Linda Bareham’s Portuguese Pork and a new abode!

Linda Bareham's Portuguese Pork

First of all, sorry that I haven’t posted in a long time.  Three very important things have happened.

  1. I moved into my very own apartment for the first time since moving to Cambodia.
  2. After my holiday in the UK, I’ve been injected with a new dose of enthusiasm to embrace life in Cambodia with all it’s ingredients and flavours.
  3. I started a new job.  I’m now an English Language Teacher at a Language School in Phnom Penh.

The third point is very important.  It goes a long way in explaining why I haven’t posted anything on the blog in recent months.  I’m really enjoying the work but adjusting to a new job is taking up a lot of my energy.  Even more so, as I’m teaching every evening during the week.

Portuguese pork ingredients

But, excitingly it’s the first and second points that motivated me to make more use of local ingredients and cook this dish.  Finally having my very own space for the first time in 10 months was so exciting.  I even baked Orange and Cardamon shortbread to herald in this new space that I could call home (which I’ll post once I’ve perfected the recipe).  Admittedly, I probably should have been putting my energy into packing boxes when I made them.

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what actually happens in my kitchen

My new kitchen comes equipped with a two burner gas cooker, typical of many Phnom Penh kitchens.  So, recently, I’ve delved back into Linda Bareham’s One Pot cook book and discovered recipes that I can make easily here.  I realise that I’ve written about the adjustment to sourcing various ingredients for baking or learning various processes because I can’t find the ingredients in the form that I want.  Well, it’s been a similar thing for cooking with local ingredients here, or perhaps it’s been an even greater learning curve.  I like cooking with local, seasonal produce.  Back in the UK, I would quite often ask market stall holders how I could with new ingredients.  But, to do that in a foreign language with unfamiliar ingredients is quite a challenge.  It took me 6 months to brave buying fresh meat from the market.  That may sound silly to you.  However, imagine a market place, where there are various meat stalls.  Some have live chickens, plucked chickens or various slabs of pork meat, hanging from meat hooks.   Then, add the smell because, of course, it’s all unrefridgerated and unpackaged.  Now, can you picture the flies lazily circling round before resting on one piece of meat and then moving onto another.  I’m just not used to it, coming from the UK.

Spinach wrapped in a banana leaf

So, I asked a lot of questions to khmers and seasoned expats before plucking up the courage to venture out on my first solo meat shopping trip.  Here, the recommended wisdom is to go fairly early in the day, before 10.30-11am.  Prod and smell the meat to know whether the meat is fresh or a day old.  I’m still learning how you do that without insulting the seller.  But then, there’s the added complication of language.  How an earth do I say chicken breast in khmer?  How do you ask for it without the bone?  How do I make sure that I don’t get ripped off by a market seller out to make a lucrative deal from an unsuspecting foreigner.  That first time when I bought fresh chicken breasts from the market, I spent an hour deboning the chicken breasts, when I got home.  That didn’t stop me from celebrating it as a major achievement.

chop pork into 1inch chunks

In fact, the first time I made this dish was the first time I’d ever bought pork from the market.  I couldn’t tell you what cut of pork I ended up bringing home, but I think that it was pork fillet.  I made it for my Simon and Becci when they had just moved house.  We all declared the dish a success.  Then I made it again with the addition of spinach because I was craving more greens in my diet.  This time, I served it to some of my khmer friends and they liked it too.  Hurrah!

pork in a cumin and lime bath

I adapted the recipe slightly.  I substituted limes for lemons and added a wee bit more heat by adding in more chilies.  I try not to cook with MSG and the khmer ‘knorr’ chicken stock powder is full of it.  So, I substituted sea salt for chicken stock, or make your own stock, if you want.  Linda specifies red onions, but I can only buy shallots here.  I’ve used shallots and white onions, depending on what I had in the fridge.  I’ve specified how much garlic to use, if it’s a normal-strong garlic bulb.  I find that the local khmer garlic is a much milder variety, so I’ve also taken to doubling the quantities of garlic specified in recipes.  And apparently it helps to ward off the mosquitoes.

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Linda Bareham’s Portuguese Pork to serve 4 people, as adapted by me.

