When we were invited to River Cottage HQ to do a cooking demo together, we didn’t realise we would be writing the recipe on the train on the way there, with some home grown radishes, a couple of pork steaks and a whole lot of knives tucked into the luggage rack of the 09:15 from London Waterloo to Axminster. A modest amount of local cider later, what we ended up with (or rather, what the standing-room-only audience at RCHQ ended up digging their forks into) was loosely based on a crispy pork belly and soba noodle salad on the menu at Allegra’s restaurant, Blackfoot, in Exmouth Market. The folks at River Cottage kindly gave us the rhubarb and chard from their gardens, and we brought the pork and the gochujang*.
2 pork shoulder steaks (rubbed with cayenne pepper (or chilli), fennel seeds, garlic, oil)
150ml rice wine vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
2 red chillies
a thumb sized piece of ginger
2 fat cloves of garlic
2 tbsp sugar (white for a clear pickling liquid, any if you’re not bothered about aesthetics)
a large stalk of rhubarb
200g soba noodles, dried
A few fistfuls of chard or other leaves
1 tbsp gochujang (Korean hot red pepper paste)*
1 tbsp soy sauce (to taste)
2 tbsp groundnut oil
First, take your pork out of the fridge to take the chilly edge off it before cooking it. If you haven’t marinated it already, smash up a clove of garlic, mix with a pinch of cayenne pepper, a teaspoon of fennel seeds and a splash of oil (any will do), then massage into both sides of the steak. Don’t salt it just yet, as this sucks the juices out, and you want this one pink and tender and with all its succulence intact.
Pour the vinegar into a small saucepan, finely slice the chilli, and chop and smash the ginger and garlic, grinding them down to a rough paste with the flat blade of your knife. Add these to the pan with the sugar, bring to a vigorous boil, and back down to a simmer to reduce by around a third. Finely slice your rhubarb and trim and quarter your radishes, and toss them into the pickling liquid to simmer away for about 5 mins.
Bring a saucepan of water to the boil for the noodles. When the water is boiling, drop the noodles in, and disperse with a wooden spoon to stop them sticking together. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer for around 6-8 minutes.
Heat your griddle pan until it is very hot, salt your pork, and lay it in. Leave it well alone for four minutes each side, then take it off and leave to rest.
Shred the leaves and drop into the noodles for the last 30 seconds to wilt. Drain, thoroughly rinse in cold water to get rid of excess starch from the noodles, and leave to cool.
To make the dressing, start by thinning the gochujang with the soy sauce. Add a splash of the pickling liquid, and taste – it should be hot and salty with a vinegary tang. Add the juice of a lime to cut through the salt (think Tequila Theory) and more of the pickling liquid to taste. When you’re happy with the dressing, add the groundnut oil to give it something to cling to, and mix well.
Toss the noodles and leaves with the dressing (any left over will keep in a clean jar for up to a week) and place in the bottom of your bowls. Top with sliced pork and the pickled veg, and serve.
*Gochujang is a Korean hot red pepper paste, made from fermented red peppers, soy beans and chilli. It is a dark red colour, an oral joyride of sensational sweetness and tantalising heat. If you don’t have any kicking about in the cupboard (and ours was a present from my friend Rob, who helped me with my second book), substitute it with a pinch of salt, sugar and chilli for a hot, sweet, salty kick.
Jack Monroe and Allegra McEvedy, at River Cottage HQ, May 2014.