This is a wintry dish for any pork lover. It all started when I spotted a big box of chestnuts at the fruit and vegetable shop. Shiny brown little beauties beckoning me to sink in my hand, clutch a big handful and take them home. What could I do with them? I wanted something that matched the current season. Something that was warming, a little rich and with simple flavours. So when I came across a hunk of smoked pork thigh, or speck, I knew it would go nicely. As I was cooking, I couldn't help but pretend that I was in some stone farmhouse surrounded by wild rosemary shrubs on the rocky Istrian coastline in Croatia, pottering away in the kitchen. If only that was how things happened.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 500 g smoked pork leg (speck), cut into 1 cm-thick slices
- 150 g leek, cut into short pieces
- 1 large clove garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 250 ml (1 cup) dry red wine
- 14 cm sprig fresh rosemary, snapped in half
- 500 ml (2 cups) chicken stock
- salt and black pepper, to season
- 200 g chestnuts (see Note)
- steamed asparagus, extra virgin olive oil and crusty bread, to serve
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Heat the oil in a large deep frying pan over medium heat. Add the pork and sear for 1 minute on each side until very light golden. Set the pork aside. Add the leek and garlic and cook for 3 minutes or until lightly coloured.
Add the balsamic vinegar, red wine and rosemary and, if using a gas flame, tip the pan so the flame catches the wine and ignites it. Alternatively, use a gas lighter to ignite the wine to burn off the alcohol. When the flame extinguishes, return the pork to the pan and arrange it in a single layer or slightly overlap it. Pour over the stock to cover the pork completely and bring to the boil. Season with salt and pepper, then reduce the heat to as low as possible.
Cover the pan with a lid or foil and very gently simmer for 45-60 minutes. Turn the pork slices over and add the chestnuts, spooning the liquid over them. If there isn't much liquid in the pan, add a little water (once the chestnuts have gone in, try not to mix things around too much as they will crumble). Cook for a further 20 minutes or so, just to the point that the liquid is reduced by two-thirds.
Serve hot with steamed asparagus spears drizzled with a little extra virgin olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. And loads of crusty bread.
• If using fresh chestnuts, cut a cross into the side of each chestnut and boil in water for 8 minutes, or bake for 20 minutes at 240°C. Peel when cool enough to handle, leaving the flesh whole. If using frozen chestnuts, be sure they're defrosted before using. No need to boil them as they'll cook with the pork.
Recipe from heneedsfood by John Bek, with photographs by John Bek.
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