While apologising profusely for not posting a recipe, or anything else really during the past few days, I can say that the busiest time of the year for me has officially started. It began a few weeks ago to be honest, but only now I am feeling it. It – as in what-the-heck-I-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing type of thing. What’s worse is that Christmas food is at the bottom of my list, and that almost never happens. I have, with the help of my lovely mum, put up some decorations, tree and all, but as much as I have decided not to stress about the trivial things, I’m stressing more as a result. Does that happen to you too? Mind you I cannot complain too much you know – I am prepping for a simple meal and I just have to see that I have all the ingredients I need. That’s all. However as much as I’m trying to put on my Nigella anxiety-lessening supercape, I’m failing miserably. But things can only get better. (No, I’m not quoting D:Ream.)
I found this little recipe in my to-publish-later file, which seems to me to be perfect for this time of year. I say this over and over again ad nauseam: please try to buy local whenever you can. I have to admit I’m not always successful in this endeavour, mostly because it’s really hard these days to source absolutely everything in this way. Countries larger than Malta have the same problem, so I know how hard this can be. But we can all help by doing our bit, as little or as huge that might be. We are lucky to have decent produce, including quality pork. When a friend comes to visit and asks for specific dishes to try, pork always gets a special mention, depending of course on the individual’s tastes and likes.
Also, roasting a cut of pork in the oven without fail makes a lovely and easy meal. All one has to do is to keep a little eye on it so it won’t dry, but that applies to everything anyway. The recipe below is a little riff on a roast pork loin. The original is derived from Nigella Lawson’s Feasts, which is my book of choice for anything festive. (It was published twelve years ago but to me it’s as valid as if it was published today. It’s the only one I use this time of year.) I vary the ingredients and quantities for the rub all the time, but this time I’m giving it to you as is.
Please note that this will not give you any dry crackling. I do have a recipe for that which you can find here. This is more of a take on how it is traditionally done here. To be more exact, the more conservative among cooks will say that the Maltese way is braising pork steaks with potatoes and onions and enough liquid to make a light gravy. I prefer a whole cut. To me, it makes more sense to roast a whole loin. You won’t need as much liquid for it not to dry, and it will retain more flavour. This is as easy as pie. Or pork. Make the most of the festive season and I will be here with more very soon.
An extra note before you start: If roasts are your thing, then I know you’re ace at them and you won’t need advice. However if you’re just starting to experiment with them I would advise you to invest in a meat thermometer. You can find them in good household and/or catering shops. They don’t cost much and will save you a lot of headaches. I did without it for many years but now I never make a roast without it.
- around 3kg boneless pork loin (skin on, scored and prepped by your butcher)
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt
- pinch of ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon caraway seeds
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon rapeseed oil (or any other flavourless kind)
- ¼ teaspoon dried chilli flakes
- enough baking potatoes, peeled and sliced to cover the bottom of the dish
- enough onion, peeled and sliced into discs to cover the bottom of the dish
- vegetable stock, enough to cover the bottom of the dish
- 1 tablespoon regular olive oil
Preheat the oven to 220ºC/gas mark 7. If the pork was in the fridge, take it out and bring it to room temperature.
Crush the garlic cloves, with a mortar and pestle if you have one, together with the coarse salt, to form a paste. Add the cloves, caraway seeds, lemon juice, pepper, rapeseed oil and chilli flakes. Combine and mix all the ingredients very well and pour it onto the pork.
Place the potatoes onto the base of a roasting dish and do the same with the onions, then place the pork loin on top. Pour some vegetable stock from the sides of the roasting dish, enough for some gravy and to avoid any dry meat at the end. Eyeball it but avoid using too much.
Roast the pork until the internal temperature reaches 160ºF, or when the pork is cooked through. For a 3kg cut I would estimate a cooking time of around 2 hours, or allowing 35 to 40 minutes for every 450g.
(Recipe adapted from Feast: Food That Celebrates Life, Nigella Lawson, Chatto & Windus, 2004.)