Life is uncertain. Eat Dessert first.


APPLE WEEK! – Thursday: Pork Chops with Cider, Apple Sauce, Caramelised Apples and Mustard Mash

I’ve adjusted Lorraine Pascale’s recipe from Baking Made Easy for this savoury use of apples, changing one piece of pork for a couple of pork chops, and substituting dry cider for Calvados. The rosemary gives a great depth of flavour to each element of this dish. These quantities will serve dinner for two.

Get started with the mashed potatoes. Preheat the oven to 220degC. Prick 3 or 4 (depending on size) potatoes all over and wrap each one in foil. Bake for an hour, or until a knife inserted into the centre glides through easily with no resistance.

To make the apple sauce, melt 15g butter in a small saucepan and add about 4-5 medium sized peeled and roughly chopped garden apples. Add 1tbsp light brown sugar and a sprig of rosemary. Put a lid on the pan and cook for 5-10 minutes over a low heat. Then squeeze in the juice of half a lemon, turn up the heat and boil until the liquid thickens. Whizz this mixture up in a blender, then squash it through a sieve back into the saucepan, and set aside.

Heat a knob of butter and 2 tblsp olive oil in a large frying pan over a moderate-high heat. Season 2 chops with salt and vinegar. Add the chops to the oil, brown on one side then turn over and brown on the other side. Add 2 large onions (peeled and roughly chopped) and a sprig of rosemary. Lower the heat and continue to cook, turning the chops once, until they are no longer pink when cut into. Remove the chops to the a warm plate, cover, and leave them to rest.

Pour 250ml dry cider into the pan, turn up the heat, and reduce by half.

While the cider gravy is simmering, make the caramelised apples. Melt 20g butter in a small pan and add 4 medium sized peeled and quartered apples, a sprig of rosemary and a tbsp of soft brown sugar. Cook gently until the apples begin to caramelise and go soft. Set aside and keep warm.

Once the cider has reduced, add 300ml chicken stock and reduce by half again.

Remove the potatoes from the oven and slice in half, then scoop out the insides into a saucepan and add 75g butter. Mix well obver a low heat, then season with salt and pepper and add 2 heaped tsp of wholegrain mustard (or more to taste). You can also add some English mustard to get some heat into the mash.

Heat the sauce gently. Strain the gravy through a sieve. Serve the chops with the caramelised apples, apple sauce, cider gravy and mustard mash.


Private Dining Event – menu, photos and wine notes

All the courses served at this meal for ten people were inspired by recipes from both Le Champignon Sauvage in Cheltenham and The French Laundry in California. The wines were matched with each course by The Corkscrew Wine Merchants on Chatham Street. As always their research and attention to detail ensured that each wine was the perfect compliment to the food being served (where possible I have linked the wine to their online store).

Upon arrival guests were poured a glass of Dominio de la Vega Cava while they waited to be seated.   The sparkling wine accompanied the first course: A Puree of Garden Pea Soup with Truffle Oil, topped with a Parmesan Crisp “lid”, and served with Guinness and Walnut Bread (photos to right show the soup with and without the “lid”).

The next course was a Salad of Petite Summer Tomatoes on a Tomato Coulis, and a Brioche Crouton topped with Vine-ripened Tomato Sorbet and a Garlic Tuile, with Basil Oil Garnish. Made entirely from fruit grown in the Pieropan family vineyard (situated in the Soave Classic Zone in Italy), the 2009 Pieropan Soave had a great depth of fruit on the palate and a long length that was a perfect match for the three different types of tomato served in this course (the photos to the left show it with and without the Garlic Tuile).

The main course consisted of Crisp Belly of Pork with Cauliflower Puree, Tenderheart Brocolli, Morels and Pork Sauce. I needed a wine with a strong depth of flavours and a fine acidity, so I served a 2007 Quinta do Perdigao from Portugal, which balances Tempranillo’s red berry fruits with slight with slight balsamic notes, and the black fruits delivered by the Touriga Nacional.

For dessert I served a Chocolate and Coriander Tart with Lexia Raisin Ice-Cream. Lexia Raisins are very difficult to track down at this time of year (I think I bought the last packet in Dublin!) but they are so much more juicy and succulent then normal raisins, especially when soaked first in a rum syrup to let them swell up before adding to the churned ice-cream. Made from low-yielding Grenache grapes, the 2008 Pietru Geraud Banyuls Rimage I served with this course has a powerful and intense nose of wild strawberry and raspberry, with a rich, velvety palate.

