We are back home from our travels through Australia. Since this is a food blog rather than a travel blog, let me suffice by showing you a map of the route we have traveled (6000 km or almost 4000 miles altogether) in a camper van from coast to coast.
In the other posts I wrote about cooking in the Outback, I told you about how we would on most days kept the cooking to a bare minimum and simply put meat like beef, lamb or kangaroo on our small BBQ. But on one day during a long drive from the West MacDonnells to Kings Canyon I had plenty of time to think and decided to make something that would require more actual ‘cooking’ with the ingredients I had in the camper and of course taking into account the very limited equipment at my disposal. We did not have time to do any shopping, so I used only the ingredients I had bought without a clear idea of how I would use them.
I thought it would be nice not to use the BBQ for a change, and so I decided to simmer pork chops in tomato sauce and then serve the tomato sauce over pasta with additional mushrooms as a primo piatto, followed by the pork chops with the remaining tomato sauce as a secondo (click here if you’d like to know more about the Italian menu structure). I would have liked to use a better marbled shoulder chop for this, but I only had a loin chop so that is what I used. The result was quite nice and I will probably repeat this at home with a shoulder chop or perhaps even sous-vide. Here’s what I did.
2 pork chops
1 can (400 grams/14 oz) tomato cubes
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1 onion, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
80 ml (1/3 cup) dry white wine
250 grams (.55 lb) button mushrooms, sliced
150 grams (.33 lb) short pasta such as fusilli
freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
(optional) olive oil
The pork chops I bought at a butcher in Alice Springs are different from what I am used to from home as in they included a thick layer of fat and rind as well as a slice of kidney (as you can see in the ingredient shot). The latter I discarded, but I decided to use the fat for additional flavor so I cut it off.
I scored the fat side with a sharp knife. (Since there is never a decent knife in a hired camper van, I picked up this ceramic chef knife in Darwin as it would stay sharp better than a steel knife and would be worth taking home. I prefer steels knives, but for this trip it was quite handy.)
After a while I decided to halve the strips of fat to allow them to render some more. When I decided I had enough pork fat for cooking, I put half of it in a bowl and kept the rest in the pan. If your pork chops do not have a layer of fat to use for this purpose, you could of course also use olive oil. Using the pork fat gives the dish a more porky flavor.
Now add the pork chops, cover them with sauce, and lower the heat. Cook, uncovered, over low heat until the pork chops are tender and the sauce has thickened, about 15 minutes. Turn the pork chops now and then and keep covering them with sauce.
Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil, add salt and pasta and cook the pasta al dente according to package instructions. Add the thyme to the sauce for the final 5 minutes of cooking. (As you can see there is just enough space to cook the pasta and sauce at the same time.)