Honey glazed pork with Star Anise

Life motto: When life gives you lemons – make lemonade… and potentially add vodka.

I’ve been doing this all week; making a fuss of myself, taking each day as it comes – and cooking up a storm in the kitchen.

After working all weekend I was feeling particularly exhausted and really, really fancied a good, old fashioned pork roast with crackling. I have a recipe (of course I have a recipe!) stored up for these sorts of occasions – it won’t win you any points on the counting-calories front, but it’s a corker to impress a group of friends – perfect if you’re entertaining, or making a fuss of a loved one.

Firstly you need a lovely pork joint. Select one with a good ring of fat around the outside for crackling, and try to make it as organic and lovingly farmed as you can afford.

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Pour some boiling water on it to properly melt the fat underneath the rind – I’d recommend a couple of washes. This means that your crackling will be crisp and delicious rather than chewy and sloppy (no-one likes that!)

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Now to score the skin. You’ll need to go about an inch or so deep – so you’ll need a very sharp knife indeed! Most joints come pre-scored but it’s often not very effective for really good crackling, so get stuck in!

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After you’ve scored the meat, rub some rock salt into the skin to really dehydrate it and slide a generous amount of star anise pieces in the gaps – this will flavour the skin and the meat.

Chop up 2 onions and slide underneath the meat – this will mean you get really succulent gravy from the meat juices, honey and spices.

Pop in the oven on around 220C for 20 mins – after this turn the heat down a little and drizzle manuka honey all over the skin and meat to really make it gooey and yummy…

Leave for around an hour / 2 hours (depending on how big your joint is!)

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And then you’re done. Tender, succulent, crispy, spicy, honey-fied meat. Guaranteed to impress boyfriend’s mums, heal broken hearts and fill you up with enough left for sandwiches for the next day.

Ti” next time!

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French Onion Soup

I’ve tried this one a few times and I’m not afraid to say that it’s definitely a winner. This is my favourite sort of recipe – a few simple ingredients, coming together to create a gem of a dish.This is great for dinner parties – as a neat little starter, or simply a comfort meal for one!

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This recipe serves around 4 people, but feel free to scale up/down portion sizes depending on who you are feeding – I’d say this would be great as a starter for 6 trim ladies, or a main for 2 *very* hungry boys.

You’ll need:
3/4 large white onions
cubes of butter (cut an inch-thick slice from your butter stick if you’re feeling naughty)
2 pints of stock
1 large glass of wine
splash of cheap Brandy
Gruyere cheese
Baguette
Seasoning
3 cloves of garlic

Now chop your onions in half and then into long segments. No dicing please – as we want to maximise the onion flavour without them disintegrating. It might be an idea to chop your garlic too – again, don’t be too fussy with the chopping, as we’re going to be cooking this for a while.

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Plonk in the butter and allow it to get a little melty before adding your onions and garlic. Turn the heat riiiiight down and allow to cook ‘long-time’ – you want to allow the onions to get really sticky, unctuous and translucent.

This might take a while – up to 45 minutes – and don’t forget to stir!

In the meantime, you could pretend to be French.

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This, of course, is entirely optional.

Now for that wine. Slosh in a generous glass whilst you turn up the heat to simmer the alcohol off. I’ve used a sweet, dry white called Voigner, but a cheap Pinot will suffice.

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… Don’t be afraid to pour yourself a glass too!

After around 5 minutes, splash a little brandy in too and then allow to simmer on a lower heat for another 5-8 minutes or so. You need the flavour of the plonk without the acrid alcohol taste.

Rip up half of the baguette into small pieces and plop into the soup, along with some crumbled cheese (and some thickening granules if you chickened out and added a little water half way through. It’s fine – you don’t trust me! I did the same thing myself when I first cooked it.

Wait until the baguette pieces are almost, almost melting into the soup and take off the heat.

You could serve this then and there, but then what’s the fun in that? Now for the naughty pièce de résistance – a grilled, cheesey, crouton topping.

Chop thin slices of baguette and place on top of your serving of soup, and smother in your Gruyere cheese.

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Remove from the grill only when the cheese is bubbling, browning and melty.

Dig in and whimper with pleasure. And thank me later.

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