We have just returned to Cornwall after spending a few weeks in Warwickshire with our families – hence no blog posts for a while! I am sure we couldn’t have picked a hotter spot in the British Isles if we had tried. We tortured ourselves daily by watching the BBC weather report and seeing that, back here in Cornwall, it was a whole ten degrees cooler. Obviously we’ve come back to cool weather and rain, though it does make quite a change. We will be back in Turkey in a few weeks, so there will be plenty more sunshine to come.
We’ve had a great time looking after our friend Rosie’s trio of Greek cats – Figaro, Oberon and Pandora – while she went to visit her family in Athens. Here’s Pandora in her favourite spot catching the breeze next to an open window:
We’ve dragged grandchildren, nieces and nephews around an assortment of National Trust properties, walked for miles along the canal, enjoyed family dinners in the garden and made the most of being right next door to the village pub. Oh, and we had a trip to Ikea – like all men, it is Robin’s absolute favourite thing to do…
The first Saturday of our stay coincided with the beginning of the school summer holiday – we walked along the canal to the next village, where we were entertained for the morning by the spectacle of an enormous queue of canal boats waiting to get through the flight of six locks at Braunston. It was a bit like being on the M1 on a bank holiday Monday, except it was as hot as Hades (which obviously never happens on a bank holiday Monday) and there was the added hazard of dozens of children and dogs running about. It seemed that everyone had collected their boat at exactly the same time and were then all heading in the same direction. Most of them were still just getting the hang of the steering, so there were plenty of prangs as the novice drivers attempted to get their boats into the narrow locks, two at a time. We were forced to retire to the garden of The Admiral Nelson to watch the fun over a ginger beer or two. Little did they know that Braunston Tunnel – nearly two kilometres long and less than five metres wide – was waiting for them just out of site.
Anyway, back to Cornwall. I was pleased to see when we went on our usual walk along the Bissoe Trail yesterday that the blackberries are starting to ripen. We headed for some south-facing sunny spots and managed to gather enough to make a sauce for our dinner last night. Another week and I shall be out and about with my tupperware boxes, squirreling a few berries away in the freezer for treats over the coming winter. If you have already picked berries and need some baking inspiration, check out Jenny’s cake or these easy berry muffins.
The berries and spice in this sauce elevate a simple supper dish to something a little special. Making the marinade takes only minutes, but you do need to allow it time to cool before you submerge your chosen meat, and ideally it needs a couple of hours to marinate.
I used pork shoulder steaks, but it strikes me that the fruity sauce would be perfect with lamb, rabbit, duck, pheasant or even chicken legs. I have given the recipe for two people, because that is what I made, but there was loads of sauce left over (now tucked away in the freezer for future reference), so you can double up the meat without increasing the sauce ingredients. Roast potatoes and parsnip are the perfect accompaniment, along with some green veggies.
Pork with spiced blackberry sauce
2 pork shoulder or loin steaks (or other meat of your choice – see above)
1 shallot or half of a small onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped or sliced
2 sprigs of rosemary (plus extra for decoration if you like)
2 large sprigs thyme
A small cinnamon stick
250ml red wine
A generous splash of blackcurrant or similar liqueur, or brandy or Kirsch
A little olive oil & a knob of butter
1 tablespoon plain flour
300ml chicken stock (a cube is fine)
1 tablespoon blackberry or blackcurrant jam or compote (from a jar)
Salt & pepper
For the marinade, put the sliced onion and garlic, the herbs and cinnamon stick in a saucepan with the red wine, the liqueur and three quarters of the blackberries (save the rest for garnish). Season generously with salt and pepper.
Cover the pan with a lid and bring the marinade to a boil, then turn down to a gentle simmer and cook for around ten minutes. Turn off the heat, remove the lid and leave the marinade to cool.
Once the marinade is completely cold, strain it through a sieve into a non-metallic container, just large enough to take the marinade and the meat, pushing as much of the blackberry pulp through the sieve as you can. Add the meat and leave in the fridge to marinate for a couple of hours.
When you are ready to cook, pre-heat the oven to 180ºC while you brown the meat. Heat a little olive oil and a knob of butter in an ovenproof frying pan (if you don’t have one, use a normal frying pan to brown the meat, then transfer it to an ovenproof dish).
Remove the pork steaks from the marinade and pat them dry with kitchen paper (retain the marinade for the sauce). Season the steaks generously, then cook in the hot oil/butter over a medium heat for two to three minutes on each side until nicely browned. Pour off any excess juices (retain them for later) then transfer the meat to the pre-heated oven for 25 minutes.
Remove the meat from the pan and keep on warmed plate, covered in foil, to rest while you make the sauce. (The meat will continue to cook a little more while it is resting).
Put the pan on a low to medium heat and return any retained cooking juices to the pan. (Important: don’t forget that your pan handle will be very HOT!) Sprinkle over the flour and whisk until you have a thick smooth paste. Gradually add the marinade, chicken stock and jam/compote, whisking as you go. Bring the sauce to the boil, then simmer over a low heat for a few minutes before adding the reserved blackberries for the last minute or two, along with any resting juices from the meat.
Serve the pork steaks with a little of the sauce and a few blackberries, garnished with a fresh rosemary sprig if you like. Serve the rest of the sauce alongside for everyone to help themselves.