Thursday, 30 August 2012

Post-holiday Pork with Lentil & Fennel Salad

We came back from our holiday on Monday. 

 We didn't go far into France but we found beautiful beaches, 



wonderful campsites 

check out our view!

and lots to do. We spent lots of time on the beach, body boarding, sand castle building and (hooray) reading.

quality mummy time


orchards at Cidrerie le Pere Mahieu
We also found time to visit an organic cider farm on our way from Vauville to Portbail, a small chateau as we crossed the Cherbourg peninsula from West to East, and to breathe in the history of the WW2 D Day landings in the area around Ste Marie du Mont, Ste Mere Eglise and Utah Beach. I'm hoping to get a chance to write a post just about this - off my usual topic, but it was such a very moving and awe-inspiring experience. Just approaching the beaches made me tingle. Maybe I'm being fanciful and maybe I've read too much literature about the Second World War, but it seemed to me as we visited the little towns so crucial in those days of June 1944 that the history and energy of the place absorbed through the soles of our feet, even without a visit to the fantastic Utah Beach Museum. For all that its focus is the US contribution to the D Day and specifically to the action at Utah Beach, it also gave an amazing overview of how WW2 progressed to that point, and beyond. A humbling experience indeed.

Utah Beach
One of the US memorials at Utah Beach


Returning from holiday is always sad and exciting at the same time for me. This time, the return wasn't helped by the weather (that old "piles of washing and no where to dry it" conundrum), and the fact that the garden had gone mad in our absence leaving us with groaning bean plants, courgettes coming out of our ears, and fennel in need of eating. Unlike the gloriously ripe tomatoes we found in France, our greenhouse is full of stubbornly green ones, and I'm not sure we're ever going to get enough sun to ripen them. I'll keep you posted. 

As well as the inevitable returning to the house jobs, and getting back into work, it's back to school next week so I've been tracking down bits of uniform and lost PE bags, and trying to finish up all the jobs I was supposed to get done this holidays. Most importantly, curtains for Blue's bedroom, completing the change from little boy room to Harry Potter Gryffindor room (sob - not at the Harry Potter-ness but the loss of little boy-ness). On top of all that I woke up on Tuesday morning with some horrible creeping nausea type virus thing, so I just haven't been feeling on form at all, and I made myself stay away from my blog until I'd got all the jobs done.

Anyway, the curtains are now cobbled together finished (such self-control), and the virus seems to be clearing up, and last night it was the turn of the fennel to get some post-holiday treatment, so I have something to blog about. 

I had some pork steaks in the freezer which I defrosted and trimmed of most of the fat (yes, I have gagne'd beaucoup de poids during the holiday - all that vin, fromage and saucisson...) marinaded in the juice of half a lemon, a crushed clove of garlic and the finely chopped 'leaves' from some rosemary sprigs, and pan fried - 3-4 minutes tops on each side. For the kids, once I'd cooked the pork, I removed the meat and set aside, then added a teaspoon of dijon mustard to the pan along with a tablespoon of creme fraiche left over from the trip, and heated this up, stirring in the pan juices. They enjoyed the pork & sauce served with pasta and finely sliced green beans from the garden.

But what of the fennel? Oh yes. Doesn't it look magnificent. The plumes are too tall for me to get into one photo. Mum's staying with us at the moment having returned Fred the Dog after his summer hols, and she is always quick to remind me that when I was younger and still living with my parents, I used to claim that fennel tasted like boiled welly boots and refuse to eat it. How times have changed. This salad is loosely based on one of HF-W's in Veg Everyday. I made quite a lot of changes to accomodate what I did and didn't have available, and threw in some beans as well, just because we've got tonnes in the garden, but you don't need to use them if you don't want to.


Lentil & Fennel Salad

Serves 3 accompanying a pork steak, a piece of fish etc or 2 as a main course salad on its own.

125g puy lentils
3 shallots, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
some fennel fronds (optional)
1tsp veg stock powder
4 small/medium fennel bulbs, trimmed 
150g green beans/runner beans, sliced (optional)
2tsp dijon mustard
120ml olive oil
2 tbsp cider vinegar
pinch of sugar
salt and pepper

Put the lentils in a pan, cover with plenty of water and bring to the boil. Boil for a minute then drain and return to the pan. Cover the lentils with water, add the chopped shallot, bay leaf. fennel fronds and sprinkle in the stock powder, then bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes or so. 

Meanwhile, slice the fennel bulbs as finely as you can length-ways, reserve half, and the chop the pther half into fine dice. make up the dressing by shaking together the dijon mustard, cider vinegar, sugar, sea salt and freshly ground pepper in an appropriate receptacle. I'm not proud - I use a jam jar for this (remembering mostly to screw the lid on properly before shaking...).

After the lentils have cooked for 20 mins or so, and are nearly cooked, add the finely diced fennel (reserve the sliced portion - you're going to eat this bit raw!) and the sliced beans and continue cooking till the fennel & beans are cooked - not much more than 5 minutes. If there is still liquid in the pan, drain the lentils, remove the bay leaf and fennel fronds, then stir in half the dressing to the warm lentils and leave to cool.

When ready to eat (i.e. once the pork is cooked), mound the lentils into a bowl or on a plate, and scatter the raw fennel slices around the outside. Top with the thinly sliced pan fried pork and serve with the remaining dressing (no creme fraiche sauce with these). 

As a postscript, I hadn't planned to serve the lentils to the kids because I was still feeling ill and couldn't be doing with the refusals, but in fact they bot tried them when we adults ate, and they both liked them. Result.


  1. Lovely to have a relaxed catch up without clock ticking...I used to be good at dealing with time pressure, but seem to struggle now. Your holiday sounds fab - gorgeous beach photos and perfect camping so close to the sea. I've never been to Utah beach or the area around there - really feel I should, but can completely appreciate how moving it must have been. I feel a tingle just driving by some of the WW1 battlefields on the way to Calais - looking out at the vast solemn landscape. Look forward to the post.

    Hope you're almost virus-free - sounds like you got an impressive amount done anyway. Fantastic Fennel. Welly boots? x

    1. I know that time pressure feeling :-(. I never actually ate welly boots to prove the similarity, but i always thought that's what they'd taste like. I think they still might! We've been to the Arromanches area - the british beaches and seen the mulberry harbour remains etc pre-kids. It was too far to go this time given where we started but utah beach was a really fantastoc area to visit. The little towns are so full of the history of those years - you can really imagine it all happening - which I think is so important - to keep what happened a reality rather than dying away with those who were alive at the time.

  2. Lovely pictures, and a great side salad to accompany pork x

  3. Lovely holiday photos. The campsite next to the beach is a brilliant find - do share where it was!

    1. No open fires I'm afraid - the first camp site was a camping municipal at Vauville - literally next to the first beach pic - 14 euros a night spotless (but unisex :-) ) loos & showers, nothing else, Second one - with the amazing view, was at Portbail - Camping le Vieux Fort, mainly a mobile home city full of elderly french people on holidays, but about 15 amazing pitches for touring with that view. We looked out at that and ignored the rest of the park behind us :-)

  4. Lovely pork dish. I like your blog. I have just signed up as a follower. Please drop by to Carole's Chatter and check it out. You might like my Food on Friday series which focuses on a different thing. This week it is prawns and shrimp. If you like my blog it would be great if you followed me back. Have a good week.

  5. Welcome back RJ, glad you had a good break.

  6. Looks like you've had a lovely time,thanks for joining us at welcome to the weekend hop :)


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