Peter Pankhurst, Cooker Man, ready to fly again

Peter Pankhurst, Cooker Man, ready to fly again
Peter Pankhurst’s fabulous way with a double-thick pork loin chop. (Photo: Supplied)

We asked Marvel-lous chef Peter Pankhurst, who for 16 years was head chef at Savoy Cabbage in Cape Town, to take part in our Cook With the Chefs series. He rewarded us with a recipe that any pork lover is going to be gagging to try.

A double-thick pork chop, stuffed with apple, celery and mature Cheddar and flavoured with cumin and mustard, served with a cider jus. Intriguing to the point of needing to know what it takes like. Well, it is pure heaven on a plate and, for many years at Savoy Cabbage restaurant in central Cape Town, it was.

Whoever would have thought of Cheddar inside a pork chop? Just try one and you’ll see (or taste, rather) the point immediately.

The food at Savoy Cabbage was always top notch, and for a long time it was one of our locals, being not far from our then home in Cape Town. There were the exquisite vegetable courses by Janet Telian, now retired to a village not far from me, and there were the meaty courses by head chef Peter Pankhurst rooted deeply in proper French and, I think, also British tradition.

When Richard Bosman, who shared a recipe with us in this series a few weeks ago, suggested that I also ask Peter Pankhurst to share a recipe with you, I jumped at the chance, as his recipes could always be trusted to be made with the finesse of a true chef, as well as somebody with innate good taste. Turns out there’s some Bosman product in his recipe.

It was saddening though to find that, post-Covid, “gainful employment has been topsy-turvy, but we somehow survive”. This needs to be put to rights; there is no way that a chef of Peter’s calibre should be permitted to be more than two metres from a good kitchen at any time. If anybody in the restaurant community would like to be in touch with him, he can be contacted here.

In response to our plea for a recipe and to tell us something about it, he responded in fine style and not a little wit, as follows…

Peter Pankhurst, Cooker Man. (Photo: Supplied | Collage Tony Jackman)

“Peter Pankhurst: A Brief History of Me,” he wrote on being asked to give us some background to himself.

“According to my mom, if anyone asked me at the age of five what I was going to be when I grew up, I would always answer that I was going to be a ‘cooker man’. Should have wanted to be rich, but there you go. A Cooker Man, come on Marvel. Great premise…

“Even though I attended John Orr Technical High in Joburg to study Hotel & Catering, I never actually started cooking until I was married and a father at the age of 31. I have always loved cooking and still have both of my first serious cookbooks, Richard Olney’s incomparable The French Menu Cookbook and Braai in Style by our very own great Lannice and Michael Snyman.”

Both of those books happen to be on your Food Editor’s shelves, and Olney’s wonderful little book is the most prized one in my collection. I have two copies of Lannice’s Braai in Style (sorry, Peter), always a favourite.

Peter continued: “I was told that I was too old to be employed in a professional kitchen, but luckily Marc Guebert saw things differently. He promised to employ me for two years, work me very hard and pay me very little. Being a man of his word, he stuck by all three promises.

“After Ile de France & La Bastille I worked with Jorn Pless of Ma Cuisine as well as other hotels and small restaurants before relocating to Cape Town. 

“After a stuttering start in Cape Town I was lucky enough to meet Janet Telian at an industry function where she asked me to try at Savoy Cabbage. This I did and was soon ensconced in the kitchen where Caroline Bagley was gracious enough to allow me to play head chef for the next 16-odd years.

“This was a popular winter dish at Savoy a while back. Hope you like it.”

Drool over this recipe while being as astonished as I am that this man is not in a kitchen, right now.

Double Thick Pork Loin Chop with Celery, Cumin & Cheddar, Cider Jus

(Serves 4)


4 pork loin chops, preferably free range 4-5 cm thick, rind removed

100g Red Gala apple, peeled, cored & finely diced

150g celery, finely diced

150g mature Cheddar, finely diced

5g cumin, toasted and finely ground

15 ml Dijon mustard

8g salt

5g black pepper

50 ml oil


Season the pork chops liberally on both sides with the salt a couple of hours before cooking.

Combine apple, celery, cheese, cumin and mustard in a bowl and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Dry the pork chops well with paper towels.

Using a sharp knife and a clear head cut a pocket in the pork chops.

Using a spoon or a piping bag, stuff the chops with the stuffing & secure the openings with toothpicks.

Heat a suitable pan over medium heat and add the oil.

Sear the pork until evenly browned on all sides, including the fat cap.

Finish in a 200℃ oven for 10 minutes.

Allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

For the cider jus:


500ml Cider (Hunter’s is cool, Loxtonia Stone Fruit for the chef)

2 Star Anise pieces

3 whole cloves

1 x 4cm piece cinnamon stick


Combine all the ingredients in a suitable pot.

Reduce over medium low heat until syrupy. Do not allow to burn or boil over.

Apple and coppa topping:

2 Red Gala apples, peeled, quartered and seeded

100g Coppa ham (preferably from Richard Bosman) cut into 1cm strips

80g butter

20g sugar

5g salt


Melt the butter in a frying pan over medium high heat.

Add the apple pieces and cook, tossing regularly for 5 minutes or till tender and golden brown.

Take off the heat and add the rest of the ingredients.

To Serve:

Place each pork chop in the centre of a large warm plate.

Spoon some of the topping alongside the chop.

Pour the sauce around the dish.

In the photo I served sweet potato fondants and buttered cabbage with the dish. DM


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