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Italian Braised Pork with Fennel
An easy to cook, and inexpensive, dish – which can be prepared eith in the oven or in a Slow Cooker.
Although its distinctive smoked character will go, belly pork can replace Speck if you find it hard to find.
Any left over sauce can be frozen, and used another time to accompany pork chops or as a sauce for roast pork.
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2 lb/1 kilo piece of Pork Shoulder, boned, rolled & tied
2 tablespoons (30ml) Olive Oil
1 medium Onion, peeled and chopped
1 Carrot, peeled and chopped
2 individual sticks of Celery, chopped
2 small bulbs of Fennel – 1 half finely chopped the remainder thickly-cliced & set aside for later
4 medium cloves of Garlic – peeled & chopped
1 x 4 oz/120g piece of Speck or Smoked Bacon, cut into cubes
400g Passata or Passata flavoured with a little Chili (available from most supermarkets or deli's)
1 glass (175ml) Dry White Wine
½ pint of Chicken or Vegetable Stock
2 Sprigs fresh Rosemary
2 rounded teaspoons (10ml) Herbes de Provence – see www.gourmetherbs.co.uk for an excellent version containing both green anise & lavender
3 heaped teapoons (21ml) Cornflour, dissolved in a little cold water
Salt & Pepper to taste
1. Heat a heavy frying pan on a medium heat with ½ tablespoon of the olive oil.
2. Heat the oven to 160ºC/325ºF (Gas 3) if using.
3. When it's hot, seal the pork on all sides – so it is brown all over, reduce the heat to low and put the meat in your chosen cooking vessel.
4. Add the remaining olive oil to the pan and add the chopped onion, carrot, celery, chopped fennel, speck pieces & garlic – 'sweat' slowly until the vegetables have softened without browning.
5. Add this vegetable mixture, along with the passata, wine, stock and herbs to the casserole.
6. Add some salt & pepper, being light on the former – as the speck/bacon will add salt of its own. Mix the added ingredients well together.
7. Cover with lid and cook in the oven for for 1 hour, then add the reserved sliced fennel and cook for a further hour or cook in a slow cooker for 6 hours (or until the meat is fairly tender), then add the sliced fennel and cook for a futher 2 hours.
8. Thicken the sauce, by pouring in the prepared dissolved cornflour and stirring it in well.
9. Cook for a further 20 minutes.
Serve with simply-prepared tagliatelle, mashed potato or rice on the side and perhaps a side salad.