The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Spanish-style Pork with Olives

Pork is the closest thing to red meat that I like to cook and eat. I'll eat beef and may tolerate eating lamb depending on how it's prepared, but generally I don't cook red meat at home. I cook quite a bit with pork, because I'm Chinese, and pork is "meat" for the Chinese (by no coincidence, the Chinese word for meat means pork and I believe this extends to all the dialects in the Chinese language). No, actually, it's one of the few ways for me to get iron into my iron-deficient body. Anyway, I digress.

The pork dishes I cook are limited to the Asian category eg sweet and sour, hoisin, teriyaki, curry. I was yearning to do something different with the last pack of pork I bought, yet I don't know of many (if any) non-Asian cultures that utilise pork in their cooking. So I turned to the internet for some recipe ideas, and whilst browsing through the pork recipes, I came across a recipe for "Spanish Pork". Intrigued, I took a closer look and saw that it uses olives, which undoubtedly gave the dish that Mediterranean flavour. I looked at several other results, and saw that some recipes used shanks whilst others used bite-sized pieces of pork; some called it a braise, others called it a stew; some used potatoes, others use beans; and most use olives, yet at least one omitted olives. Obviously ingredients and quantities varied depending on which recipe you looked at, so I just got the basic idea of what ingredients would make the dish Spanish, and went from there.

I was pleasantly surprised at how well the olives complemented the pork. It's definitely a nice change from the Asian-style pork dishes I'm used to cooking. I used green olives stuffed with pimentos because we had some leftover in the fridge from making a quick pizza on the weekend, but any preferred types of olives can be used. This dish has a lot of taste due to the spices and olives, and the stewing/braising period melds all the ingredients together nicely. Using wine (Sherry) would add an extra depth to the dish. This pork dish is versatile and great with rice, mashed potatoes, couscous and even pasta. This dish is better the next day and the day after because time allows all the flavours to develop and meld together. It also freezes well.

Spanish Pork


750g pork, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 teaspoons ground paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon vinegar (I used rice vinegar)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
chopped chilli, to taste
1/2 cup Sherry (optional)
1x400g can of diced tomatoes
1x400g can of garbanzo beans (i.e. chickpeas), drained
enough water to cover
60g of pimento-stuffed green olives
1 teaspoon sugar (to cut the tomatoes' acidity)
salt and pepper to taste


1. Marinate the pork with 1 teaspoon paprika, cumin, vinegar, salt and pepper for a few hours (overnight preferably).
2. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat and sauté the onion until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, the remainder paprika and chilli and stirfry for a minute or so until fragrant.
3. Turn up the heat and add the marinated pork to the pot to brown, constantly stirring and scraping up the browned bits from the pot's bottom. This will take a couple of minutes - take care not to burn.
4. Add the diced tomatoes, sherry (if using) and chickpeas to the pot, and more water if necessary to cover the contents. Bring to a boil then add the olives.
5. Turn down the heat to a simmer, cover the pot and let it simmer away for about 1 hour.
6. Serve with rice, potatoes, couscous or pasta.

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