independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Something for the Weekend

Crispy Pork Belly with Chilli Ginger Caramel and Sweet Potatoes

Catherine Fulvio thinks weekends are sacred and her new book, 'The Weekend Chef', shows you how you can make the most of Saturdays and Sundays with a relaxed attitude to cooking.

Her recipes encourage us to forget the daily humdrum when it's all too easy to fall back on express meals. So, close the door, turn the music on, fire up the cooker and have some friends around.

But don't allow yourself to get stressed about the menu: weekends should be all about easy entertainment. Catherine has great advice for those who worry about catering for dinner parties – for instance, don't have too many last-minute dishes and don't overcomplicate the menu.

"Serve two or three nibbles: one should be healthy and the other two indulgent," she advises. "Choose a main course that's special and that you feel comfortable preparing and choose impressive desserts." And most importantly, don't forget to kick back and enjoy the spoils yourself.

 

Crispy Pork Belly with Chilli Ginger Caramel and Sweet Potatoes

Start cooking the pork early – not only will this have those wonderful aromas escaping from the kitchen, but also the pork will be soft and juicy and the crackling will be crispy and tasty, and your family will love you for that.

 

Instead of serving this with an apple compote or sauce, I have often served it with roasted plums, which blend very well with the fennel seeds and ginger.

It would also be delicious sliced into thick strips and served while watching the match on a television with a bottle of cool beer.

Serves four.

YOU WILL NEED

1.2kg boneless pork belly, skin scored

2 tsp salt

extra virgin olive oil

4 tbsp dark brown sugar

juice of 1 lemon

For the fennel and chilli rub

2 tsp fennel seeds

2 garlic cloves

1 tsp sea salt

1 red chilli, finely chopped

1 x 2cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and

grated

1 tbsp dark brown sugar

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

For the sweet potatoes

extra virgin olive oil

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

into 2cm pieces

1 x 2cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and

sliced into fine julienne

salt and freshly ground black pepper

METHOD

To make the rub, toast the fennel seeds in a dry frying pan over a medium heat for about 30 seconds. Grind the fennel seeds in a pestle and mortar with the garlic and sea salt. Transfer to a small bowl and add the chilli, ginger, brown sugar and oil.

Retain two teaspoons to sprinkle over the pork at the end of the cooking time.

Rub the rest over the skin of the pork belly and allow the flavours to develop for a few hours or even overnight.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C/Gas 6. Place the pork belly in a roasting tin and rub the skin with the salt and some oil. Roast the meat for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 180°C/Fan 160°C/Gas 4.

Mix the brown sugar and lemon juice together and drizzle over the pork.

Return the meat to the oven and roast for a further 1 hour 30 minutes, basting from time to time. About half an hour before the end of the pork belly's cooking time, drizzle a large roasting tin with a little extra virgin olive oil and heat for two minutes in the oven.

Add the sweet potatoes and the ginger julienne and toss well, then season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Roast for 20-25 minutes, turning from time to time. Once cooked, remove from the oven and keep warm.

Increase the heat to 220°C/Fan 200°C/Gas 7 and roast the pork for a final 15 minutes to finish the crackling, keeping an eye on it to make sure it doesn't burn.

Sprinkle over the reserved two teaspoons of the chilli and ginger rub and allow to rest for 10 minutes loosely covered with foil.

Carve into thick slices and serve with the ginger sweet potatoes.

 

Celeriac Soup with Lemon Gremolata

This is a classic soup with a bit of a twist. It's nice to have a surprise every now and again, especially at a dinner party.

A friend of mine always has wonderfully generous dinner parties. Following a fabulous steak platter with all the trimmings, the main course was cleared and we had time to chat before an ice-cream van suddenly arrived out of nowhere with our dessert (silly music and everything). And dessert wasn't just a '99', I can assure you.

For a more low-key surprise, serve the gremolata on the soup spoons and everyone can sprinkle it over the soup themselves.

Serves four.

YOU WILL NEED

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, sliced

2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm dice

1 celeriac, peeled and cut into 2cm dice

1.2 litres vegetable stock

1 tsp chopped fresh thyme

salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the gremolata

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

zest of 1 small lemon

3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1 tsp chopped fresh dill

METHOD

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes, until softened but not brown. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more, stirring from time to time.

Add the potatoes and celeriac and cook for 2 minutes. Pour over the vegetable stock and thyme. Increase the heat and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Blend the soup with a hand-held blender until smooth. Check for seasoning.

To make the gremolata, combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

To serve the soup, ladle it into a large tureen or warm soup bowls.

Using a teaspoon, carefully sprinkle some gremolata in the centre of the soup and serve a small amount in a small bowl on the side.

Serve immediately.

 

'The Weekend Chef'is published by Gill & Macmillan.

Price €25.99

Irish Independent

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