Latvian Stew ~ Pork Stew with Apricots and Prunes
This Latvian Stew recipe is based on a dish from the pages of A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. It’s a simple, comforting combination of tender, slow cooked pork shoulder, carrots, onions, apricots, and prunes that’s warm and flavorful and even better the next day.
Hello. My name is Rebecca and I am a bookworm.
Of all the things I love and value in life, books and reading are at the top of the list. I come by my love of reading honestly. My mom is a voracious reader and I’m sure spent many hours reading to me until I was old enough to pick up a book and read it for myself.
I cannot remember a time in my childhood when my mom said no to my request for a new book. We were not wealthy, but books were something we always had money for.
This great love of books is something I carried into my adulthood. I don’t just want to read books, I want to be surrounded by them. I want them at arm’s reach everywhere, all the time. Thankfully, my husband is also an avid reader and has never once complained about the stacks of books on every surface and in every corner of our home.
For the most part, once finished with a book, I want to move on to the next. But, there are a few that I find myself re-reading every so often, finding comfort and new insights from the characters and story with each new read.
The Rules of Civility by Amor Towels is one of those precious few novels I’ve read multiple times. There’s something about the cadence of the dialogue, the heartbreaking nostalgia of the story, and the beauty of the words that calls me back again and again.
Last year, I picked up another Amor Towels novel, A Gentleman in Moscow, and found myself similarly entranced. The story itself manages to be a little bit of everything… there is history and politics, romance, and espionage. It is a story about parenting and poetry. About secrets, honesty, and the transient nature of people and culture. About integrity, character, values, resourcefulness, resilience, and the importance of understanding that attitude and perspective are the only things we ever have.
It’s also a story about one man’s love of good food and good wine. Early in the story, the main character, who is nothing short of a food and wine snob in the purest, most lovable kind of way, orders a bowl of Latvian Stew.
“…the onions thoroughly caramelized, the pork slowly braised, and the apricots briefly stewed, the three ingredients came together in a sweet and smoky medley that simultaneously suggested the comfort of a snowed-in tavern and the jangle of a Gypsy tambourine.”
It sounded like something I very much wanted to eat.
An online search reveled that the dish comes from the author’s own love of cooking and a recipe from a 2005 issue of Saveur magazine. Towels published his recipe for Latvian Stew on bookclubcookbook.com, which I tried and then modified to suit my personal taste. This modified version is the recipe you’ll find here and it has quickly become one of our all-time favorite comfort foods.
What is Latvian Stew?
As is true of many one-pot meals, Latvian Stew is made more delicious by its simplicity. The modest ingredient list is slightly unusual, but the flavors come together in a way that will truly warm you from the inside out.
I usually make this on a Sunday, making enough for us to enjoy it at least a couple of times throughout the week. Just like many kinds of soups and stews, Latvian Stew seems to be even better after it’s been allowed to sit in the refrigerate for a day or two and marinate.
The stew itself is prepared by slowly cooking pieces of pork shoulder with onions, garlic, carrots, dried apricots and prunes. I’ve chosen to flavor the broth with smoked paprika, a Worcestershire, and a touch of liquid smoke. These flavorings are a departure from the recipe that inspired its inclusion in A Gentleman in Moscow, but I find that the addition of some smokiness to the richness of the pork and sweetness of the fruit is positively delicious.
As is the case with most soup and stew recipes, feel free to add or subtract ingredients to better suit your personal tastes. The addition of some red cabbage or a parsnip or two would be delicious. If you’re not interested in a strong smokey flavor, leave out the liquid smoke. Swap out the paprika for another kind of chili powder. Add some beer or wine to the broth in place of some of the water.
The recipe is a basic template for a homey, comforting meal that’s easily adaptable to your personal tastes.
If reading A Gentleman in Moscow, led you to this recipe, let me know!
A few years ago, after reading The Chemist by Stephanie Meyers, I published a recipe for Bananas Foster Butter Cake after one of the main characters of that story makes it. Every so often, I receive a note from someone who has paused in their reading of The Chemist, often in the middle of the night, to hungrily search the Internet for “Banana Foster Butter Cake”.
When I published that recipe, it was simply to share the recipe. But, it’s been such an unexpected delight to interact with other readers as a result. So, if you came across this recipe as a result of reading A Gentleman in Moscow and wondering how to make Latvian Stew, please let me know. 🙂
Other popular soup and stew recipes:
- Beef and Barley Soup with Roasted Mushrooms and Bacon
- Zuppa Toscana with Bacon, Sausage, Potatoes, and Cream
- Vegetable Beef Soup
- Thai Pork and Noodle Soup
- Red Lentil Soup with Ham and Aleppo Pepper
- Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup with Roasted Garlic and Mushrooms
If you give this recipe a try, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it, or take a picture and tag it #alittleandalot on Instagram.
- 3 lbs boneless pork shoulder
- salt and ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, canola oil, or vegetable oil
- 1 large yellow onion, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2 or 3-inch pieces
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- 4 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 5 cups water
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 1/2 tsp liquid smoke (more to taste)
- 8 oz dried apricots
- 8 oz prunes (dried plums)
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
- Cut pork into 2-3 inch pieces. Lay the pork on a plate or baking sheet that has been lined with paper towels. Blot the pieces of pork on all sides with another paper towel to dry. Sprinkle the pork on all sides with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Refrigerate, uncovered, for 1 hour. (You can refrigerate seasoned pork for up to 12 hours, but cover the meat after 1 hour.)
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Add oil to a large, heavy bottom, ovenproof saucepan or dutch oven. Set it over medium high heat until the oil is very hot and shimmering. Add the pork and cook, turning the pieces in the hot oil every so often, until the pieces are browned on all sides.
- Remove the pork from the pan with tongs or a slotted spoon. Pour all but 1/4 cup fat from the saucepan.
- Add the chopped onion to the pan and cook over medium heat until soft and translucent. Add minced garlic, tomato paste, and 1 tsp of salt. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add carrots and browned pork to the pan, stirring to combine.
- Remove the pan from the heat. Stir together the paprika and flour, sprinkle it over the meat and vegetables, and toss everything around in the pan to coat.
- Put the pan in the preheated oven, uncovered, and let bake for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, stir, and then bake uncovered for an additional 5 minutes.
- Remove pan from the oven. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.
- Add 5 cups of water, worcestershire sauce, and 1 1/2 tsp liquid smoke to the pan. Stir, being sure to scrape up any brown pieces from the bottom of the pan. Set it over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Stir in the dried apricots.
- Cover the pan and place back in the oven. Let cook for 1 1/2 hours.
- Remove pan from the oven and stir in prunes. Cover, place back in the oven, and cook for 1 hour longer - OR, until the meat is very tender.
- Remove the pan from the oven and taste; add more salt and/or liquid smoke if desired. (*See notes) Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.
Liquid Smoke: A little liquid smoke goes a long way, so add this ingredient in small doses. Start with 1 1/2 tsp, then when the stew is cooked and the meat is tender, taste, and add a touch more if you want the smokey elements in this stew to be more pronounced.
Salt: Salt is an especially important ingredient in this stew because it balances the sweetness of the dried fruit. After the stew is cooked, taste the broth and add as much additional salt as necissary until the balance tastes right to you.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 730Total Fat: 44gSaturated Fat: 14gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 25gCholesterol: 153mgSodium: 447mgCarbohydrates: 44gFiber: 6gSugar: 28gProtein: 42g