Pork Chops with Leek Mash and Caramalized Apples :
I’ve always loved a pork chop, but somehow every time I made them, they seemed a little dry or tough. I tried all sorts of ways of cooking them, and also bought meat from lots of different butchers, but I just couldn’t get the succulent result I wanted, until … The secret of a perfect pork chop for me is to brine them first. Basically that means steeping them in salted water for a couple of hours before you cook them. Simplest of tips, but best results.
Preparation Time: Brining time is from 30 minutes to 4 hours, whatever you can manage. The rest of the preparation will take about 25 minutes. Cooking Time: Up to 30 minutes – some of this time will depend on how thick your chops are.
Serves: 4 Ingredients For the Pork Chops The Brine 500ml / 1pt. tap water
2 x bay leaves
2 x tsp of salt
1 x tsp of whole black peppercorns
2 x smashed garlic cloves
½ tsp of juniper berries (optional) The Pork Chops 4 x pork chops on the bone
1 x tbsp of olive oil For the Mash 800gr /1.7 lb potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 x large leek, cleaned thoroughly and sliced thinly
2 x garlic cloves, chopped finely
About a tbsp of olive oil
2 x tsps of Dijon mustard (or to taste)
Salt and Black pepper to taste For the Apples 1 x tbsp of butter
3 or 4 apples sliced into thick orange segment shapes (don’t peel the apples)
A drizzle of honey
Place the brine ingredients in a dish that will hold the pork so that the water will cover your meat. If you need more water to cover the meat remember to adjust the ratio of the salt and other ingredients accordingly. Place the pork in the brine and leave it for at least 30 minutes or up to 4 hours.
To cook the potatoes place them in a pan and cover them generously in tap water and a little salt, cover and bring to the boil, remove the lid and cook until there is little resistance to the tip of a knife when pressed into the potato. Drain and set aside in a colander to steam for a couple of minutes.
In another pan heat the olive oil on a medium heat when hot add the garlic and the leeks. Sweat the leeks down by keeping them on a low heat and covering the pan with a close fitting lid. Stir very occasionally just to check they are not sticking but there is enough heat to cook them. Ideally you don’t want to get colour on your leeks that’s why we’re not frying them intensely. The idea is to keep the colour of your mash nice an pale.
To finish the potatoes put them back in their pan, mash them, add in the leeks, mustard, salt and pepper, mix and mash until smooth. Check for seasoning and set aside until you need them. If you cover the pan with a close fitting lid, this will keep warm for about 10 minutes.
To cook the pork pre-heat your oven to 200°C / 400°F
Remove the pork from the brine and pat it dry with paper towels then rub both sides of each chop with olive oil.
Place a non-stick frying pan on a high heat, get it nice and hot, then place the chops in the pan – they should sizzle immediately. Give them about 3 minutes on each side to colour, without turning them in between.
Place the chops in the oven and roast them for 12 to 15 minutes. You can check if they are ready by using a meat thermometer, but I usually just slice into the thickest part of the chop that I will eat and check there is no pink colour.
In another frying pan place the butter in on a medium to high heat, once it has melted add your apple slices. Let them fry for about 3 minutes on each side. The idea is to get them brown, softened, but still with a bit of crunch. Finish them by squeezing over a little honey (maybe only a teaspoon or so), toss them in the honey and serve on the side of your dish.
Tips and Variations
I used to find that pork chops could become dry and a bit tough, but since using this brining method they stay nice and juicy.
Leeks can trap dust and dirt in between their layers. I find the best way to make sure they are clean is to slice them down the middle lengthways so that you can run the water and clean in between each section.
I normally use whatever eating apples I have, I don’t buy cooking apples for this recipe. The amount f honey you use will depend on how sweet the apples are.
If you don’t have a frying pan that you can transfer to the oven, use a roasting tray, but heat it up in the oven whilst you are browning the chops in a pan, then transfer them to the tray. Don’t forget to use your oven gloves when you are moving these pans and trays around though.
There’s not much I’ll miss about winter, but I already know I’ll pine for porridge with apple and cinnamon. I’ve always been a huge porridge fan, I can’t help it, I’m Scottish, it’s in our blood (that and whisky of course), but this winter I made a change. I played around with my porridge and added a little spice (of which I am also a huge fan) and this was the result.
Hmmm, do you think I’ll be allowed to eat porridge in the summer too? Yeah, why not.
