Slow Cooked Lamb Belly

Slow Cooked Lamb Belly

We’ve had these amazing looking rolled and stuffed lamb bellies available at the market for a while now and they always look amazing! And because they look amazing I haven’t had a chance to cook one until today!

We love lamb belly or lamb flap. I normally call it flap, Neil just calls it amazing. It’s a super fatty cut of meat, quite thin, and if you cook it wrong it will be tough. One of the reasons I’m doing this blog is because I gave the wrong advice to a customer and I’m mortified by it. She ended up with an inedible bit of meat instead of what should have been a melt in your mouth delicious cut of lamb. And I am so terribly sorry!

It’s like a meat swiss roll.

It’s like a meat swiss roll.

You can see that there’s a fair amount of fat in this cut but as you cook it, the fat renders down and flavours the meat. Fat is flavour after all.

Did I mention that this was a one pot meal?! Because it is! 😀 I feel like it’s the lazy way to cook but it’s so good! Unfortunately, I’m also cooking this on a 35C day so my kitchen is a bit hot, that’s less good but I’m also outside hanging out with family while this is cooking so that’s good!

My favourite one pot meal veggies sitting in the bottom, lightly browned.

My favourite one pot meal veggies sitting in the bottom, lightly browned.

I’m sure that you can throw almost any hard root type vegetable that you like to eat into the bottom of the pot and you’d be good. Probably not sweet potato, that’s a bit soft. Maybe towards the end though! But once you have your vegetables sorted out, pop the lid on and put the whole thing into the oven.

It shrunk a lot!

It shrunk a lot!

This is about the 3 hour mark. We took the lid off and put it back into the oven and turned the heat up a bit. About twenty minutes later I came back to it and turned it down. What I would do next time is wait until the 3.5 hour mark and then take the lid off and turn the heat up. This is also dependent on the size of my roast. The roast I used today was 1.1kg, had it been 1.5kg I would have added an extra 30-45 mins to the initial 3.5 hours. I’ve also used this method of cooking for the stuffed and rolled lamb shoulders that we bring to market as well. It works the same, just remember to adjust cooking times for bigger or smaller roast.

All done!

All done!

The stuffing is way darker in this picture. But the outside fat is super crispy. I like crispy fat. Taking off the lid is a good move. My only problem at this point is trying to remove the netting and not tear apart the roast. But it’s not really my problem because once the meat is out of the pot and resting under some alfoil it becomes Neil’s problem 😀 I think the adjustment of the cooking time will help with removing the netting or even before cranking the oven to 200C snipping the netting off might work too though.

Turns out swiss roll meat is a bit hard to carve when it’s falling apart on you.

Turns out swiss roll meat is a bit hard to carve when it’s falling apart on you.

Ok, so this isn’t the most awesome picture I could have taken. This basically looks like a mess. But it’s a freaking delicious mess! Yes, it was hard to carve. Yes, this is not the roast you serve your new girlfriends parents the first time you meet them. Yes, we may have to get a better carving knife or meat carving person. But oh my goodness! So tasty. The fat kind of sticks to the inside of your mouth but it is so tasty!

Like I said earlier this roast was 1.1kg and when it came out of the oven to rest it was 690g. It lost a lot of weight, there was a lot of liquid fat in the bottom of the pot which I added to my jar of cooking fat in the fridge. And as a side note once that fat cooled it was super hard. Rock hard. Way different to the pork fat that was in my jar. But! Back to the size of the roast! It started as 1.1kg and it fed 3 adults with enough leftover meat for a fourth adult. The only additional thing we had with dinner was thick slices of fresh bread covered in butter. I would have been in trouble if we had 1 or 2 extra people for dinner that night. But a 1 kg roast should be enough for 4 people provided you have additional sides.

