If you’re casting about for a special occasion meal to make, perhaps for Valentine’s Day, you might like to give this a try. Most of the prep can be done the day before, allowing you to spend more time necking champagne – or just necking.
I realise it’s not the most romantically-named dish, but my husband loved it and although he’s partial to a box of Maltesers, I know which he’d rather have on February 14. I’d eat it any day of the week. It’s a pork fillet, stuffed with white pudding, apples and shallots, wrapped in pancetta and served with a creamily delicious apple and cider sauce. We had baby potatoes and broccoli on the side.
Any leftovers are excellent cold, thinly sliced and served with a crunchy, fruity salad: something like finely shredded fennel, celery and apple or chicory and blood orange. It’s so good cold, in fact, that if we are ever in a position to hold a summer party again I’ll be making it specially. It tastes a little like porchetta (thanks to a herby pancetta cure) with a meltingly soft middle.
For the record, I used white pudding and pancetta made by Norfolk’s excellent Fruit Pig, who do mail order. I didn’t season the meat beyond stuffing it and wrapping it as described below because the Fruit Pig products did the job for me. If you’re using a different make, check the seasoning on your white pudding by frying and tasting a small piece first and proceed accordingly. The pancetta will naturally be salted already.
Pork Fillet with White Pudding
1 pork fillet/tenderloin (mine was 430g)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 banana shallots, peeled, halved lengthways and finely sliced or 1/2 white onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 stick of celery, trimmed, de-stringed and finely chopped
100g white pudding
1 small, sharp eating apple, peeled, cored and diced small, tossed in a squeeze of lemon juice
250g pancetta (approx: I used 7 large slices)
For the sauce (adapted from Delia Smith):
Double the quantities if cooking for more than 2-3
2 banana shallots or the other half of the onion, finely chopped
1 small, sharp eating apple, peeled, cored and diced, tossed in a squeeze of lemon juice
1 tsp olive oil
1 knob of butter (about a heaped tsp)
1 heaped tsp caster sugar
Sprinkle of salt
200ml dry cider or dry apple juice
1 or 2 tbsp crème fraîche
Make the stuffing: heat the oil in a small pan and fry the shallots and celery, sprinkled with a little salt, until soft and golden. Stir often so the onion doesn’t catch. Remove to a mixing bowl and set aside to cool.
Then mix in the white pudding and diced apple – the easiest way is to get your hands in there and smoosh. Put to one side.
Strip any silvery skin from the pork fillet by wiggling a sharp knife under it and pulling away. Make a lengthways cut down the middle of the fillet without slicing all the way through and open it out like a book.
Place a sheet of baking paper over and bash it with a rolling pin (or – carefully – with an empty wine bottle) until it’s thinner and you have a roughly equal rectangle. One end will be narrower than the other so you can use that for patching if necessary.
On a sheet of baking paper lay the pancetta slices, overlapping slightly, in a rectangle roughly the same length as the pork fillet. Lay the fillet on top, at right angles to the pancetta and about 5cm above the bottom edge.
Place the stuffing on one half of the pork fillet, flip the other side over and roll up to cover completely with the pancetta. (Don’t worry about the ends.) Wrap in the baking paper and place in the fridge to firm up for a couple of hours or overnight.
Shortly before you want to eat, heat the oven to 180C/160 fan/400F/Gas Mark 6. Heat a tablespoon or two of oil in a large ovenproof pan and brown the fillet, turning gently until golden all over. Turn it seam side down, place in the oven and cook uncovered for 20-25 minutes.
Start the sauce: in a small shallow pan, heat the butter and oil and add the shallots and apple, sprinkled with the sugar and a pinch of salt. Cook gently for 8-10 minutes, stirring often, until soft and caramelised. Remove to a plate.
When the meat is done, remove to a plate, cover loosely and rest somewhere warm while you finish the sauce. Skim most of the fat from the roasting tin, place the pan on the hob and pour in the cider, stirring to loosen the good browned bits on the bottom. Cook on a fairly high heat, stirring from time to time, until the cider has reduced and turned syrupy.
Off the heat, whisk in the crème fraîche, then add the apple and shallot mixture and return to a gentle heat until warmed through. With a sharp knife, cut the meat into thick slices and serve the sauce on the side.