In pre-refrigeration days, the first month with an
autumnal r in it traditionally meant that pork was
back on the menu, says Philippa Vine who, in
addition to her seasonal recipes, reminds us
that now is the time to make your Christmas cake!
WHY not try your pork Italian-style this month by trying our easy recipe? Its a dish requiring only a few minutes of preparation. The real work happens in the casserole dish as the meat is gently braised in the milk with the flavours of the cinnamon, garlic and rosemary marinade yielding a melting aromatic succulence.
We are fortunate in having plenty of brambles along side our fields and Cuckoo Trail and one of my favourite tasks is picking pounds and pounds of free blackberries. As well as cooking them with apples try this delicious blackberry version of the ubiquitous banoffi pie and this no-fuss, no-cook jam.
I apologise for including my Christmas cake recipe in September (this cook did a trial version in May!) but I always make mine well before the children break up for half term in October. The more the cake is brandy fed and the longer it is left to mature then the better the final taste and texture. A tradition in our household is to give small individual cakes as presents. To bake these I use empty small baked bean cans (225g) (8oz) size tins as cake tins. I decorate the finished cakes with rolled fondant icing or with cherries and almonds.
braised in milk
The meat really does benefit from being marinated overnight. If the sauce has a curdled appearance you can either leave as I do or just simply put it in a liquidiser and it will soon turn smooth. This dish really calls out for mashed potato to mop up the sauce and green vegetables.
1.5kg (3lb) pork,
you can use a loin of pork,
2 meaty spare ribs work just as well (just reduce the braising time).
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves, crushed in a pestle and mortar
Pinch of ground cinnamon
2 garlic cloves, crushed
6 black peppercorns, crushed in a pestle and mortar
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of rosemary
75g (3oz) butter
600ml (1pt) full-fat milk,
Salt and pepper
Remove the rind from the pork, you should be just left with a thin layer of fat. Combine two tablespoons of oil, garlic, cinnamon, cloves, pepper-corns, bay leaf and rosemary and toss the pork in this until it is well coated. Cover and marinate for about eight hours or overnight. Turn the meat over whenever you remember.
When you are ready to cook the pork, heat the butter and the remaining oil in a heavy casserole over a high heat. Brush the marinade off the pork and reserve it, then brown the meat well on all sides. Heat the milk to boiling point and pour slowly over the meat and stir in the reserved marinade. Cover the casserole and cook for about three hours at a steady low simmer (or less depending on the cut of pork). Turn the meat over to baste, at least once. When the meat is wonderfully tender, transfer to a plate to keep warm. If the sauce is too thin, boil briskly without the lid until it darkens and thickens, you can add an extra knob of butter if you wish, and keep whisking and scraping the bottom of the pan. When you have the required consistency, skim off the fat from the surface of the sauce and remember to take out the remains of the marinade. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Carve the pork and spoon over the delicious sauce.
Blackberry and toffee crumble tart
I think this is such a good idea, it is delicious and simple to make. Use a large can of condensed milk and boil it (unopened) in a large pan of water for three hours. Once it has been boiled it turns into a delicious toffee, caramel spread (I usually cook two tins at once as the unopened tin will keep until next time). Keep checking the water level and top up if necessary. Make sure the saucepan does not boil dry. Allow the tin to cool before opening. If you really dont fancy doing it yourself you can now buy it ready done, it is in a jar called Dulce de Leche (I found it in the preserves aisle).
700g (1lb 8oz) blackberries
1 tin condensed milk
(boiled, see above)
250g (8oz) Hob Nob
100g (4oz) butter, melted
75g (3oz) wholemeal flour
50g (2oz) medium oatmeal
(or porridge oats)
50g (2oz) caster sugar (optional)
75g (3oz) butter
You will also need: a deep 23cm (9in) loose-bottomed, buttered flan tin.
