Spice rubbed pork, walnut sauce with corn and quinoa salad recipe

Posted on February 3, 2012

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The inspiration for this dish came from Mamasita. If you haven’t heard of Mamasita, I’m just going to assume you’re not from Melbourne. Let me paint you a picture, Mamasita is a Mexican bar/diner that opened in 2010 where the Recorded Music Salon once was. Since its inception, Mamasita has been ‘the’ place to go. The reviews were all positive and the blogsphere was abuzz. Reports of long lines and 2 hour waits on Friday and Saturday nights were not unheard of. All the fashionable people were eating there. In fact, you could argue it was even more fashionable to be known that you are eating or have eaten there. Bagging a seat a Mamasita was enough to elevate your status up a few notches on the cool scale. Such was the extent of Mamasita’s influence on Melbourne’s social scene.

I want to be cool as much as the next person, but I must admit, somewhat shamefully, that I did not visit Mamasita until this year – 2012, nearly 2 years after it opened to all the fanfare. Moral of the story; we can’t all be part of the in crowd.

As tempted as I was to write a review of Mamasita, there is little point to it. There must be countless blog entries about it already, and mine will just be another drop in the ocean. But whether or not it is worth all the hype is perhaps a better discussion that we can have another time.

The mulato rubbed pork with walnut sauce and tequila sous raisins and pomegranate was one of the many dishes I sampled at Mamasita. It was also one that I felt I could quite easily replicate at home, and it also happened to go quite well with corn and quinoa (based on the waitress’ recommendation). I had just been looking at new ways to serve quinoa, so this experiment was only becoming more appealing.

Now I am in no way well versed with Mexican cooking methods or ingredients, so I had to turn to trusty wikipedia to find out what mulato actually is. Turns out it’s a pepper with a mild to medium heat and a faint taste of chocolate. I wasn’t sure where I could acquire mulato so I improvised and conjured up my own spice rub for the pork. A bit of sleuthing around cooking forums and I discovered that I am not the first person to think about adding cocoa powder to their spice rubs. Luckily others have actually tested it, and apparently it works quite well. Brilliant! Just the confirmation I needed. I shall use cocoa powder and other spices found in my pantry to try and mimic the mulato flavour. The result achieved was a mild-medium heat with a subtle bittersweetness. Not exactly authentic, but tasty nonetheless and hey, it seemed to have hit all the right notes according to the wikipedia description.

RECIPE – Spice rubbed pork, walnut sauce with corn and quinoa salad (serves 2)

Ingredients

  • ~300g piece of pork (I used pork fillet because while it’s still a lean cut, it also remains quite tender and moist.)
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 3/4 cup of water
  • 1 corn cob
  • 1 cup packed baby spinach leaves (washed)
  • salad dressing made of 1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses and 4 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup of walnuts
  • 3 tablespoons thickened cream
  • pomegranate seeds for garnish

Spice rub

  • 1 1/2 teaspoon mild paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic flakes

Method

  1. Combine ingredients of spice rub and cover pork fillet.
  2. Heat oil in fry pan on medium to high heat. Add the pork fillet and cook through. It took ~30 minutes to cook the pork through on the stove. Alternatively, you could put it in a preheated oven at 180°C for about 25 minutes to cook through after you’ve seared all the sides. Once cooked, rest pork for up to 10 minutes.
  3. While the pork is cooking,  soak the quinoa in a small saucepan with 3/4 cups of water for 15 minutes. Then place on low heat, bring to boil and simmer for another 15 minutes. Fluff up with fork.
  4. To cook the corn cob, place in saucepan, cover with water, bring to boil and simmer for 10 minutes. When cooked, cut kernels from cob into bowl.
  5. To make the salad, mix together the spinach leaves, quinoa and corn. Dress salad with the pomegranate and olive oil emulsion.
  6. Blitz walnuts in food processor until fine crumbs then add cream 1 tablespoon at a time.
  7. To assemble dish, smear walnut sauce on plate. Slice pork fillet and arrange on top of the walnut sauce. If you happen to have pomegranate seeds handy, scatter these to dress the plate. Serve with salad.

The little red bits scattered across my plate was unfortunately not pomegranate. I couldn’t find any in my local market, so I again improvised, this time with a little less success. In my defense, it was primarily used to pretty up the dish for the photo. And for the record, cherry is not a good accompaniment to the dish, it was much too sweet and the flesh was too soft. The slightly astringent nature of pomegranate and its crunchy interior is a much better match with the pork. Hopefully if you attempt this dish, you will have better luck finding it in the shops!

Don’t let my haphazard way of doing things deter you, the recipe worked out quite well. The walnut sauce was quite thick though, so next time I might use a bit of milk to thin it out. The salad was a nice mix of textures and I loved how the sweetness of the corn balanced the tartness of pomegranate molasses. But the key thing I gained from this is that the cocoa spiked spice rub is a winner. I’m even thinking about using it on chicken in the future.

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