Quick Bottom

News for nerds

The habanero chilli grows in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, and its fruity, fiery flavour has made it a favourite among cooks throughout the Americas, adding oomph to salsas and marinades. It is a wonderful match for fatty pork, particularly when softened with maple syrup and zesty lime. Add the sweet acidity of pineapple in today’s delicious salsa, shut your eyes and you could almost be on a sun-soaked Mexican playa eating smoky, grilled pork straight off the comal.

Grilled pork chops ‘fiorentina’ with maple and habanero, and pineapple salsa
Invest in chops from a rare-breed pig, marbled with delicious fat, and cut it into slices on a board at the table, much as you would a steak fiorentina.

Prep 15 min
Cook 30 min, plus resting
Serves 4

1 dried habanero chilli (or a fresh scotch bonnet)
3 fat garlic cloves, peeled
2 tbsp chopped thyme leaves or 2 tsp dried oregano
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp cumin seeds
The juice and zest of 1 lime
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 pork loin chops

For the pineapple
1 small pineapple
2 tbsp brown sugar (or to taste)
A few petals from 1 star anise
1 small red onion, peeled and finely diced
The juice and zest of 1-2 limes
1 small bunch coriander, picked and roughly chopped

First make the marinade. Put the chilli, garlic, herbs, maple syrup and cumin seeds in a large mortar or small food processor and pound/blitz with a small teaspoon of salt. Once it’s a rough paste, work in the lime juice and oil, then rub two-thirds of the paste all over the pork chops; reserve the rest of the paste for the salsa, and wash your hands well to stop the chilli travelling.

Cut away the skin from the pineapple and cut the fruit lengthways into quarters. Remove the core from each quarter (keep the skin and core to make a shrub), then chop the flesh into small dice. Tip the flesh into a pan with the sugar, star anise, onion and lime zest, along with the reserved marinade, put it on a medium heat and leave to cook, stirring from time to time, for about 20 minutes, until the pineapple has broken down and resembles a rough relish. Add the lime juice and taste – the salsa should be aromatic and fresh – then stir in the coriander.

When you are ready to cook, heat a griddle or barbecue until smoking hot. Griddle the chops on their spines for four to five minutes, until the fat has caramelised a little, then griddle for a few minutes one each side depending on the thickness of the chops – I like them a little pink and juicy. Leave to rest somewhere warm for five to 10 minutes, then slice on a board and serve at the table with the salsa. A warm potato salad with coriander and pickled red onion, and some slaw would be delicious on the side.

The simple flex
Cut a head of cauliflower into large steaks and rub them all over with the maple and habanero marinade before griddling as above. Finely chop any small cauliflower florets and toss them raw into a salad.