The Secrets to Perfect Pork Belly

There are a lot of techniques that make a pork belly successful. I recently cooked with for dinner with some friends and, I think, it turned out pretty well:

The result

In order to make a good roast pork belly, you want to ensure the meat is soft. That means slow cooking the meat for a long time. However, you also want a crisp skin. A crisp skin only works with a high temperature, but you have to balance out both of these aspects. Here are a couple of principles worth noting after doing some reading on the internet:

  • Dry the skin – There are many different ways of drying the skin. Scoring the skin helps more heat get in, and more fat to escape, leading to crisper skin. Salt naturally draws out moisture and will help. Some argue that oil is not needed. I tried a little bit figuring at high temperatures, it’s slightly like frying. Pouring freshly boiled water onto the skin “shocks” and helps draw out more moisture, if you then follow it up by leaving it in the fridge uncovered for a while.
  • Roast the skin at high temperature – I cooked the pork belly at high heat to start off with to start the skin drying out. I protected the rest of the meat from the heat by putting foil around everything but the skin. I then dropped the temperature, and then towards the end, raised it again.

Here’s a picture of the pork belly, skin sliced, having been drenched with boiling water and then rubbed with salt and left in the fridge to uncover. Before putting into the oven, I patted it down with kitchen paper, added more salt and a little bit of oil before putting it into a hot oven.

Pork Belly Resting in Fridge

Serve with some roasted vegetables and greens!

Roasted Vegetables

Pear Crumble

Although apple crumble is probably one of the most well known “crumble” desserts, the concept translates very well to other fruits similar to it. Plum, rhubarb, cherry are all good types, but my favourite is the pear crumble. Crumbles are great for a proper winter dessert, and I love the contrast of hot and cold elements when you combine it with custard that has been sitting in the fridge or a plain vanilla ice cream. Even a hot custard works just as well with these sorts of puddings.

There are plenty of variations worth trying including stewing the fruit beforehand to produce a crumble with more sauce, or try cloves *and* cinnamon for a very festive treat. Here’s the recipe that I have used for a crumble pretty reliably:

Ingredients for the base

  • 6 pears (for four people) – Find good cooking pears if you want more texture
  • 20g brown sugar

Ingredients for the topping

  • 100g butter
  • 100g flour
  • 3 tablespoons oats
  • 1 tsp cinammon
  • 30g brown sugar


  • Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips. Or cut the butter into the flour with a knife. It should look a little like breadcrumbs afterwards.
  • Mix in the oats, cinnamon and brown sugar. The oats give the crumble more texture. Try Demerara sugar for some more bite.
  • Peel, core, and slice the pears into fan-like fingers. Arrange in layers until you at least cover the bottom of the dish you are using
  • Sprinkle the 20g of brown sugar on top (not too much otherwise it’ll be too sweet)
  • Cover the pears with the crumble topping and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 180oC until it’s brown
  • Serve with your choice of accompaniment. Serves four people.

And now in pictures:

Measure out the butter.


Add the flour in.


With some cinammon.


Now with a knife, cut the butter into the flour, or rub it in with your fingertips. Your goal is to coat the butter with flour and minimise the amount of gluten.


Now add the brown sugar.

Brown Sugar

And muesli. Mix together, and top your cut up fruit.


After baking, enjoy the result. Serve with custard. I prefer the hot-cold contrast and decadence to have crumble served with ice cream.

Pear Crumble Result

Anzac Biscuit Recipe

Teams who get to work with me know of my tradition of trying to make Anzac Biscuits every year. Unfortunately I was travelling on this year’s one, so I ended up making some the week before to celebrate. They are really easy to make and taste soooo good.

