It seems a long time since I posted any bento, and I do feel quite ashamed that the project I was so devoted to initially fell so hard by the wayside. I still love my bento box and accessories, but I’ve changed my lunchtime habits and somehow that changed how I saw bento making and eating. This may be a temporary state of affairs, or it may not; I’m not going to give myself a hard time over a packed lunch, that’s for sure.
Before my bento adventures tailed off, I made this one, with the rather striking component of Yucatan-style slow roasted pork. Here is the bento in its entirety:
I kept the other ingredients in the bento simple, because the pork is so strongly flavoured, and had mini pulled pork pittas with a side of asparagus and a fruit salad (which was just banana and kiwi fruit) for afterwards. Here is a closer shot of the pork so you can begin to really appreciate its colour, though sadly I can’t share the gorgeous (and yes, garlicky) aroma.
This pork recipe involves a bit of effort up front, but once it’s in the oven it’s low maintenance so you can get on with whatever it is you want to get on with while it cooks and fills your house with a spicy, savoury fragrance. The effort begins with finding annatto seeds, which I picked up easily at my shop of choice for all things Mexican and many things from other places round the world, Lupe Pintos. There are branches in Glasgow and Edinburgh and I’d recommend taking a look, though make sure there’s plenty in your wallet because there will be oh so many things you want to buy. They also have an online store – very dangerous. I was very focussed on this occasion and bought only the annatto seeds… and some mate tea bags… but that was all! It so happened that I’d bought ancho chilis and pimenton, two of the other ingredients in the recipe, on previous trips to Lupe Pintos, so I was all set to get started.
The spice paste is truly vibrant, with a bright red-orange colour from the annatto seeds. I’m not saying it looks pretty, particularly not when piled up on top of a hunk of raw meat, which is how I seem to have chosen to display it, but the colour is remarkable. Get your nose too close to it and you’re in for a surprise, too; the unwary sniffer may go away with fewer nose hairs than previously. The coriander, pimenton (smoked Spanish paprika), orange, beer and chilis fight it out in a battle for smell supremacy, though after five hours in the oven together they seemed to have resolved their differences and be living in blissful spicy harmony.
I’ve never cooked anything like this pork before, it has masses of flavour and the slow roasting means its moist and tender; it took mere minutes to shred the whole shoulder of pork with a fork, just a little pressure on the meat and it fell apart most enthusiastically. You can then add as much or as little of the cooking juices as you like back into the shredded meat, to intensify the flavour.You end up with a LOT of pork, so make this for a group or if you have the BFG coming for dinner.