Ah January - t’is the season for staying in. After cooking all that fancy food for holiday entertaining, there’s nothing quite like a quiet month with some comfort food to bring us back to reality gently.
Often, however, comforting dishes are a little labour-intensive, and spending a lot of time in the kitchen is the last thing many of us feel like doing after Christmas. For me the answer is to break out my slow cooker – that oft-forgotten but oh-so-useful kitchen appliance that’s fabulous for soups and stews (check out this beef and ale stew over on Food Tube) and also works magic on tougher cuts of meat.
For cuts of meat like pork shoulder, slow cookers are a great way to get that “melt-in-your-mouth” quality and infuse a lot of flavor with little effort on your part. I took the inspiration for this dish from an old family favourite – Red roast pork – which I make on a regular basis both for everyday meals as well as entertaining. It‘s easy enough to make on a weeknight because you can marinate it during the day while you are at work, but looks great plated up for guests too. I love the flavours in my updated Asian-inspired recipe. The aroma when it’s cooking is intoxicating!
In this version, the pork shoulder does all its marinating in the cooking process, so once you have the marinade made, the pork shoulder seared on the outside and the meat in the marinade, it’s very hands-off. Just set the slow cooker to low while you’re at work and come home to a complete dish and an amazing smell filling the house, or set it overnight on a weekend to prep a fabulous lunch for the next day (although, warning: the house will smell so good that you’ll wake up hungry).
Once it’s cooked you can serve it up in buns with coleslaw like this version, or simply with some rice and sautéed green vegetables like pak choi.
Slow cooker red roast pulled pork recipe
- 1kg pork shoulder, bone in
- 2 teaspoons vegetable or peanut oil
For the sauce:
- 1 large shallot
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger
- 1 teaspoons Chinese five spice powder
- ½ cup (120mls) pomegranate juice
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 60ml (¼ cup) plum jam
Season the pork with salt and pepper, then heat the oil a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pork and sear until it’s nicely browned all over.
Remove the pork from the skillet and place in slow cooker. Increase the heat under the skillet to high and add about half of the pomegranate juice, scraping any browned bits leftover from the pork with a wooden spoon and stirring in.
Meanwhile, roughly chop the shallot and garlic and grate the ginger.
Once the liquid has reduced slightly, add the veg and spices and reduce the heat to low. Add the sugar, soy sauce and plum jam, gently stirring to combine.
Add the remaining pomegranate juice then gently pour the marinade over the pork in the slow cooker. Turn the pork a couple of times to make sure the marinade is evenly distributed around the meat, then set your temperature to “low” and cook, undisturbed, for 8-10 hours.
Very carefully remove the pork from the slow cooker with tongs, and let the marinade drain back into the cooker for a few seconds.
Skim off any fat that has collected on top of the marinade and carefully strain it into a small saucepan over a medium-high heat.
Using two forks, gently pull the pork apart, then transfer onto a serving board or a bowl and pour over the slightly reduced marinade.
Serve on buns with Asian-style slaw (dressing recipe below) or on plain white rice with sautéed greens.
Quick Asian-style slaw dressing
- 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
- 120ml (½ cup) pomegranate juice
- 60ml (¼ cup) rice wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
Add all the ingredients to a jam jar and shake hard for a few seconds, until combined. Pour over whatever veg you fancy and taste as you do so to get the right amount. I like to use a couple of carrots, a handful of sprouts, a quarter of a white cabbage and half a red onion, all put through a food processor. You’ll have loads of dressing leftover, so store in a sterilised jar in the fridge for up to three days.