Yes, that’s right, I’m back after a bit of a blogging break. It wasn’t necessarily intentional – but my mind was telling me I needed to stop talking and just knuckle down and get on with life.
Over the past two weeks many things have happened. I have eaten lots of yummy food, had a lot of fun, exercised a lot, and spent quite a bit of time planning for our wedding. As of today, it’s six months and four days away – to be precise.
Last weekend, I finally got measured for my wedding dress! It’s been ordered and will probably be here in early September. I have to say, despite enjoying the process of venue shopping, entertainment selection, buying the most amazing shoes and chatting to my fiancée about everything from table decorations to wedding music selection, the ceremony and … of course … our excitement about getting to select and taste our menu for the day – hearing that my dress was on the way made me think – “yup, I’m excited”!
Losing 18 kilos and being able to stand on a little box in a wedding dress shop and look at the reflection looking back – and not feel repulsed (no, it’s not too stronger word – that’s how I used to feel) – was a great feeling. Not only that – I felt beautiful. I felt happy and like I had really achieved something. It was a pretty cool feeling, to say the least! I have been waiting to feel that sence of achievement and happiness. It was worth the wait 🙂 Sadly, I can’t share a photo with you as my future husband does sometimes read this blog. I’ll have a ball sharing my dress photos – from first trying it on in September of 2010 at 112 kilos – through to now after losing 18 kilos … who knows here I’ll be when our wedding day arrives! One thing I do know is that I will be 100 per cent focused on marrying Matt – and not on being paranoid about how I look. That will be a first!
I have also taken up swimming over the last few weeks, and I’m going great guns! While I’m still uncomfortable parading around in a swimsuit (which is getting loser and loser) it’s worth it. At the end of my swim I jump in the sauna and steam room, both which help relax my muscles, and I have found my recovery from my two personal training sessions each week has improved incredibly! I’ve also started walking, and my fasciitis has improved as well. Go me!
However, one thing that has suffered a little is my food intake. No, I haven’t fallen off the rails and started drinking coke and binging on evil things – but I have become more relaxed. I ate brie cheese at my friend’s house, and some chips too. I go to Matt’s parent place and enjoy a glass or two of bubbly, sometimes I drink too much coffee and I feel like my portion sizes have been increasing since the weather has turned bitterly cold. My committment to exercise almost everyday has helped combat any dramatic weight gains – but in saying that, I haven’t lost anything dramatic either. But hey – it’s ok. This isn’t a race to starve and deprive myself. So, I have been a bit more relaxed … I don’t feel guilty about that.
But, I do feel like it’s time to look at my food again and just tighten up. I need to get to that 20 kilo goal and keep moving! The 90’s, like the 100’s before them, are getting old. It’s time to get into the 80s!
But, before we go tightening our belts – here’s the recipe for crispy pork belly, inspired by Jamie Oliver, which I cooked for my mum for Mother’s Day dinner. It went down a treat with roasted beetroot and braised cabbage. YUM!!
Crispy Pork Belly
- 1.5kg pork belly
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 red onions, halved
- 2 carrots, peeled and halved lengthways
- 2 sticks of celery, chopped in half
- 1 bulb of garlic, skin on, broken into cloves
- a small bunch of fresh thyme, leaves picked
- 600ml water or stock
- 1 tbs of flour
Preheat your oven to 220 degrees. Place your pork on your chopping board and make scores about a centimetre apart through the skin into the fat, but not so deep that you cut into the meat. Chances are you will buy it from the butcher or supermarket already scored … and if so, you can skip this step!
Rub a generous amount of salt into the scores on the skin and then brush off any excess. Season the underside with salt and pepper and pop the belly in a baking tray, skin side-up and place in the oven.
Roast for about half an hour – you will hear it sizzling away in the oven and after half an hour, you will see it start to puff and crackle. Turn the heat down to 180 and roast for another hour. I found half way through that the bottom of the pork was getting a bit dark – so I popped some of the onions I had cut up under it to just lift it off the hot pan.
After the hour, take the pork out of the oven, remove it from the pan and pop it onto a plate. Add all the veg, garlic and thyme to the tray and then place the pork on top of everything and put it all back in the oven.
Cook for another 45 minutes to an hour, keeping an eye on it to ensure that the crackling doesn’t burn. Carefully move the meat onto some foil. Wrap the bottom, but leave the crackling visit. You don’t want to steam from the foil to soften it, but you want the meat to keep warm and rest.
To make the gravy – spoon away any fat in the tray, put the tray on the stove top over a medium heat and add the stock. Sprinkle with the flours and stir, using a whisk until all lumps are gone and bring the sauce to the boil. Simmer for a few minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to scrape up all those lovely sticky tasty bits on the bottom of the tray.
When you’ve got a nice, dark gravy, pour it through a sieve into a saucepan and continue to reduce until you are happy with the consistency. Take this opportunity to skim any impurities from the top as well.
Taste it as this point and check for seasoning. Add salt and pepper, as required.
