So apparently it’s the 75th anniversary of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series. I, like many of my generation, grew up with Julian, Dick, Anne, George (never Georgina) and Timmy the dog. Apart from the riveting adventures that seemed to mark every one of their holiday breaks, the books gave a glimpse into a dated plethora of British food – ham and tongue sandwiches, scones, blancmange, ginger beer and sticky buns. For us Asian kids sheer across the globe and growing up with rice, sweet and sour pork and noodles, this was both fascinating and titillating at the same time. I used to wonder why my life was so much more staid in comparison to the Famous Five’s, and this was indeed tribute to an author who could keep the reader riveted to a rollercoaster of adventures.
The book that made me want to eat scones and have a dog.
I suspect the reason why the adventures flowed easily was because the food was easy picnic food and could survive clambering up and down cliffs and hiding in caves. The closest food equivalent I would have had growing up would be Char Siew Pao (a Chinese meat bun) and sambal sandwiches. Our typical Asian dishes would have been too complicated to pop into picnic baskets. I remember going on school excursions and being given a Tupperware of fried rice. I think the Famous Five would have found it too complicated to cope with my excursion food and dealing with the crooks at the same time.
It was only a decade after my Enid Blyton days that Singapore started to have an influx of American type foods – fresh sausages, wraps, milk shakes and mac and cheese. Of course, time has also changed food choices worldwide and some of the staples Enid Blyton wrote about are now almost extinct – treacle tart, blancmange…one would actually only see these in Heston Blumenthal’s re-enactment of foods of Britain’s past.
I must say that one of the biggest changes over time has been the introduction of convenience foods. This was an attractive proposition with the increase of women working out of the home – most had little energy to make complicated meals after a long day at work. But unfortunately this also signaled the advent of unhealthy processed stuff made up of indecipherable bits of animal parts or a slurry of chemicals. And times have moved even further and people are learning the wisdom of going back to the basics and many are now moving back to cooking whole and real food once more.
Nowadays however we get to cook real food with much better tools. My Instant Pot pressure functions like a dream and there is no more scary manipulation of the screaming pressure valve that I used to see my mom struggling with. And I confess my Instant Pot has made me a really lazy cook. Or at least I would say a cook that can multifunction and do other stuff and walk away from the pot!
For this pulled pork recipe, I literally spent 10-15 minutes actual prep and cooking time (just to sauté the onions and garlic) and I let the Instant Pot do it’s work while I left the house to fetch kid#2 from school. Kid#2 was tired and jaded from 5 hours straight of Chinese coaching and she was roaringly hungry when she got home. It helped that the pork was cooked and all I needed to do was to shred the pork, wash the salad greens and assemble the pulled pork wraps. This pulled pork recipe is a little different from the usual red BBQ sauce-based pulled pork recipes. Mustard gives a gentle heat and the sweet salty flavours is a brilliant counterpoint to the pork.
Kid#2 said she loved me and had 2 wraps (I think she was really hungry!). This was a fantastic weekday dinner and the leftovers would be easy to use the next day. Her verdict is that this recipe is a keeper!
Instant Pot Mustard Pulled Pork
- 1 kg pork cubes
- 2 onions, chopped
- 6-7 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 tbsp mustard seeds
- 3 tsp Colman’s mustard powder
- 1 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup water
- 3/4 cup sugar substitute
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 2 tbsp oil
- Heat the oil in the pot on sauté mode.
- Sauté the onion and garlic for 4-5 minutes till translucent and fragrant. Add the mustard seeds and sauté another minute.
- Add the apple cider vinegar, water, mustard powder, crushed red pepper flakes, turmeric, onion powder, sugar substitute, salt and Worcestershire sauce and stir through.
- Add the pork cubes and make sure the pork is fully immersed in the cooking liquid.
- Seal the pot and put on manual high pressure for 45 minutes.
- When done, do a quick pressure release. Take out the pork cubes and place in a casserole or bowl and shred the meat with 2 forks. In the meantime, put the pot back on sauté mode and reduce the remaining gravy for about 15 minutes.
- Pour the reduced gravy over the shredded pork. Serve hot in a wrap with salad greens.