Anzac biscuit before baking


  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup desiccated coconut
  • 125g butter
  • 2 tablespoons of golden syrup
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tablespoons of boiling water

Anzac Biscuits


  1. Mix most of the dry ingredients together (flour, oats, sugar and coconut)
  2. Melt the butter and golden syrup over a gentle heat
  3. Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in the water, stir that mixture into the butter and golden syrup mix and pour over the dry ingredients. Mix until you can’t see any more white flour.
  4. Put heaped tablespoons of the mixture (allowing for spreading) onto greased or lined baking trays
  5. Bake in a moderate (180C) over for about 15-20 minutes til golden
  6. Remove from the oven when you’re happy with their colour, leave on the tray for a short time and then lift them off with a spatula to cool on wire racks.

Anzac Biscuits

The best. Enjoy!


This last Tuesday gone was Shrove Tuesday or sometimes called Pancake Tuesday. We sort of cheated on the day – instead of making them, we simply went to The Delaunay for breakfast where they have some great pancakes at reasonable prices.

I’m a big fan of the American style fluffy cakes. German Pfannkuchen is quite often just as fluffy – often used in a regional food called Kaiserschmarrn. I like French crepes less as a pancake. Crepes are good – just not what I feel pancakes should be.

I realise I haven’t posted a pancake recipe on here, so to make amends. Ingredients for 2 people for a hearty breakfast:

  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Pancakes baking


  • Take three bowls. Mix the dry ingredients in one of them.
  • Separate the eggs into the other two bowls. Whip the egg whites until soft peaks form, add a bit of the sugar and keep beating until it’s stiff. This extra step ensures the pancakes remain light and fluffy.
  • Combine the rest of the wet ingredients with the egg yolks. Beat, and then gently fold into the dry. Fold the beaten egg whites in until just combined. You don’t want to overbeat the batter as this develops gluten and moves the pancake away from being a cake to more of a bread/dough consistency.
  • Melt some butter in a pan, pour batter on. Cook until bubbles appear, and then flip
  • Serve how you like. I prefer it the Canadian stack way – crispy bacon and maple syrup.

Pancakes cooking

Pancakes are certainly a good treat. They are definitely not your everyday food but they are good in so many different ways. Try putting nutella on as a topping. Lemon juice, with some dusting of sugar works very well as well. Blueberries, greek yogurt and honey add another dimension.

Canadian Stack


Chipotle Pulled Pork

I’ve made only a handful of dishes in my slow cooker, and mostly that’s because I don’t want to leave it turned on at home whilst I’m at work. Inspired by the Heston recipe my flatmates brought home, I thought I’d make a pulled pork dish with some chipotle paste I had in the cupboard.


  • 1 chopped red onion
  • 2 pork loins (you can use pretty much anything but I wanted it to be a little bit leaner)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp smoked salt
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 small bottle of chipotle paste
  • 1 bottle of tomato passata
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 10 ml Worcestershire sauce
  • 25g golden syrup


  • Cut the loin into small rounds, and coat with the dry ingredients and the chipotle paste. Add the chopped garlic. Brown the pork off to caramelise some of the flavours
  • Brown the onion and add the onion to the slow cooker.
  • Add the pork and the rest of the wet ingredients.
  • Cook the pork in the slow cooker (I did it for about 4 hours)
  • Shred the pork and add it back in

One thing I realised that slow cookers aren’t good for is caramelising and thickening the sauce. The temperature never gets hot enough, so I think next time I would finish the dish off in a saucepan on the pan to really bring the sweetness and thickness to the BBQ sauce at the end.

Still turned out pretty good. I served this in a toasted ciabatta with freshly chopped coriander, salsa and a squeeze of lime juice. This is one dish I’ll definitely be making again.

What’s more Australian than a Meat Pie

Spurred on by cooking Australian things, I thought I’d give a go at making a good meat pie. All with proper sauce. I looked around for a few recipes and came away with an inspired combination.


  • 500g lean mince
  • 50g tomato paste
  • 1 brown onion, brunoise
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1 cup stock
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour mixed with 2 tablespoons of water
  • Shortcrust and puff pastry

This is a pretty easy recipe, but requires a bit of planning as you want the filling to cool before putting them into pastry cases. Brown the onions and then add the beef, cooking until no more red appears. Add the tomato paste and cook until you can’t smell the tomato-rawness anymore. Add the sauces and the stock, mixing with the corn flour and water to help thicken. Let the mixture cook.

