Pork and Beer Stew

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It’s the time of the month where I start rooting around in the freezer, pushing aside heels of year-old bread and tupperware dishes full of indistinguishable leftovers, searching for something to stretch our month’s food budget a bit further. During one of these excavations I discovered a couple packs of diced pork leg obviously bought from the corner of the supermarket where food goes to die, as evidenced from the yellow ‘reduced’ sticker clinging desperately to the side of the package – the scarlet letter of the nearly binned.

To be honest, quite a bit of our meat comes fom this part of the store, our freezer is the savior of many a doomed chicken or pack of ground beef. It allows us, when luck is on our side (aka we make it to the reduced section before the hoards have stripped it of everything worth having), to enjoy things we wouldn’t normally be able to afford. For instance, the roast pork which fed six at our Italian-inspired dinner party and went on to make sandwiches for a couple days afterward cost us a mere £5, one third of its original price. But bargains like that are far and few between and these packs of diced leg were distinctly less exciting, but a good find nonetheless.

Again I trawled the internet and questioned fellow foodies on Twitter, but I ended up using a Parade recipe from epicurious. It’s a straight forward stew: brown the meat, soften the veg, deglaze, simmer for a long time.

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The first interesting, although admittedly not revolutionary, ingredient was beer. I used a Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Westmoreland Ale which we have enjoyed drinking before and supposedly has subtle caramel and toffee notes balanced with hops and is recommended to be enjoyed with Cumberland sausages. Sausages are made from pork – we hope! – there’s pork in the stew, works for me.

The second unusual addition was apples. I know, pork and apples, but in a stew? I happened to have a cooking apple lurking in my fruit basket, so I peeled it and chucked it in. There was a sweetness to the finished stew which surprised me. It has a couple tablespoons of brown sugar in it, but I think the apple definitely added to this sweetness. It pretty much dissolved into the stew, so I suppose you could leave out the brown sugar and stir in a couple spoonfuls of applesauce with much the same effect.

I used parsnips and fennel as well as carrots and left all the veg very chunky because I wanted to cook the stew in the slow cooker and didn’t want the veg to get too soft. After browning the meat, softening the veg, deglazing and then bringing stock and tomatoes to the boil I put it all into the slow cooker and set it on low overnight.

After 12 hours the meat was tender and just on the brink of falling apart and the veg was soft enough to be cut with a spoon. The first night I served it with a big helping of buttery, creamy mashed potato and the second night with buttery, creamy polenta – are you sensing a pattern? Both were deliciously decadent yet homely. The remaining leftovers got turned into a spicy huevos rancheros-type baked egg dish which was fabulous – blog post forthcoming for that one!

Another triumph for the downtrodden rejects of the ‘reduced to clear’ section, bearers of the yellow sticker!

Bon appetit!

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