pork, apples, potatoes.

This recipe is another from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Although the shrewder amongst you may have guessed that is not from ‘Veg Everyday’! The inclusion of pork would somewhat contradict the concept of that book.  No, this recipe comes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s newest book, ‘Three Good Things on a plate‘. Generally speaking, what I like most about his recipes books is that they just make sense. They are not always professing to make cooking easier, to specifically reduce methodologies or cost, nor to put a meal on a table in a limited amount of time. They instead offer a simply logical thesis: in the case of this new publication, three items that pair well do not need to be crowded by other fancy main ingredients; as a trio, they make a wholesome assembly that requires no editing. How often is it the case, that when in a restaurant and faced with a mound of food you cannot hope to finish, that you subconsciously eat only the three best components? The three components which most likely from the main staple of the dish; the fancy additions are left behind, unnecessary and to some extent forgotten. But a word of caution, sophistry will undermine the brilliance of this book – three good things do not literally translate to three ingredients alone; seasonings may be added, herbs or spices, or even a store cupboard ingredient such as tinned tomatoes, cream or stock. This is cooking! Seasoning is a given; a splash of milk here or of stock there hardly counts as an ingredient! What is imparted is that when asked to explain a dish, your reply would be “it’s basically, A, B and C” – the fundamental elements of the dish are three, although in reality more ingredients may be present. This book is perfect for those who either want to get back to, or adore the pleasures of, simple cooking. Three Good Things is what it says it is – food that tastes good without an elaborate combination, and accepting the sufficiency of good quality, but numerically low, staples of a dish will put a fantastic meal on the table to undoubtedly be enjoyed by all.

Ingredients

  • One pork chop
  • One ordinary eating apple, cored and cut into wedges
  • A medium sized potato, peeled and roughly cubed
  • Dried sage
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 200 degrees. Pour 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a baking tray, and place in the oven for 5 minutes to heat.
  2. In a medium sized saucepan, bring water to the boil. Add the cubed potatoes, and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until tender; drain. Return the potatoes to the pan, and season.
  3. Once heated, add the potatoes to the baking tray, and roast for 20 to 30 minutes. After the allotted time, remove the baking tray from the oven and add the apple wedges. Roast for a further 15 minutes, until the apples have softened and the potatoes are crisp.
  4. Whilst the potatoes and the apples are roasting, prepare the pork chops. In a saucepan, heat a little oil. Rub dried sage, salt and pepper into the pork chop, before frying for 6 to 8 minutes on each side.
  5. Turn the oven off, and remove the baking tray. Nestle the cooked pork chop in between the potatoes and apples, and return to the oven, although off, to warm through for 5 minutes. Serve, and enjoy!recipe taken from Hugh’s Three Good Things on a Plate (Bloomsbury: 2012), as appearing in ‘delicious.’ magazine, December edition (2012). 
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pork and sage lasagne

Although it was a while ago now, I am coming round to think that perhaps I was too harsh with my branding of lasagne as a “Food Technology” dish. Before I broke up from University for the holidays, I ate out with my family, and saw on the menu a roasted pork lasagne – which as I’m sure you’ll agree, sounds fairly sophisticated. A far cry from a school kitchen. Despite having no recipe for this dish, it sounded delicious; knowing how to cook pork, garlic and peppers respectively, I guessed that it’d turn out okay!

Whilst the main components of the dish were given in the restaurant menu, I chose to modify the tomato sauce, using sage to replace the basil or oregano found in ordinary lasagne. The herb sage pairs perfectly with pork. Used most frequently in sausages, the sage gives a savoury and minimal peppery flavour to the meat. Opting for this instead of Italian basil or oregano sets this lasagne aside from the usual bolognese variety, and thus makes it stand out as a dish. Moreover, the ready-listed ingredients went well with the choice of herb. Roast garlic is far sweeter in taste compared to the sometimes harsh flavours of raw pureed garlic – combined with the sage, the peppery nature of the herb offsets the sweetness of the garlic and creates an excellent balance of flavours. So here is my make-shift recipe, inspired by the menu of a lovely little pub in Kenilworth.

Ingredients

  • 350g diced pork
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, skin left on, with one end trimmed
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 400g tin of tomatoes
  • ½ tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
  • Dried sage
  • 20g butter
  • 20g flour
  • 300ml cold milk
  • Grated cheddar cheese, to taste

