Oriental pork with rice

I slow roasted a pork joint at the weekend, and it positively fell apart afterwards – I mean it – I literally carved it with a spoon! Anyway, when I had the pile of shredded pork in front of me, it reminded me so much of  shredded duck at the Chinese restaurant (to look at) that I decided that I should make a Chinese-y meal with it. I wasn’t in the mood for a roast dinner anyway, so this was ideal. (If anyone wants to know how I roasted the pork joint to produce this result, drop me a comment and I’ll post the recipe another day).

Oriental Pork

Ingredients

  • Roast pork, shredded
  • One onion, finely sliced
  • Garlic (puree or 1 crushed clove)
  • Chilli powder
  • One chicken stock cube, crumbled
  • Dried herbs (I used mixed dried herbs with an additional sprinkling of sage)
  • Chinese 5 spice (you’d find it in the same supermarket display as the other herbs and spices, probably near the barbeque rubs and meat marinade spices
  • Red or yellow capsicum pepper, finely sliced
  • One 400g tin of chopped tomatoes

Method

  • Fry the pork and onions in a very little amount of oil, or a couple of sprays of spray oil (the pork should be fried as the fat in the meat will have made it a little greasy, and this seals the flavour in well). Once the onions are softened, add the garlic and fry until the pork is sealed (it will look dryer).
  • Mix in the chilli powder, stock cube, herbs and chinese five spice one by one, stirring well to coat the meat and sliced onions.
  • Add the sliced pepper, and then after a good stir add the tinned tomatoes (you might need a tin and a half/two tins depending on how many portions you are making, so that the sauce remains liquidy). Simmer on a very low heat so that the sauce doesn’t dry out whilst you are cooking rice, noodles or mashed potato, season to taste and serve.

A new page just about food!

While I was writing out the Toad in the Hole recipe earlier today, I was thinking about the other recipes that I’ve posted since I started the blog a few years ago. I realised that I would have posted enough to create a separate page with links to each post. So that is what I’ve done! All the recipes I post are easy to follow, as I don’t generally have the time or the patience to cook things which are fiddly or take all day! So now, if you remember a recipe that I’ve posted before, but can’t remember exactly when that would have been, you can go to the specially designated page and hopefully find it quickly. I’m planning on posting some more recipes very soon for other quick, easy and cheap family meals which we enjoy regularly.

Click here, or click the tab at the top of the blog to visit my recipes page.

Procrastinating

I really should be typing up Handsome’s story, but I’m delaying the struggle to decipher. I’ve visited Ravelry, have bought my mother a triple dvd set of Elvis movies (bargain sale!) and I’m about to go and check my blog reader for new entries.

I’m planning a few posts in the near future about my favourite recipes. Having studied my search engine referrals (as I said yesterday) I’ve discovered that many people reach this blog looking for cookery advice. I’m not sure that I’m at all qualified to help in this regard, but I’m happy to share recipes for our favourite meals. Also, I’m going to put myself and my family to the great hardship of experimenting a little with the ‘cake in a cup‘ microwave recipe!

Eating in Stratford Upon Avon

Last weekend, when my husband and I visited Stratford Upon Avon, we were lucky enough to light upon three lovely places to eat.

We arrived at dinner time on the Saturday evening, so we didn’t want to have to go too far to find a meal. We were lucky that within a couple of minutes walk of our guesthouse we found a lovely Chinese restaurant – the Ripple Cafe on the waterfront overlooking the Royal Shakespeare Company main theatre. GG and I both enjoyed the Chinese buffet enormously, going back for seconds (maybe thirds, I can’t remember!). It was just what we needed on arrival to Stratford – quick, easy and very tasty.

Shakespeare's birthplace, Henley Street, Startford upon Avon

Both lunchtime on Saturday and lunchtime on Sunday we went to the Henley Street Tearoom. On the Saturday we went there as we didn’t want a large lunch. We had planned an early pre-theatre dinner, so as I fancied a cream tea we went to this tearoom. It is situated just opposite the entrance to the Shakespeare’s birthplace exhibition, and is linked to a tea and coffee shop behind called Bensons House of Tea. The staff in the tea rooms were all polite and welcoming. There was a huge range of different teas and snacks to choose from, but I was set on my tea and scones with cream so that’s what I had! And it was gorgeous – fresh and warm scones with plenteous amounts of jam and cream. On Sunday, we went back for lunch before leaving for home as GG’s mother had invited us to stay for a cooked dinner in the evening so again we didn’t want a heavy meal. We both had toasted sandwiches which again were served promptly and were very tasty. (And then we went to the shop and bought some tea and coffee to bring home – including the Stratford All Day Blend which I drank in the tearoom and really enjoyed.)

The food highlight of the trip though, had to be Sorrento Restaurant on Ely Street. We booked for a pre-theatre meal, and were welcomed by all the staff. The food was gorgeous, well presented and not too expensive for a nice meal out. I so wish that this could be my local Italian restaurant! I would definitely DEFINITELY go back to this one if I go back to Stratford!

