Mighty Meaty

Black pepper pork and caramel cake

casaveneracion.com Caramel cake from Estrel's

The title might sound strange but the strangeness is more apparent than real. The first part, black pepper pork, was what we had for dinner. The second part, caramel cake, was our dessert. But it wasn’t just a dessert. My husband ordered it especially for tonight because it is our 17th wedding anniversary. Special cake and special dinner for a special occasion.

Today was also the day we lighted the Christmas tree. The hangings are not quite complete but we can just add more as we finish a few everyday. We’ve been doing holiday paper crafts but progress has been painfully slow. The kids are busy with Christmas activities in school and I’m up to my neck with a lot of things that are not necessarily Christmas related.

casaveneracion.com Christmas tree

At least it’s up and lighted and if we are unable to add to the hangings, I won’t complain. Now, let me tell you about the black pepper pork we had for dinner. It has a pretty interesting story behind it.

A few days ago, I saw an episode of Planet Food called Spice Trails. In the segment about black pepper, a Chinese peasant cooked a pork dish that seemed uncannily similar to adobo. It appeared to be a mildly sweet dish, however, with the inclusion of sugar and dried plums among the ingredients. It so caught my fancy that I decided to try cooking it at home. Tonight of all nights because my husband is a pork lover and I wanted to cook a dish that I was certain he would enjoy. And I wasn’t mistaken. Click the link to page two for the recipe.

casaveneracion.com Pork belly, crushed black pepper and five spice powder

For 4 to 6 people, you will need a kilo of pork belly. Cut the pork into two-inch cubes or, if not boneless, just cut between the bones. Place the pork in a wok or pot. Add a tablespoonful of crushed black pepper. Crushed, not ground. Use a mortar and pestle to crush whole peppercorns. Then, add about a teaspoonful of Chinese five spice powder (available in most supermarkets).

casaveneracion.com Dried cranberries

Then, add about a cup of dried fruit. The original recipe had dried plums, I couldn’t find any, so I used dried cranberries.

casaveneracion.com shiitake mushrooms

Next, add eight to 12 shiitake mushrooms. Cut off the stems if you like. The stems are tough, I grant you that, but the with the length of the cooking time of this dish, only the pork bones will stay tough and inedible by the time the dish is done.

casaveneracion.com brown sugar and rice wine vinegar

Add about two tablespoonfuls of sugar, half a cup of dark soy sauce, a quarter cup of rice wine vinegar and two cups of water. Bring to the boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer for an hour to an hour and a half. There is no need to stir during the first hour but, after that, as the dried cranberries get mushy and the liquid evaporates, the sauce will thicken. So, after an hour, check occasionally and see if more water is needed to cook the pork through.

How was the cooked dish? It was very, very good. The pork was very, very tender and very tasty. It was neither salty not sweet. Surprisingly, it was the flavor and aroma of the spices that dominated. Mildly spicy because of the crushed black peppers and highly aromatic because of the black peppers and the five spice powder. Why is there no photo of the cooked dish? Sorry, but you you have to cut me some slack on this occasion. Wedding anniversary dinner, after all, and I didn’t want to start it by bringing my camera to the dinner table. :)

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