The weather here has been very wintery—it's put the BRR in NovemBRR! Rain, cold, fog. Perfect weather to hunker down and stay home with something warm and hearty for dinner. Me, I also want something easy. Something that I can stick in the oven and not think about. This is the perfect thing!
I used pork for this, but of course you could use any meat you like. I think it shouldn't be a 'noble' cut, though. This long, slow cooking isn't meant for the steaks and the filets. They would be wasted here, and I think they'd probably be pretty tasteless as well. No, this is for the tougher cuts of meat, the ones that are cheaper too (win-win!). This would work well with beef or venison or boar or rabbit or even hogget or mutton if you like the flavor. The cut of pork I used is called 'spirling'. I don't know what it would be called in English, but it is tougher than a pork chop and has more fat running through it.
The vegetables are bang in season right now—carrots, celery root, celery, onions. The zucchini / courgette is at the end of its season, but still good. These can be replaced by whatever vegetables you have on hand. Potatoes would be very much at home here, as would turnips and parsnips and pumpkin and squash.
I used a little Marmite in this. I had never used it before, and I'm trying to figure it out. It's a yeast-based dark sludge that comes from England, where some people apparently spread it on toast. Then they eat it. Hmmm... apparently, you either love Marmite or you hate it. I'm not sure that I'd spread it on toast that I intended to eat, but I can tell you that it adds a wonderful depth of flavor to sauces.
This turned out better than I expected. The meat was falling off the bone and full of flavor. The vegetables were perfectly cooked, each retaining its own flavor and personality. The braising liquid was rich and luscious enough to serve as a sauce all by itself. What was left after we finished the meat and the vegetables served as the basis of a lovely sauce the next day.
What about you? What kind of comfort food are you making now?
Oven Braised Pork and Winter Vegetables
4 garlic cloves
hot pepper oil (or regular olive oil)
2 big carrots
¼ celery root
1 small zucchini
3 stalks celery
4 spirling of pork (or pork chops)
½ teaspoon Marmite (optional)
3-4 bay leaves
salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 160 C / 325 F
- Chop the onions and saute them with the garlic in the hot pepper oil until they're golden and caramelized.
- Chop the vegetables into pieces approximately the same size.
- Put a little more oil in a hot pan, salt and pepper the meat and sear it on both sides.
- In a deep baking dish, put the seared meat in one layer. Put the chopped vegetables on top, and tuck the bay leaves around it all.
- Pour hot water over it all—enough to cover the meat. Mix the Marmite with some of the hot water and add to the dish.
- Cover the dish with foil and bake for 3 hours. The meat should be falling off the bones and the vegetables should be melting.
Serves 4 if they like it and 10 if they don't.
- You can make hot pepper oil by crushing a handful of dried hot chili peppers, putting them in a pretty bottle and filling the bottle with olive oil. After about a week, the oil will be infused with the heat from the peppers. You don't need your best extra-virgin oil for this.