Recipe: pork belly on watercress

GREEN GOODNESS: Chef tutor John Hudson uses watercress in a variety of ways.
GREEN GOODNESS: Chef tutor John Hudson uses watercress in a variety of ways.

FOOD FACT A plant compound in watercress is showing signs of being able to fight breast cancer. Research from the University of Southampton, England, shows the compound, phenylethyl isothiocyanate, may have the ability to suppress breast cancer cell development by "turning off" a signal in the body, thereby starving a growing tumour of essential blood and oxygen. Studies are continuing.
Nutritious watercress has prompted Witt chef tutor John Hudson to offer an intro to Indian and Chinese cooking.

This week he makes a fresh Indian-style salad to go with spicy lamb and naan bread, places Chinese-style pork belly on a bed of watercress and offers several ways to use the green vegetable. When cooking the lamb mince, John adds onion, garlic, garam masala, fresh ginger and salt, and is mindful of keeping it lean.

"I keep draining off the fat and when finished put it on a paper kitchen towel," he says.

Wrap it: For a summer dish try wrapping Indian style lamb mince, watercress salad and yogurt in freshly baked naan bread
Wrap it: For a summer dish try wrapping Indian style lamb mince, watercress salad and yogurt in freshly baked naan bread

Then it's salad time.

"The dressed carrots can be served on their own with some added apple or celery for extra sweetness and crunch."

It's also important to take care with the shallots or red onion.

This pork belly and watercress salad is a Chinese take on the classic pork and puha dish
This pork belly and watercress salad is a Chinese take on the classic pork and puha dish

"As with all salads that contain onion, you don't want to be coming across great big chunks," John says.

"If you don't feel confident about your knife skills, use the coarse side of a box grater instead. This will almost mush your onions to a puree, but at least you won't come across any big bits."

Serve the salad and lamb with freshly made naan bread and enjoy a dish perfect for summer.

John says he's given the classic pork and puha dish a Chinese twist.

The pork belly has a caramel dressing and the salad of watercress, mint and coriander is given a vinegar and lime zing.

There are heaps of ways to use watercress and John recommends combining it with fresh baby spinach as a bed for grilled salmon, using it in sandwiches and adding it to any salad.

"If you want to bulk up a salad, watercress is one of those wonderful vegetables that you can really boost a salad with."

Other ideas for watercress include a feta sandwich spread for sandwiches or bagels.

Into a food processor, place 1 1/2 cups of watercress, 50g feta cheese, 100g cream cheese, 2-3 cloves of crushed garlic and half a teaspoon of coarse ground pepper. Blend at high speed until smooth, green and creamy.

"Milk can be added if necessary to soften it to a nice sandwich spread consistency," John says.

He also makes a watercress egg- salad sandwich spread.

For this you need to mash two hard-boiled eggs with a fork and mix in half a cup of finely chopped watercress, 2 Tbsp chives or minced onion and moisten with 2 Tbsp mayonnaise. Season with salt and pepper and spread on fresh bread.

"One can add a teaspoon of horseradish to make this spread extra wonderful," John says.

Try making a salad by tossing together 2 cups watercress, 2 cups grated carrot, 1 sliced hardboiled egg, 1 diced avocado and half a cup each of toasted sunflower seeds and grated parmesan cheese.

"To get a double dose of watercress, top with creamy watercress yoghurt dressing. These will make the whole experience extra yummy," he says.

In a food processor, blend 1 cup of watercress, half a cup olive oil, 1 Tbsp lemon juice or vinegar, 1 tsp honey, dash of pepper, 1 clove of crushed garlic and quarter of a teaspoon of salt. Add half a cup of plain unsweetened yoghurt and blend gently until smooth.

"This dressing is all it takes to make for really delicious salads. Herbs such as coriander and basil can also be added," John says.


