Pulled pork and fried mac cheese burgers

The advent of the American street food revolution in the UK has made me very very happy. Not to mention much poorer, several pounds heavier, and in all probability with blood that resembles spicy cottage cheese. Even their salads are bad for you. No seriously, have you ever actually ordered a Cobb salad?

Pulled pork & deep fried mac cheese burger

There are days I think I could – and do – just live on hot wings, waffles and chili. There’s a lot of debate about who does the genre best, but for me it absolutely has to be Pitt Cue Co. From the day they set up their trailer on the Southbank they had me hook, line and sinker, and the pulled pork and deep fried mac cheese burger was the first dish of theirs I ever tasted. Spicy, juicy pork, tangy crunchy slaw, and crisply-crumbed but oozy-centred mac cheese all sandwiched within a sweet bun. Who could ask for more?

This is my version. The ingredients list is long, but really, it’s just some roast meat, a spot of sauce and a slice of pasta bake – really not all that difficult, when you think about it.

Pulled pork and fried mac cheese burgers
Makes 6 hefty burgers

You will need:
6 handfuls slow-roast pork  (I roast a 2kg shoulder at Gas 2 for 5 hrs 45mins, it gives you more than you need but hey, too much pork is never a problem, right?)
6 large brioche or ciabatta rolls
A portion of your favourite slaw recipe – I like to use red cabbage for both colour and its extra crunch

For the fried mac cheese:
225g macaroni
350ml whole milk
½ white onion
4 cloves
2 bay leaves
30g butter
30g flour
115g Swiss or Dutch cheese (something like Gruyère, Emmenthal or Maasdam)
15g Parmesan, finely grated
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
nutmeg, to taste
plain flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs for coating

For the pulled pork sauce:
1 x 6g Ancho Poblano*
15g Pasilla chilli*
15g Cacabel chilli*
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 cloves
1 scotch bonnet
3 garlic cloves
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp vegetable bouillon powder
2 tbsp palm sugar
250g red onion
juice of 2 oranges
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
5 tbsp tomato puree
Read on for the recipe…

Come join the party – Flavors of the USA!


“American foods” Word cloud made with WordItOut

We are now on our culinary journey to USA in the “Flavors of…Series 4” blogger event by Nayna of simply.food. As a huge Americophile myself (at least where the food is concerned) I’m really pleased to announce that I’m the host for this latest blogger challenge, and am pleased to announce I’ll be sharing my most gut-busting creation: the epic deep-fried mac cheese pulled pork burger. Please share your fantastic American-inspired creations with us all, by posting on your own blog and following the guidelines laid out below.

Flavours of USA logoHere’s some great sites to get you started:
BBC Good Food


  • Event runs 1st-31st October 2013
  • Multiple entries and archived entries ARE allowed, if you repost
  • Entries must include links back to both simply.food and Souperior
  • Send entries to souperior[dot]blog[at]gmail[dot]com. Please put ‘Flavors of USA’ in subject line and include (1)your name, (2) blog name, (3) post name, (4) post URL and (5)link to your original image
  • Although simply.food is a vegetarian site, Souperior is not, so both veggie and non-veggie entries are encouraged
  • Roundup will be posted on Souperior within 7 days of the event closing

BBQ Shack at the World’s End pub, Brighton (review)

Brighton trainAs a huge fan of American BBQ I was thrilled to read Jay Rayner’s recent glowing review of the food at The World’s End pub in Brighton, my hometown of London being somewhat oversaturated with disappointingly mediocre examples of this fine cuisine born in the heat and smoke of the South.  So recently, when family duty saw me down in that corner of the world I hurried with unconcealed excitement to this unassuming little pub on the distant outskirts of Brighton’s central shopping district, ready for a feast of ribs, wings and slaw.

A little something called the bank holiday weekend conspired against me however, and when we rocked up early Sunday lunchtime (food served “12-‘til it runs out”) we were told by a weary server that much of the menu was sold out, including those famous ribs.  Ah well, I said, save that for next time, what I’m REALLY craving now is some hot wings. But no, they’re not on the menu either, not ever in fact – how can you do American BBQ and not have wings?  Aren’t sticky, BBQ- or hot sauce- glazed wings charred from the pit, succulent within, and served with their best-friend-in-bad-taste, blue cheese sauce, a key staple on any menu of this sort?! Apparently not here, a BBQ restaurant located in a cavernous dark wood-panelled pub catering largely (when we were there) to the football-watching locals.  I desperately wanted to like it, being a big fan of anywhere I can curl up at 1pm with a pint and a book, but nowhere that shuts its windows and rolls down its shutters on a bright sunny day, just in order to improve the visibility of its three giant projector-screen televisions, is going to win with me, no matter how many leather sofas and walls of books it has.

BBQ Shack at the World's End pub, BrightonBack to the food, and once we’d recovered from the ribs and chicken wing disappointments there was plenty to choose from that whetted the appetite and we eventually settled on a beef brisket bap and chilli-cheese hot dog, plus sides of fries and coleslaw.  When it arrived it transpired that the ‘fries’ were in fact big chunky chips, just as one might have from any chippy on the pier (when I order fries I want FRIES dammit – American, thin-cut, FRIES) and the hot dog was actually a huge fat sausage of the Cumberland variety I suspect given how pungent it was with herbs. Neither item was at all unpleasant (the chips in fact were excellent), but also emphatically not what was expected or desired.  The beef brisket was flavoursome and tender, a clear indicator of someone skilled at the grill, and the chilli on the hot dog was proper old-school: no namby pamby mince here, just huge chunks of slow-cooked meat and tender little pinto beans.

