Mad Men and English Fruit

I’ve just been to New York and Vir­gin­ia where both the hos­pit­al­ity and the heat were off the scale. In NY one of my hap­pi­est meals was sit­ting in Cent­ral Park eat­ing the most beau­ti­ful pink-blushed apricots. In Vir­gin­ia I was treated to sweet, sticky pork ribs, corn and South­ern-style bis­cuits. But like Som­brero hats and leder­hosen, corn and ribs don’t travel — at least not to rain-soaked Bri­tain they don’t. Noth­ing could match that per­fect Vir­gini­an set­ting, as the sun beat down.

So this is my ver­sion of pork ribs and corn for an Eng­lish cli­mate, where hot means the tep­id tem­per­at­ure neces­sary to make yoghurt. Pork belly and goose­ber­ries.…

When I wrote a while ago about the ‘truc­u­lence of pastry’ I was only really warm­ing up for an intro­duc­tion to the true god of mood­i­ness, the goose­berry. Its bili­ous green demean­our, bristly exter­i­or and the sheer impossib­il­ity of tast­ing its bit­ter flesh without win­cing makes it second only to the quince in all-round trick­i­ness. But, like the quince, treat it right and it will offer up glor­i­ous, tart fla­vour in a trice.

It’s been said of the Brit­ish tele­vi­sion presenter and film buff Barry Nor­man that his crumpled face but immacu­late hair make him look as though he’s been up all night with a brush and comb. The goose­berry looks as though it’s been up all night at the bar, nurs­ing a Jack Daniel’s and a grudge.

When it comes to the per­fect part­ner­ship, the tetchy, hard-to-please goose­berry needs an avun­cu­lar, plump com­pan­ion. Think of Mad Men’s bril­liant but ruth­less Don Draper paired with the lus­ciously beau­ti­ful Joan and you’ll get the pic­ture.

Pork Belly and Gooseberry Sauce


Sliced pork belly — quant­it­ies really depend on how much you want to eat, but two pieces per per­son is a good start

Fen­nel seeds — three tea­spoons

Thyme — a fist­ful

Rose­mary — two good sprigs

Olive oil — a glug or two

Gar­lic — three cloves, crushed


Pre­heat the oven to 200 c and tip all the ingredi­ents into a strong poly­thene bag. Mas­sage the pork around a bit. Leave to mar­in­ade for an hour or so, return­ing to mas­sage the bag every now and again. Remove the pork from the bag, along with the mar­in­ade, and place in an oven dish. Cook for thirty minutes. Leave to rest for ten minutes while you make the goose­berry sauce.

Gooseberry Sauce

200g Goose­ber­ries

Sug­ar — half a cup

Dash of water

Half a star anise


Zest of one lem­on


Put all the ingredi­ents, except the but­ter, into a pan and bring to a sim­mer. Stir until the goose­ber­ries have col­lapsed and remove from the heat. Add the knob of but­ter, remove the star anise and that’s it. Eat in the rain and think of Vir­gin­ia sun­shine.

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10 thoughts on “Mad Men and English Fruit

  1. You totally crack me up: “goose­berry looks as though it’s been up all night at the bar, nurs­ing a Jack Daniel’s and a grudge.” — LOL!!

    Gor­geous pics — I can almost smell that pork belly. You have got to love the Amer­ic­ans and their insanely friendly nature!

  2. I agree — a tricky cus­tom­er the goose­berry, but being a north­ern girl I love it. I also find belly pork a bit rich, so what bet­ter solu­tion than to cut it with a bit of goose­berry acid?
    Mind you, a great goose­berry tart with crisp pastry and thick yel­low cream…that takes a lot of beat­ing, how’s that for a plump com­pan­ion? And don’t I envy you a few days in NY…ah well.

  3. Hi Liz
    Ooh, I like the sound of that goose­berry tart.
    I only wish I could have stayed in NY longer — well, forever actu­ally.

  4. Anoth­er won­der­ful quirky post. Bril­liant quotes, meta­phors and whatever. I shall nev­er look at goose­ber­ries the same way again although, indeed, one doesn’t often see them now. Prob­ably too per­ish­able for super­mar­kets. Lovely pho­tos as ever.

  5. Charlie, such great recipe. it has taken me a while to get to like goose­ber­ries but this year I just real­ized that I actu­ally quite like it — shame that my affair was with everth­ing sweet goose­berry. It would have been great to try that. It’ll have to wait for next year.; o )

  6. That trans­lu­cent goose­berry green is my favor­ite col­our on Earth. I’ve always loved them and wish that they were grown more often.
    One little ques­tion: I’m assum­ing the bag you referred to for the pork is not one of those roast­ing bags. You do remove it before roast­ing, right?

  7. Hi Robyn You’re right — take the pork out of the bag before roast­ing. I’ll make an adjust­ment to the recipe, just in case it’s not clear. And I com­pletely agree with you about goose­ber­ries.….

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