Food marathon: St John Hotel and The Sportsman

In the interests of trying not to look like a stuffed sausage during the Great London Swim, I have been trying (halfheartedly) trying not eat out for more than one meal a day. Pah! Epic fail, with my recent double dinner at Duck Soup and Cay Tre, and again today…

Whilst I probably should have been doing laps of the pool, instead I embarked on a food marathon beginning at St John hotel for breakfast, lunch at The Sportsman in Seasalter followed by a home cooked three course dinner back in London.

08:30 – Breakfast at St John Hotel

An oasis of whitewashed calm amid the bustle of Chinatown and the well-dressed peeps of the W hotel, SJH is my kind of place for breakfast. Not fussy, just great food and service. I love the simple, sparse setting. Maybe it’s because I’m such an untidy person and a serial hoarder; my house could never look like this.

Breakfast at St John Hotel, London

We started with the breakfast buns, comped by our lovely waiter when he saw me greedily eyeing the fresh buns stacked prettily on a tiered cake stand, which were buttery and crispy. Like a croissant shaped into a brioche. Rich and delicious on their own, they definitely didn’t need the extra butter (broke the diet to confirm this for you!).

The pancakes with rhubarb and vanilla compote and yoghurt were spot on. When your dining companion‘s eyes light up, says “mmmm” and immediately tells you “no, you won’t like these” you know they’re good. They were light, fluffy and slightly crispy on the outside. Only gripe was that there wasn’t enough of them, for the amount of yoghurt served alongside. But our waiter (did I mention he was lovely?) picked up on this and seeing the leftover yoghurt asked what was wrong and offered us more pancakes.  Now, that’s service.

But, no more pancakes for me as I had some soft boiled eggs and anchovy toast to tuck into. The anchovy spread was incredibly generous and probably overly-so even for this anchovy fan.  The butter loving theme continued when I put some into my soft boiled egg, causing much gasping. Tell me, am I the only person to put butter in their eggs!?

Breakfast ended with a dozen madeleines which we took as sustenance for our travelling companions on the way to The Sportsman (I hope you didn’t start reading that sentence and think that I ate the dozen!).

12:30 – Lunch at The Sportsman

The Sportsman and I have a lot of history. Good history, mind. The weather has always been sunny when I’ve visited, even mid-February (touch wood) and I’ve had some great meals here with family, friends and friends-to-be. Today was a trip with my fabulous aunties and some new friends, so we thought it right that they be introduced to the ways of The Sportsman via the tasting menu.

The Sportsman

Top: Oyster with rhubarb granita. Bottom: Oyster, hollandaise, caviar

Other people have written much more comprehensive reviews than me, so all I’ll tell you is that the smoked pork and mustard sauce needs scratch-n-sniff photography to do it justice, and that my revelation was the meringue ice cream with sea buckthorn sauce and crystallised seaweed, which reminded me of those salty-sweet-seaweed coated japanese crackers that I was addicted to as a kid!

Amuse your Bouche at The Sportsman

Asparagus tarts, herring on soda bread, cheese bites and rockpool

Yes, there were dishes that I didn’t like and a couple of occasions where I didn’t think they’d quite pulled off what they were intending to. I’ll probably order from the a la carte menu in future to construct my perfect meal, but don’t let that put you off the tasting menu. It’s generous, it’s sourced locally, it’s fun (those pink things in the dessert photo are rhubarb lollipops in cake-flavoured milk!), and you can see what you’re eating, e.g. sea salt made from the sea that you can see from your seat (!).

The Sportsman

Turbot, Crab and hollandaise, Smoked pork and mustard

The Sportsman

An embarrassment of desserts. Chocolate mousse, shortbread, truffles, custard tart, verbena delight, rhubarb pops in cake milk, meringue ice cream and sea buckthorn.

I still love the unpretentiousness of The Sportsman,  its ramshackle appearance and its location amidst the marshlands and nestling behind some beachhuts and a caravan park. My favourite table remains the 4 seater in the left corner as you enter, with the wide comfy wicker chairs.  And I’ll be coming back, because it’s only 90 minutes from London to get to the seaside and because the sun always shines when I’m at The Sportsman.

