AS WE have a little more Ordinary Time this year before Lenten austerity falls upon us, the Puritan streak can be kept at bay for a little longer. Some recent experiments with ingredients I needed to use have resulted in the following recipes.
The Spanish serve grapes with suckling pig; so this Sherry pork with grapes is Iberian flavours in a low-key feast. Use pork loin and whip off crackling with a sharp knife at the end (then heat briefly on a clingfilmed plate in the microwave).
1-1.5kg (3 lb) pork loin (or thick belly)
2 tablespoons olive oil
60g (2 oz) butter
1 white onion
2 fennel bulbs
1 tablespoon flour
1 sprig of rosemary and 2 of thyme
2 bay leaves
300ml (11fl. oz) dry Fino sherry
100ml (4 fl. oz) red wine vinegar
100g (3½ oz) white grapes
1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard
1 tablespoon runny honey
Heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Set a large casserole dish on a flame, heat the oil then season the pork and brown it until sealed and a nice colour. Set aside.
Peel and slice the onions and fry them in the casserole in the butter with a pinch of salt for a few minutes, then add the trimmed and sliced fennel. Stir in the flour and cook through for a minute, then add the herbs, sherry, and vinegar. Bring to the boil, then turn down, stir in the grapes and mustard, then return the meat to the pot. Cover it with a lid and cook in the oven 1½-2 hours, stirring occasionally.
Remove the pork and cover with tinfoil to rest. Stir in the honey and reduce the sauce for 10 minutes. Season before serving.
The abundance of oranges at this time of year gave rise to this St Clement’s cheesecake. (I also needed to dispose of a few drops of lemon liquor.)
125g (4 oz) digestive biscuits
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
75g (2½ oz) butter, softened
280g (9 oz) cream cheese
60g (2 oz) icing sugar
2 tablespoons marmalade
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
3 tablespoons limoncello
300ml (10 oz) double cream
3 blood oranges
Make the base by bashing the biscuits in a bag with a rolling pin, then transfer to a bowl. Melt the butter and mix in with the cocoa powder. Line a 20-30cm springform tin, or even a tart tin, and press the biscuit mixture in to form a base.
Beat together the cream cheese, icing sugar, marmalade, vanilla, and limoncello. Lightly whip the cream into soft peaks and fold in. Spoon this mixture on top of the base and cover with clingfilm. Chill for three hours, or (best) overnight, to let the flavours merge and mingle.
Before serving, pare the oranges and arrange them in slices on top.