Pre-heat the oven 200C (400F, Gas 6). Mix together the ingredients for the base and spread over the bottom of the prepared tin, pressing down evenly. Leave to chill (you can pop it in the freezer for quickness). Then spread the caramelised condensed milk on top of the biscuit base and top with the blackberries. Make the crumble topping (in the usual way), by rubbing the butter into the dry ingredients to get a crumb texture. Sprinkle it over the blackberries and toffee and press down lightly. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature of the oven to 180C (350F, Gas 4) and bake for a further 25-30 minutes, until golden brown. Leave to cool down before carefully transferring onto a serving plate.
Serve with thick cream or good vanilla ice cream.
Blackberry freezer jam
This recipe was given to me by a great family friend who used to live across the field from me. It does not require any cooking, so it retains all the the fresh fruit flavour. It sets more like a conserve and works well with other soft fruits, according to season.
560g (1lb 4oz) fresh blackberries
700g (1lb 8oz) caster sugar
1/2 bottle liquid pectin
2 tablespoons fresh
Crush the fresh blackberries with the caster sugar. Leave to stand in a warm kitchen for about an hour, stirring occasionally. All the sugar should be dissolved. Now add the liquid pectin and lemon juice. Stir thoroughly for a further minute (I use a balloon whisk). Pour into small yogurt pots (or whatever is convenient for you) and cover with lids or clingfilm. Leave in a warm kitchen for a further 48 hours then freeze. Makes over 1.35kg (3lb). When you bring it out for use, store it in the fridge where it will keep for 6-8 weeks.
This is a straight-forward Christmas cake recipe. It produces a dark, rich and fruity cake – just what a real Christmas cake should be. I always make a large size because it keeps so well, and I end up sharing it with my parents who just love the ginger in it. If you dont like, say, ginger or glace cherries (or any other fruits in the recipe) just leave them out, but do be sure to make up the weight with other dried fruit ingredients. The toasted flaked almonds add a wonderful flavour to the cake.
Makes one cake about 23cm (9in) diameter
275g (10oz) softened butter
250g (8oz) soft dark brown sugar
500g (1lb) sultanas
500g (1lb) raisins
350g (12oz) currants
175g (6oz) candied peel, chopped
250g (8oz) dried pear, chopped, (this give a fudgy flavour
to the cake)
50g (2oz) preserved ginger, chopped
175g (6oz) flaked almonds, toasted until golden brown
275g (10oz) plain flour
1 rounded teaspoon mixed spice
1/2 teaspoon freshly
2 rounded teaspoons cinnamon
6 large eggs or 7 medium size eggs, beaten
150ml (1/4 pint) brandy, whisky or rum
Grated rind of 2 oranges and
2 lemons (optional)
Fruit Topping (optional)
26 no-soak prunes
4 dried apricots
6 globes of stem ginger
4 dried figs – sliced
3 glace cherries
2 tablespoons brandy
1 tablespoon apricot jam
Pre-heat oven to 180C (350F, Gas 4). Grease a 23cm (9in) cake tin and line it with bake-well paper. Cream together the butter and sugar until the mixture is pale and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs and then slowly stir in the flour.
In a large bowl mix all the remaining ingredients together, using your hands and then finally add the butter and sugar mixture, mixing really well, (checking down your list to ensure all the ingredients are in). Pour into the prepared tin, smoothing it even. Cover the top of the cake with a double layer of greaseproof paper and bake in the oven for 30 minutes, then lower the temperature to 140C (275F, Gas 1) and bake for a further two-and-a-half hours or until the centre is firm and springy to the touch. Leave the cake to cool in its tin.
When cold, stick a skewer in the top of the cake to make small holes and then spoon brandy over to soak in through the holes and permeate the cake. Then tip it out of the tin and wrap it up well in foil and store it in a cool place. I like to feed it with brandy at intervals or when I remember.
I dont always marzipan and ice my cake, some years I prefer to decorate the top with glace fruit. To do this you simply heat one tablespoon apricot jam with two tablespoons brandy, then brush the top of your cake quite generously with the mixture. Next arrange the fruits artistically on top of the cake. Brush the fruits with a coating of the jam mixture (you may have to reheat the mixture at this stage or even make some more). Finally tie a large ribbon around the cake to cover the sides.