Foolproof Homemade Ham

Unless you are a vegetarian I bet there is some ham in your fridge most days… after all it is the most popular sandwich filler. Yet why pay shop prices when you can make your own? Real ham, real meat flavour slightly enhanced with spices… perfection!

Foolproof Homemade Ham. It might not be a very sophisticated recipe, there is no brining and no glazing but if you buy a proper quality piece of meat, ideally from your local butcher, you will understand why it is so good. The real taste of meat, slightly enhanced with salt, pepper and garlic… trust me, if the quality of meat is good, this is all you need to make it work.There is a lot of different methods of cooking a ham. Some take more time than others so to get you started lets create a super tasty, totally foolproof homemade ham. It really doesn’t requires a lot of time or effort or many ingredients.

Ingredients:

  • ~2kg pork shoulder off the bone
  • 10 cloves of garlic
  • 1tbs good quality salt
  • 1/2tbs coarse ground pepper

Method:

Preheat the oven to 240C.

Prepare a large roasting tin. (i.e. get it out the cupboard and ready).

Wash and pat dry the pork shoulder.

Peal the garlic cloves and cut them length wise in half.

Using a sharp narrow knife make deep holes in your pork; stuff each of them with a garlic piece making sure the garlic is entirely enclosed inside the meat (any part of garlic left “outside” your pork will potentially burn leaving a bitter taste in its place).

Stab your meat until all the garlic is hidden, try to distribute it around the meat as evenly as possible.

Massage the salt into the meat and allow to rest for 5 min or so.

Sprinkle with pepper and pop into the oven.

Roast at 240C for 30 minutes, then reduce temperature to 180C and let it sit in the oven for additional 2 hours.

When the time is up, remove from the oven and allow it to rest.

Once cooled, it’s time to eat!

Foolproof Homemade Ham. It might not be a very sophisticated recipe, there is no brining and no glazing but if you buy a proper quality piece of meat, ideally from your local butcher, you will understand why it is so good. The real taste of meat, slightly enhanced with salt, pepper and garlic… trust me, if the quality of meat is good, this is all you need to make it work.Foolproof Homemade Ham. It might not be a very sophisticated recipe, there is no brining and no glazing but if you buy a proper quality piece of meat, ideally from your local butcher, you will understand why it is so good. The real taste of meat, slightly enhanced with salt, pepper and garlic… trust me, if the quality of meat is good, this is all you need to make it work.This is a super simple recipe. Normally we will carve a few pieces and have it hot for dinner, treating it like a roast, and then use all the “leftovers” as ham.

It might not be a very sophisticated recipe, there is no brining and no glazing but if you buy a proper quality piece of meat, ideally from your local butcher, you will understand why it is so good. The real taste of meat, slightly enhanced with salt, pepper and garlic… trust me, if the quality of meat is good, this is all you need to make it work.

Have you ever make ham at home?

Foolproof Homemade Ham. It might not be a very sophisticated recipe, there is no brining and no glazing but if you buy a proper quality piece of meat, ideally from your local butcher, you will understand why it is so good. The real taste of meat, slightly enhanced with salt, pepper and garlic… trust me, if the quality of meat is good, this is all you need to make it work.

Travelling for food – USA the land of BBQ and the ultimate pulled pork

Travelling for food BBQ

Did you know that over 40 per cent of travellers aged 18-34 have chosen a holiday destination specifically because they wanted to try a certain type of food? Good news, wouldn’t you agree?

According to an ICE survey more and more young people are indulging in food tourism. The numbers are reversed as the age of those surveyed goes up; only 11% of people over 65 let their stomach do the decision making for them.

It’s a shame that our older population isn’t so adventurous but it is nice to see that young people are willing to try and discover new things, food included.

We love new foods and would be happy to take a trip just with food in mind. One of our dream destinations is USA, the land of real BBQ. Yes, seeing the Great Canyon, Niagara Falls or driving on Route 66 would be awesome and a once in a lifetime experience but visiting USA BBQ hot spots would give us much more pleasure.