My sister said I should have an actual recipe written out at the end of the blog. But I didn’t want to. And then she insisted. She’s really bossy so here it is:

Lamb Belly Roast

Feeds 4 Adults

Ingredients:

1kg Lamb belly roast

3 carrots

3 sticks of celery

3 large potatoes

1 large onion

  • Set oven for 180C
  • Lightly brown vegetables in heavy bottom oven safe pot
  • Place lamb belly into pot on top of the vegetables and put the lid on
  • Place pot into the oven and leave it for 3.5 hours
  • After 3.5 hours take the lid off the pot, return the pot to the oven and turn the oven to 200C
  • After half an hour take the pot out of the oven and transfer the lamb belly roast to another dish. Cover with alfoil and let it rest for half an hour.
  • The vegetables can be transferred to another dish and placed in the oven (turned down or off) to keep warm and you can make a gravy from the remaining pan juices.
  • Serve with your choice of sides and vegetables from the pot. Mash is always a winner.
Yup. Tasty.

Yup. Tasty.

Beef Bolar Pot Roast.

My absolute favourite way of cooking when I’m flat out busy with life is anything that gives me my protein and veg all in the one go with as few dishes to wash as humanly possible. One pot dishes, slow cooker meals, and nights where Neil cooks are the greatest. Pot roasts absolutely fall into this category! So easy, so tasty, and so few dishes!

Roast beef is not a dish I grew up eating. I didn’t understand how they worked and I didn’t understand the appeal. But when Neil gives you 150 kilos of beef and then expects you to cook with it you have to learn to adapt. Thankfully, Neil’s dad David understands all aspect of English cooking and I bug him with all my questions.

Bolar roast is a family favourite. It’s a lean cut but it does have a nice layer of fat right on top and we get it back as a roast. I used the term roast loosely, it’s more like a giant 2-3kg chunk of meat. Neil likes his roast beef rare. I have never managed to cook him a rare roast beef. I’m still learning. 🙂

A lean roast with a nice fat layer on top.

A lean roast with a nice fat layer on top.

I like to use a big enamelled cast iron pot for our pot roast. It’s big enough to fit a giant roast as well as all the vegetables. I start by searing the sides of the roast in the pot and putting it aside while I lightly brown the vegetables in the same pot lifting up some of the goodness left behind by the beef.

Browned and ready to go!

Browned and ready to go!

As always a mix of carrot, onion, celery, and as an added bonus potato!

As always a mix of carrot, onion, celery, and as an added bonus potato!

The best part of a pot roast is that all my vegetables can go into the one pot. I went a little light this time on the vegetables only because I was craving colcannon as a side. By the way colcannon is mashed potato with cabbage and bacon. Greatest. Thing. Ever.

The vegetables make a nice bed for my beef to sit on and a little sprinkle of fresh thyme on top for funsies. It also tasty :P

The vegetables make a nice bed for my beef to sit on and a little sprinkle of fresh thyme on top for funsies. It also tasty 😛

I’ve decided that I love beef fat. It makes my mouth feel nice and warm and cozy and I want to eat all the beef fat. If you can get a roast with a nice layer of on top it’ll be perfect for this pot roast. You can sit the beef on top of the vegetables and as the beef cooks and the fat renders down all those vegetables soak up the tasty tasty fat.

I put this roast in at 3pm at 180C with the lid on and I was thinking it would take 2 hours and I would have dinner ready by 6:30ish with some resting time of about a half hour. Just in case you’re wondering that math does not work.

My roast at the two hour mark.

My roast at the two hour mark.

At the two hour mark my roast had a temperature reading of about 45C that’s lower than the temperature it should be for rare beef. It had to go back in the oven. That was fine. I did get my math wrong anyway and I had about an hour spare. I put it back in the oven with the lid off, lid off means you get crispy beef fat on top. Did I mention beef fat is my favourite??

I may have cooked it for too long

I may have cooked it for too long

Now the rest of the cooking of this particular beef roast got a bit hazy. We were a little busy. My beef roast stayed in the oven uncovered for a little longer than an hour. By the time I remembered to check the temperature it had hit 80C and apparently that’s more than what’s needed for well done. Oops. No rare beef roast for Neil again 😛

I grabbed it out and it rested for about an hour under alfoil and a tea towel. We fished the vegetables out of the pan and a gravy was made with the remaining goodness in the pot.

With colcannon and gravy. Yum!

With colcannon and gravy. Yum!

