Greek Pork and Celery Stew (Hirino me Selino)
This is by far one of the best stews served in the winter here in Greece. Extremely popular during the winter months, this dish is also served in the Christmas/New Year Holiday season.
In the old times, especially in the villages, the pigs were slaughtered in December. That's why pork is still the most popular meat used in Greece during the Holidays. Furthermore, the Orthodox Christian practice requires fasting for a long period before Christmas. So, the body has not been consuming meat for quite some time. Therefore, a meat soup is a great meal to help it adjust to meat consumption again. Then, they were ready to go on and cook some other yummy recipes with pork, like the fried pork dish called tigania, a festive pork roast with plums, or a classic Greek sausages recipe called spetzofai, which is an amazing meze as well!
So what's this dish about? Well, it's a delicious stew, made with a nice piece of braised pork (pork leg/ham is often used as it has less fat than other pieces), selino and avgolemono sauce.
What is selino? Selino is a Greek/European variety of celery, which has long and thin stalks and lots of leaves. You can see it in the Ingredients picture below (right above the white bowl with the meat). You can see how thin these stalks are. The taste is a bit stronger than the American (Pascal) version (also available here as "celery" with Greek typing:Σέλερι).
But don't worry; if you can't find European celery, you can also use the Pascal variety. The taste is still great and a bit milder, making it perhaps more suitable for those not used to Greek food. In this case however, the stalks must be trimmed, and if the surface is a bit rough, it must also be peeled. Use any leaves as well, and slice the stalks in 5cm/2in pieces. If the stalks are very thick, also slice them 2-3 times lengthwise before cutting the pieces.
Avgolemono sauce, is a creamy delicious sauce that's made with egg and lemon. You simply beat eggs and fresh lemon juice until frothy and then slowly add the broth from the stew using a ladle while whisking continuously. The purpose of this is to equalize the temperature of the egg-lemon mixture with the food in the pot, so that the eggs will not cook when the sauce is added into the pot.
When the sauce is warm enough (a couple of ladlefuls with broth from the pot are needed for this), you add the egg-lemon mixture in the pot, and "stir" using the pot's handles (you don't stir inside the pot, you simply swirl the pot for a few seconds).
This is a one-pot fricassee meal you will cook again and again (and again) :) It's hearty, filling, homey, and a perfect choice for any cold day. The quantity of the ingredients given here is for 2 large servings. If you like to cook for 4 simply multiply the ingredients and add 1lt/4cups more warm water. The cooking time is the same though.
Oh, and don't forget to have some good ol' crusty bread to mop up the sauce! Definitely a must!
For the stew:
- 500gr/17.5oz/1lb pork leg/ham, cut in small bites
- 80-100gr/2.8-3.5oz (1 small) onion, finely chopped
- 250-300gr/8.8-10.5oz selino or celery, chopped in 5cm pieces*
- 125ml (1/2 cup) olive oil
- 170gr/6oz (3-4 pieces) spring onions, green part included, sliced in small pieces
- 40gr/1.5oz (1/2 bunch) fresh dill, finely chopped
- 2lt/2.1qt (8 cups) warm water
- Salt, pepper
*If using American celery (Pascal variety), then trim and peel the stalks. If they’re very thick, also slice them lengthwise in 2-3 strips. Then, chop the stalks in 5cm/2in long pieces.
For the egg-lemon sauce:
- 1 egg, room temperature
- Juice from 1 lemon
Pour the olive oil in a large pot and put it on medium to high heat. Once the oil is hot enough, add the pork (pic.1). Stir, to make sure all the surfaces are starting to cook (pic.2).
When it starts to get a bit brown (pic.3), after about 5-6 minutes, remove and set aside (pic.4).
Add the onion and the spring onions in the (same) pot (pic.5) and sautee until they soften. Any meat residue in the bottom of the pot from the previous phase will be deglazed from the juices of the onion. When the onions are soft enough, add the dill (pic.6) and stir for a minute.
Add the meat back in the pot (pic.7), stir, and add the water (pic.8).
When the water starts simmering (pic.9), lower the heat to medium-low, cover the pot leaving a small opening (pic.10) and cook for 45 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
When the 45 minutes have passed, add the celery (pic.11), cover in the same manner as before, and cook for 30 minutes more. If by any chance you notice that there isn’t enough broth left at the end (depends on the temperature of cooking), then add 0.5lt (2 cups) of warm water and let it simmer for 5 more minutes.
Before start making the avgolemono egg-lemon sauce, remove the pot from heat and keep it aside for 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper.
Then beat the egg in a medium sized bowl and add the lemon juice while whisking (pic.12).
Whisk until frothy, and then start adding the broth from the pot (whisking continuously), very slowly at first (pic.13). You will need about 2 ladlefuls to warm the sauce up. Then add the frothy sauce (pic.14) in the pot and swirl the pot from its handles. That’s it!
Serve with fresh crusty bread. You won’t need anything else! :) Kali oreksi!
1. It’s best to use lean pork meat for this dish. Prefer the leg/ham cuts, they have less fat than pork shoulder/butt. Of course pork belly is not suitable for this dish.
2. Make sure to remove the egg and the lemon from the fridge before you start cooking, so they’ll have enough time to warm up to room temperature.