There are days in winter – and spring, and autumn – when you wake up to wet and wild mornings and the only thing to do is spend the day indoors, with occasional rain-coated excursions for walks to avoid claustrophobia. Digging through Tamasin Day Lewis’ Weekend Food on one such day, I discovered a recipe for Pork Hock and Bean Casserole that made me go digging in the freezer to find the cheap, but meaty, pork hock that I’d purchased last month.
This is a good dinner to get started directly after lunch, letting it simmer away in the oven all afternoon and evening until the beans are soft and the meat is deliciously tender. A brief flurry of preparation at the outset and dinner practically cooks itself. With a few variations – cutting down on the molasses and sugar, especially – it made for a succulent dish. Rich and fragrant, this is a comforting meal for those miserable days when you feel in the need of something robust and strongly flavoured.
I have served this with plain basmati rice and Citrus Green Beans (the beans microwaved on high for four minutes then tossed with butter and lime juice) or alternatively roasted pumpkin and Buttered Coriander Cabbage (shred a Savoy cabbage and cook until tender in a pan where a couple of teaspoons of bruised coriander seeds have been sizzling with some butter). You won’t need much for afters but, if you really wanted to gild the lily, you could finish off with a bubbling crumble of seasonal fruit.
Pork Hock with Beans
Pork hock – 1, large
Dried haricot beans – 500g, soaked overnight and drained
Molasses – 3 tablespoons
Brown muscovado sugar – 3 tablespoons
Baby onions – 8, each stuck with a clove, or 2 large onions, halved and stuck with 2 cloves each
Dijon mustard – 3 teaspoons
Star anise – 1
Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Put the beans in a large saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Skim and simmer for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix the molasses, brown sugar, onions, mustard and star anise in a casserole dish. Dilute the mixture with some of the bean cooking water then add the still-hard beans and the pork hock. Cover with a lid then place in the oven. After an hour, reduce the oven to 150°C and cook for a further three hours.
Adapted from Tamasin’s Weekend Food by Tamasin Day Lewis.