Maverick Life

Book Recipe

Three ways with a chop: A trio of mouthwatering recipes from Nigel Slater’s essential new collection A Cook’s Book

"A Cook's Book" cover. Image composite: The Reading List

Nigella Lawson calls him a ‘king among food writers’, and this beefy book is the ultimate Nigel Slater collection: 500 pages brimming with over 200 recipes, new and revisited.

“I am a cook who writes. You could measure my life in recipes.”

We’ve selected an excerpt both practical and elegant, centred around that old South African favourite, the chop.

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Three ways with a chop

Sunday roasts aside, from six to twelve years of age I lived on a diet of chops. They were either lamb or pork, with accompanying potatoes and peas, which I considered the only acceptable vegetables. My parents indulged me, and it was only when we moved homes that I would even consider ham, gammon, even a sausage as dinner. What sort of eight-year-old refuses a sausage?

Chops are straightforward to cook and have the advantage of a bone to gnaw. When I first ate them, pork chops came with apple sauce – still almost impossible to beat, the fruity acidity of the sauce a wonderful contrast to the sweet fattiness of the pork – and lamb chops came with a green-flecked puddle of mint sauce. A fruity accompaniment still gets my vote – the above apple, but also figs and blackberries. Lamb, those sweet little chops, are more likely to be seen at my table with a crumbling of feta cheese or a puddle of hummus. Sometimes both. 

Pork with figs
Serves 2

Pork and autumn fruit is always a good combination. And not just pork and apples.

  • pork chops 2
  • butter 25g
  • olive oil 2 tablespoons
  • dry, sparkling cider 250ml
  • figs 4
  • redcurrant (or apple) jelly 2 tablespoons
  • butter a small knob

To serve: wide noodles (about 125g for 2) or some floury white boiled potatoes.

Season two pork chops on both sides. Melt a little butter in a shallow pan and add the oil. Brown the chops, lightly seasoned with salt and pepper, on either side. The fat should colour nicely. (Make certain the chop browns on both sides before you introduce the cider. That way the pan juices will be tastier.) This will take about 10 minutes. 

Remove the chops to a plate, cover and keep warm. Pour in the cider, let it bubble, then lower the heat, add the figs, cut in half, and cover with a lid. Continue cooking for about 5 minutes, then remove the lid, add the jelly and beat in the butter. Let the sauce reduce by about half and serve. 

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Pork chops (or steaks) with courgettes and sauerkraut
Serves 2

The key is not to add too much, just a tablespoon or two of the sharp, lively pickles to each batch of fresh vegetables.

  • pork steaks 2 × 200g
  • olive oil 2 tablespoons
  • lemons 2
  • courgettes 2, small
  • butter 30g
  • dill 4 tablespoons
  • sauerkraut 4 tablespoons, (plus 2 tablespoons of the juice)

Rub the pork all over with a little olive oil, black pepper and salt. Cover and set aside. Finely grate the zest from one of the lemons into a mixing bowl. Halve and squeeze the juice, then add to the zest. Using a vegetable peeler, take long, flat strips from the courgettes and place in a bowl. Get the griddle pan or grill hot.

Place the meat on the griddle and cook till golden, brushing the surface with a little oil from the dish as necessary. Season with salt and more pepper. Slice the remaining lemon in half and place it cut side down next to the meat.

Remove the pork and lemon and let the pork rest. Place the courgette ribbons on the griddle and cook for 3–4 minutes, turning from time to time. Warm the butter in a pan, stir in the lemon zest and juice, and black pepper. Roughly chop the dill. When the courgettes are tender, lift them into the warmed, seasoned butter. Add the sauerkraut, 2 tablespoons of its juice, the chopped dill and mix gently.

Serve the pork with the grilled lemons, courgettes and sauerkraut.

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Lamb cutlets, broad beans, soured cream
Serves 2

  • onions 2, medium
  • olive oil 3 tablespoons
  • broad beans 600g (weight including pods) or 300g frozen
  • lamb cutlets 6–8
  • thyme leaves 2 teaspoons
  • garlic 1 clove, peeled and crushed
  • soured cream 100ml
  • parsley a handful

Peel the onions and slice thinly into rings. Warm the olive oil in a shallow pan, then fry the onions over a low heat for about 20–25 minutes. Stir them regularly, until they are soft, translucent and pale gold in colour.

Bring a medium-sized pan of water to the boil. While the onions are cooking, pod the broad beans, then cook them in the boiling water for about 7 minutes, depending on their size. Check them for tenderness, then drain. Pop the beans from their papery skins. I really think this is one time you shouldn’t skip this. 

Warm a grill or griddle pan. Lightly oil the lamb cutlets and season with salt, pepper, the thyme and garlic and cook them until their fat is golden. (I like to press them down on the griddle with a heavy weight.) Inside, the lamb should be pink and juicy.

Remove the onions from the heat and strain off any excess olive oil. Fold the soured cream and most of the broad beans through the onions, and season with black pepper and a little chopped parsley.

Divide the onions and soured cream between two warm plates, settle the cutlets next to them and serve with the remaining beans. DM/ ML

A Cook’s Book by Nigel Slater is published by HarperCollins (R800). Visit The Reading List for South African book news – including recipes! – daily.

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