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

SERVES 4

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

Season­ing

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

Season­ing

Zest of one lemon

But­ter

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.