Roll the pastry out (or do what I did and cut them into smaller lots into a lined muffin tray for “mini” meat pies. Fill each case with the mixture and then top with the puff pastry. Brush with egg-wash (egg with milk, or just plain egg, or plain milk) to give the pies a bit of shine.

Bake in a 180 degree celcius oven until brown (approximately 15-20 minutes). Rest and enjoy with some tomato sauce.

Aussie Lamingtons

One of the pleasures I have when I am not commuting is the joy of making something in the kitchen. There’s nothing like producing a wonderful meal, or trying some new recipe and the result is a tangible, tasty dish that is so different to software.

This weekend I found some time to whip up a batch of lamingtons. They were destined for our “Pot Luck Lunch” tomorrow where everyone is going to bring something “native” from their home country.

I had planned on making Pavlova, but then my colleague from New Zealand said they’re apparently a kiwi-dish, and she had already planned to make it. Oh well.

The difficult thing about making Lamingtons is that it’s a bit labourious to make. I had planned on taking the shortcut and buying a prepared sponge cake, but imagine my surprise (and joint disappointment about more work ahead) when I found that none of the supermarkets near me sold plain old sponge cake. Yes, you could get a plain madeira cake, or a “Jamaican” fruit cake, or any of the final prepared “birthday” cakes all covered in icing and cream. Nope to the plain old sponge cake. Oh well.

I used the following recipe for the sponge cake after looking around and deciding I didn’t want a particularly eggy-tasty sponge cake.


  • 2 eggs
  • 125g butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups self-raising flour
  • 1/2 cup milk

Making it was pretty straight forward. Cream the butter and sugar, and slowly add the eggs one by one. Mix in the vanilla and fold in the first cup of flour before folding in the second cup of flour and milk. Pour into a sponge cake (I used a long tray) and bake in a pre-heated 180oC oven until cooked through. If you’re using a square tin, it’s supposed to be 30 minutes, but I used a thinner tray so it took less than 20 in a fan forced oven.

The next part to Lamingtons are preparing the icing and the coconut. I used this recipe, but have to admit it turned out a little bit too rich.


  • 500g icing sugar
  • 200g dark chocolate (60% or 70%)
  • 15g butter
  • 1/2 cup milk

This was pretty easy. Basically mix it all together on a bain-marie (i.e. bowl over boiling water) until it all melts. I found this icing much too thick, so I ended up watering it down with a lot more milk.

Now came the terribly messy part.

First, I cut the sponge in half and then spread some strawberry jam between each item. My first few attempts to coat them turned out to be rather disastrous with cake crumbs, chocolate and coconut everywhere. A bit of searching on the internet and people recommended putting the cake in the freezer. Apparently leaving the cake overnight would have also helped make it easier to deal with. Five or ten minutes into the freezer and the pieces were much easier to handle.

Using two forks, I dipped the sponge sandwiches into the chocolate sauce. I held them up letting the excessive drip off, before dunking them into a bowl of desiccated coconut. Using two spoons to press the coconut into the icing, I found that was a bit cleaner than using my hands (as recommended by many recipes). I let them dry out a bit on a rack before putting them into an airtight container for storage.

Messy, enjoyable but probably not something I’d try all the time.

Banana Crumble Muffins

A great thing about my current project is its location next to the Leather Lane markets. I try to buy fresh fruit and vegetables from the green grocer to keep me stocked during the week. Prices tend to be cheaper than the supermarkets and I feel they taste a lot better. I bought a bowl of fairtrade bananas for £1 but had far too many by the end of the week ripening too quickly.

A solution! Banana crumble muffins. A quick google and I found this nice recipe.

