Wednesday, 3 December 2014

The yummiest slow-cooked Pulled Pork!

Now… this is my type of food!!! Simple ingredients cooked with love and care to create a dish that just tastes so incredibly delicious. Pulled Pork is very popular at the moment and can be seen on many menus, both in casual- and in fine-dining restaurants… and it’s easy to understand why, as it has a depth of flavour that makes it addictive and leaves you wanting more.

I tend to be a little bit suspicious of food trends and dishes that suddenly become fashionable. Whilst pulled pork has only recently become popular in the mainstream in Ireland and the UK, it has long been popular in the USA, particularly in the southern states of Tennessee and in North and South Carolina. In many instances, the pork is cooked by slowly barbecuing it for a long time to create meat that falls away from the bone and can be easily ‘pulled’ into shreds which can be then served with barbecue sauce or gravy in a bread bun as a sandwich/‘burger’.
 
I wanted to make my own pulled pork at home and was keen to create a version that possessed that crucial smoked flavour, but without the need for long, complex barbecuing. I also think that pulled pork is real comfort food and perfect for eating not only during warm summers but also during colder weather like we are experiencing at the moment. I didn’t fancy getting the barbecue out on a cold wintry day to satisfy my desire for pulled pork and was convinced that you could recreate a tasty version by oven-cooking the meat.

I did a little research and came across a number of recipes for pulled pork that briefly barbecued the meat to create the smoky flavour, before cooking it slowly in a moderate oven for a number of hours. I tried this out, but the smoky flavour was negligible and I wasn’t happy with the results. For my second attempt I used smoked paprika and whilst happy with the smokiness, I wasn’t happy with the other balance of spices and aromatics I used – so I did some more experimenting!

My third attempt produced amazing results and I was absolutely thrilled with how it tasted. I upped the quantity of smoked paprika and also included a good amount of ground cumin and a little ground cinnamon. My earlier attempts had used fresh thyme but I replaced this with dried oregano and got the flavour that I was looking for. You have to try it! If I say so myself, this is an fabulous tasting dish. I also added a can of Guinness to the braising sauce, along with a small amount of beef stock, which then formed the basis for the barbecue sauce that I then made and in which I coated the pulled meat. Stout is amazing for cooking with… I use it in stews and in fruit cakes all the time as it creates a richness that balances out any sweetness perfectly.

The ingredients list looks a little daunting but honestly, this is an incredibly easy dish to make… You’ve got to try it! YUMMY!

Ingredients:

2kg piece of pork shoulder (I used it with bone in)
2tblsp smoked paprika
2tblsp ground cumin
1tblsp ground cinnamon
1tblsp ground coriander
2tblsp English mustard powder
1tsp sea salt
1tsp freshly ground black pepper
For braising the pork:
3 large onions, sliced thickly
3 carrots, chopped into large chunks
3 sticks of celery roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 bay leaves
1 tblsp dried oregano
2 x 400g chopped tomatoes
500ml beef stock
500ml Guinness
For the barbecue sauce:
200g dark brown muscovado sugar
250ml cider vinegar
250ml fresh orange juice
 

Method:

The day before:
1. Mix the paprika, cumin, cinnamon, coriander, mustard powder, salt and pepper together in a small bowl, Rub the spice mix into the pork and then place into a dish, cover with cling film and refrigerate overnight to give the spices a chance to penetrate the meat.
To cook the meat:
2. Preheat oven to 230C/fan Oven 210C/Gas Mark 8.
3. Place the chopped vegetables into a large ovenproof casserole dish or large and deep roasting pan. Place the meat on top and roast for 60 minutes uncovered. After this time, remove the pork from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 160C/Fan Oven 140C/Gas Mark 2or 3. Add the bay leaves, oregano, tomatoes, stock and Guinness. Cover the dish with a lid or cover well with tin foil. Allow to braise for 5 hours. The braising juices will not need topping up if you have the dish well covered, but you can check half way through the braising time.
4. Remove the pork from the oven, place the meat on a large dish and allow to cool for 30 minutes. Pass the braising juices through a sieve into a large saucepan and set aside.
5. Once cool enough to handle pull the meat into shreds using two fork or your fingers. Discard any bones.
Barbecue sauce:
6. Add the sugar, vinegar and orange juice to the reserved juices in the saucepan. Bring up to the boil stirring occasionally and allow to reduce by just over a half by which time the sauce should have thickened. Pour the sauce onto the pulled pork making sure that the meat is well coated. Serve warm with a selection of salads or in brioche burger buns with coleslaw and salad leaves.
 
Serves 10-12 generously (but you can also store leftovers very successfully by covering with cling film and storing in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat by heating gently in a small saucepan over a moderate heat, adding a little water if necessary).