The day began with me in sunglasses, perched on a curb in the sun, a coffee in one hand and a bag of steaming hot apple cider donuts in the other. This is how weekends are supposed to start when you’re young, have a sweet tooth, and live in a country where the first signs of Spring call everyone out from their lonely towers to spend the day outdoors.
Our bellies were full and our minds alert by the time we finished the coffee and miniature donuts. We licked the cinnamon sugar from our fingers and wiped it off of our laps, trying desperately to decide how to spend this particular Saturday.
We needed to go to the grocery store, of which there was one nearby. But instead we decided to walk up the hill and to the other side of town, an hour or more out of our way, just to enjoy the weather. It has been so long since there was weather to enjoy.
Our coming to the grocery store up the hill was purely for a walk. I dislike this supermarket and even more so on a Saturday but we get what we need and quickly leave.
With a breakfast of donuts being the only food having passed my lips by dinner time, I decided to make a grand dinner starting by making a loaf of peasant bread and then by selecting 2 recipes from Jamie’s Food Revolution to prepare and serve with a green salad.
The first was a recipe for baked French potatoes which were fairly satisfying and homely despite a strange excess of stock left over at the recipe’s conclusion. These I served with a really flavorful pork dish using apricot jam for the glaze and using sage leaves as garnish.
RECIPE FOR BAKED FRENCH POTATOES
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Put 3 1/2 cups of chicken stock in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Peel and finely slice 1 3/4 pounds of potatoes. Peel, half and finely slice 1 pound of medium onions and 3 cloves of garlic. Pick the leaves from a small handful of fresh Italian parsley and finely chop. Pour a couple of lugs of olive oil into a large, hot pan with the onions, garlic and parsley. Slowly fry for 10 minutes until the onions are soft and lightly golden. Add a good pinch of salt and pepper. In a large baking dish, place a layer of potatoes, a sprinkling of salt and pepper and a layer of onions. Continue this process, repeating until you’ve used everything up but finish with a layer of potatoes on top. Pour in hot broth just to cover the potatoes on top. Break up 2 pats of butter and dot over the top. Rub some aluminum foil with olive oil and cover the dish with it, olive oil side down, and very tightly. Place in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, then remove the foil and return the dish, uncovered, to the oven for another 20-40 minutes or until it’s crispy on the top.
RECIPE FOR PAN-FRIED GLAZED PORK CHOPS
2 pork chops (ideally with a good amount of fat along the sides)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 sprigs of fresh sage
applesauce, apricot jam, mango chutney, maple syrup or honey (choose one as glaze)
To prepare your pork:
Using a very sharp knife or kitchen scissors, carefully trim the skin off the edges of each chop. Cut each strip of skin lengthways into 2 strips, so you end up with four strips in total. Using a sharp knife, make cuts every 1/4 inch along the fat remaining on the chop which will allow it to render and crisp up when cooking. Rub both sides of the chops with olive oil and season really well with salt and pepper. Season the strips of skin as well. Pick the sage leaves off their stock and toss them in a bowl with a little olive oil and reserve them for later.
To cook your pork:
Put a frying pan over high heat and add your strips of skin. Move them about in the hot remove them when golden, crisp and crackling. Lay both chops flat in the pan and give them 4-5 minutes on each side, turning every minute. When they’re looking golden, add a few sage leaves to the pan. Let them crisp up and cook for about 30 seconds and then remove them to a plate. Spoon large tablespoons of you chosen glaze (apricot jam for my purposes) over each chop. Keep turning the chops over so they get nicely coated. Have the confidence to cook them until they’re almost a dark red-brown colour and wonderfully thick and sticky, Remove the chops to a plate and let them rest for a minute or two, squeezing over a little lemon juice to balance out the sweetness.
Serve your chops on a plate with the fried skin and sage leaves resting on top.