Mindful consumption, and teaching children to be thoughtful consumers

Something I meant to write about it my last post (but completely forgot, or at least got sidetracked!) is my effort to teach my children to be mindful consumers. I always seem to forget to write about WHY I do things like make jams and preserves at home, rather than take the easy and cheaper route of buying low price preserves at the supermarket.

In recent years, we as consumers have been made very much more aware of the journey that our food takes to get onto our plates. We have seen campaigners like Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall using their influence as high-profile chefs to highlight the poor conditions in which a significant number of animals are kept before being killed to produce meat for our tables. We have heard about harmful chemicals being sprayed on food crops, and have witnessed the rise in popularity of organic food.

We don’t have the space ourselves to grow more than a couple of tomato plants and a basil plant as we have only windowsills but no garden. However, the boys have enjoyed this windowsill horticulture, and are on a daily hunt for the ripening tomatoes and chilli peppers. So, as we have no garden ourselves, I’ve enjoyed taking them blackberry picking in our local park, as they get the experience of seeing food growing at first hand, and can start to appreciate the work it takes to prepare food truly from scratch rather than buying pre-made foodstuffs in the shops. It was an added bonus this afternoon when I was able to take my younger son, Cheeky, outside our flat to pick even more fruit (the elderberries) within view of our front window. We will ask around to see if anyone has any cooking apples ripening that they can spare for our jam making, and then the boys will help me to make the jam which they will love to eat on their toast, in their sandwiches and in their porridge through the coming winter.

This all fits together with my teaching them about where their sausages and roast dinners come from. Jo has been a great help in this, as my boys have been able to get to know her various livestock and realise that animals should be treated well (like royalty, in Jo’s case!) even when they are destined for the dinner table. They have also had the opportunity to learn and accept from a young age that the sausages, ham, bacon and roast gammon they both love, as well as the minced beef in Cheeky’s favourite lasagne and Handsome’s favourite cottage pie have all come from what was once a living animal. I’m doing my best to teach them to buy meat according to whether the animals have been treated well, and I’m also trying to teach them to question where their food comes from, rather than just accepting whatever arrives in front of them. They have both eaten and enjoyed meat from Jo’s pigs, even when they’ve known the pig. I’ll admit that at first, they were a little wary and squeamish of eating meat from a pig they knew and talked to, but they are very receptive to reasonable argument and so after I’d explained that there’s really no difference between eating pork from a pig you’ve known and from one you haven’t, they were both fine with it.

Well, this post has got away from me a bit, but I’ve been meaning to write all of this down for some time. Sometimes I feel like I don’t really write much about what I believe to be right. It’s much harder to express beliefs than it is to simply write down the events of the day.

Pre-empting verbal abuse

So, yesterday I was glumly inspecting the contents of my food store. I realised that we have a small chocolate cookies-in-jarmountain accruing, which concerns me. You see, to eat and eat over Christmas is acceptable, some might say expected, but to carry this sort of food consummation on into the new year would simply be gluttony. So, I called in the re-enforcements; I let Jo and Hannah know about my food mountain problem, and they both readily volunteered to come and visit that same day. So, yesterday afternoon, both of my good friends appeared and set to clearing the mountain with vim and vigour. Now, I’d like to point out, before I continue, that at no point did I tie them down and force food into reluctant mouths. All I did was to point them at the food, tell them that they should feel free to eat as much as they liked without the usual constraints of politeness in someone else’s house and leave them to it.

I have to say, they did me proud. With a little help from my sons, they cleared a Toblerone, a box of biscuits, some chocolate truffles, a dozen mince pies and a large bag of cashew nuts (not to mention the pizza we had for tea!). We established that the Panettone I bought will be fine until April, and the cookies my friend Maria’s mother gave us are dated May, so we can save them for a later date.

christmas-cake

I really need some help with my Christmas cake though, as I’ve not cut into it yet, and I’ve also got an unopened box of asian sweets that my friend Heather sent to me. I’m thinking of taking the sweets to my mother’s and mother in law’s houses to ask for help!

A grown up evening – for a change!

Well, GG and I have had a lovely evening tonight. My sister in law and her partner took us out for our birthday meal (our birthdays are in June, but she’s a little late!) and we chose to go to a Thai restaurant as I love Thai food if I cook it myself or buy it from the supermarket but have never been to a proper Thai restaurant. It was really lovely.

Cardiff was absolutely heaving after today’s Welsh win over Australia at rugby in the Millennium Stadium. However, GG’s sister had booked a table and so we had a very short wait. The wait for the food to arrive was a little longer, and we were slightly disappointed that we couldn’t choose from the whole menu, but the food that we ordered was absolutely gorgeous and we thoroughly enjoyed it all.

It was an event for us as it’s rare for us to go out together for an evening meal without the children, and really rare not to eat until 9pm! I felt very grown up!