Ingredients for the muffin

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 bananas, mashed
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ¾ tsp cinnamon
    • Ingredients for the crumble topping:

      • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
      • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
      • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
      • 1 tablespoon butter, cold


      • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease 9-10 muffin cups, or line with muffin papers.
      • In a large bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. In another bowl, beat together bananas, sugar, egg, vanilla and oil. Stir the banana mixture into the flour mixture just until moistened. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.
      • In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, 2 tablespoons flour and cinnamon. Cut in 1 tablespoon butter until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal (I used my hands and it took about 2 minutes). Sprinkle topping over muffins. You might have a bit of topping left over.
      • Bake in preheated oven for 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.
      • Enjoy!

      The muffins came out quite nice and moist. I reduced the amount of oil I planned on using since I figured my bananas were pretty ripe and moist enough. I probably should have adjusted the sugar levels down as they were pretty sweet overall. Tasty and delicious the next day with my coffee.

British Recipe: Scones

I recently held a British themed party where I prepared a number of well known British bites. One of them had to be the scone, a classic that appears at any high tea event. There are dozens of recipes on the net, but I settled on this one provided by the Guardian (but minus the cream).


  • 225g plain flour
  • 3 level teaspoon baking powder
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 100ml cold milk


  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celcius
  2. Sift the flour, baking powder and sugar into a bowl
  3. Cut the butter into the flour, and then, using your fingertips to rub in any lumps
  4. Beat the eggs and combine with the milk in a separate bowl/cup
  5. Make a well into the flour and pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, cutting the wet ingredients into the dry with the knife until it comes together. Mix it together until it just forms together.
  6. Turn onto a floured board and then roll it out until it’s about 2cm thick
  7. Cut round discs and place onto a tray. Brush the top with some milk, or milk combined with egg. Combine any left over dough together, roll out again and then keep cutting until you have nothing left.
  8. Place into the oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack or eat immediately with clotted cream and jam

The key to a perfect scone
The whole point of rubbing the butter into the flour is to avoid developing gluten in the scones. The light, crumbly texture of a well made scone is the result of the butter coating each bit of flour, unlike bread (high in gluten) where the flour is attached to eat other. You can alternatively use a food processor to combine it but that might require more cleanup. Similarly, when the wet ingredients are added, we want to avoid mixing it/kneading it too much for the very same reasons.

Some scone recipes call for adding cream + milk instead of cream. I’ve never tried it but apparently it develops a much richer flavour.

You also don’t really want to roll out the dough any less than 2cm as your scone won’t rise and it will be hard cut into half and have anything decent to hold onto. Avoid using out of date baking powder as it makes a big difference to the rise as well.

Italian Beetroot Salad

Over the early May bank holiday weekend, I decided to actually come back from Berlin and spend a proper weekend at home. I even went to the trouble of cooking up a meal. To be honest, it’s probably one of the very first real home cooked meals (I don’t really count M&S salads or heated up meals from the freezer or store cabinet) I made since the start of the year. Terrible life of a consultant.

My sister came around and my flatmate was around, so we indulged in some great food made form some good ingredients sourced from some quality places.

I made some garlic and tomato rubbed toast to nibble on before our meal, although my focus was entirely on the main this time. I spent some time putting together a salad I’d enjoyed from an Italian place in Berlin and was trying to recreate it without the recipe and from memory. Not quite perfect, but very close.

Some of its constituent elements includes fresh radishes – I think it was a 100g packet of small radishes. Roughly chopped up into the same sized pieces

Spring Onions – Just one spring onion chopped up

Walnuts – I tried 30g here

Some red onions – Just a half because I didn’t want it too strong

Ginger – Once again just a nib, chopped into tiny, tiny bits

Some beetroot – I think I had four cooked beetroots that I then chopped into tiny pieces. Mix this all together with some plain unsweetened yogurt, just enough to cover everything. The final result was the salad below:

I then served this salad with some wonderful steaks sourced from The Ginger Pig alongside some freshly grilled asparagus (in season), and some goose-fat roasted potatoes.

Cooking three steaks at the same time at home, I think they all turned out perfectly medium or medium rare, and went down well with the freshly made mushroom sauce I also made from scratch.

Our wonderful meal finished off my a home made eaton mess that my flat mate made. Mmmm.