January is mid-Winter here in the islands, which doesn't mean a huge change in temperatures but it's cooler in the evenings and the sun sets just after 6pm. The island sparkles with daily rain squalls, everything is green and all the fruit trees are bearing fruit again. We're beginning to appreciate the nuances between the seasons on our island, although it's hard to ever see any seasonal difference in the supermarkets as produce is shipped in from all over the world (giving us probably one of the worst carbon footprints on the planet). One therefore has to find small pleasures in subtle differences and if anything, seasonal rituals become even more important to mark the changes throughout the year.
Food is a good place to start.
On Sunday we had friends around for lunch and we decided to go the 'whole hog' and have a good old roast with lots of root vegetables and a 'proper' pudding, not the kind of cooking or eating one would want to be doing in the torpor of hot and humid Summer afternoons.
We settled on a pork loin which we served with roasted polenta rosemary potatoes and roasted root vegetables including celeriac, turnip and butternut. Along with some peas and apple horseradish sauce we also made Bill Granger's Almond & Raspberry Slice from his eminently 'cookable' book Holidays, which I seriously overbaked but which normally turns out brilliantly.
Sunday Lunch Pork Roast
We adapted Nigella Lawson's Cinghiale recipe from her tome Feast, as the spicing is surprisingly similar to the jerk seasoning we use here in the West Indies. Obviously without the scotch bonnets. We used tasty, local pork which the butcher deboned and rolled for us - just remember to ask the butcher for the bones and rind so as to make gravy and crackling. Much to everyone's silent disappointment, I'd forgotten to this step on Sunday.
1 1/2 tbsp juniper berries
- Whizz up all the spices in a coffee grinder or bash with a rolling pin in a freezer bag. Turn into a bowl and add the bruised garlic cloves, molasses, oil, Worcestershire sauce and the sugar. Whisk together before adding the rum and wine.
- Put the pork loin into a large freezer bag and pour in the marinade, leave overnight in the fridge or longer, if you can.
- Let everything come to room temperature whilst you preheat the oven to 400ºF. Line a roasting tin with foil, as the sugar in the marinade will make the pan burn.
- Place the loin on the bones and pour 2 cups of the marinating liquid over the pork keeping back any marinade to make the gravy later. Roast the pork for 30 minutes per pound plus an extra 30 minutes. We always use a meat probe to check if the meat is done (should have an internal reading over 140F).
- When the pork has cooked about half way, put the rind in a shallow roasting tin and put it on the rack under the pork. When the meat is cooked turn the oven up to the hottest it will go to let the crackling cook. After about 20 minutes, the pork will be ready for carving and the crackling should be ready.
- Make the gravy (which I didn't on Sunday) by removing the bones and whisking in the remaining marinade with whatever juices remain into a saucepan, adding as much water as you need to dilute into a gravy.
Polenta-encrusted rosemary roast potatoes
- Allow one potato per guest
- Peel, cut into 3 pieces and boil for about 5 minutes in lots of salted water
- Finely chop about a handful of rosemary, mix with 2 cups of polenta and salt and pepper
- Drain potatoes and pour in a good slug of olive oil
- Sprinkle polenta mixture over the potatoes and shake up in the saucepan with the lid on to make sure all the potatoes are coated and also slightly bashed up (for maximum crusty roasted-ness)
- Roast for about an hour, turning over a couple of times