Something New- Pork n Pears (with bonus apache potatoes)

Hello, and a Happy New Year to you all. Yes, I’ve not been blogging, sue me if you wish and feel free to make up a more exciting reason for this than “I’ve been pretty knackered since the beginning of December”.

Less knackered now though, and ready to share a bit of a double whammy dinner idea for those still interested in my now out of date new years resolution from 2013 to do more, and thus eat more, New Stuff.

A pork n pear dinner with various veg and some luverly spuds

A pork n pear dinner with various veg and some luverly spuds

Christmas came and went, gifts were exchanged and much turkey was eaten. Hurrah. Cut to January and everyone is broke, cold and nursing the bitter comedown from tinsel wrapped heights of the festive season to the cold, soiled basement level of Being Back To Normal. Horrors. My significant other and I were due a night in with the younger female in law and dinner was on us. A quick trip to Morrisons came up with a bargain bundle of pork shoulder and some quirky looking potatoes and some kind of stew idea began to form. The boy picked up a big bag of slightly worse for wear pears in the yellow sticker vulture’s corner of cut price delights. Hmm. Pears. I’ve made pork with plums before and we all know pork and apples do the trick. Why not, what’s the worst that could happen?

Apache potatoes, get some if you can and don't mess with them too much.

Apache potatoes, get some if you can and don’t mess with them too much.

I’ll start with the apache potatoes, little bundles of red and golden skinned spuds- sorry, they aren’t pink on the inside unfortunately! What they are on the inside was incredibly buttery and smooth- very tasty indeed and on the seriously simple end of the preparation scale. Gentle scrub, 5 minute blanch whole in boiling salted water then into a medium hot oven with a drizzle of olive oil to roast for about 40 minutes. One might immediately consider how good they may be if slant cut and done in hot goose fat but to be honest, it’s not necessary. Their buttery finish isn’t over powering so too much crisping could take away that subtle pleasantry. We love apache potatoes.

Moving on, I give you the full method for a very easy, warm and satisfying comfort dinner, packed with protein and one of your five a day with an optional adaptable heat kick. Really tasty, though not desperately photogenic! With a possible third point for new stuff as my dining companions had never before had a braised lettuce.


Boom Boom Stewed Pork n Pears

Serves 3
700g pork shoulder, roughly cubed
4 well ripe pears- cored and stalks removed but do not peel.
Fresh ginger
Fresh red chillies
1 star anise

Heat up a small amount of olive oil in a heavy based frying pan or saucepan with a lid. For your spicing you now need to choose how hot you want it- I like warmth rather than heat and am a big fan of ginger so a 2 inch piece of ginger (grated) and two chillies (one deseeded) did the job for me. Keep in the chilli seeds or add another for the spicier palate or lose the seeds from both to keep it mild.
Add the ginger and chillies to the pan and stir well before then adding the pork and cook for a couple of minutes, moving the meat until sealed on all sides.

Roughly chop the pears and add to the pan with one tablespoon of water (don’t be tempted to add more, there will be plenty of liquid released from the fruit). Stir well,  turn down to a very slow simmer then cover and cook for ten minutes. Now throw in the star anise and go away and think about what you are doing with your life, where your career is going and what ever happened to the cast of Eldorado.

Check the mix and stir gently every 15 minutes or so and cook for at least an hour until the pork is very tender and the pear pieces fully disintegrated down into a sauce.

Serve with roasted veg and braised little gem lettuce and a big glass of red to enjoy on the sofa. Hurrah.

an ideal accompaniment for this meal- simply wash and halve a little gem then braise swiftly in a little olive oil in a hot pan

an ideal accompaniment for this meal- simply wash and halve a little gem then braise swiftly in a little olive oil in a hot pan


Thoughts of a One-Time Street Vendor

Posts have been scant of late, for which I apologise and hasten to explain that I am not just bloody lazy, but have to the contrary been extremely busy since we last spoke.

Happy Tummies arrives on a High St near you!

Happy Tummies arrives on a High St near you!

I’ve mentioned my little side project, Happy Tummies Treats, before I think. Tis a humble attempt at independent trading of handmade goodies which I began work on last year after receiving oodles of compliments on the fudges I made for Christmas. One individual said ‘I’d pay good money for that’. Long story short, I took the compliment, jotted up some plans and my little enterprise was born.

So far it has gone small-scale well, with multiple commissions from colleagues and, well, mostly colleagues who were suckered in from a few strategically placed freebies in the kitchens at The Day Job. Plus some friends and family who needed bits for mothers or fathers days and that kind of thing. It was a compliment to my skills, and much appreciated but at the same time there was always the little inner voice questioning if I was actually any good at this. If this was just a long extension of sympathy sales and relatively low cost gestures of support. In truth, most people don’t really like me that much and aren’t prepared to continually part with cash for something they don’t want to eat (diet shakes excluded) so I shouldn’t have listened to that little voice. But I wasn’t to know this until I really put myself out there with my first ever open trading moment- the annual Colchester Christmas Market. This happens early each December and involves the town High St being taken over by sellers and pedlars of all sorts under the organisational watch of local events team Snake In The Grass. There really are all sorts in attendance and shoppers can look for bespoke and more generally available toys, gifts, woodwork, jewellery and a huge amount of edibles. I tend to drop in on most events like this in my home town and know by now what to expect from the Christmas Market as a shopper, but it took some heartfelt consideration and several hard sums to convince me this year that actually, it probably wasn’t worth me doing. A pitch wasn’t cheap, it would be masses of work and well, what if they didn’t like me? What if no-one bought anything? DEAR GOD WHAT IF THEY ALL JUST STARE AND LAUGH AT ME!!!!!!!

