Moroccan spiced pork belly and bean casserole


I was expecting five for Sunday dinner and ended up with two, so we had a lot of leftover slow roast pork belly. Finally the pick of the crackling though, after years of listening to stealthy crunching in the kitchen after Bert’s dad offered to carve.

Serves 3-4

1 onion, diced

Splash of olive oil

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tin chopped tomatoes

1 tin flageolet beans, drained

Salt to taste

Leftover slow roast pork belly, cut into good chunks – each piece about 2cm cubed

Saute in the onion in the oil in a casserole dish or large saucepan. When it’s translucent add the spices and fry till fragrant. Then add the tinned tomatoes and beans, season and stir through the chunked meat. You could cook this on a simmer for about half an hour, adding the meat in the last 10 minutes, but I took advantage of having a slow oven constantly on in the form of an Aga and brought it to a steady simmer then put in the simmering oven (or very low oven) for a couple of hours. You don’t really notice the spices, they just add a soft, background warmth. It’s a bit like a gentle cassoulet, with butter-soft meat and small, tender beans.

It has the added benefit of making your toddler fart in the bath and laugh like a drain. Let’s just say I’m glad I’m not in John-the-small-fabric-rabbit’s shoes tonight.


Pulled pork soft rolls with sweet apple slaw

pulled pork

Normally, pulled pork is a whole joint and, to be honest, the reason I’m using diced pork is because we keep getting sent it in our meat delivery. This recipe takes a long time but is very low maintenance.

Even at the time of writing (as it’s in the oven at lunchtime), I have very low expectations of Bert with the slaw, but you never know and my theory is keep offering till they say yes. (In any other context that approach is a little stalker-y.) He will definitely demolish the meat and the bread and there’s always still-frozen peas as a mysteriously fail-safe veg.

Served 2.5

500g diced pork

Dash olive oil

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

Handful of sage leaves, snipped into shreds

A little salt

A good grind of black pepper

Soft white rolls (I normally serve wholemeal but I feel this recipe needs white)

For the slaw:

2 carrots, thickly grated

1 apple, thickly grated

1 red onion, thickly grated

A couple of tablespoons of mayonnaise

1 teaspoon horseradish sauce

Briefly fry the spices in the oil, then add the meat and brown it. Season, put a lid on and transfer it all to a very low oven for about 5 hours.

Combine all the ingredients for the slaw, split and butter the rolls and pull the cooked pork apart with a couple of forks and you’re good to go.

Pulled pork, tomato and sage ragu

I was a bit stuck on what to do with our glut of sage and my sister suggested the sage and tomato combination. This was lovely.


Served 1.5 of us for three meals

500g diced pork (a slow cooking cut like leg or shoulder)

1/2 tin of tomatoes

2 grated carrots

A bit of olive oil

300ml passata

Good handful of sage leaves, chopped

1 onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

Fry the onion and garlic till soft, add the grated carrots and cook for another couple of minutes then add the pork to the pan and brown. Stir the tomatoes, passata and sage through. Bring to a fast simmer then put in a low oven (140 degrees) or the bottom of an Aga simmering oven with a lid on for 4 to 5 hours. After its long, slow cook the pork will just pull apart into the sauce. This is great if you’re lucky enough to be at home with your baby rather than at work, as it needs so little prep – you just bung it on at lunchtime. Or you could do it on the Sunday and have easy meals for three nights in the week.

The first night we had this with pasta, parmesan and salad (because everyone knows how much babies love salad). Tonight we had it with four-veg mash* and peas. Bert rejects cooked peas. He eats them frozen from a small bowl on the kitchen floor. Don’t ask me. Babies are eccentric, lawless creatures.

I’ve topped the ragu with the mash in an ovenproof dish for a Shepherd’s (Pigkeeper’s?) Pie tomorrow. I’ll grate a bit of cheese on top and put it in the oven (180 degrees or the middle of an Aga roasting oven) for 30 minutes.

* 1 sweet potato, 4 carrots and 1 potato, cut into chunks and boiled till tender, 1 sliced onion sauted in butter till brown and caramelised, an extra knob of butter. Mash the veg with the butter then stir through the buttery caramelised onions and season.



Serves 1.5

1 portion bolognaise sauce (we had about a quarter of the bolognaise we had earlier in the week)

4 sheets lasagne

1 level dessert spoon plain flour

1 level dessert spoon butter

300ml whole milk

1 or 2 bay leaves

Grating of nutmeg

Black pepper

About 100g cheese – we had a combination of pecorino and cheddar

Make your white sauce by melting the butter, stirring in the flour, then gradually adding the milk. Add the bay leaf, nutmeg and pepper and simmer for about 10 minutes to thicken to a reasonably thin white sauce. Dissaude a cackling baby from using the dog as a Zimmer frame.

Assemble your lasagne. I started with a layer of cheese, then the usual pattern of meat sauce, lasagne and white sauce for two layers. Finish with white sauce and then top with another sprinkling of cheese. Bert liked touching the flour and soft butter, but his sensory play with the cheese turned into him grabbing a large handful and stuffing it in his mouth. Into a hot oven (200 degrees) for about half an hour, till the cheese is bubbling and the lasagne’s cooked through.

I must admit I used a rubber muffin tray for this, imagining a perfectly cute baby portioned lasagne tower on Bert’s plate. (Yes, I did cut individual circles from the lasagne sheets with a wine glass.) My lasagne didn’t have the structural integrity for that outcome, but it would be quite a handy way to make it for the freezer if you greased the muffin tray first and used a rubber one so you could pop the frozen mini lasagnes out. In the muffin tray they took about 20 minutes.

Spag bol


My standard bol recipe used to include red wine, salty bacon, milk and sometimes chopped chicken liver. Sounds a little voodoo when it’s all written down and it was a bit too intensely savoury for a baby. It also involved finely cutting up loads of stewing steak. When you’ve just got a small amount of free time in a day, spending most of it cutting up meat is less appealing.

Serves 6 (we had 3.5 for dinner and leftovers for lasagne)

500g minced beef

300g minced pork

1 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves chopped

1 carrot, diced

1 stick celery diced

leaves from a spring of rosemary, finely chopped

glug olive oil

500g passata

200ml boiling water

Low salt beef stock cube

Grinding of pepper, grinding of nutmeg

2 bay leaves

Fry (or ‘sweat’) the onions, rosemary and garlic in the olive oil, adding the other veg and cooking for around another 5 minutes. Transfer to a large saucepan or casserole and brown the meat in batches. Add to the veg and then pour over the passata and water, crumble in the stock cube and season, tucking in the bay leaves. Bring to a steady boil and then cook in a very low oven (140 degrees or an Aga simmering oven) for around 3-4 hours. You might need to bring it onto the hob at the end to reduce it a bit.