Meat feast reinvented

Naturally, my initial reaction was to respond with both panic and sadness when, as I handed her a plateful of my carefully considering cooking, my sister threw around the words ‘meat feast’. Ordinarily, this very phrase is enough to curl my toes with horror, with its sordid connotations of greasy, mystery-meat laden, late-night pizzas or overly carnivorous Subway subs. However, gladly, upon eating the dish, all of my preconceived fears mercifully seemed to melt away. Remarkably, this recipe seems to administer its admittedly heavy meat content most graciously, not to mention it bearing a far more elegant accompaniment than most dishes characterised with this vulgar expression. I have to concede that the tender, juicy pork loin, stuffed with herby sausage meat and then wrapped in salty parma ham, paired with rich and creamy butter beans is exceedingly delicious, if not rather decadent. Though lacking the British criteria of potatoes and two veg, I think this would make a very acceptable offering as a Sunday roast; pulses are hideously underused and underrated when pinned against the argued versatility of that humble tuber. Perhaps most convincing a validation would be that the whole dish takes only 50 minutes from start to finish.

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Stuffed pork fillet with creamed butter beans

Serves 4-5

FOR THE MEAT

  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 400g pork fillet (or pork tenderloin)
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 14 slices (2 packets) parma ham
  • 2 herby pork sausages (try to find ones made with sage; otherwise just add a small bunch of chopped fresh sage), skin removed
  • 30g fresh breadcrumbs

FOR THE CREAMED BUTTER BEANS

  • 40g unsalted butter
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 150ml white wine
  • 400ml double cream
  • 2 x 400g tins butter beans, drained and rinsed
  • 260g young leaf spinach
  • Small bunch flatleaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • Squeeze lemon juice

 

  1. Heat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/gas 7. Heat a glug of oil in a large frying pan and add the pork. Fry for 3-4 minutes over a high heat to sear all over, then set the pork aside on a board (leave the pan on the hob).
  2. Lower the heat under the pan, then add a quarter of the onion and fry for 5 minutes or until it starts to soften. Meanwhile, lay out the parma ham slices on a work surface so each slice is slightly overlapping widthways, making a rectangle the length of the pork. Put the softened onion in a mixing bowl to cool; reserve the frying pan for later.
  3. Once the onion has cooled, mix with the sausagemeat, sage and breadcrumbs – it’s easiest to use your hands here. Season with salt and pepper. Slice the pork lengthways about three quarters of the way through, then open it out like a book. Top with the stuffing, then sandwich together, packing in the stuffing as best you can. Put the pork on top of the ham, then wrap the ham around to enclose the pork and secure the stuffing.
  4. Put the pork in a roasting tray, then roast for 20 minutes. After this time, turn the oven down to 200°C/ 180°C fan/gas 6, then cook for 15 minutes more or until a digital thermometer pushed into the thickest part of the meat reads 72-75°C (the pork will feel quite firm). Set aside to rest for 5-10 minutes, then slice.
  5. Once you’ve turned down the oven for the pork, prepare the beans. Set the reserved frying pan over a medium heat and melt the butter with a glug of oil. Add the remaining onion and fry for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and flour, then stir for 2-3 minutes. Add the wine, then turn up the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes to reduce the liquid. Meanwhile, wilt the spinach with a small knob of butter in another pan.
  6. Add the cream to the onions, then the wilted spinach. Stir in the butterbeans to warm through, then taste and season. If your sauce seems too thick, loosen it with any extra cream, wine or just some milk. Finally, stir in the parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice. Serve with the sliced pork.

 

Recipe adapted from Lottie Covell at Delicious Magazine

 

Riding House Café

Brunch, it seems, has become a quintessential feature of modern, urban life. Charming though it undoubtedly is, I can’t help but feel a certain sense of surprise in both it’s popularity and it’s sheer staying power; I think we all expected it to be a trend of the late nineties that would firmly be left behind along with the girls of Sex and the City and centre-parting bowl cuts. It’s not only that fact that brunch is just about the only meal that can get away will being hideously overpriced (everyone is either too hungover or in such a Sunday morning zen that they don’t care) but also that it seems rather inconvenient on a practical level; does brunch mean we only two meals in that day? Is the consumption of a pre-brunch breakfast socially unacceptable? What do we eat to fill the culinary void between brunch and dinner? The questions that have been unanswered for over a decade seem never-ending.

Despite all this, I do remain very much partial to the occasional brunch. One place that is doing brunch right is The Riding House Café found in West Fitzrovia. Restaurants like this one can either seem suffocatingly tired and heavy on a Sunday morning or else awkwardly over-smart, but the atmosphere was friendly and relaxed, and it was incredibly refreshing that a London restaurant wasn’t trying to cram as many punters into the space as possible. The meal was subsequently more peaceful, more private, and we felt decidedly less like cattle. Elegant and light, the dining room was styled around a classic bistro and featured beautiful ochre leather booths and potentially the most kitsch light fittings I’ve ever seen, featuring taxidermy squirrels climbing up the wood-panelled walls to the bulb.

The brunch menu itself was the best I’ve seen in terms of both variety and balancing the traditional and the novel; the conventional eggs benedict was in good company with both a modern twist on the classic, starring the achingly fashionable avocado, along with a shmancy lobster edition. Both of my dining partners were lured by the brioche French toast, a dish that achieved outstanding levels of decadence with its accompaniments of clotted cream and lashings of maple syrup.

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Brioche French Toast
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Chorizo Hash Brown

Having slaked my thirst with Riding House’s freshly squeezed orange juice – the ambrosia of Sunday mornings – I opted for the chorizo hash brown, which I gleefully remarked was served in the crockery du jour; the skillet, inside of which was a divine amalgamation of charred peppers with fluffy, buttery potatoes, soft caramelised onions, all studded with morsels of salty, smoky chorizo. At the bottom of the pan was just enough crispy kale for me to kid myself that I was dutifully consuming a portion of greens and one of my five a day before noon. My only grumble is that, disappointingly, the egg yolks weren’t runny, which was fairly upsetting on a personal level.

Warning – make sure to book here in advance for weekends to avoid scrabbling for antisocial meal times and/or queuing all the way down the street .