Preparation Time: 3 minutes Cooking Time: 3 to 5 minutes
Ingredients for 4 servings 200gr / 7 oz. porridge oats
400ml / 13.5 fl. oz. water
½ tsp of salt
½ tsp of cinnamon (or to taste)
A few drops of vanilla extract
4 to 6 tbsp of apple compote
4 x tsp of honey
8 x tbsp of milk
Place the water, oats, cinnamon, vanilla and salt in a non stick pan, and put on a high heat and bring to a boil.
Turn down to a medium high heat and stir with a wooden spoon. Keep stirring until the oats soften and the mixture takes on a creamy texture. You can keep cooking and the mixture will become thicker if you prefer.
Divide into bowls, drizzle over the honey and the milk and add a spoonful or so of the apple compote to each serving.
Tips and Variations
Great with some fresh berries, raspberries would be the real Scottish choice.
For a richer version, swap the milk for single cream, or you can start by cooking the oats in a half water, half milk liquid.
If you dare, you can add another Scottish touch, a wee dram of whiskey in every portion!
To make the Apple Compote
Ingredients 150 ml / 5 fl. oz. water
4 x medium apples peeled, cored and roughly diced
Place the apples, water and cinnamon in a heavy bottomed pan, bring to the boil, then allow to simmer until the apples are soft.
Mash with a fork for a rougher texture or liquidize it with a hand mixer for a smooth result
As well as serving this with porridge it goes great with meat, especially pork or roast chicken.
Tips and Variations
The amount of water can depend on the apples, so if you feel it is getting to dry while cooking, just add a little water. Or , if you feel there is too much water, just turn the heat up and let it evaporate as steam.
This sauce keeps in the fridge for up to a week, or you can freeze it.
Serves 4 as a side dish 650gr / 1.5 lb red cabbage (this is roughly a whole medium sized cabbage) with stalk removed and chopped thinly, as if you were making coleslaw.
1 x tbsp olive oil
2 x shallots chopped finely
2 x garlic cloves chopped finely
2 x apples chopped in small cubes (about 2cm / 1 in.)
1 x level tsp cinnamon
2 x tbsps honey
1 x tbsp red wine vinegar (or balsamic)
Splash of red wine
Salt and pepper to taste
In a relatively wide, heavy bottomed pan, heat the oil and add the shallot and garlic. Cook for about 2 minutes or until they have browned and softened a little.
Add the apple and stir through the onion and garlic mix then add the cabbage, cook on a medium high heat for about 5 minutes.
Add the cinnamon, honey, salt, pepper, stir through.
To de-glaze, first turn the heat up, let the pan get hot being careful not to burn the contents, add the wine and the vinegar, stir through and turn the heat down to medium low.
Cover and cook on a gentle heat for up to 2 hours.
Once the cabbage has softened it is ready, check for seasoning and serve.
Tips and Variations
Serve with venison and other game meats in season, steaks, pork chops or for a treat, good quality sausages!
I like to eat this cold served with cold meats or strong cheeses.
Try adding a couple of handfuls of sultana’s while cooking.
You can adjust the flavour by adding not only salt but if you want a more pickled taste, just add more vinegar, and maybe honey.
You know, the word ‘cookie’ is derived from the Dutch word ‘koekje’ (little biscuit). Just a bit of trivia for you before we get started.
It’s a good thing that these cookies are not available all year round, otherwise I’d have even more of a struggle to keep my weight under control than I already do! There’s something about the crunch and the spice mix that makes it almost impossible for me to stop eating them once I’ve started.
Ingredients for about 16 Cookies 250gr / 9 oz. self raising flour
150gr / 5 oz. dark muscavado sugar
2 x heaped tbsp speculaas spices
Pinch of salt
100gr / 3.5 oz. cold butter from the fridge
3 x tbsp butter milk or regular milk
Optional: Peeled almonds to decorate
Place the flour, sugar, spices and salt into a large mixing bowl.
Add the butter and crumb this together by running the mix through your fingers from your pinkies to index finger until it becomes like breadcrumbs.
Make a well in the middle of the mixture, add the butter milk.
Using your hand like a whisk bring the mix together until it is in one ball. If it really doesn’t come together, try adding another drop of butter milk.
Dust down a cool surface with a little flour, remove the dough from the bowl and knead gently for a minute until it becomes one equal mass.
Place the dough back in the bowl, cover with cling film and place back in the fridge for an hour.
After the hour, pre-heat your oven to 180°C / 350°F.
Place baking parchment onto your baking tray. Remove the dough from the fridge, dust your cool surface and your rolling pin with flour and roll the mix out until it is about 1cm thick.
