Sunday, January 31, 2010

Free Pork? What to do?

As you know, the yum yummers were recently enjoying the launch of the new Food Bloggers category of the Australian Media Food Awards at La Mint, hosted by The Australian Pork Corporation. The goodie bags were mouthwatering and generous, and each of us took home a couple of luscious looking Murray Valley pork loins, and trays of delicious rosemary pancetta.

I am a bit of a pork lover (and don't we ALL love a well done Pork Belly?), however I will say I'm a bit hit and miss with my cooking of pork. As with everything, I think part of that equation in this is the quality of the pork. After trying the Murray Valley pork, I suspect I won't be buying anything else! Surely it can't be fail-proof (or should that be fool-proof? ha ha), but this loin was was so easy to handle and even came through shining after my usually distracted way of cooking dinner. I was incredibly happy with the result.

Firstly, I made a simple marinade of honey, seed mustard and soy. I didn't use just any honey, I used my deeply toffee coloured honey, direct from the bee-keeper, John Donvito.

I used to buy generic brands of honey from the supermarket, but since buying a whole lot of jars of John's honey at a roadside stall in Galston a few months ago, will probably never do so again (unless he's not there again for while...don't leave me John!!). I always thought honey was a purely natural product, made by bees, and not tweaked very much by the brands that packaged it. Now having tried the other style, I guess I'll be doing
some research into what the big brands actually do with the honey and if they add anything to it? Another blog perhaps?

Anyway, I'm convinced there is a very big difference between the two varieties, and will bend John's ear about it next time I catch him. I don't think that'll be a problem, he loved a chat and was happy to talk honey last time.

Ok, honey check, seed mustard...was generic and fine, soy, all mixed with a little dab of oil. Pork in, not for long as I was throwing this together after work and the kids were hungry! Whilst the marinating was underway, I flicked on the oven to 180, and tossed together some assorted green leaves I picked up at the Asian supermarket, a nicer mix than the usual supermarket variety.

I seared both sides of the pork in a hot frypan, just to seal them, then quickly put them back in the baking dish with the marinade and cooked them for 15 minutes with no lid. I just had time to set the table and get everyone sorted, before removing the pork to rest under foil for 10 minutes before carving slices and stacking it on top of the leaves. I dribbled the remainder of the marinade over the top as dressing and voila! I had a warm pork salad ready to serve.

The pork was succulent, sweet, soft and yummy. It was a perfect light dinner for a warm evening. Friday nights we are usually all tired and uninterested in dinner, but there wasn't a skerrick to be seen on any of the four plates! I'm sold. Murray Valley pork is a nothing short of a sensation!

Oh, I shouldn't forget the pancetta, we served that cold with a salad the following day for lunch and thought it was beautiful. The kids were less enamoured with the "black stuff" in the middle, so I think we'll stick with plain pancetta for them next time. Hubby and I have always been porchetta lovers as well, so this is just another choice for another day in our book! If you haven't seen the new Pork ad, check it out !

Over to YaYa here

This is what I did with my Murray Valley pork but first (cue lecture mode) being of the curious researcher type in my day job, and having been introduced to Murray Valley pork chops by my local butcher a couple of years back (who enthusiastically called it the Wagyu of pork and yes it is more expensive than the regular variety) I wondered exactly why the pork was always so tender and juicy, was it a special breed of extra fatty pig, what the farmers fed the pigs or was it the way the meat was processed?
A quick google search reveals the the meat is the product of a company called Rivalea Australia based in the Riverina town of Corowa. According to their website the secret is in the processing of the meat. Murray Valley Pork is brined for you in advance. This is a technique of soaking the meat in a salty solution akin to marinating which locks in the moisture ensuring a tender product. You can do this to any ordinary unbrined meat or poultry but having it pre-brined from the butcher does carry a greater convenience! The brining process doesn't appear to make the pork particularly salty, I guess I would have to cook it without any flavouring to see what it tastes like, perhaps it's only a mild solution as any flavour I add to the cooking process is not exaggerated!

