I read somewhere that Canadians are obsessed with the weather. If you’ve ever been (or lived) there, you’ll know that there can sometimes be a difference of 15-20C from one day to the next. And I’m not even referring to the influence of the Chinook and the windchill.
When I moved to Madrid, Spain, I knew that checking the weather report on an hourly basis was no longer required. In fact, I sometimes go weeks without checking it. From April to October, it is not unusual to have hot sunny days – everyday – without a single cloud in sight. My husband actually considers it quite boring to always wake up to sunny blue skies. Personally, I like the lack of climactic adventure.
I can deal with some snow. I know the cold is only a good coat away from being tolerable. But… I hate rainy days! I know it’s necessary, and a short shower here and there does feel good, but it’s been raining heavily every single day, here, for the last 2 weeks. And just to be clear, I’m not referring to a little spitting… I’m referring to a hurricane-style torrential downpour mixed with cold arctic winds, and just plain ol’ nasty weather.
When we lived in France, it was commonplace to spend winter in a constant grey state of wetness. If the fireplace wasn’t lit, the humidity would be felt deep into our bones… But in Madrid, rain is not common, so the houses, roads and sewers are not built to handle too much of it – it is very unusual, after all . So, what is probably turning out to be the wettest winter in recent Madrid history has been a complete shock and hassle to anyone who lives here.
That’s where the inspiration for this recipe comes from: a nice warm stew to comfort us on cold rainy and windy winter days flavoured with sun drenched fruits to bring the aromas of hot and sunny north african destinations to mind. It might not be a beach holiday break, but it does make for a deliciously heart-warming, winter escape, in the comfort of your home.
As a side note, I’d like to mention that, for this recipe, I used Asian Pears. I’d never heard of them before… its a pear that looks like a yellow-greenish apple. It was the most bizarre thing to eat (kind of reminded me of the late ’80s, when Pepsi came out, for a brief time, with Crystal Pepsi; which looked like 7up, but tasted like Pepsi). I’d looked at it, tell myself: “it’s a pear. it’s a pear.” But still, my visual brain would expect an apple flavour – its was like some kind of culinary psychedelic trip.
For this recipe, regular pear will do 😉
Have you experienced any culinary psychedelic trips? What’s your favourite dish to fight off the winter cold? What’s your experience with Asian pears? Would you buy them again?
Fruity Pork Stew
This pork stew has been made with fruits to give us a touch of summer on a cold winter day. It will fill your kitchen with the aromas of southern mediterranean cuisine, and fill your belly with delicious comforting goodness.
1 kg pork (diced)
1/2 onion (diced)
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup apple cider
1 tablespoon tomato purée (opcional)
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup liqueur Poire Wiliams
1/2 cup Brandy
2 cups of water
1 apple (diced)
1 pear (diced)
1/2 cup raisins
2 sprigs of Rosemary (fresh)
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil ( corn, canola or olive will also do)
- Heat oil on medium-high in a medium-sized heavy pot (preferably a cast iron cocotte, like Le Creuset).
- Brown meat in 2 or 3 separate batches. (The meat should be sticking to the pot before mixing. We want to collect “meat brownings” at the bottom of the pot)
- If required, add a little more oil, between each batch. The brownings should stick, but not burn. (The brownings is where all the flavour is).
- Place browned batches is a bowl and leave aside.
- In the same pot, add onion and cook until softened.
- Add in apple cider and scrape off the brownings (this should be easy if the pot is very hot and the cider is cold).
- Reduce until it has almost completely evaporated.
- Add tomato purée and stir into the onion and brownings.
- Sprinkle flour, let stand for 10-15 seconds (so that it begins to stick to the bottom), then scrape off
- Add in the pork and mix everything together.
- Add in the Poire Williams and Brandy and stir well, scraping whatever bits may be sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- By now, you will notice that the sauce is thickening quickly. Add in the water, garlic and rosemary and stir.
- Bring to a boil then reduce to low and cover.
- Let simmer for about 30mins.
- Add the Apple and Pear.
- Let simmer another 30 mins
- Add in the raisins and dates.
- Let simmer for another 30-45 mins (until the pork is tender enough to easily break apart when pressed against the side of the pot).
- Taste and adjust salt and pepper.
- Turn off heat, cover and set aside while you prepare the side dish (I recommend medium-grain couscous).
- Remember to stir often. The flour and tomato paste will make it easy for the meat to stick to the bottom and begin to burn.