A twirl on the flavour thesaurus- pork braised in milk (and coffee)

I’m not a risk taker by nature.  This is something all members of my family will attest to.

I buy insurance, I follow recipes and maps. I make plans and lists. But for Christmas, I got given a dangerous book.

(For anyone who’s interested in food, The Flavour Thesaurus is a fantastic read. It’s a high temple of process, methodically plodding through why one ingredient meshes well with another. It sounds like it might be dry, but Niki Segnit has a fantastic droll wit that comes through, along with plenty of anecdotes and recipe notes).

But it’s dangerous. You see, it encourages you to cook off piste.

Which leaves you somewhere between ‘Look Mum, no hands!’ and the desire to throw things willy nilly in a pot in the vain hope they’ll go together. The last time this happened in our house was eight years ago.  I wasn’t very well and The Hungry One generously made me pasta with red sauce for dinner. As I ate it, I said ‘This has an unusual flavour darling- what’s in it?’ ‘Garam Marsala’ was his answer.

Let’s just say there’s a reason people don’t often open Indian/Italian fusion restaurants.

But after an evening reading the book, there’s a good chance that the next morning if you’re starting a rendition of the Italian classic of pork braised in milk you’ll be sniffing around the kitchen.

Here was my thought process.

What else goes with pork?

Apples. Eschallots. Bay leaves. Yes, yes yes.

Then you start thinking in tangents. Milk enhances the nuttiness of the pork. Lemon makes it a little zingier. What else goes nicely with milk, nutty flavours and also with lemon?


Coffee and milk and nuts. Sure. These are all friends.

But coffee and lemon you say?  Trust me on this one.

Anyone who’s ever tried lemon gelato, topped with a soot of freshly ground espresso beans will understand. It’s takes a Doris Day dessert and makes it just a little bit kinky.

So that’s how we ended up eating a shoulder of pork, braised slowly in milk, with apple and eschallot for extra sweetness, lemon for some lightness and a teaspoon of ground espresso for murky excitement.

The pork pottered around like Cleopatra in its milk bath for around seven hours on a low heat in the oven.  Over time the milk clumps into ricotta-esque curds, which form a sticky and soothing sauce. Meanwhile the fat scattered through the pork shoulder relaxes, leaving the meat stupidly tender.

We ate it over mashed cannellini beans, with roasted carrots and brussel sprouts on the side.

It was, as they say, a keeper of a combination.. Whether this new risk taking attitude is as well, we’ll just have to wait and see.

This could be the start of something big.

Pork braised in milk and coffee

Serves 2.


600 grams of pork shoulder (if you go with another cut of pork, ensure that it still has some fat marbled through it). Cut off the crackling and most of the collar of fat.
500 ml of milk
1 apple
Rind of 1 lemon
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon of freshly ground espresso
6 eschallots, or 1 brown onion cut into 8ths
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Salt and pepper


A dutch oven or a roasting tray that can start on the hob. Foil or a lid. Seven hours up your sleeve to cook it.

Here’s how we roll

1. Preheat the oven to 110 degrees Celsius.

2. Season the pork with salt and pepper. Brown it all over in the olive oil so it gets a good crust.

3. Add the peeled eschallots, bay leaves strips of lemon zest and slices of apple (skin on is fine). Sautee them for 2 minutes so the onion starts to soften.

4. Pour over 500 ml of milk and sprinkle in the teaspoon of coffee over the top.

5. Put the baking dish, with the lid on, in the oven.

6. Every hour or so return and turn the pork over, so both sides get a chance being totally immersed in the milk. Ladle some of the milk over the top.

7. Cook the pork as long and as slow as you can. Seven hours on 110 degrees should do it.
You don’t want the milk to be at a rolling boil at any point in time.

8. When the meat feels yielding when you poke it, take it out of the pot and slice it. There should be some nice coffee flecked curds all through the sauce. If you want more curds, heat the sauce further on the hob while you let the meat rest.

9. Serve the sliced meat and a ladle of the coffee/curd sauce with the onions warm mashed white beans or potato, with some roasted vegetables on the side.

Blackened brussel sprouts and carrots go quite well with pork . Even The Flavour Thesaurus tells me so.

It’s not the prettiest of dishes, but darn it tastes good.

  1. Genius. Had some doubts about milk and lemon being in one pot for long periods of time. I suppose if they are forced to be together for many hours they have no choice but to be friends:)

    "But coffee and lemon you say?"
    One of the more memorable coffees I had was at a friends house in Australia – expresso and lemon rind.

  2. "But coffee and lemon you say?"

    How can we forget LA STORY? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-CrML0BzOA

  3. I also received the Flavour Theasaurus at Christmas, although I haven't put it to good use yet. Quite bizarrely I was recently thinking of doing the Italian pork cooked in milk, but your version is so much more interesting! Think I'll be giving this one a go. Cheers for sharing it!

  4. I can't believe I forgot LA story! Thanks so much to all for popping by…

  5. I too got the Flavour Thesaurus for Christmas! I love how you've put it to such good use, inspiration-wise!

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