A 30-minute summery take on pork and beans – grilled lemon and thyme pork chops with a cider bean casserole
Cooking by weather
Unfortunately, the ever-changing climate we are experiencing in Europe has turned summer topsy-turvy. I know people already associate the UK with rain and bad weather but what we are going through this summer really is bordering on the ridiculous. Parts of the country are flooded again while in the South-east where I live, a hose pipe ban still remains in place. The constantly changing combination of rain and cloud, with sunny spells in generally still warm air temperatures, means we wander around in uncomfortably muggy weather still feeling chilly and cold throughout the day.
I remember a friend from Singapore commenting to me that ever since I moved to the UK, I seem to talk (and moan) endlessly about the weather all the time. Easy for them to say that when the weather back home is pretty much constant, at least temperature wise. Here, weather news and reports are rendered practically useless when it can change from hour to hour, and vary from one neighbouring county to the next.
This makes it invariably difficult to decide what one feels like eating. BBQs are simply out of the question because you don’t know if the sun will hold out long enough for you to even cook anything, yet casseroles and stews are at times just too warm because the thermostat still measures between 19 to 22 degrees.
So last weekend, I tried to create something that represented a bit of all of the seasons we seem to be experiencing simultaneously– grilled pork chops more suited to sunnier climes, eaten with a casserole-style bean stew cooked in cider to provide the gentler warmth we still need to get through the cooler parts of our day and night.
Speed and simplicity are also what I have focused on, and I’ve cut out a lot of cooking time by simply using a tin of pre-cooked beans (in water), which means apart from the time required for marinating the meat, it actually took only about 20 minutes to prepare this meal.
I don’t often grill pork chops because it’s hard to gauge when you overcook and dry them out but this marinade is great for tenderising the meat, which meant I only needed a couple of minutes grilling on each side to keep these chops succulent, juicy and full of flavour.
However, don’t let the picture of the grilled pork chops fool you – today’s star of the dish is undoubtedly the casserole-style bean stew, though stew is misleading because these only took 10 minutes to cook.
Bean stews can lack a bit of texture so my idea was to add some fresh edamame beans and spinach to the stew – the edamame beans retain a bit of crunch and the spinach just helps to lift this into a summery rather than wintry dish.
As always, because of the differing taste we have in food, I used my husband as my guide and critic; when I first told him I was making this bean dish, I could tell he was a bit sceptical though had the good grace not to say anything. He was not only worried about the potential consequences of eating so many beans but I could also tell the lack of potatoes or other starchy carb weighed on his mind. However, both of us needn’t have worried.
Nowadays, it takes quite a lot for him to give me a ‘two thumbs up’ but two thumbs he did indeed bestow. He liked this dish so much he actually even tried to recreate it himself while I was away on business this week. As he didn’t actually have my recipe to hand, he made his own version but didn’t take any pictures to show you. However, the fact that he chose to cook a bean dish to replace his normal carb intake was proof enough that we can find stodge-free recipes that remain equally satisfying and tasty.
Have a great weekend.
Lots of love
Pork and beans (in cider) – serves 2 as a main meal
(I start grilling the pork chops at the same time I start cooking the casserole. The chops really shouldn’t need more than 5-6 minutes on a super hot grill, which means that they have time to rest as I finish making the bean stew. If you can handle cooking both at the same time, you’ll definitely be able to make this dish in under 20 minutes).
For the pork chops (marinate for at least 3 hours)
2 boneless pork chops
1 tablespoon dried thyme (or fresh if you have it)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon soy sauce (or 1 teaspoon Maggi Seasoning)
Ground black pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Place your pork chops and all of marinade ingredients into either a plastic zip-lock bag or bowl and mix well. Seal your bag/bowl and marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours. An hour before you intend to eat, remove your pork chops and allow them to come back up to room temperature (about an hour).
Edamame & bean casserole/stew cooked in cider
1 x 400 gram tin of mixed beans (in water)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ cup fresh edamame beans
1 cup chicken stock
½ cup cider
1 large shallot, roughly chopped
70 grams pancetta
½ large onion (or 1 small onion), roughly chopped
10 grams butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups chopped freshly spinach
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Melt the butter in olive oil in a sauce pan. Fry your pancetta until they start going crispy and the oil has been released from the pancetta.
Add the onion, shallots and garlic, turn down the heat and sauté on medium heat for 5 minutes.
Turn the heat back to high, and then add the cider, stirring the bacon and onions constantly and allowing the onions to absorb all of the cider (like adding stock to a risotto).
When the cider has been absorbed, add your beans and edamame, toss well and then add your chicken stock and thyme.
Once it starts to boil, add a squeeze of lemon juice, reduce the heat and simmer for 5-6 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Add your fresh spinach, cook for another 1-2 minutes and add some roughly chopped parsley.
Ladle into a bowl and eat as is or with the grilled lamp chops.