Lazy Sunday afternoon

Sat, Feb 25, 2012, 00:00

Getting the balance right between winter richness and paying homage to brighter days is a bit tricky at this time of year, writes DOMINI KEMP

I ALWAYS THINK OF Sunday lunch as something to be done in winter. In my ideal world, the perfect Sunday lunch would be something leisurely that kicks off at around 2pm, gently meandering through a few dishes and ending with dessert at around 6pm.

After that, a good film, with a glass of red wine and a sneaky square of dark chocolate, before a warm descent into bed, early enough to flick through a few chapters of something excellent and ensure eight hours sleep before work the next day.

Naturally enough, the “cleaning fairies” would call over during the night, to leave the kitchen spotless, eliminating all traces of unwashed pots and pans and human culinary errors. Who wouldn’t love such an impeccable day?

This is the last month before spring really kicks in and spring lamb ends up on the table, marinated, roasted, grilled and sliced. It’s also light and bright enough not to hanker after a rich, dark stew. So getting that balance right between winter richness and paying homage to brighter days is a bit of a tricky one.

These two dishes achieve that balance. The roast pork is easy to do and takes up to 15 minutes in a hot oven, or 20 if the fillet is fat enough. This apple tarte tatin is my new favourite tarte tatin recipe and comes from Welsh chef Bryn William’s book, Bryn’s Kitchen. His tip – which is so obvious and incredibly straightforward – is to leave the peeled and cored apple quarters in the fridge overnight, uncovered, to help them dry out. This may seem a bizarre thing to do, but fridges dry things out and by exposing the apples to this slow, drying process, it helps them to caramelise when you saute them in the butter and sugar caramel mixture. By removing some of the excess moisture from the apples, you help the caramelisation, as there’s less water to interfere with this chemical process. Genius, I’d say.

If you can buy the apple brandy for the Calvados cream, it’s well worth it. It made a delicious, boozy, Sunday lunch-type garnish and although I’m not usually a fan of alcohol drenched desserts, a small spoonful of this sinful cream worked quite magically.

Pork fillet with celeriac and onion puree

Serves 4

50g butter

Splash olive oil

2 large pork fillets (approx 400g each and trimmed of all sinew and excess fat)

2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped

Few springs of thyme

Couple of glasses white wine

Salt and pepper

1 celeriac, peeled and cut into chunks

3 cloves garlic, peeled

400ml whole milk

2 large onions, peeled and finely sliced

3tbsps olive oil

You can re-heat the celeriac puree, so make it first. The pork can be cooked by being browned first and then finished off in the oven, which will give you breathing space to re-heat the puree and get your plates organised to plate up.

So, starting with the celeriac puree, in a medium-sized saucepan, heat the milk with the celeriac chunks, thyme and whole cloves of garlic. Put a lid on the pot, bring it up to a gentle simmer and cook for about 15 minutes, or until soft. Allow the veg to cool then put the celeriac and garlic in a blender; discard the thyme sprigs and keep the milk.

While you are cooking the celeriac, sweat the onions in the olive oil, with the lid on, until they are very soft. This will take about 20 minutes. Add them to the celeriac and season lightly. Add a good ladleful of milk and blend, adding more milk until you have a nice, soft purée. Not sloppy, but soft. So go easy with the milk at the start. You can do this the day before, as long as you let it cool down fully and then refrigerate. Just re-heat with a knob of butter and a little more milk (either the reserved stuff or a splash of fresh milk), as the fridge tends to dry out these things. Check seasoning before you serve.

Preheat an oven to 180 degrees/gas 4. To cook the pork, heat the butter and a good splash of olive oil in a large frying pan until it is foaming. Fry the fillets on a high heat, ensuring a good, high sizzle. Season well and fry them until well coloured on all sides. Then deglaze the pan with the wine (be careful of flames) and add the chopped garlic and thyme. Spoon and baste the fillets in the juices and transfer them to a roasting tray. Roast in the oven for about 15 minutes.

Get your puree heated up. Spoon the juices over the pork and then rest it for about five minutes with some tin foil over it, keeping it warm. Slice and arrange neatly on the pate, spoon over some more juices and serve.

Tarte tatin

Serves 4

Remember to take your frozen puff pastry out of the freezer and leave it in the fridge overnight, and prep your apples too. You need a 20cm frying pan that is oven-proof. I’ve found that non-stick works best.

5 apples, Braeburn or Pink Lady

70g butter, very soft

70g caster sugar

Flour for dusting

200g readymade puff pastry

Calvados cream

150g crème fraiche

100ml cream

50g caster sugar

2 tbsps Calvados

2 tbsps maple syrup

Peel, core and quarter the apples and then leave them – uncovered – on a plate in the fridge overnight. Spread butter over the base of the pan and sprinkle with sugar. Arrange the apples on top, with one of the cut sides facing down. Sprinkle a work surface with flour and roll out the pastry wide enough to cover the apples and with enough of a rim to drape over the saucepan. The pastry should be as thick as a €1 coin.

Tuck the edges in and then heat the tarte on the hob until the caramel bubbles up the sides of the pan. Put it in the oven and bake for 40 minutes until the pastry is golden brown. It can also be done the day before: leave it to cool in the frying pan and when ready, re-heat in a moderate oven (160 degrees/gas 3) for about 15 minutes. Let it to settle for about 10 minutes and then invert it onto a plate for slicing.

For the cream, whisk the crème fraiche, cream and caster sugar until light and fluffy. Fold in the Calvados and maple syrup and chill until ready to serve.