Are you looking for something a little different to feed the family? Give a boil-up with pork bones a try. This simple to prepare meal is a traditional favorite among New Zealand Maori.
While most of us tend to think of pork as being high in fat, the meat from pork bones contains very little fat at all. Many people also assume that pork bones are tough to eat. With the slow boil-up method, however, the meat is deliciously tender. Dough boys, a kind of dumpling, are also used in a classic pork bones boil-up although they are not a necessity. Once you have tried your first boil-up, you can adjust any of the ingredients to suit your taste.
Start with a good sized pot. The pot needs to be large enough to hold all the pork bones and vegetables you are using. It is also possible to cook pork bones in a slow-cooker or a pressure cooker although the results will be a little different from the more traditional stove boil-up.
Gather your ingredients:
Aim for around 3-4 pork bones per person, depending on the size of the bones and individual appetites. While pork bones are often readily available at supermarkets, sometimes in the pet food department, you may have difficulty finding them in your area. If this is the case, ask your local butcher to save some pork bones for you or put you onto a local supplier. Any pork bones will do for a boil-up, apart from trotters which are too fatty and gelatinous, but many people prefer the backbones.
While any kind of potatoes will do, large boiling potatoes that will hold their shape are best. You can choose to peel the potatoes or simply scrub them well and cook them in their skins.
The traditional green vegetable used in a pork boil-up is either Puha (sow thistle) or watercress. Watercress is a firm favorite with many people. You will need plenty of either of these vegetables as they will reduce by almost half in the pot.
Cabbage is also a good option to use although it does take a little longer to cook than other greens. Because the cabbage is cooked in the liquor from the meat it doesn’t have that dreaded over-boiled cabbage taste. Use either a half or a whole cabbage. Don’t cut the cabbage into pieces or remove the tough stalk. Cabbage is easier to serve if cut into halves or quarters.
Silverbeet (swiss chard), spinach, or any Asian greens are also possibilities if your choice is limited. Wash the leaves well and use them whole.
Whole carrots or corn cobs are other additional options you can put in your boil-up.
Put your pork bones into a large pot, cover well with water, add a teaspoon or two of salt, cover, and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and keep on a good simmer. Check the pot after about an hour and a half and skim off any scum that may have formed on the surface. Move to the next step or leave the pork bones simmering even longer until the meat is nearly falling off the bones.
Add the potatoes and carrots (if using) and allow the pot to boil gently for another 15-20 minutes.
Add the green vegetables of your choice without stirring them in. Just pop the vegetables on top, replace the lid, and leave them to cook thoroughly. Cabbage should be added sooner than other greens because it takes longer to cook.
When the vegetables are almost done, drop in spoonfuls of the dough boy mixture (if using) and allow these to cook with the lid off. Turn the dough boys once with tongs or a fork.
To make dough boy dumplings:
In a bowl place about a cup (more if required) of self-raising flour. Alternatively you can use plain flour with 2 teaspoons of baking powder:
Add salt and pepper to taste and stir in well.
Some people like to add fresh or dried herbs as well. A dash of curry powder, mustard powder, or paprika is also a possibility. There is no need to overdo the flavoring as the dough will pick up the flavors from the meat and vegetable water.
Add cold water, a little at a time while stirring, until the dough is sticky, but holds together on a spoon. For firmer dough boys use less water or add more flour. Drop spoonfuls of the mix into the boil-up pot and simmer for a few minutes until cooked through.
Dish up with a slotted spoon. Add more salt and pepper if desired. Mustard sauce makes a pleasant accompaniment to pork bones. Left over meat and vegetables taste great re-heated the next day. If you are trying to save money you can also refrigerate or freeze the stock and treat it as a soup.
While a pork bones boil-up needs a little thinking to start cooking in time, the whole dish takes very little time or effort to prepare. Pork bones are a low cost, low fat, and delicious meal all cooked in one pot!