19:30 – Dinner 

You’d think that by dinnertime on a day like today I’d be in a deep food coma and clutching my belly. Turns out all the eating has trained me well, and aided by a power nap on the train back to London, I was on fine form for dinner.

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The ever-beautiful Melat wowed us with puy lentil-filled galettes, lamb cutlets and a delicious fish curry. Creme caramel for dessert was lovingly made by her fiance, despite having been banished to the cinema to allow our girls night in!

Eating dinner with my friends – who  I realised I met almost precisely 10 years ago – makes me remember that it’s not just what or where you eat, it’s who you eat it with.

And on a food marathon day like today, I couldn’t have asked for more delicious food, and certainly not better company.

23:59 – Home, happier and heavier!

St John Hotel, 1 Leicester Street, London WC2H 7BL http://www.stjohnhotellondon.com/

Rating: 4 out of 5
Good for: people who dig the utilitarian look, breakfast meetings, seasonal eats

The Sportsman, Faversham Road, Seasalter, Kent CT5 4BP

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Good for:  day trips out of London, seafood lovers, low-key dates, people who don’t like to dress up to eat well

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Baozi Inn: the revolution continues

About 6 years ago, a little revolution in the Chinese food scene in London began with the opening of Bar Shu, introducing a new and fiery style of Sichuan cooking in a trendy setting to conquer the stranglehold on Chinese restaurants in London previously held by Cantonese restaurants with 1980s tablecloths and 1980s service.

Baozi Inn is part of the same family of restaurants as Bar Shu (3rd one is Ba Shan) and it’s pitched as a more casual noodles spot.  I treated myself to a very naughty lunch there the other day in spite of a) spicy food on a 28 deg day?!! b) I actually didn’t have time for lunch with errands and appointments packed in c) I really didn’t need more than a snack.  But the temptation was too great.

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Spicy beef noodles were flavourful, generous with the beef and enlivened by the generous topping of chopped coriander.   Probably the best version I have had in London, though the spice rather tame compared to the many bowls I slurped down to keep warm while travelling in Tibet. (Yes, Sichuan noodles in Tibet! And trust me, they tasted much better than the local Tibetan momos)

Spicy dumplings

I probably shouldn’t have…but I did order an extra side of spicy dumplings, which added an extra 2 mins of eating time to the 15 mins I didn’t have for lunch.  Now these dumplings, the dumplings themselves are not spectacular, but they do come with a fragrant spicy sauce, the key ingredient of which is raw minced garlic.  Oh yes, you don’t really want to be kissing anyone after having some of these dumplings.

Baozi Inn is a great little spot and it is a shame in some ways that it doesn’t have the same cult following like say a Koya, does. increasingly get a sense that these days, a restaurant’s popularity is largely driven by PR and especially Twitter chatter. Old favourites which date from the pre-Twitter world, such as Baozi Inn, lose out unfortunately. Which is a real shame, because as you can see from the picture of its interiors below, the revolution continues…

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p.s. the revolution hasn’t progressed that far yet, so don’t expect mood lighting or anything more than brusque service

Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Good for: Casual dinners with friends, quick lunch, spicy cravings

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Hand and Flowers: the devil is in the execution!

It was meant to be an expedition beyond the safe confines of the M25.  Yes, I know it is rather embarrassing that between K and I, we had over two decades of living in the UK, but we had barely ventured outside Greater London.  So K’s 30th birthday provided us a perfect excuse to venture out.  Not to mention the fact that Hand and Flowers is the only pub with two Michelin stars.

The day started well, at least for K who met me at Paddington Station, clutching a Cornish pasty to cure his after-after-party-induced hangover.  Then it was a rather pleasant train ride through beautiful English countryside, with the Thames weaving in and out of the background.

