Pork with a serious, devilishly good (chocolaty!!) twist

If you’re anything like me you will think chocolate and wine are thee very  bestest inventions in the whole entire wide universe. Fact.

They are delicious together. Or separately. For breakfast (well maybe not the wine), brunch, lunch or tea. When you’re happy, sad, bored, stressed or just feel like you deserve a treat. I honestly don’t know what I would ever do if, in a desert island type situation, I had to choose between The Fella and a chocolate-red-wine combo. I’d certainly need a glass of wine to help me mull it over, I may need several in fact.

But… what if you mix these two yummie ingredients with something totally left of field, something completely unusual, something like pork? Am I blowing your mind?! I hope so because this dish is very very special indeed.

This is a recipe from Rachel Allen’s Rachel’s Favourite Food for Friends, and it has been a major hit since the first time I made it a few years ago. Initially people are very reluctant to try it, but after a little coaxing and a taste, it gets gobbled up quicker than you can say: but chocolate isn’t supposed to be for dinner! Of course, you don’t actually taste the chocolate; it just adds a beautiful richness and sweetness to the sauce. Midweek dinner this ain’t, this is RICH and filling and unusual, but totally delicious. So I urge to mix it up a bit this weekend and try it, I guarantee you’ll love it, or your money back.

Sweet and sour pork with raisins, pine nuts and chocolate

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Hot cross buns

Who doesn’t just love some religious iconography on their baked goods?!

As I was making these, and diligently piping out a cross on each one, I got to thinking: how does an atheist come to this? How is it these little buns are so loved that pretty much everyone, religious or not, eats them this time of year? Weird huh?

I was curious so I hit the interwebs and found out loads of interesting things about these yummie bunnies. Apparently they could have been eaten in pagan times, the cross (symbolising the four quarters of the moon) being a nod to the goddess Eostre. Which leads me to ask, did these Christians ever have an original idea?! But they were popularised in Tudor England, where they were so trendy with Catholics that Elizabeth I had to pass a law allowing them to be only made on Christmas and Good Friday. Hence how they are now associated with Easter.

Apparently there are all kinds of superstitions around them, like if you hang one in your kitchen you’ll make good bread all year, they’re also good luck to have on a ship. Who knew hot cross buns could be so interesting? If you fancy reading more try here, or here.

Or you could just skip to the recipe and enjoy these steaming hot from the oven with lashings of melted butter and a cup of tea. Yummo. It’s still the weekend after all, there’s no need to start being healthy until tomorrow.

Hot cross buns

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Hallowe’en barmbrack

It appears that Australians don’t do Hallowe’en.

It makes a lot of sense; obviously October evenings in the southern hemisphere are a lot less cold, dark and, well, scary than they are back home. Which I guess is why Hallowe’en never took off here, despite the influx of Irish immigrants over the years, and why it flourished in the States instead.

It does slightly bother me that the American version of Hallowe’en is all that’s widely known here; no one realises that it’s an ancient Celtic festival. Therefore, the focus is all on trick-or-treating, and nothing else. No bobbing for apples, no bonfires and no barmbrack. I have decided that I’m on a one-woman mission to change all this. I did have to go to stupid work today though, so I only got as far as the barmbrack, but every little counts. Right?

Barmbrack is a traditional Irish fruit bread made to celebrate Oíche Shamhna (Hallowe’en night). It’s not only totally delish but is also loads of fun as it contains some odd little things you don’t normally find in baked goods, such as a ring, a coin, a pea, a piece of cloth and a stick. These objects mean different things for the person who finds them. The ring and the coin are the two best-known ones, they indicate that the finder will either get married in the coming year or get rich. The others are not so optimistic. The pea means the finder will not get married that year, the piece of cloth means they will be poor and the stick means they’ll have an unhappy marriage. Presumably, the stick was to be used a weapon! Lovely!

Hallowe’en Barmbrack

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