Thursday, April 11, 2013

Back to the beginning

I've been busy lately writing up recipes to go in the back of my e-book food memoir (cover and title coming very soon). One of the first recipes I put in dates back to when I first started learning to cook - I was about to get married, so I had to learn fast. Luckily I was able to turn to my married friend Frances for help (her mother had been a home science teacher). Here's a tiny advance taste of that chapter:
I had been married barely a month when I asked my favourite English professor, Tom Crawford, to dinner. It all seemed simple enough. The meat would be seventeenth-century pork chops (a recipe from Frances), spread well ahead of time with a mixture of parsley, chopped onion, oil, salt and lemon juice, and then grilled. With them we would have rice (because potatoes were boring and bourgeois and I often got them wrong) and green beans (frozen, so no problems there).
... The chops weren’t raw but they were rock hard. The rice was gluggy and the beans were grey. Tom bravely chewed his way through it all, keeping up a flow of urbane literary chat.
I did get it right eventually - the secret is to bake the chops instead of grilling them. The other night I made this for my neighbour, who is also called Frances. Here's the recipe.

Seventeenth century pork chops
1 small onion
2 Tbsp parsley
2 tsp lemon juice
3 Tbsp olive oil
salt and ground black pepper
2 large pork chops

- Peel onion and grate it into a small bowl. Finely chop parsley and add it to onion. Add lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and mix well
- At least 1 hour and up to 10 hours before cooking, brush one side of chops with the remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil and place them in a shallow ceramic baking dish, oiled side down. (You can also use a metal dish – this speeds up cooking, but it can also dry the chops out, so keep an eye on them.) Spread onion mixture over their upper sides. Leave in refrigerator until 30 minutes before cooking.

- Preheat oven to 180°C. Place baking dish on rack in middle of oven. Bake chops for approximately 1 hour, until topping is browned a little and a thin knife slides easily into the meat. Lift out and rest on kitchen paper for 10 minutes before serving.

Baked Agria potatoes are good with this. I had two large oval ones, so I scrubbed them well and halved them horizontally, brushed them with oil, sprinkled them with salt, then put them into the oven at the same time as the pork chops, to bake on a lower shelf.

     We had a rare treat with our chops: beautiful fresh runner beans from Ali's garden (I haven't got room to  grow them here). I have a neat little bean slicer that works perfectly for them, peeling away the stringy sides. Harvey preferred his beans cut into traditional angled chunks, but I love the thin green ribbons my slicer produces, with slivers of pink dotted along them. A brief steaming is all they need.

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