I’d organized for us to be greeted with champagne upon arrival, which on hindsight, was not a great idea.  Once K saw that I was taking him down with champagne, he decided that we would go all the way and order wine with every course.  I really loved it that they offered carafe options for a few pretty good wines, which meant we could have white with our starters and red with our mains.

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Our starters: White asparagus with ham and ceps, parsley soup with smoked eel and bacon

Which brings me on to the food.    Although the descriptions sounded like relatively familiar gastropub items, the devil was in the exquisite execution.  This included a parsley soup with so much body that it’s difficult to believe the only ingredients were parsley, stock and parsley oil.  And perfectly cooked peas (just al dente) that packed a punch from the flavour of duck fat.

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Great British Dish winner: slow-cooked duck with peas and duck fat chips as well as a side of sprouting broccoli with anchovies and garlic

There are no challenging flavour combinations, no fancy bacon ice-cream, no molecular gastronomy tricks, nothing that smacks of a chef who is trying to show off his cleverness.  Instead, the cleverness is all in how sophisticated yet rustic the cooking and flavours were.

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Deceptively simple in name, lamb bun slices opens to present meltingly-tender roast lamb

We took a slow walk back to the station after lunch, not that we could have walked any faster given the amount of food we consumed.  Walking past some lovely cottages, K and I started fantasizing about our future country homes…perhaps maybe one day… It was such a lovely day overall, to get away from the hustle and bustle of London, breathe fresh air and yet only a short hour-ish ride away from Paddington.

Wycombe-20120520-00062Dessert: pistachio marzipan cake with melon sorbet

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Good for: Special occasions, daytrips outside London, dining with friends

p.s. apologies if the photos don’t do the food justice, I had to use my Blackberry to take pictures as K’s fancy DSLR malfunctioned

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Foodie postcard: lunch with a view in Ravello, Italy

It all started with “Wine and Drugs” which, if you know me, I can resist everything but temptation.  A friendly shopkeeper pouring generous gulps of wine for tasting, some really good wine later, I’d fallen for the scam and ended up buying a very overpriced bottle of grappa, albeit a really good one.  (Seems like I was not the only one…)  Having said that, he redeemed himself to some extent by sending us to a great restaurant.

Da Salvatore, was the perfect spot for a lazy late lunch, not that we could have gone far after all the wine we tasted.

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It wasn’t a traditional trattoria, though it was run by a bald and sharply-dressed Italian man called Pino. The food was hearty with a light touch.  Gnocchi, not done well, can be dense and heavy, but this one was ethereally light as air.  The accompaniments (smoked bacon and braised ox cheek), again could have been too rich but were contrasted by citrus elements (lemon cream and candied orange peel) reflecting the traditional ingredients of the region.

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Stuffed gnocchi with anchovy cream, broad beans, smoked bacon and lemon cream

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Ricotta gnochetti studded with candied orange peel with braised ox cheek in chocolate sauce

Take it from this tummy, when you’re in Ravello, DO go to Wine and Drugs, DO NOT buy anything from the store and DEFINITELY DO go to Da Salvatore.

Other tips for the Amalfi Coast:

EAT: Il Pino in Praino; Cumpa Cosimo in Ravello (as our friends put it, “Very funny lady who probably will keep feeding MJo pasta until he drops. Very authentic and nice place”); Delfino in Sorrento (the seafood risotto here is extremely generous with the seafood)
STAY: La Minervetta in Sorrento – gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous boutique design hotel in Sorrento; Punta Civita in Ravello/Amalfi) – charming little B&B with a stunning view

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Zheng Zhong Lan Zhou La Mian Noodle Bar: Don’t judge a noodle bar by its terrible storefront

I love hand-pulled noodles (“la mian“).  I love their squidginess, and the hot sauces and tasty broths that accompany them.  I particularly love it when someone else makes them for me, having once tried in earnest and failed dismally (that day, we resorted to the storebought backup noodles). So I was very happy with my dear friend’s suggestion to try Zheng Zhong Lan Zhou La Mian Noodle Bar, two paces from Leicester Square tube station.

Let’s be frank here. This place is no looker, but like so many Chinese restaurants, the good ones never are!

