Thanksgiving Mains – Pork & Cider Risotto and Pork Hasselbacks

And if at first you don”t succeed
Then dust yourself off and try again
You can dust it off and try again, try again
Cause if at first you don”t succeed
You can dust it off and try again
Dust yourself off and try again, try again (and again)
Try again by Aaliyah….and millions of people around the globe!


I think a challenge brings out the best in us…when we’re willing to rise to it.

Of course, sometimes, it isn’t easy….but at the end of the day, the opportunity to go through it with the shield of victory (of trying, of hoping, of battling)…even before the end is in itself a pleasure!

I mean, how else can I describe Foodie Fights Challenge #16 – the battle of ‘Kumquats and Chestnuts’, ‘Pork and Cider’ or baking a wedding cake? Now for each of these tales of victory, there are at least 3 times as many failures but still….we live to conquer another recipe….another day.

It is with joy that I announce…my personal battle with risotto…and the results? Conquered! And with cooking pork? Still some way to go!

L & G, enjoy two dishes on the same premise – pork and cider – one super victory and the other…back to the drawing board (but looking good at least!)

Recipe # 1

Pork and Cider risotto

I’ve always wanted to make a great risotto…and wear glasses. One was easier to accomplish than the other! 20 years later (from the time I started desiring glasses!) with my ‘bottle-eyes’, I finally made a great risotto! Tiny chunks of pork, fried in onion and butter, arborio rice…loving cooked and stirred to creamy perfection and at the very end, topped with a fragrant, earthy sage pesto and chestnuts. Perfect for a winter’s day!

Some tips for a successful risotto:

Keep the stock hot throughout the cooking process.

Stir continuously and don’t add any liquid until the previous addition has been absorbed.

Also, once it is ready and rested….serve immediately!

Ingredients (serves 4)

1.1 litres/ vegetable stock (I used stock cubes + water)
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large clove of garlic, chopped
200g pork tenderloin, diced
400g Arborio/Risotto rice
330ml dry cider
(sea) salt and freshly ground black pepper
40g butter
115g freshly grated Parmesan cheese (I used a combination of Parmesan and Pecorino)
For the Sage Pesto – 2 tablespoons of flaked almonds (pan-roasted), handful of sage leaves, 1 clove of garlic, 1/3 cup of olive/walnut oil, Parmesan cheese (to taste)
For the Chestnut topping – 1 teaspoon butter, 4 sage leaves, 50g cooked chestnuts (chopped)
How to

Make the Sage Pesto – Crush dry roasted almonds in a mortar and then set aside. Then, pound sage leaves, the garlic clove and a pinch of salt till leaves are soft. Add the crushed almonds to the sage mix and stir well. Add olive/walnut oil to loosen (and to taste) and stir in grated parmesan cheese, a little at a time till you have a ‘saucy mixture’. Its ready. Put in a little bowl and refigerate till your risotto is ready.

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Put the stock in a pan and keep it simmering on low heat.


In another pan, heat the olive oil and butter, add the onions and a pinch of salt and fry very slowly for about 5 minutes without colouring then add the diced pork and let that cook for another 3-4 minutes, till the chunks become white.

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Add the rice and turn up the heat . Stir continuously for 2-3 minutes till the rice starts to ‘fry’.


Add the cider,


And let it cook for 4-5 minutes or until all the liquid is evapourated.

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Once the cider has evapourated, add a ladleful of hot stock and a good pinch of salt and turn down the heat to a simmer, stirring – you don’t want the rice to cook too quickly on the outside which will prevent the release of the wonderful cream. Let the rice absorb the stock before adding another ladelful.

Keep adding 1 ladleful of stock at a time, coaxing the silky, creamy starch out of the rice by stirring continuously, allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next. This will take around 15-20 minutes.

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The rice is cooked when it is soft with a hint if bite. If you haven’t reached this stage and you’re out of stock, add some boiling water.

When it has reached the ‘stage’ of readiness, take the pan off the heat and add the butter and grated cheese. Mix well and put a lid on the pan, allowing it rest for a couple of minutes.

