The way to a man's heart


​About a year ago, a colleague of mine received a very strange compliment. Or insult, depending on your point of view. Despite her best efforts, she had ended up on the same metro home as an older and slightly leery cast member after rehearsals. He promptly cornered her and told her what a "nice" face she had. "Like a pork chop."

I suppose that was the most delicious thing he could think of. Now, whenever I eat a pork chop, I think of her. I’m sure she (and her husband, who happens to be Jewish) would be delighted to hear it.

If DS were to pay me a similar compliment, I’d probably be a plate of spareribs. With BBQ sauce. That’s pretty much his favourite thing. When I offered to make him some the other night, he was happier than a pig in mud. I added sticky sprouts and a creamy Jerusalem artichoke puree to spruce things up, followed by a fluffy apple cake for some more wintry goodness. A treat of a supper, which takes a little bit of forward planning.

We unusually had pork TWICE in one week. Oh happy (man*) days. After a predominantly vegetarian January I didn’t feel too bad about it, especially as I try to source our occasional pork from pigs who have had plenty of fun in the mud. You should too.

Meal no. 2 was a quick to put together but hearty lunch to welcome him home after a few days away: simple (but beautiful) pork chops with a celeriac remoulade, washed down with a celebratory glass of Languedoc red, and followed by a classic apple crumble. And a snooze.

So, here you have two ways with pork and apple. A special ribs supper or a quick (double) chop lunch.

* By NO means am I stipulating that any man who does not eat pork, whatever the reason, is not a manly man.

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DINNER FOR A HAPPY MAN*

Sticky pork ribs (and sprouts) with Jerusalem artichoke puree

Serves 2, takes 30 minutes preparation, plus overnight marinading and 1.5 hours oven time

main / perennial / easy peasy / show off / party / date night / gluten free

​Crispy ribs with a sticky and spicy marinade are a carnivore's wet dream. The jerusalem artichoke puree makes a creamy and smoky accompaniment, but you could make any sort of vegetable puree you like. Some people don’t like sprouts. I get it. But they probably will when they’re cooked like this, all sticky and crispy and delicious. You can leave them out if you prefer.

* Pork ribs – 600g

* Soy sauce – 1/3 cup

* BBQ sauce – 1/3 cup (I used my own homemade, you could use ketchup here)

* Honey/date syrup - 1/3 cup

* Whisky - 3 tbsp

* Chilli sauce – 1 tbsp (I like using Chirachi hot sauce)

* Ginger – 2 thumb sized pieces, peeled and finely grated

* Garlic – 2 cloves, peeled and crushed

* Jerusalem artichokes – 500g, scrubbed and roughly chopped

* Sprouts – a couple of handfuls, stems removed and chopped in half

* Cream – a generous glug (according to taste)

* Fresh nutmeg – a good grind/sprinkle

Start by marinating the ribs. Mix the soy, BBQ sauce (or ketchup), honey, chilli sauce, whisky, ginger and garlic together, then rub all over the meat. Place in a smallish roasting tin (large enough just to fit the ribs in one layer), cover and place in the fridge. Leave ideally overnight, but at least for a few hours.

When you're ready to cook, preheat the oven to 160 degrees C.

Put the ribs in the oven and cook for 30 minutes.

Turn the ribs and add the sprouts to the pan, basting the meat and tossing the sprouts in the sauce. Return to the oven for another 30 minutes.

Raise the temperature of the oven to 200 degrees C and cook for a final 20 minutes, until everything is crispy. You might need to add a dash of water to the pan if it looks like it’s getting very dry.

Meanwhile, prepare the puree. Simmer the artichokes in plenty of salted water with a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon juice. After about 20 minutes, when the artichokes are tender (and ideally while the meat is resting), drain and return to the pan. Add the cream and nutmeg. Season. Blend with a hand blender until you have a smooth puree.

Chop the spareribs into separate ribs, then serve with a dollop of puree and the sprouts on the side. And a napkin.