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Don’t be put off by the day-glo sweet and sour or the greasy stir fried noodles. Venture in, beyond the neon-backlit menu, to the back of this little establishment and you’ll see the ‘real’ menu…

There’s also an extensive printed menu, so we were spoilt for choice, but it was the la mian that I was there to hunt out.

I didn’t get to see the chef in action, sadly, which might have explained why there seemed to be on that night so many waiting staff hanging around : the noodles were made, they just needed people to eat up!
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And so we did! We ordered the Sichuanese cold cucumber starter which arrived within minutes, accompanied by a steaming hot bowl of beef la mian in soup, followed by the stir fried flat pork noodles.

The cucumber plate was enormous and delicious. The soupy noodles were suitably squidgy with just enough bite and served with generous chunks of slow-cooked beef in a flavoursome broth. Excellent! The flat hand cut noodles were my least favourite as I found the pieces too big and stodgy, but maybe I should have eaten them when they were piping hot.

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Dinner for two came to under £20 and would’ve been a quick affair had we not spent so much time chatting!

So, a great little find if you find yourself on Cranbourne Street, that odd road linking Leicester Square to Covent Garden, and in need of a quick bite. It’s not glamorous to say the least: there are two shared bench tables at the back, the walls are yellow and neon green, and decorated with comedy cartoons.

But don’t let the decor or the dodgy storefront distract you. Judging by the number of Asians who nipped in for a bite during the course of our meal, they haven’t either.

Rating: 3.5 out of 4
Good for: Quick bite
Address:  Zheng Zhong Lan Zhou La Mian Noodle Bar, 33 Cranbourn Street, London, WC2H 7AD map

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Taqueria: taco mania!

You’ve heard about MJo’s Mexican food obsession.  And after our last disappointing experience, we decided that we would be more stringent with our restaurant selection.  This time, Taqueria 1) was actually recommended by an actual Mexican person (we have only met one in London so far so a sample size of 1 will have to suffice) and 2) makes their own tacos on-site.  So the leading indicators were good…

…we also decided we would be more rigorous in sampling the food to ensure we deliver an accurate report to you, dear reader.  So that’s how we ended up working through at least half the menu (and it was quite a long one!).  Taco mania at its best!  Well actually, the tacos were so yummy we couldn’t help ordering more…and more…and more!

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(Clockwise from top left: Pollo Barracho, Pescado, Chorizo Mexicano, Carnitas)

Our favourites?  Pollo Borracho, Pescado, Carnitas, Chorizo Mexicano, Carne Asada (in that order)…and in fact Pollo Borracho is so way up there, we ordered seconds and we would recommend it to you too.  Overall, the taco fillings were fresh, well-seasoned and generous (again reference our recent experience at La Bodega Negra…).

And of course, we wouldn’t have left the place without sampling their margaritas….again for completeness, we tried the maracuya and sandia flavours as well as an additional coconut cocktail.  Refreshing, yummy and let’s just say we left as very merry (some say tipsy) customers.  Only grouse would be that the drinks are a little expensive at £7-ish each, given its location in not-quite-Notting Hill.

Maracuya margarita

Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Good for: Date night, dinner with friends
Special deals: Cheap margaritas on Thurs + half price tacos between 5-7pm on Mon-Thurs

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The RIBA Restaurant: a visual spectacle

What do you do in London on a Tuesday evening?  No museum late openings, no football games on and Tues is a difficult night to get out in time for plays.  Oh I know, enjoy a wonderful meal with your friends in a unique and beautiful setting of course!

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The setting doesn’t get better than RIBA, the Royal Institute of British Architects. As befitting of an architectural institution, it is housed in a stunning Art Deco building and the restaurant is in the grand Florence Hall, replete with tall columns and large windows that let in the last of the evening’s light.  And Tuesday nights are when RIBA’s restaurant, bar and exhibitions are open late, with special events on the last Tuesday of each month.