The beef was a little overdone but it was still tasty. You can’t overcook beef fat. 🙂

Next time I’ll try and remember to check it more often in the last part of cooking or at least get someone else to check it. 🙂

 

 

 

Creamy Bacon and Mushroom Pasta

It only makes sense that the first recipe on the blog is a bacon recipe. This is my go-to recipe when I need to have dinner on the table and motivation/inspiration levels are low. Thankfully the whole family loves it and it’s so easy to make. The ingredients tend to be whatever I have on hand and substitutions are easy. When we lived in the suburbs we would have UHT cream in the cupboard, frozen packs of store bought bacon, and a bag of frozen peas. If I’m lucky now I might have some milk and cream from Clarisse, we always have homemade bacon in the freezer, and if I had enough time during the year to tend to my crop of peas I’d have peas stashed away in the freezer.

Home-grown, home-made bacon is the best!

Home-grown, home-made bacon is the best!

We have an abundance of bacon in our freezer, mostly in giant 1kg chunks. So our bacon is often cut into slightly smaller giant chunks. How you cut your bacon will depend on how you like your bacon. I like to use the streaky/belly bacon because the fat renders down and I’m always afraid the short back/eye bacon will be too dry.

A garden harvest of purple sprouting broccoli and the first of our asparagus.

A garden harvest of purple sprouting broccoli and the first of our asparagus.

In the last couple of seasons our vegetable patch has been a bit woeful and neglected. However, I did manage to harvest my asparagus for the first time this year, and we’ve had awesome sprouting purple broccoli. The sprouting broccoli is my new favourite, I can keep cutting it and it keeps coming back. The bigger more traditional heads of broccoli are similar, if you cut the bigger head it’ll sprout from the sides but if you plant a dozen plants you end up with a dozen giant heads ready to be eaten at the same time. Not awesome unless you plan on freezing the broccoli. The pasta recipe is really a simple base for adding in whatever else you like and in the past I have added in things like tomatoes, leafy greens, and whatever else is on hand that looks to be a tasty addition.

Ingredients:

  • 300g Pasta
  • 300g Bacon
  • 300g Sliced mushrooms
  • Cream 300ml/Milk 400ml Or Just milk. Or just cream. Or whatever you have on hand and feel like throwing in to the pan
  • Flour 2 tablespoons
  • Butter/oil 50-100gms
  • Pepper to season
  • Parmesan – To serve

Optional additions

  • A handful of peas
  • Sundried tomatoes
  • A handful of broccoli/broccolini
  • Anything you think would be tasty

Method:

  • Cook your pasta according to the directions on the pack.
  • Brown the mushrooms in butter with a glug of oil at medium to high heat and set aside.
  • Cook the bacon in the same pan but only just cooked, pink uncooked bits will be fine. (I don’t add oil here, there should be enough oil coming out of the bacon that it shouldn’t matter but if you find it dry add a splash of oil)
  • Add flour and cook through. This is where the bacon will cook through completely and will brown up more. (This is the start of the sauce, the flour will thicken the sauce and you need to cook the flour so that the sauce doesn’t taste like flour)
  • Check your pasta. At this point if my pasta is almost ready I’ll throw the broccoli in and turn the heat off. If it’s not even close to ready I’ll turn the heat off to the pan with the bacon and wait till the pasta is closer to being ready before I continue. I like having the pasta cooked just as the sauce is ready so I can toss it all in together.
  • If you’ve turned the heat off to the bacon and you’re ready to continue, turn it back on low and gently warm it back up if it’s lost some heat.
  • Turn heat up to about med-med/high, add the cream/milk slowly to the bacon, incorporating it into the bacon and flour. (Start slow, it’ll help avoid any lumps in the sauce)
  • Let the sauce come up to boil and this is where the sauce thickens. If you’ve used a generous amount of flour it won’t take long and you can turn the heat down once it gets to the consistency that you like.
  • Add your mushrooms, peas, and pepper to taste. Drain the pasta and broccoli leaving a small amount of the cooking liquid behind. Add pasta and reserved cooking fluid to the sauce. Toss/stir through.
  • Divide into bowls and top with parmesan.
The finished product.

The finished product.

There’s often no leftovers but if Neil manages to secure come for lunch the next day it can be reheated in the microwave without any problems. Add a splash of water though, the pasta would have sucked up any fluid.

 

Asian Style Slow Cooked Pork Hock

The hock is one of the cuts of pork I often have no idea what to do with. As a result, I often end up throwing it in as part of my pork stock or it ends up being cured and smoked for pea and ham soup.

