23 January 2013

Pork tenderloin stuffed with sherry soaked prunes and chestnuts, in a mushroom cream sauce.

During our usual weekly board meeting (when we decide what to eat for the coming week), hubby stated that he had a fancy for roast pork for dinner on Sunday.  That caught my attention, as I love a good roast shoulder of pork (locally sourced in England of course) with a little bit of stuffing and apple sauce.

However, that wasn't what he had in mind.  His idea of "roast pork" is to roast a pork tenderloin.

Now you have to salt this preference with the knowledge of both his and son & heir's dislike of fat on meat.  For him, a shoulder of pork is full of (what he describes as) "globby bits" that at best just turn him right off and at worst make him want to heave.  For me, I can wade my way through any amount of said "globby bits" for some pork with lovely roasty flavour.  It's horses for courses - and as I'm in the minority, it is rare we ever have a piece of fatty pork as a Sunday roast.  However, any pork in a storm (see what I did, there?) is better than no pork at all.

During the week, I started to think about how I could make this dull as ditchwater piece of pork interesting.  Oh come on.  I know that a pork tenderloin is lovely and lean with no "globby bits" and a gentle flavour, but you have to agree with me surely - it's a bit incredibly dull as just roast pork.

It took two days (no, seriously - two days!) before I had a sudden brainwave.  Stuff it, I thought.  No, not "stuff it" as in "oh forget about it, I just don't care any more", but "stuff it" as in "put stuffing inside it".  Aha!  I was onto a winner here.

I finally decided (having gone through many permutations of stuffing in my mind) that it would be good to use up some of the ingredients left over from Christmas, plus to capitalise on the pork's tendency to be rather sweet - but without overdoing it.

So I settled on using prunes and chestnuts.  Both would go well with pork and we had both of them in the house already.  Then, though, I had the most brilliant of brainwaves - why not soak the prunes in sherry?  Ho, yes!  I could use the remaining sherry to bolster the flavour of the mushroom sauce (which was also hubby's choice) and it would add another layer of flavour to the stuffing.

The tenderloin, all stuffed and ready for the oven
Quite by accident (and I don't mind admitting it), I discovered that leaving the prunes to soak for 24 hours is by far and away the better option.  I discovered this by running out of the will to live around about the time I should have been making dinner, on the Sunday.  So we ordered in a pizza and dinner got bumped over until Monday - by which time, the prunes were softly unctuous and gorgeous and I'd recovered.  Hence, if you can remember, do put them to soak with plenty of time to spare!  It's worth it, honest.

.... and all roasted, rested, carved and ready to eat!
The other little tip I have for you, is regarding the soaked porcini mushrooms.  When you take them out of their water to chop, try not to disturb the water too much.  That way, when you come to pouring the water into the sauce ingredients, any grit that has come from the mushrooms won't have been stirred up and wind up in your sauce.  Also, leave the very dregs in the bottom of the bowl - don't add them to your sauce, for the very same reason.  I think most people hate getting grit in between their teeth - and dentistry is terribly expensive these days - so it's worth doing.

Oh, and another point is to watch how much salt you use in seasoning.  It is very worthwhile getting to know how much salt is in a stock cube, so that you can allow for it when making your dishes.  I use all kinds of different stocks - home made, cubes, jelly and powder - and it can really affect the end result if there isn't enough - or even worse, there's too much - salt in the food.  In this instance, because it is difficult to find pork stock, I've used a Knorr Pork stock cube, which are fairly salty and don't come in the low salt variety.

So what did it taste like?

The sage & onion roast potatoes - simply scrumptious!
Well, the pork could have been a little more tender, but it was perfectly nice and very edible indeed.  The chestnut & prune stuffing worked perfectly.  The chestnuts gave that earthy nuttiness while the sherry soaked prune delivered a sweet, vaguely spicy edge to a perfect triumvirate of flavours.  With the sage and onion roast potatoes - which were also designed to match up with the pork flavour perfectly - and some fresh steamed vegetables all bathed in the beautifully intense and creamy sauce, it was heaven.

I might begin to alter my opinion of pork tenderloin, if it always tasted that good!


