Do you need some Germanic comfort in your life? Do you need a stoic stew that’s Teutonically thrifty, freezer friendly and coincidentally Paleo? (Gluten, refined sugar, dairy etc free). If so, I think I can help. This pressure cooked (though a slow cooker or Dutch Oven would also produce a similar result) pork, cabbage and stone fruit stew may be what you’re looking for. If you’re in a hurry, skip straight to the recipe at the bottom. If you have time for the wax and waffle of life and words, read on.
We’re into cabbages this week. We’re into cabbages because in #poppyseedtopumpkin, that’s the size of my stowaway, at 35 weeks gestation. We’re into cabbages because they’re cheap and when sliced thinly and sauteed produce a noodle-ish texture that can almost fool you into thinking you’re tucking into a big bowl of pasta. And we’re into cabbages because a third of the residents of my house is half Germanic and is quite fond of them.
While we’re bunkering down under the blistering heat of an Australian festive season, we both look longingly back to frosty Christmases of northern past. There were the years where we carried trees over black ice in snow boots back from Borough Markets in London, fueled by a fog of mulled wine and whistling ‘Good King Wenceslas’. There were the trips to Berlin, where we ate our body weight in schnitzel and strudel and marveled at twinkle lights and thigh deep snow. There were ice skating excursions under the Tiffany-blue shadows of Somerset House by the Thames. Here instead we have the sparkle of sunscreen on shoulders, the crackle of sea water that’s dried in your hair and the main activity in the afternoon is chasing the blow flies out of the kitchen.
There has been plenty of Christmas baking going on. The tree is up. The carols are cued. And then on Saturday the newest member of the clan thought that she might perhaps like to come to the party. On it went for a good seven hours, that familiar cramping, the creeping creeks of burning pain, a solid belt of pain around to your lower back and then the eventual ebbing away. It was inconsistent, yet persistent enough to lead us into hospital for a good few hours for monitoring. Luckily as surprisingly as it arrived, it disappeared. But it has given ‘project freezer’ another good kick along. And so now, in with the ziplock bags of bolognaise and vegetarian chilli, braised beef with daikon, dairy free corn soup and lamb, tomato and cauliflower curry, there’s a stock of braised pork and cabbage. All that’s needed is for a super sleep deprived me to defrost a bag and potentially bulk it out further with a drained tin of white beans, or some cooked quinoa, dollop on some mustard and eat it while trying not to spill any on a swaddled new born’s head.
This is excellent bowl-food that makes great use of the stone fruit that’s coming into season in Australia. I’ve used a mix of apricots and white nectarines, yet any stone fruit would add the necessary sweetness (and if there are none fresh, then preserved stone fruit would also work just as well). The only tips are; be sure to cleave any excess fat or skin off your pork shoulder before browning it. Be sure to brown it well before braising it (it does increase the intensity of flavour significantly). Add the cabbage in batches if it’s too proud for your pot (you’ll be shocked by how much it shrinks down while cooking and a variety of textures isn’t a bad thing) . Taste before serving. Depending on the natural sweetness of your stone fruit you may want to add a couple of tablespoons of honey, sugar or rice malt syrup to the braising liquid to balance the acidity of the apple cider vinegar. You want a balance of piquancy and sticky-sweetness. This is a meal that really comes into its own with German mustard dolloped over the top, though if that’s not your thing, a little sour cream would also provide a nice counter-point. Serve it with some hunks of dark bread for dipping (if wheat is your friend), or some mashed potatoes or white beans. Alternatively, just eat it straight out of the pot and taste a different sort of comfort.
Here are a few other things that are going on:
Reading: I’d love to say that Saturday’s visit into the hospital was the only one we had this week, yet this post is arriving a bit later than normal schedule after the stowaway went quiet on me for nearly 18 hours today. I managed to rouse her, briefly after a bracing swim and a coffee this morning, but then, the old wive’s tale advice of ‘drink a cold glass of juice and lie down’ did nothing. Nor did cold watermelon chunks, a hot cup of tea, or playing Paul Simon’s Graceland at a boisterous level. Cue a trip to the OB, then back to the hospital and an hour of foetal monitoring, where she finally rolled over, woke up and hiccoughed (possibly out of embarrassment) for all the fuss she caused. Yet, little did I know that the ‘have a glass of juice and lie down’ advice is not international medical practice, and the President of Australia’s AMA got into quite the spot of bother when he suggested that’s what concerned pregnant women should do. I’m glad my sister pointed me in the direction of this piece this afternoon. Instincts are there for a reason. Crossing fingers that’s the last time we have to go in to visit the hospital before she decides to join the party for good.
