Monday, June 9, 2008

Pork and Apricot Tagine

It has been hot and circumstances have been such that even doing a short run has been a bit of a struggle...yes, my children have caught some kind of sick virus and I have been stuck in the house for a couple of days.

However, this weekend they made a swift and magical recovery (!?) and were suddenly up for a trip to Devon to my sister-in-law Sally's wonderful house in Salcombe. It is a former hotel/guesthouse which they have converted into a most beautiful holiday home (it sleeps about 17, plus there is an annex for the staff, or more guests!). And luckily for us, my sister-in-law lives in the States and is incredibly generous - we can basically have use of the place whenever we want.

For me, the best thing about Salcombe is the kitchen - it has, loads of worksurface, every gadget under the sun, an aga, a conventional oven, a big fridge etc etc. And while you are cooking, you can look out at what must be one of the world's the best views. There is a herb garden to die for, with every herb you could possible want. Yesterday, we caught some pollack (my heart always sinks when I see pollack on the line, rather than mackerel) which I livened up with a mixture of fennel fronds and lemon grass from the garden.

We were chased off the beach on Saturday by a thunder storm, so I delayed my long run until the evening. The coast path around Devon really is one of the most perfect places for training. What could be more delightful than running along a cliff top with the sweet smell of gorse mixed with the freshness of the sea air, wild rabbits hopping out of the way as you take them by surprise. Before you know it, you have clocked off miles of hard, uneven and hilly terrain. I was running along writing my blog in my head like this when suddenly....BUMPPP...SPLATTT...I had fallen on the ground, still slippy from the thunder storm - straight down, headfirst, catching my left knee and chin. It is a bad feeling when you fall during a run, especially when you are on your own. There is always that fear that you might have injured yourself. I sat on the ground feeling rather sorry for myself for a while, until I caught sight of another runner in the distance and immediately pulled myself together, jumped up and continued, too embarassed to be seen in my misery! In fact I was fine, just a little shaken.

Back in the super-duper Salcombe kitchen, my mother-in-law had been preparing supper for the whole extended family (I think there were 20 of us). Little did she know it but she had put together a perfect runners meal - a simple but so very tasty stew of pork with apricots which she served up with some fusilli pasta and a delicious green salad. All I had to do was to make the salad dressing! It is great being a guest sometimes!

Pork and Apricot Stew
This is a hearty sweet and sour stew which goes very well with a fresh green salad and pasta, couscous or even mashed potato. It tastes nicer the next day. If you make it in advance, leave adding the fresh herbs and almonds until you serve it up.
1 tbsp Olive Oil
½ tsp Ground Turmeric
½ tsp Ground Black Pepper
½ tsp Ground Ginger
½ tsp Cayenne Pepper

1/2 tsp ground cumin
pinch of ground cloves
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 kg boned shoulder of pork, cut into cubes
2 Onions, sliced
Chicken stock , cider or water
300g Dried Apricots
1 tsp Honey
splash of Orange blossom water
1-inch Cinnamon Stick
2 tbsp toasted Almonds

Bunch of fresh parsley or coriander, roughly chopped
  1. In a plastic bag combine meat with some seasoned flour and shake about to cover the meat.
  2. Heat up a tagine or casserole dish, add a splash of olive oil and brown the meat.
  3. Remove the meat and set aside. Add a splash of brandy if you like, to deglaze the pan.
  4. Add some more oil and then gently saute the onion until it is nice and golden. Add the spices, the garlic and the pork and then top up with enough chicken stock to cover the meat.
  5. Bring to the boil, cover and then simmer gently for about 45 minutes, until the meat is tender.
  6. Add the apricots and the cinnamon stick and cook for 10 minutes or so until the fruit is tender. If the sauce is too runny you may have to add a little flour to thicken it slightly.Ad
  7. d the orange flower , the honey and the herbs and toasted almonds. Taste for seasoning. If you think it is too sweet, try to add something sour like a spoon of dijon mustard, worcester sauce or some lemon juice.
  8. Serve with some plain pasta shapes or couscous and a green salad, dressed with lemon and some tasty olive oil.

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