Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Pigs Are Worth it

Easter Monday saw a new favourite at the table; roast pork. Chicken with all of the trimmings has always been the traditional roast in our house. But trying to get a free range chicken in our Chicken Run obsessed town is like trying to get an Easter egg to stay unopened in the Hall household until Easter Sunday - impossible.

Intensively reared pork has been in the news a lot recently. British pig farming is on the decline due to the market being flooded with cheaper pork, and our British farmers are suffering because of it. I can't work it out over here in the U.K.; we are incredibly proud people, always telling other nations how great we are. Yet we are happy to consume the two most abused animals on the planet, chickens and pigs, without much conscience of where or how they were raised. And in turn, the industry is suffering to the gain of other nations.

For me the philosophy is simple; eat them a little less often and pay a higher price for a better quality and tastier meat. For more information, please visit this worthy campaign and sign the petition.

The pork I used for our roast was the loin. A quality piece of pork gives a rich seam of fat that, when cooked properly, gives crunchy irresistible crackling with soft butter like fat underneath. A boned loin leaves a lovely space for stuffing. The classic sage and onion that accompanies pork so well was given a twist with a simple stuffing of caramelised shallots, fresh sage and lemon zest. Simple roast root vegetables and a thin gravy made from the roasting juices made for a classy Easter Monday meal. Pigs are worth it.

Pork Loin with Caramelised Shallots, Sage and Lemon

1.5kg of pork loin, boned
2 onions, halved

For the stuffing
2 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
4 large shallots sliced, I used banana shallots
2 good handfuls of fresh sage (dried would work too), roughly chopped
Thinly grated zest of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper

For the crackling
Juice of the lemon
3 tbsp honey

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees C, GM7.
2 - Take your loin and lay it out fat side up. Using a sharp knife, cut strips into the fat about 1cm apart, ensuring that you do not penetrate the flesh underneath. Rub salt into the cuts.
3 - Heat up the oil in a frying pan. Add the shallots and cook for 5-10 minutes on a gentle heat until caramelised. Add the sage and lemon zest, season with a little salt and pepper and leave to cool.
4 - Dab the skin with kitchen roll to soak up any leaked water. Turn the pork so that it is flesh side up. If there doesn't seem enough room to stuff it, make an incision in the flesh so that it gives you a little extra room for stuffing and rolling.
5 - Season the flesh then lay the stuffing down the centre. Roll it and bind it with string. Ask your butcher to show you the best way but a few simple ties and knots will do.
6 - Heat a little olive oil in a thick roasting tray on the hob. Quickly seal the meat all over until beginning to brown. Lay the halved onions onto the tray along with any remaining sage and lay the meat on top to form a bed.
7 - Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, and then turn down the heat to 160 degrees C, GM3. Roast for a further 25 minutes per 500g. For the final 15 minutes, stir together the lemon juice and honey and drizzle over the skin.
8 - Remove from the oven and put the meat onto a carving board to rest for 10-15 minutes. Make a simple gravy by pouring in a glass of white wine or cider and a tablespoon of plain flour into the roasting tray on the hob. Crush the onions with a potato masher and keep stirring until you have a thick intense gravy. Loosen with some water and pour through a sieve.


Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

I miss the delicious pork roasts of Eastern Canada. Here in the West it is all about beef and salmon. We can still get a delicious pork roast at a premium price at Costco...but then I have no idea where it came from.

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

Pigs most definitely are worth it, especially when they get royal treatment like yours! And I completely second everything you say about your meat-eating philosophy. It's really not that difficult, is it?

Kai said...

Your roast looks delicious, lamb is the roast of choice in our house (well I am a New Zealander!) and chicken normally comes in second, but like you I am struggling to find chicken at the moment (except for the legs). The thing I like about lamb is that it cannot be intensively raised. Does pork have a particular season?

William Leigh said...

couldn't agree more matey, well said.

Trig said...

Here in Spain pigs are probably the most important source of animal food and free range rearing is common. It makes you realise what a sad state much of British farming has got into.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you. The problem with the whole chicken thing is that people see chicken as a cheap meat and something that they have the 'right' to eat often. I opt for the same solution as you, buy a good quality bird and eat them less often.

Nice looking pork. I think that pig may be my favourite meat. Think of all those piggy products!! Oink.

David Hall said...

BV - Interesting how it differs coast to coast. We just don't have that here!

Forkful - Glad you agree - it is a simple philosophy, rich or poor, and just ensures that everybody is happy

Kai - Good to hear from you. No particular season for pigs, it just grows and eats with the rest of us!

Wil - good stuff, glad you agree.

Trig - watched a show about Spanish food last week and the Spanish do treat it with respect, using every part of it too. I love Spanish food.

Helen - glad you cover the same ground too, al lmakes perfect sense to me!

Helen T said...

Sounds fabulous! We get our pork from the next village, and you can see the pigs living happily in the fields all around the farm. Might try this next time we get up there.

Cynthia said...

Barbados is pork heaven! They ran an extremely successful campaign here for years titled: proper pork.

Ed Bruske said...

finding pasture-raised pork is worth whatever it takes. sorry to hear the Brits are losing their pork tradition--don't go there is all I can say

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