You might think “Hold on a minute, really, travelling to USA just to have a BBQ?” Yes, we would. Mainly because USA BBQ has nothing to do with blackened half burnt sausages that are still raw in the middle or poorly looking shop brought burgers, which tend to dominate UK BBQ parties. USA BBQ is a full on trip to flavour town that has elevated the humble BBQ to an art form; be it a pulled pork from Tennessee, hickory smoked brisket from Texas or glazed ribs from Missouri and please don’t even get me started on spicy chicken wings or any one of the variety of handmade burgers. USA is truly the chosen land in regards to BBQ.

Travelling for food Primo

Mark and I like BBQ but we simply can’t afford to be travelling to USA every time we feel like having a pulled pork butties, so we decided to learn how to cook it ourselves and invested in some pieces of real BBQ equipment of our own. We bought ourselves a Primo. Primo is the USA’s most popular barbeque / smoker used for home or in a small industrial setting. No, you can’t buy it on the continent, if you want one you will have to import it from USA, but we have something similar over here called a Big Green Egg (we never considered buying it or used it and I can’t speak as to how good it will be comparing to our Primo). The main difference between your standard BBQ and a Primo is that the Primo works like a barbeque / smoker, so you get the best of both worlds, depending on what you cook and what you are trying to achieve. You can cook on an open fire, just like your standard BBQ or you can smoke stuff in it for hours and hours… We love it and use it all year round. Being ceramic in construction it is not scared of the winter rains or even snow and it is always ready for action.

I would like to share with you a recipe for one version of the perfect pulled pork, not roast pork as it usually ends up being when sold in the UK but proper fall apart, melt in the mouth meat that just makes you smile – yes, it involves our Primo but not to worry you can simply do the same in the oven; obviously just skip the part where you would add wood chips to make the smoke – this wouldn’t be advised in the oven. If you really want to have some smoke taste on your pulled pork, on one oven cook we put some tea leaves in a tinfoil boat that we shaped and placed on the stove in an empty saucepan, when heated some lovely aromatic smoke will come. With some tongs carefully take the tinfoil boat of the heat and pop into the oven next to your meat.

Ingredients:

1 whole pork shoulder (bone included)*

For dry rub:

  • 1tbsp ground cumin
  • 1tbsp garlic powder
  • 1tbsp onion powder
  • 1tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 1tbsp salt
  • 1tbsp ground pepper
  • 1tbsp paprika
  • ½ cup brown sugar

For brine solution:

  • ½ cup salt
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3tbsp of dry run
  • Water to cover the entire shoulder

*You can’t buy it from your local supermarket; you will need a trip to a real butcher. Decent size pork shoulder will cost between £30- £40. It might seem like a lot but it will feed a lot of people, or a few people for a long time. Though it is worth remembering that once people start eating the finished dish; the concept of sharing does tend to take a holiday for most of them.

Method:

Rinse the pork shoulder and place in a large container, pour in the brine solution, and add water until it is completely covered. Leave in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours (brining overnight 12+ hours is best). Remove from the fridge and pat dry with paper towels. Place it in a baking tray and begin coating with your dry rub. Your entire shoulder is supposed to be covered in the rub, massage the spices into every part of the shoulder until all mixture is gone. Remember to place your meat so that the fat layer is upper most before cooking. If you have a meat thermometer this would be a perfect time to use it. Place it in the thickest part, close to the bone but without touching it. It will help with assessment later on in regards to the readiness of our meat.

Travelling for food --- Pulled PorkTravelling for food -- Pulled PorkTravelling for food Pulled Pork

Now you are ready to cook it. I would put it into my Primo and leave it for about 16-18 hours, cooking low and slow at 110C and adding wood chips every few hours for the additional smoke. You can place it in the over on a shelf. Make sure you can easily see the thermometer. When it hits 93.3C (the internal meat temperature) turn your oven off and leave it inside to cool a bit, this will allow for the meat to relax and all the juices to flood back to the outer edges of the joint. After a couple more hours or so, when the internal meat temperature has dropped to 75C remove from the oven. Place on a dry, large and clean work surface, remove the crust and begin to shred. It should come apart with easy just by using 2 forks. If you are going to use your fingers I recommend some rubber gloves, it will still be very hot!

