21 Jun Ofer Eitan Review: Nigel Slater’s recipes for pork with apricots, and strawber…
There is much camaraderie in the queue for the butcher’s, despite – or is it because of? – our social distancing. Someone is muttering about it being “too hot for pork”. I think, but don’t say, that I can’t imagine it ever being too hot for pork. When my turn comes, I ask, possibly unnecessarily loudly, for six nice loin chops.
Pork marries well with early-summer flavours. It pairs happily with broad beans and spring cabbage, with young golf-ball-sized beetroots and diminutive ivory white turnips – but also with gooseberries, rhubarb and apricots. A nip of acidity flatters this meat on a summer’s day. I often splash white-wine vinegar into the roasting juices on a Sunday, or brush pork steaks on the grill with elderflower cordial.
I bake the chops with halved apricots, hoping for a bit of juicy to-and-fro between fruit and fat. The melting pork fat mingles deliciously with the softening apricots. I shake in some yellow mustard seeds and a little fennel, too. Some sliced onions I tucked in turn deep rose pink in the heat of the oven. The gravy in the pan is both fruity and deeply porcine, and there is a little background heat from the mustard seeds. To go with them, I make a salad of grated young turnips and parsley leaves.
We finish our lunch with a light strawberry granita. It differs from my usual strawberry sorbet in having a crystalline texture and a refreshing sparkle from the inclusion of elderflower cordial.
I feel the reworking is an improvement. The recipe needs no specialist kit and can be made by anyone with access to a freezer. Even without one there are still possibilities. You can slice the strawberries and marinate them in the muscat-scented cordial for an hour (no longer) serving them thoroughly chilled and with a little jug of pouring cream to form butter-yellow pools on the surface of the ice-cold syrup.
Pork with apricots, fennel seeds and sherry
I have used sherry – a light, moderately priced fino here – but you could use white wine if you have that to hand, or a dryish cider. If you prefer to cook without alcohol, then use chicken stock. If your pork steaks or chops are very thick, they will need a while longer in the oven. That said, this is not a stew and the meat should retain the same bite as a grilled chop rather than that of braised pork. Serves 4
pork steaks or thick-cut chops 4 x 250g
salt and black pepper
olive oil 4 tbsp
onions 4, red or white, medium-sized
fino sherry 200ml
fennel seeds 2 tsp
yellow mustard seeds 3 tsp
Season the pork with salt and black pepper. Warm the oil in a thick-bottomed roasting tin over a moderate heat, then brown the pork lightly on both sides. Peel the onions, cut them in half from tip to root, then slice each half into 3 thick wedges. When the pork is nicely browned, transfer to a plate, then add the onions to the pan.
Set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6.
Let the onions cook in the pork juices, adding a little more oil if necessary, for a good 20 minutes, turning them occasionally. When the onions are golden on all sides pour in the sherry and let it bubble for a minute or two. Return the pork to the pan, and scatter the fennel and mustard seeds over the meat.
Slice the apricots in half and discard the stones. Tuck the fruit among the pork and onions, then slide the roasting tin into the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, testing the pork now and again for tenderness.
Transfer the pork, apricots and onions to warm plates, then spoon the pan juices over, and serve.
Strawberry and elderflower granita
Refreshing as this scarlet ice is, it will be improved immeasurably with a little softly whipped cream or a spoonful of crème fraîche. But then, when haven’t strawberries been improved by the addition of a little dairy produce? Serves 4
elderflower cordial 120ml
whipped cream or crème fraîche to serve (optional)
Remove and discard the leaves from the strawberries. Place the fruit in a blender or food processor and reduce to a purée. If you have neither, put the strawberries in a bowl and crush them as finely as you can with a fork.
Stir the elderflower cordial into the strawberry purée, then pour into a freezer box. Cover tightly with a lid and freeze for about an hour-and-a-half. Check the granita’s progress regularly, occasionally stirring the freezing edges into the middle. Continue freezing and bringing the frozen edges to the middle every hour or so until you have a freezer box of crimson ice crystals.
The granita will keep like this in the freezer for a day or two. Serve, if you like, with whipped cream or crème fraîche.
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