At the risk of sounding my age, when you’ve been around long enough, you begin to see certain patterns emerge in politics, fashion, and food. Everything old is new again, and right now, that means that meat is back on the literal and proverbial table.
One article (of the many I have been avidly reading) states: “[Meat] from free-range, grass-fed animals is a top source of conjugated linoleic acid, the micronutrient that reduces our risk of cancer, obesity and diabetes.”
This is good news for The Author, who can tell you at great length how he has suffered from other people’s delusions that meat is bad for you. I’m afraid that his ultimate dream, of a world bathed in only pork fat and beef drippings and devoid of all vegetables, will still be just a dream. But this Valentine’s day, while many people are scarfing down chocolate and champagne, I can confidently see to The Author’s health (and heart) by cooking him this.
I’ve been making variations of this recipe for years. Pork really benefits from fruit, but sometimes I find apples or plums too sugary. I like the dried apricots because they have a hint of sourness which keeps this dish from veering into the sickly sweet category. Garlic and rosemary add just the right touch of aromatics, and salt and pepper bring it all together on the palate and make it decidedly more-ish.
An added bonus is that it’s really quick to prepare, and you can leave it alone in the oven while you get on with other things. Like drinking champagne, perhaps.
Pork with Apricot Stuffing
Serves 6 (or serves 2 with lots leftover for fantastic sandwiches!)
I use pork leg because it stays very tender with a roasting like this. I’ve used loin, but it can be dry, depending on the variety and provenance of the pig. For the best results with any cut, it really does pay to get free-range, organically reared meat. We are lucky because our neighbour Sean raises his pigs this way, and we benefit from his dedication!
- 1K pork leg, accordion cut (instructions below)
- 10 apricots
- a volume of bread equal to the apricots
- 3 garlic cloves
- small handful fresh rosemary*, destemmed
- 30 ml (2 TB) olive oil
First you need to accordion cut the meat; this is similar to a butterfly cut. Lay the leg flat, and starting from the centre, cut lengthwise with the knife at a 45 degree angle, being careful not to cut through to the bottom. Holding the bit you have just cut out of the way, make another cut, in the same fashion, in what is now the thickest part of the meat. Continue cutting this way until you have “unfolded” the meat to about 1/2 inch thick. Turn the meat around 180 degrees and cut the other side the same way. At this point, you can use a meat mallet to even it out, but I never bother. Alternatively, you could ask your butcher to do the cutting for you.
Put the bread, garlic, rosemary leaves, salt and pepper in the food processor and whiz until the bread has become coarse breadcrumbs. Add the apricots and whiz until they are similarly sized, then add the olive oil and pulse until you have a rough but consistent texture. Taste for seasoning; it should just a little bit saltier than you would normally like it. (If you don’t have a food processor, you can grate the bread with a box grater, then chop all the other ingredients by hand and mix it all together.)
Open up the pork leg and spread the apricot mixture onto it. Stay about 1 cm away from the edges. Roll up tightly, and secure with string. Rub the outside with salt and pepper, taking care to get lots of seasoning in the skin. Cook in a 190C (375F) oven for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 170C (350F). Cook until the centre of the pork reached 68C (155F), and remove from oven and let rest for at least 15 minutes.
Remove the string from the pork, and then remove crackling and cut it up into portions. Slice the leg and serve alongside the crackling.
* The Author cautioned me against using too much: “Not everyone likes rosemary as much as you do,” he said. So use your discretion.