[I wrote this in March and never got around to posting it. If it seems weirdly focused on thrift, that’s because it was written during the Guardian’s waste reduction week.]
This weekend we had Becky’s family round for our pig weekend, and as a reward for their help they feasted on the loin from our half-pig. The loin is a cut taken from the back of the pig, which is frequently turned into chops. On this occasion, we had about half the loin as a whole roasting joint.
Hugh let me down by not supplying a pork loin recipe, so I turned to another guru of mine – Delia Smith. Really, I should go back and re-read my Delia books, as they are full of fantastic recipes which use the less common (these days) cuts of meat. Delia’s pork loin Dijonnaise could be an example. The skin and fat is cut off and turned into crackling, while the meat and a thin layer of fat is coated in mustard, breadcrumbs and sage and cooked at a relatively sedate 190 C for a couple of hours.
Why is it thrifty? Well, several bits of the meal involved reduction in food waste.
- The breadcrumbs were taken from some ends of bread we had lying around, long since stale but perfectly good for this use. (The rest went into our sausages as a bulking agent.)
- The apples that are fried in butter and served alongside the meat were leftovers from our orchard that had gone wrinkly and weren’t suitable (or at least, not appetising) to eat, but fine for eating in this way.
- The fat that sweated off the crackling was reserved, together with other similarly acquired fat, and will later be filtered with muslin and set into lard. We don’t use lard all that often so we’ll freeze it (though I may well use it in the pastry part of a pork pie I have planned).
- The juices from the meat were deglazed with some cider and turned into a gravy.
- The brocolli that I served alongside the meal was cut not just into florets but thin sections of the stalk. The stalk of brocolli isn’t exactly inspiring but it tastes perfectly fine and it really is a waste to throw it away.
- We’ll be turning a small quantity (about 150g) of meat that didn’t get eaten into a thrifty leftovers meal. But, because we recognise that we’re rubbish at doing this, we’ve frozen it for now, to guarantee that it won’t go off. [We ate it about 2 months later, fried with fennel and potatoes. Yum!]
In case this all sounds rather complicated: it wasn’t. While the total cooking time was about 3 hours (so only really suitable for weekend cooking) I probably put in only about 45 minutes of actual work. The rest was waiting. No complicated cooking techniques were used; probably the hardest thing was cutting the crackling off the meat.
The meal seemed to go down very well with our guests. It was our first taste of the meat from our own pigs, and I can honestly say you can really taste the difference compared to supermarket pork. Also: awesome crackling. Awesome!