Fortunately, joint fountains of positivity from the Mr and the older male sibling talked me into signing up, signing the cheque and committing myself to my first retail outing for Happy Tummies. Eeek.

It was a shed load of work, with several weeks of early starts, late nights and complete neglect of my already scant social life. Maths declared that I needed to get up about 200 units for sale to avoid losing money, 300 to actually make a days wages worth of money. Given my own tiny kitchen and small batch methods, this was no mean feat. I managed it though, and I wont go on about it.

Cut to a chilly December morning and it began, lugging boxes of fudge (and brittles and chocolates and jellies and chutney and cakes) out to the car before sun up with the hearty assistance of the two chaps who talked me into this ridiculous idea in the first place.

I was terrified, and if you enjoy spending much time cooking for or feeding anyone else, you know why. Because you like it, because you want to be the provider of joyful and enjoyable sustenance. Because you love that little run off of joy from their satisfaction in consumption. Because you need it. There is nothing worse than cooking someone you love a crappy dinner. This felt like a golden opportunity to provide plenty of random strangers with a load of craptastic sweets they weren’t going to enjoy and charge them for it to boot! It was the worst idea in the world.

Until we got there.

Don’t believe your bible, kids. Pride is a wonderful thing. Pride propels you through the cold to get tables up and tablecloths weighted down. Pride gets the sign straight and the ropes tight and gives you the momentary double jointed fingers required to obscure all the mechanics of your banner hanging with tinsel. Pride stacks the jars and sits back with a coffee and tells your inner failure to shut the hell up while you admire your work and admit that even though it’s just a little sweet stall, it looks pretty damn good. This could work out after all.

fudgey close up, credit for the pic to the older male sibling

fudgey close up, credit for the pic to the older male sibling

There was a momentary slump in spirits as one set up van departed to reveal us positioned not two hundred yards from a mahossive Grannies Bastard Corporate Fudge wagon but we kept the faith, counted out the change and waited.

I cannot tell you the warm, fuzzy sense of satisfaction that comes from selling something you have made with your own hands to a complete stranger who has just walked past, paused, and decided that they like the look of your work. Yes wonder of wonder, my dear reader, my first market customer was not my mum! It was unfathomably good to make a sale, and early into the proceedings too, to a lovely lady who took advantage of my 3 for £6 offer with no need for hard sales or even a taster. Brilliant. It went onwards and upwards, and I lost my fear and anxiety for my little sugar babies making their way into the world and smiled til my face hurt. Smiled even harder at at the slow wandering, view blocking dullards who think it’s ok to block legitimate potential customers while they gurn at your produce and ask stupid questions.

Pride again, there, stoked by the fires of indignation at the sheer front of some people. I’m a regular foodie event person and yes, I’ll take freebies and have a good rummage and not always buy but I don’t ever insult the available wares, or absent wares. Again, I shan’t go on but no, you sour faced old hag I don’t have any tablet. No, no I don’t have any apple jelly either. Would you like to try some fudge? Yes, yes it is quite sweet what with being made of sugar you miserable bat if you could try not to spit it out over my display that would be lovely now move the hell along!!!!!

Old ladies can be mean.

Lesson learned as with life, not everyone will be a fan and not everyone will remember their manners but boy did we form some fleeting friendships. The small children who would happily take the tasters then smile, nodding up at their purse holding parents were probably my favourites but also the converts. The suspicious, reluctant hands that picked a small taster and took a smaller nibble before pausing, repeating the nod of the children and admitting that actually, yes that was pretty good. And back we go to the pride. I’m actually turning out a reasonable product here. They like it. I am valid.

The day rocked on and turned colder, more coffee was consumed and slightly less than the ideal number of sales were made and it began to weigh on me that I had overshot my potential market and invested in too much stock. Bugger. And not all of it would last for the upcoming Christmas orders from work and family types still to be filled. Double bugger. Panic began to replace dismay as the sun disappeared and the crowds thinned leaving me with over 100 bags of sweets still to go and more cake than I wanted to take home. Lesson No 1 to the food fair buyer: Hang around until the end, because sellers will drop their prices because they’d rather lose a quid than lug it all home with them again. Lesson No 2 to the food fair buyer: It’s not really their last bag/box/brownie slice, they are just shouting that to get your attention and as soon as you have paid up and moved on, they will get another one out to look forlorn and appealing on the otherwise empty stand. Sucker!

In summation: I’m glad we went. It was an eye opener in many ways as well as a needed confidence boost for both my creative and negotiation skills. It was fun, people aren’t so bad you know apart from mean old ladies who spit and in truth I’m inspired to give it another go and run the risk of actually having to pay some extra income tax this year.

If you are thinking of going solo and getting out there with your business, I say go for it, you’ll never know until you try! Just smile, and be proud of your work, you did all that! And take plenty of 50ps and someone you can trust to hold the fort when you need a pee.

And finally for all you consumers out there I give Lesson No 3 to the food fair buyer: Have a good look around any market or food festival before you part with your cash, because there might be a nice little local with a perfectly acceptable product who needs your patronage a lot more than Grannies Bastard Corporate Fudge Wagon.

A well refrigerated fudger. See you next time!

A well refrigerated fudger. See you next time!