If you are looking for something really awesome to make this Sunday then look no further. It is another slow cooked pleasure ride that involves pork, cider and a whole lot of flavour. As with the lamb rending dish I posted recently there is not a lot of technique involved. This dish is all about time, taste and tremendously succulent meat.
To put into context how simple this is I had not really planned what I was going to make when I did this. Yes I had the meat and a few other items such as the cider but I had not shopped specifically to make the meal. I had just finished my morning cup of tea and a breakfast of eggs benedict when the desire to slow roast hit; so off I went.
For this I used a loin of pork with the skin removed – which you can then cook to make crackling if you so wish. To start I quartered some onions and apples and placed into the bottom of a baking tray along with a handful of bay and sage leaves and a bulb of garlic broken up into cloves. This would form the basis of the dish upon which the meat would sit.
I then made a rub for the pork made up of cloves, star anise (just one), fennel seeds and dried chilli flakes. These were bashed together in a pestle and mortar before adding salt, pepper and olive oil to create a paste. Rub this all over the meat getting in amongst the folds before placing on top of the other ingredients in the baking tray.
Now to add the cider. Just to clarify when I am speaking of cider here I do not mean a 2litre bottle of Wild Oak from the local off licence or any of that fruity nonsense. Get something proper that has a dry full flavour. Pour into the tray – not over the meat or you will wash off all the rub – before sealing with foil. I used a double layer of foil to ensure the tray was completely sealed, you want to capture all of that moisture and keep it. This was then placed into the oven on 110C for approximately 10 hours. This gives you plenty of time to go for a pint, watch the football or fix your bike*.
During the cooking I did occasionally take the meat out and check the level of the liquid in the pan as I did not want this to completely evaporate. After around 6 hours I did top it up with a little bit of boiling water just to be sure. The main reason for this is so that you have enough of the juices at the end to act as gravy – yep ready-made gravy is another advantage to this dish.
Once you have cooked the meat for a good 9-10 hours it should be very willing to fall to pieces with the most slight of touches. Remove from the oven and break the meat into smaller chunks ready for serving. You can either plate up for your diners or just stick the lot on the table and watch as they devour it. Again with the juices you could strain them into a jug or just let people get on with it. There is going to be a lot of paraphernalia from the cooking in the main tray so I would advise at least decanting to a separate serving dish to remove some of the bay and sage leaves and other less edible parts.
I served mine with some roast potatoes and veg keeping everything simple and low energy as the pork is where you want your focus to be. The meat is just amazingly succulent and full of flavour that you will wonder why you ever cooked it differently. The juices from the cooking are deep and rich with wonderfully fragrant notes from the herbs and cider. For me this is what cooking is all about; simplicity and a complete emphasis on pleasure.
*Note: other leisure activities may also be pursued during this time.