Perry Pork Casserole

Perry or pear cider was traditionally made in small batches for farm consumption or to be sold at the farm gate. It was common in Britain for centuries and the pear trees grew particularly well in Gloucestershire.
So this is a great dish for people who live in the Cotswolds to cook!

Particularly good to serve in Autumn when English pears are readily available. Great for entertaining as you can prepare it ahead and cook through on the day.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • Pork chops – 4, large
  • 1 bottle of Pear Cider – about 500 ml
  • Pork or vegetable stock – 1 cube
  • Fresh Rosemary- 3-4 large sprigs
  • Brandy or Calvados (optional) – 4 tbsps
  • Pears- 4 small ones or 2 larger ones
  • Cornflour or arrowroot – 4 tsps
  • A little olive or rapeseed oil for browning chops
  • Unsalted butter- 25g(1oz) cut into small knobs
  • Salt and pepper to season

Here’s what you do:

  1. Get a frying pan or griddle pan hot.
  2. Spritz the pan with a little oil and brown the chops.
  3. Add about ½ bottle of the pear cider and the Calvados if using. (The pan will sizzle so stand back!)
  4. Add the stock cube and enough hot water so that the meat is just covered.
  5. Bring to the boil and then turn down to a simmer. Add the rosemary and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Cook for at least 45 mins so that the meat is tender. (Longer if your guests are delayed won’t hurt.) Check the meat from time to time and top up with the remaining cider as necessary.
  7. About 15 mins before you are intend to serve, prepare the pears.
  8. Peel, core and sliced into pretty slices.
  9. Move the chops to one side to create a space on the pan and then dot the pan with the knobs of butter. Place a piece of pear on top of each knob of butter and allow to caramelise.
  10. Cook for a further 10 mins or until the pears are tender.
  11. Mix the cornflour or arrowroot in a cup with a little cider (or cold water if you’ve used all the cider) to form a smooth paste.
  12. Add a tablespoon of the hot sauce from the pan to the cornflour paste. Combine well and then add to the pan.
  13. Stir and allow to cook for a further 10 mins.
  14. Serve with a timbale or mound of rice and seasonal vegetables.

Variations:

Try using Chicken in this dish instead of pork.

Cook’s Tips:

If you want to make this really special add a generous lug of calvados towards the end of cooking.

Luscious Lemon Curd

Makes about 450g/1lb

Ingredients:

      • Large eggs – 2
      • Large egg yolks – 2
      • Lemons –approx 3. You will need 150mls of juice in total.
      • Caster sugar – 200g/7oz.
      • Unsalted butter -115g/4oz

Here’s what you do:

Choose a medium-sized heatproof bowl which will fit snugly over the saucepan used for cooking the curd which will have simmering water in it.

Half fill the saucepan with water and bring to simmering point.

 

      1. Meanwhile, scrub the lemons (see Cook’s Tip) and finely grate the zest into your chosen bowl.
      2. Use a sharp knife to halve the lemons and squeeze the juice. Add to the bowl with the zest.
      3. Set the bowl over the pan of gently simmering water and add the sugar and butter. Stir, using a whisk until the butter has melted and the sugar dissolved.
      4. Put the eggs and additional yolks into a separate bowl and beat together with a fork. Pour the eggs through a sieve in a steady stream into the lemon mixture and stir using a wooden spoon until well until combined.
      5. Stir the mixture constantly over the heat until the lemon curd thickens and lightly coats the back of a wooden spoon.
      6. Remove the pan from the heat. Leave for 5 minutes to cool slightly and check if it is set. Then, pour the curd into small warmed sterilized jars.
      7. Cover, seal and label. Store in a cool, dark place, ideally in a fridge. Use within 3 months and once opened store in the fridge.

Variations:

      • Try using Seville oranges or limes instead of lemons for a change.
      • Same basic ingredients but use 2 Seville oranges or 6 limes instead of the lemons. Make sure the total amount of juice is 150mls.

Cook’s Tips:

      • Scrub the citrus fruits with sodium bicarbonate before zesting to remove pesticides.
      • Put halved citrus on a microwave-proof plate for 10 seconds per half on HIGH to maximise juice.
      • To sterilise jars- put 1” water into each jar, place in microwave and heat for 2 mins, HIGH

Melba Toast

melba-toastHome-made Melba toast has the edge on the bought packaged variety. It is nicest served while still a little warm, in a basket or on a napkin-lined plate. If it is made a short time ahead, store it in an airtight container, then refresh it for a short time in the oven.

Ingredients
Serves: 8

8 Slices White or brown bread, thick cut

Method

Preheat the grill to high and toast the bread lightly on both sides. Cut off the crusts, then holding the toast flat, slide the knife between the toasted edges to split the bread.
With your finger, gently roll away the doughy part of the bread leaving a thin slice.

Cut each piece into 2 triangles, then toast under the grill, untoasted sides uppermost, until golden and the edges curl. Serve warm.

Alternatively make earlier in the day and warm for a short time in the oven at 170 °C / 325 °F / Gas 3 before serving.

“Bloody Mary”Pasta

Penne Pasta with Tomato and Vodka Sauce

Although this is a simple recipe and quick to prepare, it tastes very modern and sophisticated with the addition of the vodka.  Always choose a short pasta like penne, as it goes very well with a creamy sauce.

Serves 4 as a main course or 6 as a starter

Ingredients:

      • Garlic – 2 cloves, or more according to your taste, chopped
      • Chopped tomatoes – 2 x 250g tin (I like to use cherry tomatoes for extra flavour.)
      • Virgin olive oil – a good glug, optional, see Cook’s Tips
      • Single or sour cream – 150ml (5fl oz)
      • Crème fraiche – 4 tbsps
      • Vodka – 2 – 4 tbsps, according to your taste
      • Basil – 3 tablespoons freshly chopped or 1 tbsp (15ml) dried
      • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
      • Penne Pasta – 350g (12oz) adjust quantity depending on appetite
      • Parmesan cheese – grated to serve

Here’s what you do:

      1. Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Add the garlic and fry until light, golden brown.
      2. Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.
      3. Cook gently for about 5 mins.
      4. Leave to simmer whilst you cook the pasta in lots of salted water for no more than 7 minutes until it is just cooked, but still has a bite to it.(al dente as the Italians would say)
      5. Drain the cooked pasta and return to the hot pasta pan leaving a little of the pasta water in the bottom of the pan. Add the basil.
      6. Add the cream to the tomato sauce and stir well over a medium heat.
      7. Add the crème fraiche and stir gently.
      8. Remove from the heat and sprinkle with vodka before tossing into the pasta pan.
      9. Serve immediately with grated Parmesan handed around separately.

Cook’s Tips:

    • Only add the vodka at the end of the cooking, or it will evaporate and the flavour will be lost. If you don’t like Vodka use a dry Vermouth like Noilly Pratt.
    • For a more substantial main course- add ham, chorizo, smoked salmon or raw prawns a couple of mins before the end of cooking time.