Sadly the good ended there, with everything else a bit of a letdown (again, not bad precisely, just not, well – not what you expect from somewhere Lord Rayner describes as the home of “real BBQ”).  Everything cried out for sauce but all the condiments on offer – and let’s face it this kind of food is DESIGNED for condiments – were ridiculously vinegary: the ketchup, chipotle BBQ sauce, the ‘very hot’ chilli sauce (not hot), the jarred jalapenos, everything, right down to the otherwise fruity and flavourful sauce that accompanied my hot dog.  I like acetic acid as much as the next person but I quickly felt my mouth pickling under the influence, and there was no doubt everything needed the lubrication – I suspect the otherwise tasty chilli had perhaps been stewing under a hot lamp since the beginning of the bank holiday.

Would I go back?  Well yes, to try the ribs denied me on this occasion, but I won’t be making a special trip, and in all honesty I think for your American BBQ needs you’d be better off at Bodeans.

The World’s End Pub (http://www.bbqshack.co.uk)
2 main meals with sides and two drinks –£23.26.
World's End on Urbanspoon

Cola-braised pulled pork sandwiches with crispy fried pickles

Cola braised shredded ham hock sandwiches with crispy fried pickles

Despite having never yet visited America, I feel a lot of my food (or at least a lot of my tastes) are very much rooted in the cuisine of our cousin-across-the-pond, particularly in the food of the deep South. Given a choice I would probably eat hot wings, pulled pork and ‘slaw every day, but in deference to the fact that it’s not necessarily the healthiest cuisine around I limit myself to occasional forays, usually at weekends when I can really go to town and create a feast (which I think is what most people of the American South would agree it’s all about – generosity, hospitality, great big flavours – an ethos that has always been at the heart of my love for food).

This delicious dish takes a cheap core ingredient (pork shanks are still nice and cheap, compared to now-expensive pork shoulder which is traditionally used in pulled pork), and transforms it into something magical.  Braising pork in cola is something Nigella Lawson introduced me to, and it really does infuse the meat with what she calls ‘the spirit of BBQ’ – perfect for when the weather isn’t quite up to al fresco cooking but you still want that kind of experience. The deep-fried pickles came about because the pork needs something a bit sharp and sour to cut its inherent richness, and when you’re cooking Southern you simply have to have fried SOMETHING. I should say that they’re not my own invention though, I follow dozens of American food blogs and almost all of them have mentioned fried pickles in concert with pulled pork at some point, so this is where I took my inspiration from.

Cola braised shredded ham hock sandwiches with crispy fried pickles

Cola-braised shredded pulled pork sandwiches with crunchy fried pickles
Serves 4-6

For the pork braise:
4 pork shanks/hocks, skinned but with the skin kept (or 4 skinless hocks and a small sheet of pork rind – your friendly local butcher should be happy to oblige)
750ml Coca-Cola
1 white onion, peeled and halved
4 cloves
Small bay leaf

For the pork glaze:
250ml Coca-Cola
3 tbsp dark muscovado sugar
2 tsp English mustard powder

For the fried pickles:
8 large gherkins
50g matzo meal (or other dried breadcrumbs)
1 egg, lightly beaten
Oil for frying

To serve:
4-6 good quality bread rolls
Chilli sauce, mayonnaise and/or sour cream (very much optional)

Place the pork shanks in a casserole dish into which they fit quite snugly. Stud the onion halves with the cloves and tuck those and the bay leaf in around the shanks. Score the pork skin deeply and lay it on top (this helps keep the shanks submerged and you get yummy crackling later), then pour over the coke. Cover with a lid, bring to a simmer, then turn the heat right down and cook gently for 1-2 hours (depending on the thickness of the shanks) until the meat is so tender it almost falls from the bones.

Whilst the shanks are cooking, make the fried pickles. Cut the gherkins into two or three pieces to give thickish spears and pat dry with kitchen paper. Dip into the beaten egg and then into the matzo meal or breadcrumbs. Heat a centimetre of vegetable oil in a deep-sided frying pan or wide saucepan and when it’s good and hot fry the crumbed pickles a few at a time. As soon as they’re nice and brown remove with a slotted spoon, drain on kitchen paper and keep warm in a low oven until ready to serve.

Remove the cooked shanks and pork rind and drain on a rack whilst you preheat a grill and make the glaze. Stir all the glaze ingredients together in a small saucepan with a generous pinch of salt, bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to medium and simmer for around 10 minutes until dark and syrupy. Whilst that’s bubbling, get your grill good and hot.

Brush the shanks and the braised pork rind generously with the glaze, sprinkle with a little more salt and place on a rack over a foil-lined baking sheet. Pop under the hot grill until bubbling and charring at the edges – you’ll need to turn the shanks a couple of times, brushing with extra glaze as you do so. The pork rind won’t go as airily crunchy as with crackling on a roast, but it gets much crisper as it cools a little, plus that juicy chewiness is all part of the textures in this sandwich.

Shred the pork from the shanks and discard the bones. Split each bread roll and stuff full of the shredded meat, drizzling with any spare glaze as you go. Add a few pieces of ‘crackling’ and a couple of pickle spears to each sandwich. Depending on your preferences you may wish to add a smear of chilli sauce, mayo, or sour cream to the roll as well. Tuck in and taste the Deep South in every bite!