I marinated my pork in lemon infused and plain olive oil, Murray River pink salt, white pepper, some rosemary and a gorgeous saffron flavoured marmalade I had on hand.

A quick pan fry to brown the outside and then popped into a hot oven for about 15 mins

before serving with a mango salsa (mango, red onion, coriander and sweet chili sauce) and some baby potatoes which had been steamed, sprinkled with salt and pepper and olive oil and crushed with a potato masher and sprinkled with nigella seeds before baking.

Thank you to Australian Pork for the opportunity to try out this new recipe! The pork was tender and perfectly cooked, the marmalade adding a slightly bittersweet caramelised bite to the meat which was delicately perfumed by just enough rosemary. The Montecatini rosemary pancetta which we also received in our take home packs was just so good eaten out of the packet, we didn't do anything with it except serve it up with some sourdough bread!

Hey readers, Lobo here

Congratulations for getting this far. I know it's a long post so I'll try to keep this short but when it comes to pork Yaya's Yummers have a lot to say! A Homer Simpson quote sums up my feelings about this amazingly versatile meat quite nicely.
Homer: Are you saying you're never going to eat any animal again? What about bacon?
Lisa: No.
Homer: Ham?
Lisa: No!
Homer: Pork chops?
Lisa: Dad, those all come from the same animal!
Homer: Heh, heh, heh. Ooh, yeah, right, Lisa. A wonderful, magical animal.
Yes Homer a wonderful, magical animal indeed and especially magical when it is received as a gift. So what did I do with the rosemary pancetta? Pan fried pancetta wrapped asparagus with poached eggs anyone?

I tried poaching eggs once before with terrible results and have stayed away from the cooking technique since, always using the more forgiving methods of scrambling and sunny side up. But under the tutelage of Youtube instructional videos, I thought I would give it another go.

I missed the centre of the swirling water a couple of times so the egg white didn't wrap around the yolk but luckily the yolk stayed intact during plating up. I loved the combination of the creamy egg yolk, the salty crispness of the pancetta and the crunch of nicely blanched asparagus. One asparagus hating guest suggested that next time I should replace the foul weed with fried sourdough bread stick soldiers and serve it up for breakfast.

The last couple of weeks have been filled with talk about pork. It seemed to be a consensus with most that their favourite part of the pig is the belly. I just couldn't resist going out and buying some organic pork belly and attempting my fathers crackling pork.

The process requires 2 days of curing with a dry rub so you need to think in advance for a dinner party but it's well worth the wait, the result being a light, extremely crunchy crackling that is brittle and yields easily to your molars. Another success story for pork!


  1. Love what you guys did with the lovely pork! I used mine up very quickly but very unimaginatively. :) Tasted good though! Love the Simpsons quote too. Ha ha (done in Nelson's voice)!

  2. I had to give my pork away to a carnivore friend! Nice job with the poaching - I've just started to cook eggs like this myself. This whirlpool business is hit or miss ... :)

  3. oh baby that pic of the poached egg over the asparagus & pancetta is making me drool

  4. Gorgeous plating Lobo! And that crackling looks fantastic! You'll have to do it again so we can all try it! Yum!

  5. The honey in the supermarket is boiled. Your guy is probably selling raw honey, much much better, tastier and healthier! Of course it also depends on where the bees gather their pollen! Luckily Qatari's like their traditional honey and I can get great quality here... unlike pork! You mentioned 'free pork', well, unfortunately for some, Qatar is 'pork-free'...

  6. I love how we got a recap and recipe for all of your pork dishes! I remember getting the Murray Valley cut before and it was heavenly! :D

  7. Excellent post from everyone! Love the reference to Homer's magical animal (related to Spiderpig?).
    I'm a pork eater rather than a cooker, but all the dishes you made look wonderful.

  8. That is one h*ll of a roast pork crackling! And the poached eggs over the asparagus? I can eat them all :)

  9. ...spiderpig, spiderpig, does whatever a spiderpig does...damn, now it's stuck in my brain, doh!