I have accelerated rapidly from ‘just adding sprouts to a few dishes in small quantities’ through to ‘adding them to everything including those I promised I wouldn’t’. A pal pointed out I’d once lamented the overuse of these mini cabbages saying – and this is a direct quote – ‘God help us but it’s only a matter of time before someone dishes up a sprout Caesar’.

A sprout Caesar is the last recipe I posted on this website.

So yes, fine, I have given in to the sprouts because I feel like they’re just so much more interesting now I’m shredding them, which is ridiculous because I’ve been doing this for years. I’m adding them to fried rice, coleslaw, gözleme, CAESAR SALAD and now dumplings in lieu of cabbage, with pork.

Potstickers are one of my favourite carbs and… oh ok all carbs are my favourite carbs. Look, potstickers are easy to make if you don’t bother with the fancy pleating – tip: they will taste the same unpleated – and they freeze well which means you can always have an arsenal of hangover-smashing pork cushions on hand.

I’m going to try making my own dumpling wrappers next time because the frozen ones tend to get brittle around the edges which makes them a bit harder to seal. Other than that, it’s very simple. You will probably have filling leftover and I suggest you fry it and eat it on top of rice for a quick and satisfying lunch the next day.

Pork and Brussels Sprout Pot Stickers Recipe

This is quite a basic recipe which you can add to for e.g. some rehydrated dried mushrooms such as shitake would boost the umami or you could change the sprouts for the more traditional cabbage, add some minced prawns and so on.

2 packets frozen dumpling wrappers, available from Asian supermarkets (each pack had 16 in it I think) – defrosted!
75g sprouts, shredded
8 Chinese garlic chives (or a few spring onions), finely chopped
150g fatty minced pork (the fat is really important otherwise the dumplings will be dry)
2 tablespoons light soy
1.5 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon ginger, grated or finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, grated or crushed
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons oil, for frying
Spring onions, for garnish
1 teaspoon cornflour mixed with a couple of tablespoons of water, for sealing the dumplings

Serve with a dipping sauce made from 3 tablespoons dark soy, 2 tablespoons black vinegar, a teaspoon sesame oil and a little diced ginger and chilli – or whatever you prefer! Often I add chilli oil.

Plunge the shredded sprouts into a pan of boiling water and when they come back to the boil, drain and refresh under cold water. Dry thoroughly.

Mix the pork with the sprouts, chives (or spring onions), light soy, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, white pepper, sugar and salt. You can cook a small piece at this point if you want to check the seasoning.

Take a dumpling wrapper (keep the open packet underneath a damp tea towel to prevent them drying out) and place a teaspoon of filling into the middle. Wet the edge of the dumpling wrapper with the cornflour and water mix) and then bring up the edges. Use your middle finger to push one edge of the wrapper and make a pleat, closing with your opposite thumb (this is much easier than it sounds when you have a go at it). Repeat to make as many pleats as you like, then do the same on the other side. If you don’t want to pleat the dumplings, just press the edges together. I just remembered my mate Lizzie has a video on her blog!

Repeat with all the wrappers. Press the finished dumpling down onto a lightly floured surface to give it a flat bottom, then repeat until all the filling is used up. To cook, heat a lidded frying pan (preferably with a heavy base) over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of oil, brushing to distribute evenly. Arrange the dumplings in a circle until the pan is full and fry for a couple of minutes until the bottoms have browned. Carefully splash in a couple of tablespoons of water – it will spit and hiss furiously, so put the lid on. Steam the dumplings for around 3 minutes, adding another splash of water if it runs dry. Check the dumplings are nicely browned on the bottom. Serve the dumplings with the dipping sauce.

You can forget your apple sauce, pal – quince and scotch bonnet is where it’s at. I’ve combined them in a hot sauce before but this is more of a quince mush with chilli in it, which is a lot nicer than I’ve just made it sound. It’s a fruit sauce for pork, south London style. The quinces we bought in Peckham’s General Store and the scotch bonnets well, they’re everywhere. Colourful little buggers.

The pork is rubbed with scotch bonnet powder so the crackling and outer meat is spicy too but you could just roast it simply with salt. This reduction in overall heat will also help with the problem of what to serve on the side. Vegetables make sense but the carbs are trickier. The first time I made a sort of spiced pilaf which took things off in another direction entirely and we’ve also had it in baps with mustard and a cabbagey ‘slaw like a spicy hog roast.


Anyway, it’s a very fun thing to do with quinces which are at their fragrant, knobbly best right now. Snap ’em up in the shops or – ideally – steal them from someone’s garden. They may even give them to you! I dunno. Things like that mainly happen outside of London.