Ingredients :

10 or so prunes, halved
Medium sherry, enough to cover the prunes
2 tbsp of dried porcini mushrooms (optional)
4 medium Maris Piper potatoes, peeled, rinsed and cut into chunks of approx 1 inch
150g shallots, peeled, topped and tailed
1-2 tsp dried sage 
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
700g pork tenderloin, in one piece
10 or so chestnuts, sliced finely
a length of butcher's string
250g chestnut mushrooms
a pork stock cube, divided into 2 pieces
a knob of unsalted butter
1 tbsp mushroom ketchup (or Worcestershire sauce)
150ml double cream
3 heaped tsp Bisto Best pork gravy granules.

Method :

1.  The day before you are due to make the dish, place the halved prunes into a small bowl and pour in enough Sherry to just cover them.  Cover with a plate (not cling film - you want them to breathe a bit) and leave to absorb the sherry.

2.  Approximately an hour or so before you are due to make the dish, place the dried porcini mushrooms into another small bowl and cover with boiling water.  Cover with cling film and leave to soften.

3.  Place the potato pieces into a large bowl and add 1 tbsp of the oil.  Add all but one of the shallots.  Season well with sea salt & freshly ground black pepper and add the dried sage.  Toss with a spoon to ensure every piece is covered with both oil, herbs and seasoning.

4.  Pour out onto a roasting tray and arrange so that the shallots are in the centre of the tray, where they will be protected from the fiercest heat.

5.  Place on the top shelf of a pre-heated oven at 200degC/400degF/Gas 6 for 30-35 minutes.  You may need to turn the roasting tray part way through cooking, for an even roast.  If the potatoes are cooking faster than the pork, it is possible to take them out of the oven and keep them warm (under the grill, in my case), then put them back in 10 minutes or so before the pork is due to finish, to crisp up.

6.  So, take the tenderloin and carefully trim away any gristle or fat.

7.  Carefully cut through from the side, so that you can stuff the tenderloin - but making sure not to perforate the other side with the knife.

8.  Lay on a layer of sliced chestnuts, then a layer of soaked prunes, then a final layer of sliced chestnuts.  Sprinkle with a tiny pinch of sea salt & a little black pepper.

9.  Take the piece of butcher's string and, starting at one end, loop it at intervals and pull tight to hold the stuffing in place.  Tie off at the opposite end.

10.  Place the tenderloin into a roasting tin and pour over one of the tbsp of oil.  Pour over the remaining sherry from the prunes.

11.  Take two or three of the chestnut mushrooms and chop into small pieces.  Sprinkle them on either side of the pork.

12.  Place half of the stock cube into 200ml of hot water and once dissolved, pour into the roasting dish, then cover lightly with silver foil and place into the oven on the lower shelf, for 30 minutes.

13.  Whilst the pork and potatoes are cooking, prepare the sauce by adding the knob of unsalted butter to a saucepan.  Melt it on a moderate heat and add the one shallot, which should have been chopped finely.  Cook until soft and transparent, but not in any way coloured.  

14.  Add the remainder of the mushrooms - including the drained porcini (but reserve the liquid).  Cook until the mushrooms are softened.

15.  Add 250ml of boiling water, the mushroom liquid and crumble the remaining half of the stock cube into the pan.  Add the mushroom ketchup and stir until the stock has dissolved and bring to a gentle boil.

16.  When the pork has had its 30 minutes, remove the covering silver foil and spoon the majority of the cooking juices (including the mushrooms) into the pan containing the sauce.

17.  Replace the pork back into the oven for another 10 minutes, to gain a bit of colour.

18.  Remove from the oven and cover with silver foil, to rest.

19.  Continue to cook the sauce until it has reduced by almost half and the flavours have intensified to the point where you're thinking that it is really too intense.  Add the double cream and stir through.  Taste for seasoning - you're more likely to need pepper than salt, as the stock cube will probably have been salty.

20.  Before the sauce has time to heat back up, add the gravy granules and stir to combine.  As the sauce heats through, the granules will cause it to thicken and put a bit of an edge back into the flavour.  Set aside to keep warm while you serve.

Serve the pork sliced, with the sauce, roast potatoes and a selection of steamed vegetables.

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