Thursday, 28 April 2011

A summertime stew and a week in Almeria.'s not half been warm! All over Britain last week, women donned their bikinis and men turned their legs pink. There are rumours that we've already had the hottest day of 2011. All of the idiots that went abroad for their Easter holidays ended up with less sunny memories than those that stayed behind.

Well, my mother and I were among the idiots the jetted off: we spent Easter week hiking in Almeria, on the south coast of Spain. We had an incredible time, walking through desert mountains, breathing the thyme scented air that surrounded us, and falling in love with that beautiful part of the world.

I don't regret missing the sunshine here in the UK.

So having filled you in, oh imaginary reader, on why I haven't posted for over a week, I am free to tell you about today's recipe.

Anyone who has ever been skint knows that beans are the best friend of the frugal cook. They're filling, full of protein and cheap. Not only that, but sometimes I get a real and significant craving for them. Frequently, these days, I seem to lust after the creamy, earthy texture of pulses.

Following the lead of my Father, who seems to do nought these days but cook pork and bean stews, I satisfied my craving for beans with a rich and tomatoey dish, full of flavour and texture.

I helped to make this stew a little cheaper by buying a pack of pork shoulder steaks for just over £2.50 and chopping them up myself. The marbling in this cut of pork is perfect for a stew, (all the fat melts away and leaves the meat tender and juicy), and it's always cheaper to buy and chop, as we know.

Pork and bean casserole.

1 onion
4 pork shoulder steaks - chopped
1tbsp flour
1 tin mixed pulses
A glug of red wine
1 tin tomatoes
A squirt of tomato puree
A handful of spinach

Chop the onion into wedges and chuck them with a glug of oil into a reasonably deep pan with a lid. While that's happily sizzling and softening, start cutting up your pork steaks into sizeable chunks. Throw them in with the onions and let them brown.

Once that's done, add the flour to the pan and stir, to coat all of the meat. Drain the pulses and add them to the pan, along with a glug of wine, if you can. Allow the wine to cook off a little and add the tin of tomatoes, a squirt of tomato puree and about a mug of water. Mix well and bring to a simmer. The flour should cause the liquid to thicken but everything will still look a little thin. That's fine, just pop the lid onto your pan and leave the whole thing on a fairly low heat for about 45 minutes.

Because the lid's been on, the sauce should look quite thin still, so take it off and turn the heat up to a simmer again. Let the liquid reduce, once it's looking the sort of consistency you want, chuck your spinach in, allow it to wilt and season. Your rich and meaty stew is ready! I served mine with pasta, which was delicious.

This dish is comforting and warming, but not too heavy, which makes it a great summer dish. The amount served Mr Meat and I for two dinnertimes and one lunchtime, with generous portions all round. I calculate that it costs around £5 to make this whole thing, which works out at £1 per portion: get in.

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