Hom(age) to Ken: Crispy Pork and Braised Aubergine

Hom(age), see what I did there? Ken Hom? Never mind.

I was watching a back episode of Ken Hom’s new programme this morning whilst eating breakfast and it gave me some good ideas (as well as making me want dumplings all day). This dish is inspired by my pal Ken and incorporates a few of his techniques from various recipes I’ve seen him do over the years. It’s simple but there are a few ingredients you’ll need to have. First is kecap manis which is a really sweet, thick, molassesy soy sauce (this is my favourite brand). The second ingredient is Jimmy’s Satay Sauce which is not like the thick peanutty sauces you get over chicken skewers, it is a Malaysian paste which adds a sweet and savoury note to your dishes. If you don’t have these I recommend both heartily!

The benefit of braising the aubergine, rather than frying, is that it doesn’t soak up a load of oil and in this way is slightly healthier (ignore the fact that it’s belly cut) and you get a lot of flavour without the greasiness.

Anyway, here’s the recipe:

Crispy Pork and Braised Aubergine

Crispy Pork and Braised Aubergine

  • Crispy Pork and Braised Aubergine:
  1. 500g of pork belly – sliced into bitesized chunks
  2. One whole onion – roughly chopped
  3. Three spring onions – chopped
  4. Three cloves of garlic – roughly chopped
  5. One whole red chilli – chopped
  6. One whole aubergine – diced into 1cm cubes
  7. 100ml water
  8. Two tbsp rice vinegar
  9. Two tbsp kecap manis
  10. Jimmy’s Satay Sauce
  11. One tbsp dark soy sauce
  12. One tbsp light soy sauce
  13. One tbsp of lime vinegar
  14. Handful fresh coriander
  15. Juice of half a lime (if no lime vinegar use juice of whole lime)
  16. Whole green pepper – sliced into rings

– First, and this is a Ken Hom tip, heat 2tbsp of oil in your wok until smoking and then fry the pork in batches until crispy. Remove each batch and drain in a sieve. This might seem like a hassle but it makes the pork so tender when you return it to the wok later and I promise it’s worth it!

– Once all the pork is fried and resting, add to the hot wok the onion and spring union and fry until soft. Next add the garlic and chilli and fry for a further 3 mins.

– Now add the aubergine, the pork and the water and place a lid over your wok. Allow to braise for five minutes.

– It is now time to get it going: bang in your flavours (ingredients 8-14), stir through, and replace the lid for a further three minutes.

– At this stage I’d get  some chow mein noodles on (or whatever style you prefer).

– Finally, you are ready to serve. Drain the noodles and toss in a little toasted sesame oil to stop them sticking and for a bit of rich nutty flavour. Serve the pork and aubergine over the noodles, squeeze the lime over for a bit of zing and top with the green pepper and a few sprigs of coriander.

I’ve just finished eating this and I want more… There’s something about the fatty pork belly and the salty sweetness of the kecap manis that I can’t resist. This dish contains a lot of my favourite things and is a recycled variation on all sorts of dishes I make in order to get the same things in: pork belly, kecap manis and Jimmy’s. With any one of those ingredients you can’t go wrong; with all three, you’re in heaven.

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Roman Steak and Rocket (Bistecca di Manzo con Rucola)

In a bid to reassert some order over this blog I have decided to make a small post today to get back into the Monday/Friday pattern. This might be a simple dish but it’s a cracker and one which you can throw together in minutes after work.

During our summer holiday we stopped over in Rome for a few nights. being of thrifty mind (and light of pocket) we were keen to find foodie delights which, whilst stretching our waistlines, didn’t stretch our budgets. Looking through the Rough Guide book we came across Da Augusto in Trastevere which was described as an “old-timer […] serving Roman basics outside on the cobbles”. Equally importantly, “a hearty meal” would only set us back around 14 Euros with wine. We made a bee-line for the restaurant and were not disappointed. Set on a small piazza the tables are jammed into rows together outside and every seat was full with expectant diners at least 45 minutes before dinner service began or the restaurant doors were even open! The queue was constant with more discerning and hungry punters than tables.

Whilst service was patchy (ours was great but a lovely young German couple beside us didn’t get their starters until we were half-way through our mains after ordering at the same time…), The food was brilliant. Roman basics they may have been, but each dish was well flavoured, seasoned and presented sticking to the Italian dictum of simplicity and quality.

The highlight of the meal for me was the bistecca di manzo con rucola, or beef steak and rocket. The steak, so tender and juicy, is beautifully offset by the crunchy peppery rocket (or as used in the recipe below giant cress). By luck, last week I picked up a few copies of The River Cafe cook books and a recipe for the dish jumped out at me. The simple flavours marry so well together that it really needs nothing else but if, like me, you’re the hungry type, you can stick some nice boiled new potatoes on the side.

Bistecca di Manzo con Rucola

Bistecca di Manzo con Rucola

It really couldn’t be simpler:

  • Bistecca di Manzo con Rucola (serves 2)
  1. Two nice sized steaks out (roughly 250g each)
  2. Two handfuls of rocket (or some good giant cress – not the micro watercress though)
  3. Five tsp extra virgin olive oil
  4. Juice of a whole lemon
  5. One tbsp of red wine vinegar

First, flatten your steak between two sheets of clingfilm with a mallet or rolling pin. I used some good quality frying steak here but you can use a couple of sirloins if you’re feeling flush. Get them as thin as possible and then slice into thin strips.

In a jar mix the oil, lemon juice and vinegar and set aside.

Heat a griddle or heavy-based frying pan until smoking and then fry the steak in batches until browned.

dress the rocket or cress and place the steak on top.

Simple!

I hope you get a chance to make this dish and that you enjoy it as much as I did. There’s real pleasure in the concise ingredients list and the few minutes taken to knock it up belie its classy flavours. This is fast food Jim, but not as we know it.

It would be a travesty if I wrote a whole post on a Roman theme without saying: ‘when in Rome’ (eat bistecca di manzo con rucola)!

Until next time…