Travelling for food - Pulled Pork

If you cooked it well you should have a large amount of liquid / fat at the bottom of your cooking pan – pour it onto fat separator. Let is separate and reserve the juices for tomorrow, when you want to reheat the left over pulled pork just throw a hand full into a frying pan on a medium heat and add a splash of the juices. Cook for 2-3 minutes covered, and you can relive the awesome experience all over again … unless you have an army of hungry people already waiting to be fed 😉

Travelling for food --- Pulled pork.

That’s it; nothing less, nothing more.

We made our first pulled pork in the oven. We loved it so much but we just couldn’t understand how the same piece of meat from a smoker could taste any better, but believe me the difference is huuuuuge. A proper BBQ / smoker takes it to a totally new level, it’s the smoky taste it speaks to the inner caveperson, it satisfies some primal craving, it is the best way to enjoy cooked meat.

pulled pork 2

Have you ever been on a holiday that was based around the quest for a particular food or dish?

In a few weeks time we are going to Poland to sample some local Bigos 🙂

Cooking with Villa Plus – Afelia – Cyprus Special #VPeats

Afelia – one dish four ways
Afelia – one dish four ways

I had been challenged!

Oh, ok, not only me… 10 of us, UK bloggers were challenged by Villa Plus to recreate dishes from all over the world. Chosen destinations included: Corfu, Lanzarote, Majorca, Algarve and my favourite Cyprus.

I’ve never visited Cyprus, so I thought it will be a great opportunity to learn a little bit about this country, especially its food 🙂. From what I’ve read it is a beautiful and “tasty” place.

afelia recipeMy dish for the challenge is Afelia. For everyone who doesn’t know what it is – Afelia is a traditional Cypriot food – slowly cooked pork marinated in red wine and coriander.

Like with every meal, sourcing the ingredients is key, especially when you are on holiday and you try to recreate this authentic local taste – please do not rush to shop at the superstore, go for a wonder… have an adventure and I am sure you will find a local market on your travels, who sell locally sourced products.

Me, I visited my local butcher, in order to procure a nice piece of happy meat…

Trip to my local butcher

… and my local farm shop to stock up on the greens.

HillFoot Farm Shop

But let’s start from the beginning…

Afelia Ingredients

Step one – ingredients list!

  • 1kg pork belly, cubed
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 1 glass of dry red wine
  • Half a glass of olive oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds, crushed
  • Half a teaspoon of cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper

As you can see from the ingredients list this is a very simple recipe.

It doesn’t require a lot of ingredients and it is budget friendly. I’ve paid £10.70 for just over 1kg of pork belly (yes, I know that supermarket has much lower prices but we would rather eat less but good quality food… shopping at our local butcher gives us full confidence that our meat is as good as it can get). Cost of wine £5.50, onions £0.30, olive oil £0.50… Total spend £17. I have not taken into account with all my calculations all the other bits as we already had them. This meal will feed 8, so price per head is just over £2, but… on the plus side you already have an almost full bottle of wine to go with your dinner, so no need worrying about drinks 😉

Depending how organized you are and how long you want meat to marinate, the dish will take anything from 4 hours up to 24+ hours to prepare from start to finish.

It is a very easy recipe so you do not require a lot of “tools” in order to make it. All you need is an oven, frying pan, and a casserole dish… a knife, cutting board and few bowls and plates… oh and a fridge, so your meat has a nice cool place for marinating.

So where do you start?

Preparing the meat

Preparing the meat

Once you are the lucky owner of a nice piece of pork belly it is time to cut it to shape.

If you bought your meat with skin, I would suggest removing it and if, like Mark, you are a huge fan of pork crackling cook it separate; if not just discard it.

Wash your meat and cut it into cubes.

