Ok, confession to make: I don’t eat out every night. Neither my bank account nor my waistline could possibly sustain it. Plus, it would mean missing out on a much-loved hobby- cooking. Despite our current kitchen being approximately the size of two postage stamps, one of my favourite ways to relax is to whip up a feast. Whether it’s a nice meal for me and The Other Half, a banquet for friends or Christmas dinner for my family, I absolutely love shutting myself in the kitchen with some top tunes on (showcasing my “unique” singing voice) and preparing a meal. Food is one of the ways in which I express my love to people.
With austerity measures starting to be felt among my group of friends, for all the usual reasons (houses, holidays, weddings), but desperate for a boozy Friday night together with some good food and belly laughs, we invited them to our place. My besties were guaranteed to provide the laughs- I just had to come up with the grub.
I set about planning a menu, partly inspired by my recent visit to Relish and also by a meal that fellow food blogger Feast & Glory tweeted about. With a craving for BBQ flavours, as well as some of those lovely slow-cooked meats I’d had at Relish, there was only one thing for it: pulled pork.
Having never made this dish myself, I had a read through some of my cookbooks for inspiration but didn’t have anything that completely summed up what I thought I wanted to do (though I’ve now earmarked several recipes for future testing!), so I hit the internet. As I often do in these situations, I had a read through Felicity Cloake’s quest for the perfect pulled pork and took some tips on board- not least the one to “tent” my meat using foil at the end. I actually decided to do this throughout the cooking time. I read through a few others, read some user comments, and looked also at this recipe posted by a community member on Nigella’s website, which is largely what I based my sauce on. I felt ready to take on the challenge.
We’ve still not purchased our slow cooker (research is ongoing- feel free to share your thoughts below or via Twitter on this matter), so it was the oven and our big pink cast iron casserole dish. I prepared the pork on Thursday, so it could sit overnight in its sauce and get good and tasty; if you have time to do this, do. It was seriously delicious on Thursday, but absolutely mouthwatering on Friday.
I wanted there to be plenty of meat to go round, so I used 2.5kg of boneless pork shoulder- some recipes say bone in, some say bone out. Personally, I think so long as you monitor your cooking times and moisture in the dish, then there’s not much in it. As it happens, boneless is what I had to hand, one piece of it was pre-seasoned with some salt, pepper, parsley and red pepper, the other piece was straight up plain ol’ pork. I left the layer of fat on for cooking to help keep it moist. This much meat cost about £8 and would easily have fed 10 people!
I got all my ingredients together for the sauce. I decided to use molasses sugar as I knew this would add extra richness to the sauce- if you can get hold of it, I recommend it (mine was from Sainsbury’s). I doubled the recipe given in the Nigella link, as I had so much meat. I also used smoked paprika, a mixture of hot and sweet, to add depth.
Adding them all into the saucepan, I felt a bit like a mad scientist- there were a lot of ingredients to this part, but don’t skimp. This potion needs every element.
Once I’d mixed it all in and let the sauce simmer for about 20 minutes or so, it was time to bathe all my pork in it. Warning: you may get splashed during this part! Once all the sauce was in, I spooned some over the pork to make sure it was all coated.
Then it was into the oven. I loosely folded that foil over the top and put the lid on the casserole, too. I started it off at 200 degrees for the first hour (fan oven), then lowered the temp to 150 degrees and left it for about 2.5 hours more. After 3.5 hours total cooking time, the house was smelling amazing- I couldn’t wait to see what was waiting for me in the pot! I wasn’t disappointed. The meat was falling-apart tender, and the sauce was rich and glossy.
I took the meat out of the pot using a big slotted spoon and popped it on a plate. I then removed the foil from the casserole, leaving the sauce and cooking juices in there. Using two forks and not a lot of effort, I pulled the meat apart, shredding it up into one big happy mountain of yumminess.
Once all the meat was shredded, I mixed it back into the sauce and popped it in the fridge, ready for Friday’s feast. On the night, I heated it back through in the oven, for about 30 mins at 200 degrees- it was piping hot!
Served in burger buns with cheese, jacket potatoes, coleslaw and corn on the cob, as well as plenty of cold beer and cider, this was the perfect Friday night feast and fuelled us through a games tournament until the wee small hours. There were plenty of leftovers for a hearty meal again on Saturday night, which is just as well because my hangover wouldn’t have been up to cooking.
I’m definitely making this dish again, it was dead cheap and so tasty. Plus, you can freeze the cooked pork in portions, so it doesn’t matter that it’s just the two of us. Incidentally, I recently had a really nice pulled pork flatbread pizza at The Robin Hood pub in Millhouses- so there are plenty of uses for this dish!
This week, I’m off to test out The Common Room in the city centre, so look out for more tales of slow-cooked deliciousness on the blog soon.