I get my pork form Ann Gray of Ravensworth grange farm (0191 4877221), opposite the Angel. Her pigs are the happiest pigs I have ever seen, and the quality of the meat cannot be bettered. Ann sells her meat at Newcastle and Hexham Farmers markets once a month. Pork is available all year round but in the winter pigs put on fat, which makes the meat even sweeter and tastier, so it is the best time of year to eat them.
You can make gravy by adding half a tablespoon of flour to the vegetables in the roasting pan and then stirring in some chicken stock or by adding half beer and half stock and simmering for 15 minutes or so.
Potatoes, apple and sage are a great combination and have a perfect flavour to partner a cut of pork like this. It’s a classic eastern European combination known as ‘heaven and earth’ to accompany pork. You can serve some greens with the meat such as purple or white sprouting broccoli, (at their best in February and March) or my favourite, sprouts, split in half briefly boiled and mixed with some crispy fried bacon, roasted chestnuts and some chopped parsley.
1 piece of pork loin, boned, weighing about 1.5-2kg (boned weight)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
a few sprigs of thyme
300ml Mordue brewery Workie ticket or other good bitter
For the ‘heaven and earth’
6 large main crop potatoes 300-400g all together peeled and roughly chopped
2 cooking apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
½ tablespoon brown sugar
5-8 sage leaves torn up
Preheat the oven to 220ºC/gas 7. Season the meat, score the rind in a criss-cross fashion with a sharp knife (Ask your butcher to do this pork, or use a Stanley knife), season well and cook in a roasting tray for 30 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 160ºC/gas 3, add the vegetables and thyme to the pan and return to the oven.
Spoon some bitter over the meat every so often until it’s all used and drain away any excess fat into a container during cooking. Cook the pork with the skin side up for the last 45 minutes to crisp up the rind.
Towards the end of that time, make the apple, potato and sage mix: cook the potato in boiling salted water for 10-12 minutes until tender, drain and coarsely mash. While the potato is cooking, melt the butter in a pan, add the apples and sugar, cover and cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the apples are falling apart, then add the sage and allow them to soften in the heat. Mix with the mash and season to taste. Allow the meat to rest for 15 minutes in a warm place. Carve the pork into thickish (1cm) slices and serve with the apple potato and sage mix, and gravy.