Plum­mier than all the en­tries in De­brett’s

Use fruit for what it was in­tended – as an in­gre­di­ent ka­roostew

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODEATING - TONY JACKMAN

NO ONE de­liv­ers a put­down bet­ter than an up­per- class twit, the irony be­ing that even though he or she is an up­per-class twit, they are too smug and aware of their su­pe­ri­or­ity to see them­selves as any­thing other than su­pe­rior both by birth and class.

We who come from sup­pos­edly lower or­ders – and I hap­pily put my own hand up to com­ing from work­ing-class stock from an in­dus­trial part of York­shire – may know they are just like the rest of us, but in the pres­ence of words that sound as if they have been de­liv­ered from a mouth­ful of greased marbles and the con­comi­tant haughty de­meanour, we may curtsy clum­sily while in­wardly scream­ing for help.

We – if by “we” I may pre­sume to mean those of us who are sup­pos­edly less favoured by birth and, there­fore, wor­thy of so­cial dis­dain – may find our­selves overly im­pressed by th­ese peo­ple, who have in their arse­nal a weapon of dev­as­tat­ing con­se­quence: a plummy ac­cent.

It is as if the Bri­tish aris­toc­racy – and the peo­ple we are talk­ing about are Bri­tish with barely an ex­cep­tion – at some stage in its early de­vel­op­ment un­der­stood that, in or­der to lord it over the ten­ants, they needed to quell them with sheer, un­de­ni­able class. And the crisper and plum­mier the ac­cent, the more cowed they (we?) would be. The phrase “talk­ing down” does not ex­ist for noth­ing.

It’s hard not to be im­pressed by the likes of a Stephen Fry or a Noel Cow­ard, the late, great en­ter­tainer whose mu­si­cal con­tri­bu­tions in­clude Mad Dogs and English­men Go Out in the Mid­day Sun and the poignant Mad About the Boy, nei­ther of which would pass muster if de­liv­ered in any­thing but the plum­mi­est of ac­cents.

We may laugh at them – just look at Mag­gie Smith’s dowa­ger count­ess in tele­vi­sion’s Down­ton Abbey – but if we were in­tro­duced to them at a party, we are likely to feel out of place, and stam­mer in re­ply to a sim­ple greet­ing. (The so­lu­tion, by the way, is to be­come a jour­nal­ist. The na­ture of the job means you meet and rub shoul­ders with ev­ery­one from a cleaner and a steve­dore to a ty­coon and a prince. You soon learn that we are, truly, equal in that many peo­ple of the most hum­ble birth have more char­ac­ter and vim than, oh, you know, filthy rich politi­cians.)

It’s not hap­pen­stance ei­ther. A plummy ac­cent – speak­ing as if you have a plum in your mouth – is called “re­ceived pro­nun­ci­a­tion” and was taught in English schools in cen­turies and decades past. It’s also been called the Pyg­malion Fac­tor: ie, the story that be­came bet­ter known in the stage mu­si­cal and later film My Fair Lady, in which Pro­fes­sor Hig­gins teaches El­iza Doolit­tle “how to speak” in phrases such as “the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain” and “in Hert­ford, Here­ford and Hamp­shire, hur­ri­canes hardly hap­pen”.

Our own Dali Tambo seemed to have been a pupil of Pro­fes­sor Hig­gins be­fore he re­turned to South Africa from ex­ile in the UK af­ter democ­racy came in the 1990s, and we were all in the thrall of this man with a well-oiled turn of phrase. Yet it was only an ac­cent.

There is no harm in teach­ing our­selves to speak bet­ter – it helps in land­ing jobs, es­pe­cially on ra­dio or TV. But we don’t need to go as far as stuff­ing a plum in our mouth and try­ing to re­cite “but English­men de­test a si­esta”.

Rather use plums for what they were in­tended: as an in­gre­di­ent, such as in this pork dish I made this week.

Pour 2 Tbs olive oil into a bowl. Add the ap­ple jelly and the juice of three ripe plums – just cut an in­ci­sion in the plum and squeeze it into the bowl with your hands. It doesn’t mat­ter if the pulp goes in, but don’t use the skin. Or the stone, ob­vi­ously. Add the ground gin­ger, salt and pep­per and stir into a paste.

The pork sir­loin I bought did not have the thick, outer skin that could have made crack­ling. If yours has this, care­fully re­move it, score it, and cook it in a sep­a­rate, dry pan in the oven af­ter oil­ing it and sea­son­ing well with salt. Clean the pork sir­loin and wipe with kitchen pa­per. Score the fat with a sharp knife. Sea­son all over with salt, then smear the baste all over.

Place in an oiled oven pan and roast at 220°C for 20 min­utes then turn the heat right down to 150°C and leave for up to three hours. Af­ter two hours or so, re­move from the oven, place the meat tem­po­rar­ily on a plate, and pour cold wa­ter into the pan. Use a spat­ula or fla­tended wooden spoon to scrape ev­ery bit of brown goo from the pan. Pour this deglaze liq­uid into a bowl and keep aside for the sauce you’ll make later. Re­turn meat to same oven pan and put it back in the oven.

To make the sauce, sim­mer the onions and gar­lic gen­tly in 2 Tbs olive oil un­til soft­ened, then add juice of the re­main­ing three plums, and the deglaze wa­ter you set aside ear­lier. Heat through, sea­son with salt and pep­per to taste, and let sim­mer to re­duce to a thicker con­sis­tency. Let it cool a lit­tle, then blend thor­oughly. Strain and re­heat for use.

Serve thin slices of the pork sir­loin with bright, crisp veg­eta­bles sim­ply steamed and then fin­ished in olive oil or but­ter and sea­soned.

TASTY COMBO: Serve slices of the pork sir­loin with steamed veg­eta­bles of your choice.

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