Fluffy apple cake

Serves 6, takes 30 minutes, plus baking time (less if you use ready made apple puree)

dessert / perennial / easy peasy / quietly smug / date night / baking / hands free / dairy free / vegetarian

Here’s a fluffy and moist dairy free cake where most of the natural sweetness comes from the apples. Yippee. The first time, I made my own compote because I had some apples hanging around. The next time I used an organic ready-made puree and it was just as delicious. If you’re pressed for time, the puree is the easy option, obviously. The cake will keep extremely well wrapped up in the fridge, so by all means make it the day before.

* Sweet apple – 2, cored and finely sliced (again, I used Galas)

OR unsweetened apple compote – 250g

* Lemon – zest of one

* Fennel seeds – 1/2 tsp, ground

* Ground cinnamon – 1 tsp

* Nutmeg – ¼ tsp

* Whiskey or rum – 2 tbsp

* Eggs – 2

* Brown sugar – 1/2 cup

* Vegetable oil – 1/3 cup

* Plain flour – 1 cup

* Baking powder – 1 tbsp

* Salt – a pinch

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

If using fresh apples, place the apple, zest, alcohol and spices in a saucepan. Cook over a low heat, covered, for about 20 minutes, or until the apple is soft enough that you can squidge it into a rough puree. If you’re using ready made compote, just mix these ingredients together in a bowl.

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and sugar together until pale and slightly thickened. Then whisk in the oil.

Sieve the flour, baking powder and salt into the batter and mix to combine. Don’t over mix here.

Finally fold the apple into the batter.

Pour into a greased and floured 23 cm cake tin. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Serve with a dollop of proper crème fraiche or a glass of calvados. If you’d like something more festive, try a mascarpone and whiskey icing – simply whisk together 100g of mascarpone with a tbsp of whiskey and a tbsp of icing sugar.

QUICK LUNCH FOR A HAPPY MAN*

Honey and mustard pork chop with celeriac remoulade

Serves 2, takes 20 minutes

main / easy peasy / ready in a jiffy / nothing fancy / winter / autumn / gluten free / on a budget

A quick and tasty lunch or dinner. I make a sort of cheat’s mayonnaise for this spicy and quick remoulade. Grated celeriac is also delicious with a tahini dressing, for something a bit different and dairy free, if you prefer.

For the pork

* Dijon mustard – 2 tbsp

* Honey – 1 tbsp

* Pork chops – 2

For the remoulade

* Celeriac – ½

* Dijon mustard - 2 tbsp

* Greek yogurt or labneh – a few spoonfuls

* Olive oil – a drizzle

To serve

* Lambs lettuce – a few bunches

* Lemon – a squeeze

Mix the honey and 2 tbsp of mustard together in a glass. Season with salt and pepper. Rub the mixture all over the pork chops and set aside.

To make the remoulade, scrub the celeriac clean and remove any strings or stalks. Using the grating attachment on a mixer, finely grate the celeriac. You can of course do this by hand but it will take a little longer. Mix the remaining mustard with the yogurt and a drizzle of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, then thoroughly toss the sauce through the celeriac in a large bowl.

Heat a tbsp of olive oil in a frying pan on a medium high heat. Once the pan is hot, add the pork and fry for 5 minutes. Flip the chops and fry for a further 3- 5 minutes, depending on how you like it cooked (I like mine pink. DS thinks that’s an abomination).

Serve the pork with a side of celeriac and a few lambs lettuce leaves dressed with olive oil and lemon. A nice glass of red wine is probably a good addition.

Quick apple and almond crumble

Serves 2, takes 5 minutes plus oven time

dessert / autumn / winter / easy peasy / ready in a jiffy / nothing fancy / date night / on a budget / baking / gluten free / vegetarian

The quickest of comforting desserts. If you’re out of almonds, by all means use flour (plain or buckwheat) instead.

* Sweet apples – 2, cored and finely sliced (red varieties look pretty, I used gala)

* Butter – 2 tbsp

* Ground almonds – 2 tbsp

* Sugar – ¼ cup

* Rolled oats -1/3 cup

* Cinnamon – ½ tsp

* Salt – a pinch

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C.

Place the apple slices in the bottom of a small casserole dish.

Mix together the remaining ingredients, rubbing the butter into the mixture until you have an even texture. Scatter the crumble over the apple slices and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

Serve with crème fraiche, cream, custard or ice cream. Or a glass of calvados. It’s so difficult to know.

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@2016 by Lucy Rose Page