Ingredients

  • 400g pork fillet
  • 1tsp ground cumin
  • Juice of 3 limes
  • 3 small red chilli peppers
  • 2 onions
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 500ml boiling water with 1tsp sea salt or 500ml chicken stock
  • 2x 400g tin of chickpeas, drained
  • 150g fresh coriander
  • 300g spinach, washed
  • salt and pepper to season

Method

1.  Chop the pork into 1 inch chunks and place them in a bowl.   Add the cumin and the lime juice.  Mix thoroughly.  The lime juice will help soften the meat.  Set aside in the fridge while you prepare the other ingredients.

2. Finely chop the onions.  Add the oil and a wee bit of salt to a medium sized pot.  Gently fry the onions for 10 minutes so that they’re softened with a little colour.

3.  Meanwhile, finely chop the garlic.  Slice the chillies fairly small chunks.  I didn’t bother deseeding them because I wanted to add a bit of heat to the dish.  Add them to the onions and cook for 4-5 minutes.  Stirring occasionally and watching that they don’t burn. Add a bit more oil if needed.

4.  Take the pork out of it’s lime bath and add it to the pot.  Don’t throw away the lime/cumin juice!  You’ll use it again in 5 minutes.  Stir the pork so that it colours evenly.

5.  Add the boiling water (or stock if you’re using), lime/cumin juice and chickpeas to the pot.  Turn up the heat and bring it to a boil.  Then turn down the heat and let it simmer.

6.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Linda assures you that there’s a lot of seasoning required.  In the end, I found it easier to crush and finely chop some whole black peppercorns and add them in, rather than grind, twist, shake with a pepper mill.  I agree with Linda.   You’ll need a lot of pepper.

7.  As I can’t buy a bag of spinach leaves easily, I chopped and discarded the bottom bit off my spinach stalks, gave them a thorough wash and added the spinach leaves and stalks to the pot.  Finally, add roughly chopped coriander leaves and stalks.  Et, voila.  Serve with a wholesome crusty loaf or baguette.

Portuguese Pork with spinach

Water Orange Cat, aka Lime Juice

Curious?

Before I left the UK, I was asked what I was most looking forward to eating in Cambodia.  The first thing that popped into my mind was a drink, lime juice.  I developed a liking for it on my first visit to Cambodia over 3 years ago and now I’m sort of addicted to it.

lime juice

That being the case, I guess it is quite fortuitous that my favourite Khmer word is the one for lime juice, which I learned on my second day here. Ttuk kreu’ik ch’mmaa.  Let me break it up for you:

Ttuk is the word that they use to describe water/liquid.

Lime is called kreu’ik ch’mmaa – orange cat. I think that most citrus produce is a type of ‘kreu’ik‘ – orange and they add a descriptive word after it in order to specify it. Limes get the description cat because the face you pull when you eat a lime, is like a cat. Apparently!  I’m only explaining the language.

Ttuk kreu’ik ch’mmaa.  Water orange cat.

Ingredients for making lime juice

It made me laugh – a lot!  I do love learning languages and there were two reasons why I was so keen to get stuck into learning the language when I arrived.  Of course, my main reason was simply to be able to communicate with people and get around.  Secondly, don’t you think that you learn so much about the culture from the language?  For example, one thing I’ve found out about Khmer is that they love to put words together to make up new words, like they do in German.   Then today, I learned that onions are, ‘k’tum barang‘ which translates literally as garlic french. It led me to ask my teacher whether onions were brought over by the French, and thus not native to Cambodia. He’s a 21 year old who isn’t as interested in food as I am. “Yes” he says slowly, not entirely sure why I am so interested in finding out about the history of onions.

the laborious part of making lime juice

Anyhow, back to ttuk kreu’ik ch’mmaa.  I especially loved Tuesdays and Fridays, when I was living with Simon and Becci because their househelper came round and made a big container of fresh lime juice and yummy food.  Not that Simon and Becci don’t make yummy food – it’s just… ugh… I’m digging myself into a hole.  So, anyways, Simon and Becci had taught her how to make the lime juice and I asked them to tell me.  Then on one bank holiday, I spent an hour making sugar syrup and squeezing the juice of 13 limes.  Perhaps I don’t work out enough, but I really felt it in my hands and arms the next day.

You can vary the amounts of the sugar and the limes, according to how you like your lime juice to taste.  I like it a bit on the tart side and not overly sweet.

cup of lime juice

Ingredients for homemade lime juice – this makes 2.4 litres

  • 200ml of freshly squeezed lime juice – about 8-11 limes, depending on the size of your limes
  • 225g white sugar – caster or granulated
  • 250ml water
  • more water – I make it in 2.4litre bottles (see step 2)

Method

Top tip: make the sugar syrup first so that it has a chance to cool down while you are squeezing the limes.