Size is up to you. We went for two bites size, so our cubes might look a bit big to some but this is just the way we like it.

Preparing the marinade

Preparing the marinade

The marinade is very easy, really… it couldn’t be any easier. You will need a glass of wine – dry red ideally, 2 bay leaves and 2 tablespoons of crushed coriander seeds.

Mix all ingredients and job jobbed, you‘ve just created a perfect Afelia marinade.

Marinating process

Marinating process

Now when your meat is cut into your desired size and the marinade is waiting beside you, it is time to mix these two together.

Place your meat in an air tight container – a bowl, plastic tab or a sealable (food safe) bag – and add the marinade. Give it a good stir/shake to make sure that it is evenly spread out and fully coated in the marinade.

Place in the fridge and do not forget to stir/shake it from time to time.

The longer you leave it, the better the results. Minimum marinating time is around 3 hours, but it will be best if left in the fridge over night.

Searing the meat stage

Searing the meat stage

Once the marinating time is up, it is a good moment to start cooking.

Turn the oven on to around the 160°C (325°F) area.

You will need a large frying pan and some olive oil (or, if like us, you cooked the pork skin in order to have some homemade crackling, you can use the drippings, which dripped out from it).

Heat up the oil, drain the meat but save the marinade and fry your pork cubes for few minutes on each side to brown them.

You want them to be seared, golden brown but not yet cooked completely through.

Once done place your meat in the casserole dish you will use in the final stage of cooking.

Apparently this dish should be cooked in a clay oven or at least clay pot but regular oven and regular casserole dish will work as well, so do not worry about this too much.

Preparing the onions

Preparing the onions

You will need two large sliced onions that will need to be fried a bit, until soft and translucent.

We fried them using the same frying pan and remaining fat left over after searing the meat.

Once done, place them in your casserole dish.

Finishing touches

Finishing touches

At this stage almost everything is ready… all is left it to bring all the ingredients together. We have meat and onions already in our casserole dish, so what we need to add now is the cinnamon, salt, pepper and of course our marinade. Once the other ingredients have been added mix it nicely and put into the earlier pre-heated oven at 160°C (325°F) for about 1 hour.

And this is all she wrote.

Now, all you have to do is wait… remember, you still have some remaining wine, so pour yourself a glass and relax while dinner is bubbling away in the oven or use this time and decide what to have it with…

Our serving suggestions

Afelia with rice and salad

Afelia with rice and salad

Afelia with couscous and fried vegetables

Afelia with couscous and fried vegetables

Afelia with pita bread* and salad

Afelia with homemade pita bread and salad

Afelia with vegetable kebab and toasted garlic bread

Afelia with veggie kebab and toasted garlic bread

So, what do you think?

Sounds tempting or not for you?

*This pita bread was cooked on top of the hob in the frying pan used to fry / sear meat and veggies. No oven or pizza stone were involved this time, hence less puffiness and more colour.

** I was reimbursed the cost of the ingredients for this challenge.

What’s Cooking – The Ultimate Slow Cooked Ribs

Ultimate Slow Cooked Ribs
Ultimate Slow Cooked Ribs

So there we were the other day, pondering on life and my favourite subject, the consumption of food, in other words we were arguing over what to have for dinner. Mark was playing his ace card and mentioned that he was about to have an operation on his jaw and would not be able to eat anything except liquids for the next four weeks. I must say it really can put a kink in your counter argument when faced with that, so I relented after all I can have my beef chow mien (my preferred option) another day. Surprise, surprise Mark relented as well, principally because he didn’t really want to drive out in the cold and rain to the butcher to buy the big fat steak he was demanding. Back to square one it would seem. What we did discover rooting around the cupboards and fridge was we had a pack of 4 whole ribs; I think we have a winner!

Mark kicked me out the kitchen to go play on the computer; I feigned upset as I wanted to help, not. Escape time, so I was off.  Half an hour later, I was given an update.

Take the following:

2 large onions and peel them and chop very roughly, we want a mixture of small and large chunks, through them into a large roasting pan.

