Pork chop with braised lentils, chimichurri and saffron aioli

Pork chop, braised lentils, saffron aioli

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We love green lentils. They tick all the nutritional boxes, but they're also delicious and super versatile. The key with this dish is not overcooking the lentils – they'll happily turn to mush if you leave them too long, but they should have just a little bit of bite when you serve them.

You can use any lentil that will hold its shape. Speckled lentils are great, as are Puy and Beluga. You could even swap the lentils out for cannellini or borlotti beans if you fancy.

A note on rendering pork fat – cooking the fat thoroughly and slowly is an essential step for perfect pork chops. Raw fat is rather flabby and flavourless, but when seared it gives life to the rest of the meat. You can also reuse the rendered fat in other things, as we do in the saffron aioli.

1
Start by rendering the fat on the pork chops. Preheat an oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Score a criss-cross pattern deep into the fat all the way down the side of each chop. Balance the pork chops fat-side down in a cold sauté pan and place over a low heat to slowly render the fat (this should take 15-20 minutes). Pour the fat out of the pan occasionally into a bowl during this process and reserve
2
When most of the fat has rendered out and the fat has turned golden brown, remove the chops from the pan and turn up the heat. Season the chops and sear for 1 minute on each side until golden brown, then put the chops on a baking tray and roast in the oven for about 4 minutes, turning halfway through. Remove and rest until ready to serve
3
Meanwhile, make the rest of the dish. Sweat the shallot and celery for 5-10 minutes in the same frying pan that the pork was in until softened. Add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes, then deglaze the pan with white wine. Reduce by two-thirds, then add the lentils, stock, thyme and white wine vinegar and simmer for 15 minutes – the lentils should still have a little bite to them
4
To make the chimichurri, blend the ingredients together into a coarse sauce. Season to taste and reserve
5
Soak the saffron in a tablespoon of hot water for a couple of minutes. Combine the egg yolk, Dijon mustard, garlic and a pinch of salt in a blender and blend for a minute or so to create a smooth emulsion. Add the saffron and water, then slowly drizzle in 100ml of the reserved pork fat from earlier, blending constantly. Follow that with the vegetable oil, then finish with the lemon juice. Taste the aioli and add any extra seasoning you think it needs
6
Reheat the pork chops in the oven for a few minutes, then take the meat off the bone and slice into pieces. Spoon some lentils into a bowl, then arrange the pork over the top. Finish with a pinch of sea salt, a spoonful of the chimichurri and a dollop of aioli
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