1. Add the sugar to the water in a saucepan.  Put the saucepan on a low heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved completely.

2. Once the sugar syrup has completely cooled, add the lime juice and pour into an empty container and dilute with water by filling the container to the top with water.

3. Serve poured over ice.

lime juice - ttuk kreuik chm'maa

A Taste of Sunshine: Coconut, Lime and Malibu Drizzle Cake

Note from: 12th July 2014

I’ve changed this recipe, since moving to Cambodia.   Being surrounded by coconuts and limes, I’ve made this cake a few times but found that the cake was still quite dry, even when drenched in lime syrup.  So, I’ve been testing out some new ideas and this morning I finally nailed it.  I’ve replaced lime rum with Malibu – a coconut rum.  It’s much more accessible and adds to the coconut.  I also soaked the desiccated coconut in lime juice and Malibu for 30 minutes to pump up the moisture levels in the cake and cut out the coconut milk.  

I still love the story of how I came up with this cake, especially now that I’m living in Cambodia.  So, I’ve kept it.  I’ve italicised and crossed out where I’ve made the changes to the recipe, however, in case you’re interested in the journey that this recipe has been on.  When I baked it this morning, I made a plain lime drizzle cake to taste test the difference the coconut adds to the flavour of the cake.  And it certainly does add a mellow note to the cake.  So, here’s the much improved, moist ‘taste of sunshine, drizzle cake’.   

coconut and lime drizzle cake
It has been really cold outside – freezing in fact. In Aberdeen, I experienced a very rare Christmas of it reaching -15°C. I think that I was the only one who was delighted that it was so cold and guaranteed a white christmas. I didn’t quite appreciate that the cold snap just hadn’t snapped for 5 weeks in Aberdeen and they were tired of being cooped up by the snow.

I find that when it is that cold it’s hard to remember how it could ever be warm enough, that you don’t need mittens for a start… or a coat… or thermals (did I go too far with the thermals bit? is that just me?). Does the UK really have a t-shirt and flip flops season? But now that temperatures are above freezing. Well, it feels positively balmy. ‘Let’s put on those bikinis and do some sunbathing’. Okay – so maybe it’s not quite reached that temperature yet.

So, this recipe is dedicated to all of you who would like to be reminded of some sunshine. A taste of hope that seasons do come and change.

How apt. As I write, I realise that on the two occasions that I have baked this cake, they were to celebrate significant milestones in my sister’s life.

Milestone #2. (Nope, this isn’t a typo, I’m milestoning this chronologically)

Back in November, my mum came to visit me en route to my sister’s graduation. Quite a considerable detour since my sister, Ee-Reh, lives in Huddersfield! Bless her – my mum told me later that her main intent on visiting me was to unpack whatever boxes remained from my various moves over the summer. Instead, it was really nice to show her that her eldest daughter had finally seen the light about unpacking everything and was trying to keep her flat tidy.

The following morning, whilst my mum acted on an urge to do my ironing (I love her!), I wanted a taste of sunshine. So, I baked a cake for my mum to take as my sister’s graduation present.

Unfortunately the graduation ceremony was called off due to the severe weather conditions.

Milestone #1.

I first made this cake for my sister’s wedding in September, along with Ee-Reh’s request for my lemon drizzle and dark chocolate cake. My sister had asked several of her guests to contribute cakes. These two were my favourites. The Carrot Cake is decorated with a picture of the swing in the garden where my sister had the wedding ceremony. Then this Bumble Bee Cake, with flying bees. Aren’t they fantastic?

carrotcake with swingbumblebee cake
 

Ee-Reh and OlaEe-Reh in the tree
And, yes. That’s my sister up in the tree. On the morning of her wedding. Hanging up the decorations. She’s incredible!

I’ve been wanting to experiment with lime, coconut and chilli since I visited Cambodia in March. Ahhhh… those flavours bring back memories. Cocktails of freshly squeezed limes + sugar syrup + soda water, refreshing chicken and lemongrass soup, steamed spring rolls and deep-fried beetles – what fun! I really enjoyed Cambodian cooking. But it was the sunshine… the sunshine that I desperately wanted to taste.

