I’m not going to introduce this one with a long story about why I don’t eat pork very often, weaving in some of my childhood memories or anecdotes. Nor am I going to dwell on the nutritional value of papaya, or the health benefits of baking the onion rings rather than frying them.
I’m not even going to bore you too much with the multitude of other uses for this fabulous hot sauce and the Cajun spice mix, as I am sure you can think of many yourself once you’ve tasted them.
And the “magical interweb” will confirm that the lactic acid in buttermilk will help take the edge of an overly oniony onion and to crisp the end result if you’d care to google it (it’s an optional step, but highly recommended for aforementioned reasons, especially when baking rather than frying)
Why am I not doing all this? Because I know you would grab these crispy golden onion rings from the screen right now if you could. So without further ado or embellishment, here are the recipes. I suspect this will become a firm family favourite. Enjoy!
Cajun Chops with Papaya Hot Sauce and Baked Onion Rings (serves 4 – GF DF RSF)
These onion rings are delicious served as a snack with some sour cream or your favourite dip.
The hot sauce recipe will make at least a medium jar, which is much more than you’ll need in one go. But not to worry: it’s wonderful as a dip for tortilla chips, fries, in tacos, on burgers, or with grilled chicken, fish or prawns.
It’s a fabulous addition to your summer BBQ sauce collection. Stir through yoghurt, creme fraiche or mayonnaise on the days you want less heat.
Swap the pork for chicken or fish if you prefer, it’s equally delicious.
Omit the buttermilk and use nutritional yeast flakes instead of cheese to make this dairy free.
4 pork loin chops
2-3 tbsp Cajun spice mix (shop bought or home made, see below)
1/2 tbsp coconut oil or rapeseed oil
For the papaya hot sauce:
1 ripe papaya, peeled, deseeded and chopped
1 tsp coconut oil
1 small onion or banana shallot, peeled and finely chopped
1 small carrot, peeled and finely diced or grated
1 good thumb of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped or grated
3-6 cloves of garlic or 8 cloves of confit garlic, crushed or finely chopped
2-8 fresh whole chillies, finely chopped (How many depends on which type of chilli you use and how hot you like your hot sauce – seeds in or out, it’s up to you. I used a habanero, a few little birds eye ones and a large jalapeno chilli, all with seeds and membrane)
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
juice of a fresh lime
1 tbsp coconut palm sugar, honey, agave or maple syrup
Salt and white pepper to taste
1/2 tsp ground allspice, mixed spice, apple pie spice mix or pumpkin pie spice mix (optional)
Orange or pineapple juice as needed to thin down the sauce
For the onion rings:
1 large onion, peeled, ends trimmed off and sliced into 1-2 cm rings, separated
500 ml buttermilk (thinned with milk if UK bought, as it’s quite viscous here, or homemade)
2 tbsp Cajun spice mix
2-3 heaped tbsp plain (brown) flour, GF, coconut flour or spelt flour
2-3 heaped tbsp cornmeal
3 tbsp finely grated Parmesan or similar hard cheese
4-5 heaped tbsp (GF) panko bread crumbs
coconut, olive or rapeseed oil spray
1/4 tsp salt
Optional for serving: cooling sour cream, baked sweet potato, spiced sweet potato fries, corn on the cob or salad
Papaya Hot Sauce:
Heat the coconut oil over medium heat and sauté the onion for a few minutes until translucent. Add the garic, ginger and chilli. Sauté for a few more minutes. Blend with the rest of the sauce ingredients except the juice until smooth. Add enough juice to thin the sauce to a ketchup-like consistency and blend again.
Check the seasoning and adjust salt, sugar, lime juice or vinegar as needed. You’re looking for good heat with a background of fruity sweet and sour.
This will keep in the fridge in a sterilized jar for at least a week, likely more if you used a decent amount of salt and vinegar, which have preserving properties.
If you have the time and inclination, soak the onion slices in the buttermilk for anything from 1-4 hrs or overnight. Else soak for5mins or so if that’s all you have, as it will help the coating to stick. Drain and reserve the buttermilk.
Preheat the oven to 200 C.
Mix together 1/4 tsp salt with the eggs and 2 tbsp of the reserved buttermilk. This makes them less stringy for less messy dipping.
Mix together the flour, semolina and Cajun spice mix.
Mix together the panko and the cheese.
Have these mixes all ready in separate bowls for dipping.
Dip each onion ring in the flour mix, then the egg mix and then the breadcrumb-cheese mix. Use your fingers and toss to ensure the ring is well coated. Set aside on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment or a silicone baking mat.
Spray the onion rings with oil. Bake for 10 mins or until golden and crisping up. Turn, spray again with oil if needed and bake for another 8-10 minutes until crisp and golden.
Rub the chops all over on with the Cajun spice mix
Sous-vide: Vacuum the chops either individually or in packs of 2. Heat a water bath to 62 C and cook for 1 hr. Remove the chops from the bags, pat them dry with somelkitchen paper and sear them in a piping hot non-stick frying pan with the oil for 40 secs each side.
Traditional pan-fry: Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the pork chops and fry until golden on one side, about 4-6 mins depending on thickness and how you like them cooked. Turn them over and fry on the other side for the same time until golden. Rest for 4 minutes in aluminium foil before serving.
To serve: Place each chop on a plate and drizzle with papaya hot sauce. Add a stack of onion rings. Hand round extra hot sauce and cooling sour cream.
Cajun Spice Mix
This will make more than you need for this recipe, but it keeps well in a small jar. Use as a dry-rub for meat, fish or seafood for the BBQ. Add to dips or sprinkle over fries or roast vegetables.
Mix together the following spices:
2 tbsp sea salt
2 tbsp garlic powder
2 tbsp onion powder
2 tbsp paprika
2 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp ground white pepper
1 tbsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 tbsp celery salt or Old Bay seasoning (optional)