A brisk walk along Seaburn beach near Sunderland on any day of the year can have its moments but in mid-January, the wind whistles up your trouser leg and mocks your private parts. It's cold up north.
Nothing beats getting wrapped up in your best woollies and driving against the wind on a beach. It clears the cobwebs, fills your lungs with clean sea air and if you can stretch it out for a few hours, the sea air makes you ravenous meaning you can stuff your face once finished.
A sustaining casserole is always a welcome plate after a cold winter walk, especially a slow cooked one that you can set off before a walk then polish off on your return. Pork cooked with roots and cider makes for a sweet and satisfying plate of food, the roots natural sweetness teased out with the addition of a drop of honey. The meat falls apart with each mouthful; it is as easy to eat as it is to make.
So walk out to winter and make the most of it, as well as remembering to sustain yourself afterwards with a simple and reviving casserole such as this.
Pork, Root and Cider Casserole
3 shallots, finely sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 swede, peeled and chopped into chunks
1 celeriac, peeled and chopped into chunks
4 large carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks
4 juniper berries, squashed
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp dried sage
1 tbsp plain flour
200ml dry cider
300ml hot vegetable stock
1 tbsp honey
4 pork leg steaks
A handful of fresh sage, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper
1 - Pre-heat the oven to 160C/Fan 140C/GM4.
2 - Heat the olive oil in a large casserole dish and add the shallots. Cook for 5 minutes without colouring.
3 - Add the root vegetables, juniper berries, dried sage and bay leaves. Combine for 1 minute before stirring in the flour.
4 - Pour in the cider and stock and bring to the boil. Stir in the honey, place the pork steaks on top then cover and place into the oven. Cook for 2 hours, checking every 30 minutes to ensure it isn't boiling dry.
5 – Stir in the sage then taste for seasoning and serve with boiled or mashed potatoes and seasonal greens.
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