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We had a new Friend break bread with us on this particular evening, so we inducted him into our ways – ignoring his initial protests – and ordered basically the whole menu.  Which wasn’t difficult, as it was a relatively short and well-curated Modern British menu.  A handful each of nibble, starter, main and dessert options, all distinct enough to ensure you would find something to your taste. And a reasonably priced set menu at £19.50 for two courses and £23.50 for three, too.

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There was a fight at the table over this! Pork belly, pea mousse, carrot terrine + chili sticky rib

And the food?  The starters were the strongest of the lot (kid you not, there was a fight at the table for the pork belly with sticky rib starter!), with the meat in some of the mains overcooked, which was a shame. The presentation was beautiful, servings were on the generous side and the quality was generally high, so we left with happy and full tummies.

With only a few tables in a large hall that also features changing architectural exhibitions, it’s a perfect venue for a peaceful dinner with friends or a quiet date. Our party of 6 had a great night, enjoying good food in an interesting venue.  RIBA: easy on the eye, and fairly easy on the wallet too… 

Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Good for:  Date nights, cultural evenings, dinner with friends
Details: The RIBA Restaurant, 66 Portland Place, London W1B 1AD. Open Mon-Fri for lunch, and Tues evenings only for dinner. Book in advance.

And before we bring on the food porn (underneath the cut), I should probably mention there is also a great deal on selected wines whereby you buy two 250ml glasses and get the rest of the bottle free.
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Housebites: not quite bitten by this posh takeaway (yet)

Housebites is a new home delivery service offering “gourmet takeaway from great chefs in your local area for the price of a pizza“. Quite some promise, eh?

Housebites delivers food cooked by local amateur and professional chefs, offering menus that are more inspiring and challenging than your standard pizza or curry. And for the chefs registered with Housebites, it gives them with an opportunity to reach a wider dining audience and a chance to benefit financially from it.

This service launched in September 2011 and caught our eye. We were curious as to how the business model worked, and we liked the mix of home-cooked food and gourmet menus. And, though we’re happy to schlep across town for a good meal, who doesn’t love a takeaway when there’s a downpour outside?!

Ordering online on the website was straightforward:  you are  offered a selection of chefs in your vicinity who are cooking that evening; you pick the food you want and a time slot for delivery; and you pay online.

So far so good, though we were disappointed that one of the chefs with experience at Michelin-starred restaurants wasn’t cooking on the night we ordered. Price-wise, it’s more expensive than the Marks & Spencer ready-meals and a normal takeaway but still cheaper than going out to a restaurant.

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And the food? Sad to say, the Iranian meal was just a bit lacklustre. Due to traffic problems, our food was late, and thus lukewarm on arrival. Our lamb stew was tasty, but the fried aubergines with tomatoes were greasy and thin on flavour. Our excitingly named Bangali Sea Bass sizzler (whole seabass served with spices) suffered during transportation and didn’t merit the £11.50 price.

We were however impressed by the professionalism of the operation: every chef has been photographed in chef’s whites for the website, and the packaging is all Housebites-branded.  We liked that when our friend added to our initial order, our chef called to make sure that it all went smoothly.

Housebites boxes
So were we bitten by Housebites? Not yet. We’ll happily try some of the other menus as there are a lot of satisfied customers and people who’ve had positive experiences, and some other chefs that caught our eye. We’d also like to see how Housebites ensures there is consistency in quality of food as it grows and adds new chefs.

And so the jury is still out on this one.  These tummies were made for travelling, so we’ll stick to that until the next rainy day…

Price: £37 for 3 mains, 2 sides, 1 bread and 1 dessert
Rating: 1 out of 5.  Our meal didn’t live up to the gourmet claims (this time)
Good for:  Takeaway, Home delivery

Posted in London, Takeaway | 1 Comment

Spring feast: braised little gems and peas with mint

It’s grey, cold and raining outside, certainly doesn’t feel like Spring at all.  L But I did manage to capture a great shot of proper Springtime London and keep referring to it longingly just to cheer myself up.