Roast Pork Belly with Quince and Scotch Bonnet Sauce Recipe

1.6kg piece pork belly (or thereabouts) cut from the meaty shoulder end, with ribs attached (this is just my preference because then you get the tasty ribs as well)
2 tablespoons sea salt
2 tablespoons scotch bonnet powder (I buy this in Peckham but you can also buy online)
2 large quinces
1 fresh scotch bonnet chilli
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice (plus a bit extra for prepping the quinces)

If you have the pork belly the day before, pat the skin dry, score it, then leave it uncovered in the fridge overnight to dry out. If not, just pat it dry then score it. Remove any tough white membrane from the top of the rib section.

Preheat the oven to 220C.

Mix the salt and scotch bonnet powder (if using) and rub this all over the pork belly. Place it on a rack in a roasting tray and roast for 20 minutes.

Turn the oven down to 140C and cook for 1 hour 20 minutes, then whack it back up to 220C for a final 20 minutes. This should give you great crackling.

For the quince sauce, peel and stone the quinces, cutting them into segments – you’ll need to pop them in some water with a squeeze of lemon juice in it while you do this, to stop them turning brown.

Cover them with water in a saucepan and add the scotch bonnet (leave it whole) and the honey. Cook until soft, around 1 hour. Remove the chilli and drain. Blend the fruit and stir in the lemon juice. Season with salt. Serve with the pork!

Grilled pork banh mi recipe

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt about bánh mì, it’s that the variations are endless; the bread comes in tiny skinny baguette shapes with just pâté inside, or sometimes in round ‘bap’ shapes. Pickles are not limited to carrot and daikon, and protein not to pork, chicken or fish. I actually saw a version on YouTube stuffed with dumplings. I KNOW. 

Grilled Pork Banh Mi Recipe

Knowing that the fillings are so readily adapted to the whims and fancy of the maker freed me up a little bit to have some fun with this recipe. It had to be grilled because you know I love my barbecue and if there’s one enduring memory I have from Vietnam it’s the scent of pork grilling on the streets. My recipe uses diced pork shoulder, which grills nicely, staying bouncy and tender but also retaining some chew. Important ingredients in the marinade are fish sauce, lemongrass, sesame seeds and… a can of Ting. Yeah, that’s right, this is a South London special. For those of you further afield, Ting is a soft drink that’s popular in the Caribbean (and South London), flavoured with Jamaican grapefruit.

I’ve done quite a classic pickle with carrot and daikon but one time I ran out of radish and used cauliflower stalks and that was good too. Like I said, this should be a free and easy sandwich. I do, however, recommend adding the scotch bonnets to the pickle – the vinegar mellows them and you’re left with the fruity flavour. Another local touch.

Grilled Pork Banh Mi Recipe

Finally, there’s the bread, which is notoriously tricky to replicate at home. These are simply shop bought baguettes, brushed with soy and oil and grilled on the barbecue, as per a regional variation I found out about on Youtube. It’s from Lạng Sơn, apparently, and it’s great because you get that ultra-crackly crust you want from a banh mi and it’s extra savoury from the soy.

There are a lot of myths surrounding the bánh mì and how it’s made (particularly the bread) but if there’s one thing I’ve found out it’s that this sandwich really isn’t as complicated as people think, nor are its ingredients set in stone.

Grilled pork banh mi recipe

Grilled Pork Bánh Mì Recipe

For the marinade

You can marinate the meat the night before if you like but an hour or so is fine with pieces of meat this size, to be honest. You can either skewer the meat or cook it in a cage (the same thing you’d use to cook fish), which is what I do.

1 kg diced pork shoulder

1 can Ting (I guess the nearest substitute would be Lilt)
3 banana shallots
2 stalks lemongrass, hard outer bit removed
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon good sea salt
1/2 tablespoon black pepper
1 teaspoon MSG (optional)
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons fish sauce (Three Crabs is the one I use – you can buy it in Asian supermarkets but obviously use whatever you can get)
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1/2 tablespoon vegetable or groundnut oil
1 tablespoon regular chilli flakes

For the pickle

2 carrots, cut into batons
Half a daikon, cut into batons
200ml rice vinegar
200ml water
1 scotch bonnet chilli, de-seeded and finely sliced
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar

For the sandwich

4 baguettes
2 tablespoons soy sauce mixed with 2 tablespoons vegetable or groundnut oil
Coriander and mint
Cucumber, cut into long strips
2 spring onions very finely sliced and mixed with just enough olive oil to loosen

To make the marinade, mix all the ingredients together and combine with the pork. To cook the pork, prep a barbecue for direct grilling. When the flames have died down and the coals are covered in white ash, it’s ready.

Get your meat ready in the cage in a single layer (or on skewers) and cook, flipping frequently until just cooked through and caramelised on the outside – around 10 minutes.

Brush the baguettes with the oil and soy mixture and briefly grill until crisp.

Cut the baguettes open and scoop out some of the fluffy insides (room for more filling), then spread one side with butter and one side with mayo – both GENEROUSLY. Don’t skimp, you will ruin the sandwich.

Layer up with cucumber, pickle, the pork, loads of fresh herbs and the spring onion oil on top. Eat – like you mean it.