Serve the pork with the crackling, gravy and a bit of Dijon mustard on the side.
I also served this with braised cabbage and roasted beetroot with a balsamic vinaigrette. I’ll post these recipes soon, but until then, enjoy this special little treat. Your portion sizes need not be huge – pork belly is very filling!
This is me, my mum and my brother enjoying our evening together for Mother Day:
I might only be a mummy to three furbabies – but my wonderful fiancée still did the dishes for me. I’m just luckier than most women – Matt almost always does the dishes, it doesn’t need to be a special occasion. Spoilt!
Hope all the mothers out there had a wonderful day!
We’re massive fans of risotto in our house and so I’m always looking for ways to shake things up.
Chorizo sausage is a great way to infuse instant flavour – and I usually use some chicken. But with some diced pork in the freezer that really needed using up – I decided I’d add that to great a yummy risotto instead.
With the chorizo already flavoured with paprika, I decided to add a little more and some chilli too. What we ended up with was a flavourful, mildly spicy plate of comfort food.
Now most people fear risotto is going to take a long time to cook – but I find one of the keys is to use a very large cast iron pot with very high sides. The large surface area helps everything cook faster (and less slopping too, which can happen with risotto because of the constant stirring) and high sides stop a lot of the liquid from evaporating rather than soaking into the rice. Also, make sure your liquid is hot before adding it – cold stock will make for a very long process – and don’t be afraid to cook over a pretty high heat. Let the creamy rice bubble quite furiously – just keep stirring!! It make stick a little – but just soak the pot in some warm soapy water and it’ll come off in no time – no biggie.
Pork and Chorizo Risotto
- 1/2 a chorizo sausage, sliced
- 1 brown onion, finely chopped
- 1 glove of garlic, chopped
- 1 tsp of sweet paprika
- a pinch of chilli flakes (leave out if you like, or increase it if you like spice)
- 1 400gm can of chopped tomatoes
- 4 cups of chicken stock
- 2 cups of alborio rice
- 400gm of diced pork
- 10 broccoli flowerets
- 1/4 cup of chopped, fresh coriander
- the juice of half a lemon
Put the canned tomatoes in a medium saucepan, along with the chicken stock and put over a high heat on the stove with the aim of bringing it to the boil.
Meanwhile, chop all your ingredients and get a heavy-based frypan (or large cast iron pot, if you have one) one the stove.
Add olive oil to the pan and cook the chorizo until it starts to go brown and release its reddish oils.
Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft. About 5 minutes.
Add paprika and chilli – stir and then add the paprika and chilli, is using. Cook for one minute.
Add the rice, turn the flame to high and stir until the rice gets really hot – this will take a minute or two.
By this time the stock and tomatoes should be hot, or beginning to boil. Turn the heat down and begin to ladle the mixture into the rice pot. You should add two ladles, and then stir until the rice has absorbed almost all the liquid – then repeat until the rice is cooked.
After you have ladelled about five times, add the pork and continue to ladle and stir until the rice is lump and no longer crunchy.
You may need to add some water at the end if you run out of stock before the rice is cooked. The amount of liquid the rice will take can vary.
Add the coriander and lemon juice, stir and serve piping hot with some crusty sourdough.
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As for a groovy tune to sway to as you stir – check out this track by Jason Mraz. I remember hearing this song multiple times, but never knew who it was by or what it was called until I was in a pub a few weeks ago, and it came up on channel V. I’m seriously thinking this song is going to make an appearance at our wedding. It makes me feel happy 🙂
I’ve been making meatballs for years now – but have never been completely happy with the results – until now.
I have tried lots of different recipes – but it was advice from my beautiful Italian friend Laura which was the clincher.
She told me her secret to awesome meatballs is to use half beef and half pork mince (which is what I quite often do when making bolognese) and she doesn’t brown her meatballs, she simply pops them in the sauce and lets them cook gently.
Laura is an awesome cook and so I was really looking forward to trying to make truly Italian meatballs.
The verdict? Well, they were delicious! Tender, soft, but stayed in tact – just beautiful – if I do say so myself. We even had our niece and nephew over for dinner (and their wonderful parents, of course) … and they were both pretty keen on them too. Go me!The meatballs
- 500gm of lean pork mince
- 500gm of lean beef mince
- 1 medium brown onion, finely chopped (you can use a food processor, if that makes it easier)
- 1 cup of bread crumbs
- 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
- 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
- 1 large egg
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 800gm can of tomatoes
- 1 tbs of basil pesto
- 1 tbs of sugar
- salt and pepper
Combine all the meatball ingredients in a large bowl, and using clean hands, mix everything really well until it’s combined. You can use a spoon, if you want, but your hands really do the best and quickest job of this process.
Combine the ground beef and ground pork in a large bowl. Add the dry bread crumbs, cheese, parsley, garlic, egg, salt and pepper. Combine the ingredients with your hands until everything is mixed through.
Form meatballs about the size of a golf ball in your hands. Transfer these prepared meatballs to a plate and set aside.