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How to make the Chestnut topping – While the risotto rests, heat a pan with a teaspoon of butter and add 3-4 large sage leaves, Once one side is cooked, about a minute, flip over and fry the other side. Bring the leaves out and let cool, then slice into thin strips. Put back into pan and add chopped chestnuts. Toss about and when warmed through, take off heat.

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To serve, ladle spoonfuls into deep bowls and serve with spoonfuls of sage pesto and chestnut topping. Enjoy.


I loved the risotto. It was PERFECT – creamy and soft….and tasty. Next time though, I’ll definitely season and pan fry the tenderloin before I add it to the risotto…I think that way, the meat takes on a lot of flavour. Overall, I’d give it a 9.8 out of 10…very generous I am, to me!

Recipe #2

Pork Hasselbacks

I love potato hasslebacks and this was based on the technique of slicing through a log of meat and stuffing it. First time I tried it with chicken and indian spices…it was AMAZING!


I whole pork fillet (about 500g)
10 leaves of sage or 1 tablespoon dried
1 tablespoon fresh lemon thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
1 tablespoon fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
1 tablespoon fresh savoury or 1 teaspoon dried
1 clove of garlic
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons natural yoghurt
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 Apple, skinned, cored and grated
120ml Dry cider
salt, pepper to season

How to

If using fresh herbs, make herb paste by pounding leaves with garlic and salt in a mortar till bruised and soft. If using dried herbs, mince garlic and mix with salt.

Put herbs in bowl with yoghurt, melted butter and grated apple.

Stir well to mix and taste for seasoning. Adjust to taste.

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Take pork loin and make slices across the length about 1cm apart – till you have hasslebacks. Be careful not to cut right through the loin, you want it to remain slashed but whole

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Stuff seasoning into each cut and rub all over to cover the fillet Place in a dish and drizzle 2-3 tablespoons of the cider over the meat.

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Cover and let marinade at least an hour (I did this in the morning and roasted it when I came back from work).

When ready to bake, preheat over to 200 degrees centigrade and place pork on a roasting rack above a tray in the middle of the oven, drizzle with another couple of tablespoons of cider and and let roast.

After 15-20 minutes in the oven, drizzle more cider over pork and let finish off. Total cooking time is about 40-50 minutes. When ready, bring out to rest and then slice.

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Serve with potatoes and jus.



Second time with cooking pork and cider, the technique worked but the flavours of the pork were not quite there.
Next time I will

  1. Use a different cut of pork so rather than a fillet (from the shoulder blade), I will use the tenderloin
  2. Or make this with Turkey breast and stuffing…..for Christmas, no whole bird for me 🙂
  3. Season and pan fry the meat to seal in the flavours before slicing and stuffing

Overall, I am pleased…and though its not Turkey….it still has potential.

Are you a risotto fan? How do you like it? Would you opt for a Pork rather than Turkey on Thanksgiving 🙂 or is that tantamount to blasphemy?[wpurp-searchable-recipe]Thanksgiving Mains – Pork & Cider Risotto and Pork Hasselbacks – – – [/wpurp-searchable-recipe]


  1. […] This year I hadn’t quite made up my mind on what exactly I’d cook. My first consideration was Ling al Cartoccio but that was not to be because I didn’t find all the required ingredients when I went on my last minute, Christmas eve shopping spree, after making some delish cookies! 2nd choice: Turkey breast hasselback! Yep, you heard me right, Turkey hasselback. I love hasselback potatoes and I figured the technique would work with meat and it does – tried and tested. […]

  2. Finally, I’ve had to re-write most of this post re-load the photos and I think the problem is fixed. Yay. Though I still don’t know what the problem was

  3. I’m so,so sorry. For some reason….the recipe for the risotto is not showing…along with ALL the photos. I’m trying to figure it out but haven’t yet. Forgive me!

  4. Looks great to me and no, I don’t think pork for Thanksgiving is sacrilege. We skipped the bird (we had 3 in the past two weeks) and went with beef this year.

    Great post and instructions.

  5. Smiling Beth….enjoy it.

    GeoK, I can imagine the Sage pesto would be fantastic on turkey sarnies.

    Engeline…it was nice wasn’t it? Thanks for helping stir the risotto!

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