Anyway, off to bed as I’m worn out from my long day, and I have lots to do tomorrow. Oh, and the restaurant (which I would recommend if any of you visit Cardiff and enjoy Thai food!) was called Thai Edge, and is in the Brewery Quarter at the bottom of St Mary Street.

Quiet time with the Husband

Today I had a treat. My husband (who I won’t refer to as NDT, Jo!) took a half day holiday from work today and took me out for lunch. We went to La Tasca and enjoyed our last uninterrupted meal and calm daylit half hour which we will have for the next week and a half. Yep, school has broken up for half term, so I can look forward to a week of trying to find things to keep the boys amused (and I’m including Hubby in that!).

True to form, school has sent home a half term project for Cheeky again. This time they want him to “create a mobile representing ‘light and dark'”. Oh good. Something to keep Cheeky and Hubby entertained while Handsome and I find better things to do with our time!

But back to our meal. It was all a bit muddled up, really. We originally decided to have lunch in La Tasca because I had found a voucher entitling us to two for one on all tapas dishes. However, when I looked at it this morning, I found that it was only valid Sunday to Wednesday. Duh! And so then I remembered a £5 off voucher that I had for joining their online club. However (again), on closer inspection of that offer, it was likewise not valid for use today.

Never mind. They have a lunchtime offer of which we took advantage instead of these other promotions. I had already decided that I didn’t want a huge meal, so it suited me fine. The offer was a choice of any three tapas dishes and one of the set drinks (from the special lunchtime menu) for £7.95. We each chose three different options and then shared the lot – yummy! And then Hubby bought me a cake to have with a cup of tea after collecting the boys from school. I was spoilt rotten today!

When I got home, my Rosemary Conley Diet and Fitness magazine was waiting for me, but i really wanted my cake so I’ve not opened it yet! I’ll save the guilt trip for tomorrow, when I’ll probably open it to find a whole feature about the perils of eating tapas and iced danish whirls. Ah well, it’ll get me back on track, I suppose. But I did really enjoy my meal out, and feel no guilt about the excess food that I consumed today. I might do tomorrow, but I’ll deal with that when I get to it!

Lebanese cuisine

I went out last night with my best friend Maria to a Lebanese restaurant in Cardiff called Mezza Luna. I’ve never eaten in a Lebanese restaurant before, so it was a new experience for me! Having said that, I played it very safe with the menu and opted to have a steak served with a peppercorn sauce and rosemary potatoes and salad. It was absolutely lovely, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend my food choice to others. I had Baklawa for dessert, which is layers of filo pastry with ground walnuts and pistachio nuts mixed with (I think) honey and rose water. It was very rich and a little would go a very long way!

There was a belly dancer performing in the restaurant who was very talented and energetic, and a few times she managed to get some of the patrons to get up and dance with her, including Trina, whose birthday we were there to celebrate. She seemed to have a fantastic few minutes, shaking her hips with the belt of coins tied round her to help with setting the mood!

One thing that I noticed as a result of this meal is that my tastes have definitely changed as a result of my change in diet over recent months. At one time I would have had no problem at all in finishing all of the very rich and sweet Baklawa dessert, but last night I only managed a little over half (and probably should have stopped a little earlier, if truth be told, but I’ll spare you the details!). It just goes to show that my food tastes seem to have become more centred on wholesome, natural foods with less sweetening than I used to enjoy. But this is a good thing! I’ll never be a UK size 12 next summer if I continue to indulge my sweet tooth regularly with anything other than fruit!

Eating bad things

I want to find someone who has felt the same as I felt recently. While at work recently, a friend did a bakery run and offered to fetch cakes and pasties for us all. Without thinking I ordered a french bread pizza and a chocolate covered, patisserie cream filled doughnut. When he returned I ate them both without giving it a thought. But then ten minutes later I felt awful. It wasn’t that the food had gone off, but my recent weight loss attempts have included some sort of self-education and self-programming as to what sort of foods I should be eating and what I should be avoiding. And when my friend asked me if I wanted anything to eat my mind went completely blank as to my diet, and stayed blank until well after I’d finished eating. As I said, ten minutes after I had finished eating I started to feel ill, and I really wanted to be sick. It was almost as if my brain was telling me that I was feeding my body all the wrong things and I should get rid of it. It was quite scary. I sat quietly for a little while until these feelings subsided, but I continued feeling ill and having no appetite for most of the rest of the day. Now, this must have been, at least in part, attributable to my cold. However, I’m sure that most of the reason that I felt ill was guilt at having eaten these things which I have been avoiding for so long. But the part of it which has been puzzling me the most was the total thoughtlessness which led to my buying the food in the first place. I had very carefully taken fruit to work so that I would have something to snack on, so it wasn’t that I was particularly hungry.

Maybe I’m over-analysing myself. However, I want to work out what it was that a) made me buy the food and then b) made me feel so ill afterwards. I’m trying to build up a healthy relationship with food rather than using it as a comforter, but from this experience it appears that I might have veered too much the other way. Surely it’s not right that I felt ill for the day after this slip?

Any help and advice welcomed!