This apricot stuffed pork tenderloin has an aromatic spice rub on the outside and a simple apricot, pine nut and parsley filling. The meat is tender and delicately flavored, and the whole dish is elegant and delicious.
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While we're fans of pretty much anything with bacon, slow cooked pork shoulder dishes (like lechon asado and milk braised pork), I'll admit we're not as big eaters of your leaner more 'regular' pork cuts like chops and loin. I'll be honest, I don't tend to find them that inspiring most of the time.
Pork tenderloin, however, is a cut I definitely make an exception for and this delicious way of preparing it truly lets it shine. Yes, it takes a little bit of preparation, but it is all done ahead. And the end result is so worth it.
What is pork tenderloin?
Pork tenderloin, generally known as pork fillet in the UK, is a long and thin cut of pork. It's the muscle near the spine and is relatively lean, tender and with a great flavor. It's also pretty flexible from a cooking perspective as you can both cook it whole such as roasting or cut it into chunks and for example serve with a sauce. Plus, it cooks quickly.
Leaner pork cuts can be tricky since they don't have a particularly strong flavor but also don't quite have the ability to work with almost any flavor like chicken. 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 to tie a stuffed pork tenderloin
On the face of it, this may seem like a bit of work but it really isn't all that much. I for one quite like that the main work is the night before in adding the spice rub and stuffing. Because of the stuffing, the pork needs to be tied to hold everything in. But don't worry, it certainly doesn't need to be perfect and isn't that hard.
I prefer to tie it together, though you could use cocktail sticks if you prefer. I just find them a little tricky when you come to sear the pork - they tend to get a bit in the way. For this, that's why I find string easier overall.
First, tie a knot on your first loop round the pork at one end. Then you just need to move down the pork a little at a time, put the string around the pork and thread it through the loop you have made, 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 a knot again.
I find it best to loop like this rather than do lots of separate ties as it makes it really easy to take off once it's cooked. Just snip an end tie and the rest largely falls open.
On the day you are cooking, all you do is sear the pork in a pan then put it in the oven to roast. Exactly how long depends on how thick your piece of pork is. You are looking for it to be cooked through, possibly slightly blush in color (145F/65C is the recommended internal temperature for pork).
This would make a delicious and stunning main for a date night or dinner party, but it can really work any night. I'd suggest relatively simple sides such as potatoes or rice and steamed or roasted vegetables.
Alternatively, since there are some Spanish flavors in this, try more Spanish sides such as escalivada (fried peppers and onions) or Catalan-style sauteed chard.
Whatever you have with it, this apricot stuffed pork tenderloin is a delicious, elegant dish. With lots of delicate flavors, it's tastiness in every bite.
Try these other tasty pork recipes:
- Porchetta (Italian roast pork)
- Apple stuffing crusted pork chops
- Steamed bao buns with pork
- Plus get more main dishes in the archives.
Apricot stuffed pork tenderloin
- 3 tablespoon dried apricots chopped, 35g
- 2 tablespoon parsley chopped
- 2 tablespoon pine nuts
- 12 oz pork tenderloin 300g, pork fillet - 1 small-medium, a bit larger (1lb/450g) is fine
- ½ tablespoon olive oil for searing
For spice rub
- 2 cloves garlic
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds crushed/finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- In a small bowl, mix together the chopped apricots, parsley, pine nuts and oregano for the stuffing. Set aside.
- Separately, mix together the spice mix. Roughly chop the garlic then sprinkle over the salt and crush them together with the side of a knife. Crush the fennel seeds in a pestle and mortar or chop finely with a knife. Mix the mashed garlic, fennel, paprika and cumin with the olive oil to a paste.
- 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. If the pork is relatively short and fat, you may want to flatten it slightly at this point. Turn it over so the cut side is down.
- Rub the spice mix all over the outside of the pork then turn it over so the cut side is back up. Add the stuffing all along the middle of the pork, leaving a slight gap on either side.
- Tie up the pork with string by tying a knot around one end, holding the stuffing in, then looping through around an inch/2.5cm 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.
- Cover and leave overnight in the refrigerator to marinade.
- When ready to cook the next day, preheat oven to 400F/200C and take the pork out of the fridge.
- Ideally using an ovenproof pot/skillet so you don't have to transfer, warm the pot over a medium-high heat. Put approx ½tablespoon olive oil in the pan then sear the pork on all sides so it's gently brown.
- Roast the pork for approx 20min, or a little longer (5-10min max) if the meat is relatively thick (aiming to reach min internal temperature of 145F/65C).
- Leave to rest a couple minutes then cut into slices, removing the string before serving.
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Adapted from Andalucian Pork by James Martin. This post was first shared in June 2015 and has been updated, primarily with new photos and a video.