Roll the dough over your rolling pin and transfer it carefully on to your baking tray.
If you wish to add almonds, this is the point at which to do this. Press them about halfway into the dough, roughly spaced on each side by about 5cm.
Place in the oven for about 25 minutes, check after 15. Bake until the cookie darkens, the edges are crispy and there is hardly any ‘give’ in the middle.
Allow to cool and break into rough pieces to serve.
Tips And Variations
The spices for speculaas are available in the Netherlands from good supermarkets and bakers. This is a very seasonal product so normally you will only find the spice mix available from late October to early December.
If you are unable to buy a speculaas spice mix, here is my recipe:
2 x tbsp cinnamon
1 x tsp cloves
1 x tsp nutmeg
½ tsp white pepper
½ tsp ginger powder
¼ tsp cardamom
I sometimes like to add a little more cinnamon to the spice mix I buy, or a small extra pinch of powdered ginger for more heat in the spice!
You can try adding the zest of an orange to the dry ingredients, gives a nice extra element.
This is basically like a short crust pastry – you can also make it in the food processor (up to the crumb stage, after step 2, it will have to come out) – I don’t because I use any excuse to get my hands into my baking! And, my hands are generally quite cold, which is important for this as you don’t want to melt the butter.
Try decorating with small pieces of candied ginger instead of almonds.
For a more decorative result, instead of baking in one large piece, use a cookie cutter and make individual biscuits. I prefer this method as I find it easier. With one big cookie it can be a bit difficult to get an even bake, I often find that the middle stays a little soft.
This is a bit of an accidental vegetarian recipe. What I mean by that is that I didn’t set out to make a vegetarian recipe, but it sort of just happened that way. Staring into the fridge one day at a butternut squash that I had bought on impulse (ok, some women buy shoes on impulse, I buy squash – what of it?), I had to come up with a way to use it. I had been obsessing over a curry with squash for a while, maybe combine it with some frozen spinach which I always have in the freezer anyway and perhaps some chickpeas. But, I didn’t feel like a curry that day, and then it came to me, all of a sudden, it had to be pasta……
Ingredients for 4 Servings For the Butternut Squash 2 x medium butternut squash, peeled and diced (smallish, bite sized pieces– remember though, they will shrink a bit in the oven)
2 x tsp honey
1 x tbsp olive oil
½ a freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper For the Spinach Sauce 2 x tbsp olive oil
500gr / 1.1 lb. frozen spinach (not creamed spinach), defrosted
3 x shallots chopped finely
5 or 6 sage leaves chopped finely
2 or 3 large garlic cloves chopped finely
300gr / 10 oz. cherry tomatoes, quartered
300ml / 10 fl.oz. buttermilk To Serve 75gr / 2.5 oz. toasted pine nuts
50gr / 1.5 oz. grated pecorino cheese (or parmesan)
Some extra virgin oil to drizzle over (optional)
Lumache Rigate pasta
Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/400°F.
Place the butternut squash in a roasting tray big enough that you can spread it out. Drizzle over the oil, mix it through to cover all your squash, then drizzle over the honey, grate over the nutmeg, sprinkle over a little salt and pepper. Place in the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes. The time will depend on how big you made your pieces of squash. The result you are looking for is that the squash has softened a little (not mushy though) and that it has taken on some colour.
Whilst the squash is cooking you can get on with the pasta and the spinach sauce. Drop your pasta into boiling, salted water for as long as the packaging instructs.
For the spinach sauce, heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan, then add the shallots, garlic and sage. Cook until they have browned then add the spinach. I like to keep any water that has come from the spinach, I don’t drain it, just add it all. Stir through and add the tomatoes, mix in. Once bubbling, add the buttermilk, mix it through, then add and some salt and pepper to taste. This part of the cooking only takes a few minutes, you don’t want to overcook the spinach otherwise it will lose its vibrant green colour.
When the squash is ready, add about 2/3 of it to the spinach in the pan and stir through, keep the rest back to dress.
To add the pasta, I don’t drain it, as I want to get a little (just a little) of the water in which it has cooked into my sauce. To do this I decant the pasta into the pan with the spinach and butternut by using a slotted spoon. Stir your pasta through, check for seasoning.
To serve sprinkle over the remaining squash, pine nuts, cheese and drizzle over some extra virgin olive oil if you wish.
Tips and Variations
You can make the squash in advance and heat it through the spinach sauce.