pork chop novice

pork chops with apple

pork chops with apple

I’ve been coveting the latest book by Valentine Warner (The Good Table) for a few weeks now and last weekend I managed to get my mucky paws on my very own copy ūüôā The recipes look mouthwateringly wonderful and I couldn’t wait to start playing. Luckily I just happened to have a couple of pork chops in the fridge – I’m not entirely sure what they were doing there as I’ve never liked them (I’ve always found them too dry) – however, one of VW’s recipes early on in his book is called “pork chop with apple & crispy sage” and the chops were just crying out for some VW treatment.

As I’m not sure what the rules are in regards to copying out other people’s recipes word for work into a blog (and being the pork chop novice that I am, I copied the recipe word for word) I’d better not reproduce it here as I don’t really feel like being shut down. However if you manage to acquire a copy of the aforementioned book for yourself, just turn to page 30 and you’ll find the recipe in question there.

I made a rather elementary mistake of reading the cooking temperature incorrectly and then using the grill instead of the oven (I put the latter error down to still getting used to my new tool). However, I managed to save the chops and produced a rather tasty (if not highly calorific supper) and not a dry pork chop in site.  Whatever you do, do make sure you wash this meal down with a glass or two of cider.

creating lasagne from yesterday’s leftovers

Image

sliced pork shoulder

sliced pork shoulder

turning excess into economy

a handful of home grown sage

a handful of home grown sage

Today I embarked on a recipe by Allegra McEvedy from her and Paul Merrett’s book, “Economy Gastronomy”. ¬†The recipe in question is “Slow-cook shoulder of pork with sage polenta and runners”. ¬†The recipe required quite a fantastic amount of meat (in my opinion), but I have since discovered that this elements that are cooked within the realms of this recipe become the basis for other recipes within the book. ¬†Looks like there will be much feasting from the Economy Gastronomy book this week then! ¬†Good job the weather has turned and I’ve got my healthy winter appetite back!

It’s quite a time-consuming recipe – not your usual wang-it-in-the-oven-and-come-back-in-a-few-hours-job, but then it’s Sunday, and what else are Sundays for if not wondering into the kitchen every now and then for a little baste or a stir? ¬†It also means that my cooking times for everything else I make this week (theoretically) are now reduced.

The dish was an enjoyable success. ¬†Green beans replaced the runner beans, the pork was succulent and tender. ¬†In particular, the polenta was divine; as Allegra McEvedy says, “Britain has a polenta-shaped culinary blindspot” and I am inclined to agree. I first ate it whilst living in Chamonix in France about 15 years ago but could count on one hand the number of times I have eaten it since.

Most pleasing of all though,¬†I was also able to use some of my very own home-grown sage within the recipe – it makes it taste all the better, I’m sure.

mennula

Mennula is the Sicilian word for almond. ¬†Now, I’m not especially fond of almonds; I like them encased in chocolate but not so much roasted and salted (but will eat them if they are there), and definitely not in the form of marzipan… and the reason that I’m going on about this is because last night saw a few of us at Mennula (on the lovely Charlotte Street, London). ¬†We had been told in no uncertain terms that we had to be seated by our allocated time (or else what? I’m not sure, but they were Sicilian, so we thought we’d better behave). ¬†The restaurant was quite quiet when we got there. ¬†The decor was pretty, although I found the squashed bug on the wall next to my shoulder, less so. ¬†We were having a meal of four courses. ¬†The first course – the stuzzichini –¬†included several small platters of nibbles (including roasted and salted almonds), green olives, arancini rice balls and sour dough bread.

For my primo piatto, I had strozzapreti in a braised venison and mushroom ragout which was quite lovely (although some of my strozzapreti was a little hard in consistency, but I was the only one who had this experience).

For secondo, I had pork belly. ¬†As a bit of background, I LOVE pork belly and it tends to be a benchmark dish of mine (pretty much, wherever I go, if it’s on the menu, pork belly will end up in my belly) and unfortunately this pork belly didn’t really compare. ¬†ES had a plate of fritto misto but the complaint there was that there wasn’t quite enough of it! ¬†Conversely, and unusually for me, I was feeling quite full by this point, so I think my pork belly was gratefully received.

For my dolce, I chose traditional Sicilian cannoli filled with sweet ewe‚Äôs ricotta. ¬†It was a bad choice by me and I had definite food-envy over everyone else’s warm Sicilian sfinci (doughnuts) served with honey, vanilla cr√®me anglais and Sicilian granita.

So all in all, I feel about Mennula the same as I do about almonds – good in some respects and lacking in others, and I probably wouldn’t eat there again unless it was put on a table in front of me.