Springtime in London

Also to provide cheer for the Tummies and our Friends, I decided to cook a Spring Feast to celebrate all the best bounty of the season.  Spring has to be the most anticipated of the seasons, particularly it brings the promise of summer sun ever closer.  Many spring vegetables are brief visitors (blink and you’ll miss the asparagus and purple sprouting broccoli) but all the more appreciated because of this.

Our menu went like this:

  • Asparagus emulsion
  • Roast leg of lamb
  • Braised little gems and peas with mint
  • Steamed purple sprouting broccoli lightly tossed with olive oil and lemon
  • Home-made gnocchi (rare high-effort attempt by me!!)
  • Pistachio and chocolate cake with strawberries

Suffice to say, it was a great dinner – good food, good wine, good friends – thoughts of the cold and rain outside were banished (at least temporarily).  There were glasses overflowing, seconds and some thirds (servings that is), conversation and laughter all around the table, just the effect that the Tummies strongly believe good food should have.

And I wanted to share a bit of our Spring Feast with you (Yeah, you wish…no leftovers!) with a recipe for beautifully sweet and nutty braised lettuce (yes, you read correct, you can cook lettuce!) enlivened with the freshness of sweet and crunchy petit pois and mint.

Braised little gem, peas and mint

Braised little gems and peas with mint
Serves 6

Six heads of little gem lettuces
200g of frozen petit pois (or more if you’re as much of a pea fiend as I am)
1 onion, small dice
50g pancetta/bacon bits
500ml stock (I used pork coz that was what I had to hand)
Handful of mint, chopped

Sautee the onion and pancetta/bacon bits in some olive oil until the onion turns translucent.

Trim the little gems and cut each one into 4 lengthways, and fit into pot.  Cover with the stock, don’t worry if it doesn’t cover the lettuce completely as the lettuce shrinks as it cooks.  Bring it to boil, then cover and reduce heat for a simmer for another 7 mins.

Remove little gems with a slotted spoon and continue cooking to reduce the liquid by half.  Return little gems to the pot and bring to boil.  Throw in the peas and mint then cover and turn off heat at this point.  The heat will continue cooking the peas and we don’t want to overcook them or they lose their sweet crunchiness.

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Recipe Test: Momofuku Pork Buns

Curiosity and greed finally got the better of me.  That, and the offer to use a friend’s new kitchen with, as one observer put it, “an island the size of a car!”.

I decided to make the most of the vast kitchen, an army of helpers and the two Kitchenaids(!) by attempting the Momofuku pork bun recipe.  Also, it never seemed right to go to so much effort for my tummy alone, and you know, sharing is caring.

On Pork Bun Day, I finally read the recipe *properly*.  I discovered that I needed non-fat milk powder for the buns, that the pork belly needed 6 hours of marinading, and the buns needed some of the lovely rendered pork fat from the roasting.  Oops, hadn’t factored any of that in.

Never mind, the reduced marinade time didn’t seem to matter as the pork was flavoursome and soft post-roasting, and my corner shop, amazingly, came out trumps on the milk powder.

The buns weren’t difficult to make, they just required a lot of patience for the rises and the shaping, for which you are rewarded with a very large batch of buns.  The recipe yields 50, but I only got 43 buns.  I tried making a few smaller ones but there’s not enough space in the bun so the fillings have a tendency to slide out!

And finally, assembly of the buns, the easy part. I didn’t have any pickled cucumber, so stuffed the freshly steamed buns with: smear of hoisin, chopped spring onions, slice of fresh cucumber, some pickled daikon, warmed pork belly and a squirt of sriracha.

Test verdict? Pass! They were pretty damn good and very more-ish.  Pillowy soft sweetish buns with melting pork belly and crunchy pickles.  Great little wolf-in-two-greedy-mouthfuls size.

The worst bit? It’s a time investment to get to the stage where you can easily and breezily assemble the buns (pork belly takes 8 hours if you marinade per the recipe, and buns take over two hours).

