The teen turns 16…..

Suddenly I woke up and have a 16 year old son. How did that happen? The years from toddler to teen seem to have sped by. Everyone remembers where they were when 9/11 happened – I was 6 months pregnant and standing in our staff canteen, speechless and shocked by the world I was about to bring my child into. 16 years on, he has chosen to go to New York for part of our Summer holidays… his choice as a post GCSE treat. And why I asked? “Because I want to eat”. He then showed me the NY foodie instagrammers he follows. I find it quite endearing (of course I would have a foodie child) yet ironic that it’s the food scene not the history, music or fashion, or simply because NYC has always been ‘cool’. I first went to New York when I was studying for a semester at UMASS at the age of 21. I loved everything about it, especially walking from one neighbourhood to another and marvelling at the contrast from street to street. As for the food… on a student budget we ate (and drank) really well – from dim sum in Chinatown to cannoli in little Italy and what seemed like endless margaritas and ‘real’ Mexican food. It was a million miles away from London and studenty Oxford!

Back to my 16 year old and his love of food. I wasn’t the mother who banned fast food and ketchup, although it wasn’t always a feature, and I tried to ensure that my sons have been exposed to as many flavours and textures as they could be. My eldest refused to eat mincemeat and sausages until he was about 8 which didn’t make him an easy child to feed on a playdate, but he was happy nibbling on a lamb chop or chicken wing! He still doesn’t eat tomatoes, but will finally have them as part of a sauce. He loves big punchy flavours – heat, sour, salty, sweet…a squeeze of lemon never goes amiss, and his birthday breakfast choice was bagel with smoked salmon, cream cheese, dill, capers & red onion… how very New York!

Mexican/southwest flavours are always a hit – quick easy mid-week suppers include fajitas or grilled chicken/tuna/salmon with avocado salsa and salad/baked sweet potato/rice. So for his birthday supper, his request was pulled pork, Southwest style. I bought a shoulder of pork  – this stays moist and takes in all the flavours during the long slow cook. My corn tortillas came from California – I brought them back from a trip there and they’ve been in the freezer ever since (good old Trader Joes). You can get them in the UK online from Cool Chile company, but wheat tortillas are OK too.

For the pulled Pork – I marinated this 2.5kg hunk of meat for a couple of hours in a rub. I created this but didn’t write down the exact measurements – it was roughly 2 TBS of smoked paprika and brown sugar, plus 1 tsp celery salt, 1 tsp dried oregano, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp salt. Rub this into the meat, marinate for 2 hours and then put into a high over (220) for 30 minutes to brown. Once the meat has browned, then cover with tinfoil and turn the heat down to 130 and cook for 3 hours. Its not exact – prod it and see if the meat is falling apart. Once done, keep covered and rest.

It’s the accompaniments that are the best… Guacamole (smashed avocado, garlic, lime juice, salt, pinch of chilli powder and chopped coriander), Pickled red onions (Sliced, add pinch of rock salt, juice of one lime – marinate for 30 mins), sour cream and tortillas. I also made a roasted tomato & chilli salsa – roast 6 tomatoes, 1 red chilli and 3 cloves of garlic in a hot pan until a little charred. Put into a chopper with a pinch of salt, 1/2 red onion and a handful of coriander. Whizz its but keep it chunky. (also delicious with tortilla chips!) And finally – serve with a slaw dressed with a tangy citrus dressing which provides a foil against the rich pork, and a crunch texture.

A dream meal for my hungry teens… lots of flavour which pack a punch, the ability to graze and turn the heat up or down, and above all, eat with their hands… after all, why would one need to use cutlery?!

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