25 February 2011

The Wonderful World of Brining & Some Delicious Pork...

Sunday dawned with blue skies and sunshine, it now seems an age ago given recent events here in NZ, so much has changed since I began writing this post. Fortunately all of my friends in Christchurch are OK, shaken and devastated, as you would expect, but thankful to be OK. Even though I am not in Christchurch the number of messages and well wishes from everywhere has been touching, so thank you to friends, family and newly found twitter friends across the globe. Day 5 and the sheer gravity of the situation is evident. So thoughts and prayers remain with Christchurch. If you are reading this I hope any friends and family you have in Christchurch are also safe and sound.

On Sunday after a quick walk come jog round One Tree Hill I thought I would check out the local community garden farmers market for some foodie inspiration that seemed to be a little lack lustre this weekend.  These are local organic community gardens and every few months they have a market to sell any excess harvest.  What a little find tucked away at the end of a street in the middle of suburbia.  Not only were there freshly picked organic fruit and veggies but also several artisan stalls.

Sugary, flaky pastries which I managed to pass on but I couldn't go past these "cigars", little filo parcels filled with potato, feta and spinach.

So I came away with quite a haul.  The most fragrant basil, apples, purple potatoes, bay leaves and nectarines from the gardens and some seriously spicy Serbian sausage, hand made sourdough and cheddar and cardamom biscuits.

Handmade German Style Sourdough

Spicy Serbian sausages & other cured delights.

The nectarines provided the necessary culinary inspiration for dinner by way of the thought of a spicy salsa to go along side some pork steaks.  Not just any pork steaks. While February was a month of bacon, the March challenge for Charcutepalooza is brining.  It is a simple process that will deliver the most flavourful of meat.   A briny bath of salt, water, sugar, spices and herbs will infuse the meat with seasonings and flavours.  For all things bacon, brining and much, much more check out Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman.

For my first foray in to brining I chose pork steaks.  One because I came across some lovely looking organic free range ones in the supermarket and two because they only required an hour or two in their briny bath and would be ready in time for dinner.  Brining does take a little time, however the old adage that good things comes to those who wait is also true.  It really couldn't be easier.  Simply throw salt, sugar, herb and spices of choice in to a pot to dissolve the salt and sugar and to allow all the flavours to infuse the brine. Let it cool completely, very important!  Pop in to a zip lock bag for about 2 hours with the pork and you have successfully brined! Let the meat rest a little to ensure even distribution of the salt and seasonings.  Sear stove top and then pop in a medium high oven for 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the pork chops or steaks.

Still high Summer here in Auckland so I wanted to keep dinner light and fresh.  Nigel Slater helped out here with a spicy peach salsa.  I simple substituted the peaches with my freshly harvested nectarines.

Nectarine Salsa,from Tender Vol II by Nigel Slater

The only change being I had nectarines rather than peaches.


2 spring onions, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped, seeds and all if you like a little fire.  For a milder flavour deseed
3 peaches, finely diced - I used nectarines
8 cherry tomatoes, diced
small bunch coriander, roughly chopped
juice and zest of 2 limes
3 tbsp olive oil


Mix together the spring onion, chilli, nectarines, cherry tomatoes and coriander.  Add the lime juice and olive oil and mix well to combine.

With some freshly dug potatoes tossed in a little butter and mint a fresh, light dinner perfect for a hot Summer evening. The pork was sublime, tender with subtle layers of flavour from the brine. The salsa provided a fruity alternative to apple sauce. Such sweet nectarines, heat from the chilli offset by the zing lime and aromatic coriander.

Or as an alternative serve with a little pesto.  My recipe below.  Feel free to tweak to suit your own taste.  It is argued that if you chop everything by hand it will be brighter, tastier, fresher but you can also whizz everything up in a food processor for a speedy verdant green pesto that still delivers that burst of fresh basil.



Makes 1 cup

2 cups basil leaves
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
1/4 cup Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste


Place all the basil, pine nuts and Parmesan in to the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse to combine.  Don't over work as you do want to have a little texture.  Personally I like mine quite rustic and not too much Parmesan.  While pulsing, drizzle in the olive oil until you have a rough paste. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Place a good dollop on to each pork steak and serve.  I served this with crispy purple potato chips for a little crunch and on the side a little roasted zucchini and fennel with a little mint to freshen things up.I love pesto with all that green basil melded together with the sharp Parmesan and mellow pine nuts.  The crispy potatoes added the requisite salty crunch.  The roasting intensified the sweet aniseed flavour of the fennel and enlivened zucchini a little. The little hint of mint added a fresh light note.



  1. Glad to hear that you friends in Chch are ok.


    great pics!

  2. Sounds good to me am looking forward to sampling some of your recipes when you come home.

  3. Sounds so easy and that salsa is a perfect combination with the pork.

  4. This whole week has been a blur, so it's nice to sit down and catch up on all the blogs I usually read. First of all, your local markets sound amazing! Second: I really wanting to try brining something (anything!) after reading your blog posts.


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