As the pork came from the oven – a rolled loin seasoned with ginger and mustard seeds – I lifted it on to a dish to rest and I set to work on the roasting juices. Instead of pouring in the usual marsala or white wine or dry sherry, I tossed in a handful of scarlet rhubarb and a ladle of stock. The tin went back into the oven for a few minutes, the fruit softening and sharpening up the roasting juices. I then seasoned it with a little salt and a trickle of honey.
I often roast a larger piece of meat than I need, to give us something for sandwiches later. There will be soft, chewy bread and tufts of watercress, a knife point of mustard perhaps, and I often bubble up any of the roasting juices that remain – a hot, savoury dip for the sandwiches as we eat. This is especially good when those juices carry a little sharpness, as they did this week with their back note of rhubarb.
I have come to the end of the local fruit I froze last year, the gooseberries and the blackcurrants, damsons and plums, so puddings have recently been of the cake or chocolate variety (I’m not complaining.) This week, a cardamom-infused white-chocolate mousse served in tiny cups with a silky crimson sauce of sweetened strawberries (red has been something of a theme in the kitchen of late). Chocolate desserts often work best when they are served in diminutive amounts – a teasingly small espresso cup or a wine glass. And often in the afternoon with a pot of herb tea – lemon verbena perhaps, or fresh mint.
Roast pork loin with rhubarb
I unwrap the pork a good hour or more before stuffing and roasting, waiting until the skin is quite dry to the touch. You will get better crackling that way. Rub a little sea salt into the skin before the pork goes in the oven, but not pepper, which is unnecessary with the spice mix inside. Serves 6
For the spice mix:
coriander seeds 2 tsp
yellow mustard seeds 2 tsp
Sichuan peppercorns 1 tsp
dried chilli flakes 2 tsp
fresh ginger a 30g piece
sea salt 1 tbsp
groundnut oil 2 tbsp
pork 1.75kg, boneless loin, skin scored
chicken stock 200ml
honey 1 tbsp
In a shallow pan over a low heat toast the coriander, mustard, Sichuan peppercorns and chilli flakes for 4 or 5 minutes until fragrant. Transfer to a spice grinder or pestle and mortar, and grind to a coarse powder.
Peel and grate the ginger, then stir into the ground spices with the sea salt and groundnut oil.
If your pork loin has been rolled and tied by the butcher, untie it and lay it skin side down on a chopping board. Rub the spice mix into the meat with your fingers or a palette knife, then roll the meat up and tie firmly with string.
Set the oven at 230C/gas mark 8-9. Place the pork in a roasting tin and rub a little sea salt into the scored fat. Roast for 25 minutes, then lower the heat to 180C/gas mark 4 and continue roasting for 1 hour and 20 minutes.
Trim the rhubarb and cut into short lengths.
When the pork is ready, remove from the oven, transfer to a warm dish, cover lightly with foil and leave to rest while you cook the rhubarb.
Pour most of the fat from the tin (and save it for roasting potatoes or for basting your next roast), then add the rhubarb. Heat the chicken stock and pour into the tin. Return the roasting tin to the oven and continue cooking for 15 minutes, until the rhubarb has softened.
Pour the rhubarb juices from the pan into a small saucepan and place over a moderate heat. Add the honey and stir until dissolved. Check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper as you wish, then carve the meat thinly and serve with the rhubarb and juices.
White chocolate mousse with strawberry sauce
Take care when melting the chocolate, and let it melt without stirring. Makes 8 small mousses
For the mousse:
cardamom pods 10
white chocolate 250g
double cream 250ml
egg whites 3
For the strawberries:
lemon the juice of half
icing sugar 1 tbsp
Crack the cardamom pods and remove the tiny seeds within. Put them in a saucepan with the milk and bring almost to the boil. As soon as tiny bubbles appear on the surface, remove from the heat, cover with a lid and leave to infuse.
Break the chocolate into small pieces, put them in a heatproof glass or china bowl and place the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Leave, unstirred, until the chocolate is almost liquid, then turn off the heat.
Whip the cream until thick enough to sit in soft folds (it shouldn’t be so stiff as to stand in peaks). Beat the egg whites until stiff.
Remove the chocolate from the heat and pour the warm milk over it, through a sieve to catch the cardamom seeds, and stir very gently. Using a large metal spoon, fold the whipped cream into the mixture, followed by the egg whites. Mix thoroughly, but stop as soon as the ingredients are combined.
Pour the mixture into small cups or dishes and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
Make the strawberry sauce: remove the leaves and stalks from the berries, then put the fruit into the bowl of a food processor. Add the lemon juice and icing sugar and process to a thick purée.
When the mousses are set, spoon a little of the strawberry sauce over each one and serve.