Wed 30 Oct 2013

Food Without Fuss: Oven Ready

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This recipe, while hopefully of use and interest to all, was written with the winter 2013 selections of The Society’s Wine Without Fuss subscription scheme particularly in mind. Voted Best Wine Club by both The Independent and Which? Magazine, Wine Without Fuss offers regular selections of delicious wines with the minimum of fuss. Why not join the growing band of members who let their Society take the strain, and are regularly glad they do?

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Janet Wynne Evans

Janet Wynne Evans

I heard a rumour the other day that a number of newspaper and magazine editors have taken against printing any recipe that takes longer than 30 minutes to make. What nonsense. At this fraught time of year, what could be better than something that can be slipped into a low oven and left for hours, without risk of overcooking, while other pressing matters are attended to? After a long day, a cold nip and a mad world, coming home to the promise, then the aroma, and finally the sheer, melting tenderness of this pork dish is bliss.

The recipe, one of my enduring favourites, comes courtesy of Philippa Davenport, who for many years was the cookery correspondent of the Financial Times. My original clipping, no longer a pristine pink, but withered by age, grease and overuse and held together with sellotape, is one of my prized possessions. Whether I serve it for two or scale it up considerably for my colleagues here, compliments abound. The recipe is always requested, and I share it here with the kind permission of the author, who, blessed with a thoroughness I could never aspire to, even went to the trouble of cooking it again, using metric measurements, to ensure that it worked.

British pork is at its very best now. By all means deploy rare breeds and even farmed wild ones, but it’s my belief that the important things are the rearing, and the ratio of fat to lean meat. This recipe calls unashamedly for the fattiest, but most flavoursome cut of all, the belly. If you are too worried about how flat yours should be, let’s meet again in the New Year belt-tightening feature.

Apart from being simplicity itself to prepare and impeccably behaved while left to its own bubbling devices, this dish is a winner with any number of wines, white or red. Pork and honeyed whites are known to live happily together and I’d single out Benedict Slovenian White (not surprising, given its proximity to Austria) in the Buyers’ Everyday Selection. Riesling is another very pork-friendly variety: Corte Ignacio in the Premium Whites has all the lime-slicked piquancy and concentrated fruit you could wish for. In the French Classics selection, I’d choose the Collioure for its focused, full-throttle fruit and overall polish.

Reds must be exceptionally fruity, but with good backbone to cut through the richness and square up to the deep flavour of the prunes. Step forward the serious mien but warm heart of Domaine Gournier’s IGP Cévennes in the Everyday Selection and the wonderfully-named Drác Magic in the Premium Reds. It will happily mop up any of the reds in the French Classics case, though my top pick would be the deeply satisfying fruit of Moulin-à-Vent Labruyère.

CHRISTMAS EVE PORK
© Philippa Davenport

Serves 4 generously
• 1kg boneless belly pork rashers
• 1 dozen prunes
• 1 smallish onion
• 1-2 tbsp each chopped coriander flat parsley
• 3 -4 tbs lemon thyme leaves
• 2 fat garlic cloves
• A small corner of a chicken stock cube
• 2-3 butter papers
• 1 tbsp tarragon or white wine vinegar plus enough unsweetened grape juice to make 300ml in total

Lightly butter a large shallow dish that will take the pork in a single layer. A Le Creuset buffet casserole is ideal. Cut each rasher in half, but leave the rinds on. They will enrich the gravy deliciously and are good to eat.

Lay the pork jigsaw fashion in the dish, squeezing the prunes into the gaps. Scatter the herbs and the finely chopped garlic over the meat. Season well with salt and pepper. Add the crumbled stock and veil the lot with the onion, slicing as paper thin as you can.

Pour on the liquids which should come almost level with the top of the meat. Lay the butter papers directly on top. Cover with a well-fitting lid or double thickness of tightly crimped foil.

Place the dish in a cold oven, turn it to 300F/150C/Gas 3 and bake for 3.5 hours.

A little longer will do no harm provided the temperature is low and the dish is well-sealed. When ready, the meat should be so tender that even the toothless would rejoice in eating it.

Serve with lots of mashed potatoes to soak up the flavoursome gravy, and a clean green salad of bitter leaves on the side.

Janet Wynne Evans
Specialist Wine Manager

When trying out food and wine matches at home, remember that help is at hand in the form of The Society’s interactive Food & Wine Matcher.

Categories : Wine Without Fuss

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