Honestly, honestly, honestly. The first lime  and coconut drizzle cake, the one that I took to my sister’s wedding, was dry. Even with the lime drizzle moistening it up. I now have a theory that dessicated coconut sucks up the moisture in a cake: this also happened when I made kentish cake, another cake recipe that asks for dessicated coconut. Hmmm… so, in true Han-Na style, I did some googling for other coconut cake recipes to give me some ideas on how to liven up this recipe and discovered the addition of coconut milk and rum in cakes. Rum, hey? A real taste of sunshine then 🙂 And thank you to my blessed colleague for lending me her lime rum. In this much improved version, I’ve omitted the coconut milk completely.

Ingredients for a Taste of Sunshine: Coconut, Lime and Malibu Drizzle Cake

  • 125g/4.5oz unsalted butter
  • 75g/2.5oz caster sugar
  • grated zest of two limes – or one depending on how much limey zestiness you’d like.
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 100g/4oz  150g/6oz self-raising flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 50g/2oz dessicated coconut
  • 125ml/4floz coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp lime coconut rum or normal white rum (optional)  I use Malibu.
  • juice of 2 limes

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 and line a 2lb loaf tin.

2. Measure out the desiccated coconut in small bowl.  Add in the lime juice and the rum.

3. Put the butter and the sugar together in a bowl and whisk them together with an electric whisk until pale and fluffy. Alternatively, if like me, you don’t have an electric whisk and the butter isn’t softening quickly enough (even when you have left it out on the side to soften) then cheat by zapping the butter in the microwave – see top tip.

Top Tip: I don’t have an electric whisk and I’m not always so organised to leave the butter out on the side to soften. As you can guess, this results in the butter being too firm to hand whisk with ease. So, I cut the butter into small size chunks (about 3 cm cubes) and zap them in the microwave for just under a minute (the time will vary depending on the power of your microwave) in order to ease the whisking process. I try and do it so that the butter hasn’t melted, just softened. In all honesty, I normally end up with a not-entirely-but-pretty-much-melted butter consistency. I guess that it affects the chemistry of the baking in some way but the cakes turn out fine.

4. Add the lime zest and eggs and keep whisking so that the mixture is combined well. I almost forgot to add in the eggs at this stage. The addition of the coconut milk makes it quite a runny mixture so it was easy to forget. I remembered just at the end of the mixing, so I don’t think that the order of adding the eggs at the end affected the baking chemistry too much. But I’m going to say – add them in at this stage, so that you don’t forget.

5. Thoroughly mix in the flour, baking powder and desiccated coconut. Mix in the desiccated coconut with the lime juice and rum.

6. Mix in the lime rum and the coconut milk.  Thoroughly mix in the flour and baking powder.  The mixture will be rather gloopy now.

coconutandlimemixturegloopycake
 

6. Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and bake for about 40 minutes, or until the cake tester/knife comes out clean.

7. As the cake is baking in the oven, now prepare the sunshine lime drizzle. Oh, I can almost hear the waves crashing on the beach as I write this up. Where is that bikini?

I normally use golden caster sugar for drizzle. However, this time I tried using icing sugar because i didn’t want the snowy sugary crust on top. No reminders of the snow please! And it worked well. I try to reduce the amount of sugar that I use in recipes so remember to add a bit more sugar if you prefer it sweeter.

Ingredients for Sunshine Lime Drizzle

  • 35g icing sugar (you can substitute it with golden caster sugar if you want)
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1.5 tbsp lime rum (more if you want to)

8. Mix the lime juice, icing sugar and lime rum. Don’t worry about the lime pulp, I think that the pulp adds personality to the cake when you pour it on.

9. When the cake is baked, make some holes in the cake to ease the journey of the drizzle through the cake. My weapon of choice is a metal chopstick. A cocktail stick will do the job just fine and is easier to source. Pour the drizzle on while the cake is still hot. I find it helpful to use a teaspoon towards the end to make sure that every inch of cake has been covered with drizzle. Ta Da.

coconutandlimedrizzlecakecoconutandlimedrizzlecake2
The verdict? It’s a simple cake to make. I made a double batch and gave the second one away to some of my friends who travelled to Cambodia with me. My sister commented, “the cake was very yummy. All who ate it said so. Jennie especially liked how moist it was. I thought, for a lime-lover, it could have been more zesty. However, equally, this could put off those who do not appreciate the lovely greeny limey goodness.”

