The ‘Rule of Quarters’ and an easy Friday night dinner: pulled pork soft tacos!

You can attribute my obsession with soft tacos to a TV show called ‘The Great Food Truck Race’. It used to air on the ABC, and pitted gourmet food trucks against each other to compete in cooking challenges and earn enough money through to move on to the next town… now that’s the kind of reality TV I can get behind! Masterchef, with its drawn-out ‘drama’ and unskilled chef-testants, was never my thing. Give me actual, trained chefs with new and interesting ideas anyday!

…but I digress.

Soft tacos were a popular menu item on ‘The Great Food Truck Race’, since they’re so versatile, quick to assemble and easy to handle (it was a street food competition, after all). I now make sure that I’ve always got multigrain tortillas in my freezer, ready to defrost for an easy lunch or dinner. All you need to go with the tortilla is some sort of lean protein (prawns are my go-to choice, since they can be easily stir fried with some garlic, chilli, pepper and my surprisingly low-calorie sauce of choice: Old El Paso Enchilada Sauce) and some sort of salad (I always have spinach in the fridge, so there’s that, but cherry tomatoes, lebanese cucumber or red capsicum are great as well). Then, chuck a bit of low-fat cheese on if you like, and you have a healthy dinner in no time at all.

This time, though, I wanted to do something a little bit different. I’d had pulled pork a few times, most recently at Mrs S on a recent trip to Perth. If you haven’t had it before, it’s quite an experience – the most tender meat you could possibly eat. It’s called ‘pulled pork’ because it’s so soft you can pull it straight off the bone – no chopping required! So after picking up a slow cooker last week for a song, I thought I’d give it a proper try. This is adapted from a recipe my sister sent to me, by Bill Granger, and it’s fantastic – you can either use a slow cooker if you have one, or just throw it in the oven!

Bill’s Pulled Pork

  • Juice and zest 1 orange
  • 1 tbsp chilli paste
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped (or 3 tsp garlic paste if you’re lazy like me)
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 60g sugar
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1kg boneless pork shoulder

Place the orange zest and juice, chilli, garlic, salt, sugar and white wine vinegar into a food processor and whizz to a paste. Rub all over the meat and marinate in a high-sided baking dish overnight or for at least 2 hours. 

Place the meat and marinade into your slow-cooker, cover with enough water to fill the bowl to the half-way point and cook for 5-8 hours or until so tender that it falls apart when you nudge it with a fork.

Or, if you’re oven-ing it up:

Heat the oven to 160C. Add 100ml of water to the baking dish, cover and cook for 3 hours; top up with a little water during cooking as required. The meat should be tender when tested with a fork.

Ta-da! This makes quite a lot, so you can always halve the recipe, but I like to keep it in the fridge to use throughout the week. I mean, you’re going through all the effort of making a marinade and cooking something for hours. You might as well enjoy the delicious fruits of your labours for days to come! For example, in a…

Soft Taco!

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This was tonight’s dinner. Dead easy (provided you’ve already made the pulled pork, of course). I added a bit of soy sauce, honey, white wine vinegar, pepper and enchilada sauce to my pork… the classic approach is barbecue sauce, but I didn’t have any on hand, and honestly it tastes amazing with whatever you want to throw at it. Then I warmed up a multigrain tortilla and added spinach, beetroot and pickles. I like a bit of a side salad with my soft tacos but all I had on hand was spinach (lucky I like it so much) and tomatoes, so a ‘minimalist’ spinach and tomato salad it was!

Before I started eating healthily, I would have baulked at the idea of a side salad for a taco. There’s salad in it already! But I’ve discovered something great, and that is the Rule of Quarters. Basically, when you look at your plate, it should be composed of:

  • 1/4 lean protein
  • 1/4 carb
  • 1/2 salad or veggies

Obviously, this is easiest to figure out if you’re doing a ‘meat and three veg’ kind of dinner. But you can use the POWER of your IMAGINATION to figure it out for other kinds of meals. If I’d had two tacos and no side salad instead of the above meal, no doubt my plate would be more than 1/4 carbs. Despite being the healthiest tortillas around, the ones you see above are still 150 calories each, you know! The point is, you get most of your essential nutrients from your veggies, so that’s what you should be filling up on. Carbs and protein are important too (not to mention delicious) but if your plates are usually half meat, 1/3 potato and a teensy smathering of peas, you’re probably not getting all the nutrients you need. And if you’re trying to lose weight… you probably need to eat more vegetables. Luckily vegetables are awesome, though. Like spinach! Right? …guys?

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