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Passport & Plate - Pork belly and borlotti bean stew

United Kingdom | Friday, 6 March 2015 | 1 photos

450g borlotti beans, sorted and rinsed
olive oil
1kg pork belly, chopped into chunks with the hard rind removed (if you’re buying from a butcher, ask them to do it to save you time!)
2 bay leaves
8 sprigs fresh thyme
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 ½ - 2 tsp sweet paprika
½ tsp hot paprika
a pinch of fennel seeds
salt and pepper
a pinch of sugar
1 tblsp tomato puree
1 tblsp balsamic vinegar
400g tin chopped tomatoes
500ml stock (of your choice, preferably homemade)
1 savoy cabbage
½ bunch fresh flat leaf parsley (chopped)
Branston Pickle


How to prepare this recipe
Chef’s note: The stew takes some planning ahead, not only because dried beans need to be soaked the night before, but also the stew definitely tastes better the day after making (if you can wait that long).
If you don’t eat pork, this recipe also works well with rib of beef. For a vegetarian version, simply substitute the meat for more beans and vegetables

Serves 4-6.

Wine suggestion: New Zealand Pinot Noir

If your beans are dried, soak them overnight in a deep pan of cold water, discarding any beans that float to the top. Drain the beans, rinse, and drain once again.

Put your casserole pan on a medium heat on the hob to heat through.

Add a good few lugs of olive oil to the pan, season the pork and add to the casserole, to brown the pork. If your pot isn’t quite big enough to do the pork in one layer, do it in batches. Once browned, remove from the pan and put to one side.

Add some more oil to the pan if you think it needs it, lower the heat a tiny bit, then toss in the vegetables, herbs and spices, and cook for 5-6 minutes until the vegetables are softened.

Add the sugar, tomato puree and balsamic vinegar, then add the tomatoes and stock, stirring well and turning the heat up to medium again.

Add the rinsed beans and the pork to the pot. Bring to the boil.

Once boiling, turn the heat down to a lively simmer, put the lid on the pot and leave to cook for at least 1hr30mins. You’ll know when it’s ready when the beans are tender.

Serve the stew with crusty French bread to mop up the delicious juices, sprinkling over flat leaf parsley to taste, with sautéd Savoy cabbage and a daub of Branston Pickle to balance the meal.

The Savoy cabbage acts as a fresh green accompaniment to contrast with the warm brown blanket of the stew, and the pickle serves as a tangy partner to elevate the stew from simple comfort food to something rather extraordinary. Washed down with a glass of New Zealand Pinot Noir, this stew is guaranteed to nourish your soul.


The story behind this recipe
It’s a pleasure to share this recipe with you as it sums up my home and where I come from. Every few months or so I go back to visit my parents and eat my dad’s pork belly and borlotti bean stew. With the vegetables and herbs grown by my dad himself in our back garden in the Nottinghamshire countryside and the pork belly from a local farm shop, the ingredients come straight from home soil. And when all served up together on the kitchen table where I used to sit down for dinner as a child, this stew truly makes me feel like I’m home.

I’ve made variations on my dad’s stew wherever I’ve lived, be it London or Paris, swapping the beans or using ham hock, pancetta or even sausage meat if I couldn’t find the right ingredients locally. Yet even with a few alterations to the ingredient list, just one mouthful’s enough to take me home. It’s hard to find Branston Pickle in Paris but if you look hard enough, you’ll find it costing four times more than usual - still worth it for that unmistakeable nose-filling punch of flavour.

This stew gives me comfort when I’m stressed or lonely. With a few simple, cheap ingredients I can cook a dish that gives me reassurance when I’m feeling lost, like a hug from my mum or a pat on the back from dad.
But it’s not just me this stew should be special to, for who can resist a slow-cooked stew? With meat so soft it falls apart in your mouth, the sauce’s velvety caress from the fatty meat, the soft depth of sweet paprika, the savoury kiss of thyme, the creamy comfort of beans – this is like family in a bowl.

A good stew is like a good story, each ingredient a character that adds to the narrative, the flavours changing a little every time it’s told. This recipe is a story exchanged over the dinner table, recounting adventures in far-flung places whilst being secretly pleased you can come home to tell everyone how much fun you’ve had, and to hear how proud your family is of you.

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