Recipe update: Cuban pork, Black Beans & Rice (Lechon y Moros)

I’ve already posted these recipes in the epic Noche Buena post from waaay back in 2011, but I wanted to update the pork & beans parts as I think I’ve got better methods now. But for beans in the crock pot and plantains 101, please click back to that post.

Cuban Pork

Pork shoulder roast
2 large onions
1 head garlic
Cumin (lots)
Dried Oregano (lots)
2 oranges & 2 limes juiced, or 2 cups of a tropical juice blend

The day before, unroll your pork shoulder and trim off the rind (sorry, no crackling for this!). Crush 10 or so cloves of garlic and rube all over pork, tucking pieces in the meat where you can. Rub all over with cumin and oregano – be generous – and salt (be as generous as your health allows). Thinly slice one of the onions crush and juice the lemons and oranges, and add these to a plastic ziplock bag (juice and rinds). Add pork, more cumin & oregano, more garlic if you want, and then seal and squeeze so pork is nicely coated. You can also use a covered dish our storage container but then you will want to open it and turn the pork. Refrigerate overnight (your fridge is going to smell amazing).

The cooking time really depends on the size of your roast, but I would plan for 4-6 hours. After years of just throwing this in a roasting tin, I now it is a cast iron/ceramic Dutch oven (Le Creuset style, but mine is a cheaper knock off that works great). Pre-heat your oven to about 180C. Remove your meat from the marinade and brown in the pot in some olive oil, then set aside in a tin that will catch any juices that escape. Now add a little more oil and slice the other onion and sauté it (just so you have some fresh onion flavour too). Once these are getting nice and cooked, you can add in the onions from the marinade. Sweat a bit longer, then return the pork to to the pot and pour over the marinade. I also like to add a couple of the orange and lemon rinds for flavour, but not all of them as they can break down and be a pain. Add about a litre of water to the pot and bring to a simmer.

Place in oven and turn heat down to about 150-165 depending on how hot and efficient your oven is. You want to roast it now for several hours, not opening the pot for at least 2 or so. The pork will tighten up, then loosen. Cook it until it easily pulls apart with a fork. You DO want to check after a while to make sure it hasn’t dried out. If the liquid is low, add more. I usually end up adding another few cups along the way.

Let it rest for about 15 minutes, then remove the fruit rinds and pull apart into the oniony mixture. Serve with black beans & rice; use leftovers for amazing things as below.

Cuban Black Beans

1 500g dried black (turtle) beans (you can use half if you want, a whole back will make a huge amount but they freeze wonderfully)
1-ish onion
1-ish green pepper
Bay leaves
Cumin (lots)
Sea Salt

The process is simple: simmer the beans and about 45 mins before they are done, you make sofrito and add to pot. Now, here are the caveats…

SOAK OR NOT? The internet is soooo divided. I used to always soak them then cook in a pot. Then I started using my crock pot, and I would soak them. Then I started doing a ‘quick soak’ by boiling them then letting them cool, draining water, then cooking them. Then I didn’t soak at all. NONE of these are incorrect. But I’ve finally decided the following method is best:

  1. Soak them about 8 hours – put in a pot or a bowl (and they always say pick through for stones but I have never in all my life found one), and cover with double the amount of water. Soak at least 6 hours, not more than 12. And if you are like me and soak ‘overnight’, make sure to drain them – reserving the water – rather than let them sit there until the late afternoon when you cook them, because…
  2. Soaking drastically reduces cooking time. If you don’t soak, you could simmer them for like 6-8 hours. But if you soak you can be energy efficient and cook them in like an hour tops. Also…
  3. Cook them in the soaking liquid. The whole ‘don’t soak’ camp is down to soaking leeching nutrients and FLAVOUR. So there is an easy solution – use the water to cook them too! You’ll need to add more.
  4. So to cook them, turn on your stove, make sure they are again covered with double the water, thrown in some bay leaves and salt, and bring to a boil. You can throw in the ‘ish’ onion and pepper (if you have any spare parts or even want to cut a bit off, just for longer flavour). Cover, turn down to simmer, and walk away for about 45 minutes.
  5. Now take a pan and sauté a chopped onion, a chopped pepper, and chopped garlic (in that order) in the same pan, in a generous glug of olive oil, throwing in some cumin. Don’t let it brown. Simmer until so so fragrant and you can’t stand it. Tip this into the beans, and let simmer another 30 minutes or until beans are tender. Try not to overcook and let them get too much – but also, if they are too watery, you can simmer uncovered and/or take out some of the beans and mash them to thicken it up.
  6. Cook some plain rice, basmati is great. I won’t argue with you about how you cook your rice, but if you are one of those people who boil it in a bunch of water then drain it like pasta, please don’t ever tell me so we can stay friends.


