Moussaka (as made by Patrick Leigh Fermor’s housekeeper)

This recipe comes from Rick Stein’s TV series From Venice to Istanbul. This featured in the programme where he visited the home of the late Patrick Leigh Fermor and ate a moussaka cooked by PLF’s housekeeper, Elpida Beloyannis. Continue reading

Sweet and sour pork chops

This recipe isn’t mine. I found it on an excellent website, The Woks of Life. I hope that they don’t mind me sharing it here. It is their original recipe and I really can recommend it. So, here goes;

For marinating the pork chops:

1 1/2 lb. thinly sliced pork chops, cut in half (I used boneless pork loin steaks)
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
1 tablespoon soy sauce
pinch of five spice powder (optional)

For the sweet and sour sauce:

2 tablespoons ketchup
1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar (can substitute balsamic vinegar)
2 teaspoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 cup water

To finish the pork chops:

Oil, for frying, plus 1 tablespoon
3 tablespoons ice water
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons cornflour, divided
toasted sesame seeds and chopped scallion

Marinate the pork chops in a mixture of shaoxing wine, soy sauce, and five spice powder (if using). Set aside for at least an hour or overnight. Make the sauce by combining ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, hoisin, maple syrup, sesame oil, and 1/2 cup water. Set aside.

When you’re ready to cook, fill a medium deep pot about halfway with oil. Heat the oil to 375 degrees. In a separate bowl, combine 3 tablespoons ice water, 2 tablespoons flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 1 tablespoon cornflour. Pour over the marinated pork chops and mix until coated.

Carefully drop a few pork chops at a time into the heated oil and fry in batches for about 3 minutes each batch. Drain on paper towels.

Add a tablespoon of oil to your wok (you can take some from the frying oil), placed over medium heat. Swirl the oil around so it coats the wok.

(Here is where I changed it a bit. I sautéed a chopped onion and a chopped green pepper in the wok before making the sauce. I did this because sweet and sour pork always seems to have onion and green pepper in it in the UK.)

Pour in your sauce mixture and bring it to a simmer.

Mix your last tablespoon of cornflour with a tablespoon of water to form a slurry. Pour the slurry into the simmering sauce and stir until thickened. Add the cooked pork chops and toss them in the sauce. Plate up, and garnish with toasted sesame seeds and chopped scallions.

I served mine with some plain jasmine rice and some steamed pak choi. It was absolutely delicious.

Confit de canard

Duck preserved in duck fat, confit de canard in French is one of the great delights of eating in south-western France. It is on pretty much all the menus in those parts and it is always a good reliable thing to order.

Duck confit is made from the legs and thighs of the duck, with the breasts being used as magret de canard and the rest of the meat ends up as rillettes or paté. The livers, of course are used for fois gras. You can make confit yourself, in fact I’ve done it in the past, but in France the easiest thing is to just buy your confit, which is sold in tins almost everywhere in the region, as well as in supermarkets across France. I always stock up on tins of confit when I go to France.

Confit is made by salting the duck and letting it rest, then cleaning off the salt and slowly cooking the duck legs in duck fat until they are very tender and the meat is rich and unctuous.

Getting the duck ou tof the tin is a simple matter of warming the opened tin up in a bowl of boiling water to soften the duck fat in which the meat has been cooked and then taking the duck legs out with a spoon. The meat will be incredibly soft and rich-tasting and comes easily away from the bones. There will also be the skin and sub-cutaneous fat as well.

There are lots of things that you can do with confit, putting it in cassoulet, for example but the simplest is just heating it up in the oven or in a frying pan (I prefer the oven) and serving it with a simple salad, dressed with quite a sharp vinaigrette and some frites or maybe pommes Sarladaise, which are slices of waxy potato fried in duck fat until golden with garlic and parsley added towards the end of the cooking time. If you have any truffles, you can add these to the potatoes with the garlic.

You want a local red wine to go with this; Bergerac is a pretty classic choice but any decent red Bordeaux will also go well.