Creamy Pork Normande on a bed of scrummy sautéed potatoes:

Creamy Pork Normande on a bed of scrummy sautéed potatoes:

Prep:           30 mins.

Cooking:      60 mins approx.

Course:        Main

Serves:        4, but easy to stretch further if pork is cubed

Rating:         2:  Easy, just a little long-winded

Whenever you think of the food of Normandy, you think of butter, Calvados, apples, Calvados, pork, closely followed by cream…. And Calvados, of course. 

Oh, and did I mention Calvados?

Well, this rather scrummy and deceptively easy pork recipe uses no Calvados whatsoever (only due to the fact that I had none to hand – though you could have a splash in there somewhere if you should so wish), but that leaves you with the opportunity of drinking it later, should you have any, as a digestif.  So, even with no Calvados and the cream replaced by crème fraiche, be ready for a taste sensation….

 

For four people, you will need:

For the pork:

  • Copious access to the olive oil bottle (yes, I know that you could use all butter, but at least give lip service to matters of cholesterol….. but then the Normans don’t seem to suffer too much…. perhaps it’s the effect of the Calvados!)
  • Butter
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 4 large eating apples, cored and cut into thick rings
  • 4 thick slices of loin of pork
  • 3 fat cloves of garlic – or correspondingly more thin ones
  • 2 large red onions
  • Half litre dry cider (but get more as it’s a thirsty business…)
  • 2 chicken stock cubes in a couple of mugs of hot water… with the foil removed, of course.
  • 250g pot of crème fraiche
  • 3 or 4 bay leaves (If you have them)
  • Good handful of fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped (or dried thyme)
  • A bigger good handful of fresh flat-leaved parsley, roughly chopped (It is nice to have this.  Dried parsley is such a let-down)
  • Salt (I prefer coarsely ground sea salt)

For the potato dish:

  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • 2 large red onions, roughly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • Half kilo FRESHLY BOILED new spuds (that means that you must have boiled them before you start doing the pork, of course…. don’t forget!),  preferably whole baby ones……. preferably the variety of Charlotte, Exquisa or even Anya if you can get hold of them…..(you might have to grow your own Anya!)
  • 200g lardons (see Those Ingredient Thingies), preferably smoked.  (can easily be replaced by chopped up cooking bacon/streaky)
  • More fresh thyme leaves (just buy a small growing pot to have enough for the two recipes)
  • More flat-leaved parsley (just buy…….)
  • (You will, of course, need to serve some veg with it all – don’t forget to do it.  I used sautéed sugar snap peas, asparagus and fresh baby sweetcorn – lovely!).

What you do:

  • Get your prep work done first, using small dishes to hold the prepared ingredients. Work cleanly and you’ll find that clearing up afterwards is much easier to do.

(Better still, get some other poor sod to do the cleaning up for you afterwards, whilst you enjoy a good well-earned slug of Calvados with y’feet up).

  • Core (but don’t peel) the apples with a corer, or a normal potato peeler inserted and rotated round to remove the core, then cut into thick rings. The top and bottom rings should be roughly diced for use later on.
  • Roughly slice the onions, then chop half of one of them as finely as you can.
  • Peel the garlic (see Tricks’n’Tips for the easy way) and chop it fairly roughly.
  • Splash olive oil into a thick bottomed frying pan, add a large knob of the butter and heat.
  • Mix the two fats together and place the thickly-cut apple rings into the pan (do not drop them in; you must avoid splashing hot fat around… we don’t want hospital visits today, thank you very much). You may need to do this in batches to ensure good browning, by the way.
  • Evenly sprinkle the sugar over all of the apple rings, on each side as they are turned. Keep an eye on the apples as they will easily blacken with the extra sugar – you don’t want ‘black’, just a lovely golden brown.

(You could do worse than to keep my father’s general culinary advice in mind…. “When they’re brown, they’re done”, he’d say to me very seriously, then, with the wink of an eye he’d add……  “When they’re black, they’re buggered!”  It’s good advice, if a little unconventionally put.)

  • Put them aside to keep warm for the plating-up stage.
  • Add more oil to the pan and brown the pork slices on both sides, turning them several times.
  • Put them aside on a plate somewhere – you’ll use them quite soon.
  • Turn the heat down and put the onions and garlic into the pan to gently soften for a few minutes.
  • You may need to use a larger pan, so be ready to use the biggest pan you have…..
  • EITHER return the pork to the pan, then add the diced apple and the cider and the stock, thyme and bay leaves…..
  • OR chuck ‘em all into that big pan you’ve just had to borrow from the rather gorgeous young single mum down the road who you’ve been looking for an excuse to talk to for weeks! RESULT!
  • Either way, cook the pork through for 10-15 minutes, simmering gently.
  • Heat olive oil and butter in a non-stick pan, add the onions and garlic and soften for a few minutes.
  • Add the lardons (chopped bacon to you’n’me), potatoes and thyme. Cook until the bacon is nice’n’crispy and the spuds are scrummy.
  • Remove the pork from the gigantic pan that you borrowed, turn up the heat and reduce the liquid (see Tricks’n’Tips, but basically, boil it so it steams [so you’d better open a window or it’ll be like a sauna in there] and loses volume, concentrating the flavours) for a while.
  • Stir in the whole pot of crème fraiche, then the roughly chopped parsley and heat through for a couple of minutes. Taste and season as necessary.  Remember that the bacon will be salty in the spuds.
  • Heat the apple rings through in another pan.
  • Either plate up individually as you wish, or put the spuds onto a big oval platter (warmed, of course) and place the pork, with apple rings on top, on the spuds and spoon the sauce and all its bits over the top of the lot.
  • There’s bound to be some thyme and parsley left somewhere, so sprinkle that on top to make it look posh.
  • Be ready for the praise. Preen appreciably when it comes, but be modest (well, not TOO modest!).

