This venerable Vietnamese classic is traditionally made to celebrate Tết, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, but is popular all year round. Packed full of flavour, this sweet and tender braise of pork is simmered in coconut water and is a firm favourite throughout Việt Nam, especially in the South.
The first time I encountered this dish was in a restaurant in Hồ Chí Minh City. My uncle, who was working in Việt Nam at the time, took us out for a lavish Vietnamese dinner and this dish was the undisputed star of the meal. After simmering away for hours in its delicious coconut broth, the pork was achingly tender and sweet, but the real revelation was the generous layer of fat. Soft and rich, yet surprisingly light on the tongue – the fat had been transformed into the true master-stroke of the entire dish. This was pork fat in all its gelatinous glory!
Whilst I’ve always made this dish with pork belly, in truth you can actually use any number of cuts of pork, as long as the meat isn’t too lean. Personally, though, I prefer sticking with pork belly for this dish as it doesn’t dry out from the extended cooking time and the fat imparts a wonderful flavour into the broth.
Traditionally eaten with rice and often accompanied with a simple daikon & carrot pickle(Đồ Chua), I also love to pair this dish with some water spinach stir-fried with garlic.
A firm family favourite, this tagine is sweet and intensely spiced.
So much so, I rarely make this dish for anybody else other than my partner. Not because it isn’t utterly delicious, but because it is almost bludgeoning in its intensity and is not for the fainthearted; this is real stick-to-your-ribs type cooking!
On the few occasions I have served it to others it has always gone down a treat, I just make sure that the friends I make it for like this style of cooking. The trick to getting away with serving a dish packed with this much flavour is to pair it with a simple side dish like plain couscous or a zingy lemon-soaked tabbouleh…or, if you are my partner, some plain white rice! And whilst I despair at the latter, it is a miracle that my partner likes this dish at all so I don’t push the matter, but I normally discourage such pandering and recommend couscous as the appropriate accompaniment.
For more delicious Moroccan recipes please click here or if you would like to read more about tagines please click here
A tomato bredie is the ultimate manifestation of South African home cooking.
Ostensibly a stew, bredies form an integral part of South African huiskos (home cooking), and whilst there are a number of different types of bredies, tomato bredie seems to be the most cherished of them all. At a glance, a bredie looks like a very basic stew, but there is a key element that differentiates it from being a regular stew. Instead of simmering in a liquid like a conventional stew, a bredie is self-saucing. Absolutely no water is added to a bredie and the sauce is formed from the rendered juices and fat from the lamb, which when combined with the reduced tomato, results in an intensely flavoured gravy which transcends its humble basic ingredients.
There are quite a few tomato bredie recipes out there but I’ve always stuck with Cass Abrahams‘s recipe, albeit with some unorthodox additions of my own. Cass Abrahams is widely regarded as the incumbent mother of Cape Malay cooking and her recipes are often the starting point for many of my own.
When I initially attempted to make a tomato bredie I found the results were a bit watery and that the meat would sometimes be a little tough. I got around this by first dredging the meat in flour before browning it thoroughly and then by cooking the entire thing in the oven and not on the stove as it is usually done. Bredie traditionalists would be mortified by my preferred cooking method, but I find that cooking it in the oven helps the tomatoes break-down and creates an intensity in the gravy that you wouldn’t otherwise get when cooking it in the conventional way. I have been making my tomato bredie in this way for a number of years and they have always been a success, the meat is invariably melt-in-your-mouth tender and the sauce is thick and bursting with flavour.
If you would like to read more about South African food please follow this link or for more South African recipes, please click here