All week long I’ve been feasting on ripe plums, which are in high season in South Africa. Plums are among my favourite fruits, so I was ridiculously pleased to find a gleaming pile of prune plums in my local supermarket. They reminded me of this pork-neck dish, which I haven’t made in a while, and I galloped home with pockets bulging, all eager to sling the roast in the oven and hover excitedly over a saucepan of simmering prunes. I was dismayed, then infuriated, when I couldn’t find my recipe on this blog – it had vanished into the void where lost blogposts go, and I’d long since thrown away my scribbled testing notes.
|Luscious, dense-textured prune plums.|
To my relief, I eventually found a copy of my recipe at Food24, together with some of the toe-curlingly amateurish photographs I made do with in my earlier days as a food-snapper.
(I find it funny, in hindsight, that I’d branded one of the images with a copyright symbol and the name of my blog – as if anyone would want to nick a picture of such spectacular fuzziness. I’ve cropped that out to spare myself any further embarrassment, and I suggest you do the same if you’re in the habit of scrawling your name all over your images. Even top-notch professional photographers who have a great deal to lose if their online works are stolen have stopped doing this and – let’s face it – anyone who knows how to crop an image will hardly be deterred by that distracting little line of text in the bottom right-hand corner of your food snap.)
Anyway, here’s the original post and recipe, with the toe-curling pictures. I hope they don’t put you off making this unusual dish – it’s delicious hot or cold, and makes the very best of that most succulent of cuts, pork neck. I have tweaked this recipe a little, the chief changes being shortening the cooking time of the pork and slightly reducing the oven temperature.
At the end of this post you’ll find more of my seasonal plum recipes.
Have you ever tasted a fresh prune? That is, a prune plum before it’s dehydrated and turned into a soft and wrinkly ink-black sac? My local veggie shop is full of these little jewels, which are sweet, with a dense yellow flesh and a slight muskiness. I bought a big box of them, hoping they’d be devoured by the kids, but this variety of plum doesn’t have the eating appeal of the peach-sized, ruby-juice-running-down-your-chin, late-season plums on the market now.
At the same time, I was pondering how to cook yet another lovely pork neck. Remembering that prunes and pork are a wonderful combination, I turned the prune plums into a sharp-sweet relish flavoured with preserved stem ginger, and then I slow-roasted the neck in a spicy oriental glaze. A delicious combination, equally good hot or cold.
For the prune-plum relish:
2 cups (500 ml) prune plums, washed
½ cup (125 ml) dark sugar (muscovado or treacle sugar)
½ cup (125 ml) white-wine vinegar
½ cup (125 ml) water
one 2cm x 2cm piece of preserved stem ginger, finely diced or squashed (I pushed it through my garlic crusher!)
1 Tbsp (15 ml) ginger syrup, from the jar of preserved ginger
1 tsp (5 ml) powdered ginger
For the pork and glaze:
1 whole pork neck, trimmed of excess fat
a little olive oil
½ cup (125 ml) of the cooked prune-plum relish and syrup (see above)
4 Tbsp (60 ml) rice wine vinegar (ordinary white-wine vinegar will do)
2 Tbsp (30 ml) honey
1 Tbsp (15 ml) Kikkoman soy sauce
½ cup (125 ml) mirin (or you can use sweetish white wine)
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, finely grated
freshly milled black pepper
First make the relish. Halve the prunes and remove the stones. Set aside. Put the sugar, vinegar, water, stem ginger, ginger syrup and powdered ginger in a saucepan, set over a medium heat and bring gently to the boil, stirring now and then. Tip in the halved, pitted plums and simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes, skimming off any foam as it rises. Watch the pan carefully, because a sugary syrup like this burns quickly. When the juice has reduced to about half a cup of thickish syrup, turn off the heat and set the pan aside to cool.
To roast the pork, heat the oven to 200°C. Put the pork neck in a small roasting tray, brush with a little olive oil and season well with milled black pepper (but no salt). Roast the pork for 30 minutes at 200° C, or until it is beginning to brown at the edges.
In the meantime, make the glaze. Take a half a cup (125 ml) of the plum relish you’ve just made and place it in a food processor or liquidiser, along with all the remaining glaze ingredients. Whizz to a paste (not too fine: a few little flecks of prune are nice). Add more pepper, if necessary, but don’t add any more salt: the soy sauce is salty enough on its own.
Remove the pork neck from the oven and drain off any excess fat by tilting the roasting dish over the sink. Turn the oven down to 170° C. Pour the glaze over the pork, and cover the dish with foil or a tight-fitting lid. Roast the neck for a further 45 minutes, turning it over once during that time.
Now take the foil or lid off the dish, turn the heat up to 190 °C, and roast for another 35-45 minutes, basting frequently, or until the pork is cooked right through and the glaze is dark and glossy. Remove from the oven and allow to rest, lightly covered with a piece of foil, for 20 minutes.
Cut into thin slices and serve with the prune-plum relish. This is good hot with a slightly bitter green salad and boiled new potatoes. If you’re serving it cold, take it to the table with the relish and some warm, crusty bread.
More of my Scrumptious plum recipes: