Pork with saffron cream and mushrooms

I do like a bit of a challenge. Nothing too strenuous, you understand and nothing too difficult.

I like to call in at a supermarket on the way home from work and see what is in the reduced-for-a-quick-sale-as-it-has-to-be-used-today section. It means I am approaching cooking the evening meal with no preconceptions. I start with what’s there and then decide what I am going to cook and what else I need. See what I mean? It’s a bit of a challenge at the end of the working day, but it’s a fun one. And I end up with a surprise while I save money.

When I called in one night, I found lovely pork steaks from outdoor farmed, happy, well-looked after pigs (though I do wonder how on earth you could keep a pig indoors?) Still, this was premium pork and it was half price.

There were also some baby button mushrooms.

That would do I thought. I could make something from that. As I drove back home I was thinking about what else I had in the kitchen….. and remembered that friends of ours had brought home some lovely saffron from their holidays. Pork and saffron…. pork in a cream and saffron sauce… with mushrooms. Bet that would be good, I thought.

Within five minutes of getting into the apartment I had chopped some onion and started to soften it, while I cubed the pork.

A few stamens of saffron were put into a ramekin

And some hot water added to release the flavour and glorious colour.

Little mushrooms were sliced while the pork cooked through and then were added to the pan.

The saffron was added… actually it looked far more golden that this, but hey… I’m not a photographer so I have no idea why it DOESN’T look more golden. Just use your imagination.

Then just over a quarter of a pot of cream was poured in to make the sauce….. I always seem to have cream in the house. Cream and butter – if you have them then you can always make even the meanest of ingredients taste delicious.

While I’d been doing that I put some basmati rice on to cook. That only takes a few minutes to cook and if you measuer the rice to water ratio correctly (just a bit over one and a half times the water to the rice) you can cook it through without having to drain it. A tea towel on the top once the pan is off the oven absorbs any extra moisture and leaves you with tender, fragrant, perfectly separated rice grains.

And there you have it. In less than twenty minutes I had supper ready.

The pork was tender and the mushrooms cooked through… the saffron cream added a lovely savoury hit and the rice mopped up the sauce.

Can’t do better than that, I think. It was quick, easy, tasty, inexpensive and best of all… it was a surprise.

I might just pop into a store on the way home tonight to see what other surprises I can get!

Pork and Pepper Goulash

The Bear has returned from a trip to Australia and I have returned from work. We meet upstairs in the kitchen.

I need to cook something and I need to make sure it is not only quick to cook and serve   (before he falls asleep from jet lag) but also to get us back on our diet. It will have to be something from the 400 and Under section of my recipe files.

On my way back through town, in the rush hour traffic, I pulled in to the supermarket to see what there was and saw some pork.

I knew there was a recipe that I had cooked before that turned out to be surprisingly  tasty. I say surprisingly, because it wouldn’t have been my choice when I spotted it. I said, didn’t I, that I looked through magazines and cook books for recipes that gave us under 400 calories per serving?  Well, I always index tab them and show them to the Bear to see if there’s anything he fancies. He picked this one  from delicious.magazine (sept 2008). And this one had two things going against it in my eyes… it involved pork (not my favourite meat) and caraway seeds – very definitely not my favourite flavour.

Still, it was his choice and I am, despite appearances to the contrary, quite pleasant at times….

And as it happened, it turned out to be incredibly delicious. And also very quick to cook. Time to do it again, I thought.

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So I got 4 boneless pork steaks – not too much fat on them – and not too expensive. I knew I had all the other ingredients that I would need, which is another good reason to read this recipe and keep it in mind.

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I needed a tin of tomatoes, a red onion, some smoked sweet paprika, some caraway seeds, a jar of roasted red peppers in oil and some yoghurt.

First of all, while waiting for the kettle to boil so I could make the poor, exhausted Bear a cup of tea, I sliced the red onion and put the frying pan on to heat through.

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Not much oil in the pan and get them softening, before adding 1 tablespoon of smoked sweet paprika

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and a teaspoon of caraway seeds

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Stir it all round and while the flavours are blending, cut the pork into bite sized pieces. Take the rind and any excess fat off (we are on a diet, you know!) and add that

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get that meat in and stir it round, letting it brown

I swear, all that took just a few minutes. All I had to do then, once the meat was browned, was to add a tin of chopped plum tomatoes and let it simmer for fifteen minutes.

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Now, as I was in late from work and as the Bear was starving, I didn’t want to delay supper. I had some Anya potatoes (those knobbly ones) and I put them on to steam (yes, it really should have been mash but I knew this would work) All I would have to do with them would be to crush them so the gorgeous juices soaked in….

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… and some of the juices would be coming from the roasted red peppers. Most of the supermarkets have them and they are a great storecupboard standby. They have a real depth of flavour and a long shelf life so they are perfect to get and keep for moments like this.

Cut them into pieces and then add them to the tomatoey pork after it has had fifteen minutes or so, cooking

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… then add a couple of large spoonfuls of yoghurt.

And that’s it. Done and dusted in less than 40 minutes. Squash the potatoes with a fork so they are broken up and then spoon over the delicious (and I say this as a person who doesn’t LIKE caraway) meat and sauce.

The tomato and caraway make a beautiful rich and savoury sauce for the meat, which is still tender…..

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A sprinkling of parsley sets it off… all that for less than 400 calories (396 according the the recipe) … maybe 550 if you add the potatoes?

Well… it WOULD have been 550 calories but it was so utterly delicious I did have an extra spoonful. I do my best, you know. It was quick and easy, low calorie…… but I am greedy.

It is supposed to feed 4 so if you are strict and divide it by 4………. or maybe invite two friends round? That should solve things. What can you do, eh? Totally delicious…….

