I am aware that there is a growing band of people out there who have the impression that I must include alcohol in my cooking. Not true, I say! Sure, booze helps with many a Spanish meal, and don't take my word for it.
Esteban is a mighty fine cook, and friend, from Alicante. He has a bottle of most varieties of booze in his kitchen at the ready.
He says: "Alcohol has always been used in Spanish cooking. My father, his mother, her parents... cooks and chefs have included wine, spirit or sherry in cooking forever. But, Vernon, you don't have to use booze. It is not compulsory. There are some meals that are better without it. You should try cooking with milk once in a while."
Milk! Did I hear Esteban correctly?
Well, as it turned out, I did. He cooked me a meal of pork cooked in milk with cinnamon which was delightful. When you live in an area of Spain where your choice of available meat is dominated by pork - as I do in Andalucia - it is always good to discover new ways of making pork taste interesting.
Here is such a recipe.
- 1.5 kilos of boned pork loin with skin removed
- 4 tablespoons of olive oil
- Half a teaspoon of chopped fresh thyme leaves or a pinch of dried thyme
- Half a cinnamon stick
- 3 bay leaves
- 1.5 litres of milk
- Sea salt and black pepper
Trim the pork of excess fat and rub all over with salt, pepper and thyme. Place a large, heavy saucepan over a medium heat and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the pork and seal until golden brown on all sides, but not too dark.
Pour off any excess oil, add the cinnamon, bay and milk and bring to a gentle simmer, turning down the heat if required. Cook slowly with the lid half off for between 60 and 90 minutes, turning the meat every so often, or until the meat is cooked through but is still juicy and tender.
The milk should have reduced into caramelised, nutty nuggets, and made a wonderful sauce that has the subtle flavours of cinnamon and bay. If it needs more time to reduce, then remove the meat until the sauce is ready. Taste for seasoning.
Leave the meat for five minutes before you slice it. Serve with mashed potato.
Wash it down with a glass of something stronger than milk (optional)