Pork Chops with Mustard and Cream

pork-chopsWe don't often eat pork chops in my house. We've had the fear put into us by my mother-in-law that we will have a terrible night's sleep if we eat pork in the evening. Also, I've possibly been put off it by years of having to endure eating grey, leathery shoe-sole tasteless meat disguising itself as food. You'd think it was still wartime the way some people still cook it.

Make sure you but good quality pork, from well looked after pigs. That's a good place to start. And don't be scared of it being a little pink in the middle. That way, it will be juicy, tender and flavoursome and will, with hope, overcome bad memories of the school lunch hall, chewing interminably and trying to move 'food' around the plate to make it look as though you've polished most of it off and are bloody well grateful, boy. I didn't fight in the trenches surviving on tinned pilchards for you to etc etc.

Today's recipe is simple and very quick to make. Pork, creamy mushrooms and mustard is a classic combination and while it may seem to be a little old-fashioned, there's nothing wrong with that; delicious is delicious. The sesame broccoli brings it out of the aspidistra lined 1970's suburbs a little, just don't boil the veg. for four hours.

Ingredients for four people 4 good thick pork chops A few handfuls of button of chestnut mushrooms, sliced 1/2 a red onion, finely sliced 2 sprigs of rosemary A few large sage leaves 300ml double cream 1-2tbsp wholegrain mustard (I like Moutarde de Meaux, very tasty and has no sugar or other nonsense) Olive oil for frying Salt and pepper to season Enough broccoli for four people, stems too 1tbsp sesame oil 1tbsp sesame seeds, toasted if you like

Method While heating a cast iron skillet for the meat, gently soften the onion in a sauté pan in the olive oil until translucent then add the herbs and mushrooms. Season well and cook until the mushrooms are colouring. Add the cream and stir in the mustard. Cook for a few minutes until the cream thickens. Loosen with a little water if it gets too thick. Taste and adjust the seasoning and mustard.

Cook the pork chops on a high heat for a few minutes on each side until golden and the fat is rendering and crisping. Hold it down on its fatty edge to achieve this. Leave it to rest and boil the broccoli for about four minutes. I slice the stems and throw them in a minute before the florets. Drain very well, water really gets stuck in all those buds and drizzle over the sesame seeds and oil.

Serve the pork with the sauce and broccoli.

Roast Vegetables

IMG_6877Throwing a load of vegetables in a tin with some herbs, oil, salt and pepper is about as easy as cooking gets. Easier than boiling an egg, even. It's a great accompaniment to roast meat and steamed fish and gets a load of different colours on your plate. I love picking out the caramelised, sticky and juicy bits that have caught in the pan while roasting, it's such a comforting and delicious treat that the cook gets all to their sneaky self.

Often I'll roast a chicken or joint of pork on top of the veg, that's a real treat. The meat takes on a deep flavour, and the juices in the pan are so rich and delicious, you just pour them over, there's no need to make a sauce.

I've even roasted a load of sausages in among the vegetables, a perfect one pot meal. All it takes is a little peeling and chopping then the oven does the rest.  You can throw in some tomatoes too, they give off their juices and mingle deliciously with the other veg. Fennel softens beautifully, giving off its light, mellow aniseed to the pot and onions turn golden, sticky and sweet.

Use what is available at the time and keep an eye on it while cooking so it doesn't burn. 35-45 minutes at 180c is normally about right, depending on what veg you use. One tip I'd give is to have the more delicate vegetables at the bottom and harder ones such as beetroot, carrots and the like on top.

Drizzle everything in olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Mix through some hardy herbs such as rosemary, sage and bay leaves and finish off with some young thyme and perhaps chilli flakes as it comes out the oven. Put it straight on the table and dig in.

Ça va, mon chou?

IMG_5867Savoy cabbage, quickly cooked, with butter and pepper is pretty good as it is. But if you want to pep it up to serve as a side dish with south-east Asian food it may not quite cut the mustard.

The trick with cabbage is to not cook it for a whole school term. A flash in the pan to soften it is enough, so be careful and be quick. This is fiery and comforting at the same time and goes really well with some steamed fish with lemongrass and lime leaves.

Ingredients 1/2 Savoy cabbage, shredded Coconut oil for frying 2 hot red birdseye chillies, sliced 1tbsp red Thai curry paste 1tbsp dessicated coconut 1tbsp coconut aminos or soy sauce 1tbsp lime juice 100ml coconut cream Salt to season

Method Sauté the cabbage in some coconut oil, letting some of the shreds almost burn. Add as much chilli as you like, my chillies were surprisingly hot, so be careful. Add the curry paste to the pan (home made if you can be bothered) and add a little more coconut oil. Cook for a few minutes, stirring well so it doesn't burn. Pour in the coconut cream and heat through. Tip into a bowl and blowtorch the top of the cabbage if you have one to give it a little bit of a dramatic char. Add a little more sliced red chilli and some hazelnuts sprinkled on top if you fancy, and serve.

