Saturday, July 14, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Dinner with Friends

One of the things that I am gradually learning with the sous chef* is that cooking for others need not be too stressful now that there are two of us to take care of things. Previously if I knew that others were coming for a meal I would get stressed about what to cook, about what time to start, about what would happen if they didn't like it, if the food was going to be at an acceptable standard and so much more. I don't think I have too many disasters so I am not sure why I think like that, but I always have done.

Last week we invited some of our friends around to have dinner with us. Maybe part of the reason for not feeling too stressed about it was that I knew weeks ago what I was going to cook for dessert so it was really only what we would have for mains that was undecided. In fact, what we were having for dessert came even before I knew they were coming. It was probably more that I knew I wanted to cook the next Bake It Box and therefore I invited people around!!

We were a bit undecided about what to cook during the week leading up to the meal. We debated about beef ribs, or some version of American barbecue but in the end we decided to go with pork belly. Now this meant there were some firsts for me. I've never actually cooked with pork belly before, let alone with kalettes or fennel which form part of the cooked vegetables in this dish. In fact, I'd never heard of kalettes until we watched Masterchef recently and they were included in a recipe. Part of the reason for choosing this recipe was because I had picked up the supermarket magazine for July and this was the cover recipe. It seemed like as good a recipe to try as any.

I will say that we do look forward to picking up the Coles magazine every month. There are always lots of recipes that we think we might try. Not bad for a free supermarket magazine. You can also find some of the recipes on Taste.

We did change the vegies from brussel sprouts (bleugh) to broccoli but other than that we kept pretty much to the recipe. In addition, we made some brioche buns to have with dinner (recipe coming soon). This dish was very, very tasty, although I'm not really sure about pork belly because there just isn't that much meat. I think if we were going to do this recipe again, we would use a normal pork roast but use the herb rub which was absolutely delicious.

Crispy Skin Pork Belly with Caramelised Apples

1.3kg Pork Belly Roast Boneless
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon sea salt flakes
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 brown onion, cut into wedges
1 fennel, trimmed, cut into wedges
1 cup (250ml) salt-reduced chicken stock
200g pkt Kalettes, trimmed
200g brussels sprouts, halved (we substituted broccoli cut into florets)
3 teaspoons brown sugar
3 small red apples, halved

Preheat oven to 140°C. Place pork on a clean work surface. Pat rind dry with paper towel. Brush rind with half the oil. Sprinkle with salt, fennel seeds and cumin seeds. Place the onion and fennel wedges in the base of a roasting pan. Place pork, rind-side up, over the onion mixture. Pour stock around the pork in the pan. Cover and roast for 2 hours or until pork is very tender.
Increase oven to 230°C. Uncover and roast for 30 mins or until rind is crackled. Cover and set aside for 15 mins to rest.
Meanwhile, combine the kalettes, brussels sprout, 1 teaspoon of the sugar and remaining oil in a roasting pan. Season. Sprinkle cut side of apple with remaining sugar. Add to kalette mixture in the pan. Roast at 230°C with pork, turning occasionally, for 20 mins or until tender.
Arrange the pork, onion mixture and kalette mixture on a large serving platter. Thickly slice the pork to serve.

So for dessert I made the April Bake it Box which was a Vanilla Custard Cake. This was a pretty clever cake. You make a single cake batter, but the magic is that the cake separates into a sponge top layer, a soft custard inside and a firm custard base. Very tasty! I am keen to try making it again at some point and maybe making it a chocolate flavoured custard cake.

We went from this:

To this:

This was when cake making felt a little bit like craft

The finished product

I'm very happy with how it turned out. Even my wafer paper flower didn't look too wonky, and it tasted great!

All in all a very successful evening.

* My boyfriend/partner/man have several things we enjoy doing together (no,.,I wasn't talking about anything like that!!). We enjoy cooking together. He is a much more organised cook than I am, but even so he doesn't mind cleaning up after me as I cook. He shall henceforth be known as the sous chef.

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  1. your point about brussels sprouts is well-taken. Mystery: why they seem so popular! Especially for British Christmas Dinner.

    best... mae at

    1. Complete mystery. The sous chef loves them so I feel like I am depriving him by not cooking them but I guess if he really wanted some he could cook them for himself.

  2. We have a booklet at one of our supermarkets that is free and has really great articles and recipes too-

    1. Our other major chain has a mag too but it doesn't work as well for me.

  3. I'm like you and stress endlessly before dinner parties... and they almost always turn out just fine. Your dinner sounds delicious and the cake is gorgeous. Well done!

    1. It was delicious! Once I have an oven again I will be looking forward to cooking my next bake it boxes.

  4. I get stressed about cooking for guests too. I'm much better just making do with what's on hand. Cheers

    1. I'm not really great with that either! lol

  5. We hardly ever have anyone over so I do stress out if we invite someone. I like that you and the Sous Chef are partners in crime in the kitchen. It makes it fun. My husband helps too. If he grills I do the inside stuff though.
    That cake came out well.

    1. It does make it fun, and I think it's a good sign for the relationship

  6. Why is it that cooking for others is stressful?? I love brussels sprouts! I've never made pork belly and will keep your tip in mind to simply use a regular pork roast. (I was out of town so I'm late to respond.)

    1. We will definitely do this on the crackling for regular roast pork.