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Passport & Plate - Store-cupboard Babi Guling

Indonesia | Friday, 6 March 2015 | 5 photos


You’ll need:
1 small boneless pork shoulder (about 1.5 to 2kg)
5 kaffir lime leaves, shredded
Salt to season
1 tbsp turmeric powder

For the spice paste:
2 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp black peppercorns
3 cm piece ginger, peeled and chopped
3 cm piece galangal, peeled and chopped
1 large red chilli, chopped, with seeds
6 large gloves garlic, crushed and chopped
3 lemongrass stalks, white part only, coarsely chopped
6 spring onions, white part only, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp shrimp paste
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp vegetable oil

How to prepare this recipe
1. In a small pan, roast the coriander seeds until they turn golden and fragrant. Grind them to a powder with the peppercorns and set aside.

2. Blitz the ginger, galangal, chilli, garlic, lemongrass, spring onions and salt together in a food processor until they form a fine paste, or, if you’re feeling determined, pound them in a mortar and pestle.

3. Add the ground spices, shrimp paste, turmeric, brown sugar and vegetable oil to form a thick spice paste.

4. Preheat your oven to 150C. Open the pork shoulder up, season it well and place it skin-side down on a work surface. Rub the spice mix all over the meat. Roll the roast back up and tie it with butcher's string.

5. Mix the turmeric powder with enough water to form a thin glaze. Brush this all over the pork, especially the skin.

6. Place the pork shoulder onto a roasting tray and into the oven for 3 to 4 hours, basting it occasionally with the pan juices, until the meat pulls away easily with a fork.

7. Increase the oven temperature to 230C for 10 minutes to crisp the skin. Rest it for 10 minutes, then dish out a portion of meat and crackling over a plate of steamed white rice and greens.

The story behind this recipe

When the pig comes, it is perched precariously in a metal tray on a young man’s head. He weaves in and out of the rows of motorcycles parked in front of the roadside warung: picture a low stone wall, a red-tiled awning, a scattering of tables and parasols on a scrubbed concrete floor. The pig’s skin is crisp and deep amber, a glorious vision of tasty porky goodness silhouetted against the bright blue skies of Ubud. This is Ibu Oka’s warung and the pig, of course, is babi guling, the dish in every guide book and the first pit stop on any traveller’s list. Expectant excitement is in the air. Confused punters hesitate by the entrance. Japanese grannies in huge sunglasses jostle for a seat. Shoulders, kissed with freckles and the gentle blush of the sun, hunch reverently over polished-wood tables. Behind the counter, clad in crisp green aprons, a squad of stern matrons dishes out paper-lined baskets efficiently: a ladleful of rice, fresh greens, a generous portion of tender flesh and perfect crackling, a splash of spicy sambal. This is what I crave, here at home in Scotland, when the skies are grey and the wind turns the tip of my ears to ice. I crave the sun and warmth of Bali, the way the light makes eyes narrow and blink. I crave the chaos of busy city roads, that mad jostle of tooting horns and swerving bikes and darting monkeys, and then the still, silent expanse of the paddy fields. Everything I need is in the store cupboard. There’s galangal and lemongrass in the freezer, a box of kaffir lime leaves too – essentials for emergency curries. I’ve run out of shallots but these spring onions will do. Shrimp paste never goes off. The stray chilli I find at the bottom of the crisper box. The pork, from the local butcher, has been free to roam this rain-soaked land. Gently spiced and wonderfully aromatic, this is a Sunday roast with a twist: a warming, generous feast for friends gathered around a Iaden table. I doubt it’s Ibu Oka’s recipe, but I bet she’d approve.

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