After a week of battling ear infections and suffering earache that I hadn’t had the pleasure of
enjoying enduring for well over 20 years, I took the risk and boarded a flight to Sydney at 8am last Saturday morning.
The purpose of my visit was to celebrate my Uncle’s 50th birthday. He is 12 years older than me and often recounts the tale of how he remembers when I was born because he wasn’t allowed into the hospital to meet me, instead having to tippy-toe outside the hospital window and sneak a peek at his new baby niece. His own brother (my father) is 13 years older than he, so we have always been closer in age which is kinda fun. He told me on Saturday night at the party – after a few too many beers – that he’s always felt like I was more his little sister which was really sweet.
It was a family reunion of sorts as all but one of my Dad’s 4 siblings was there and having everyone together meant that the old slides got put on show. Sadly my Nan (who long time readers may recall me talking about) was unable to attend. She is pretty much bedridden now and has also recently been diagnosed with early stages of dementia. To watch these slides and see her in her youth, proudly showing off her children who were all immaculately dressed in clothes she had made by hand, wearing matching sweaters she had knitted for each son (there are 4 boys) and tootling off on camping and cycling holidays all around the South Island was a wonderful reminder of how bright and happy and lively she used to be. It was also sad to see how much she’s changed and how long ago those times were, but I think a special reminder for her children to look back and see how much they were loved, how much she did for them and what a fabulous mother she was. So often in old age, all that gets lost. We remember the way they are now and their grumpiness, their disabilities, their frailties.
I came home to my family and dug out some chops I’d had in the freezer, determined to recreate one of my favourite “Nan meals”, to honour her in some small way in my kitchen. I’m ever grateful for the things she’s passed on to me – notably her love of cooking, baking and providing wholesome good food for her large family. I love that I can carry that on for my own. And though she missed a wonderful weekend with family all together, which was always her greatest joy, I hope she knows somewhere in her heart how much we all value her and how we are who we are and our family is as rich and vibrant as it is because of her love and dedication to us all over the years.
I give you, my Nan’s Spanish Neck Chops. I don’t have the recipe in my possession so I’m guessing quite a lot, but the end result had me as close as could be. All that was missing is her sprinkling of love. x
- 1-2 chops per person - neck or shoulder
- 2 T olive oil
- 1/4 C plain flour
- salt & pepper for seasoning
- FOR THE SAUCE
- 1 C water
- 3/4 C tomato sauce
- 3 T Worcestershire sauce
- 3 T white vinegar
- 1 T instant coffee
- 2 T brown sugar
- 2 t mustard powder
- salt & pepper
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
- Place plain flour in a shallow bowl, season with salt & pepper.
- Coat each chop in flour on both sides and set aside. Repeat till all are floured.
- In a large fry pan, heat 1 T olive oil over medium heat.
- In batches, brown the chops until all are done and place in an oven-proof dish.
- In a medium sized pot over medium heat, mix all the sauce ingredients together, whisking to combine. Bring to the boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes until slightly thickened.
- Pour sauce mixture over the chops. Cover the dish in foil or with a lid and place in oven.
- Cook for 40 minutes. Check chops and turn once. The sauce should be thickened significantly. Spoon generously over the chops and return to the oven for a further 20 minutes.
- Meat should be falling off the bone and sauce should be nice and sticky. Remove lid or foil for the final few minutes until you are satisfied with the consistency.
- Serve with mash and green vegetables.
- Adjust the sauce ingredient quantities depending on how many people you are feeding. I used these quantities for a total of 6 medium/large sized shoulder chops.
- ps: you can never have too much sauce. 🙂