Heart palpitations are not foreign to me. I get them every time I go into a supermarket. Now I used to get them when I saw ingredients that excited me. Sadly these days the ever-increasing prices of those ingredients are the cause.
I don’t like it one bit, but it is what it is. The only solution is coming up with dishes that pack a flavour punch without hurting the wallet. The answer, of course, is those cheaper cuts of meat from parts of the animal people do not necessarily value or want to think about. Things like cheeks, ears and feet. This may be a bit much to start you off on, so let’s settle on something tamer for now, something like shank – specifically those of a pig.
Last week I saw chunks of pork shank at Pick n Pay at just R45 a kilo. That’s practically free, so in my basket it went. Back home I summoned my inner Italian with white wine and fennel. Low and slow turned the modest pork shank into a brilliant little ragu for pasta that easily fed six adults – for next to nothing.
All you need is…
900g pork shank chunks (without fat)
vegetable oil, for frying
2 tbs pork lard (really essential as it gives the dish a rich deepness)
1 extra large onion, finely diced
2 large cloves garlic, finely sliced
2 tsp tomato paste
1 heaped tbs flour
2 cups dry white wine
½ cup water
pinch of dried red chilli flakes
1½ tsp fennel seeds
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 tsp salt
Heat a thick-bottomed saucepan and add two tablespoons vegetable oil. Fry the meat a few pieces at a time until nicely caramelized all over. Of course your pan has to be hot when the meat goes in, if there is no sizzle the pan is still too cold.
Set the meat aside, add the lard to the pan and in goes the onion. Fry until they’re soft and starting to turn golden then add the garlic and tomato paste and fry for a further minute. Add the flour and stir until it disappears. Return the meat to the pan and deglaze it by adding the wine. Add the rest of the ingredients, turn the heat to its lowest setting, pop on a lid and cook for a good 2-3 hours. If your heat is low enough you should not need any more liquid, but if it does get too dry, simply add a touch of water.
Flake the pork with two forks and remove any bones. Taste for salt and adjust if need be. Serve this ragu with ribbon pasta of your choice and plenty of freshly grated parmesan or pecorino. I also like flash frying a sprig or two of rosemary and crumble it over for a bit of crunch, added flavour and greater visual interest.