I have a thing for sweet with meat – it’s a particularly South African thing. Take sweet potatoes. They aren’t sweet enough the way nature made them. Oh no, we have to add truckloads of butter and sugar, and roast them slowly to glistening, treacly perfection. So I’m constanty looking for new sweet-with-meat combinations. My latest obsession is fennel. It’s lovely raw in salads but, roasted with olive oil and a generous squirt of maple syrup, it’s a thing of true beauty – and the perfect partner for juicy pork.
All you need is…
For the roast fennel
1 large fennel bulb (or 5 small ones), cut in 5mm slices
1 large red onion, cut in 5mm slices
2 tbs maple syrup
2 tbs olive oil
¼ tsp chilli flakes
½ tsp red wine vinegar
For the pork burgers
800g pork mince
1 slice white bread, crusts cut off, soaked in 3tbs milk
½ clove garlic, crushed
1 small egg
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
4 tbs grated parmesan or pecorino
5 sage leaves, finely chopped (or 1 tbs dry sage)
1 tbs parsley, finely chopped
2 tbs olive oil and 2 tbs butter, for frying
lettuce, to serve
4 bread rolls, to serve
Mix the fennel and red onion with olive oil, maple syrup, vinegar, chilli and a pinch of salt. Roast on a shallow baking tray at 220°C for 20-25 minutes until caramelised. Stir occasionally. In the meantime, assemble your burger mix. Squeeze the bread until dry. Mix it in with the pork, garlic, egg, salt, pepper, parmesan, sage and parsley. Shape into four equal-sized 200g patties and fry in olive oil and butter over a medium heat. Spoon the oil/butter mix over the patties throughout cooking. It keeps the meat super moist.
Pork can be a tricky beast. Unlike beef, it should not be pink but it’s easy to overcook. The minute it’s no longer pink, it’s done. I’ve been conservative with the salt, so you may need to add more at the table. Serve with lettuce and roasted fennel on toasted bread rolls (liberally spread with butter, if you’re feeling naughty).