Sherry-braised pork with walnuts

You start the first stew recipe after the clocks go back with something gushing about earthy flavours and warmth and the nights drawing in, right? I’m not sure – it’s been a while. Anyway, this is a one of those.

It’s an off-the-cuff pork stew that was really more about the desire to drop a whole bottle of sherry over some gooey pork belly than any especial chunky-knitwear tweeness.

I’d argue it succeeds. The nutty-sweet sherry comes together with the actual nuts and fruit sweetness of the dates, and the fat and rind of the pork go beautifully sticky in the long braise.

I only made this the once, so the quantities are a bit seat of the pants, but you’ll get the overall idea.

Ingredients:

  • Pork belly, about 600g
  • Oloroso sherry, 500ml
  • Shallots, 300g
  • Dates (chopped), about 50g
  • Walnuts, about 100g
  • Vegetable stock (or light chicken), 500ml
  • Soy sauce, 1tbsp
  • Anise, 1
  • Garlic, 3 cloves
  • Flour, 1tbsp
  • Fennel seeds, 1/2 tsp
  • Allspice, 1/4 tsp
  • Black pepper
  • Optional: a couple of pickled walnuts (I thought they were a bit sharp)

Instructions:

Get a decent piece of pork belly for this, leaving it whole and skin-on.

Chop the dates. Top, tail, and peel the shallots. Roughly chop the garlic. I’m assuming you bought a bag of shelled walnut halves, but if not and you really enjoy cracking walnuts, do that part now.

Put the oven on at around 150c

Scatter the inside of the pork with the dates, some of the walnuts, the fennel seeds and plenty of black pepper. If you want a bit of extra zing, slice the pickled walnuts and add these now. Roll up the pork and tie with string into a tight cylinder. Some of the filling will fall out. Poke it back in.

Get a pan quite hot, and in a little oil sear the pork on each side for a couple of minutes, until it gets a bit of colour. Remove and put it to one side.

Reduce the heat and add some more oil (or tasty, tasty butter) and gently brown the shallots. Try not to agitate them too much – it’s cool if they stay whole for this. Get a little colour on them, turning occasionally, for something like 20 minutes.

Remove the shallots, and add the garlic, frying it off for a minute or two until fragrant. Add the flour and stir round until it cooks off, then add the some of the sherry. Work it round to deglaze the pan and form a sauce that starts to thicken, the slowly work in the rest.

Put the pork back in, along with the allspice, the remaining walnuts, soy, and a bit of salt and pepper. Then top up with the stock until the meat is at least mostly covered.

Cover the dish and put it in the oven for two hours. It may reduce a little.

After two hours, add the shallots and put it back in the oven, uncovered for 30-40 minutes.

To serve, remove the pork and let is rest for a few minutes, before taking off the string (carefully, the skin will be gooey) and carving it into thick slices.

While the meat rests, reduce the sauce if you’d like a thicker gravy. Spoon the sauce, shallots, and walnuts over the pork slices, and serve with mash or crusty bread, and something green.

It’s pretty rich for not all that much hands-on time, and it smells great as it cooks.

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