 

The Baking of Flora’s Famous Courgette and Lime Cake

Flora

So, there’s an overabundance of courgettes growing in our garden at the moment. Before baking this cake, we’d eaten courgette lasagne, lemon and courgette risotto, pasta with courgettes, boiled courgettes… (we’re still eating our daily portion of courgettes). I was desperate to do some baking – so why not a courgette cake? One of my housemates has Nigella’s ‘Domestic Goddess’ cookbook and I’d seen this cake before but I’d been put off by it because it looked a bit tricky and… well… it’s a courgette cake! It caused a bit of controversy when I facebooked it. Some people really don’t like the idea of mixing vegetables in cakes!

So, in my desperation to do something creative with the courgettes, I read Mouthful’s of Heaven’s entry about Courgette and Lime Cake, was encouraged by how replicable it looked, dug out Nigella Lawson’s ‘How to be a Domestic Goddess’ and started grating the darling courgettes…
So, this is Flora’s famous Courgette Cake adapted by yours truly.

You’ll need to pre-heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4 and grease and line 2 cake tins.

Ingredients

courgettes

Weigh 250g of courgettes (250g doesn’t really make much of a dent in the courgette harvest) – weigh them before you grate them and if you go a bit over then that’s fine.
60g sultanas (soaked in warm water)
2 large eggs
125ml vegetable oil
75g caster sugar (the original recipe says 150g but I halved the sugar because recipes generally don’t need so much sugar as it says)
225g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
Method
1. Actually the sultanas are optional but I love them so I put them in to soak in warm water to make them lovely and juicy.
2. Grate the courgettes using a normal cheese grater and then put them in a sieve over the sink to remove excess water.
3. Cream the eggs, sugar and oil together in a bowl.
4. Sieve the flour, bicarb of soda and baking powder together in another bowl and then add to the creamed mixture.

Mixing in grated courgettes

5. Stir in the courgettes, then add the drained sultanas.
6. Pour the mixture into the cake tins.
7. Bake for about 30 mins (test it with a skewer and it should come out clean – I use a metal chopstick)
8. Let it cool in the cake tin for about 10 mins, find a cooling rack then take the cakes out to cool on the racks.

limes

Next up is the filling and icing. I’ve never made lime curd, or any curd for that matter, before and had a jar of the shop-bought stuff waiting in the fridge. However, this is what I loved about reading Mouthful’s of Heaven’s blog – she said that it was easy to make lime curd, so i took her at her word and gave it a shot. Indeed it is easy peasy limey squeasy! On another tangent, one of my friend’s mum washes fruit with fairy liquid before she eats them and I laughed when I heard it. Then I found myself doing it when I wanted to use lime for this cake recipe. Funny that… (but it really does work in getting the wax off.)

So for lime curd, melt 75g of butter on a low heat, add in
3 large eggs
75g of caster sugar
125ml lime juice (use the real deal, if you can)
zest of 1 lime

Keep whisking it all until it starts thickening into a custard. Let it cool and fill up a jar with it. It makes more than enough for the cake filling. Mouthfuls of Heaven said that she was wierded out by the slightly cooked whites, so would only use the egg yolks next time. I think its worth a go – not tried egg yolk only yet. I did want a more intense lime taste so would probably add more zest. I’d also advise keeping in the refrigerator and eating it asap (or at least within 3 weeks).

Han-Na

As you can see, my attempt at cream cheese icing was really, really runny. It was somewhat comforting that the same thing happened when a colleague of mine made it too. The one thing that we both did differently from the recipe was to use reduced fat cream cheese. I’m not convinced that this makes the world of difference… but the results would say otherwise! I even put the icing in the fridge for a few hours to firm up (does this work?) but to no avail. I have to admit though that this lime cream cheese icing kicks ass!

So, cream cheese icing with attitude!
Beat 200g of cream cheese until smooth,
Add 100g of sieved icing sugar and combine really well,
Add in juice of one lime.

So the final bit is in the assembling. I left the cakes and lime curd overnight to cool completely. Spread plenty of lime curd on top of one cake, place the second cake on top and then I poured the icing on top and finished it off by sprinkling chopped pistachio nuts on top. I had leftover icing, which my friends used as extra cream 🙂

The verdict? Fingerlinkin’ delish!

Flora