There’s a Nigel Slater recipe from Kitchen Diaries that I’ve tried three or four times now and never quite managed to crack. The one where he roasts Fragola grapes around the pork for the entire roasting time and somehow ends up with sweet grape-scented jus instead of shrivelled black raisins. I’ve tried a number of different methods, including cooking on a lower temperature and covering the tin with foil, chucking the grapes in later in the process, hiding them under the meat and so on, but have always ended up simply chucking out the burnt debris, carefully deglazing the pan and throwing in more fresh grapes as I do so and squishing them down. It always ends up delicious, but I’m damned if I can see how he does it his way.
I bought a piece of bone-in pork shoulder from the butcher at the weekend and had in mind the same kind of fruity accompaniment, although, instead of grapes, I had some under-ripe plums which needed encouragement of some kind. I also enjoyed the grape-based sauce from the other week, but wanted something with a more Chinese-y aspect. It was a bit of experimentation, but here you go.
Sweat a chopped onion and carrot in a pan in some butter until translucent and soft. Stir in 1-2 tsp flour and let it cook out. Add a good wine glass of red wine, stir in and allow to thicken then add around 300ml chicken stock. I then added a couple of star anise, a merest hint of cinnamon and reduced it by half. I stoned a good handful of plums, halved them and added them to the sauce with a little fresh ginger. Simmer the sauce until the plums collapse, then press through a sieve, scraping the underside with a wooden spoon to collect all the plum flesh. Pour back into the pan and adjust the seasoning – you may even need to add a little sugar, depending on the ripeness (or not) of the plums. You’re aiming for a rich deep flavour with a subtle spice in the background from the star anise.
We had some of the sauce with the roast pork and roast potatoes and some sauteed kale, but it was even better the next day reheated and poured over diced leftover pork stir-fried with green beans and aubergine and tossed with noodles. When you reheat the sauce for this, you might want to increase the Chinese spices and add a little chilli.