Thursday, 20 October 2011

Slow Roast Shoulder of Pork and Spicy Pepper Goulash

Whoa there. There's been a lot of cake around here recently. In my defence, there were extenuating circumstances - three parental birthdays, not to mention an invitation so tempting, I defy anyone to have turned it down - but nonetheless, four cakes in a week does seem, well, a trifle excessive. And that totally wasn't a deliberate trifle pun, I promise, but now it's all I can think about. You should put me in custard-y. Groan.

Good cake and bad punning aside, it was time to reacquaint our taste buds with the savoury, spicy and meaty (if not, alas, the healthy). Step forward this slow-cooked pork goulash, a gorgeously rich stew for a Sunday night after three hours of gentle hands-free cooking in the oven. To be precise, three hours of heavenly smoky, spicy smells while you read the Sunday papers in front of a roaring fire (you don't get them in zone 1) and doze with the dog. It was perfect.

The recipe comes from Jamie at Home and like his slow-roasted lamb shoulder (which we should definitely make again soon, now I come to think of it), long slow cooking adds up to gorgeously juicy shreds of meat and intense flavours. In this case, a hulking great pork shoulder is swaddled in a spicy, traffic-light-coloured mix of red onions, tomatoes, green and yellow peppers and roasted red peppers, along with a hefty dose of spice and a few chillies. Three hours later, it collapses into a tender stew, still packing a punch with the spices but mellowed and enriched by time and the oven.

We once again used our new best friend the food processor, having enormous fun slicing our onions and peppers slightly too finely(it was our first time!). We also nixed the caraway seeds because we just don't like them and swapped in a few fennel seeds, on the basis that they go well with pork in sausage rolls so might have something to bring to the party here. 

We also added more vegetables than he says because, well, we like vegetables. But you know what? I would still add more. This came out pretty meat heavy and while the meat was amazing, I wanted more of the peppery oniony mush on my plate. Vegetables in stews are always the best bit! Next time, we'll definitely double his amounts. But given how much our pot overflowed, we'll, um, need a bigger casserole dish. Or a smaller bit of meat.

Either way, this was a spectacular Sunday night dinner, warming and hearty and hot. Followed by Strictly results, Downton, more roaring fire and more snoozing dog, it was pretty much the most restful Sunday evening possible. It didn't actually manage to stave off Monday morning but we can't expect miracles here.

Slow Roast Shoulder of Pork and Spicy Pepper Goulash
Adapted from Jamie at Home

- 2.2kg skinless pork shoulder joint
- olive oil, salt and pepper
- 4-5 red onions, finely sliced (he says 2 but we wanted more)
- 2 tablespoons of hot smoked paprika
- 2 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons of dried oregano (he says fresh, we didn't have any)
- 2 teaspoons of fennel seeds (or use caraway like he says)
- 8 peppers, mixed colours and finely sliced (finally an excuse to use the rubbish green ones which supermarkets chuck in the mixed bag. Again, Jamie said 5 peppers but they're so good, it's a shame not to do more)
- a jar of roasted red peppers in oil, drained and roughly chopped
- 1 tin of plum tomatoes (don't worry about chopping them, they magically disintegrate while it cooks)
- 4 tablespoons of red wine vinegar

To serve
- plain yoghurt or soured cream, a small bowlful
- some freshly chopped parsley
- zest of a lemon

Preheat the oven to 180C and find a deep, ovenproof casserole dish to fit your meat with a bit of spare space - ideally one that will go on the hob as well, but if not then you can always prepare it in a big pan then transfer to the dish for the oven.

Add a splash of oil to the pan and put in the pork, fat side down. Cook over a medium heat for about 15 minutes or until the fat has rendered out and is bubbling. It will spit, so be careful!

After fifteen minutes take the pork out and set aside, then add the onion, chilli, spices and a good hefty pinch of salt and pepper to the pork-fatty pan. Turn the heat down and cook for about ten minutes, then chuck in the peppers and tomatoes as well. Stir it all around then add the pork back in. Put in the vinegar, then pour over cold water until the meat is just covered.

Bring it to the boil then cover and put in the oven for 3 hours, sticking a baking tray on the shelf underneath to catch any overflowing juices. Enjoy the smell!

Serve with fluffy basmati rice, some kind of green leafy vegetable, and the yoghurt/lemon/parsley mixture (just stir it all together in a bowl). Hopefully you'll have enough for leftovers. Like all stews, this only gets better with time.

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