Herb crusted pork with apple and dried plum stuffing

Some experimenting took place on the 10th and final day of the Cupboard Challenge when I needed to use up pork chops, apples and cider, but didn’t want to go the obvious (and for us, usual) route of pork in apple and cider sauce.

Plated chopsDeeper cupboard digging and a bit more thought produced these rather tasty herb encrusted, fruit stuffed pork chops.  Not the prettiest dish ever, but fine tasting!

CognacSoaking the dried plums in brandy or cognac isn’t entirely necessary, but I felt it added a welcome extra flavour dimension.  If you haven’t got any hanging around, don’t worry, just skip the first step of the recipe.

To serve two

2 boneless pork chops
5-6 soft dried plums (prunes), chopped
3-4 tablespoons brandy or cognac
A splash of olive oil
A knob of butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 eating apple, skin on, chopped
Small sprig of fresh sage leaves
1-2 teaspoons wholegrain mustard
Packet of dried gluten free sage & onion stuffing mix (or you could mix gluten free breadcrumbs, chopped herbs and a little grated cheese – or you could use wheaty versions if gluten doesn’t hurt you)
Approx. 150ml dry cider
150ml (ish) single cream
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Set the oven to preheat at gas mark 5/190°C/375°F

Dried plums

If using brandy/cognac, place chopped prunes into a shallow bowl and sprinkle over alcohol.

Sage and onionAppleHeat olive oil and gently cook chopped onion and apple.  Don’t brown them, just soften them.

Apple, onion and dried plumsAdd chopped dried plums and brandy; continue to cook, stirring, until liquid has cooked off (if you haven’t soaked the plums, you obviously won’t need to do this step!)

Wholegrain mustardRemove from heat.  Stir in wholegrain mustard then set to one side until cool enough to handle.

Pork chopsUsing a sharp knife, carefully cut slits into the pork chops to create pockets for the stuffing.

Stuffed chopsFill pockets with cooked apple, dried plum and onion mix.  There will be mixture left over…keep this for making the sauce.

I didn’t feel it necessary, but if you’d like to quickly brown off each side of your chops in a hot frying pan, now’s the time.

Gf stuffing mixMake up the gluten free stuffing mix using slightly less water than indicated on the packet, and adding in a good knob of butter.

Topped chopsPress mix onto stuffed chops, cover loosely with tin foil and pop into preheated oven to bake for 30-45 minutes (depending on the size and stuffedness of chops).

Baked chopsRemove tin foil for last 10-15 minutes of cooking to allow topping to crisp up and brown.

Single creamWhile the pork is baking, make the sauce:

Add cider to the remaining cooked apple, plum and onion mix, simmer until liquid is reduced to around half.

Tip into a food processor/blender, add cream and blitz.

Return to pan and cook down until thickened.  Taste and adjust seasoning.

Plated chopsSpoon a puddle of sauce onto the plate and place pork chop on top.  We had ours with mashed potato and broccoli, which was ok; however, I think a mixed root mash and mangetout would have been even better.  What do you think?

Armagnac Soaked Dried Plums Stuffed with Duck Breast Pâté

So, we poshed it up for Big Sis’s birthday this year with an 8 (or 12, depending on how you count 😉 ) course meal.  It has been fantastic indulging in fine ingredients and decadent recipes while testing and refining the menu, and then sharing in the eating of the final result.

Beautiful Armagnac soaked plum with luscious pateGoodness only knows when the occasion/opportunity to make this kind of food will arise again (probably Christmas), so I trust you won’t mind if I prolong the pleasure by sharing some recipes with you.  Hopefully you’ll enjoy them…if not by trying them out, then vicariously!

This recipe will make enough pâté to stuff around 24 dried plums and still leave you plenty to have another day, on hot buttered toast for supper 🙂

If you were making it to serve as a starter in its own right, without the plums, I’d say you’d get 6-8 good portions from the quantities shown.

For best results make 24 hours ahead of serving.

Be warned, this looks disgusting in the making…push past that…it’s SO worth it!

Dried plums (prunes) in sufficient quantity for your serving requirements
75ml Armagnac (or Cognac would work just fine)
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
75ml hot water
Sliced pancetta

For the pâté
1 duck breast
2-3 chicken livers – you need around ¼ of the weight of the duck breast
1 shallot (or a small chunk of onion) sliced
A splosh of Armagnac (or Cognac)
1/2 teaspoon herbes de Provence
1/2 – 1 small clove of garlic
1 tablespoon gluten free flour (or ordinary flour, I guess)
1 small egg
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Plenty of butter for greasing your baking dish

Now, before we go any further…the ‘dried plum’ thing…I don’t know about you, but ‘prunes’ do not have good connotations for me – I somehow find ‘dried plums’ to have more appeal.  What’s in a name?  Quite a lot actually!

PrunesSo, place the dried plums in a single layer in a shallow dish.

Dissolve the sugar in the hot water, combine with Armagnac and pour over plums.

Soak for between 2 and 6 hours, depending on the intensity of flavour you desire. Drain and pop in the fridge until you’re ready to stuff them.

Set your oven to preheat at gas mark 4/176°C/350°F

Duck breast and chicken liverScore the fat of the duck breast several times and place fat side down into a hot, seasoned frying pan.  Cook until all that gorgeous, flavoursome fat has rendered and the skin is a deep golden brown.  Flip over and quickly brown the other side.

I forgot to take pictures of it at this point, which I deeply regret as they would have made this section much more visually appealing.

sliced onionsRemove duck breast from pan and set to one side.  Now add the shallot/onion and liver to the hot duck fat and quickly brown.

Tip everything, including the rendered fat, into a food processor.  Add in the duck breast.

Other pate ingredientsAdd dried herbs, garlic, egg, flour and Armagnac to the other ingredients and blitz until smooth.  Add plenty of freshly ground pepper and a good pinch of salt.  Blitz one more time, just to be sure.

A well buttered dishTake a suitably sized, over proof dish and give it a thick coat of butter.

Disgusting looking sludgePour in the revolting looking meat sludge you have created.  Despair not.

Not much better looking meat blockCover with tin foil and bake in the preheated oven until it has started to pull away from the sides of the dish, a knife comes out clean, and you have created a not wildly good looking meat brick.  Keep the faith.

Allow to cool, remove from dish, wrap tightly in cling film, then in tin foil and leave in the fridge for around 24 hours. You can eat it before that but the flavours are better after being allowed to develop.

An awesome supperTaste test on toast with cornichons and tiny, sharp pickled onions on the side. Remember to re-wrap really tightly to help slow down the inevitable discolouration that always occurs with pâté.

Beautiful Armagnac soaked plum with luscious pateWhen you’re ready, crisp up the pancetta slices (I do mine in a dry frying pan), spoon pâté into plums, top with a piece of pancetta and serve.

Enjoy the accolades 😉