But the best bit? My double batch of pork belly didn’t take any longer to cook and meant there were lots of leftovers for noodle soup the next day.  I also tried freezing the buns and can report that they do indeed steam perfectly in 3 minutes from frozen. Now, that’s my sort of fast food.

Roast Pork Belly

– from the Momofuku cookbook

This is double the original recipe, which is enough to fill 12 buns. Since you’re going to spend the time marinading and roasting, it makes sense to make more! I was short on marinading time, and used light muscovado sugar as that’s all that was left in the cupboard but don’t feel like the end result suffered.

2.7kg slab skinless pork belly
70g coarse sea salt
100g sugar

  1. Place belly in an ovenproof dish. Mix salt and sugar in a bowl and rub over pork belly; discard excess mix.
  2. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for 6 to 24 hours.
  3. Preheat oven 230 degrees C / Gas mark 8.
  4. Discard any liquid around the pork. Ensure belly is fat side up, and cook for 1 hour, basting with the rendered fat half way through, until golden brown.
  5. Reduce oven temperatue to 130 degrees C / Gas mark 1/2. Roast pork for a further 1 hour to 1 1/4 hours until belly is tender. Mine starting burning on the top towards the end, so I covered it with some foil. Your belly should be soft, but not falling apart.
  6. Remove belly from pan and transfer to a plate. Decant fat and meat juices (Save fat for making the steamed buns).
  7. When belly has cooled, wrap in cling film and refrigerate. This will cool the belly so you can slice it neatly. Skip if you don’t have time.
  8. Slice belly into 1cm thick slices. Heat in a pan over a medium heat until warmed through when you want to serve them.

Notes
* Deskinning the pork belly – my gruff chinese butcher wasn’t in the mood for deskinning the pork, but thankfully DIY isn’t so difficult: make sure your pork is cold, skin side down, grab one end of the belly and slide your sharp knife underneath the skin to slice it off.
No fridge space? –  Marinade your pork in a ziploc bag to save space. Transfer to roasting dish later.

Steamed Buns
Makes 50. It’s a lot. It takes time. They freeze really well. It’s worth it.

1 tbsp + 1 tsp dried yeast
350ml room temperature water
600g strong white flour
6 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp non-fat dried milk powder
1 tbsp coarse sea salt
rounded 1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
1/2 tsp baking soda
2.5 tbsp pork fat (or other white fat) at room temp, plus spare for shaping buns.

  1. Combine yeast and water in a stand mixer with a dough hook. Add flour, sugar, milk powder, salt, baking powder, bicarb and fat and mix on low speed for 8-10 minutes until dough gathers into a neat ball. I had a add a smidgen more water to get it to this stage.
  2. Oil a medium mixing bowl, place dough in it and cover with a dry tea towel Place in a warm place and leave to rise until size doubles, for 1 hour
  3. Punch down dough, turn out onto clean surface, divide into half with a dough scraper or knife, and then divide each half into 5 pieces. Roll these 10 pieces into logs, and cut each into 5 pieces. This should give you 50 ping-pong sized pieces weighing 25g. My recipe yielded slightly less than this; maybe I didn’t leave it to rise for long enough.
  4. Roll each piece into a ball, place onto a baking tray, cover with cling film and allow to rest and rise for 30 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, cut out 50 10cm squares of greaseproof paper, and get a chopstick and the spare pork fat.
  6. Roll out one dough ball into a 10cm long oval. Grease the chopstick and lay it across the middle of the oval widthwise, and fold the oval in half over itself. Slide out the chopstick, and transfer the bun to a piece of greaseproof paper, keeping it folded. Cover with clingfilm or a dry team towel. Repeat for the other 49 buns. Allow to rest for 30-45 minutes.
  7. FINALLY! Set up a steamer – I used a bamboo steamer – to cook the buns in batches. Place buns and their paper into the steamer and cook for 10 minutes. Remove paper and serve immediately.
  8. To freeze for later: cool, seal in a freezer bag, and reheat by steaming from frozen for 2-3 minutes.
Posted in Cook-and-freeze, Pickles, Pork, Recipe Test, Recipes | 1 Comment