Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Herb-stuffed roast leg of pork with crackling, cider gravy and spiced caramelised apples

Roast pork is awesome value for money - it's a lot cheaper than beef or lamb but still very flavoursome, more so than chicken. Some recipes will tell you to trim the skin off, but this is stupid because that way you don't get awesome crispy crackling on the outside. Removing the skin is beneath you; don't do it to the pork, but most importantly, don't do it to yourself. Learn to love yourself and make proper crackling.

I've seen various different methods for making crackling, such as pouring hot water on it the night before, rubbing it with cider vinegar and/or making a human sacrifice to Michael Bolton. I find you get great results doing it via this simple method. A 1kg joint will serve about 4 people.

  • Pork leg joint, boned and rolled with the skin ON DAMN YOU (1 kg).
  • Leaves from 3 sage sprigs
  • 2 tbsps parsley leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 medium onions
  • 1 lemon
  • 300ml cider
  • 300ml vegetable stock
  • Olive oil for drizzling plus 1 tbsp to fry the apples
  • 1 knob of butter
  • Rock salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Seasonabl vegetables, to serve
  • 8 cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 Braeburn apples
  • About 1 tbsp muscovado sugar
  • 1 tsp marmite


  1. Get the pork out about an hour before you want to put it in the oven. Score the fat in a cross-hatched pattern with a very sharp knife (you can use a stanley knife for this) and rub some rock salt into it, making sure you get plenty of crystals into the cracks.
  2. Butterfly the pork joint by cutting into the indent so that you can open it out (don't cut right through). Peel and finely chop the garlic cloves and sprinkle them onto the opening, along with the sage and parsley leaves, then grate half the lemon's skin onto it. Tie it back together at regular intervals with string.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
  4. Peel and chop the onions into half-moons and put them in the bottom of a roasting tin. Put the pork on top, covering the onions as much as possible to stop them burning in the oven (it isn't the end of the world if this happens, it just means you won't be able to eat the onions themselves, the gravy will still be fine). Drizzle it with olive oil and pour about half or two thirds of the cider into the bottom of the tin.
  5. Roast in the oven for an hour, then whack the heat up to full blast for about 20 minutes to make the skin go crispy. It should be a golden brown colour like in the picture. There's your crackling!
  6. To do the apples, core and chop them but don't peel them. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a pan on a medium heat and add the butter. Add the cloves and the cinnamon stick to the pan for a minute or two until they're fragrant and sizzling, then add the apples. Sprinkle the sugar over them and toss it all around to get an even coating. Cook the apples for about 5 minutes on each side.
  7. When the pork is done, transfer it to a carving board and cover it with tin foil to rest for about 10-15 minutes. In the meantime, make the gravy: deglaze the pan, adding a little more cider if necessary, add the stock and marmite and reduce until the thickness and flavour is to your liking. Strain it into a jug, discarding the onions if they're burned or reserving them if they're not.
  8. Serve with seasonal vegetables; today I did roast potatoes to accompany it, with a little English mustard on the side. Braised cabbage goes very well with it too.

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