Now that I have rediscovered my cache of 1970’s Habitat Cooks Diaries, my favourite recipes from that time are once again working their way through my kitchen.
It is extraordinary, now, to remember how exciting simple French and Italian food seemed here in London at that time. Apart from the amazing Mr. Chow in Knightsbridge, all of the fun restaurants seemed to be either faux French bistros or classically, delightfully, Italian.
Now I grew up in the US with a first generation Italian American mother. But her family recipes were all from Campania (near Naples) in the South, and these lively new hot spots – Alvaro’s, Club dell’ Aretusa (both on the King’s Road), and San Lorenzo in Beauchamp Place (where I ate Bagna Cauda for the first time) – were essentially northern Italian (quite different).
But deliciously uncomplicated French country cooking was the favourite almost everywhere else, much inspired by Elizabeth David, especially with home cooks enticed by Habitat’s extensive, mostly French, batterie de cuisine and the then innovative recipes in the Cooks Diaries.
Pork with Apricots & Sage, Habitat Cooks Diary August, 1976
ALL YOU NEED IS: serves 4
¾ lb/300 gr pork fillet or steak
6 oz/150gr dried apricots
1 large spring fresh sage
2 stalks celery
rind & juice of one lemon
salt & pepper to taste serve 3-4
Cover the dried apricots with hot water in a bowl and soak for at least 4 hours (or use soft apricots)
Put apricots in saucepan with butter and heat gently. Add sage, lemon ring & juice, and enough of the soaking liquid (or water) to cover the fruit. Cook gently (covered) until the fruit starts to come apart. Be careful not to overcook, or you will end up with a puree. Set aside.
Slice pork into inch thick diagonal pieces and sprinkle salt over them.
Cover the bottom of an oven proof dish with slices of celery and put the pork pieces on top. Cook in a medium to hot oven until the pork is brown and on the outside and almost cooked. Pour the apricot and sage sauce over the top and continue cooking until the fruit is hot.
Nice with new potatoes and a green salad.