Spicy Pork and Cucumber Stir Fry

I saw this when I was looking for another recipe, and it got stuck in my brain. I always think cucumber is such a woefully underappreciated vegetable, that I am happy to find more ways to use it. Cucumbers aren’t just for salads, even though I find them to be one of my must have salad ingredients.

Traditionally this recipe uses pork mince, but I didn’t have any of that. I did have some pork belly strips, so I just cut those into very small dice.

1 English cucumber

1 1/2 tsp salt

3 smallish pork belly strips, diced (freeze them until just firm as makes it much easier to dice)

1 tsp soy sauce

1 tsp rice wine or dry sherry or even brandy (I actually used kommandaria wine, as that’s what I had)

1 tsp cornflour

1/2 tsp five spice powder

1 tsp oyster sauce

1 mild red chilli, deseeded and chopped

3 spring onions, chopped

Handful of raw cashew nuts

Cut the cucumber lengthways into quarters, and cut out the seeds. They are just too watery.

Cut the cucumber into whatever size chunks you want, then place into a large bowl and add the salt. Mix and toss until the cucumbers start to release a little bit of water, about 1 minute. Let them stand for 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine pork with the soy sauce, wine, five spice powder and cornflour. Mix well and let sit for at least 30 minutes (you can even do this the night before you want to cook.)

Drain cucumbers and rinse well under cold running water,l to get all the salt off.

Drain well, then pat dry with paper towels.

Heat 1 tbs groundnut or sunflower oil over high heat until smoking. Add marinated pork, spreading it out with a spatula so that it makes a thin layer. Let cook undisturbed for 30 seconds. Using a spatula, break up the pork if it has stuck together. Continue stir-frying until the pork is cooked through and golden brown. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Add another spoon of oil to the pan, bring it back up to heat, then add the cashew nuts, and spring onions, plus the chilli and garlic and cook, stirring constantly so that the garlic doesn’t burn, for about a minute.

Add cucumbers and cook, keep stirring, for 2 – 3 minutes. Return pork to the wok and mix that in well. Add 1 tsp oyster sauce, continue cooking and stirring until the cucumbers begin to look glossy, about 30 seconds, then serve either on its own, or with some rice.

Eat while still hot.

Pork belly and cucumber


The Sheesh, Bury St Edmunds


We visited The Sheesh for the first time yesterday, and I can safely say we will ABSOLUTELY be going again. Mum and Dad have been telling us how good it was, so we were very happy to get the chance.

I've eaten a lot of Turkish food, my mum lives in Northern Cyprus, and this was easily one of the best places I've been.

When you walk in, the smell of woodsmoke hits you. Warm, and comforting, and a hint of how good the meal to come will be. It did not disappoint. The charcoal grill smell is everywhere, which just makes you even more hungry. This photo is from their Facebook page.

The service is fast, and so friendly! They greeted me in Turkish, and Greek, which made us all smile. He even threw a bit of Cypriot dialect in there. The seating is comfortable, and they are happy to let you sit and talk, even after you're done eating. No hassle, they just let you be.

We started with cold meze platter - taramaslata, houmous, cucumber and mint yoghurt, smoked aubergine garlicky dip, tabbouleh and shakshuka. Olives and stuffed vine leaves were tucked in along with crunchy fresh cucumber slices. A basket of char grilled, soft flatbread comes with it, studded with sesame and nigella seeds. Everything was so good, vibrant and zingy, perking up the taste buds properly. It got mum and dad reminiscing about their trips to the Middle East, sitting out on the sands in Lebanon, eating under the stars surrounded by jasmine. Aw.

Tex also ordered arnavut cigeri – liver cooked with spices and served on a bed of red onions. This is the only way I can eat liver. This one was juicy, and had that smokiness about it too. Perfect.

Next, mains. Two of us had a mixed grill: chicken shish so smoky and tender that you barely needed a knife to cut it, lamb pieces that you could actually cut with a spoon, perfectly crisped lamb chop, and such a gorgeous kofte (minced meat with spices, pressed onto a long skewer) that we were speechless for a bit. Rice comes with that on the plate, and they brought a huge bowl of very fresh salad as well.

Mom had the vegetable moussaka, which was a very generous serving, lots of veggies, topped with a cheese sauce.
Dad had lamb guveƧ, a very hearty casserole with lots of vegetables and tender lamb cubes.
All of us were full, so they packed leftovers for us to take home.

We did manage dessert; sadly the rice pudding wasn’t on that day, but the pastries were in! The baklava and kataifi are all pistachio filled, and come warm, with ice cream. A very nice touch. They brought us complimentary Turkish tea at the end of the meal, and a plate of proper Turkish delight, soft and sticky.

There was nothing I could fault them on. Kind, very friendly service, and excellent food, making us feel like we'd known them for years. (We haven't!) We're already planning when we can get back to Bury to see the in-laws, and go again. Such a find, visit soon! We've already spotted at least 8 things on the menu we want to try.

£91 for a meal for four, with drinks and desserts? Brilliant!


The Sheesh, 9 Risbygate Street, Bury St Edmunds, IP33


Culinary Genius: calling all cooks!


I’m tempted by this, but I admit, if another cook with an ego steps into my kitchen, I’m not entirely sure it would go well…

Others of a less…Mediterranean disposition may also apply. Winking smile

Have fun, and go for it!


Culinary Genius Flyer


Comfort Soup: Quick Fasolada

I have a feeling that cheap and cheerful comfort foods are going to be big on the menu for a while.

It was so cold today, I couldn’t shake it from my bones, no matter how I wrapped up, and so some sort of soup was on my mind when I got in from work. I knew I had lentils, and split peas, but then I found that I had half a large carrot left that needed using, and an idea formed. Fasolada. A Greek comfort food dish that never fails to hit the spot.

I found a small potato, an onion and some white beans ready cooked in the fridge but I had no fresh celery. You need the celery. Honest.

I do have a celery leaf plant in the garden, but the thought of trying to make my way across a wooden deck already frost rimed and slippery as glass was not appealing, so imagine my joy when I remembered a stash of celery in the freezer. The stalks and the leaves freeze really well, they’re worth saving in a tupperware, and you can use them from frozen. The stalks might turn a bit brown in the freezer, and the leaves will darken, but they’re perfectly alright to cook with.

I didn’t have any bay leaves, or I’d have added one of those in to the stock as well, but you make do with what you have.

This is not a highly spiced soup, it’s soothing, and gentle, but you can of course add garlic or chilli if you want to.

1/2 a medium sized red onion, thinly sliced

Half a large carrot, sliced into thin rounds (about a 3” piece)

1 small Cyprus potato, or any waxy potato, cubed

1 celery stalk, chopped finely plus leaves

700ml stock (I use Essential Cuisine chicken, which is not very salty)

1 tsp tomato paste

1 cup dried white beans, soaked overnight and cooked til tender (or a 400g can, drained)

Pour a good glug of extra virgin olive oil into a large pan. I realise that this is not a useful measurement, so it’s probably around 3 to 4 tablespoons. This will also be a flavouring as well as a cooking medium, which is why I use extra virgin.

Pop in the onions, celery and carrot, stir to coat them with the oil, and cook gently until the onion is soft.

Add the beans, the tomato paste and the stock, give it a good stir and simmer for about half an hour.

Then add in the potato. Simmer again until the potato is tender. If the soup has condensed a little, just add a little more water.

Taste to see if you need to add salt, as some stocks are quite salty, and serve with a drizzle of olive oil and some crusty bread if you wish, or some cubed feta on top.

It is not a pretty soup to look at, but it is tasty, filling and warming.

Fasolada soup