Game of Squash

IMG_5852 Butternut squash is great to have around the kitchen. They normally hang around in mine for a while as I psych myself up to peel them. Fortunately, they keep for what seems an eternity, and can quickly become lunch when you are ready to battle with them. I like to sauté chunks of it in coconut oil and mix with chickpeas in a spiced tomato sauce. Here it's used as the base for a vegetable salad and works really well with the slightly bitter radish and kale. If you can't get barberries, use goji berries. The Parma ham gives crunch and saltiness and the dill cream brings a soothing calmness. I like the surprise of fiery green chillies, but you can leave these out if you're scared. And don't forget the squash seeds. You may want to roast all of them separately and keep them in a jar for future use.

Ingredients 500g butternut squash, peeled and cut into smallish chunks 2tbsp of the squash seeds 2 cloves of garlic, bashed with a knife 1tbsp mustard seeds A handful of curly kale leaves, depending on how big your hands are. Cut out the big stalks 4 slices of Parma ham 30g sour cream 2tbsp chopped fresh dill 20g dried barberries 1tsp chilli flakes or sliced green chillies 1 watermelon radish, cut into chunks 1/2tsp pink peppercorns, lightly crushed Olive oil Salt and pepper

Method Heat the oven to 190c Mix the squash, seeds, garlic, mustard seeds and olive oil together and season well. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes, then toss through the kale and and curl through the Parma ham and cook for another 15 minutes or so, until the squash turns golden orange and the ham and kale become crisp. Remove from the oven and leave to cool to room temperature Mix the dill and pink peppercorns through the sour cream and add a little salt and pepper. Add the radish to the squash, throw over the barberries and chillies, season a little and drizzle over some olive oil and the dill cream and serve.

Springing a Leek

IMG_5791  

On Thursday night we went out for my birthday supper at Olivio Carne, the sister to what is pretty much my favourite restaurant in London (Olivio near Victoria station) and I had pasta for the first time in nearly two months. My new rule is that food like that has to be worth it. And it was. A beautiful wild boar pappardelle. I also had plenty of Kate's duck ragù just to help her out.

I've been wondering how to recreate one of my favourite dishes, ravioli con burro e salvia without pasta while I've been avoiding carbs. My new rules are that it's fine to occasionally eat what you want, and to not make sugar and wheat part of my daily diet. There seemed, after thinking about it, little point in trying to recreate ravioli, so here's a new dish based on those flavours.

Leek is nature's cannelloni. And with this, instead of the traditional sage infused butter, a creamy sauce seemed a good idea. And to keep it dairy and wheat free meant almond milk and tapioca starch, so it's also gluten free. And vegan. And paleo. And Whole 30. It also dances the can-can for you while singing the Nessun Dorma. This should win awards for the most inclusive dish in the world. Unless you are allergic to nuts. Leave them out if you are. Unless you like risk.

It's quite straightforward to make, once you get everything together. Just try not to spill double the amount of tapioca you need into the saucepan. This is very upsetting and can lead to a bit of a strop.

Ingredients for two people as a starter For the filling: 420g roast butternut squash or pumpkin, diced 40g almonds, skin on, chopped a little 1 large clove of garlic, smashed A few young thyme sprigs 1tbsp shiitake mushroom powder (optional) Pinch of chilli flakes A big squeeze of lemon juice salt and pepper Olive oil

For the sauce: 1 leek, light green part, pushed into tubes A large handful of sage leaves, shredded 3tbsp Olive oil Thin bits of middle of the leek, finely sliced 300ml Almond milk 1 1/2tbsp Tapioca starch Salt

Shredded sage leaves, chopped toasted almonds and dried borage flowers to serve, if you have them on the shelf in a jar and keep wondering what to do with them.

Method Roast the filling ingredients (apart from the lemon juice) at 200c for  25-30 mins, until soft and golden then leave to cool before adding the lemon juice and blitzing  until smooth (but not too smooth) in a food processor then put in a bowl. Taste it and adjust the lemon juice and seasoning if necessary.

Cut the dark green and white parts off the leek and use for stock. Or, do what I did and forget about them in the back of the fridge then throw them away.

Push out the inner tubes of the leek, leaving you with about six of the large outer tubes. Slice the inner ones then sauté them until soft in good olive oil, with sage and then season and transfer to a bowl. Add the almond milk and tapioca to the pan, heat and whisk until you have an emulsion as thick as double cream. Add the leek and sage mixture and leave to infuse for ten minutes before removing the sage stalks and blitzing the sauce in the food processor. If you prefer, you can leave it unblitzed, but I prefer it smooth.

Stuff the leek tubes with the filling and cook gently in a little olive oil until soft. Turning occasionally and carefully. Chop some toasted almonds and get the sauce warmed. Put the sauce on plates, top with the leek then sprinkle over the almonds, sage leaves and borage flowers if using. Blowtorch the leek if you're feeling fancy. Finish with a drizzle of excellent olive oil and serve.