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Recipe #14: Paddy’s Rancheros

I’ve always admired the way that bachelormen, or indeed most men in a situation not overseen by a woman, are able to streamline their eating habits. For instance, Warren Buffet stops at a McDonalds Drive Thru for his breakfast every morning. He bases his choice of a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit ($3.17) or a sausage McMuffin with egg and cheese ($2.95) on how the market’s doing that day. I know another, arguably healthier (although probably not wealthier) man who eats two Weetbix for breakfast every single morning of his life. He doesn’t bother with another option. Ever.

In contrast, not only do I never know what I’m going to have for breakfast, but I seldom remember to eat it before noon. This makes it difficult to decide whether to eat something breakfast-like, or to admit defeat and try to work out what to eat for lunch instead. The overwhelming concatenation of decision-making usually causes me to abandon all feeding efforts until around 4pm, when my stomach starts sending polite memos that it doesn’t care which meal is served, as long as it is served soon.

Which all goes to explain why I’m so enormously grateful to my friend Paddy, the clever bachelorman who gave me this recipe. Because you can serve beans rancheros as breakfast, lunch, or dinner – no matter what time you get around to eating them. And, with the unfortunate exception of the bread, the ingredients are all things you can keep in your fridge, freezer and pantry for several weeks. As long as you remember to keep a few basics in stock, Paddy’s Rancheros will always have your back.

There are two more very good reasons this meal has become my bachelorwoman go-to: it’s super easy to make, and it’s ridiculously tasty. Maybe too tasty, actually. Because, according to Paddy, you’re not really supposed to be able to eat the entire pan by yourself in one sitting. But then, he probably eats breakfast.

Ingredients

  • 1 packet chopped bacon bits (250g)
  • 1 onion
  • 1 or 2 cloves of fresh garlic
  • A gurgle of olive oil
  • 1 tin of red kidney beans, drained
  • 1 tin of tomatoes (I like chopped, Paddy prefers whole)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp smoked (or normal) chilli flakes (depending on how hot you want it)
  • 1 tsp smoked (or normal) paprika
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 or 3 eggs
  • A couple of large handfuls of grated cheese (mature white cheddar is a good choice)
  • A loaf of Pugliese bread from The Real Bread Company in Muizenberg – The Official Bread of Paddy’s Rancheros
  • Some butter

What to do

  • Chop your onion and garlic and chuck them in an oven-proof stainless steel frying pan with the olive oil and bacon bits. (By oven proof, I mean don’t use one with a plastic handle as it might melt later.)
  • Fry the bacon, onion and garlic for a bit until they’re not raw.
  • Dump all the other ingredients in the pan, except for the eggs and cheese, and then simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens and your stomach sends memos marked ‘URGENT’.
  • Turn your oven to 180 Celsius (360 for you Fahrenheit Freaks) and let it heat up, then crack the eggs on top of the bean mixture and sprinkle the cheese over it all.
  • Put the whole pan in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes until the cheese is bubbling nicely. Remove the pan from the oven. Use oven gloves.
  • Toast a couple of slices of your Pugliese bread, butter it, and put it on a plate topped with a wodge of rancheros.
  • Try not to eat entire pan of rancheros in one sitting. It may help to invite a friend over.

Time taken

About 15 minutes of active preparation, plus a respectable amount of time for simmering – say 30 minutes. Total, around 45 minutes.

Dishes dirtied

  • 1 frying pang*
  • 1 knife
  • 1 chopping bored*
  • 1 wooden spoon
  • 1 cheese greater*
  • 1 tin opener

*Not typos. Me pretending to be an Ethiopian menu.

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Recipe #13: Split pea and smoked ham soup

It’s not very often that I receive a follow-up phone call to demand the recipe of something I served for dinner. In fact, this is the first time it’s ever happened. And when that recipe is for something as prosaic as soup, you realise you may have, accidentally, cooked something quite decent. So, after three years of neglecting this blog, here is recipe number 13, especially for my friend Squilly. It’s best served around a fire with wine and home-made garlic pizza bread that was supposed to be light and fluffy, but turned out flat and crunchy instead.

I scrolled through lank photos of other people’s pea soup to find a match, and eventually settled for something that might be from Shutterstock. If you sprinkle your ham bits, a few unblended unsplit peas, plus some mint over this recipe, and lovingly bathe it in natural light, it will totally look exactly like this.

Ingredients

  • Most of a 500g packet of split peas (In South Africa, you’ll find these in the same aisle as the samp and beans)
  • 1 brown onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • A large glug of olive oil
  • 2 Woolies chicken stock cubes (none of that Imana stuff, plz)
  • About 1 litre water, depending on how liquidy you like your soup
  • About 500g smoked ham. (3 or 4 kassler chops would work). I used smoked ham that I got from the farmer’s market in Sedgefield and then flew back to Cape Town with in my carry on luggage. But you don’t need to go to such lengths. Don’t chop the meat up yet.
  • 1 potato, peeled and diced
  • A cup of frozen peas

I prefer these peas

What to do

  • Soak the split peas for a couple of hours before getting started. This will save on cooking time later.
  • Fry the onion and garlic in the olive oil and brown the pork on a highish heat.
  • Add the split peas, water and stock cubes and leave to simmer for, like, a while. (I dunno – 40 minutes?)
  • Add the potato because you just realised it might be nice to have potato in it and you have a potato.
  • About 15 minutes before you plan to serve the soup, dump in the frozen peas. These will give the soup a nice bright green colour.
  • 5 minutes before serving, fish out all the pork and blend the soup into greeny creaminess with an oopah-zooter. (I call stick blenders oopah-zooters. ‘Stick blender’ is such a lame name.)
  • Chop the pork into little cubes while swearing about burning your fingers doing so.
  • Throw pork cubes back into soup, stir, and serve.
  • Boom.

