Back in the early days when The Food Network seemed more focused on serious cooking than on competition shows and celebrity, Jamie Oliver, a British chef, made his debut on the network in 1999 with a series called The Naked Chef. As might be inferred from the show’s title, Oliver took a minimalist approach to home cooking, stripping recipes to their bare essentials.
I was a fan then and still am, after twenty years of watching him on television and reading his books at home. Recently, while viewing our local PBS channel here in San Diego, I came upon what I believed to be his latest show, 5 Ingredients—Quick & Easy Food. After watching several episodes, I purchased the eponymous book spawned by the series. All the beautifully illustrated book’s recipes do actually adhere to the limit of 5 ingredients, except for kitchen staples like salt and pepper, olive oil, vinegar, etc. and most can be prepared relatively quickly, making them perfect choices for weeknight cooking. Many of the recipes can also be found online on Oliver’s website.
When the book arrived, I asked my better half, who’s also a fan of the show, to choose the first recipe we’d make. His selection, “Chickpea Chard Pork,” the subject of today’s post, highlights a pork tenderloin that is quickly seared and then braised for 12 minutes with canned chickpeas, chard, roasted peppers, and a “heaped teaspoon” of fennel seeds. If you’re counting that’s 5 ingredients. If you’re wondering about the braising liquid, it comes from the bottling, or in my adaptation the canning, juice.
The recipe claims it can be prepared in 29 minutes, and perhaps, if you’re the type of chef who can multi-task, that’s a realistic estimate. On the other hand, if you’re like me and don’t do well with intermediate steps of a recipe that start with “meanwhile,” it might take a tad longer. For example, the recipe calls for dicing the peppers and finely slicing the chard while the tenderloin is searing. I prefer to have all the slicing, dicing, and measuring done at the start of a recipe and so I’ve adapted the chef’s recipe to match my style of cooking.
Ingredient availability also necessitated some modifications. Not being able to find a 23-ounce jar of chickpeas, I substituted 2-15-ounce cans. Similarly, since my market’s rainbow chard had seen brighter days, I opted for the red variety.
Even with my changes, Oliver’s recipe yielded an exquisite dish, with tender juicy pork complemented by deep nutty flavors from the chickpeas, a bitter-sweet essence from the chard and the peppers, and a nuance of licorice from the fennel seeds.
A few final notes. I think could have done a better job searing my tenderloin; its color paled in comparison to the book’s photo. Also, if you’re not comfortable with pork being slightly pink in the center, you may want to extend the cooking time. Finally, because we both like the flavor of fennel, I toasted the seeds for about a minute before adding the other ingredients.
Chickpea Chard Pork (adapted from Jamie Oliver’s 5 Ingredients—Quick & Easy Food)
14-ounce pork tenderloin
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper*
15-ounce jar of roasted peeled bell peppers in brine, drained and diced into ½-inch chunks
10 ounces rainbow or red chard, trimmed and finely sliced into ¼-inch strips, stalks and all
1 heaping teaspoon fennel seeds
2 15-ounce cans of chickpeas with their liquid
Red-wine vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil for finishing*
* indicates kitchen staples not included in the 5-ingredient total
1. Dry the tenderloin and season on all sides with sea salt and black pepper.
2. Put a large shallow casserole pan or enameled cast-iron Dutch oven on a high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and when hot place the tenderloin in the pan. Sear for approximately 5 minutes, turning halfway, until the meat is nicely browned.
3. Remove the pork to a plate, then add the fennel seeds, peppers, and all the chard to the pork fat left behind in the pan. Stir and fry for 2 minutes, then pour in the chickpeas and their juice, stir, and bring to the boil. (If, like me, you like the flavor of fennel, you may want to toast the seeds for about a minute before adding the peppers and chard.)
4. Sit the pork back into the pan so that it’s touching the base of the pan. Pour over any resting juices from the meat, cover, and simmer gently on a medium heat for 12 minutes, or until the pork is just cooked through and it all smells incredible, turning the pork occasionally.
5. Rest for 2 minutes, slice the pork, season the chickpeas to perfection, adding a splash of red wine vinegar, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and serve.
Wine Pairing: Pinot Noir