PORK AND WHITE BEANS

It was so unusually cold here in Melbourne yesterday. In the middle of Summer we had wintry winds and there was an odd chill in the air. I immediately craved these pork and white beans that I ate so often when living in Southern Tuscany  – one of my favourite one-pot meals! Chef Samin Nosrat also reminded me of my love of beans with her Januarly-long Instagram campaign #beanmonth . I soaked the beans in cool water, however, in typical Melbourne fashion, when I woke today Summer had returned and I craved mangos more than a slow braised lunch. Nevertheless, there were beans soaking and pork ready to be braised. The show had to go on. 

Any cut of pork willing and suitable to be braised would be perfect for this dish. I used the neck, a secondary cut, but you could also use the shoulder or belly – something with enough fat and connective tissue for the long cooking time it would endure. Try to also source young dried beans – old ones will need far more cooking time than the pork. I don't always soak my beans before cooking, but due to the low temperatures used to slowly braise the beans and pork, it is more than necessary. Served on a cool night with some crusty bread and glass of whatever you fancy makes for a more than satisfying meal. 

SERVES 4

extra virgin olive oil

1 onion, diced

1 carrot, diced

2 stalks of celery, diced

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1tsp fennel seeds

1/2 tsp (or to your liking) of dried chilli flakes

2 fresh bay leaves

4 thyme sprigs

8 or so sage leaves

1 cup (250ml) white wine

1 tbsp tomato paste

350g dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight in cold water

1kg piece of pork neck, cut into three large pieces

Salt and pepper to taste

Zest and juice of one lemon

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1. Preheat oven to 160C. 

2. In a large oven-proof pot, heat a good lug of olive oil over a low flame. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, fennel seeds, herbs and chilli and cook gently until soft and translucent. I like to cook these aromatics extremely low and slow for around 10-15 minutes. 

3. Add the tomato paste and white wine and stir to combine. Add the cannellini beans and 600ml of water. Increase heat and bring to the boil. Add the pork, ensuring it is immersed in the beans and liquid and season with salt and pepper. Cover pot with a lid and cook in the preheated oven for 3- 3/2 hours - checking every hour or so for water levels. You may need to add more to ensure the beans continue cooking and the pork does not dry out. The beans should be tender and the pork falling apart. 

4. Scatter over the zest of the lemon and squeeze of the juice to taste. The lemon gives the dish a little freshness and cuts through the richness. Serve immediately with crusty bread.