by Leslie Savage
While you’re carving pumpkins, take the knife as well to a big round sourdough loaf. Hollow it out the way you do a pumpkin, and fill it with spicy pork stew with black olives and carrots for a great Hallowe’en treat. I made this with chicken, without the olives, and it was a hit with children as well as adults, but for the 31st, the olives add that spooky touch.
Using bread as a casing makes for great presentation. The original recipe is from my favorite Italian cookbook, Italian Cooking in the Grand Tradition, by Jo Bettoja and Anna Maria Cornetto, where it appears as spicy chicken stew. We’ll be doing this with chicken on Saturday in the Easy Oven Entrée workshop (Okanagan College), and it works well with lean pork loin as well.
A roast of pork with prunes and carrots creates a similar Hallowe’en theme. Pork and prunes is a classic combination, the prunes adding a sweet succulence to a pork roast, and for colour we’ve added carrots. Serving this with black rice would really make a Hallowe’en supper scary. Add blobs of red current jelly?
Spicy pork or chicken in a bread loaf
1 large round sourdough loaf of bread
½ cup butter
¼ cup olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, crushed — or 1 if it’s the big garlic from the local market
2 lbs or 1 kilo lean skinless boneless pork or chicken, cut into 2 cm dice
½ tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp anchovy paste, or 3 anchovy fillets, smashed to a pulp
3 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup capers
1 cup pitted black olives
4 carrots cut into 1 cm dice
¾ cup dry white wine
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400° F.
Slice the top off the sourdough loaf. With a serrated grapefruit knife, cut around the inside of the loaf, then gently pull out the bread from inside the crust. (Reserve this for crumbs, a strata, bread pudding or scalloped tomatoes.)
Melt the butter in a small pan or bowl and add the olive oil, then divide into two parts. Use one half to brush the inside of the bread, and the lid, with butter and oil.
Put the rest of the oil/butter mix into an ovenproof dish with fairly deep sides. Add the crushed garlic, the red pepper flakes, the anchovy paste, capers, olives and wine. Mix. Now add the diced meat and diced carrots. Mix well.
Put the dish into the oven and bake for 30 minutes. The meat should be tender and completely cooked. While the meat cooks, put the bread loaf brushed with butter on a baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes, until it begins to brown on the edges. Remove from oven and set aside.
When meat is cooked, spoon the stew into the bread loaf, along with 1 cup of the juices. Reserve rest of juice to serve at the table. Put the lid on the loaf, and serve.
To cut, do as you would cut a round cake, making sure that everyone gets some of the crust, some juice and of course the meat stew. Pass the sauce.
A green salad and a bottle of gutsy dry white wine—a Sauvignon Blanc, or a Reisling will work equally well—are all you need with this dish.
Roast pork with prunes and carrots
The stuffing is a little bit fussy but if you’re busy making costumes skip this step and just put the roast in the oven with the prunes, carrots and some white wine.
A meat thermometer is the best way to ensure the pork is cooked.
2 lb pork sirloin or tenderloin, cut into 2 cm dice
4 large carrots, diced
30 prunes, pitted
10 walnuts or ¼ cup walnut pieces
1 tsp dried oregano or 1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
1-2 cups white wine (red would be okay too)
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
Optional sauce: a cup cream, with 2 tbsp melted red current jelly.
Preheat oven to 450° F.
Put the prunes into a saucepan with ½ cup wine and ½ cup water, and simmer until the prunes are plump and soft. Remove from heat. You want a little sauce, so don’t let them dry out — add a spoonful or so of water.
In a small blender or with a mortar and pestle, mash 10 of the prunes with the walnuts, oregano and 2 tbsp wine.
Cut the sirloin or tenderloin open on two sides so that it makes a large flat piece of meat.
Spread the mashed prunes and herbs on one surface of the meat, sprinkle with coarse salt and fresh pepper, and roll up, then tie with kitchen string (cotton or linen, no synthetics! as they might melt) into a neat roll.
Use ½ tbsp of oil to coat a deep-sided baking dish into which the prunes and the meat will fit neatly. Rub the roast all over with the rest of the oil. Put the meat into the baking dish and surround it with prunes and carrots. Pour any of the prune liquid remaining over the pork, and add 1 cup of wine.
Bake for an hour uncovered and check the internal temperature of the pork. It should be 165 to 170 for medium to well done meat. Make sure that some of the prunes are covering the meat, and put a lid on the pot, and bake for another 20-30 minutes. Continue to roast, covered, until meat temperature is at least 165 F. You may have to add water or wine, a few spoonfuls at a time, to prevent the prunes from sticking to the bottom of the pan as the sugar in them begins to caramelize..
When done, remove baking pan from the oven and let the roast sit for 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish, put the meat in the dish and heap the prunes around it. Untie the string and remove it. Serve with black rice and mashed orange squash for maximum Hallowe’en impact.
If you don’t have any wine, beer would work well in this recipe too.
Watch for a Moroccan cooking workshop on November 7: I’m just back from a fabulous cooking tour — Marrakesh, Essaouira, the Ourika Valley and the desert. In the workshop you will make fish tagine, Moroccan bread, lemon chicken and real Moroccan couscous — very different from the packaged versions. I brought spices back from Morocco, and have some extra for take-homes from this workshop. Register through Okanagan College.