New year new you, or so the saying goes. Although, really I’ve reached a stage in life where I’m quite happy with the old me. Even more so when it means the highlight of the weekend is going to the butchers to pick up some premium free range Dorset pork chops (from Webster family butchers in Southbourne) and then making this recipe, from Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries, glass of wine in hand.
Nigel Slater is the author whose books most frequently line my bookshelves. And of his books, this is probably my joint favourite (stay tuned to see which tome it shares a podium with). Written, as the name suggests, like a diary, it’s perfect to curl up with for inspiration. Ideal for planning seasonal eating or, if you’re anything like me, skipping ahead to the summer when you’ve had enough of the all the cold and damp and you want to dream about ripe peaches dribbling down your chin and warm sand between your toes (or vice versa).
This recipe is quick, easy and perfect for a chilly January afternoon, enjoyed alongside the remnants of the bottle I hadn't yet drunk, before curling up on the sofa beside the Ewing to watch the football.
Pork chops with mustard sauce
adapted from Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries
2 large pork chops
big glug of brandy/white wine
100ml of double/whipping cream
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
Sprinkle of Bisto Best for chicken/chicken stock cube
Turn the oven to 180°c. Heat a frying pan over a high heat and add the pork, with a little oil if the chops don't have much fat, and fry for a couple of minutes on each side until golden. Don't forget to crisp up the fat. put the chops on a tray and into the oven for 8/10 minutes to finish cooking while you make the sauce.
Over a medium heat add the brandy/wine to the pan you fried the chops in and let it reduce, scraping up any bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the cream and mustard (and a little Bisto if, like me, you wanted some extra oomph) and leave to bubble and reduce for a few minutes. Taste, season with salt and pepper, add the cooked and rested chops back to the pan to heat through and then divide between two plates.
I served this with two types of cabbage; red cabbage slow braised with a chopped green apple, cider vinegar, a spoonful of cranberry sauce and and couple of spoonfuls of brown sugar; and sweetheart cabbage, lightly steamed and crisp.
I'm sure my Irish grandmother, were she still with us, would have admonished me for not including potatoes (and I'm sure the Ewing would agree). But while mash, or a few floury boiled spuds, would have been good, I found it quite enough with the rich meat and the rich sauce. Although the Clare Valley Riesling we drunk alongside had an acidity that was very welcome.
As if that wasn’t worth the price of admission alone, I also made Nigel’s frosted marmalade loaf cake from his Kitchen Diaries 1. Made with the remnants of a jar of homemade whiskey marmalade, 2017 vintage. This is a recipe that the Ewing has made a few times (although never for me, I note) but this time I made it for her. Or more precisely, I made it for her to take into the office for her new workmates. Apparently her boss had a slice, and she hasn’t been sacked yet, so I’m taking it that it went down well.
My only amendments this time were to use a mix of white flour (plain, with baking powder added) and wholemeal spelt flour, as I found some in a jar on the shelf as I was rooting about and thought the nuttiness, slightly crumbly spelt would work against the bitterness of the marmalade.
I also misread the '2 tbsps of orange juice' in the icing as 'juice of two oranges'... Luckily I had only added one orange by this point, but the mix was still far too liquid and I ended up adding more icing sugar after my initial application barely glazed the top of the cake. Well, the whole point, according to Nige's blurb, is to end up with the crisp crunch of the topping as a contrast to the soft sponge.
Frosted marmalade cake
For the sponge:
175g golden, unrefined caster sugar
a large orange, finely grated
3 large eggs
75g orange marmalade
175g self-raising flour (I used 125g plain white and 50g wholemeal spelt plus 1tsp of baking powder)
For the frosting:
100g icing sugar
2 tbsps orange juice
Set the oven at 180 °C. Line a loaf tin about 25 x 11 x 7cm deep.
Put the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and beat, with a mixer or electric whisk, until pale and fluffy.
Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly between each addition.
Beat in the marmalade and the grated orange zest.
Gently fold in the flour and baking powder. Do this slowly, firmly but carefully, till there is no sign of any flour. Gently stir in the juice of half the orange.
Spoon into the lined cake tin, lightly smoothing the top. Bake for 40 minutes, checking it after 35 with a metal skewer. Leave to cool in the tin, then remove and cool on a wire rack.
Sieve the icing sugar and mix it to a smooth, slightly runny consistency with as much of the remaining orange juice as it takes. Drizzle the icing over the cake letting it run down the sides, and leave to set.
As an addendum, my colleagues found out about the cake for the Ewing's colleagues, and so I baked another one this weekend just for them, As its my last week before starting my new job (eeek) I'm not so worried about being sacked, just hoping there are no ill-effects so they can all come for a farewell drink on Friday....