There are some food-related questions that are always really easy to answer – things like “wine or beer?” (wine); “plain or salted?” (salted); with or “without whipped cream?” (with!); or “chocolate or vanilla?” (chocolate, always chocolate!). But then there are a couple of foodie questions that I am regularly asked that make my throat close up and my palms become sweaty. Questions for which people somehow expect me to have a ready, rehearsed answer. Questions that make everyone in the room turn to me expectantly, awaiting an answer upon which I suspect my credibility as a food blogger depends (no pressure!). Things like “What’s your favourite restaurant?”. The answer depends on so many variables and parameters: does it still have to be open or can it be a distant memory; does it have to be a place I could go regularly or a fabulous one-off experience; and most importantly, when you are really hungry, a burger in a paper bag constitutes a far better meal than a chanterelle veloute with truffle crumbs – but does it make the burget joint the better restaurant? Another one is “what’s your favourite cuisine?”. Again, it depends – and in any event, can you really in any meaningful way compare the attributes of such disparate national delicacies as Spanish Jamon, Italian pizza, French tartiflette; Chinese dim sum and Brazilian feijoada?
And then there is the other favourite question: “What sort of food do you mostly cook?”. I always feel totally stumped by this question and an embarrassing, silent pause usually ensues, during which the questioner starts eyeing me in a way that says “what sort of cook are you if you can’t even tell me what you cook?”. But the thing is that I don’t think my cooking falls into any neat category – I can’t honestly say I cook mostly South African/Indian/Japanese/Italian/whatever. When I have friends round, I am as likely to make a South African themed meal as a Greek or Italian themed meal – it depends on where I’ve been travelling lately, who the guests are, the weather, and my mood. And when it is just me and Mr Cooksister, there most certanly are nights that I get home exhausted after work and make frozen fish and chips to be consumed in front of the TV (gasp!) – I am assuming that people don’t really want to hear about that! In fact, if I had to pick a unifying theme for my cooking in general it would have to be “simplicity”. Maybe this indicates some fundamental lack of ambition as a “real” cook, but the bottom line is that I do not like making faffy, fiddly things (hence my limited appetite for baking!) and my primary audience, Mr Cooksister, does not like to eat them. I also have a full-time job, and (ahem) a blog that threatens to consume my life; my time for fussing over food is limited. So the things on permanent rotation in our house are sausages and mash; risottos of every flavour, oven baked fish, stir-fries, curries, stews, soups, roasts and quiches: simple things that you can pack full of flavours and smarten up for guests, but that don’t take all evening to prepare.
Pork chops are some of the things that I love to cook on a weeknight because they are just so quick and easy to pan-fry and can be livened up with any sauce you choose. This particular pork chop recipe was devised to match a wine from something called the Oddbins Bloggers’ Case. Wine merchant Oddbins has teamed up with six of the UK’s finest wine bloggers (including my friends Andrew, Tara, David and Paola) and gave them free rein to run rampant around the Oddbins cellars selecting their favourite wines for an exclusive twelve bottle case. Twelve great wines independently chosen by six of the most talented wine writers in the business straight from Oddbins’ shelves: what better endorsement could you ask for? Priced at a budget-friendly £98 for 12 bottles, there is something in there to suit everybody – including the Alma de Tinto Mencia 2010 (Galacia) selected by Andrew. The grape (Mencia) is a rare Spanish variety not often found outside this area and the wines it makes have heady aromas of dark brambles – but the wine itself is medium-bodied with supple tannins and ripe red fruits. It’s absolutely delicious on its own, but its lighter body makes it a versatile food partner too. I decided to keep the meat light and use pork, but to add a Spanish touch with the use of chorizo and olives in the relish, which really emphasising the sweet fruit flavours of the wine. Was it a good match? Now there’s a quiestion I have no difficulty with at all: a resounding yes!
DISCLOSURE: I received the bottle of Alma wine for free but received no payment for this post and all opinions are my own.
- 2 pork chops, fairly thin and boneless
- pinch of smoked paprika
- 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
- about 50g chorizo, diced
- 250g tinned chopped tomatoes
- 12 pitted black olives, sliced
- ¼ tsp dried oregano
- salt and black pepper to taste
- Start by making the relish. Heat 1 Tbsp of the olive oil in a wide saucepan. Add the onions and cook for 2 minutes, then add the garlic and chorizo. Fry over medium heat until the chorizo has yielded some of its bright orange fat and the onions are translucent and soft but not browned. Add the chopped tomatoes and simmer for 5-10 minutes until the mixture thickens slightly, then add the olives and oregano. When the olives are heated through, check for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Keep the relish warm.
- Heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed frying pan and season the pork chops on both sides with salt, pepper and the smoked paprika. When the oil is hot, caefully place the pork chops flat into the pan and cook for about 4 minutes, then turn over and cook on the other side for a further 3 minutes or so. Check that the meat is done, then serve topped with the tomato relish and a glass of fruity red wine.