Earlier this year I told you that Dan and I had plans to make sure at least once a month we’d try to cook something new out of one of our many, many cookbooks. And how are we doing, I hear you ask? Well, pretty pants. Splitting my time between Birmingham and Loughborough means I’m not cooking at home as often as I’d like, and our weekends have been pretty busy over the last couple of months, so opportunities to flex our culinary skills have been a little limited. Since my last recipe post in February we haven’t managed to have another go at our little project (well, that’s not strictly true – we have tried a few more of those Mac ‘n’ Cheese recipes, but I don’t think Anna Mae’s will want me to publish their entire book on my blog…!) so we made a concerted effort to put aside some time to do so last month, and here is the result..!
A lot of the time when I’m cooking I tend to go for Asian flavours as they are a particular passion of mine, so this time we decided we wanted to try our hand at something a little more traditional. My Mum & Dad had just returned from another trip to Italy (a particular passion of theirs!) and as usual had been raving about the food they ate, so we decided to dust off Gino D’Acampo’s ‘Gino’s Italian Escape’, a book accompanying his ITV show which promises to ‘help you eat like you’re in Italy’ to see what we were missing out on. I mean, who doesn’t love Italian food, right? Pasta, delicious fresh veggies, creamy sauces – comfort food at it’s best! After much deliberation we decided to go with his recipe for pork loin roasted in milk, mainly because we’d never seen a method like this before, so it seemed a great opportunity to learn something new!
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2-3kg Boneless Pork Loin
100g Unsalted Butter
2 Onions, peeled, quartered and studded with cloves
2 Litres Full Fat Milk
2 Bay Leaves
1 Tablespoon Black Peppercorns
Juice of 1 Lemon
6 Spring Onions, sliced
Salt & Pepper To Taste
So first up, as always, our last minute ingredient shopping meant we had to make some changes. Cooking a whole pork loin seemed a bit wasteful for just the two of us (though in hindsight it probably would have made some rather delicious sandwiches so we may well try again at some point!) so we actually bought pork loin steaks instead, and I’m happy to report this worked nicely, though we halved the amount of milk we used as there was far less meat to cook! We also weren’t able to get hold of fresh tarragon (why is getting anything other than the basic fresh herbs in major Supermarkets so damn hard??) – this prompted us to set a reminder to add some to our herb garden next time we were in B&Q, but we had to forgo it on this occasion as I couldn’t think of anything with a similar flavour. We also had some mushrooms we needed to use up, and we thought they’d probably go nicely with the creamy sauce so we added a handful of those for our own twist.
With the oven preheating to 150 degrees or gas mark 2, we started by browning off the meat in a casserole dish to seal it all over (you would do this with the loin too if you chose that over steaks). Next we added the butter and onions for about a minute, before pouring in the milk and adding the bay leaves, rosemary and peppercorns. You need to make sure the pork is completely covered – this is obviously far easier when cooking steaks rather than a joint, which is why we halved the volume of milk in the original recipe. We then popped it in the oven to roast – if doing a whole joint the recipe recommends an hour and a half to 2 hours, but as our steaks were only around an inch thick, half an hour was plenty.
Once cooked, we removed the pork and left to one side while we cracked on with the sauce. For this we skimmed the fat off the top of the top of the milk then simmered it until thickened. We threw our rogue mushrooms in at this point! Towards the end we added the spring onions and flavoured the sauce with the lemon juice, salt and black pepper – this is also where you’d add the tarragon if you have some.
So how did we find it? Bloody delicious!! Pork has never been my first choice of meat, but cooking in the milk made it so tender, it was definitely the most I’ve ever enjoyed a pork dish (that wasn’t shredded and BBQ flavoured, anyway!) We served it with a potato gratin and some tenderstem broccoli which were a perfect match for the rich, creamy sauce. Obviously I can’t say whether or not the tarragon would have made all the difference, but it was perfectly delicious without! This was a massive thumbs up from both of us and we recommend giving it a try wholeheartedly, despite it sounding a little odd to begin with. I can imagine cooking a whole loin and carving it in front of guests would look pretty impressive, when in reality it’s an incredibly simple dish, with very little skill or know how required. It would make a lovely alternative to a Sunday roast, but making it with steaks instead is a prefect quick and easy midweek dinner. Give it a go, you won’t be disappointed!
Buon appetito, as they say in Italy!