Jupina-glazed pork belly

I’ve neglected this blog for too many months. I’m going to get back into it.
Not always with recipes, sometimes just with pictures.

I’ll try to not be boring.

So this, from Saturday’s nights dinner at Shelley-belly’s Underground, is Jupina-glazed pork belly. The pictures are not great, I hadn’t planned on blogging this… but it tasted awesome.

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Totally inspired by the Boston restaurant Puritan & Company’s awesome Moxie lamb breast (we were there in December and the lamb dish lives on in my memory). I loved that they used a fun local product in their dish and wanted to do the same. Jupina (say hoo-pee-nya) is a Cuban soft drink. Pineapple in flavour, sugar and probably chemical in make-up and much loved by the Miami community. I used this, with a little hit of chilli, to make my glaze. Actually, my jelly.

I braised the belly, pressed it, portioned it, warmed it in the oven and then, seconds before serving, I draped a slice of the jelly over the belly and zapped it under a fiery-hot grill. And it was perfect. The final dish was exactly as I had hoped it would be.

Served on a purée of roast beets and a side of crushed peas – the little dots of pea purée you see in the photo are simply to tie the main dish and the side dish together. Also, on this plate I’ve added a little dash of green with some fresh fennel fronds but in the finished product, the one we served to our guests, I used spicy mustard cress and topped the belly with shards of crispy pork crackling.

Here are a few of the other dishes we loved from Saturday night…

Bone marrow with toasted sour dough bread and parsley and caper salad.

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Confit tomatoes.

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Lime soufflé with fresh mango coulis and green chilli sugar.

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All in all, a pretty good night – we’re looking forward to the next one.

And if you find yourself in Boston in the near future, be sure to check-out Puritan & Company, you’ll thank me, they’re doing good things.

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“Millions of peaches, peaches for me”

Peaches are everywhere at the moment, gorgeous, sweet peaches and I couldn’t ignore them when I was planning the menu for last weekend’s Underground. Saturday night’s five course dinner ended with this peach and almond tart and I’m sharing it because it’s a simple enough make-ahead dessert that looks quite impressive.

And also because a recent guest to Shelley-belly’s Underground asked me to (and you know how I love requests).

When I started playing with the peaches and trying to decide what to make I thought I’d try a play on an apple tart fine because I love the appearance of the fruit fanned out over the pastry.Then I thought I’d do a sort of Bakewell tart (usually made with cherries) because I wanted to incorporate almonds into the dessert.

I knew I didn’t want to do a large tart that would require slicing, I wanted little, individual tarts that look pretty on the plate. So this, a combination of the two, was the result. It’s really easy, needs a bit of prep but doesn’t really require much more than patience.

You’ll need:

  • Frangipane
  • Fresh peach puree
  • Puff pastry
  • Peaches
  • Icing sugar
  • Soft butter
  • Lightly toasted flaked almonds*

Frangipane

  • 100g blanched almonds (ground)
  • 100g butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk beaten together
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • About half teaspoon almond essence

In an electric mixer (or with a wooden spoon if you the have the muscle for it) cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. With the beaters running gradually add the egg and almond essence. Turn the mixer down to low speed and gently mix in the ground almonds and flour. This will keep in the fridge for a few days.

Peach puree

A couple of peaches go a long way so tread lightly otherwise you just end up with a big bowl of peach puree sitting in your fridge and nothing to do with it but make Bellinis… okay, I just heard it. Make a lot, there’s nothing wrong with a peach Bellini made with fresh peach puree (couple of tablespoons of peach puree, top with chilled Prosecco, enjoy).

If you have any peaches that feel like they may be a little too soft to slice neatly for the top, use those for the puree. Rinse a couple of peaches, remove the stones but don’t bother removing the skin, blitz the flesh in a blender until smooth. Taste for sweetness – my peaches were really sweet and didn’t need any additional sugar but all fruit is different. If your peaches are not as sweet or if you prefer the puree a bit sweeter add some caster sugar, a little at a time. Push the puree through a fine sieve to remove bits of skin. This will keep in the fridge for a couple of days but oxidizes quickly so cover with cling film (with the film pressed right down onto the surface of the puree) as soon as you’ve made it.

Puff Pastry

If you have three days and the stomach for it, make your own (but you’ll have to find a recipe elsewhere), otherwise just use a good quality store-bought puff pastry.

A 500g package of puff pastry will give you four or five eight to ten tarts (depending on how big you make them).

Roll out the pastry and cut the pastry circles**. They should be no more than a couple of millimeters thick and each tart will need two pastry circles, one slightly smaller than the other. The larger one should be about the size of a regular side plate.

Peaches

Again, a few peaches go a long way so don’t slice too many. Thinly slice enough fresh peaches to fan out over the top of your tarts.

Okay, once you’ve done all that you’re ready to start building your desserts.

First, smear a good, thick layer of frangipane onto one of the smaller pastry circles – and I do mean a good, thick layer, don’t be stingy, it’s not attractive.

Then place the small circle, frangipane-side down, onto the centre of one of the larger pastry circles. Wet your finger with a bit of warm water and run it over the edge of the pastry circle to seal it then fold  (crimp, pleat, whatever) the edges of the large pastry circle over the small circle.

Next, gently smear about a table spoon of peach puree over the top of the pastry, avoiding the edges.

Fan the peach slices out over the top of the puree, don’t leave any gaps.

Dust with icing sugar.

Using a pastry brush, brush the whole thing with soft butter.

