Boy and I are in a feud that neither of us are prepared to back down on. The feud concerns Yorkshire puddings – a topic that, when in agreement, can bring two people together in a gravy-filled jacuzzi of union. When in disagreement, a topic that can leave a relationship in a sad, soggy mush of Aunt Bessie’s not-so-finest. The argument; can a Yorkshire pudding sit alongside a roast chicken dinner? Boy reckons that not only is a Yorkshire fit to adorn the plate of a roast chicken, but that any roast – pork, gammon, by God even duck – is incomplete without one or two or six, squeezed tightly around the lip of your plate and creating an elegant cascade of gravy onto the rest of your dinner. I, however, am a stickler for tradition. Yorkshire pudding is for beef. Beef and only beef. I’ll stretch to accept a sausage in the form of toad in the hole, but primarily, beef is its sole companion.
So, in a bid to settle our disagreement/prove him wrong, I Googled. No definitive answer, but I was happy to find that this argument is heated enough to have reached The Oxford Union back in 2014 as the first ever foodie-related debate (results inconclusive – how reassuring that even the future great minds of the world couldn’t come to an agreement). I also managed to satisfy my own justification in an article by The Telegraph discussing the rightful place of the Yorkshire pudding. Scrolling through the opinions of various food writers and cooks (and hoping my favourites shared the same opinion as me), I read that Diana Henry (one of said favourites) had written ‘personally I wouldn’t have roast chicken with Yorkshires, but that’s because I love stuffing and bread sauce – quite enough starchy stuff’. A definitive answer as far as I’m concerned. Boy thinks I’m a roast dinner despot, I think I’m just exercising some self restraint. Bacon is good, but you wouldn’t serve your roast beef with some sliced of bacon sitting on top, would you?
This led me onto other things I consider to be non-negotiable the kitchen. I generally think myself to be quite liberal with food; eggs and cheese go with everything, miso paste in gravy is generally a good thing, and to Dad’s shock and unease, I regularly make mash for the family with things other than potatoes (he generally won’t notice until Mum points it out and he says ‘right. Can we go back to regular mash next time?’ and supplements the lack of tatty with a few slices of white slathered with Benecol). But, especially around Christmas time, certain protocol need to be adhered to;
Crumpets need to be in the house the entire month of December. Roast dinner must always contain roast potatoes and never mashed (and as for the exuberant families who have both? Pure hedonism). Sprouts feature on the menu at least once a week in various forms despite me being the only one who likes them. The Christmas cake (there is always a homemade Christmas cake, even though we know half of it will go to the birds in January) has to have been made in October and suitably saturated with brandy – when it comes to decorating it has to fill the room with the kind-of-sweet-but-also-medicinally-alcoholic tang. And I must always spend the weeks leading up to Cake Decorating Day (notice capitals to indicate importance) searching for inspiration, and leaving two full days free in the calendar to dedicate to topping last year’s creation (and saving up because I always end up buying half of Lakeland).
And then there’s Christmas Day. Mum always does the turkey (always a turkey), I do the veg (potatoes, parsnips, carrots, spinach, mashed swede, sprouts. No deviation allowed). Dad stays out the kitchen and plays with whatever household/garden tool we got him for Christmas (last year it was a cordless hoover). We eat, we miss the Queen’s Speech, we fall asleep until it’s time to make an unnecessary but also very necessary turkey/stuffing/cranberry/brie sandwich at 9pm.
I’m all for being creative and different with food but, especially at Christmas time, it’s just not the same if we skip the Christmas cake or serve mash instead of swede or swap our turkey for beef (even if that means the addition of Yorkshire puddings to Christmas lunch…). Though I love hearing what other people consider to be paramount in the food rule book, there’s nothing that can sway me to change my sprouts for broccoli or, God forbid, add a Yorkshire just because. Some boundaries are key.
Today’s recipe is for a roasted pork loin wrapped in bay leaves and pancetta adapted from Jessica Seaton and Anna Colquhoun’s Gather Cook Feast; probably one of the quickest and most satisfying roasts in the world. No Yorkshire needed, promise. The salty pancetta and fragrant bay with a cider sauce and some roasted apples provide more than enough flavour, with potatoes any way you please on the side.
Roast Pork Loin with Sage, Pancetta and Apples for 4
1 pork tenderloin
About 12 thin slices of unsmoked streaky bacon or pancetta
15 fresh bay leaves
1/2 large leek, halved down the middle and sliced into half moons
1 garlic clove
1 bottle/can of medium dry cider
150ml chicken stock
A splash of cider vinegar
A knob of butter
2 tart eating apples, cored and cubed
1 tbsp cornflour
sugar, to taste
- First, prep any form of roast potatoes you fancy; the pork only takes half an hour or so, so you want to get your spuds on early. I actually served a butternut squash puree first time round, but in future would prefer something like hasselbacks or mash.
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Pat you pork loin dry and rub all over with olive oil and seasoning. Set aside.
- Line up all the slices of bacon side by side, with each overlapping the other a little to make a big square of bacon a little larger that the length of the tenderloin. Lay the bay leaves on top of the bacon, leaving space at the edges for the bacon to overlap when wrapped around the pork.
- Place the pork at a right angle across the line of the bacon – the rashers should poke out on either side of the pork. Then, one by one starting at the top, plait the rashers of bacon across and over the top of the pork loin until it is completely covered and resembles a big bacon plait, as pictured above.
- Get a large roasting tray with a rack and lay the underneath of the rack with the leeks and garlic, before placing the pork carefully on top of the rack. Pour in the veg stock before placing in the oven to roast for 30-35 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make your apples. Heat a frying pan on medium and melt the knob of butter before adding the apple chunks. Turn the heat down low and let them cook until tender and golden; about 15 minutes.
- When the pork is done, lift it out onto a carving board and return the pan, with the leeks and meat juices, to the hob on high. Pour around 100ml of cider and let reduce. To thicken (once reduced, you may not actually need to thicken; it’s all personal preference), stir together a tbsp of cornflour with a glug of cider and add, bit by bit, whilst stirring, until the desired consistency is reached. Season with salt, pepper and sugar to taste.
- Serve slices of the pork with your potato of choice, a spoonful of apples and the sauce. Don’t eat the bay leaves like Dad did when I served this.