Cardamom Pork Roast with Apples and Figs

December 15th, 2011

The holidays are upon us whether we are ready or not.  This is the first year in a long time that I have remained calm and accepting of all of the myriad tasks left to do.  We will be traveling back to North Carolina to spend Christmas with our family and enjoy the joy of Christmas through children’s eyes.  We have not put up a tree.  Only wreaths adorn our front door.  I have not made cookies and most of my shopping has been done online.  I am taking the Peace and Joy of the season to heart.

But you can’t expect me to totally ignore the wonderful food possibilities for a Christmas meal.  Dried fruits, whether used in fruitcakes or figgy pudding,  are a part of the season.  Pair them with a beautiful pork roast and you have the star of the show for your holiday table.

This simple pork roast is so festive and delicious that I plan to make it every year.  There are a few ingredients that you may not have on hand, but they are worth purchasing.  Cardamom is not a spice that was in my spice cabinet.  When I saw the price of it, I almost turned away, but being the curious cook that I am, I went ahead and bought it.  Cardamom is an Indian spice with a strong flavor.  Very little is needed to impart it’s distinct spicy notes.  It is used in many Indian desserts and is an important ingredient in the Finnish sweet bread, Pulla.  I have seen recipes for cardamom sugar cookies online and think I will make them, just because I can.  Pear nectar is another important ingredient in this recipe.  Because the pork and dried apples and figs are seasoned with spices like cinnamon and cardamom,  a fruity liquid makes perfect sense.  Add port and cream to the finishing sauce and you have a dish that just screams CELEBRATION.

Give this a try.  I will be back next week from North Carolina with more holiday cheer. 


3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground fennel
1 (3-pound) pork loin, trimmed
Cooking spray
2 cups dried figs, halved lengthwise
2 cups dried apples
1/4 cup minced crystallized ginger
3/4 cup pear nectar
1 (14 ounce) can low sodium chicken broth

1/2 cup pear nectar
1/2 cup port
2 tablespoons currant jelly
1/4 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

To prepare roast, combine first 9 ingredients in a small bowl.  Rub mixture over surface of roast; place in a shallow roasting pan coated with cooking spray.

Place figs, apples, and crystallized ginger around roast.  Pour 3/4 cup nectar and broth over fruit.  Bake at 400 degrees F. for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until meat thermometer registers 160 degrees F., stirring fruit frequently.  Remove from oven; place roast on a carving board, and place fruit in a bowl using a slotted spoon.

To prepare sauce, pour any pan juices into a sauce pan.  Add 1/2 cup pear nectar, port, and jelly; bring to a boil.  Cook 4 minutes or until thick enough to lightly coat back of a spoon.  Stir in heavy cream; simmer 2 minutes or until sauce has thickened, stirring occasionally.

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Fennel Breadsticks

December 9th, 2011

I have gotten out of the habit of baking bread.  I’m not sure why.  It has always been such a satisfying experience.  It could be because we have stopped eating bread at meals and seldom reach for the bread basket in restaurants.  But every once in a while, when soup is on the menu for dinner, there is nothing better than good bread to dip in the broth and savor along with the contents of the bowl.  The key words here are “good  bread”. 

I ran across this recipe in a  Cooking Light Cookbook the other day and loved the idea of twisted breadsticks.  The yeast dough was enhanced with cornmeal and  was easy to handle.  After the first rise the dough is divided into 24 pieces and rolled into ropes.

The ropes are twisted together in twos forming 12 breadsticks.  These are left to rise for a half an hour and then the breadsticks are brushed with egg and sprinkled with fennel and coarse salt and baked.

One for the cook!

I loved this recipe and plan on making the breadsticks again during the holidays.  The fennel and salt enhanced the flavor so much and would make them a great accompaniment to many Italian dishes.  As a matter of fact they will go well with our traditional New Years Day dinner with friends.  I will have to take the recipe with me to our rental house in Charleston.  The same four couples always get together at New Years.  I hosted it one year and wrote about it here.  I think everyone will enjoy these.  I hope you will too.


1 tablespoon sugar
1 package dry yeast
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm fat-free milk (100 to 110 degrees F)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
3/4 teaspoon salt
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon water
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Dissolve sugar and yeast in warm milk in a bowl, let stand 5 minutes.  Stir in olive oil.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, level with a knife.  Combine 2 1/2 cups flour, cornmeal, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl.  Add yeast mixture; stir until a soft dough forms.  Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes), add enough remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands.  Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top.  Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size.  (Gently press two fingers into dough.  If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.)

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Punch dough down, turn out onto a lightly floured surface.  Divide dough into 24 equal portions.  Working with 1 portion at a time (cover remaining portions to prevent drying), shape each portion into a 9-inch rope.  Twist two ropes together; pinch ends to seal.  Place on prepared baking sheets.  Repeat with remaining dough.  Cover dough, and let rise 30 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Combine water and egg white in a small bowl.  Combine fennel seeds and kosher salt in another bowl.  Brush breadsticks with egg white mixture, and sprinkle evenly with fennel seed mixture.  Bake at 425 degrees F. for 15 minutes or until puffed and lightly golden.  WATCH CAREFULLY.  MINE WERE DONE IN 10 MINUTES.  Cool on a wire rack before serving.  Yield: 12 servings.

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© Penny Klett, Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen. All rights reserved.