This year has left me longing to live a quieter, simpler life. One where I tread more gently upon the earth. So for Christmas, I’m looking for an old-fashioned favourite. This variation of a roasted pork loin fits the bill nicely.
First, make sure that your pork loin is bred by a farmer who works sustainably and practises good animal husbandry. Lining the meat with a simple puree of prunes and Armagnac will give the rolled pork a very luxurious, Christmassy feel, without being too involved.
When roasting a full loin such as this, it is important to make sure the skin is very dry so you get good crackling. Rubbing with a little vinegar helps this process along, as does leaving the meat uncovered to air-dry in the fridge for a couple of days. I always roast my pork cuts on a bed of vegetables with a little stock once the crackling has set. Whether it’s a shoulder or a loin, this achieves two things. One, a simple but beautiful sauce develops, and, two, it means the washing up is easier. To this end, I never turn the pork – I love the juxtaposition of all that crisp skin on top with a bottom that is soft and gelatinous.
The whole roasted apples bring in the classic pairing of apples and pork with a little twist. There are some beautiful small pink lady apples around at the moment that are perfect for the job.
I would serve the pork loin and apples with a crisp green salad and a tray of golden roasted potatoes.
Go well this Christmas, stay safe and here’s to a new year that will hopefully be a little easier to navigate.
Serves 12 to 15
- 1 x 4.5-5kg pork loin with full belly, skin on
- white vinegar
- salt flakes
- 300g pitted prunes
- 100ml Armagnac (or quality Cognac)
- 2 carrots
- 2 onions
- 3 sticks celery
- olive oil
- 500ml chicken or veal stock
- 12-15 small apples
- 100g butter
- Dry the skin of the pork well. Score with a very sharp knife at half-centimetre intervals. Once scored wipe down with white vinegar (this will help dry the skin and create excellent crackling). Turn over to the meat side. With a small sharp knife, loosen the skin on the loin side to facilitate getting the loin more centred in the roll. Season well with salt.
- In a food processor, puree the prunes and Armagnac. Spread the puree evenly across the whole belly section of the pork. Roll the pork into a cylinder (the two pieces of skin should meet underneath). Tie with string at two-centimetre intervals.
- Refrigerate the pork, uncovered, for one to two days to allow the skin to air-dry.
- Let the pork sit at room temperature for two hours. Preheat oven to 240°C.
- Rub a generous amount of salt flakes into the skin of the pork. Cut the carrots, onions and celery into one-centimetre dice. Place the pork in a large roasting pan and sprinkle with a little oil. Roast for 40 minutes until the crackling has formed.
- Reduce the heat to 150°C, scatter the vegetables around the pork and add stock to a one-centimetre level. The stock and vegetables will absorb flavour and some roasting juices, creating a delicious sauce and preventing the pan from burning and becoming a washing-up disaster.
- Cook for another 1.5-2.5 hours, adding more stock if the vegetable mix becomes dry. The meat is ready when an instant-read thermometer inserted into the centre of the meat registers 65°C. If the skin has softened for some reason, increase the heat to 240°C and roast for 10 minutes more to re-crisp. Remove from the oven and let the meat rest for 30 minutes.
- Set the oven to 180°C, arrange the apples in a roasting dish and season the tops with some salt and little cubes of butter. Roast for 15 minutes.
- While the apples are cooking, strain the cooking juices from the pork dish into a saucepan and keep warm. To serve, use a serrated knife to slice the pork into 1- to 1.5-centimetre rounds. Add a little sauce and a roasted apple each.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on December 19, 2020 as "2020: Just roll with it".
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