I am at home this week. ‘Home’ is where I grew up – Lisburn, in Northern Ireland. I am cooking in my parents’ kitchen, snuggling up with Jonathan on a sofa that’s seen a few other boyfriends and Jessica is sleeping in my bedroom and playing with my toys.
A few nights ago I met up with an old school friend who I hadn’t seen for (ahem!) twenty one years. Inevitably our conversation came round to how things have changed since we left home. More houses, fewer independent shops, better roads.
We also reminisced about life as teenagers in Lisburn in the ’80s. Money was tight, eating out was something we only did occasionally on holiday, and there was no such thing as too much blue eyeshadow. I hadn’t yet experienced the flavours of Indian, Mexican or Japanese food. As far as I was concerned the height of sophistication was sweet and sour pork balls from the chinese takeaway. Thick soft batter covered with a sticky artificial coloured sauce – my 15 year old self loved it.
My trip down memory lane inspired last night’s dinner. This batter is lighter and the sauce is a more comfortable colour but the ’80s tang is still there, and it’s definitely sticky. Did I dance round the kitchen to Whitney Houston and Bryan Adams? That would be telling!
- 400-500g cubed pork
- Oil for deep frying
- 120g/4oz plain flour
- 60g/2oz cornflour
- 1½ tsp baking powder
- pinch salt
- 1 onion
- 1 green pepper
- 1 can pineapple (see below)
- 30g/1oz/2 tbsp cornflour
- 120g/4oz light brown sugar
- pinch salt
- 120ml/4floz cider vinegar or rice vinegar
- 1 clove garlic, crushed or finely chopped
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- 90ml/3floz/6tbsp tomato ketchup
- 90ml/3floz/6tbsp reserved pineapple juice
- Combine the plain flour, cornflour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Slowly add enough water to make a batter. Set aside while you make the sauce.
- Slice or dice the onion and pepper (we usually slice, but this time I diced on auto-pilot) and fry gently until soft. Add the pineapple chunks (keep the juice) and warm through.
- Put the remaining sauce ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring slowly to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently until the sauce thickens - you will need to stir it reasonably regularly. I always expect the cornflour to go lumpy, but it hasn't yet!
- When the sauce has thickened, add the onion, pepper and pineapple. Set aside and keep warm.
- To make the pork balls, fill a wok or large pan about half to two thirds full with oil and heat until a piece of bread or spoonful of batter sizzles. Dip the pork cubes in the batter and deep fry a few pieces at a time until lightly brown (three to four minutes). Drain and keep warm while you fry the rest.
- We serve the pork balls and sauce separately so the batter stays crispy (and I get more sauce - yum!), alternatively pour the sauce over the battered pork.