Lombard Pork Stew

La Casoêula

This is the recipe for Casoêaula as prepared for me by Susanna Gelmetti and her mother in their lovely family home in the little town of Lodi, near Milan. Their kitchen clearly shows their real passion for cooking, and the house has an elegant style about it which made being there such a pleasure. The family and friends gathered around the table with me to enjoy this incredibly wintry stew with mounds of steaming polenta. It is said that the dish is of Spanish origin, although envious people from less prosperous parts of Italy say it was just the Lombard way of making a meal in one pot which left them plenty of time to get on with the serious business of earning money! As it is impossible to find certain types of Italian sausage in the UK, I have adapted this recipe very slightly. You can leave out the pig’s trotters and ear if you like, but the result, though delicious, is obviously less authentic!

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Ingredients

  • 2 pig’s trotters (optional)
  • 1 pig’s ear (optional)
  • 1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • lb (1.2 kg) pork ribs
  • 1 lb (450 g) mild Italian sausages
  • 1 lb (450 g) spicy Italian sausages
  • 1 large glass dry white wine
  • 1 lb (450 g) mixed carrots and celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 heaped tablespoon tomato purée diluted with about 4 tablespoons meat stock
  • salt and pepper
  • lb (2 kg) Savoy cabbage
  • 1 lb (450 g) pork loin, cubed

Method

If using pig’s trotters, split them open lengthways and singe the skin over a naked flame. Scrape off the hair and wash the trotters carefully. Do the same with the ear, if using. Put the trotters and ear in a saucepan, cover with plenty of boiling water and boil gently for 1 hour to remove most of the fat. Then drain them, slice into thin finger sticks and set aside until required.

Put the onion, butter and oil, ribs and both types of sausage into a very large pan. Place over a medium heat and brown thoroughly.

Pour over the wine and raise the heat for 2-3 minutes to evaporate the alcohol. Lower the heat and remove all the meats with a slotted spoon. Set them to one side, then put the carrots and celery into the same pan. Add the diluted tomato purée, season generously with salt and pepper, stir and cover. Leave to simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, wash and prepare the cabbage, keeping the leaves whole but removing any hard white parts. Place in another large saucepan with only the water left on the leaves after washing. Cover the saucepan and set over a medium heat until the leaves have ‘wilted’. Be careful: the leaves can easily stick to the bottom of the saucepan, so remove each one as soon as it is soft and drooping.

Transfer the cabbage to the pan in which the carrots and celery are cooking. Stir the vegetables together, then arrange all the cooked meat and the cubed pork loin on top. Cover, and shake the saucepan to make the cooking liquid cover most of the ingredients as much as possible. Do not stir again. Simmer for about 1 hour. Skim the fat which will rise to the top of the stew with a slotted spoon during this time.

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