Sticky pork and cinnamon nut meringue cake
Sticky pork salad. Photograph: Eric Luke
Sweet and sticky spare ribs or pulled pork are dishes I’d much rather eat than make. There’s an awful lot of marinating, brining, rubbing, cooking and barbecuing involved and although it’s well worth it, sometimes you need similar results with less fuss. Both dishes are also gorgeous if they get a blast on the barbecue, but with our current variable temperatures, barbecuing is less about flipping meat over hot coals and more about standing over a warm fire to stop ourselves freezing before we give up the goose and go back inside.
Yet how I long for the taste of sticky pig, as it’s a complete package of savoury, salty, sticky, and sweet, saturated fat. Yum (but bad!)
On a recent visit to the charming Dublin City Food on Andrew’s Street in Dublin 2, I ordered their healthier sambo, a nice grilled vegetarian one with Portobello mushrooms and other veggie goodness. I ordered it while staring at the pièce de resistance – their pulled pork sambo. Maybe it was my subconscious, or maybe it was some kind of food-induced blonde/senior moment, but I ended up snatching the wrong bag and went to tuck into my lunch when, to my horror (read absolute delight), I realised I had a pork sandwich instead. Naturally, I couldn’t let it go to waste . . .
Spurred on by these flavours, I decided I wanted to make something with some of the same bite, but less fat and hassle. We used pork shoulder, which is cheap and was tender as anything after an initial searing on the stove followed by an hour-long gentle braise in the oven. One final blast to reduce the flavours in the saucepan and all was done.
It was sticky pork without marinating or too much bother and was very more-ish. I served it with mixed leaves, sprouts, radishes and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. But it would also be delicious sitting on top of wild rice with steamed broccoli or bok choi. You can really play around with your flavours here. I used a pretty basic combination of honey, soy sauce, garlic, five spice powder and Szechuan peppercorns. You could always add grated ginger and if you had some ketchup manis (that sweet and syrupy soy sauce), it wouldn’t go amiss.
The hazelnut meringue cake looks very impressive and is well-serviced with sweetened cream. It’s not the type of thing I normally make, but was very easy and is a bit old fashioned, in a nice way. The meringue needs to be quite crisp to the touch – if it’s too springy it will be a bit eggy inside, so crisp and firm is what you are looking for, as well as a clean skewer for the cake part.