Although South Africa is heading into winter, the days here on the Highveld (in Johannesburg, Gauteng) are usually clear and sunny, even if they start out cold. There was a nasty cold wind blowing this weekend, but, fortunately, yesterday (Sunday) was pleasant enough to sit out on the patio in the sun.
Lunch was simple – a roast, rolled pork belly (from Woolworths, where else?), roasted to perfection (hey, I never said that I would be too humble in this blog…), with roast potatoes and veg, washed down with some superb SA wine (ugh – was still slightly hungover from Friday night).
The trick to crispy pork crackling, I think, is to score the skin first, deeply, with a very sharp knife. Then you pour some boiling water over the skin, which starts to open up the cuts. Dry it off with paper towel, drizzle on some olive oil, then season with Maldon salt, ground black pepper and, if you enjoy some spice, perhaps some 5-spice, peri-peri or paprika. SA pork is usually very good, which means that you just need to cook the meat until the juices run clear – rather than drying the meat out entirely.
I think I have mentioned my love of potatoes… the trick here is a deep Pyrex or similar dish, which you fill with enough sunflower oil to cover the potatoes you intend cooking. Heat the oil in the oven whilst it warms up, or once the roast has started. Peel the spuds, halve or quarter them, and pop them into the hot oil just under an hour before the roast is supposed to come out. Turn the spuddies every 15 minutes or so – which may lengthen the overall cooking time of the roast by 5 or 10 minutes as the heat escapes each time you turn the potatoes.
If you like, you can roast some vegetables around the meat – we did some carrots, bell peppers, an onion and a few chillies.
Now, since this is, after all, a blog by a bachelor cook, we get to the real point: the leftovers! Kitty and I did not finish the roast, so there was a nice piece left over. This morning, I picked up some fresh, crusty bread rolls for lunch (guys ‘n girls, some fresh bread would have made just-as-tasty sandwiches). I filled them with thinly sliced cold pork, slices of cucumber and onion. Because I love chilli, I smeared some mazzavaroux (a Mauritian condiment made from fresh red chillies blended with some Maldon salt and olive oil) onto the roll. Today was an even nicer day than yesterday, so I sat out on the patio in solitary splendour (it was, after all, Monday, a working day) and savoured that roll. Oh – cold crackling is not so lekker (Afrikaans for nice), so I trimmed some off the roast and popped it under the TV grill (see below) along with the left-over roast spuds – allowing both of them to warm and crisp up again. Yummy!
Ah, yes – the TV grill (see the pic).
TV grill – old and battered, but IT WORKS!
A trashy, cheap, ancient and, yet, oh-so-useful kitchen appliance. Nothing much more than a frame with some horizontal bars to support the pan and grill, hanging under a bare grill element, covered by a simple steel top (which doubles as a warming plate). My father won it in a bowls (lawn bowls) competition or draw many years ago, and it got passed onto me when I left home and got my first house. It is a most useful little appliance, especially for a bachelor cook – or even cooking for 2! It does chops and sausages to a turn. It crisps up bacon (and pork crackling). It makes an awesome open sandwich. It is very low-tech, cannot be left unattended, and would certainly have the health-and-safety fun-police complaining bitterly, but IT WORKS! (unlike most politicians).
Today, it worked a little too well… Just as the pork crackling was almost ready, the electricity went off. That’s not unusual here in SA, where the national electrical parastatal, Eskom, is a monument to incompetence and corruption. I assumed it was another power failure. I enjoyed my lunch, and spent the afternoon relying on the laptop batteries to continue working (and the gas hob for coffee). When they ran out, I got stuck into some real paper-work. It was only went I ventured out for a walk and a chat with the neighbourhood cats towards sunset that I realised that my neighbours had power. Proving that one should not make assumptions, and that it is always worth checking the trip switch when the power goes off, I found that the beloved TV grill had, indeed, tripped the power. The power cord had been looking for attention for some time, so that is what it received, immediately. Suitably repaired and tested, I hope to continue using the grill for years to come.
Dinner was definitely classic bachelor stuff: poached salmon and mashed potato (see, spuddies again…) fishcakes from Woollies, heated in the oven and served with a humble salad. Quick (30 minutes or so from turning the oven on to eating) and healthy (ok, the leftover Malva pudding and custard from yesterday was not so healthy). Better for me than greasy take-aways, and tastier than sardines on toast (although I do eat those from time to time as well).
Music! Almost forgot – Shannon Hope (http://www.shannonhope.co.za/) has been keeping me company for the past hour or so – right now, it is her 2009 album, Still, spinning in the CD player (preceded by her latest studio album, Fight A New Day). Folks, this lady can sing! Her original material is simply superb and she writes and sings from the heart. Check her out on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/shannonhopemusic), or Google her. I’ve had the pleasure of watching her play live several times. Yet another amazing, talented South African musician.