So with winter coming to an end, as much as I am looking forward to eating fresh, light and often exciting Summer food, I go into a bit of a panic mode and feel the need to cook just one more roast, or stew, or ragu. Almost like it is my last meal (God forbid) and I want to make it extra special. I picked up a delicious looking pork loin roast at the supermarket and with gorgeous pears in season, I just knew that this roast would be fit for my last winter blast. I decided I didn’t want to do the normal roast rigmarole……baked veg, cauliflower au gratin….but rather something a little simpler that still gave me that warm fuzzy feeling when eating it, although not compromising on flavour. This dish certainly did the trick. Tender pork loin, crunchy crackling, rich gravy and a root veg mash to soak it all up. Let’s not forget the roasted caramelised pears, flavoured with rosemary and hit with the sharp acidity of apple cider vinegar to cut through all that richness. The perfect, balanced mouthful in every bite. A meal, fit for a king.
Prep time: 20 Minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour 20 minutes
$$ Medium Budget
Serves 4 – with leftover pork for lunch the next day
1.5 kg boned Pork Loin Roast
1 tbs of sea salt
2 tbs of olive oil
1 tbs of fennel seeds, ground in a mortar and pestle
2 cups of red wine
1 cup of chicken stock
1 tbs of plain flour
For the Pears:
4 Corella pears, quartered and seeds removed (I find this variety the best for baking)
1 red onion, peeled but root left intact, cut into wedges
4 sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves removed and stalks discarded
2 tbs of extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tbs of real maple syrup
1 tbs of apple cider vinegar
A sprinkle of sea salt and black pepper
For the Root Veg Mash:
2 parsnips, peeled and cut into small chunks
2 large turnips, peeled and cut into chunks
2 cream delight potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
40gm of butter
1/4 cup of milk
Sea salt and pepper
To make the absolute best pork crackling, I remove the pork from the packaging and remove the string (it is usually elastic and tied up so will slide off easily, don’t discard as you can slide it back on). If the pork doesn’t have many score lines in the skin, either get the butcher to pop a few more in or use a sharp knife and add more score lines, being careful not to cut the flesh of the pork loin. This requires a very sharp knife and I find a Stanley knife works a treat. Sit the pork loin in the sink and pour boiling water over the top. Once I have poured over the boiling water, I pat the pork dry with paper towel, slide the string back on and place it in the fridge for an hour or so, uncovered, to really dry the skin out.
Preheat the oven to 220°C. Remove the pork from the fridge and place it on a rack in a baking tray. Pour over the oil and rub it in with your hands, wash your hands and then sprinkle liberally with sea salt. Season with pepper and scatter the ground fennel seeds over the top. Pour the red wine into the bottom of the pan and bake in the really hot oven for 25-30 minutes or until the crackling looks like it is crisping up nicely.
Reduce the oven temperature to 200°C and roast the pork for a further 20 minutes. Keep an eye on the red wine and if it is starting to dry out add a cup of water.
Place the pears, red onion, rosemary, maple syrup, olive oil and vinegar in a baking tray and season with salt and pepper. Give the pan a good toss to make sure everything is evenly coated and place the pears in the oven with the pork for a further 30 minutes.
Bring the root veg to the boil in a large saucepan of salted water. Boil for 20-30 minutes until tender. Drain and mash until smooth and then whip in the butter and milk with a wooden spoon, season to taste and set aside with a lid on. Just before serving I pop the saucepan back on the heat and give it a good stir with the wooden spoon to stop it sticking.
Remove the pork from the oven and place on a carving tray, covering loosely with foil to rest. Pour the juices from the pan into a fry pan if your roasting pan can’t go on direct heat. Bring the juices to a simmer and whisk in the flour to prevent lumps and pour in the chicken stock. For a fool proof method with gravy if you are not confident, mix your flour into a thin paste with cold water before adding to the pan. Allow the gravy to simmer on a low heat, adding a little water if it looks a bit too thick.
Once your pork has rested for 10 minutes and your gravy is simmering away, remove the pears from the oven. Remove the crackling from the pork by running your knife under the skin and lifting the crackling off. Slice the pork loin into nice thick slices and pour any juices into your gravy. Use a pair of kitchen scissors or a sharp knife to cut up the crackling into batons.
To plate, divide the mash between four serving plates. Top the mash with slices of pork loin and then divide the pears and onions on top and around the plate. Drizzle over any juices from the pears and spoon over a generous amount of the rich, thick gravy before topping with the crispy crackling. Serve with a side of steamed green beans or broccolini.