15 July 2015

Roast Spiced Hedgehog of Pork with Gooseberry sauce

Roasting a hedgehog?  Whatever next!  Oh, don't panic - I've not gone THAT exotic - my "Hedgehog" was a piece of hedgehog cut pork - i.e. hatch marks had been cut across the top surface of the piece of pork topside.

Farmer's Choice (Free Range) Ltd  contacted me again and asked whether I would like to devise a recipe for them to use on their new Facebook page for the Dorset and Bournemouth area (Farmers Choice Bournemouth & Dorset).  Naturally, I said yes please!  After all, the produce from Farmer's Choice is so good, why would anyone in their right mind turn them down?

Perfectly roasted and ready to carve
I, pretty much straight away, knew what I was going to go for.  I had been playing about in an imaginary way, with a recipe for spiced roast pork with a gooseberry sauce.  I'd been hoping that our little gooseberry bush would come up with the goods, but regrettably the birdies got there first.

Ready for the oven
I had also been waiting for a suitable piece of pork to turn up in the supermarket for a reasonable price, but that hadn't happened either.  So immediately I went to the pork joint section of the Farmer's Choice website and my eye was caught by the Pork Topside Hedgehog.  As it turned out, I couldn't have asked for a better cut.  With absolutely no waste and as lean as they come, this joint was perfect for everyone in the family and with careful but easy roasting, resulted in a super tender and flavoursome roast which wasn't dry at all.

My order, in the end, became the pork, some gooseberries, a bulb of fennel (also for the sauce) and a wild card entry of a bag of game meat for a game pie which I haven't made yet.  That's what happens when you give me the pick of a site full of produce, you see.  Personally, I think I was very restrained and I'm sure there are many who would have asked for a whole lot more.

The pork recipe was really incredibly simple.  I just wanted something to flavour the outside of the meat with and give it a lovely colour, rather than something to marinate the joint in for hours and provide a more overall kind of flavour input.

As such, the oil-based rub that I came up with - of olive oil, thyme, sweet smoked paprika, garlic, lemon juice and ye olde salt and pepper - was just perfect.  It was able to sink easily into the cut marks across the top of the pork and gave a beautiful colour once roasted.  The flavour was subtle but very much there, depending on how much of the outside of the pork you had on your fork.  Subtlety, folks, I'm all about the subtlety (and poetry, looking at that last sentence).  Well, where roast pork is concerned, anyway.

The roasting was as easy as falling off a log (and I've fallen off a few in my younger days, so I know how easy that is).  For a 1155g piece, I gave it one and a half hours at 180degC (350degF/Gas 4), then gave it a baste and checked the internal temperature was in the range of 77degC - 80degC (meat thermometer - SO useful!) and as such was likely to be done, but still fairly firm.  I then covered the roasting dish with a good layer of aluminium foil and put it back at the much reduced temperature of 130degC for another hour.  Once the hour was up, the whole package was rested for 20 minutes in a warm (but not hot) place.  The meat wasn't fall-apart tender, but I don't much like that in a roast pork joint.  It held together, but you could easily cut it with just a fork.  It was perfect.

You little beauties!
The gooseberry sauce was just wonderful.  The sharpness of the gooseberries cut through the richness of the pork and refreshed the palate, ending on a soft note of fennel which left you ready for the next bite.  The sauce is a little more time-consuming to make, but if you tackle it ahead of time (which I recommend, to give it time to cool) it really doesn't impinge on your day much at all.

The two recipes are really so simple that I don't even have any COOK'S TIPS for you, other than to recommend you keep hold of the fluffy tops and offcuts of your fennel to include in soup or stock, for which they are invaluable.

The finished gooseberry sauce, hiding its zing behind a benign appearance
Gooseberries and pork.  Mmmnnnn, our new favourite thing.  In fact, my hubby was so taken with the combination, he remarked that he hadn't ever had a better piece of roast pork in all his forty-mumble years.  Now that's quite a compliment.


Ingredients :

For the gooseberry sauce :
1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
1 tbsp olive oil
1 bulb of fennel, sliced finely and tops discarded
1 large banana shallot (or equivalent), diced finely
small pinch of salt
quarter of a tsp dried thyme
quarter of a tsp finely ground black pepper
quarter of a tsp vegetable stock powder
1 tbsp & 50ml water
125g dessert gooseberries, tops and tails removed
25g granulated sugar.

For the pork :
1kg or thereabouts topside of pork, mine was hedgehog cut
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
1 tsp dried thyme
1 clove of garlic, grated
2 tsp lemon juice
pinch of sea salt
half a tsp freshly ground black pepper.

Method :

1.  Begin, ahead of time, by making the gooseberry sauce.  Heat a small pan and once hot, add the mustard seeds to toast.  Once they start to pop, decant into a small bowl and reserve.

2.  Heat the olive oil and add the fennel and shallot, plus the sea salt.  Cook gently until the shallot is transparent and the fennel has begun to soften.

2.  Add the pepper, dried thyme, vegetable stock and water.  Bring to a simmer and cook until the fennel is tender.

3.  Taking a stick blender, carefully blend until thoroughly combined, but still retaining texture.  Decant into a bowl and reserve.  Replace the pan onto the heat.

4.  Add the gooseberries directly to the pan and add a tablespoonful of water.  Cover the pan and allow the gooseberries to heat through, giving the pan a little shake every now and then, to prevent them from sticking.  This should only take around 5 minutes if the gooseberries are ripe.

5.  Once the berries are softened and their juice is beginning to escape, add the fennel mixture and mustard seeds and stir to combine.

6.  Add the sugar and remaining 50ml of water.  Stir well, then bring to a simmer and cook until the sauce has reduced to a loose jammy consistency.  Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary, likewise if you think the sauce needs more sugar, correct that too.  Be cautious with the sugar, as you want the sauce to stay tart and not become jam-like.

7.  Once you are happy with the flavour and consistency, decant into a bowl and allow to cool.

8.  Remove the pork from the fridge a good half hour ahead of time.

9.  Place into a roasting tin and mix the seasoning ingredients (oil, paprika, thyme, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper) together.

10.  Spoon the seasoning mix over the top of the pork and rub into all the cracks and crevices.

11.  Put into a pre-heated oven at 180degC/350degF/Gas 4 for an hour and a half.

12.  Remove the pork from the oven and baste it with the juices, then cover with tinfoil and return to the oven.

13.  Turn the oven down to 130degC/250degF/Gas 2 and cook for another hour.

14.  Remove the pork from the oven and baste it again, then replace the tinfoil and leave it in a warm place to rest for 30 minutes, before carving.

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