Spiced Chinese pork casserole

Chinese pork casseroleYou’ll need a slow cooker (sometimes called a crock pot) for this one. If you live in a university town, keep an eye on Facebook and Craigslist at the end of term; here in Cambridge, a lot of slow cookers, rice cookers and other equipment advertisements pop up at decent prices when overseas students return home. Mine came from a Singaporean student, and hadn’t even been used – the safety stickers were still glued to the bowl. Not bad for £10.

Slow cooking’s unbelievably easy – you just toss the ingredients in, turn the machine on and leave it for six to eight hours (an opportunity which I took to go shopping). The machine keeps the temperature low, at between 80° C and 90° C, and the food cooks for a correspondingly long time. You’ll find that meats cooked like this absorb a phenomenal amount of flavour from the ingredients they are cooked with, and these Chinese seasonings are excellent here, infusing the pork pieces with a dark, spiced softness.

To serve three to four people, you’ll need:

500g diced pork leg
2 star anise flowers
3 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
4 spring onions, tied in a knot
1 red chilli
4 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 piece of ginger the size of your thumb, sliced
50 ml Chinese rice wine
50 ml light soya sauce
50 ml teriyaki sauce
1 heaped tablespoon brown sugar
3 teaspoons sesame oil

This is hopelessly easy – just mix all the ingredients except the water well and place in the bowl of the slow cooker. Try to find relatively fatty pork – this will give the meat a moister finish. Add water to cover the meat, put on the lid and cook for one hour on high, then five hours on low. (Don’t allow the dish to cook for more than eight hours, at which point the meat will start to lose flavour.)

When you are ready to serve, remove the spring onions from the sauce (they will be unattractive and slimy, but they will have given up all their flavour to the rest of the dish) and dish up the casserole over rice. Garnish with fresh, diced spring onion and pour a teaspoon of sesame oil over each portion.

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