I know there is something going on in my life when my ‘draft’ count for new posts reaches unmanageable heights. I often just jot down any recipe I like and then delete it if I find out I don’t like it that much, or keep and add a story to it if I really like it. The process usually works quite well. I can be a very organised person, as much as I can be a total mess when I don’t care about something. I always care about cooking and blogging, so I am organised in it. But my life has been such an emotional rollercoaster lately that I can’t think of a reasonable, consequential way of cooking, or presenting ideas, or styling and taking pictures, or clearing my mind in whatever way.
I am in a frenzy of energy, but I’m less busy than usual, which means I end up shuffling things around and not getting anything done. Horrible feeling: I deeply dislike finding myself in this state. I think I should really be doing things and seeing people and making phone calls and then spend hours doing totally useless things. This reflects into the kitchen: I bookmark items and shop for random ingredients and then at dinnertime find not a single one of the ingredients I need.
But at least I’m still cooking, as usual. I’m still loving it, which is more important. I find joy and calm in kneading a dough or measuring ingredients. I am trying some new recipes, but more and more often I find myself going back to my fail safe, foolproof ones. Recipes that won’t increase my stress level one tiny bit, that won’t add strain to my already stretched back, that will release tension. Everyone likes them, they solve a dinner in a few steps and that’s it.
The latest dinner I hosted was just like that. I sailed through familiar waters, and sometimes it is just what I need to clear my mind. Primo, risotto con asparagi – with meat stock, for extra richness. Dessert, a batch of strawberry millefeuille – it is a breeze to make with frozen puff pastry (I had some in my freezer I made myself) and it tastes and looks divine.
And as a main, an old family classic, again. Every cook should have a good recipe for a roast up their sleeve. I have learned this recipe from my mother, who always prepared pork roast this way. It is a typical Italian recipe, dead easy and dead good, with just that little twist. It will be gentle on you if you don’t get the cooking time right, or the meat is just ordinary supermarket meat because you completely forgot to go to the butcher, or if you are too stressed out to juggle a recipe with more than three ingredients. Or four. It barely requires active time, and it can be made in advance. As soon as I have a moment of lucidity, I should be doing this. Nobody told me it was the best food they’ve ever eaten – although the dessert did steal a few gasps – but everything was just good, and everyone went back for seconds or thirds (I never manage to have my planned leftovers!). This roast makes great leftovers and it can be amazingly good if you have amazingly good pork. I actually cooked it the night before, and it required no oven: a blessing, given that as soon as the sun comes out it is quite hot here in Germany. The night, while my guests were arriving, I cut the cold meat, heated slightly the sauce, snatched a picture while people were literally up the stairs – and was finally able to unwind for a whole night. Food worked its magic.
You may have noticed a new banner on the side – I am the proud winner of No Croutons Required for May! I am amazed. I’m not very good at competitions and I never won anything in my life (apart from a random draw at a piano class when I was twelve, but I don’t think that counts). This one was real fun, it did not feel like a competition at all, but still, it is very flattering to receive a positive feedback on what I do just because I love it. I would like to thank everyone who voted for me, and thank the hosts and the other participants as well.
Pork roast with milk – Arrosto di maiale al latte
A note on the recipe: how much milk you are going to need depends on your pan. You should choose one where the meat fits tightly, and how tightly it fits will determine the amount of liquid you are going to need. And, this is usually done with olive oil, but I made a batch of clarified butter lately and I’ve been loving it. It is perfect for high temperature roasting, like in this case.
Ingredients: (serves 6 with some leftovers – in theory)
900 gr pork in one piece – the right cut is pork loin with no bones and no skin, a common cut in Europe but a bit more difficult to come across in the UK, where skin is usually left.
about 500 ml milk (could be less or more, depending on your pan)
2 bay leaves
a bit of clarified butter or olive oil
Choose a pot with a heavy bottom and where the meat fits tightly – It will retire while cooking so it is ok if it barely fits.Warm oil or clarified butter over high heat, then add the meat (careful:it will splutter) and let it brown a few minutes. At the beginning it may stick to the pan but don’t worry, as the caramelization proceeds, it will develop a crust and you will be able to turn it. Turn the meat using two forks and sear it on all sides. When all of the outside is golden, add some milk to the pan – again, careful: it will splutter – until it comes up at about half way of the meat. Add bay leaves, salt and pepper. Cover, lower the heat to low and leave to simmer for about half an hour. Turn the meat every ten minutes or so. The milk proteins will coagulate – this is normal. Check if the meat is done: when you pierce it with a long skewer, the juices should come out clear. It they are pink, it needs more cooking. Don’t overcook or it will get a bit dry.
You can serve it immediately if you like, or let cool in its sauce. If you want to keep it, wrap it in foil when it is cold and refrigerate. Before serving warm the sauce with a knob of butter and some tablespoons of stock or water. If you want a smooth sauce, you can strain out the milk clots, but they are quite tasty.