‘Creative Rationale’ for Pork with Figs and Lardo

I remember back in the day when I was promoted to Junior Account Executive at Wilson Hartnell Advertising in Dublin. I had one suit (mid-blue pinstripe) and a strong desire to progress my career. In those days, a presentation for new business would inevitably lead to, at least, one really late night in advance of presentation day. The Junior AE always getting the responsibility of photocopying and binding the vast reports that agencies thought they needed to produce. The last thing to go into the report was always the ‘creative rationale’. This was written in a ‘cart before the horse’ sort of a way, after the creative material was produced. Naturally, the rationale was written to suit the idea produced. A cynic might put forward the argument that this bit of writing would be the most creative of all, making the case for the ideas produced, often at the very last minute. But, I’m not a cynic.

No matter how long a creative person or team has to produce the goods, they will leave the execution until the last minute. People with more ‘straight line logic’ hard wired into their brains don’t understand why this is. Creativity needs a deadline. The best creative ideas seem to always come late and under pressure. Thus leaving little time to finish it off, rationalise it in a document that will make sense to a person who has to do real work for a living, and less time for the poor Junior AE to do the proof reading, photocopying, binding and so forth.

Preparing this Pork with Figs and Lardo came about the same way. I was in the truly excellent Get Fresh shop in Rathfarnham on Dublin’s south side when some Provencal figs caught my eye. I bought them and then drove to the butcher. Along the way, I racked my brain for a recipe. Nothing came to mind. It was only when I was asked “What can I get you Conor?” that the thought of pork and figs came through. The rest is, as they say, history.

Not my most creative shot. Those figs are hard to get in any order.

Ingredients (for two hungry people)

  • 1 high quality pork fillet
  • 6 ripe figs
  • 2 slices of delicious Lardo
  • 2 teaspoons of honey
  • Salt and pepper

When I got home with my idea formed, the Wife asked what I was serving it with. This was creative pressure point number two. I had a box of couscous in the press and some veg in the fridge. You can pretty well guess the rest.

The couscous

  • 200 grammes of couscous
  • 320 ml of boiling water
  • 200 grammes of french beans
  • 1 big handful of parsley
  • 1 big handful of coriander
  • 2 red chilis
  • Good quality olive oil
  • Crystal sea salt and ground black pepper to taste

Top the figs and cut a cross pattern into them. The idea is to use them as a support for the pork steaks. That way, the pork juices mix with the figs for an extra layer of delicious flavour.

This shot gives you the idea I am trying to communicate.

Get your oven heated to maximum (about 250ºC). Remove any membrane and extraneous stuff from the pork steak. Slice it in two. Carve a couple of slices of Lardo, then cut into three.  Make cuts in the steaks to hold the Lardo strips.

The Lardo adds fat and flavour to an otherwise lean dish.

In an oven dish, sit the steaks on top of the sliced figs. Season well. Pour the honey along the length of the steaks.

You get the idea of supporting the pork on the figs.

Pop this into the very hot oven for 15 minutes. While that’s going on, make the couscous. Pour the boiling water over the couscous and leave it sit for 12 minutes. Chop the beans, chilli, parsley and coriander up nice and small. Mix this into the prepared couscous. Add a tablespoon of good quality olive oil. Add the pepper and salt crystals. The crystals are important to the dish. They give little points of saltiness to an otherwise fresh tasting couscous. It’s lovely.

Make a bed of couscous in a decent sized bowl. Gently lift the figs and pork together and sit on the bed. Stir the pan ingredients together into a nice sticky sauce. Spoon this over the meat. You may need to remove the remains of the Lardo, if it has burned on the edges.

It’s worth making for the sauce alone. Really wonderful stuff.

Serve and enjoy. Just thinking about the flexibility that writing the creative rationale after the fact gives to art directors, I suppose this recipe writing stuff gives me the same post-preparation rationale too. With that in mind, I really have to encourage you to try this. It’s wonderful.

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Latest comments
  • Oh, that first paragraph resonated eerily… I’ve never worked in advertising, but let me assure you that it works in exactly the same way in design and brand identity…. I think my smallest small hours was 3am, with a 9am presentation the next morning… I find post-rationalisation has a lot going for it, particularly with particularly happy accidents 🙂 Oh, and YUM!

      • Perhaps he thought the bloodshot eyes and black bags under them might frighten the client. Still, at least your efforts paid off. I learned to keep a clean shirt and washkit at work, just in case… I’ve done a few 36 hours straight in my time!

  • Hi Conor, I’m a professional graphic/branding designer, and you can do the best work in the world, really knock it out of the park, but unless you spend some time writing a pretentious explanation for the design your average corporate type won’t think it’s any good. It’s a sad world us creatives live in.

  • Design is like joke, if you have to explain it, you have the wrong audience (or you’re shit at your job). The same is true for user interfaces.

  • Who needs rationales when you look this good? 😉 Thanks for including the couscous info — what an inspired dish!

  • Another great story and great recipe. When reality does not behave linearly (and it rarely does) even in the financial world we have to come up with a rationale after the fact. Especially if politicians are going to be involved.

  • I love the idea of using the figs as a trivet … delicious. Another cracker, Mr B.

  • Oh, I’ll try this soonest but first shall go back to reread the poetry of your description above . . . . use a lot of couscous and do like what you found in your fridge . . . hope mine treats me as well . . .

  • Pork and figs are wonderful together. But, never would I have thought of making them in the Connor fashion. Wonderful idea and one I look forward to trying soon.
    Wasn’t in the advertising game, but do remember those binding machines we used for making up proposals. Those were the days. Remember the smell of the mimeograph machine?

  • What a great flavour combination! Thank goodness for inspiration.

  • Wow! I absolutely love this recipe! And the couscous is beautiful. Love that recipe as well!

  • Ah, the creative rationale… (Married to an ad guy myself, as you know.) But no rationale needed here. That dish speaks for itself! Or res ipsa loquitur as we say in the legal biz, where we also do everything at the last possible moment. 🙂

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