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