Pork, apple & chilli stew

Pork, apple & chilli stew

Just when you think summer has arrived the temperature drops 10 degrees and we’re back to grey skies. This stew is ideal for cool spring weather noshing; actually we have it year round, as it is now established as one of my ‘when inspiration fails to strike’ dishes – and it is one of my husband’s favourites.

I first came across this recipe in Joyce Goldstein’s excellent book Italian Slow and Savoury. In her introduction she says it is from Abruzzo; the use of chilli and apple together didn’t seem very Italian to me so I had a look through some of my cookery books from the 1970s. In Ada Boni’s Italian Regional Cooking and in the chapter on Abruzzo was ‘ndocca ’ndocca :  trotters, ears, snout and cheek are soaked in acidulated water overnight and then simmered with chili, garlic, bay leaves, rosemary and tomato paste for about 4 hours.

Perhaps the restaurateur who gave Goldstein his recipe had made ‘ndocca ‘ndocca his own by adding apples and using more expensive cuts of pork. In turn I’ve fiddled with it a bit, and I’m confident that no one who comes from Abruzzo will either recognise or approve of the alterations to this recipe.

It’s still delicious.

The key thing is to use nicely marbled pork – loin is too lean and will dry out. It’s unlikely you’ll find suitable diced pork ready prepared in the supermarket aisles, so track down collar steak (as one example) and chop it up into matchbox size pieces. Whenever I go to my Cingoli butchers I ask for pork per il potacchio – which traditionally the meat is stewed in an open top earthenware casserole, but these days any Le Creuset style pan will do.

For 6 people:

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 kilo stewing pork, cubed
1 onion, sliced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
½ bottle white wine
500ml chicken stock or water, approximately
2 bay leaves
1 sprig of rosemary
1 whole dried chili
2 apples, sliced with skins on
1 teaspoon cornflour
To serve: 1 orange

Heat the oil in a casserole and brown the pork in batches. Once you have fried all the pieces, put to one side while you sauté the onion and garlic. When these have softened, return the pork to the pan and pour in the wine followed by enough stock or water to cover the meat. Add the herbs, chili and apples and season with about a teaspoon of salt. I like background warmth but if you prefer things hotter, crush the chili before stirring it in.

Cover the pan with its lid and reduce the heat to low; simmer very gently for an hour.

The cornflour is optional, and is my alternative to adding trotters. If you are using it to thicken the liquid, then slake with cold water before stirring it into the pork juices. Continue to simmer for another 15 minutes or so. The pork should be very tender.

Remove the orange peel with a knife and make sure all the pith is removed. Slice the fruit horizontally – across the segments – and fold into the casserole just before serving.

This is excellent with mashed potato and a green salad.