The best thing about this really – and the easiest, just throw some rice, beans, pork into a pan and fry up, delish! Also of course a Cuban sandwich if you have the right stuff. And makes lovely tacos, burritos, etc, even though those are not Cuban and if you ever see them on a menu for a ‘Cuban’ restaurant just leave.

Recipe: Herb Mayonnaise

I made mayo. It is straightforward and delicious. And yet, I have a really long story to go with it.

I hated mayo most of my life. Hypocritically, I loved it when it was disguised as, or called, something else: aioli, tartar sauce, hollandaise, etc. But I think my problem was that in the USA, mayo was usually that gloopy, greasy Miracle Whip (salad creme for the UK), often folded heavily into places it didn’t belong (that disgusting mid-century jello salad thing?), or with canned tuna, also a hate.

Yes, that is celery floating in jello, topped with Miracle Whip with marshmallows in it.

But in the UK, mayo is almost unavoidable, at the heart of nearly every lunch sandwich you will find. I quickly learned though that it wasn’t usually that gloopy mess, but a much richer, buttery spread, inherited from our proximity to France. I began to experiment, and have learned to love the stuff – which is probably not great since it was one of the few fatty foods I could claim to avoid.

I’m still a snob about it though (like I am with most food, let’s face it). I try not to buy it, but lately I’ve kept a jar of Maille Mayo with a hint of Mustard in the fridge, mostly to use in place of richer hollandaise for a poached egg brunch. But I’m finding it increasingly difficult to find (Brexit? Plague?). So I woke up this morning, Easter Sunday, and having luckily made a gorgeous Nigella’s Carrot Walnut Ginger Cake last night, found I had the creative kitchen energies to make my own mayo for some brunch. For advice, I turned to Samin…

If you haven’t yet seen Samin Nosrat’s ‘Salt Fat Acid Heat‘ on Netflix, do it! It is tantalising and quietly, wonderfully, feminist (and even a little decolonised – nearly all the experts she consults are women, from all over the world). Her accompanying book is also fascinating, a well-written scientific bible on how cooking works (and the illustrations by Wendy MacNoughton are delightful, as above). Even as a fairly knowledgable home cook, I learn something new every time I pick it up. Understanding the ‘why’ of how things brown, emulsify, etc. has made me a better cook. I won’t say Samin has quite surpassed Julia Child in my Kitchen Hero category, but she is getting rather close. Give her a few years.

Anyway – her recipe is simple, and she says the golden ratio is one egg yolk to 175ml oil. I confess, I stopped at about 100ml, for two reasons. First, I was nervous it was going to split and I would ruin my efforts. Second, I lack patience (which is why I’m not a professional cook), and it was looking really good as it was. I don’t know what would have happened if I kept going – would the oil have all just been incorporated for more volume? It was getting rather stiff too, as I was using my lovely Kitchen Aid hand mixer (cause I’m a weakling for beating, and also, any excuse to use it). The lemon juice made it creamier, and I stopped when it all just seemed delicious. I added about 1.5 tbs of lemon juice (a generous pinch of salt dissolved in this as per recipe), and chopped fresh parsley, thyme and chives. Oh! And I combined about 10ml of garlic infused rapeseed oil with 165ml olive oil, but in the end only used about 120ml overall.

All done to the tunes of Django Reinhart for that French feeling.