(…..and enjoy that smug feeling because you’ve now got a date with that gorgeous newly-divorced young single mum down the road……..)

Baked garlic aioli (and just simply ‘Baked Garlic’ !)

Baked garlic aioli (and just simply ‘Baked Garlic’ !)

For the baked garlic on its own……

  • 2 large head/bulb of garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

For the aioli

  • The baked garlic above
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 tbsp fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 1 pinch black pepper
  • 4 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 150ml olive oil
  • 150ml sunflower oil
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • 3 tbsp milk

Method:

  • Pre-heat your oven to 200°C/gas 6.
  • Cut each bulb of garlic into two, straight across all the cloves half way up.
  • Place both halves on a baking sheet and brush with a little oil.
  • Roast in the oven for 30 minutes or until soft and golden.
  • You can serve the garlic as it is, and let peeps squeeze it out themselves, spreading it on their food as they wish. Alternatively, you can make aioli with it…..

Aoli:

  • Squeeze the soft garlic from the bulbs (best let it cool first, or you’ll end up in A&E with finger burns) into a bowl or straight into the food processor.
  • Separate the egg yolks from the whites (see ‘Tricks’n’Tips’)
  • Put the garlic, egg yolks and breadcrumbs, salt and pepper and vinegar into a food processor and whiz briefly until it forms a paste.
  • Keeping the motor running, slowly add the oils until the mixture forms a thick emulsion.
  • Add milk to give it a slightly lighter consistency if necessary.
  • Enjoy it!

Garlic bread:

Photo:  Chris Wiles Photgraphy

Garlic bread:

Prep:           10 mins.

Cooking:      10-15 mins.  

Course:        Accompaniment

Serves:        4  

Rating:         1:  Very easy

Ah yes, the good ol’ garlic bread.  Great for any time.  Watching the telly with a pint after being outside walking the dog on a cold day…. Anytime.

I don’t expect that as a rookie-cookie you’ll want to keep a container of garlic butter around, but I’ll tell you what to do anyway because it makes garlic bread easier to do than just easy.

Find:-

  • 4 half-sized baguettes (or, logically, 2 full-sized)
  • Pack of slightly salted butter; softened – either out of the fridge for several hours or having been in the microwave for ten – twenty seconds
  • 4-8 big cloves of garlic

METHOD:

  • Put a normal pack of salted butter, unwrapped of course, in a non-metallic bowl for 10 seconds in the microwave.
  • Squeeze the garlic cloves under a wide-bladed cook’s knife, top’n’tail them and remove their paper-like skins.
  • Slice the garlic and then chop all of the slices very finely indeed, making sure than none have attempted to escape by climbing up the blade of the knife – some garlic can be sly like this, y’know.
  • Drop the garlic into the bowl of softened butter and mix thoroughly with a fork. Season with lots of ground black pepper – black magic.

If you can get half-length baguettes, they can be more convenient to give one to each person

  • Slice the baguette at an angle, at about one-inch intervals, almost – but not quite – right through to the base of the bread (lay a skewer, spoon or similar each side of the baguette and you’ll never cut right through!).
  • Part the bread and in each slot in turn put a good dollop of the garlic butter. Brush butter along its length on top, to brown it beautifully.
  • Close it all up again, place it onto foil, on an oven baking tray and pop into a preheated oven at gas 6/7 for 10-15 mins to heat the bread though, melt the butter and make it fantastic.
  • Take out of the oven, lifting the foil from the baking tray, and pop onto long plates or serving dishes.

You may need a bib to keep the butter off your clothes – or just don’t bother to wear any.

Creamy Garlic Mushrooms:

Creamy Garlic Mushrooms:

A wonderful starter, creamy garlic mushrooms is a bit of a classic – if a little dated. (Still tastes great though!)

Prep:           10 mins.

Cooking:      20 mins.

Course:        Starter

Serves:        4 as a starter

Rating:         3:  Moderate

Find:

  • 200g mushrooms of whatever type you can obtain – don’t break the bank but wild mushrooms taste SO different to the common field/button variety
  • 4 large cloves garlic, skin removed
  • 2 shallots, skin removed and sliced
  • 1 dessertspoon olive oil
  • 2 glasses of some sort of sherry
  • 2 tablespoons or more of normal single cream
  • Grated cheese – Red Leicester or similar, avoid any really strong cheese for this
  • Seasoning to taste
  • Granary bread,

Method:

  • Pour the oil into a frying pan and place over a gentle heat.
  • Finely slice the shallots and garlic and add to the pan. Fry gently for a few minutes, stirring gently.  Do not overheat!
  • Prepare your mushrooms by gently wiping any dirt from their surfaces with a piece of kitchen towel – never wash mushrooms as they will absorb the water and become slimy – a bit like politicians.
  • Slice the mushrooms into chunky pieces and add to the pan, stirring so that they become coated with the oil.
  • After about ten minutes when there is colour on the mushrooms, pour the sherry into the pan and turn the heat up so that the alcohol burns off (your opportunity to FLAMBÉ) and the liquid starts to reduce.
  • After a few minutes, the mushrooms should be cooked, so turn the heat back down quite low and add the cream to the pan along with black pepper according to taste.
  • Stir everything around and heat gently for a couple of minutes. Preheat the grill to high. Transfer the mushrooms and cream mixture to two shallow, heat-proof dishes.
  • Sprinkle the grated cheese over the top of each and place the dishes under the grill. Keep an eye on these so that they don’t start to burn – it should only take a couple of minutes for the cheese to be browned and bubbling.
  • Stand each dish on a large plate (you must warn your diners that the dishes will be scaldingly hot) and serve with beautifully crusty granary bread for clearing up the sauce.