If you happen to have a half a pig in your freezer but don’t know what to do with ground pork, this is one perfect use for it.
This is adapted from Nigel Slater’s enviable book, Tender, A Cook and his Vegetable Patch. The greens can be any you like, Nigel recommends kale because he likes the fullness of the leaves with the smooth pork balls. He also particularly recommends Savoy cabbage and I wholeheartedly agree. Whatever greens you decide to try, the important thing is to not overcook them. Do not skip the step of cooking them separately!
For the pork balls:
ground pork – 14 ounces
small, hot chiles – 2 (optional)
green onions – 4
garlic – 2 cloves
parsley – 6 bushy sprigs
mint – 6 bushy sprigs
a little oil
For the soup:
chicken stock – 4 cups
kale leaves – 4.5 ounces – or substitute your favorite greens – cabbage, Swiss chard, beet greens, escarole is particularly promising, spinach, etc.
Put the pork into a mixing bowl. Finely chop the chiles and add them with their seeds to the pork. Chop the green onions, discarding the roots and the very darkest tips of the leaves, peel and crush the garlic, and add with the green onions to the pork. Pull the parsley and mint leaves from their stems and chop coarsely, then add to the pork mixture with a generous seasoning of salt. Mix thoroughly, then roll into about 16 balls.
Warm a shallow film of oil in a nonstick or cast iron pan and add the pork balls. Cook until they are nicely toasted all over.
Pour the stock into a saucepan and bring to a boil, season carefully with salt and black pepper, then lower in the pork balls. Decrease the heat and simmer for five to seven minutes until they are cooked through. NOTE: Because I like to have pre-cooked items in my freezer, I often stop here. Refrigerate overnight, skim fat and store in portioned containers in the freezer.
While the balls are cooking, pull the kale leaves from their tough stalks and cook them briefly – about one or two minutes only – in boiling salted water, then drain (don’t be tempted to cook them in the stock). Lower the kale into the soup and serve immediately.
Variation: Simmer the balls in the broth until the liquid has reduced significantly, at least by half. I’m being a little vague here because this is to taste and you may like your broth thicker or thinner. Cooking the pork longer flavors the broth and creates an intensely flavored liquid. Serve over your cooked greens, with pasta. rice or your favorite grain. Note: if you are going to reduce, avoid adding salt & pepper until the very end. The reduction process will intensify the flavor and you may end up with too-salty broth.
Tip: If you are lacking the fresh herbs, I’ve made a delicious and quicker version using approximately 1/2 tsp of Rancho Gordo’s Oregano Indio. I love this broadly appealing, useful herb. Even my not-so-adventurous eaters approve.
Simple and delicious, serves 3 – 4.