Credit where credit’s due – to Mr Oliver, a celebrity chef who is perhaps a little like marmite. Many will disagree I’m sure but I reckon he’s one of the most influential chefs around. Not because he is the master of refinement, not because he has the whole cheeky chappy thing going on (a bit much for me) and not because he is a groundbreaking cook. He’s always on our screens, a little too much perhaps, and often creating new shows with tiresome concepts or getting himself into battles against MPs over school meals and the like. It’s a little bit overkill. And I’m not even mentioning his restaurant empire, merchandise ranged and cookery classes.
The reason I rate his cooking though is because, very simply, he makes things taste good and has cute little ideas that make simple things extra special. He knows how to take something pretty simple, like a Sunday roast, and elevate it to the next level. Like this recipe – adding a sweet cider sauce instead of a gravy, and making that extra small effort to bash up the sage into a paste with oil in order to let the flavour creep right into the flesh of the pork.
Genius ideas, because they are simple, aren’t too crazy or ground-breaking (I mean sage and cider with pork are obvious combinations) and taste brilliant. His recipes always sound delicious, and a little intriguing too.
Jamie Oliver truly is the accessible chef – who doesn’t own one of his books? At uni, the only cookbook we had in our kitchen was Jamie’s America. We used it all the time, making big pots of frugal jambalaya.
I have two of his books, both gifts. I probably wouldn’t go and but one myself, but am always glad to be given them. One, The Naked Chef, was given to me at the age of 11, a school prize. I had no interest in it whatsoever (and was faintly embarrassed that someone thought I wanted to look at a nude chef!), but on rediscovering it recently I now use this book as my homemade pasta bible. It’s full of good ideas.
Today’s recipe comes from Jamie’s Great Britain, a Christmas present that hasn’t been used that much – until recently. If you need great ideas for cooking up a warming, hearty Sunday feast then this is your book. It’s actually a brilliant book if you’re in the mood for a feast. Good ideas for cooking for a group of people.
I chose to serve my pork with a mix of some of my favourite roasted vegetables – fennel and cauliflower, with soft apple chunks too. All three were beautiful with the tender pork. These were tossed in mustard before roasting, but you could just use olive oil if you prefer as there’s already quite a fair bit of mustard in the sauce. I just love love mustard so opted for double helpings!
You will need:
For the pork:
About 1kg free range pork belly
2 white onions
Small bunch of sage
A little olive oil
100ml Creme fraiche
For the roasted fennel, apple & cauliflower
2 fennel bulbs
1 small cauliflower
1 pink lady apple, roughly chopped
1 tbspn Dijon or whole grain mustard
2 tbspn Olive oil
1 – Preheat the oven to 160 degrees while you chop your onions roughly into 1cm thick slices; place these in the bottom of a roasting tin
2 – Now make the sage oil; pound most of your picked sage leaves with around 2 tbspn olive oil using a mortar and pestle
3 – Score your pork fat and rub the sage oil into the fat and flesh; season the pork with salt and white pepper and place into the tin, along with the remaining whole sage leaves
4 – Pour just over half the cider into the tin and cover with two layers of foil; place in the oven for 3 1/2 hours, checking halfway through (and adding more cider if needed)
5 – Meanwhile, break the cauliflower into large florets and slice the fennel (without removing the base) into 1cm thick slices; add to a large pan and cover with water
6 – Once your pork is ready and tender, remove it from the oven and place this veg pot over the stove and heat until the water just starts to boil; flick the grill on
7 – Remove the pork from the pan with the juices; cover the pork and leave it to rest after removing the fat and placing it under the grill in an oven tray
8 – Leave the fat to crackle and crisp, keeping you eye on it; once crisp, transfer it to the bottom of the oven to keep warm and cover it if necessary
9 – Switch the oven back on to 190 degrees, drain your veg that should now be par boiled and spread then, plus the chopped apple across a baking tray
10 – Mix the oil and mustard together and toss the vegetables in it; season well and roast for 30 minutes while the pork rests
11 – Meanwhile heat the juices from the original pork pan on the stove, scraping the juices and sticky bits together; ad the remaining cider and heat until thickened
12 – Once everything is ready to serve, whisk the Creme fraiche into this sauce and spoon onto plates, followed by a generous hunk of melting pork and a crispy piece of crackling, with the roasted fennel, cauli and apple on the side