My day out at Dingley Dell pig farm in Suffolk might not have been very glam but it was seriously good fun.
I don't normally go in for hanging around in pig farms, but the company I work for use Dingley Dell as our pork supplier, and it provides a great sense of pride to all in the business and our customers as Dingley Dell pork not only tastes superb, the animals are welfare reared.
And as the only pig ambassador farm for the RSPCA Freedom Food foundation in the UK, we think its pretty fantastic that our pork has this kind of provenance - a real winner, the pigs taste good and eating them makes us and our customers feel good.
Our day involved a horrifically early start in the morning to tackle the five hour drive to Suffolk, but once there with the glorious weather, and being greeted by the owners of Dingley Dell, brothers Mark and Paul Hayward who were brandishing a plate of bacon sandwiches, we were well on our way for a good day.
A day around the pig farm seeing the sows, piglets and junior pigs was excellent fun, we finished off with a butchery demonstration on a whole half pig and finally, sampling the goods by the lakeside on a giant barbecue - delicious.
Home time came and of course, all that lovely freshly butchered pork needed to be eaten, so we left the farm with our very own pork goody bags (I don't think I've ever been so excited to receive a goody bag, even when I was a child!).
So, in tribute to the friendly and majestic pig, I wanted to do it justice and cook something a little special, and this dish delights the palette, dinner party circuit friends can expect this one soon.
Dinner for two:
2 pork loin chops, ours were French trimmed by our butcher which makes them prettier, but isn't essential
150g puy lentils, uncooked
3 bay leaves
1 braburn apple, peeled and cored, quartered and sliced into segments (this should be the last ingredient you get ready before starting to cook, so the apple doesn't turn brown)
500ml sweet cider
A generous glug (4 shots) of sweet / dessert wine
One chicken stock cube
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cornflour, mixed with a little water
75g creme fraiche (full fat please!)
A big handful of green beans, top and tailed
Butter - a fair amount of it
Olive oil for cooking
Sea salt and black pepper
Mashed potato to serve (if you fancy, we didnt this time).
- Heat your oven to 100 degrees
- Empty your cider into a saucepan, add your chicken stock and sugar and reduce on a medium heat until there is just under half the volume left
- Place your lentils in a pan of cold water, add your bay leaves and bring to a rolling boil, let cook for around 15-20 minutes, you're looking for them to have swollen in size and become al dente and ready to eat. Once done, drain in a colander and reserve
- Now your cider has reduced, add your cornflour to slightly thicken the liqour and cook for a further five minutes. Taste for the seasoning and add salt and pepper as you need, then add the creme fraiche to the pan and stir until combined. Turn the heat down and leave to cook gently, stirring occasionally to make sure they don't catch
- Heat a pan of boiling water ready to cook your beans
- Heat a frying pan on a high heat and add a generous knob of butter and a glug of olive oil
- Season one side of your pork loin chops with sea salt and pepper, and once the butter begins to foam, turn the pan down slightly (still a med-high heat though) and add the pork chops to the pan, seasoning side down
- Move them gently in the pan to make sure they don't get stuck, and cook for 3-4 minutes (depending on their thickness). While they're cooking, season the other side of the chops
- Turn them over and at the same time, add your fine beans to their pan of boiling water (you'll cook them for about 4-5 minutes), add a bit more butter to your frying pan and place your apple segments in there
- After a further 3-4 minutes on the other side both sides of the pork should now have some good golden caramelisation, now remove them from the pan, place in a baking tray or on a plate and pop in the oven
- Turn the apple segments over to get more good colour on them, at the same time you need to drain the beans and leave them steaming in a colander
- Now the apples are looking gorgeous and golden, it's time to add your shots of dessert or sweet wine. I like to cock the pan toward the flame to catch the liquor, this quickly cooks off the alcohol - just make sure you don't set yourself or anything else on fire!
- Once the flames die down and the liquid is bubbling and reducing, add a final knob of butter to the pan and shake it into the sauce until its all dissolved - this will thicken the reduction and give a great sheen
- Time to plate up. A few heaped tablespoons of the lentil and cider sauce to the bottom of your plate, followed by your beans, then pork chop, apple segments and a few spoons of that delicious toffee apple style reduction to finish, then its time to eat. If you're real carb or potato lovers mashed pots would go beautifully with this, served on the side.