Spiced Pork Braised with Prunes and Apricots with Pan-Fried Polenta

22 Jan

It happens sometimes that we have a little time for a break in our kitchen. In that case, we keep on chatting a bit longer with a nice cup of ginger tea or coffee but sometime we seize the opportunity to dive into cookbooks to get fresh ideas.

As I am not really into meat when I am cooking, I have been looking at the meat section of different cookbooks and eventually, I spent most of my time in only one book:

The Food I Love by Neil Perry

This book is really full of inspiring recipes and Neil Perry gives plenty of tips about ingredients and method which is always valuable when you are on your own.

Basically, I wanted to try most of them but the Spiced Pork with the Pan-Fried Polenta won my attention and it was an opportunity to practice both on a Stew and on Polenta!

Here they are….. the recipes! The recipe indicates it is for 4 but I think it is rather for 6 especially if your are having finger food or starter before and pudding/cheese after!

Spiced Pork Braised with Prunes and Apricots

Ingredients

  • 1kg of pork shoulder diced into 2-3cm pieces
  • 1tsp of ground coriander
  • 1tsp of ground fennel
  • 1tsp of ground cumin
  • 1tsp of ground cinnamon
  • 2tsp of sea salt
  • 80ml of olive oil
  • 1 onion diced
  • 125ml of Porto
  • 250ml of red wine
  • 8 pitted prunes
  • 8 dried apricots
  • grated zest of 1 orange
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 500ml of veal stock
  • fresh ground pepper

Method

Mix all the spices and salt altogether and coat the pieces of pork with it. Cover and let it marinate for at least an hour or the night before.

Choose a large and deep heavy based saucepan for that recipe as you will have to add quite a lot of ingredients!

Heat the oil and spread only half of the pork in the pan and fry the pieces until it gets brown but be careful, if it’s too hot, the spices will burn. Also if you put all the meat, the risk is that the meat won’t fry and get a nice brown color. That’s why it’s better to do it into 2 times or more if you have to double the recipe for a large party!

Remove the first batch and repeat with the other batch then set aside for later.

Now add the diced onion in the pan with a pinch of salt and cook it for another 5 minutes on medium heat until soft and golden brown.

You are not starting the recipe with the onions because they need to be cooked after the pork in order to get all the nice flavors of the spices and juices of the pork.

Then you can add the Porto and reduce it by half and add the wine. Bring it to a boil and cook it for another 5 minutes in order  to burn off the alcohol.

Basically, you’re almost done! Now you just have to add the pork, prunes, apricots, orange zest, bay leaves and stock and bring it to a boil then to reduce to a gentle simmer and cover it for 1 1/2 hours.

It’s important to cover the meat because it will keep it tender and the mixture will not reduce dramatically!

Remove the lid and cook for another 20-30 minutes. The pork has to be tender and the sauce is neither too liquid nor too thick. Adjust the seasoning with freshly ground pepper and salt if needed. Remove the bay leaves and serve it.

Neil Perry suggests pan-fried polenta, couscous or rice with that dish. Here I am telling you about the polenta but now that I have tried I may advise you to go rather for couscous or rice as it will be perfect to soak up the braising juices!

Pan-Fried Polenta

Ingredients

  • 100g of polenta
  • 375ml of milk
  • 250ml of chicken stock (or veg stock if you are on a vegetarian option)
  • 1tsp of sea salt
  • 50g of finely grated Parmesan
  • 50g of unsalted butter diced
  • freshly ground pepper
  • olive oil

Method

First, line a loaf tin (8*8*30cm) with parchment paper and set aside.

In a pan, almost bring to a boil the milk, stock and sea salt then shower the polenta into the mixture and stir continuously with a whisk. Still stirring, simmer over very low heat for about 40 minutes. The polenta is very thick and pulls away cleanly from the side of the pan.

Off the heat, stir in the Parmesan, butter then the salt and pepper up to your taste.

Spread the polenta into the lined tin and cover with cling film to prevent from crusting. Let it cool down then refrigerate for a few hours.

On the picture, the container is much larger than a loaf tin…. it’s just because I was cooking for much more than 6 people….

Once the polenta is ready, turn it out of the tin and cut it into slices 1,5-2 cm thick.

Heat the grill or a pan with olive oil and quickly pan-fry the slices until it gets a nice golden brown color or char-grilled marks.

You can also grill them in your oven.

The polenta can be cooked many ways, it can be creamier and served like a puree for example but you can also have fun with the shapes. You can cut them into little sticks for example and use them as a base for canapes….

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