Pork, Anchovy and Black Olive Stew on Polenta

Driving through a small hilltop village in Tuscany, surrounded by leafless chestnut woods and lost, grumpy, cold and hungry, I decided it was time to stop. I chose an empty establishment with pink tablecloths and floral-tiled walls. Once seated I received no menu, and it was clear there was no choice. You ate what you were given. 'Cinghiale,' said a stout, short woman, and I nodded. A dark stew was produced from a huge copper pan resting in the glowing hearth. Brought to the table, it was surrounded by fabulously rich, cheesy, bright yellow, wet polenta. With one mouthful my good humour was instantly restored.

As the place was empty I asked for a little more, which greatly pleased my proprietor. I then asked her about the great hound that lay in the corner and the terrifying fresh stitches in its flank. She said it was her husband's dog and had been brought down by the very brute I was eating. The boar had been slowed down by a bullet, but as the dog was upon it, he had not escaped the goring tusks of this furious dying pig. My interest and appetite secured a couple of free grappas, and I was on my way. It had seemed like a good place to stop and it was. This translation of the recipe is not far off what I remember her telliing me, and what I tasted. I've replaced the boar with pork, but use boar if you can.

Recipe author: Valentine Warner
What To Eat Now
Photography by Howard Sooley

Reproduced courtesy of Mitchell Beazley

Publisher's Copyrighted Material
Category:  Main Course  - 


For 6 Serving(s)


  • 2 kg boned pork or wild boar shoulder, skin removed
  • oil
  • 1 large sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
  • 12 good salted anchovies, in oil, drained
  • 1 large white onion (brown will do), finely diced
  • 2 medium fennel bulbs, finely diced
  • zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 x 75 cl bottle Barolo or other Italian red
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree
  • 200 g good bitter wrinkly little black olives, stoned
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • 1 packet instant polenta
  • olive oil and freshly grated Parmesan, to taste
  • few handfuls gvremolata (chopped parsley, mixed with a little finely chopped garlic and grated lemon zest

Pork, Anchovy and Black Olive Stew on Polenta Directions

  2. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Chop the meat into pieces the size of a child's fist, not including the rind.

    Heat about half a wine glass of olive oil in a large lidded heavy pan with the rosemary sprig. When the oil is hot but not smoking, throw in all the cloves of garlic and the anchovies, stirring until the anchovies have collapsed and the garlic has browned. Add the onions and fennel, the large strips of peeled lemon rind and the juice. Cook on a moderate heat with the lid on until totally soft. Add the pork to the pot and stir through before adding the wine, cinnamon and tomato puree.

    Put the lid on, put the pot into the preheated oven, and cook for 2½ hours. Remove the lid and throw in the olives. Stir them through (tiny stoned olives simply will not do: they do not have enough attitude, bitterness, saltiness, or anything to remark on for that matter). Return the pot to the oven with the lid off , and cook for 30-40 minutes. This will reduce the sauce and intensify the dish, and you want the meat to be very tender. Season to taste.

    About 15 minutes before serving would be a good time to make a wet polenta. The instant packets are perfectly respectable, but are made truly delicious with the addtition of lots of butter, olive oil and grated Parmesan. (Follow the instructions on the packet, you don't need any more from me.)

    When eating, you want three good yellow, sloppy spoonfuls of polenta with your intense dark pork stew in the middle. Scatter over handfuls of gvremolata.