Braised pork with apricots and cardamom

This is a really easy dish to make but so much more exotic than most stews (though doesn’t braised sound better somehow?). I’d suggest you make a stew like this to keep in the freezer and pull it out when you are fed up with the usual leftovers. Freezing a stew can work with no noticeable effect as long as you don’t leave it in there for months on end.  A little extra starch in the sauce like corn or potato flour starch helps prevent the sauce curdling when you defrost and reheat it.

Using fruits with certain meats really works well and a spice like cardamom which we don’t really use much, except in Indian cooking, adds a pleasant surprise. Pork cuts like pork cheeks have more flavour than most other parts sold for casseroling. They don’t dry out when they’re cooked for ages because the meat is flecked with fat. If cheeks prove tricky to get hold of, as an alternative I would use neck or shoulder.

Serves 4-6

  • 1.5 kg lean, boneless pork, cut into rough 2-3cm chunks
  • 3tbsp white flour
  • 2tbsp vegetable oil
  • 60g butter
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • Black seeds from 20 cardamom pods
  • 1/2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 100ml red wine
  • .25litres hot beef stock, or 3 good quality stock cubes dissolved in that amount of water
  • 18-20 dried apricots, soaked in plenty of hot water overnight
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2tsp cornflour (or potato flour)
  1. Season the pieces of pork and dust with a tablespoon of the flour.
  2. Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan and cook the pieces of pork, a few at a time, turning them every so often until nicely browned all over.
  3. Transfer the meat to a bowl or dish.
  4. Meanwhile gently cook the onions in the butter for 2-3 minutes until lightly coloured.
  5. Add the thyme, cardamom seeds and the rest of the flour and stir well over a low heat for a couple of minutes.
  6. Add the tomato purée then gradually add the wine and beef stock a little at a time to avoid lumps forming.
  7. Bring to the boil, add meat, season and simmer gently for 1 hour, topping up with a little water if the stock is getting low.
  8. Add the apricots and continue to simmer for another 30 minutes or so, or until the pork is tender.
  9. Dilute the cornflour in a little water and stir into the sauce and simmer for another 10 minutes. It’s difficult to put a cooking time on cuts for braising so you will need to check a piece and continue cooking if necessary.
  10. As with most stews you can make this a day or two ahead and reheat when needed, or freeze it.
  11. Serve with mashed celeriac or any other root veg, or good old mashed potato, or polenta.
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