Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Red Pork & Lamb Shanks

A regret is that I can no longer cook. A late developer I had enjoyed experimenting and trying new dishes. I’ll give an example. Red wine does not usually go with Chinese cuisine. But in a recipe book I bought in Singapore the wine is an ingredient in a dish called red pork which I made several times – it’s very yummy. In this instance the flavour seems appropriate. On the web there are other recipes for red pork, some have sauces of which I have never heard. Probably the wine replaces these – a clever cook along the way had seen the possibility.

Here are the ingredients for a meal for two
Pork pieces diced small – I judged the amount, more than the recipe
7 tablespoons of soya sauce.
2 tablespoons of sugar.
175 mg of beef stock
175 mg of red wine
One onion, sliced
Cooking oil

Set the oven to 170. On the top of the stove brown the meat in the oil in a casserole dish and set it aside. Then put the onions in the oil and turn until golden. Remove them and tip any remaining oil out. Add the remaining ingredients to the dish and bring to the boil, taking it off immediately and place in the oven, turning frequently. After an hour lower the temperature to 150 for about an hour and a half, basically until the meat is tender. Towards the end I used to take the lid off to lower the liquid level. This has to be watched carefully as it could go dry. The addition of more soya sauce and beef stock makes it saltier so if necessary I added a small amount of warm water. I used to serve it with rice and whatever vegetables were available and suitably wok-cooked in oil with slices of root ginger and garlic.

In those days when we shared the cooking we tended to divide our labour, Anne specialising in Thai and I in Chinese. Specialised is too strong a word, dabbling would be better. My late interest in cooking was unexpected but very satisfying. Actions often have unanticipated consequences, but cooking a meal nearly always produces the goods. One learns from mistakes. Like a round of golf it was a challenge, an act of love to provide a meal for partner and/or friends. (I accept it tends to be a chore if you have to do it day by day). I think too, the act was a minor rebellion against the instant consumerism of our society. Increasingly, even the most mundane of tasks is granted a Hollywood style over-dramatisation. Admittedly cooking can be given that grand treatment. But my simple approach and adaptations kept me content.

Once when I was cooking a plumber called. He asked as he came in “what is that divine smell?” “Lamb shanks” I said “cooking in dark beer and treacle, with bacon, onion, garlic and carrot.” “Where did you get the recipe.” I made it up.” There was enormous pleasure in that statement.

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