Couple of carrots, clean them up and remove any eyes, again rough chop and into the roasting pan.

A head of celery, cleaned up and rough chopped and again, into the roasting pan.

Finally A leek, trimmed and rough chopped also goes into the roasting pan.

Spread everything out in the roasting pan to make it reasonably level, now lay your ribs on top spacing them out as much as possible to reduce overlap.

Brush the ribs with some olive oil and sprinkle some salt over them. Now half fill the roasting pan with a stock of your choice. Mark just used a 1L carton of chicken stock with a heaped teaspoon of Bovril dissolved into it. I also suspect he flung about a third of a bottle of red wine in as well, it wasn’t declared as an ingredient but I couldn’t find the wine bottle later when looking for it so you do the maths.

Finally cover your roasting pan with tin foil and tightly seal it, pop it into the oven and turn the heat up to 160C and walk away for 5-6 hours and go get on with your life, for Mark it meant he could go back to saving the universe on his PS3.

4-5 hours later with the universe safe again for a moment, the roasting pan was removed from the oven and still covered left to cool for an hour or so.

Now to make a mop sauce to slaver all over the ribs. We have grown to love a sauce that we make based on the “She Devil Barbecue Sauce” from the Classic Barbecue and Grill Cookbook” by Marlena Spieler ISBN: 0-7513-0569-3. I must confess though that for me it does taste horrible on its own, but and it is a big but, when put onto some meat a magical transformation takes place and OMG it tastes divine, to the point it becomes very hard to stop having just one more bite.

So you are going to need a fairly long list of ingredients, as follows:

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 6 gloves of garlic, chopped
  • 4tbsp of Worcester sauce
  • 300ml Ketchup
  • 1tbsp of tomato paste
  • 4tbsp of molasses
  • Dash of Maple syrup
  • 4 Chillies chopped, or a tbsp of chilli flakes
  • 1 Bottle of dark beer
  • ½ pint of stock
  • 1tsp of Bovril
  • 1tsp of English mustard powder
  • 1 heaped tsp of whole grain mustard
  • 1tsp ground Cumin
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 4tbsp of cider vinegar
She Devil Barbecue Sauce
She Devil Barbecue Sauce

Now for the hard part, put everything in a saucepan, turn on the heat to medium and walk away for an hour. Stir occasionally to ensure it isn’t sticking to the bottom of the pan, and regulate the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. The sauce will cook down and get thicker as time passes. Mark says you cannot over cook it, but the longer you cook it the stronger the taste. After an hour or so, set up your hand blender or liquidiser and puree the sauce till it is glossy and smooth.

And now, at last, after what seems days, we can start to finish our dish.

Turn on the grill to medium – high. Take your cold ribs and lay them out on a baking tray or a grill pan, meat side up. As a warning this will not be an easy job, because we cooked them low and slow, they will want to fall apart, so handle with care, or use tongs.

Strain the juices from the bottom of the roasting pan and add them to your pureed sauce, boil the sauce rapidly now to reduce it quickly whilst the ribs finish. Stir regularly.

With a brush thickly apply a layer of the sauce to all parts of your ribs and pop them under the grill. After 15 minutes pull them out and turn them over, reapply sauce at this time. After another 15 minutes apply sauce and turn them for the final time so the meaty side is back on top. Lightly sprinkle some cane sugar over the top. Pop back under the grill for 10 minutes or so. By now the ribs should be hot all the way through and the sugars and the sauce will have caramelised forming a crisp outer skin that is both sweet and spicy. However when you bite into them the meat should be fall apart tender and very juicy due to the slow cooking, heavenly.

Time to dig in!
Time to dig in!

Mark served them with a mixed salad and dressing and some of his super crunchy chips and a gravy dish of the sauce for top ups as required. Though I think they would also go with a nice rice dish, or a jacket potato, just add whatever you fancy, personally I could just eat them on their own, they don’t need anything else but then again I am a serious carnivore 🙂

***