All Dressed Up - Paprika spiced lap of Pork Smoked Chicken & Melon Salad with Asparagus

Pork - Roast Pork Recipe - Free RecipeA good dressing and perhaps a touch of spice can give a summery lift to a simple dish, and today’s main recipe makes good use of one of my favourite cuts of meat, belly (or ‘lap’) of pork.  This cut has layered lean and fat in it, which cooks down to a beautifully tender well-flavoured (and not at all fatty) meat, quite unlike the usual over-lean cuts of pork which can be so dry and tasteless when cooked.

It is important to remember that meat needs fat running through it to cook well (and, even more importantly, to eat well); this is good fat which renders down to make a succulent feast, but the farmers won’t produce fatty meats or the butchers stock it unless we ask for it and buy it. Lap of pork is also outstanding for giving a generous quantity of really good crackling – another simple pleasure that seems to have been snatched away from us recently, as so much pork is now skinned before going on sale.

Although this is a Bord Bia  recipe, you may well find that lap of pork is not even available at your local butchers or butchery counter – if not, make your views felt, preferably by ordering it. If we don’t ask for the cuts that are disappearing so quickly from our shops,  the choice available to us will continue to get smaller all the time.

Paprika Spiced Lap of Pork  
This is a tasty way with a delicious cut of pork, and ideal for this between-season time of year when you might want the option of having a barbecue – and  it is well-priced too. 

Serves 6

1½ kg/ 3 lb pork belly in one piece, rind on, well scored
1 tablesp. smoked paprika
1 teasp. salt

4 tablesp. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teasp. smoked paprika
2 scallions, chopped
1 tablesp. fresh coriander
1 red chilli, chopped
Salt and black pepper

Set the oven 180ºC (350Fº) Gas Mark 4.

Place the pork on a rack over a deep roasting tin, then pour half
a kettle of boiling water over the rind, discard the water, dry off the pork with kitchen paper, this will help to give you really crisp crackling.

Mix the smoked paprika and salt together. Spread it over the rind and meat.  Place the pork back on the rack over the roasting tin and place in the hot oven for 2 hours approx.   If you are barbecuing, finish on the hot barbecue for the last half hour.

To make the dressing - heat the olive oil, add the garlic and allow the garlic to just turn golden – no more, tip the oil and garlic into the processor. Add the smoked paprika, scallions, coriander, chilli and whiz for a minute, taste for seasoning.

Serve the pork in thick slices with a spoonful of the dressing. Very good with potato wedges cooked in the oven with the pork, season the wedges with sprinkling of smoked paprika and salt – delicious.    

Smoked Chicken Salad - Chicken Salad Recipe - Free RecipeSHORT RECIPE: Smoked Chicken & Melon Salad with Asparagus

This quick and easy salad could also be made with mango instead of mango. Serves 2:

100g/4 oz approx, asparagus tips
1 small, ripe melon or mango, peeled and stoned
100g/ 4 oz approx, smoked chicken
1 bag mixed salad leaves, eg watercress spinach and rocket leaves
For the dressing:
juice of 1/2 lime
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander

Trim the asparagus tips and cook in a small (tallish) pan of boiling water for about 3 minutes, or until just tender. Lift our carefully,  and rinse under the cold tap, then drain well.
Slice the mango flesh into bite sized slices, along with the smoked chicken and place in a large salad bowl with the salad leaves.
Whisk all the dressing ingredients together and season to taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle the dressing over the salad, toss thoroughly to mix and gently add the asparagus before serving with new potatoes or some fresh crusty bread.

 Ingredient of the Week: APSPARAGUS

What is It?
Asparagus is a hardy perennial vegetable which is grown for its exquisite flavour and the texture of the tender terminal tips; The most familiar variety is slim and bright green, but the tips are often tinged with purple; fatter, white fleshed varieties are also grown and are especially popular on the continent. Asparagus is grown in a specially prepared bed and takes several years to become established, but it then crops better each year and will last for many years.  

Where Does it Come From?
Although available all year – notably from South America, which means that each spear notches up a frightening number of food miles before the neatly rubber-banded bunches reach your local shop – ‘local’ asparagus grown in Ireland and the rest of Europe is a deliciously seasonal vegetable, available only for a couple of months from April to June. It continues to grow all summer but, in order to keep asparagus beds productive for the following year, it is traditional to stop harvesting on Midsummers Day.

Where Can I Get It? Irish asparagus is available for a short season from greengrocers, good supermarkets, growers attending farmers’ markets and specialist suppliers such as Absolutely Organic. If you have the patience and some space in your garden (or, even better, an allotment) plus the time to prepare the bed properly, it would be fun to grow it yourself – it can be grown from seed which is easily available from garden centres; from seed it takes 3 years before the first spears can be cut, but you can reduce the waiting time by planting purchased crowns of one or more years old. Once the correct preparation work has been done to the bed it takes very little maintenance.

What Can I Do With It? The shoots are cut just below soil level, and bundled for sale. To cook asparagus, trim the tough lower section, then cook in lightly salted water until just tender. It is best cooked standing up in deep water, so that the stems are in boiling water and the tips can cook in the steam - special pans are made for this, but you could make do with any tall deep pan, eg a double boiler; a pan with  a basket in it can be useful too, as you are less likely to damage the cooked asparagus when removing it: the important thing is cook the stems without breaking the tips. As a hot starter, asparagus is best served very simply with melted butter, or hollandaise sauce; when cold, vinaigrette and mayonnaise are both good. One of the best things about asparagus is that it is available in the between season, before the summer vegetables come on stream so, when it is plentiful, it makes a lovely side vegetable and enhances many dishes as an ingredient; this versatile vegetable has a special affinity with eggs and chopped spears can really lift a simple dish like scrambled eggs or an omelette.

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