It’s such a meaty cut! When we are having a spit pig the best part of the day is towards the end when it’s been cooking all day and the hocks just happen to fall off.  The only way to save them is by eating them right away! 🙂

The crackling is a bit different though. It’s not as puffy as what you would normally get, it’s more of a thin crisp crackling and sometimes it doesn’t crackle at all but it’s still tasty! The fat in the hock has a tacky feeling, it sticks to your mouth and the meat is sweet and juicy.

But why am I waiting for a spit pig to eat the hock when I have a freezer full of them?! So, today’s food experiment is an Asian style slow cooked pork hock. A single pork hock should be enough for two people but honestly if it was just me and no one was watching I’d probably eat the whole thing. I have a problem! I know!

What I’m trying to do with this is recreate my spit pig meat falling of the bone pork hock without having to set up the spit for my single pork hock. I’ve set up my slow cooker instead. I didn’t have a rack small enough to fit so I’ve improvised with vegetables (carrot, celery, onion). I am a big fan of pork crackling so the day before the hock went into the slow cooker I slashed the skin with a Stanley knife and poured boiling hot water all over the skin, patted it dry and then rubbed in a liberal amount of salt. I’ve covered it with some paper towel and left it in the fridge overnight to dry out some more.

I’ve lightly scored the hock

I’ve lightly scored the hock

 

The skin shrinks back and the cuts in the skin open when you pour the boiling water over the hock.

The skin shrinks back and the cuts in the skin open when you pour the boiling water over the hock.

What makes this ‘Asian Style’ is that I coated the hock in olive oil and Chinese five spice before I put it into the slow cooker. It’s what I would normally do with pork belly minus the soy sauce and Chinese rice wine and sesame oil. Of course as I type this I’m thinking I probably should have coated the hock with all those things anyway. Next time!

Rubbed with Chinese Five Spice and sitting on the bed of vegetables in the slow cooker.

Rubbed with Chinese Five Spice and sitting on the bed of vegetables in the slow cooker.

Our slow cooker often saves me during the week when I know we’re going to have a busy day and no one is going to want to cook dinner. I can throw everything in and be fairly confident that it’ll all turn out alright. There have been times when the results have started to look a bit iffy half way through the day. Case in point being the first time I did a slow cooked pork shoulder. I put it on before I went to work at 6:30am and by the time I came home at 5:30pm Neil was preparing to call out for pizza. The skin had been salted and oiled before going into the slow cooker and by the time I got home the skin was looking distinctly unappetising. But I was determined to see it through to the end. I cranked the oven to the highest heat and let it come up to temperature and wacked my pork shoulder in (transferred carefully to an oven safe dish as the meat was falling apart). A half hour later and I had the best looking pork roast I’ve ever made in my life. So, if I follow the general idea of slow cooked pork shoulder and transfer that to my pork hock it should all work out right? Fingers crossed!

The end of the slow cooker process

The end of the slow cooker process

The hock went in about 9:30am and came out about 5:30pm. You can see from the photos above the meat shrinks back a fair bit and the skin looks gelatinous. When I do a bigger cut of meat I don’t normally add any fluid to the bottom of the slow cooker but I think next time with the hocks I might add a little pork stock, half a cup maybe.

Done and delicious!

Done and delicious!

About a half hour before I was ready to take the hock out of the slow cooker I cranked the oven as high as it would go. This was going to be different for everyone mostly because my oven right now is at the end of its useable life and it’s temperamental at best. But! Oven as high as it’ll go but probably 220C. Let it get up to temperature and transfer the hock to an oven safe dish and put it in the oven for about a half hour. You can see from my picture that I didn’t get bubbling crackling all over like I had hoped and you can also see that there is a bit missing from the top corner because Neil managed to snag proper crackled crackling before I could take a picture. The skin is crisp though and it’s super tasty. The meat pulls apart easily and is more of a dark colour, almost like chicken thigh type dark meat.

Things I would change for next time:

  • Do more than one hock (who’s crazy idea was it to just make one hock for a bunch of Athertons? Crazy!)
  • Drying out overnight put it on a rack and let the air flow right around the whole hock
  • Add some fluid to the slow cooker that way you have some type of gravy. Gravy makes everything better!