Pork Chops with Braised Fennel
Wednesday was a write off, most of last week and this week has been. My plan for Valentines dinner turned out to be the same as everyone elses – Steak, not very imaginative I admit. Our local butcher closes at lunchtime on a Wednesday, I can still remember when a lot of shops did. Springing a request for an ingredient needed for school cookery class on my Mother on a Wednesday afternoon was not met with joy on her part!
The baby, and myself, have definitely not been on our A game this week and so by the time we got out of the house on Wednesday the butcher would have been long packed up and gone, the next best call locally, Aldi, had completely sold out of steaks! Walking through Aldi’s car park always brings a wry smile at the discarded waitrose coffee cups in the Aldi trolleys! Only round here would people go to Waitrose for their free coffee and drink it whilst doing their actual shopping in Aldi!
Steakless but armed with a fennel and a plan we returned home.
The day was catching up with me and our quick and easy steak dinner was off. A get out of jail free card in the form of bolognese from the freezer stood in for our Valentines dinner. Thursday night I made more of an effort with a pork chop accompanied by this braised fennel dish and it was as good as any steak dinner.
I first came across this on a course I did with Rosemary Shrager, name drop moment, I did two courses with her! The original method has been lost in the memories of time and partly adapted with a bit of Simon Hopkinson’s version.
- 1 Large Fennel
- 40g butter
- Chicken or Veg stock – enough to cover the fennel, about 200ml
- A Smallish glass of white wine – if it’s really good wine drink it and leave out of the recipe!
- 2 good handfulls of grated parmesan cheese
- Salt and pepper
Trim the very tips of the fennel and then cut the “fingers” off completely. Slice the fennel into slices about 1cm thick.
You want a fairly flattish wide pan so you can lay the slices in a thin layer. Cover with wine, if using and stock. Simmer gently for 10 mins.
Remove the slices to an oven proof dish, arranging in a flat layer if possible. Put the trimmed “fingers” and any of the tougher outerparts of the fennel in a blender, nutribullet, or a jug if using a stick blender. Whilst doing this cut out the tough triangular core part of the slices and add these to the blender too.
To the trimmings add the butter, a handful of parmesan cheese and about 70ml of the stock. Blitz. If using a nutribullet or similar allow the liquid to cool first, never blitz hot liquid in a sealed container!!
Taste the now creamy liquid and season to taste. Pour over the fennel. This can all be done in advance up to this point. I love get ahead dishes.
When ready to cook, sprinkle over the rest of the parmesan and bake in the oven, 170 fan, for 20 mins or until golden and bubbling.
I think this goes perfectly with pork. I was originally taught the dish to accompany guinea fowl and it’s also great with fish. I’d eat it with most things.
Pork Chops A good pork chop needs nothing more than a rub with some oil, the rind snipping at 1cm intervals to prevent the fat curling, some salt and pepper and a hot griddle pan. Pay attention to making sure the fat has enough contact with the pan to crisp up. I love the fat from a pork chop, my husband does not.
Weaning is not going well with the baby, she refuses to let us spoon feed her purees, she will accept finger foods and nibble on them but not enough to actually eat anything. She does appear to like gnawing and sucking on a chop bone though!! (I’d checked for sharp edges) It appears we have a cavebaby!!!
The Nutrition Bit
Pork is a great meat, an unappreciated meat I think, more valued for its junk food / processed food opportunities that as a healthy alternative to chicken, beef or lamb. So lets not be comparing pork to processed piggies!
Fats – It has more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats than saturated fats, therefore, as part of a balanced diet, pork can help lower cholesterol.
B Vitamins – it’s a good source of B vitamins, specifically B1, B2 and B3 (thiamine, riboflavin and niacin) and B12 these are all good energy regulators and help with muscle repair and growth.
Iron – half the iron in pork is heam iron, the most readily absorbed dietary iron. When I was pregnant I didn’t have many cravings but pork was one.
Soure of Potassium, Magnesium and Zinc.
Digestion – Fennel is well know for helping ease digestive complaints. It contains Anethol, an anti-inflammatory which reduces the chemical signals released by white blood cells which encourage localised inflammation. Anethol is also an anti-spasmodic and carminative, reducing and regulation contractions of the gut wall making it beneficial for abdominal cramps and IBS. The carminative properties disperse and reduce gas.
Hormone Regulator -Fennel contains phyto-oestrogens, plant chemicals which are similar to the female hormone oestrogen. These can make the body think there is more oestrogen than there is where levels are too low or it can bind to natural oestrogen reducing it’s impact where levels are too high. This makes it especially good for menopause and pre-menopause issues.
Diuretic – it aids the kidneys in the removal of waste and so helping with water retention and bloating. It can also be beneficial for kidney stones, gout and liver disorders.
Anti-Parasitic – The volatile essential oil, anethol, can be effective against worms and parasites.
Coughs and Colds – used in a syrup fennel can help ease coughs and colds by thinning mucous.
Milk Production – fennel is thought to help with milk production for nursing mothers.
Source of Potassium, fibre, vitamins B and folate.