To finish the meal, the cheese course consisted of slices of Mature Comte, served over a Spiced Carrot Salad on a Golden Raisin Puree, alongside a Carrot Powder. The Comte was 16-24 months matured, and the Spiced Carrot Salad included an intense Carrot Reduction. The wine to accompany this dish is a 1997 Castelhinho LBV Port, a traditional LBV who’s palate is dense, pleasingly sweet and extremely long.

Spicy Pork and Chilli-pepper Goulash

My home-grown banana peppers had ripened in the recent good weather, so I picked a few of them and cooked them in a classic dish – goulash. Rather then using cubes of pork, this recipe from Jamie Oliver’s “Jamie at Home” cooks an entire loin of pork in the stew, which you can then pull apart with a fork before serving.

Preheat the oven to 180deg C, and heat a large ovenproof casserole dish on the hob. Score the fat on the pork (a 1.5-2kg loin off-the-bone with the fat on but skin off), in a criss-cross pattern all the way through to the meat, and season with salt and pepper. Pour a good glug of olive oil in the pan and then add the pork, fat side down. Cook for about 15mins on a medium heat to render out the fat, then remove from the pan and set aside.

Add 2 chopped red onions, 2 fresh chillis (chopped and de-seeded), 2 generous tablespoons of paprika, 2 teaspoons of ground caraway seeds, the leaves from a small handful of marjoram or oregano [I used 2 teaspoons of dried oregano], and some salt and pepper to the oil/fat in the pot. Turn the heat down and cook gently for 10 minutes, then add 5 sliced peppers, a 280g jar of grilled peppers (drained and chopped), and a 400g can of tomatoes. Put the pork back in the pot, give it a mix, then pour in enough water to just cover the pork. Add 4 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, put the lid on top, and place in the preheated oven for 3 hours.

Just before serving stir a 142ml tub of sour cream, the zest of a lemon and a small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped, in a bowl. When the meat is cooked, break it up with a fork and give it a good stir. Serve with a bowl of steaming rice and the flavoured sour cream.

Leftovers lunch – Potato Cakes with Crispy Bacon

I had a huge amount of mashed potato left over from last night’s dinner, so I put in a container in the fridge to use for lunch today.

I chopped up some scallions, and using my hands added it to the leftover mashed potato, forming five balls that I flattened slightly. I rolled each ball in seasoned flour (plain flour mixed with salt and pepper), and then fried them in a mixture of butter and olive oil. At the same time I grilled some rashers until just crisp, and served them both together with a drizzle of Ballymaloe relish for a really quick, tasty lunch.

Souvlakia with Tzatziki

I had loads of leftover Greek yoghurt and spices from making the curry this week, so I used what I had in the fridge and cupboards to make this really simple and fantastically tasty traditional Greek dish.

Cut 500g of pork (or lamb) into 2cm cubes, cutting off any gristle or fat. Mix a teaspoon of ground coriander seeds, a teaspoon of dried oregano, 75ml of extra virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, half a grated onion, a torn up bay leaf and salt and pepper together and then pour it over the meat in a bowl. Mix everything up so the meat is well coated, then cover and marinate for at least two hours (overnight if possible). Soak wooden skewers in cold water for an hour or two in the meantime.

To make the tzatziki, peel and finely dice half a cucumber, put in a sieve over a bowl, then sprinkle over a tablespoon of red wine vinegar and some salt. Leave to drain for an hour, then pat dry with a clean tea towel. Put the cucumber in a bowl and mix in 150g of Greek yoghurt, 1 crushed garlic clove, and a tablespoon of freshly chopped mint. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Thread the pork onto the skewers. Leave a gap between each piece of meat, so that the heat can get to all parts of each cube in order to cook the meat evenly. Preheat an oiled griddle pan (or barbecue!), and cook the kebabs until they are crusty and brown and cooked all the way through, turning and brushing occassionally with the leftover marinade.

Serve sizzling hot with the tzatiki, some pitta breads that have been chopped up, drizzled in oil, and cooked in the oven until crisp, and a wedge of lemon.