These can be made a day before so stop here and refrigerate the pastries if you’re serving later. About 45 minutes before you’re ready to serve remove from the fridge to allow the pastries to warm to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 200 c/ 400 f, sprinkle the toasted almonds over the top of the pastries and bake for around 20 minutes. The peach puree gets insanely hot so make sure you let the pastries stand for a few minutes before serving.

For Saturday’s dinner I served the tarts with a warm, almond scented homemade custard and the one in the photos is served with double cream – ice cold jersey cream, whipped cream, clotted cream, ice cream… just about anything creamy will work as an accompaniment.

*The almonds will toast in the oven but I like to toast them a little before hand, I love the extra crunch it gives to the finished dish.

** After rolling out the pastry let it stand for a minute or two before cutting as it may shrink a little.

I’d love your feedback if you decide to give this recipe a try. Enjoy.

The date for the next dinner at Shelley-belly’s Underground will be confirmed later this week and details will be posted on the Underground page. In the meantime, if you’d like more information you can email shelleybellyunderground@yahoo.com.

Is it just me, or…

Has anyone else experienced this?

You’re in a cool little place in NYC, one of those ones that’s cannily designed to feel divey but is not really because it is, in fact, “designed”. All reclaimed wood, bare light bulbs, exposed brick, chairs that look like they were rescued from a disused factory and tables that could have come from your 9th grade science lab. Remember? You used the pointy end of your compass to carve something cute like SW + PL 4 eva! into the top left hand corner.

The food is usually good, the ingredients organic or of good provenance or sourced from within 100 miles of where you’re sitting, all very worthy (I’m not knocking it, I’m all for responsible, accountable dining).

You’re on about plate two of the seven small sharing plates* you’ve ordered and, predictably, they’re coming out of the kitchen in whatever damn order the chef feels like sending them**, so you pick at a zucchini salad and a plate of wilted ‘market greens’ (whatever they are) for ten minutes before the arrival of your flank steak and grilled pigeon breast (and let’s be honest, you only ordered the zucchini salad and the wilted greens so the waiter wouldn’t think you were a carnivorous glutton for placing the all meat and offal order your heart secretly desired) and out of the corner of your eye you spot a discreet sign, usually above a register somewhere, that makes you go a little cold. “Cash only”.

My first reaction is always one of panic – I never carry cash. You think I’d learn. But this is 2012 and we can transfer money around the globe in a matter of seconds using nothing more than our mobile phones, and restaurants don’t take cards? In New York City?

It’s at this point in the evening, feigning calm but sweating a little, (I don’t know why this causes panic for me… will they think I don’t have money to pay for this wine served in a ridiculous stemless glass, will they think I’m going to try the old dine-and-dash, will they think I planned this?) I catch the eye of a waitress and explain that I don’t have cash. I’m going to need to go find an ATM. I promise I’ll come back. They can keep my mobile phone or my car keys or my car even, until I get back. The waitress usually nods her pretty, twenty-year-old head with sympathy, bends a little at the waist, gives me an understanding arm-squeeze and then points to the ATM conveniently located in the back of the store.

I’m usually so ridiculously grateful I immediately jump up and head for the ATM, leaving my smoked goat ragu and truffle polenta (that is an actual dish) to get cold alongside my now slightly congealed, wilted greens. So grateful in fact, am I, that I barely notice, while pushing the button that says I agree to pay, the $2.94 charge being levied for the privilege of using this thieving ATM.

Does the restaurant get a cut of the pilfered $2.94? Or do they charge rent for the ATM? I really don’t know the answer to either of those questions but the whole thing just feels a bit sneaky. I’d rather they brazenly tacked on an extra $2 or $3 for the convenience of being able to pay by card, maybe with some kind of cute “we’re a small, independent business bringing you the best quality at the best possible price blah blah blah…” explanation on the bottom of the bill.

C’mon guys! It’s not that hard. If you don’t want the schlepp and/or expense of installing PDQ machines and the paraphernalia that goes with them and if you really want to avoid the inconvenience of land lines going down in the middle of a busy service you can get those handy little gadgets that turn iPads, iPhones and android thingies into card readers. And they can email a receipt directly to the customer’s phone. Which of course has the added benefit of helping you, the restaurant owner, build a reliable customer database (check appropriate t&c box first, of course).

* and ** While I’m having a rant, I’m going to get these two things off my chest…

* Small plates! Accompanied by the ubiquitous “designed for sharing” remark from your server as they explain the “concept” to you. Dear Lord, are we not done with this yet? I DON’T WANT TO SHARE A SMALL PLATE! Have you ever tried splitting a burrata and three broad beans four ways? It’s impossible! That said, I’m always happy to share a large plate, or even a medium plate. And with that, a nod to Yardbird (one of my favorite Miami restaurants) and the “Big Shares” section of their menu.

**  The food arriving in any old haphazard order! This is sold to you as a great idea because the chef (who only has your best interest at heart) wants the food on the table the very second it’s ready, no sitting around on the pass under a couple of quality-sapping warming lamps for your meal. Sounds good, but isn’t it just a bit lazy? When the pot stickers you’d ordered as an appetizer get to the table fifteen minutes after your ginger chicken udon (sorry Wagamama, you’re an easy target here) and you’re just about done when your date’s yellowtail and spring onion uramaki turns up.. it just makes for weird, sometimes rushed, eating.

All that said, I love restaurants…. I love that some think it’s cool to serve wine in the aforementioned ridiculous stemless glasses (I don’t love those glasses), I love the over-thought decor that masquerades as a happy accident, I love the chefs and their melodramatic ways, I love the servers solemnly explaining the “concepts” – it’s clearly a lot more complicated than simply ordering and receiving food. It’s all so affected, and so much part of the show. I love dining out.