Method

  1. Timing is crucial to this recipe – have a watch or a clock to hand!
  2. In a large piece of silver foil, place the garlic cloves with their skin still on with one end trimmed. Season with salt and coat in a small amount of olive oil. Wrap the foil tightly, and place in the oven for 25 minutes. Keep an eye on the time – half way through the 25 minutes place the peppers in the oven to roast too.
  3. Whilst the garlic is cooking, prepare the two sauces and the pork.
  4. Begin with the tomato sauce, as this needs to simmer for the longest, and therefore can be left on the back burner whilst other components are made. Begin frying sliced red onions; when softened, add the tinned tomatoes and stir. Place a lid on the pan, turn the heat down to low and simmer.
  5. Around this time, the 25 minutes for the garlic should be reaching half way. To an oiled baking tray add the sliced peppers, and place in the oven for the remainder of the cooking period for the garlic.
  6. Heat a small amount of oil in frying pan over a medium heat. As the oil warms, add the diced pork and fry until browned, seasoning with pepper. When browned, remove from the heat and cut each pork piece into thin slices.
  7. Take the tomato sauce off the heat, and add the balsamic vinegar. Break the shape of the tomatoes against the side of the saucepan. Season, and sprinkle in some dried sage. Stir in the pork slices.
  8. Check the garlic and peppers – remove from the oven. Add the peppers whole to the tomato sauce and stir to combine. Open the foil wrap and leave the garlic to cool slightly, then squeeze the soft garlic out from the hardened clove shell into the tomato sauce. Stir once more, and then return the sauce to the heat to simmer through again.
  9. Now turn your attention to the béchamel sauce. Melting the butter in the pan, add flour until a ball forms. Stir in the milk gradually until a smooth sauce is created; season and add grated cheese to taste.
  10. As all components are complete, now is the time to form the lasagne! In a deep oven-proof dish, layer the lasagne – to ensure the lasagne doesn’t stick to the bottom of the dish, first place down a layer of pork and tomato sauce, followed by lasagne sheets.
  11. Then, order another layer of pork sauce, followed by béchamel sauce, followed by lasagne sheets. Repeat this order until all the sauces are used up, finishing with a layer of béchamel sauce over lasagne sheets. Top the final layer of béchamel sauce with more grated cheese, and bake in the oven for 25 minutes until the top is browned and slightly crisp.
  12. Remove from the oven, and serve with a fresh rocket salad.

lemon and thyme chicken

Ingredients

  • Chicken thighs or legs
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • Juice of lemon, to taste
  • Dried thyme
  • Button mushrooms, halved
  • Olive oil
  • Splash of boiling water

This dish is one that has incredibly simple, yet effective, flavours. The combination of lemon and thyme is not uncommon; in fact, type it into Google and it comes up with so many recipes, that perhaps it is one of the most common pairings of flavour! They work so well together not only for their flavour, but for providing moisture and texture, especially in dishes such as this with meat. The chicken in this dish is deliciously tender, absorbing the liquid of the lemon juice for moisture and the zest for flavour. Moreover, not only does cooking with this partnership lock in flavour, it makes a wonderful jus to pour over the chicken.

lemon and thyme – a well known and respected combination of flavours, and with good reason!

Although I used dried thyme for convenience, the use of fresh lemon is essential. Using bottled lemon juice would not give the same freshness that this citrus fruit of capable of; the texture of the peel would actually be impossible…it would be somewhat difficult to zest glass. Fresh thyme would only increase the intensity of the flavour of the herb. I’d advise tearing some leaves off the stalk and rubbing into the chicken skin, whilst placing a few stalks whole alongside the chicken to allow them to release their flavours whilst cooking. If you are able to get hold of fresh thyme, definitely use it – the freshness of the herb gives justice to the freshness of the lemon!

I decided to add mushrooms to this dish for extra flavour for the jus, as well as contributing another dimension of texture. Mushrooms contain a lot of water in their composition, and so not only as they cook do they help moisten the chicken, they contribute to the cooking flavours. Adding a splash of boiling water to the bottom of the dish after cooking for the final stages ensures that these flavours created during cooking are not lost, but are mixed to create a jus for the chicken.

This chicken is the definition of ‘prep-then-part’. After giving the chicken the tools to create flavour, so to speak, the oven does the rest, as this dish cooks with foil to lock in moisture, before roasting without the foil to crisp the skin. This dish is best served with mash or potatoes – something comfort-food-esque to soak up the flavours of the chicken and the juice, alongside some fresh green vegetables for colour.

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees. Pour a small amount of oil into the bottom of an oven proof dish. Add the raw chicken, and coat in the oil.
  2. Sprinkle over the dried thyme, shake the dish lightly to coat the chicken in the herbs. Then, zesting the lemon directly into the dish, ensure the chicken is covered in the flavours.
  3. Finally, squeeze the juice of the zested lemon to taste over the chicken, and cover the dish in silver foil, and place in the oven for 25 minutes.
  4. After the 25 minutes, remove the dish from the oven, and using a clean knife poke the chicken – if the juices run clear, add the halved button mushrooms. If not, return to the oven for 5 minutes more and then add the button mushrooms. Wash the knife!
  5. Remove the silver foil from the dish, and return it with the added mushrooms to the oven. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes more, until the skin has gone crispy and the chicken is cooked through.
  6. Taking the dish out of the oven before serving, the majority of the lemon will have dried away and the cooking juices may be stuck to the bottom of the dish. However, this can make brilliant ‘sauce’ for the chicken, so don’t wash it up!
  7. Removing the chicken and mushrooms to the serving plate, add a splash of boiling water to the oven proof dish. Then, using a wooden spoon, stir vigorously until the chicken juices have mixed with the water to create a thin sauce.
  8. Pour this sauce over the chicken, as it contains the flavours of the thyme and lemon, and gives it delicious moisture.
  9. This dish is best served with mash or boiled potatoes, alongside some fresh green vegetables. Enjoy!