Time taken

  • Preparation: Less than 15 minutes
  • Cooking time: About an hour
  • Post-cooking blending of soup and chunking of meat: 5 mins

Dishes dirtied

  • 1 large pot
  • 1 wooden spoon
  • 1 stick blender
  • 1 chopping board
  • 1 knife
  • 1 potato peeler

 

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Recipe #9: Roast Pork Belly with Apple and Leek Sauce

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A couple of weeks ago, I went to a birthday party for a Viking Chiro, where much amazing food was served, along with large quantities of schnapps. The most coveted morsels, however, were the fluffy curls of crackling that accompanied the Danish pork roasts. They vanished within minutes, to much contented crunching.

I don’t know about you, but I’d never before mastered the art of crispy crackling. All my previous pork roasts have come with a rubbery outer layer that provides an experience somewhat like chewing glutinous, salty tyres. Imagine my glee when the Viking Chiro’s fabulous wife explained to me (while following the wrong BMW to the ice-skating rink) how easily properly crunchy crackling could be achieved  She told me (while making a sudden U-turn and hot-footing it back towards the N1) that you simply roast your roll of pork in 4cm of water with an onion for about an hour and a half.

A few hours later (with a bruise on my behind and slightly wet jeans) I went in search of rolled pork so that I too could make a Viking roast. Alas, there was none to be found at the supermarket. After 15 minutes of prowling up and down the meat section in disbelief, I found one smallish pork belly hiding behind a few chops. The problem was, the belly was quite flat – not the type of roast my friend had described to me at all. Nevertheless, I bought it, just in case I couldn’t be bothered to go to another supermarket. Groceries are all very well, but I draw the line at doing them twice in one day.

Since I’d correctly estimated my laziness levels, I now had to figure out another way of roasting my pork and crisping my crackling. All the recipes for pork belly I found online said that, at some point, you had to put the temperature of the oven up. However, they disagreed about the temperature (anything from 180 C to 280 C), how long to do it for, and when to do it (either right at the start or right at the end). I decided to be safe and use the hottest oven setting (280 C) for 20 minutes both at the start and finish.

The only thing the recipes did agree on was that you should roast pork belly on top of something. It didn’t sound like it mattered much what: onions, garlic, apples, ferrets (no, sorry, I made that last one up). Since I had lots of apples and a few leeks left over from the chicken pie, I used those. I’m afraid I cannot give you accurate oven times because our dinner guests were late and I kept faffing around, taking the roast out of the oven, putting it in again, roasting the veggies (on a separate tray) at the same time, etc, etc. I did get the feeling, however, that as long as the tinfoil is snugly tucked around the roast, and the crackling hasn’t actually turned black, it would be hard to overcook this.

In the end it turned out perfectly: tasty and tender and with the crackliest crackling I could desire. Our female dinner guest even exclaimed, “Do you work?!”, which, as we all know, is the highest possible praise.

Ingredients

  • 1kg + pork belly roast
  • 3 apples (any kind)
  • 2 or 3 leeks
  • 4 or 5 cloves of garlic
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Fresh thyme

What to do

  • Preheat your oven to its highest temperature.
  • Line a small roasting dish with heavy foil.
  • Slice your apples, leeks and 3 or 4 cloves of garlic and layer the bottom of dish with them.

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  • Scour your pork skin as best you can (it takes elbow grease and a sharp knife), taking care not to slice all the way through to the flesh.
My rather clumsy attempt at diagonal scouring.

My rather clumsy attempt at diagonal scouring.

  • Rub the sea salt, a clove of chopped garlic, the lemon zest and thyme all over the surface of the pork skin and into the cracks.

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  • Lay the belly on top of the apples and leeks and tuck the foil around it snugly so that just the skin is exposed.
  • Put in the oven for about 20 minutes on the high temperature to start crisping the skin. Turn the temperature down to 160 C and roast for at least another half an hour for every 500g (you can make this longer, depending on how well you like your pork done).
  • Just before serving, turn the oven to its highest setting again and leave for another 15-20 minutes, keeping an eye on the crackling to make sure it doesn’t burn (a little bit of black is okay though).
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This is the pork belly just after the initial exposure to the furnace. It got even crispier after the second blast at the end, but I felt it would be awkward to photograph the roast in front of guests.

  • Remove from foil and leave to stand on a dish for 10 minutes before carving.
  • In the meantime, carefully lift the foil out of the dish and pour the apple, leek and pork juice mixture into a jug. Blend until smooth and decant into a gravy tureen to serve with the roast.

Wine pairing suggestion

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Jacques Bruére Brut Reserve

Obviously you need to celebrate your crispy crackling with some sparkly bubbly! Thanks to our dinner guests, we celebrated in 5-star style. Follow it up with the Vrede en Lust Viognier, which is rich and full enough to support the flavours of the pork belly.

Time taken

  • Preparation: 20 minutes (mostly spent trying to scour the skin).
  • Cooking: anywhere between 2 and 4 hours, depending on the size of your roast and the hotness of your oven. Sorry. I did warn you.

Dishes dirtied

  • 1 chopping board
  • 1 roasting pan
  • 1 knife
  • 1 grater
  • 1 stick blender
  • 1 jug