Slow cooking always feels so right at this time of the year. With windows firmly closed, there are few things I like more than getting something going on the stove or in the oven hours before it’s due to be eaten. It does wonders for what’s being cooked and also feels like such a “job done”. The thing I love most, though, with all those windows closed, is the smell that spreads and builds throughout the house. The first bite might be with the eye, but it’s the smell of a dish on which the anticipation is built.
Roast pork shoulder with quick carrot pickle and sticky rice (pictured top)
This works very well when you need to feed a crowd. The rice is the perfect canvas for the flavourful pork and its roasting juices. Radishes or another crunchy vegetable would make a good substitute for the carrots in the pickle.
Prep 30 min
Marinate 3 hr+
Cook 5 hr 12 min
2½ tsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed in a mortar
100ml oyster sauce
1 tsp chilli flakes
2 tsp soft light brown sugar
50g fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely grated
45ml sweetened rice vinegar
½ tsp ground star anise
½ tsp freshly cracked black pepper
2.2kg pork shoulder, skinless and boneless with the fat left on top
400g sticky rice, soaked in cold water for an hour, then drained well
8 tbsp (30g) coriander leaves, with soft stems attached
For the carrot pickle
120ml sweetened rice vinegar
4 tsp maple syrup
½ tsp salt
4 large carrots, peeled and julienned – use a mandoline, if you have one (600g)
7 spring onions, trimmed and sliced into thin rounds (60g)
First make the marinade. Put the fennel seeds, oyster sauce, chilli flakes, brown sugar, ginger, vinegar, star anise, pepper and three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt in a 30cm x 20cm x 8cm-deep baking dish. Mix well, then lay the pork joint in the dish and rub it all over with the marinade. Cover loosely with foil and leave to marinate at room temperature for at least three hours (or, if you’re getting ahead, put it in the fridge overnight, in which case take it out of the fridge at least an hour before roasting, to give it time to come up to room temperature first).
Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan)/350F/gas 4. Lift off the foil cover, pour 450ml room temperature water into the dish, then replace the foil, this time tightly. Roast in the oven for five hours, basting the meat every 30 minutes during the last two hours of cooking. By the end, you should be left with about 200ml liquid at the bottom of the pan, so if need be top up with a splash more water.
Turn up the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6. Remove the foil lid (save it for later), baste the pork once more and return it to the oven for another 10-12 minutes, until the top is deeply browned in places and the meat is glossy.
Remove from the oven, lightly cover with the foil and leave to rest for half an hour.
Meanwhile, put the rice in a medium saucepan for which you have a lid, cover with 440ml cold water and add a teaspoon of salt. Bring up to a boil and, once simmering, turn down the heat to medium-low and cover loosely so some steam can escape. Cook gently for 20 minutes, then take off the heat and leave to sit, still covered, for 10 minutes.
About 10 minutes before serving, make the pickle. Put the vinegar, maple syrup and half a teaspoon of salt in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Add the carrots and spring onions, toss well to coat, then set aside.
To serve, gently pull apart and roughly shred the pork with two forks. Spoon the rice into bowls, top with some pork, spoon over some of the roasting juices and serve with the pickled carrots and coriander on the side.
Mung bean and barley khichree with spicy pine nut ghee and lime
This comforting one-pot meal is a south Indian dish traditionally made with rice and a mix of lentils. It has as many variations as its name has spellings (khichdi or kichri, to name just two). Here, the texture of the barley adds a nice bite. Feel free to swap the mung beans for any other lentil, such as puy, that retains its shape after cooking. To make the dish vegan, swap the ghee for olive oil.
Prep 20 min
Soak 1 hr+
Cook 1 hr 25 min
150g pearl barley
75g green mung beans
75g chana dal
170g ghee (or olive oil)
3 onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced (400g)
1 cinnamon stick
3 fresh bay leaves
2 tsp cumin seeds, lightly crushed in a mortar
40g ginger, peeled and finely grated
10g fresh turmeric, peeled and finely grated
200g chopped tinned tomatoes
8 tbsp (30g) coriander leaves, with some soft stem attached, roughly chopped
2 limes, each cut into 4 wedges
For the spicy ghee
50g pine nuts
2 tsp black mustard seeds, lightly crushed in a mortar
1 tsp ground kashmiri chilli (or paprika)
2 tsp chilli flakes
Put the barley, mung beans and chana dal in a medium bowl, pour over a litre and a half of boiling water, to cover, and set aside to soak for an hour. (Alternatively, if you want to get ahead, soak them in cold water overnight, then drain, wash under cold running water until it runs clear, then set aside to drain.)
Put 70g of the ghee in a large saute pan for which you have a lid on medium high heat. Once it’s melted and hot, add the onions, cinnamon, bay leaves and a quarter-teaspoon of salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20-25 minutes, until the onions have softened and are lightly golden. Add the cumin seeds, ginger and turmeric, and cook for two minutes until fragrant, then stir in the tomatoes, the soaked and drained barley, mung beans and chana dal, a litre and a half of boiling water and a teaspoon and a quarter of salt. Cover the pan and leave to simmer, stirring occasionally at the beginning and more frequently at the end to prevent the mix from catching, for an hour, until most of the water has been absorbed and the khichree has a thin, porridge-like consistency. Set aside, still covered, for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the spicy ghee. Put the remaining 100g ghee in a small saucepan on medium-high heat. Once it’s very hot, stir in the pine nuts and cook for a minute, until they are lightly golden. Off the heat, stir in the mustard seeds, kashmiri chilli, chilli flakes and an eighth of a teaspoon of salt.
Spoon the khichree into bowls. Divide the coriander and spicy ghee between the bowls and serve with the lime wedges on the side.
Slow-cooked carrots with hazelnuts and mozzarella
Slow-cooking carrots in this way really intensifies their flavour, and brings out their natural, earthy sweetness. Try to get carrots that are roughly the same size, ideally about about 16cm long and 3-4cm wide at the thickest end. Serve alongside roast or poached chicken or salmon.
Prep 30 min
Cook 1 hr 40 min
Serves 4 as a side
6 medium-large carrots (850g), peeled and cut in half lengthways (700g net)
4 shallots (175g), peeled and cut in half lengthways (150g net)
6 garlic cloves, unpeeled, bashed lightly with the flat of a knife
4 sprigs fresh thyme
90ml olive oil
2 tbsp maple syrup
4 tsp lemon juice
125g buffalo mozzarella, roughly torn
25g blanched hazelnuts, very well toasted and roughly chopped in half
10g basil leaves, roughly torn
Heat the oven to 140C (120C fan)/275F/gas 1. Put the carrots, shallots, garlic, thyme, oil and three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt in a large, ovenproof saute pan. Mix to combine, then roast for 90 minutes, stirring gently every half-hour, until the carrots are tender but not falling apart (the thicker parts should still have a slight bite).
Remove from the oven and turn up the temperature to 240C (220C fan)/475F/gas 9. Drizzle the carrots all over with the maple syrup and, once the oven has come up to temperature, return them to the hot oven for 10 minutes more, or until starting to colour in places (they won’t be overly browned). Remove and set aside to cool for five minutes, then stir in the lemon juice.
Sprinkle the mozzarella with a small pinch of salt. Transfer half the carrot mixture (including the shallots, garlic and thyme) to a large platter with a lip, arranging them so they’re all facing in the same direction, then scatter half the mozzarella on top. Repeat with the remaining carrot mixture and mozzarella. Spoon over any liquid from the pan, then scatter over the hazelnuts and basil and serve warm or at room temperature.