There’s not much excitement in the produce aisle in January, but one thing that makes my heart beat a little faster is the brief season for Seville oranges. Here in the UK, I suspect people think of them mainly as a marmalade ingredient and find their short appearance in the shops plenty of time for a batch of preserves. But, while I love a good artisanal marmalade, I think of Seville oranges instead as bitter orange or naranja agria, a key ingredient in Cuban, Mexican and some other Latin American cuisines. They must have a longer season in the Americas, where they’re much more commonly found in stores, but here in northern Europe, we usually have to fake the flavour with a mix of lime and orange juice. So, when I see these rather ugly fruits in a basket in my local market, I fill a bag and start dreaming of Cuban mojo and Yucatecan heat. There isn’t a better way to beat the January blues…
Cuban pork chops with bitter orange mojo
For this recipe, I stuck to a traditional combination of bitter orange with pork: it’s quick, and I don’t need much persuasion to break out the pig. But this sauce perks up the flavour of just about anything – other meats like chicken or even beef, starchy vegetables like mashed potatoes or cassava, or as a vinaigrette on salads, green beans and so on.
- 6 garlic cloves
- a heaping teaspoon of cumin seeds
- 3 bitter oranges, juiced
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 pork chops
- a handful of fine green beans
- cilantro for garnish
To make the mojo, chop the garlic, sprinkle salt on it and squash into a paste with your knife. Pound the cumin to a powder in a mortar and pestle. Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot and carefully sauté the garlic. You want it to colour just a touch. Add the cumin, a little more salt, and some pepper. When the cumin releases its scent, add the orange juice. Turn the heat up and whisk for a minute, then turn off the heat and let sit for 30 minutes or so. Test for salt one last time. You want to serve it coolish.
I kept the rest of the dish pretty simple: just season the the pork chops well and pan fry them in some more oil until they’re as done as you like them. Meanwhile, cook rice and steam the green beans for 5 minutes. Assemble the dish and pour delicious mojo over everything. Top with some chopped cilantro leaves.