Saturday, 29 October 2011

Braised Pork & Potato with Fermented Beancurd

Apart from my little slip-up on my birthday weekend, I’ve been doing really well with no-red-meat October. A shame then that it suddenly occurred to me over the weekend that with my impending move in less than a month I should get a bit of a move on with emptying the freezer. October has henceforth become then “Red-meat-only-once-a-week-preferably-on-a-Sunday October”. Snappy.

So out came a slab of pork belly for Sunday lunch and rather than a standard roast I decided, surprise surprise to opt for something Chinese. I think the following, adapted from a recipe on Sunflower’s blog  (but with the idea of braising in the oven rather than the on the hob from Hollowlegs) may originate in Hakka cuisine judging by bits and pieces I’ve read on Wikipedia and the like. Admittedly it doesn’t look especially pretty but it is very tasty comfort food and kind of similar to hong shao rou (red braised pork) which I also love with a passion.

Here the meat is meltingly succulent and the potato chunks are tender and infused with the meaty sauce flavour. Frying the potato first apparently makes them nuttier but they also keep their shape better through the braising process. You can of course add them raw if you wish but I suspect that they may disintegrate into the sauce a bit too much. As it was I thought my potatoes a touch too soft (though also ambrosial) and next time with add them about half way through the cooking process.

I had wanted to use the claypot I bought in Chinatown a while ago but as I was cooking the potato and pork in the wok it soon become apparent it wouldn’t all fit so out came my trusty little Le Creuset... this was probably better for my nerves: although the claypot had been soaked in water for 24 hours (which it needs to be before first usage) I still think I would have been a bit anxious about it shattering and leaving me with a braised pork spattered oven. And even worse, no lunch!

I’m not sure that the fermented bean curd I used was the right sort as although it was in a red liquid, the tofu itself wasn’t particularly red. It also wasn’t as pungently smelly as I was expecting. Mind you, as I’ve mentioned previously I have had an horrendous cold recently. 

Braised pork & potato with red fermented beancurd
Serves 3 pretty damn generously

350 - 400g pork belly, cut into chunks
1 tbsp light soy
1 tbsp dark soy
1 tsp five spice powder
large pinch ground white pepper
4 tbsp groundnut oil
700 - 800g potato, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 small shallot, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 thin slices ginger
3 small squares of red fermented beancurd
2 tbsp of the liquid from the fermented beancurd
2 star anise
3 tbsp Shaoxing wine
2 tsp sugar

Preheat the oven to 170C. Mix the belly pork with the soy sauces, five spice and white pepper in a bowl and set aside.

Heat the oil in a wok and fry the potato chunks for about 10 minutes until lightly browned on all sides (you don’t want them cooked through, just browned). Set aside on some kitchen paper and pour off all but 1 tbsp of oil from the wok.

Fry the garlic, shallot and ginger until fragrant then add in the red fermented beancurd, crushing it down into the oil, the beancurd juice, and star anise. Fry for 20 - 30 seconds.

Then add in the pork from the marinade (leave the marinade in the bowl) and stirfry for a further 10 minutes or so until the pork is coloured.

Add the marinade from the bowl, plus the Shaoxing wine and sugar. Stir until bubbling, then mix in the potatoes before pouring it all into a heavy based ovenproof pot (or claypot if it will fit!).

Add about 200ml water or just enough to cover the meat then pop a lid on and put into the oven. Note that if you use a claypot, that must go into a cold oven which you then turn up to 170C.

Cook for about 1.5 hours but check occasionally to make sure that it doesn’t need a little more liquid added.

Serve with curly kale, stirfried with a little garlic and red chilli and some steamed rice.

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