Simple Pork in Cream Sauce

This is loosely based on Cotes de Porc Sauce Nenette, from Julia Child. It’s very forgiving, and usually needs very little shopping. Extras freeze well, and you can double up the sauce without a problem.

You want pork shoulder steak, or thick chops – something that isn’t too tender like a medallion, or too fatty like belly. If you ask the butcher (or look on the packet) for something that would take 15-20 minutes to grill, you’re on the right track.

For the sauce, you need garlic, tomato paste, wholegrain mustard, and creme fraiche.

Brown the meat in a little bit of oil in a heavy pan, on both sides. When it’s seared, tip in a chopped clove of garlic, 2 teaspoons of tomato paste, and 3 of wholegrain mustard. Stir it around well, and add 250ml of creme fraiche (a whole small tub). Stir again and get it up to a lively simmer, leave it for about 20 minutes (with the lid off).

The sauce should thicken and concentrate. Taste it near the end and add salt if you think it needs it. If it gets too thick, a bit of chicken stock of water will loosen it up. If it’s not thick enough when you want to serve it, take the meat out and keep it warm while you boil the sauce down.

This amount of sauce will do for about 3 big chops or four small steaks. You could also get cubed casserole meat (leg or collar), start if the same way and then stew it slowly in the oven for a few hours.

If you like added veggies, you can put chopped red and yellow peppers, or onions, or mushrooms, in while the meat is browning. And you can increase the garlic to taste.

I sometimes put chopped fresh herbs in at the very end – basil if I’ve used peppers, parsley with mushrooms, tarragon or chives if it’s plain.

It’s good with plain rice, potatoes, pasta, seasonal veggies or a crisp bitter salad.

Rhubarb Rhubarb

In the veggie box this week, there was rhubarb. It’s a pearly light green fading to dusky pink, crisp like celery, and smells so fresh and sharp. As a rule we don’t eat puddings, and I don’t do a lot of baking. So although my very soul cries out Crumble! and Custard! my brain is saying, no, think savoury, it came in the veggie box, after all.

I asked Twitter, and it said chutney / relish / salsa, or soup. Research into soup found some amazing Scandinavian recipes for cold soups, with herbs and cream. Mint, or dill. Those do sound fab, but the weather is still just too wintry for a chilled sharp soup.  Chutney? mmm, tempting. Something light and lemony, with a white vinegar. Or thick and dark brown, with added dried fruit.

Still not quite right, though. So I went and asked Teh Internetz Proper, and there was an underlying stream of Middle-Eastern recipes using rhubarb in pilaffs, sweet and sour sauces with meat, and tagine-type dishes. Of course, I thought, anywhere you would put preserved lemon, or lots of pomegranate, you could fiddle around with it and use rhubarb. Different texture, and you have to take the bulk of it into account.

In the oven at the moment, pootling along at Gas Mark 4, is a chicken and rhubarb dish. It started out as:

3 chicken thighs, skin browned in a plentiful amount of olive oil.

Plus:

  • 1 fat leek, chopped
  • 3 giant cloves of garlic, roughly crushed
  • Cinnamon stick, cumin seed, red chilli flakes, dried oregano, dried mint, black pepper
  • 2 sticks of rhubarb, peeled to remove any strings, and cut in  pieces, about 2 cms.

I turned the chicken over so the skin side was up, browned the other side in the now spicy oil, and added enough chicken stock to cover the veg and leave the chicken skin dry to roast it. (Which also gave it some salt.)

After about half an hour or so, I shall investigate and see how sharp it is. At that point I may add something sweet if it needs it – apricot puree, dates, straight sugar, pomegranate molasses. The leek and garlic should have mellowed it out a bit.

Or I may leave it tart, and make a sweeter couscous to go with it and balance it off.

I’ll finish it with some fresh mint, or maybe put that in a cucumber and sorrel salad.

If it works, there is more in next week’s box. I’m running through my preserved lemon favourites – duck and black olives, pork or lamb stuffed with apricots and pistachios …

Planning Ahead

Now I've gone back to work, I'm finding it diffcult to guarantee enough energy to cook properly in the evenings. Plus it's COLD, and we want the sort of food that takes ages and ages. And we're poor. So I've been cooking several stews or similar over the weekend, that can just be finished off and reheated. Today I've made:

  • red cabbage in red wine, with onions, bacon, goose dripping, thyme, bay and lots of pepper – to be finished with vacuum packed chestnuts and to eat with gammon steaks and baked potato if we're really hungry
  • beef braised with fresh ginger, star anise, slices of mandarin orange, lots of carrots, beef stock and sake

I've got something with celeriac and blue cheese in the pipeline, but that will have to be last minute. There's a curry sauce and veg waiting to be stir-fried with some chicken. Which makes four huge meals and puts me ahead of the game. In the past few weeks we've had:

  • goose legs cooked in fat with garlic and thyme in the slow-cooker, fished out and flashroasted
  • venison liver braised with bacon and lots of red onion in stock and redcurrant jelly
  • soft tortillas stuffed with beans, or veg, or chilli, coated with spicy tomato sauce, topped with cheese and baked
  • giant suet herb dumplings cooked in thin veg soup

The larger Christmas meats are beginning to show up now, especially in freezers, and I'm thinking about how to do those and then portion them up.

