A blog about cooking with a surprise set of ingredients.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Immaculate conception via a blonde in a broom cupboard

This bag started in Valenciennes where Magnus and I had gone to buy insulation for the house we are renovating. The house is too big, which means too much renovation, and in its turn too much new insulation. Buying too much insulation takes time, so Magnus (and I) got hungry. Luckily there was a Carrefour nearby so we went there and bought a fried chicken – Magnus ate a leg, and I the rest, I'm afraid. My defence is that I did buy a lot of insulation. As well as fried chicken, they were touting pork belly that looked so nice I could not resist it. I later added galang, chillis, sweet basil, purple glutinous rice, dried shiitake mushrooms, green mango, dragon fruit, coconut milk, ginkgo beans and some caramelised kumquats. Good luck, darling!

Thanks to Prince Harry, when I saw the slice of pork belly in this week's bag of food,
 I knew immediately what I would cook. Henrik and I had been discussing the whole Vegas debacle, including, by a round about route, the various indiscretions of Boris Johnson, and thereby the infinite possibilities offered by the linen cupboard of Nobu to Boris Becker. Never having been there myself (Nobu, or its linen cupboard, before you ask), I started leafing through a Nobu recipe book in our kitchen, and came upon a lovely sounding recipe for crispy pork belly in a spicy miso sauce. I'd been planning cooking it some evening, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity.

Pork belly takes time to prepare, tho, so I got it simmering in a pan with a chilli, ginger and garlic stock as the first step. Henrik had also bought some purple glutinous rice, which was intriguing - from the packet, it needed a long cooking time, so I washed it thoroughly and got it on to boil (for 2 hours in the end) while I worked out what else to do with it. Sweet, not savoury, seemed to be the way to go, and I had in mind to see if I could make some sweet rice crackers, which could then be sandwiched with slices of dragon fruit. In the meantime, I made the rather complicated spicy miso sauce (a sake and mirin base with a long list of other ingredients, only some of which we had) and prepared the garnish of chilli, red onion and spring onion. I was a bit worried about the garnish being too spicy, but an hour cooling in the fridge mellowed the flavours just enough.

As a starter, I made a vegetable broth: galang and garlic base, with shiitake mushrooms, string beans, pak choi and courgette. Fearing Magnus wouldn't manage the spiciness of the pork belly, I made him some quick pork and courgette meatballs with spaghetti and then had the idea to use the extras of both to beef up the broth. That worked really well, in fact - a small bundle of plain spaghtti at the bottom of the bowls, then the broth and veggies, then a couple of meatballs floating on the top with some spring onion, sweet basil and chive as garnish.

On to the pork belly, which had by now mostly cooled off. The recipe recommended keeping it in the fridge overnight - time didn't allow for that, so I dried it off, cut it into cubes and fried it in a dry frying pan until it was golden and crispy. Nobu must use some kind of press in the fridge to make the cubes more cube-y, but my more impressionistic cubes still tasted good, and the miso sauce and spicy garnish balanced out the richness of the meat nicely.

Last, the rice, which was still bubbling away in a pan, now with coconut milk and sugar. Despite a few attempts, I didn't manage to make rice cakes out of it - I think on reflection I would have needed to make some kind of tray bake to get them to work. However, instead, I made a rice and dragon fruit layered pudding, which, although it certainly wouldn't have reached Nobu standards of presentation, in fact tasted really good, and we all had seconds. Seconds for a few nights in a row in fact: after our Nobu-esque meal, we were left, not with a paparazzi scandal, but merely rather large quantities of purple rice pudding. Less scandalous, but rather cheaper to deal with...   

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