Dear readers and eaters!
I am sorry I haven’t been writing as much lately, but between the holidays and the need to write an essay for my Masters course, I have not had time to cook much of anything (subsisting on Caprese salad and snacks is not a bad life, but I was a bit too busy to grab a camera). Now that the essay is done with, I am back (at least until the next one), and I return to you with some newly-gained insights into food and international law.
Among other fascinating things that I have learned in the course for which I was writing the essay was that both, EU laws and the WTO (World Trade Organization) agreements (to which both, the EU and USA are signatories, among many others) tend to try to lower food standards to lowest common denominator. Why? Because they’re mostly free trade laws (which isn’t bad in and of itself), and not food laws. So they’re not really meant to protect the quality of food, but facilitate its trade. Simplistically speaking.
What can you do to combat the disadvantage that puts you as a consumer? My advice is pretty simplistic (this is what I do myself) – it is that you should shop responsibly – towards yourself if nothing else. Buy meat and poultry locally whenever you can, and if you can’t, buy it from reputable producers (say, New Zealand lamb if your country does not produce it). If you can afford it, don’t buy the cheapest discounted meats (especially if they are from a questionable source far away). I compensate for the bigger single-instance expense by eating less meat, but better quality. I’m not telling you to never buy things on sale – just that, when you do, check their source. It’s going in your mouth, so it makes sense to consider where it came from. The source really does make a big difference (and in flavor, too), believe me!
Being worn out from the holidays and the stress of an essay, what I really want is easy food. And yes, this here is easy food, no matter how fancy it looks. In fact it’s on my list of all-time easiest-to-impress-with recipes. It also pulls together in literally no time.
It is not nearly as fiddly as it looks, and the tangy-sharp and very aromatic combination of apricots and fresh sage cut through the juicy porkiness amazingly well, and it really needs very little on the side – although if you want to make a more substantial meal, boil a few baby potatoes and toss them with parsley and butter, or simply add a bit of good bread. But me, I am happy to shovel this away with nothing but a pile of greens and a slathering of some béarnaise sauce. Especially seeing how I am trying to be good and lower my carbohydrate intake following all the sweets and indulgences of the holiday season. And this, while incredibly luxurious, fits the bill very well indeed.
Yes, I do know dried apricots have carbohydrates in them. But consider the amount I use for the entire meal, and it isn’t that much – and furthermore, they also have fiber which is never a bad addition. Not to mention the out-of-this-world flavor!
What you need (it’s a really very short list):
- Meat mallet and some butcher’s string. If you don’t have a mallet, a rolling pin will also work.
- Roasting tin and rack
- Meat thermometer (optional but very helpful here).
- A pork loin (size depends on how many people you are feeding – mine was 0.6kg and fed 2 to stuffedness)
- A generous pinch chili flakes
- A generous handful fresh sage (I just bought one of those fresh-herbs pots and chopped all of it up)
- 50-75g dried apricots (increase as needed if your pork loin is larger)
- Sea or fine salt (not coarse!) to taste
- A little bit of olive oil to brush the meat (if you are so inclined).
Here’s what you do:
- Preheat oven to about 225°C. Foil your roasting tin for easy cleanup later.
- Finely chop your dried apricots and sage, mix together. Set aside.
- Take your pork loin, rinse, pat dry, and lay out on a cutting board. Remove all connective tissue.
- If it’s flat, butterfly it – cut into it from a side like you’d into a cake to make more layers, but not all the way, then open it up like a book, and if it’s thick, cut it open in a spiral, like a log gets cut into making veneer. You should end up with a roughly rectangular piece of meat about 1-1.5cm thick.
- Cover it with some baking parchment or clingfilm (plastic wrap) and hit it with a mallet some to flatten it out further. I use a combo of the large and small toothed sides of the mallet, and the flat end to finish, but be careful with the large teeth – the meat is pretty tender and you don’t want it falling into shreds.
- Remove plastic wrap, and scatter the chili flakes over the meat. Salt lightly, and spread the apricot and sage mixture over most of the area, leaving a couple of centimeters (about an inch) on the longer side of the meat clear.
- Roll the meat up starting from the side opposite the one with a clear margin into a log. The clear margin is there to avoid stuffing falling out too much.
- Tie with buther’s string at about 2-3cm (1 inch) intervals. It helps to have someone else hold the knots while you tie if you aren’t so handy with those – I’m not!
- Brush with olive oil, and set on the rack seam-side up.
- Roast for about 30 minutes for a small (0.5-0.6kg loin), or until internal temperature is between 72-75°C (160-170F). Former number for medium-well, latter for well-done. Since this is pork, I prefer to rely on the thermometer to be sure when to take the meat out of the oven. Underdone pork is not just dangerous but also not at all appetising to me, and overdone dried-out meat is never any fun. So, invest 5€ in a simple metal one, it’s worth it!
- Take out of the oven and let rest tented with foil for about 10 minutes.
- Place on cutting board, remove string and slice into neat pretty apricot-jewelled slices.
Impress people. Or just munch yourself happily.