Friday, April 24, 2009

Braised Pork with Prunes

I've been so busy lately that I haven't even had time to tell you about this:

To be fair (on me), I have been busy organising this conference for the past few weeks. But now that the B for BAD dust has settled there's no excuse to not get on with things in the kitchen. In fact, I've been dying to. Eating out lots - something that invariably happens when one is very busy - always takes its toll on me. I can do it for a couple of days in a row, but then the effects of what must be so much more oil and sugar and salt in (even good) restaurant food start to kick in and I feel sluggish. Or maybe it's just that I can't help but order the duck every time. In any case, I need home-cookin' real bad.

Braised Pork with Prunes was the first recipe I tried from the 2009 reissue of Delia Smiths's Frugal Food (originally published 1976) and we've made it a number of times since already. The frugal thing is really a bonus; what makes me just about stamp my feet in excitement is how awesomely British the food is. I haven't got around to the Kipper Quiche or the Spiced Apple Shortcake yet, but you can bet I will. It is food that reminds a bit of my Australian grandmother, Mavis. It is British food before Jamie Oliver, but before the proliferation of take-away, too.

Despite the less-than-inspiring photographs this week, I promise that this is delicious - especially if you're the kind of person that usually orders the duck. It is sweet and sticky and rich and is a complete meal made entirely in one pot (not including the pan from the celeriac puree we served it with). And it is gold for those that love that heavenly coupling of dried fruit sweetness and slow-roasted meat. Gold. I've only changed the order in which things are done to minimise washing up - otherwise the recipe is entirely Delia's. Enjoy.

Braised Pork with Prunes
From Delia's Frugal Food. Serves 4

700g lean (or trimmed) belly pork or spare ribs, cut into cubes or pieces
1 tbsp olive oil
6 juniper berries, crushed
1/2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped (you could use dried)
225g brown onions, peeled and sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
110g prunes, halved and pitted
1 large Granny Smith (or other cooking) apple, peeled, cored and sliced
A large pinch of caster sugar
700g potatoes, peeled and thickly sliced
Small knob of butter
150ml dry cider or white wine
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 170°C/325°F.

Heat oil in an oven-proof casserole over medium heat and fry onion and garlic until softened. Remove and set aside. Fry pork pieces in same pot until browned. After arranging them fairly evenly, season and sprinkle over the juniper berries and thyme. Layer in the onions and tuck in the prune pieces here and there. Arrange the apple slices over this and sprinkle them ever so lightly with the caster sugar. Next layer over potato slices, overlapping and season. Dot butter here and there over potatoes and pour in the cider or wine. Cover and cook in oven for 1.5 hours. When cooking time is done, increase heat to 220°C/450°F and remove the lid from your pot. Pop back into the oven for around 20 minutes until everything looks delicious and golden. Voila.

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