Living in London means that summertime temperatures are consistently around 3°c warmer here than they are in Dublin, which in turn means that grape vines actually produce fruit: proud little bunches of bright, shiny orbs that look exactly like how you would have drawn them as a child.
It’s just as exciting to spot them in unexpected sunny corners of the city now as it would have been then too, when you chance upon them unexpectedly in quiet sunny corners in built-up areas of the city where nothing else seems to grow.
Although I’ve never been crazy about eating grapes as they are (they tend to be a little too sweet for me) I’ve discovered that I absolutely love them roasted in a hot oven and served as a counterpoint to something savoury, as their flavours become richer, and more complex when cooked at high temperatures and their sweetness mellows into an altogether more lovely, only gently honeyed hum.
Having previously made a great, gorgeously juice splodged grape focaccia, I decided to try a rough approximation of Sarah Glover’s recipe for pork with blistered grapes the last time I had a bunch of black grapes on hand.
Although I wasn’t cooking mine over an open fire on an Australian beach at sunset the way she was, and only used a couple of individual pork chops rather than the full rack as she suggests, I like to think that I still managed to capture something of the rustic, outdoorsy feeling of her dish with this deliciously rich, easy yet quietly dramatic casserole which is perfect for serving at this time of year when the days are warm enough to ripen grapes but the cool nights start to require a little cosiness.
PORK CHOPS ROASTED WITH GRAPES & HERBS
Although all grape varieties will work beautifully with the pork, fragrant varieties of black grapes such as Sable will taste particularly wonderful in this pot roast. Buy outdoor bred pork if you can, and choose thick cut chops for succulence.
Although I haven’t yet tried it, I suspect this would work equally well made with a combination of green or pink grapes and white or rosé wine.
Serves 2; double or triple quantities as required
2 thick cut outdoor bred pork chops
2 large handfuls of black grapes (ie, around 20 grapes, Sable if possible)
250ml red wine
Handful each of fresh thyme, sage & rosemary, plus more to serve
2 large cloves of garlic, peeled & diced
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt & pepper
Place the two pork chops on a large plate and season with salt and pepper. Dice the garlic and chop the rosemary and mix together with the oil. Drizzle over the pork chops and leave to marinade at room temperature for 15-20 minutes. Preheat your oven to 190°c. Heat a lidded casserole pot over a medium high heat. Carefully place the pork chops into the pot with most of the oil and fry until golden brown on each side, turning from time to time whilst being careful of sparks of oil.
Add the thyme, sage and grapes to the pot along with the wine. Cover with the lid and roast for around 40 minutes in the oven, or until the pork is tender, turning the chops occasionally and ensuring that they’re covered with liquid throughout cooking – add a dash of water or wine to up the liquid levels if necessary. Garnish with more torn herbs and serve with roasted baby potatoes, creamed sweetcorn and crisp salad leaves.