Monday 16 February 2009

Roast Pork Neck with Leeks, Carrots and Apples

Roast Pork Neck with Leeks, Carrots and Apples
Pork neck is an inexpensive yet most tender cut, with a delicate, sweet taste that lends itself to all sorts of flavour combinations. I don't know why you can't buy pork neck (or pork belly, for that matter) in your average South African supermarket: I suppose because the words 'pork' and 'neck' put together just sound tough and brutish, like 'knuckle gristle' or 'elbow grind'.

If you have a good butcher - I buy my pork from the incomparable Seemann's, in Strydom Park, Johannesburg - ask him for this cut. It's excellent in stews and casseroles, and lovely roasted in the oven with garlic, olive oil and fresh herbs. It also lends itself well to dark, spicy Oriental glazes: try coating a piece of pork neck in a mixture of soy sauce , honey, rice wine and orange juice wine flavoured with ginger, garlic and five-spice powder, and baking it at a low temperature for three or four hours until it's so tender you can shred it with a fork.

In this recipe, the pork is slow-cooked (after a preliminary hot-firing for browning purposes) on a bed of carrots, leeks and onions, with apple wedges and fresh sage adding sweetness and punch.

Roast Pork Neck with Leeks, Carrots and Apples

For the roast:
a piece of pork neck (about 1.3 kg), trimmed of large bits of fat
2 Tbsp (30 ml) wholegrain mustard
2 Tbsp (30 ml) olive oil
salt and freshly milled pepper
3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and sliced
a large sprigs of fresh sage

For the vegetables:
8 big carrots, peeled
8 leeks, white parts only, rinsed
2 onions, peeled
2 Tbsp (30 ml) olive oil
1 Tbsp (15 ml) butter
3 eating apples (I used Golden Delicious)
3 cloves fresh garlic, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp (15ml) fresh thyme (see note below)
2 Tbsp (30ml) fresh sage leaves, sliced
1½ cups (375 ml) chicken, beef or vegetable stock or a combination of stock and dry white wine
salt and milled black pepper

For the gravy:
4 tsp (20ml) flour
2 cups stock, or a combination of stock and white wine
a dash of Kikkoman soy sauce (optional)
salt and milled black pepper

Preheat the oven to 220°C. Place the pork neck in a roasting pan and smear the mustard all over it. Sprinkle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Tuck the garlic slices and sage sprig under the pork and place in the oven, on the top rack. Roast for 35-45 minutes, or until the pork is beginning to turn a golden brown on top. Remove from the oven and drain off any excess fat.

In the meantime, prepare the vegetables. Top and tail the peeled carrots and cut into batons as long and thick as your ring finger. Cut the leeks into 2-cm slices, and quarter the onions. Heat the olive oil and butter in a big pan or wok and add the carrots, leeks and onions. Cook, stirring frequently, over a high heat for five minutes, or until the leeks and onions begin to take on a little colour. Core the apples and cut into wedges, but do not peel. Now add the apple to the pan along with the garlic, the thyme, and the sage.

Cook, tossing frequently, for another three minutes, then season with salt and pepper.

Remove the pork neck from its pan and put it aside. Spread the vegetables and apple in the roasting pan and set the pork neck on top. Pour in the stock and/or white wine. Put the pan back in the oven and reduce the heat to 150° C. Bake, uncovered, for about an hour and a half, or until the vegetables are soft and glazed and the pork is meltingly tender. Check the dish every half hour or so: if the stock has boiled away, add a little more. By the time it's finished cooking, there should be just a few tablespoons of liquid left in the pan.

Remove the pork and set aside to rest for ten minutes. Lift the vegetables from the roasting pan - leaving a few bits of carrot, leek, onion and garlic behind - using a slotted spoon, and keep warm. Put the roasting pan on the hob and turn the heat onto high. Sprinkle the flour into the pan and stir well, scraping to dislodge any golden residue. Cook for two or so minutes, pressing on the remaining veg bits with the back of a spoon. Now pour in a cup of stock or stock/wine combination, and, using a whisk, stir vigorously until the sauce thickens and bubbles alarmingly. Thin the gravy with more stock, water or wine to the desired consistency (I know it's old-fashioned, but I like a thickish gravy). Turn down the heat to very low and and allow to bubble gently for five minutes. If the gravy seems a bit pallid, add a dash of soy sauce.

Carve the pork into thickish slices and serve with the vegetables and gravy.

Serves 6.

You really do need fresh thyme and sage for this dish. My thyme bush is so poorly that I have taken to buying fresh bunches of thyme and freezing them, still in their packets. When a recipe calls for thyme, I open the packet, and scrunch it in my hands over the pan, so that the little frozen leaves shower out, leaving the stalks behind. And there is no loss of flavour or texture at all.
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browniegirl said...

Love pork neck with apples, I have also done it with quinces during their short season!!Could one tweak a bit and do this recipe in the slow cooker do you think? Thank Juno. It will be perfect for the crisp autumn days waiting in the wings :o) xxx

Anna said...

I made this the other day. it was fabulous. thanks so much. first time I had roasted pork neck too.