So today is exciting for a couple reasons for me that I suspect not many of you will necessarily share, but I’m going to tell you about them anyway. First of all, it’s my first post after our big long trip – yes we are finally home! We had lots of fun with friends and family in Malaysia, the UK and Denmark, and did a spot of sightseeing (and eating of course) too, but it’s nice to be back home too. The other reason it’s exciting is I’m co-hosting Fiesta Friday again – let’s hope my still-slightly-jetlagged body will manage to keep up the party spirit! Or if not, then hopefully Angie and my other co-host Loretta @ Safari of the Mind can help fill the gaps. Do head over and see all the delicious dishes everyone is bringing, and add one yourself if you blog. I’ve got a few food ideas from the trip I’m hoping to work on and share over the coming months, but for now I’m still recovering so am sharing something from before I left. This stuffed pork tenderloin is at least party-worthy to me, so I hope you’ll be excited by this, if not the rest of my news!
Pork tenderloin, or pork fillet as it is generally known in the UK, is a wonderfully tender cut which generally stays pretty moist and is pretty flexible from a cooking perspective as a result. It can be cut into chunks and cooked in sauce, or as here, roasted whole with a spice rub on the outside and/or stuffing inside. Here I have gone for both, and the flavors are delicious. I have called this Spanish-style but that’s more because the flavorings are fairly Spanish, at least in the Moorish-influenced part, rather than that it’s a Spanish dish. That said, Spanish do have a great affinity with the pig so it’s the sort of dish I could imagine having there.
Pork can be tricky at times as it doesn’t have a particularly strong flavor but still doesn’t have the ability to work with such a range of flavors as chicken, for example. However the mildness does lend itself to dishes such as this where the flavors are more delicate and aromatic. This dish has subtle flavorings that work so well with pork in a way they just wouldn’t with red meats. Also, the meat stays deliciously moist and is really tender.
How it’s made
On the face of it, this may seem like a bit of work but it really isn’t, and I quite like that the main work is the night before in stuffing and then tying the meat. Because of the stuffing, the pork needs to be tied to hold everything in. Don’t worry about this being fiddly, it’s really not that hard – tie a not on your first loop round the pork, then you just need to move down the pork a little at a time, put the string around the pork and loop it through where you started going round, as in the picture above. Gently pull it to tighten without forcing the stuffing out – you just want the string snug against the meat. Keep doing this until you get to the end then tie again. It’s best to loop like this rather than do lots of ties as it makes it really easy to take off once it’s cooked.
On the day you are cooking, all you do is sear/brown it in a pan then put it in the oven to roast. To serve, just cut the string and cut the pork into slices, either cutting the string first or after, it doesn’t really matter. This would make a delicious and stunning main for a dinner party, but is also just great to enjoy on any night at home. Relatively simple sides such as potatoes or rice and steamed vegetables would go nicely, or a more classic Spanish side such as escalivada (fried peppers and onions) or even Spanish tortilla. Whatever you have with it, it’s a delicious dish, lots of delicate flavors but tasty in every bite.
Spanish-style stuffed pork tenderloin (fillet)
- 1 lb pork tenderloin 450g, fillet - 1 small-medium, a bit larger is fine
- 4 tbsp dried apricots chopped
- 3 tbsp parsley chopped
- 2 tbsp pine nuts
- 1 tbsp fresh oregano chopped
- 1 tsp fennel seeds crushed
- 2 cloves garlic crushed with a little salt
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Cut off any excess fat or sinewy bits from the pork and then carefully cut along one side the whole length of the pork, being careful not to cut the whole way through so it flattens out. Turn it over so the cut side is down.
- In a small bowl, mix together the chopped apricots, parsley, pine nuts and oregano for the stuffing.
- Separately, mix together the spice mix - the fennel seeds, garlic, paprika and cumin (I do this in the pestle and mortar since I use that to crush the fennel and garlic).
- Rub the spice mix all over the outside of the pork, turn it over so the cut side is back up then put the stuffing all along the middle.
- Tie up the pork with string by tying a knot around one end, holding the stuffing in, then looping through around an inch apart the whole way along the pork, carefully pulling the string to tighten as you go. Tighten so that the string is taught against the meat but doesn't push the stuffing out (see picture above for looping trough). When you reach the other end, tie another knot to secure.
- Leave overnight in the refrigerator to marinade.
- When ready to cook the next day, preheat oven to 400F/200C.
- Ideally using an ovenproof pan so you don't have to transfer, put a little olive oil in the pan then sear the pork on all sides so it's gently brown.
- Roast for approx 20min for slightly pink, a little longer (5-10min max) for no pink.
- Cut into slices to serve and remove the string.
Adapted from Andalucian Pork by James Martin.