If you live far away from your family, Skype can transform your laptop into a magical time space portal, beaming you straight into a living room where your niece can sing you the song sheâ€™s learned to be an angel in the Christmas play, and your nephew can hold his fist up to the camera, filling the screen, then peel back his fingers one by one to reveal â€¦ A Pea! A Special Lego! A Marble!
On our last conversation we discovered that Sam was a bit tired. Evidently he had over-exerted himself in that morningâ€™s Street Dancing Class.
Just for one moment, imagine what a Street Dancing class for toddlers might look like. In the local Scout hut. In rural Worcestershire. Now imagine what the Worcestershire under 5s street dancing Christmas show might look like.
That feeling that you are experiencing right now is probably awe.
Pork Ragu with pomegranates (serves 4 â€“ 6)
If it were possible to recreate a warm Christmasy comforting feeling with food, this pork ragu would do it. Itâ€™s my go-to for dinners with friends at the moment â€“ easy to put together, ridiculously delicious, and, best of all, as it cooks the kitchen fills with the most fabulous rich aroma. It’s been a hit with my in-laws, my food blogger friend and her fiance, Jon’s colleague and wife, and my friends who recently had a baby and were gratefullyÂ receivingÂ food donations. Basically, a really good crowd-pleasing all rounder.
The idea for this dish came from Dinner A Love Story, one of my favorite cookbooks at the moment. The recipe there is for a plain, but still delicious, unspiced, un-pomegranated version. The pomegranates especially are a flight of Christmas fancy, and they really make the dinner feel special.
This dish can be made in advance and refrigerated. Indeed, I think it tastes even better the next day. When you take it out of the fridge itâ€™s easy to skim the fat from the top, then re-heat in a moderate oven until the sauce is bubbling and the pork is hot.2 – 3lb pork shoulder (this is about 1/3rd of a pork shoulder â€“ I freeze the rest in 2.5 ish pieces for another day. Also, it should be skinless, and if thereâ€™s obvious fat, trim it off.) 1 large red onion 1 tsp crushed garlic (about 2 cloves) 1 tsp cinnamon 2 tsp coco powder 1 tsp paprika 1 small can tomatoes 2 cups red wine 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar 1 sprig rosemary 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves 1 star anise Olive oil Salt and pepper 1 large pomegranate Parmesan to serve Tagliatelle to serve Â
- Slice the onions and cook gently in a cast iron pan (le cruset rules here), with a pinch of salt and a splash of olive oil. Stir occasionally until the onions are a sweet brown tangle. The longer you cook them for, the better the dish. Slow for 20 mins, higher heat, maybe you can do it in 10.
- Add the garlic, coco, cinnamon, and paprika.
- Season the pork and put on top of the onion mixture. Pour in the tomatoes, balsamic and wine
- Put the rosemary, thyme and star anise in a (clean) popsock or a tea strainer â€“ something that enables you to fish them out later â€“ and add to the stew. Give everything a stir, season well, then add water so that the liquid level just covers the pork.
- Put the lid on and cook really really gently for 4 hours either on the stove or in a 250f ish oven. Turn the meat occasionally to keep it moist. After 3 hours, fish out the herbs and star anise.
- Take the lid off for the last half hour to let the sauce reduce a bit
- Pull the pork into bite-sized pieces with 2 forks, then stir into the sauce
- Cook a box of tagliatelle according to the instructions, then pour the cooked drained pasta into the sauce and mix to combine
- Scatter pomegranate seeds on top to serve, and add a simple salad for a true winter feast.