Cooking sous vide is amazing. It feels like a scientific experiment. Cooking in plastic bags feels like something you might do on a spaceship.
This used to be a technique used mainly in restaurants, but you can get quite cheap domestic machines now that sous vide cooking is increasing in popularity. I’ve spent the last couple of months experimenting to get my own understanding of what works and what doesn’t work.
Cooking sous vide under pressure and in the small vacuum bag really seems to make the flavour that you put on food (even without liquid, like fresh herbs) go right through the meat evenly and thoroughly. It means you don’t need a lot of sauce or marinade to make a big impact. Plus, because the bag is sealed, moisture doesn’t seep out and the meat stays moist.
Cooking at a steady low temperature means you can get your meat to the perfect temperature – if you like it medium rare, it will be medium rare, no matter how long you cook it (within reason).
I’ve also found that although it sounds complex and time consuming, it’s very low maintenance. I never really got into the whole slow cooker craze, but for this pork fillet I put it in the sous vide machine in the morning before work and forgot about it for ten hours. It was absolutely perfect and ready to pull out and sear when I was ready to eat dinner that night.
The recipe I put together for a sous vide pork fillet is below, but the basic idea of adding some herbs and a solid fat (like butter or coconut oil) and searing after the sous vide cooking is done to finish off the outside has worked well for me with all kinds of meats. Cheaper cuts of meat will need longer cooking time.
The kale and apple slaw is a great accompaniment which is really nice with pork. If you haven’t been converted to the sous vide yet, the salad is great just with grilled pork chops.
For the sous vide pork fillet
A pork fillet
A sprig of rosemary
A bay leaf
A pinch of salt and pepper
A teaspoon of butter
Bash the salt, pepper, rosemary and thinly sliced bay leaf in a mortar and pestle until the salt goes green. Rub on the pork fillet. Place the pork fillet in your vacuum bag with the butter, rosemary and bay leaf and seal. Cook in the sous vide machine according to the machine instructions. I did mine to 57 degrees Celsius for about ten hours for medium rare.
After it’s finished cooking, pull the bag out of the water bath and the pork fillet out of the bag. It will look a bit grey and unappetising. Don’t worry. Heat up a grill pan or barbecue and sear the outside to give it that final finish and then let rest for a few minutes before serving.
For the kale and apple slaw
Half a of bunch kale (I’ve used the curly kale, baby kale, cavalo nero, red russian… all are good in this)
A quarter of a red cabbage (optional)
A handful of walnuts
One and a half tablespoons good mayonnaise
A tablespoon olive oil
A splash balsamic vinegar
A teaspoon dijon mustard
Salt and pepper
Slice the kale and cabbage (if using) into very thin strips. The thinner the better, especially if the kale is a more bitter variety. I’ve found the larger leaves and the leaves from the supermarket are often tougher and more bitter than those that are homegrown or from the local grocer. Slice the apple into thin strips. Roughly chop the walnuts.
Mix the dressing together, adjusting quantities for taste and consistency. Mix the dressing into the salad. Leaving it for about 15 minutes while you sear the pork will let the dressing soften up the kale a bit, but the apple and walnuts will still give it a nice crunch.
We served the pork with the kale and apple slaw and some bright purple congo potatoes.