Pork Belly on Watercress and Fresh Herb Salad with Caramel Dressing

1kg boneless pork (skin on)

1 dessertspoon salt

1/2 firmly packed cup brown sugar

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

2 star anise

1 cup chicken stock

2 limes (1 for juice, 1 for wedges)

1 cup mint leaves

1 cup coriander

2 cups watercress

3 spring onions, sliced

1 red chilli - deseeded and finely sliced

1 dessertspoon sweet vinegar

1 tsp rice wine vinegar

Splash of oil

Heat oven to 220 degrees Celsius. Score pork belly at one-centimetre intervals and place on (cooling) rack in a roasting pan, skin side up.

Rub the salt into the skin. Fill pan with water until just under the rack and place in oven.

Roast pork for about 30 minutes, until skin is crispy.

Reduce oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

To make the caramel dressing, place brown sugar, red wine vinegar and star anise in a saucepan over a low heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar and simmer for five minutes. Add chicken stock and reduce by half.

Add lime juice and continue to cook for three to four minutes until mixture is syrupy. Cool slightly.

To make the salad dressing, mix the sweet and rice wine vinegars in a small bowl. Add a squeeze of lime juice, the spring onions, chilli and a splash of oil.

Combine watercress, coriander and mint leaves. Add the dressing and toss the greens lightly.

Place salad on a plate with the pork cubes presented neatly on top. Drizzle caramel dressing over the pork and enjoy.


Spiced lamb:

500g good-quality coarsely ground lamb

3 cloves finely chopped garlic

1cm fresh ginger finely chopped

1 average-sized onion, chopped

2 tsp garam masala


Watercress salad:

2 carrots, peeled

1 Tbsp sesame seeds, toasted

1 small bunch fresh coriander leaves

1 small bunch fresh mint leaves

1 small bunch of watercress


1 tsp cumin seeds

3 shallots or 1 small red onion, peeled

1 lemon, zested and juiced

1 heaped tsp freshly grated ginger

5 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Heat a frying pan and cook ground lamb until all the fat comes out of it.

Add the garam masala, garlic, ginger, onion and a good pinch of salt, then give it a stir. Keep frying until the meat is well-cooked, but be careful not to burn.

For the salad, shave the carrots into long thin strips with a peeler or a mandolin slicer and set them aside.

Heat a small frying pan over a moderate heat and toast the cumin seeds for 30 seconds. They will start to smell nutty, but you're not trying to cook the seeds; just drawing out their natural flavour.

Put seeds into a pestle and mortar and grind them up.

Put the pan back on the heat and toast the sesame seeds until golden. Transfer them to a plate.

Take peeled shallots or red onion and slice wafer thin.

To make the dressing, put the lemon zest and juice into a bowl and add the shallots or onion, grated ginger, ground cumin and a pinch of salt. Whisk everything together with the extra-virgin olive oil. Taste to check whether the dressing needs more lemon juice, oil or seasoning.

Pour the dressing over the carrots and add the fresh coriander, mint leaves and watercress. Mix it all together.

Divide the crispy lamb between four naan breads and put the dressed salad on top. Sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds. Serve with Greek-style yoghurt and lemon halves. This makes a great summer meal.

Naan Bread

7g active dry yeast

235ml warm water

50g white sugar

45ml milk

1 egg, beaten

10g salt

615g bread flour

6g minced garlic (optional)

55g butter, melted

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Stand about 10 minutes, until frothy.

Stir in sugar, milk, egg, salt, and enough flour to make a soft dough.

Knead for 6 to 8 minutes on a lightly floured surface, or until smooth.

Place dough in a well-oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and set aside to rise. Let it rise for 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in volume.

Punch down dough, and knead in garlic. Pinch off small handfuls of dough about the size of a golf ball. Roll into balls, and place on a tray. Cover with a towel and allow to rise until double in size, which will take about 30 minutes.

During the second rising, preheat grill to high heat.

At grill side, roll one ball of dough out into a thin circle. Lightly oil grill. Place dough on grill, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until puffy and lightly browned.

Brush uncooked side with butter, and turn over. Brush cooked side with butter, and cook until browned, another 2 to 4 minutes.

Remove from grill, and continue the process until all the naan has been prepared. Serve immediately.

Taranaki Daily News