Also Reading: For anyone who’s intrigued by the benefits that a pressure cooker offers over a slow cooker, or what the difference in results you’ll get between using a Dutch oven, a slow cooker and a pressure cooker, this piece from Serious Eats about the merits of all is a great read (and helps explain why I ditched our slow cooker and cook mainly in a Dutch Oven, or – as above- a pressure cooker).
Mourning: Food writing is a much blander place with the loss of A A Gill to cancer. Here’s a spankingly great collection of some of his best turns of phrase. Read here.
Fascinated by: The expansion of this fast-casual concept for health conscious introverts in the US (The Hungry One would be in heaven.) At Eatsa- a ‘Quinoa Automat’ you can order your choice of quinoa bowl – including versions such as a kale salad, hummus bowl and burrito bowl from a tablet and then never have to interact with another human. To me, that’s half of the delight of eating out; interpersonal connections are a spark of interest and joy in my day. But for some, I can see the appeal. See more here.
Listening to: Michael Buble’s Christmas album. Cheesy as heck, but I do love a Christmas album that includes a bit of ‘Ave Maria’ and ‘I’ll be home for Christmas’.
Making: Black Forest Granola from ‘Cut the Carbs!’ for some Christmas presents. Though, the vision of shared baking projects with a toddler doesn’t always match up to the reality. They always start well enough. Then before you know it you’re having a disagreement about measuring ingredients and your tiny tyrant hurls a bowl of 120g of ground flax all over the kitchen floor. Oh, the joys.
Eating: All the carbs. Sunday was high tea to celebrate one of my dearest friends, whose Mum is my godmother and I’ve known my entire life. She’s just flown in from Dublin to be married this weekend and a group of us gathered at The Gunner’s Barracks in Mosman for a glorious afternoon of carbs, bubbles, tea and treats. It’s an excellent spot for anyone wanting to celebrate. Their scones with plum jam and orange and poppyseed macarons were particularly noteworthy.
Buying: The quest for the staple post birth/ breast feeding singlet continues. I have high hopes for these ones from Cotton On – the main benefit being that they’re long. A) Great for those of us with longer torsos. B) Great for covering up the bits that have just carried a baby for 9 months.
Pork Shoulder with Cabbage and Stone Fruit
1.3 kg trimmed pork shoulder, cut into palm size pieces
1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, cut into slim half moons
1 head of garlic, cloves peeled but kept whole
10 dried apricots
4 apricots, stoned and halved
3 nectarines, stoned and halved
1 tbsp rosemary, finely chopped
1/2 cup/ 125 ml apple cider vinegar
1/2 head of green cabbage (approx 1.25 kg)
Honey, rice malt syrup or sugar to taste
Here’s how we roll
1) Brown the pork pieces in 1 tbsp olive oil in batches until they develop a good caramelized exterior.
2) Add to a pressure cooker, slow cooker or Dutch oven the onions, rosemary, dried apricots and garlic cloves. Layer over that the pork pieces, stone fruit pieces and then the cabbage over the top. Then pour over the apple cider vinegar. If all of the cabbage doesn’t fit, then place in as much as does, then leave the rest aside to add later when the other ingredients have wilted and there is room in the pot.
3) Cook for an hour in the pressure cooker and allow the pressure to release naturally. Then add the remaining cabbage if needed and cook for another 15 minutes. Alternatively, cook in a slow cooker on low for 8 hours, or a Dutch Oven on the hob on low for 6 hours. The stew is finished when the pork is forking apart and the cabbage is soft.
4) Stir to combine, then taste the braising liquid and add honey, rice malt syrup or sugar to taste and balance the flavours. If the liquid is very soupy (it will be more viscous if cooked in a slow cooker), then strain some of it out and reduce by half in a saucepan, then add it back in.
Previously in Poppyseed to Pumpkin
Each week mad websites and baby books will tell you how big your baby now is in comparison to a seed, fruit or vegetable. It starts as a poppy seed and goes from there. To make this process a little more palatable, join me as I bake my way through. Here’s the journey so far. (Nb, you can also see the poppy seed to pumpkin process in the app, or ebook from my first pregnancy with Will, or read about it on the blog here.)