20 May 2015

Pork (or Chicken) and Pumpkin (or Butternut) with Soy and Star Anise

This is a Diana Henry recipe ... and you KNOW how I feel about her! So just take a moment to really look at the photo above and as you do, I want you to imagine the smell of this dish doing a finish in the oven ... a kind of braise in that juice tucked down below the butternut squash and the pork fillets. Do you see the star anise? The red chile bits? The bits of ginger root? The colors alone are enough to recommend this dish, but the sauce flavors really sell it.
Other ingredients in this sauce ... garlic, soy, rice wine vinegar, fish sauce, orange zest and juice. My goodness! So wonderful! Diana makes this dish with chicken thighs, but I used pork fillets. My only complaint is that it is difficult to keep pork fillets moist when one is expected to sear and then braise. I managed to keep the pork relatively moist, but still ... I want those pork cuts to be succulent, damn it! Ideas anyone ? And I know some smart aleck will say, use the chicken ... I set myself up for that one, I guess.

What ever. My tummy's full of this spicy, sweet, and spicy pork dish. We had it with steamed basmati rice and a plain dish of steamed broccoli ... gotta get as many veggies as possible, you know!

A keeper recipe ... and I just might double the sauce ingredients next time ... dipping the meat ( pork or chicken) bites was definitely the way to go. Total yum ...

Chicken (or Pork) and Pumpkin with Soy and Star Anise
a recipe from Diana Henry's a change of appetite

Serves 3 - 4


1 tbsp. peanut oil
8 chicken thighs (your choice, skinless and boneless is my choice) or 4 large pork fillets
2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp. Thai fish sauce
2 tbsp. brown sugar, packed
1 small red chile, stemmed and most meds removed, thinly sliced and minced
1 inch chunk of fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
8 perfect scallions, trimmed and sliced into coins, reserve some of the greens for garnish
2 lb. peeled pumpkin or butternut squash, cut into large chunks (about a two-bite chunk size)
3 large strips of orange zest
1 star anise
2 tbsp. orange juice
4 tbsp. water
plenty of black pepper

Making the Dish:

1. Heat an oven proof pan over medium heat. Add the peanut oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan.

2. Lay the meat into the pan and leave it to sear. When the meat lifts from the pan easily and is browned, flip it and do the same on the other side. This takes about four minutes or so.

3. Mix the soy, vinegar, brown sugar and fish sauce and some black pepper in a bowl and set it aside.

4. Remove the meat and spoon out most of the fat. Add the aromatics (ginger, chile, garlic) and stir about for about 30 seconds. Add the whites and some of the greens of the scallions and continue saute for another 30 seconds.

5.  Add the sauce and stir to bring bits from the pan's bottom. Then, lay the meat into the pan and drizzle any meat juices into the sauce too.

6. Arrange the pumpkin or squash chunks around the meat, spooning some sauce up and over all. Pour on the orange juice and water. Add the star anise and orange peels, roughing the sauce up a bit to mix things in.

7. Cover the pan and place in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 40 minutes. After the dish has braised for 20 minutes, turn the meat over, cover back up and continue the braise.

8. Check at the 30 minutes mark, and if the pumpkin is knife tender, remove the pan lid and baste the top of the meat and veg with some of the pan juices. Continue baking for another ten minutes.

9. Just before serving, sprinkle on a good dose of black pepper and the reserved scallion greens. 

Note:  This dish goes well with a side of grains ... rice, quinoa, wheat berries ... Diana thinks one should dose the grain well with lime juice and chopped cilantro.


  1. Gorgeous! As for keeping the pork moist, how about cooking it for a shorter time? Eg, Let all the vegetables cook for 20 mins,, then sear the pork and add it to the vegetables for 20-30 mins?

  2. Omg....and I've started my diet...girlchild!Hahaa

  3. Seriously gorgeous! Love the colours. Can you not oven bake covered in foil?

    1. Sure, but the pan needs to be able to 'pan sear/stir fry' and then move to the oven for the 'braise' component ... covered with the foil ...


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