Cider Pork Casserole with Artichokes and Garden Herbs

There's nothing quite as comforting as a good straightforward family stew, made  even better if it is crammed full of vegetables.  The season for Jerusalem artichokes is all too short and their addition here gives a vaguely sweet earthiness which I think is absolutely delicious.  The stew is thickened slightly with red lentils just because I had a packet of them spilling on my worktop and although I have made the casserole with pork, lamb would be equally good.

Ingredients

  • 4 pork shoulder steaks, I keep mine whole, but cut them up if you prefer 


  • 3 onions, coarsely chopped 


  • 2 cloves garlic 


  • 1 fat leek, outside layer removed (see method) cut in half lengthways, then coarsely chopped 


  • 3 carrots, cut into chunks 


  • 2 sticks celery 


  • 4 chunky mushrooms, thickly sliced 


  • 5 Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and cut in half 


  • Glug of Worcestershire sauce 


  • 500ml bottle cider 


  • 150ml chicken stock (made with a whole cube) 


  • 2 sprigs rosemary 


  • 3 fresh bay leaves 


  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme 


  • Salt and Pepper 


  • Generous handful red lentils to thicken 


  • You will need a sauté pan with a lid or a casserole suitable for the hob

Method

  • Start by making a bouquet garni.  Remove in one piece the outside layer of the leek and wash it to get rid of any remaining grit.  This outside layer will be a conveniently shaped tube in which to place the thyme, rosemary and bay leaves and then fasten them inside with string.  At the end of cooking all the nasty woody bits of thyme and the rosemary needles can then be swiftly removed all in one go, no fishing around necessary. 


  • Warm a drop of oil in the sauté pan or casserole and cook the chopped onion with a pinch of salt until soft. Grate in the garlic and add the leek.  Continue to cook until the leek has softened slightly. 


  • Add the pork to the pan. Now add the carrot, celery, mushrooms and artichokes.  


  • Pour in the cider and stock and shake in the Worcestershire sauce.  Add your bouquet garni, pushing it beneath the surface of the stock.  Season with salt (remember you put some in the onions) and pepper. 


  • Put on a lid and bring everything up to a gentle simmer (there should be only the gentlest flutter of movement in the liquid) on the hob for an hour and a half.


  •  Stir in a good handful of red lentils to thicken the stew a little.  


  • Return it to simmering point and continue to cook for a further 30 minutes.

Helpful Hints

Adding the red lentils for the last 30 minutes of cooking is a simple way to thicken up the stew a little, but it is essential that the lentils have at least 25 minutes cooking at a simmering temperature

This may also be cooked in a slow oven.

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