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Sausage Pie

I bought a tube of good sausagemeat at the farmers' market on Thursday. Today I spread it in the bottom of a square baking dish (it came out about a quarter inch thick). Then I topped it with some slabs of mature cheddar, and spread those with wholegrain mustard. I had a tin of pear halves hanging about, so I put a half a pear in each corner of the dish. Topped the whole lot with a square of ready rolled puff pastry, and baked at gas mark 7 for 40 minutes.

We ate all of it, with some peas, but with some more forethought and some potatoes and other veg, it would have easily served four.

I've been thinking of variations –

  • cheese and branston pickle
  • a layer of braised red cabbage, maybe with chestnuts
  • apple sauce or chunks of apple instead of the pear
  • cranberries
  • a chunky tomato sauce
  • hard boiled eggs
  • apricots / dried fruit and maybe some curry powder
  • blue cheese and braised celery or chicory

all of them easy to do, easy to make in advance, cheap, filling and tasty.

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Kidney stuffed potato

Cheap and yummy, what more could you want? Get a big baking potato, lay it flat and slice off the top. Scoop out a hollow in the big piece (a melon baller really helps), season it, and drop in a cored lamb kidney. Put the top back on and bake it at about Gas Mark 5 for about an hour and a half.

The potato is crisp, the kidney is gently cooked and moist, and the juices have oozed through into the floury potato inside.

I served it with broad beans in a mustard cream dressing. Next time I might put a bit of butter and mustard in the potato underneath the kidney. It would be good with a bitter green salad, or breakfast things like baked beans or mushrooms. I'll have to make spare next time, it drove the cat beserk – worse than catnip.

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Best kedgeree ever

I never thought of kedgeree as a budget supper dish before, but the astonishing cheapness of smoked hoki the other day persuaded me otherwise.

  • Cooked white rice
  • Smoked fish (boneless skinless smoked hoki fillet)
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Leftover peas from a roast dinner
  • Leftover kashmiri veggie curry (sweet and creamy with bananas – about half a takeaway portion)

I used a wok. Cut the fish into bite size pieces, and stir fried. Add the rice and peas, stir fry again until hot through. Add curry (or mild curry paste and sour cream if no spare leftover curry), some pepper, no salt as the fish and curry are salty enough. Stir in chopped hard boiled eggs. I would have put in a load of fresh chopped parsley, but John doesn't like it.

It was gorgeous. One fillet and three eggs made about four servings, and it was creamy, rich and very moreish. Didn't need any side dishes or extras, and you could stretch it easily with more rice and green veg.

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The Fifth Quarter – an offal cookbook

I borrowed this from the library, hoping to find some recession-proof recipes. It's not brilliant for that, a bit too esoteric (Anissa Helou, the author, mentions her good friend Arabella Boxer which is a Big Clue, not to mention the foreword by Hugh Fearney-Wittingstall.). A lot of the offal is of academic interest as it's difficult to get, and many of the recipes are so ethnic they're virtually impossible. Brains and lamb tripe are not easy to find, but goose feet and abalone (at least one of which is endangered) are in the You're Just Avin A Larf category. As is Singapore Fish Head Curry. There were some good hints and tips buried in it though.

I had always thought of heart as a long-cooking casserole meat (although I've had cold smoked moose heart, which was gorgeous), but apparently lamb heart and liver make a good mix and can go on a bbq kebab or be grilled briefly. Lots of yummy Moroccan flavours.

You can hollow out a giant potato, bury a well-seasoned lamb kidney in it, and bake it. We're trying that one this week.

Kidney can feature in Chinese dishes, stir-fried and with a sweet and sour sauce. Liver salad with a Chinese sesame and garlic dressing.

There was also a recipe for Little Pots of Curried Kidneys which is basically a very mild extra-creamy curry sauce, with kidneys and onions fried in butter mixed in, topped with breadcrumbs and briefly flash-baked. Looks like a good breakfast, or starter, or lunch with kedgeree.

A Spanish recipe for pig's trotters simmered with onion, tomato, garlic, with added prunes and pine nuts, thickened with ground almonds and crushed biscuit. That would do for a belly pork or lamb breast as well, I would think.

It was an interesting book to read, difficult because there is a lot of text on darkly coloured pages. I wasn't sure whether the aim of it was to enthuse me or gross me out (tripe makes me heave at the best of times, but fish tripe?), but it's certainly given me a few ideas. I certainly wouldn't buy my own copy, though.

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