Meanwhile, get a large, heavy based pan over a high heat on the stove to heat up. Blitz the tomatoes in your food processor and add them to the pan – add the remaining ingredients and bring the sauce to the boil. This sauce doesn’t need to be complicated because the meatballs will impart their flavour into the sauce.
Once the sauce is hot, gently place the meatballs into the sauce. Give the pan a gently shake so that the sauce covers the meatballs as much as possible.
Bring to the boil, then reduce the flame to low. Cover and cook for half an hours. Check, stir and then simmer for another 15 minutes with the lid off.
During the last 15 minutes, boil some water in a large pot and add your choice of pasta. I had half a packet of fettuccine and half of spaghetti – so I poured both in. Waste not, want not!
I admit – I’m nervous about cooking for kids. Being childless, I’ve never really had to do it. But, I was pretty chuffed that they ate. Well, our nephew was pretty keen just to play with the placemat. He’s such a funny little guy.
Ok, I’ll stop gushing over the cuteness of Charli and Kobe and move on to the groovy tune for this meal. I think this was a great dish to whip up for kids – so I’m going with a song by the same name, by MGMT.
Apple, cabbage and pork are all best friends and so I thought, why not put them together in a braise?
The result? Clean, beautiful flavours and an all-round comforting meal. It’s easy to eat – therefore making it an ideal dish for a house full of sick people. I’m the only one feeling 100% – everyone else is carrying a head-cold and terrible cough. So, I wanted to cook up something that would sooth their throats and warm their tummies without anything too overwhelming – like the usual punchy spices you normally find in my comfort food.
I worked in my brother’s shop last weekend and the cabbages all looked gorgeously inspiring on display – so much so that I really wanted to make them a feature of a recipe. I had some pork loin chops in the freezer which needed using up – and I had been pondering for a while what to do with them. As I was staking the apples gently on the shelf, I knew the three would be a tasty match. It’s nice for me to have this knowledge of what flavours work – it really makes me confident to experiment and create my own dishes.
The apples give sweetness, mellowed by the cabbage, onions and leek – the chicken stock adds depth and the vinegar and red current jelly add a really nice complexity to the flavours.
The delicate flavours would probably something you could put in front of your children – but because I am without little tackers myself, I haven’t road-tested it on any.
It also freezes well – so I made sure there was enough to make a meal for my dad. My dad doesn’t cook, so I make meals and freeze them for him so he doesn’t have to rely on expensive take-away and horrid pre-made supermarket food. Hopefully this makes me a nice daughter 🙂
BRAISED PORK WITH APPLE AND CABBAGE
- 2 tbs of butter
- 1 tbs of olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely shopped
- 1 leek, cut down the middle, wash and finely slice into half moons
- 5 tbs of white vinegar
- 4 tbs of red current jelly
- 6 large pork loin chops
- 2 1/2 cups of chicken stock
- 1/2 a tsp of dried fennel (or you can use fresh, if you have it)
- 2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm chunks
- Half a chinese cabbage, remove the tough white bits and chop across, from top to bottom, discarding the tough, white bit at the bottom
- 1 large granny smith apple (or 2 small) peeled, cored and cut into segments
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees.
In a large, heavy-based casserole dish (which has a lid and is able to be used both in the oven and on a stove) heat the butter and oil gently over a medium flame. Add the onion and a few good pinches of salt and sweat for 2 minutes.
Add the leek, vinegar and red current jelly and cook for a further 4 minutes, until it’s nice and soft – but don’t let it gain any colour.
Lay out your pork chops on a chopping board or plate and season both sides with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
In a frying pan, over a medium to high heat, add some more olive oil and fry the chops in batches to brown them. Make sure the fat layer is on, and turn them on their side to brown up the fat. This is critical as this process enhances the flavour of the pork.
Once done, pop them into the casserole dish with the onion and leek mixture.
Add the stock, cabbage, fennel and potatoes to the casserole and stir. Poke the pork until it’s all mostly covered in the stock (feel free to add a little more, if the tide looks a little bit low).
Bring it to the boil on top of the stove. Once boiling gently, pop on the casserole lid and put it in the oven for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, add the apple segments and check the sauce for seasoning – adjust to taste with salt and pepper.
Cook for a further 30 to 45 minutes, or until the chops are tender and the apple and potatoes are cooked through.
To plate up, I used shallow bowls as the liquid is really soupy. I removed the fat strip from the pork and discarded it, along with the bone, and cut the meat into strips. Ladel the sauce, making sure everyone (this serves 4) get some apple, cabbage and potato. I then topped the soup broth with the pork meat and some sauted brocollini.
The reason I have started writing this column is because I am hoping to inspire busy people like you to set some time aside in the kitchen on the weekend to prepare at least one meal ahead for the week. I hope this recipe has helped you on your way to a much more relaxed weekday meal. Even if you decide not to freeze it for later in the week – it’d make a fabulous Sunday dinner, which is what this was for me.
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