Possibly the last Heineken Cup, in its current form, anyway. Irish readers, even those with virtually no interest in rugby, will be well aware that PRL (Premiership Rugby Ltd., i.e. the English clubs) attempted a breakaway from the ERC this year. In a nutshell, they wanted more money from the communal kitty, believing that the Premiership is a superior competition to the Rabo Direct Pro12, and, as such, they should be entitled to more money and more qualification slots. They initially managed to get the French on board, but they abandoned ship shortly afterwards and rowed back in with the ERC. So then the Welsh regions jumped on the breakaway competition wagon, but they're such a non-entity in European rugby at the moment that winning them over must surely seem like a bit of a Pyrrhic victory for Quentin Smith et al.
Anyway, the debate about the future of European cup rugby is definitely worthy of a post in its own right. Nobody knows what form the competition will take next year, so for now, all we can do is enjoy the current showdown. Round 5 finished this weekend with Leinster grinding out an away win against Castres to see us topping our pool, with Ospreys at home on Friday to finish out the pool stages. All we need to qualify is a losing bonus point, while a bonus-point win would give us a very vague chance of getting a home quarter-final. However, as shite as Ospreys have been this year, they have ever been our bogey team in the RDS, so a losing bonus point would do me, quite frankly. Round 6 always throws up a few surprise results, but as it stands, the quarter finals look likely to shake out as follows:
Toulouse v Saracens
Toulon v Ulster
Clermont v Leinster
Leicester v Munster
Clermont. Again. I honestly don't know which team will dread that fixture more. Travelling to the Stade Marcel Michelin is always a daunting prospect, and our back-to-back losses to Clermont put us out of the competition last year. Having said that, revenge is always a great motivator. And I don't think there's any team in the knockout stages who'd relish the prospect of hosting us. It's going to be a very interesting set of quarter-finals, that's for sure.
So, onwards to the food. Today's recipe is the third of the Lidl "7 Family Meals for €50" collection. I should point out at this juncture that I'm not posting these in the order they appear in the booklet, but rather the order I felt like cooking them in. This is the "Sunday dinner" of the booklet, probably because it's the most expensive dish of the lot. But you know me, I'm nothing if not rebellious, so we had this for dinner on Friday night instead. It might sound a *little* esoteric for the more beige-palated amongst you, but you really should give it a go, even if you think you don't like one or more of the individual ingredients, because they really do marry brilliantly together to give a whole that's a lot greater than the sum of its parts.
Pork Chops with Gorgonzola and Roasted Pears - serves 4
4 pork loin chops 4 pears, cut in half & cored
4 small onions, peeled & quartered 100g gorgonzola
20 sage leaves 1 tsp sugar
12 baby potatoes, quartered 3 tbs olive oil
Knob of butter 150ml water
Salt & pepper
1. Preheat oven to 180C. Put the potatoes, pears and onions into a large baking tray, drizzle over the oil, season with salt & pepper and give everything a good toss to coat. Dot with the butter, scatter over the sage leaves, add the water, then cover with foil and roast for 20 minutes.
2. Remove the foil, jack the heat up to 200C, sprinkle over the sugar and return to the oven for another 10 - 15 minutes until everything is lovely and golden.
3. Meanwhile, pan-fry or griddle the pork chops for 3 minutes on each side, finishing with it on its side to crisp up the fat.
4. Split the potato & pear mix between four warmed plates, scatter over the gorgonzola and top with a pork chop. Enjoy!
Suggestions: I spread both sides of the chops with wholegrain mustard before cooking. Also, the second time I made this, I added the gorgonzola to the baking tray for the last couple of minutes in the oven rather than waiting til it was plated up, and it made for extra-delicious oozey meltiness.
By the way, you should totally use the leftover gorgonzola to make the blue cheese butter used in the Mexican Lasagna post from last week.