Two thousand three hundred and sixty five miles. A real roadtrip.
We’ve just returned from our summer holiday when we drove from the north coast of France, right down through the middle, over the Pyrenees and on to Barcelona, then down the east coast to Xabia. And then after a week in a beautiful Spanish villa we drove back, this time diagonally across Spain to the west coast crossing the border with France there and then up past Bordeux, into the Loire valley and back to Dieppe. A fantastic and facinating journey watching the terrain, the weather and the roadsign fonts change.
On the way back, and on the way down, we camped. Nine of us, in one tent. And on our final evening we wanted a luxurious meal as it was to be our last dinner together. But it being France and it being Sunday there were of course no shops open anywhere, and as we were trying to use things up we had limited ingredients left. We had some thin pork steaks, half a red pepper that we’d bought back in Spain (the peppers there being overwhelmingly massive and more than that HEAVY, so half one was probably the equivilent to one normal one from the UK), a splash of Spanish dry sherry, onions, garlic… that was about it. We had a few tablespoons of a creamy, mustardy lentil dish from the night before’s dinner, some spices in a box that I’d brought along, some butter, but no cream. I then remembered that we had a pot of Greek yoghurt for breakfasts, and some vegemite which could be a reasonable substitute for stock or soy sauce to get the umami flavour that would otherwise have been added with mushrooms.
So I set about cooking it, and it turned out absolutely lovely. It’s hard to gauge just how nice it was in real life since while I can pass on the cooking times and quantities it’s not possible to add to the recipe the elements of; hunger, sitting outside as it gets dark on camping chairs, rough red wine from enamel mugs, the gentle splash of the Loire, the fear of more mosquito bites, and the potential of another night under canvas, or the fresh memories of an amazing holiday. But I think it was both really tasty, and a good lesson in ‘making do’.
So here’s the recipe. As I mentioned, I added some leftovers from the previous night’s meal, so there’d be little chance of recreating it perfectly again, but that is, I believe, the beauty of cooking – things always coming out a bit different, and often for the better.
Pork Stroganoff (With What We Had)
5 thin boneless pork steaks (sliced into strips)
1 large onion (thinly sliced)
1 clove garlic (thinly sliced)
1 red pepper (sliced into strips)
1 small glass of dry sherry
3 tablespoons of creamy mustardy lentils*
half a teaspoon of vegemite
5 heaped tablespoons of Greek yoghurt
lots of black pepper
a pinch of crushed chilli
I began by frying the onion, garlic and red peppers in a quite a generous knob of butter and a little olive oil until soft. Then transfered them to a dish. To the same pan, nice and hot and with a dash more oil I added the pork strips along with a pinch of smoked paprika, (in two batches so they fried rather than boiled), until nicely browned and added those to the other ingredients. Finally in the pan I boiled the sherry until the alcohol had burned off, then added the vegemite and whisked it in to dissolve it, and finally mixed in the lentils. Back into the pan went all the pork and vegetables and a generous seasoning of black pepper and a little salt and after it had bubbled away for a minute or two I let it cool before beating in the yoghurt one spoonful at a time to stop it splitting (I actually didn’t let it cool quite enough and it split a bit, so be careful). I also put in a final knob of butter and beat that in too before reheating and spinkling over the top some crushed chilli and lots more black pepper.
We had it with plain boiled white rice.
* The lentil thing. I simply fried off an onion and some garlic in a little olive oil until they were nice and soft before adding a generous glass of French dry cider which I let bubble away before pouring in a tin of lentils and a large dollop of Dijon mustard. This was simmered until it was thick and creamy (about 10-15 minutes) and finally a tin of cooked fine beans was added. Very easy, and a campsite dinner that felt worthy of the country it was cooked in. Lovely by itself and even better with a large sausage and some bread.
For the Stroganoff recipe you could just add a big blob of mustard instead.