When it comes to simple and effective cooking you need look no further than a good stew. Give it a little bit of care and plenty of time and you will end up with a meal that will transform the most basic of ingredients into something delicious. Once you have done the initial work you can leave it bubbling away on the stove filling the house with wonderful aromas while you go about your business. Best of all you generally only need one good pot in which to make it and so washing up is minimal.
I do not have a preference when it comes to which meat to use. All have their benefits and all can be used to make different styles of meal. For this one I have stuck with very traditional flavour combinations. Pork and cider are fantastic together especially when paired with leeks and sage. What really makes this a particularly wonderful dish is the addition of cream. The tender pork with a creamy cider sauce is about as good as it comes. Adding some apple into the mash potato keeps it interesting and maintains the pork and apple theme throughout. This is comfort food at its absolute best.
To start you want to prepare all the main ingredients for the stew. As this type of cooking is not about precision I have not included measurements. I used some lean diced pork for this recipe as I did not want there to be lots of excess fat. I browned off the meat in a hot casserole before removing with a slotted spoon. I then added some chopped leeks, garlic and diced pancetta and cooked until this had started to crisp a little. At this point I returned the pork and any juices to the pan with a few sprigs of thyme and chopped sage leaves before pouring over the cider. Turn the heat down low and cover leaving this bubble away for good hour or so before adding the chopped parsnips. Continue cooking until the parsnips are nearly ready at which point you can add the cream. Cook uncovered for another 20-30 minutes keeping the heat fairly low taking care not to split the cream. Check the seasoning and it will be ready to serve.
For the apple mash start by boiling your potatoes in the usual way. Peel and chop a couple of Bramley apples and add these to the boiling potatoes with about 10 minutes to go – any earlier and they will turn to mush and will lose them when you drain the potatoes. Once drained mash with a good amount of butter. You will not need any additional liquid as the apples will make the mash pretty wet on their own. I also fried a couple of apple slices in butter and sage to accompany the dish. I would suggest that you do the same as it looks good on the plate. I also served mine with some home made ale bread with Stilton and onions. I will add this to the blog soon.
This made for a really delicious dinner and certainly one of my favourite meals for a while. There is something quite autumnal about the end result; it is delicately flavoured and wonderfully creamy. Definitely something to eat after being out for a walk in the cold or attending a bonfire display.