Before I bang on about this amazing book, and urge you to buy it for all your foodie friends, can I just ask you to pause and admire the perfect alignment of that photo in the header? That happens so rarely that I need to take a moment to admire it. Okay; all done. Thank you. So, One, by Florence Knight is my next suggestion for my ‘why there is more to cookbooks than Jamie‘ series. If you are obsessed with the foodie world/live in London/are a big big fan of Polpo, you may have heard of Knight but otherwise she may not have registered. But she will, I promise you, if this first book is any indication of her talent.
I have never eaten at Polpetto and it is now closed, because it was too successful rather than not (though a new restaurant with Knight at the helm is due to open very soon), so I have no idea if the book is a good representation (as Polpo‘s book is) of what would have been on her menus. However, I don’t really care because, so far, there are 26 Post-Its in my copy and I want to cook seven recipes from the first chapter alone. Divided according to her favourite ingredients, (e.g. olive oil, salt, chocolate), things which she says appear in all of her food, it is crammed with ideas, some of which at first might appear a tad odd (chocolate sorbet and caramelised fennel isn’t something I would have ever considered till now) but most of which make me want to invite everyone I know round to try the lot because they are so enticing. I particularly like the fact that lots of the recipes are made for two, which makes dividing into one a lot easier. Don’t be misled by the title; this is not a book channelling the rather unfortunately titled One is Fun! (doesn’t look like it much from the cover does it and, oh, that exclamation mark makes me wince) but one celebrating both the most and the least humble of ingredients, from vinegar to venison. If you are looking for a new voice and flavours, which I always am, you will love it.
The first thing I cooked from it embodies exactly that combination of humble and not-so humble: pork chop with red wine vinegar and pink peppercorns. Chops are a bit dull and boring as far as I’m concerned, though I am partial to this Hopkinson recipe for them, so I rarely buy them. However, they are perfect, post-work fast food and, since I had never cooked anything but steak with pink peppercorns, this intrigued me. And, having made it twice, it has already entered repertoire territory with some tweaks. The second time I forgot to buy the red onion and think it is still good (though not as good) without it and I also felt too mean to turn on the oven for just one lonely thing and cooking it in a lidded ‘chef’s’ pan (aka deep frying pan with a lid) worked just as well. Don’t be tempted to have anything too creamy with it (like mash) because the sauce is already loaded with fat so you want plain, steamed rice or potatoes and greens which you then, of course, smother with the delicious, pink-tinged, tangy sauce. A 10-step revelation for a wet Monday, from a book full of singular genius.
PS Yes, I know there are two reversed ‘ in this but my html skills are not as advanced as my culinary ones and I can’t fix them…
Pork chop and vinegar (adapted from One by Florence Knight)
Cupboard (or things you may already have)
plain flour, about 50g
pinch of ground sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
red wine vinegar, 50ml
chicken stock, 100ml
pork chops, 2
pink peppercorns, 1 tsp (I could only find them in brine so used those, drained)
double cream, 2 tbsp
some greens and potatoes to serve
1. If you are using a sliver of a stock cube to make stock, then make this up now in readiness.
2. In a lidded pan big enough for both chops to sit side by side, gently heat up some olive oil over a low heat.
3. Whilst the oil is heating, put the flour onto a plate and season, then coat the two sides, not the rind, of the chops with flour, dusting off the excess.
4. Put the chops rind-side down in the fat (a bit of a balancing act when there is two of them) and cook the rind until lightly coloured and starting to crisp up a little.
5. Turn up the heat until the oil smokes then put the chops on their sides, cook them for 3-5 minutes each side until just golden then turn the heat down and leave them to cook through, turning them every 5 minutes. (Knight puts them in the oven after the first 3-5 minutes so you can do that if you prefer; I found it took longer though and I balked at turning the oven on just for them.) As soon as they are cooked, remove them from the pan and cover with foil to keep them warm whilst you finish the sauce.
6. Depending on what you are serving with the chops, get these ready after the chops have been cooking for about 5 minutes (I find the chops take about fifteen in total but don’t worry about getting the veg and pork timings to dovetail exactly; the meat benefits from resting).
7. Whilst the chops are cooking, peel, top and tail, half then thinly slice the red onion. In another small saucepan or frying pan (or in the same pan as steps 4-6 if the meat is already done), heat a little more oil, add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook until soft (about 5-10 minutes, depending on the size of your onion, the pan, the heat used…).
8. Drain the peppercorns of brine if necessary, add those and the vinegar to the onion and reduce the liquid by half.
9. Now add the stock to the onion-vinegar-peppercorn mix and reduce again by about half (she says two-thirds but I’m buggered if I can work out how much that is whilst standing over a hot sauce).
10. Finally, add the butter and cream to the sauce, stir in any juice from the plate/bowl where the chops have been resting, let the butter melt and the sauce bubble then serve the chops with the sauce poured over the top.