Comforting casseroles part 1: pork

January 9, 2010 § 2 Comments

I was vaguely thinking about preparing some Indian vegetarian food in the new year – cleansing, soothing and lightly spiced, but the arrival of snow has put paid to that idea and I find I am craving casseroles – something warming simmering away on the hob to keep out the winter chill.

Here are two of my favourite pork recipes. One is a modified version of a Delia Cheat recipe, Spanish influenced and incredibly easy to throw together.  The second comes from one of my favourite Italian cookery writers, Marcella Hazan, and is also quick and simple to put together. With its combination of juniper, bay and dried wild mushrooms, the pork becomes something special acquiring a gamey flavour a little like wild boar.

Both are just the ticket after returning from an outing on skis along the A56 main Manchester Road!

Here’s the mise en place for the Spanish pork stew with potatoes and chorizo – this is for a double quantity – half to serve now and half to go in the freezer.

Here’s the assembled dish before cooking:

And here is the end result!

I served the stew with some lightly steamed spinach and a chunk of home-made bread.  It is a one-pot dish complete with potatoes and vegetables but I do think it needs something green to go with it, be that salad or your favourite vegetable.

Recipe for Spanish pork stew with potatoes, beans and chorizo

Serves 4.  Adapted from recipe found on  My changes are to use ordinary canned tomatoes rather than the specified tomato frito and to use a mixture of cooked butterbeans and potatoes rather than just potatoes.  Also, I couldn’t find pork shoulder so I used pork fillet instead.  This is not an ideal cut for a casserole because it contains very little fat and doesn’t need long cooking to make it tender.  Accordingly, I reduced the cooking time to 45 minutes rather than the specified 1 and a half hours.


1lb (450g) piece trimmed shoulder of pork cut into 1 inch (2.5cm) chunks.
8 oz (225g) small salad potatoes, halved or quartered if necessary to make bite-sized chunks.  A variety such as Charlotte or Nicola is good – floury potatoes are not suitable for this recipe
1 standard tin or half a large jar of cooked, drained and rinsed butterbeans
4 oz (110g) chorizo sausage peeled if necessary and cut into bite sized chunks – either the cooked or raw kind is OK providing it’s a whole sausage – the ready sliced kind is not suitable for this recipe
1  350g jar roasted peppers on oil, drained but left whole (reserve the oil to add to the pot)
1 fat clove garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large red onion, peeled and sliced (a normal onion is OK if you don’t have a red one)
6 sprigs fresh thyme (or 2 teaspoons dried thyme)
1 tablespoon olive oil (use the oil reserved from the jar of peppers if you like)
1/4 teaspoon saffron strands, crumbled into the pot between your fingertips
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
5 fl oz dry white wine (I like to use dry Vermouth for cooking as I find it less acidic and with an aromatic herby background flavour which works well with food.  I like Noilly Prat or an American vermouth from Andrew Quady called Vya)
1 standard-sized can plum tomatoes, roughly chopped (to save time and washing up, I do this by opening the can and snipping the contents with pair of kitchen scissors)
1 oz (25g) pitted black olives, cut in half (you can use green if you prefer, in fact the anchovy or pimento stuffed kind might work pretty well in this recipe)
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 140 degrees C (275 degrees F or gas mark 1). Put all the ingredients into a  lidded, ovenproof casserole dish.  Give everything a good stir, then put the casserole on the hob and bring the contents up to simmering point.  Then transfer the casserole to the preheated oven for one and a half hours.  That’s it!  No browning etc – it practically cooks itself.

Recipe for braised pork with wild mushrooms and juniper berries -stufatino di maiale alla boscaiola

This recipe comes from Marcella Hazan’s Second Classic Italian Cookbook.  The pork becomes something really special given this treatment and I’ve served this dish at more than one dinner party as it is a good-natured main course that can be prepared in advance needing no last minute attention from the cook.  The hand of pork is the front leg equivalent to the back leg ham joint and thus lies just below the shoulder.  I’ve made this dish successfully with other cuts – leg and even fillet on occasion but you do need to be careful not to overcook leaner, more tender cuts.  Marcella Hazan suggests serving the pork with mounds of steaming polenta and braised leeks or fried broccoli florets.  I’ve noticed that a lot of people don’t like polenta – if you’re one of them, then try serving it with mash instead – an olive oil or parmesan flavoured mash would be good.

Serves 4


25-30g (3/4-1 oz) dried wild porcini mushrooms
1/2 small onion, chopped fine
350 ml (2/3 pint) water
6 tablespoons olive oil
680g (1 and 1/2 lb) boned hand of pork, cut into pieces about 2.5cm (1 inch) thick and 5cm (2 inches) square
8 tablespoons dry white wine (or vermouth such as Noilly Prat or Vya – see comments in preceding recipe)
2 tablespoons good wine vinegar (I use balsamic which gives a lovely dark colour to the sauce)
3 flat preserved anchovy fillets, chopped (these melt into the sauce imparting a savoury flavour)
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
2 dried bayleaves, crumbled (or chopped fresh ones)
20 juniper berries, lightly crushed in a pestle and mortar – aim for bruising rather than complete destruction
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Soak the mushrooms for at least 30 minutes in a small bowl with 350 ml (2/3 pint) lukewarm water.  When they have finished soaking, carefully lift out the mushrooms without disturbing the water.  Rinse them in several changes of cold water to rid them of any grit still clinging to them. Chop them into not too fine pieces, and set aside. Filter the water in which they have soaked through a fine wire strainer lined with kitchen paper and reserve.

Choose a sauté pan or flameproof casserole that can later contain all the meat in no more than two layers, put in the onion and oil, and cook over medium heat. When the onion becomes translucent, put in the pork. Turn the heat up to medium high and brown the meat all over. Put in the wine and the vinegar, raise the heat a little, and let them bubble away for a minute or two.

Put in the chopped mushrooms, their strained water, the chopped anchovies, the marjoram, the bayleaves and the crushed juniper berries. Stir all the contents of the pan, and turn the heat down to low. Put in two or three generous pinches of salt, a liberal grinding of pepper, stir again, and cover the pan tightly.

Cook at a very gentle simmer for 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the meat is tender when pricked with a fork. When the meat is done, if the juices in the pan are thin and runny, uncover, and turn up the heat  to medium high. Reduce the juices until the fat separates out from them and skim off any excess fat.  The pork is now ready to serve.

Do you have any good pork casserole recipes you’d care to share with me?  I would love to discover some new ones.

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