Christmas Pudding Stuffing

Last week I got two of Matthew Walker’s Christmas Puddings  sent through the post.

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The company have a competition  to win a camera and a photography course and asked  everyone  in the UK Food Blogger’s Association to have a go and invent something new using their Christmas puddings…

As the company says,

“the original Christmas pudding is based on a traditional recipe that includes 13 core ingredients, which represent Jesus and his 12 apostles.

I travel the globe to select the very finest spirits, vine fruits and seasonal spices, from a stout that is brewed right here in The Peak District to succulent sultanas and currents from Turkey and Greece.

The result is a beautifully moist and fruity Christmas pudding that truly captures the traditional taste of the festive season.”

And what exactly are the ingredients?

  • Sultanas
  • Raisins
  • Demerara Sugar
  • Currants
  • Glacé Cherries
  • Stout
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Sherry
  • Vegetarian Suet
  • Almonds
  • Orange & Lemon Peel
  • Cognac
  • Mixed Spices

Well then. With a list like that of ingredients,  I had better start thinking. I began with the little pudding. I was thinking of trying something savoury, something different….

And then I thought of stuffing. What about some lovely roast pork with crispy crackling? After all apple and apricot are perfectly normal stuffings for pork. When I talked about this at work there was a fifty-fifty split about whether this would work, probably just as there will be amongst those of you who read this.  I thought it would work… sweetly, spicy, savoury stuffing? What’s not to like about that?

The very first thing to do will be to get the oven as hot as possible to make the perfect crackling for that lovely pork… so put it on now to preheat

Then, open the pudding and smell it

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It was rich and dense and spicy and dark – as dark as the devil’s heart as we would say.

 So the next step was to make it into stuffing – first things first, start with the savoury aspect

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Bacon and onion would add a good savoury taste


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Gently fry the onion then chop the bacon (or do as I do and use scissors – much quicker)  and add that to the onion

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Make some breadcrumbs  – I have a Bamix and this makes breadcrumbs in seconds

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Cut up the pudding and add it to the breadcrumbs and mix it well. Adding a sprinkle of  some salt and pepper rounds things out

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Some suet.. real suet from the butcher….. just a sprinkle, but imagine how that will make it taste….

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Once the bacon and onion have cooled slightly, stir that in as well

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Then mix an egg lightly

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And add that – this will bind everything together and chill the mix in the fridge. Having it cool will make it easier to roll and it also means you have time to tidy the benches and give things a quick wipe down.

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On to the pork…. make sure the skin is properly scored – if it isn’t already, sharpen a knife and slash it. Remember, the thinner the slashes the thinner and crispier the crackling will be. Massage in some oil and then rub that rind with salt.

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Now, I spotted a problem… I had been going to stuff the pork with the stuffing but it wasn’t the best rolled joint…

Balls, I thought. 

Stuffing balls, I mean, obviously! Straightforward stuffing the joint wouldn’t work, but rolling it into balls and roasting separately might just do it….

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Look how pretty they look

So, put that pork in to sear and blister. Leave that in there on the highest heat till you can see the skin bubbling, then you can turn things down and relax for a while.

I decided some nice goose fat roasted potatoes and the benefit of that would be that I could put those stuffing balls in with them towards the end of the roasting time and they could roll around in the sizzling goose fat so they become crispy on the outside and stay moist and juicy in the middle….

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So, things were progressing well….once the potatoes were starting to turn golden, in went the stuffing balls

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The meat was taken out to rest… look at that crackling

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And then…. put everything together…

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In conclusion? I was right. As a festive stuffing it hits all the right buttons.

The stuffing balls, born from necessity, are probably the better way to go. The outside crisps up beautifully, while the inside stays juicy.

And… this might be noted as a guilty pleasure… I got in from work the following night and nibbled one… even cold it tasted gorgeous!

And the Bear’s verdict? He ate everything and then asked for pork and Christmas Pudding stuffing sandwiches for lunch. I guess that means he likes it too.

Make them, this is a recipe to remember and use.

Oh and thank you, Matthew Walker, that pudding is a real Christmas cracker     😉


This section is for Laura and this is what she says about her cooking journey..

“right,  my blog thing.

where to start???? aged 19 I flew the coop and moved in with my husband to be (he was a wanker). Anyway, I had to cook, and loved feeding him. I learned largely from my grandmother and always had something up my sleeve.

And then I woke up and got rid of him (yay).

I don’t really remember what I used to cook for Jonathan because in the end it all became about Isobel. When she started solids I would cook all sorts for her. She had to take her own lunch to nursery and I was always making freezable home cooked meals for her, Annabel Karmel I love you!!!!!

As time wore on I worked more and more, and Jonathan worked more than that and we were all of a sudden having Chinese or frozen stuff. Then Wendy put a picture on Facebook of bread she’d made!! Well I had to have a go, or two…………

and the rest is history!”

Laura was  the first T.O.B Cook. She made bread……the No Knead Bread

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And it turned out brilliantly

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She has encouraged the others to try it… so well done Laura!

Then she made the butter to go with it..

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And followed that with chillies… those delicious bacon wrapped, cream cheese stuffed chillies…

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Brilliant, Laura…

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Slow roast pork and orange glazed carrots with roast potatoes! Mmmmmmm……

January 2010

I made Jansson’s Temptation and Laura wanted to do it too… the problem was she lived too far from Ikea to get the sprats, anchovy style. Which are an absolute essential…

I couldn’t let that hold her back so I posted her a tin ( the lady in the Post Office did look at me oddly when I said I was posting a friend some sprats…. Swedish sprats, anchovy style… 🙂  )

See how technical we are? She prepares food, takes a picture with her BlackBerry and sends it to mine….

We discuss how it is going and she sends a picture of the finished dish!

(She liked it… as did her in-laws!)