Buta no kakuni, or braised pork, is, I think, one of the most comforting winter dishes. It was a complete revelation when my husband, Nori, cooked this for me for the first time – the flavours and textures were something I had never experienced before. I watched in awe as he trimmed the sharp edges of the daikon to make them slightly rounded – so it would cook evenly. Feel free to do this, but it is by no means a make-or-break step. There are a few other tricks to make a great buta no kakuni – blanching the pork to remove impurities, and making a caramel to coat the pork, but overall, this dish is very quick to prepare. The pork and daikon gently simmer, absorbing all of the wonderful flavours, and later, soft-boiled eggs are added. It is best left to sit in the fridge for several hours after making. The excess fat will solidify and can then be scraped off for a lighter, more pure braise before being reheated. We eat this simply with wilted greens and steamed rice.
Recipe Category: Preview Issue 201
I have a real love for udon noodles – they’re so comforting. It must have something to do with their thickness, I think. I never tire of eating them in different ways. In Tokyo, for breakfast, served in broth with tempura; topped with many slices of sudachi – a small green citrus fruit with a very sour flavour; or eaten cold with a dipping sauce. At home, though, I usually make them like this: fried with pork mince, wombok and shiitake, all topped with a spicy chilli oil.
If you find yourself in Modena, chances are you will eat gnocco fritto (pillowy fried dough) at some point in the day. Whether for breakfast or as a snack with prosciutto, cheese or salami, they’re incredible. They are really easy to eat – almost too easy – so I suggest having a small crowd at the ready to help you devour them. Traditionally fried in pork fat, I’ve opted for a neutral vegetable oil here.
Originating in Tuscany, pici are like a fat spaghetti. The exact recipe for the dough varies from family to family – sometimes made with semolina flour, sometimes with an egg added. They are very textural and so comforting to eat. There are a few sauces that traditionally accompany this pasta shape – most often a simple garlicky tomato one but also one of toasted breadcrumbs – which are both delicious. However, I’ve been making variations of this lemon sauce since I was 16, after reading a similar recipe in a River Café cookbook. The sauce doesn’t even need its own pan – it is simply warmed over the pot as the pasta is cooking – making for a simple meal that doesn’t require you to stand at the stove for long periods of time. I have had great success using a combination of pure cream and mascarpone, and an equally fine substitute is, of course, dried pici, spaghetti or bucatini (use 320g for four people). I like my sauce quite zingy, so I’ve left the amount of lemon up to you to adjust – start with one lemon and add the rest if you like.
Poaching is a beautiful way to cook fish quickly. This is such a flavourful dish and comes together without much effort at all. Serve this with crusty bread or creamy polenta and the meal is complete.