why put yourself through this?Cook something you are comfortable with! But nice as a hearty stew is – I didn’t feel that it was show stopping.
I had the pleasure of tasting this recipe at a very memorable dinner party in North Berwick. Memorable for many reasons, not least my consumption of copious amounts of limoncello: leading to bouncing off the walls and the worst (or one of) hangovers in history. I try to forget that part of the evening. What I have never forgotten however was the food. This was a meal that had me begging the cook to enter masterchef and the star of the show was this wonderful pork belly dish from Simon Hopkinson. It is possibly the most divine thing I have ever tasted . But could I cook something as well as Dave – the kitchen wizard?
Armed with my pork belly and chorizo from Puddledub of Auchtertool, the cooking process began on the 30th. As most of the work is done the day before , it is a piece of cake on the big night. B might disagree with any suggestion that I was cool as a cucumber after almost being stabbed when daring to ask a question during a crucial moment in the creative process!
Yes, there were some tense moments – rolling and tying seemed a little less straightforward that I was led to believe with quite some time spent chasing the filling around the work top and gamely poking it back into the pork roll.
I also realised that actually having a large casserole dish with a lid might have been helpful. Instead the mammoth piece of meat with all of the gubbins that goes with it were squished into an over-sized lasagne dish and covered in foil. It was full to the brim and any movement resulted in a flow of juices onto the kitchen floor – you live and learn.
I am critical of my own cooking and suffer from a lack of confidence once I serve up, leading me to making excuses for food that is basically very tasty. This may have been the first time that I sat down to a self cooked meal for friends and thought “bloody hell Haze, this is fantastic, how clever you are” Enough said really. At the risk of being sued under copyright rules I am giving you the recipe for the pork belly in its entiretity. I made not changes to it because to be honest it is the most perfect recipe I have made – tinkering would be a sin.
Banoffi Pie presented by Ms PT
The most excellent dessert (not photographed due to my phone falling asleep before midnight) was provided by Ms PT and was to die for. The toffee filling took you straight back to childhood – licking the spoon from the tin of condensed milk. The base was perfect and it was all topped off with maltesers. On the night this dessert was grand HOWEVER on New Years day I could not help but have two enormous slices of it on the back of demolishing the remainder of our champagne truffels. The sugar rush effect was quite drastic and I had to have a lie down (honestly I did!) . Not that this stopped me picking away at it after my recovery. Really this was a sublime dessert.
All in all the meal was a triumph. Hell I would give it 10 out of 10! As mentioned the star of the show for me was the pork – my proudest moment – and here as promised is the recipe from Simon Hopkinson.
300g hot cooking chorizo skinned, 8 finely chopped garlic cloves, 2 tbs chopped sage, 1.5kg piece of pork belly boned, 1 teaspoon of hot Spanish paprika, ground nut oil for cooking, 3 large onions sliced, 500ml dry sherry, 10 coarsely chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper, 500 ml of jellied chicken stock.
The day before
Break up chorizo in a bowl and add garlic and sage – mix well
Lay pork belly on table skin side down and sprinkle the paprika over the flesh
Take chorizo mix and place along the top edge of the pork belly and roll the belly tightly up like a swiss roll. Tie with butchers twine leaving around 2 to 3 cm between each piece of string. Make sure it is trussed up nice and tight!
Season the pork belly and brown in a frying pan using the oil
Place the belly in a casserole dish (you need a big one!)
In the frying pan add the onion and cook till nice and brown then deglaze with the sherry. Tip the whole lot onto the pork belly. Add the tomatoes and top up with chicken stock to come to 3/4 of the way up the pork. Bring to the boil and then put a lid on and pop into a preheated oven 140 degrees.
Cook for 3-4 hours (my 1.7 kg piece took around 5 hours) . You know it is ready when you stick a skewer or knife through and it glides without resistance.
Remove the pork belly from the dish and leave to rest for half an hour. Then remove the strings carefully and wrap in several layers of foil to compact it. Leave to cool before refrigerating.
Strain all of the cooking juices through a sieve then cool and pop in the fridge.
On the day
Lightly butter an ovenproof dish
Cut the pork belly into 3-4cm thick slices and place in the dish – don’t overlap them
Boil the cooking juices in a pan and allow to reduce a bit then add to the pork. you will want enough juice to come about half way up the pork slices.
Pop uncovered into a preheated oven at 180 degrees for around half an hour – basting regularly.