A Rioja 'n' Roll Dish (I’ll get me coat…)
I wonder if there is anything more versatile than a Rioja wine, its different styles capable of appealing to an array of wine lovers, from mature leathery elegance to rich, dark-fruited modern styles (the wines not the wine lovers, though I’d like to think I fit the leathery elegance with a smidge of dark-fruited modernity). Rioja is a region which produces quality, fine wine and there is, genuinely, something for everyone and nearly every food. The Riojans long ago married their red wines with the local lamb to delightful effect, so I thought I’d present you with an alternative, but one that I think is just as delicious. Pork is, after all, another Spanish staple, and I’ve combined it here with another Iberian favourite in the form of black pudding. I know a blood sausage is not going to be everyone’s cup of tempranillo, but you could always deploy another kind of stuffing if you are squeamish about the pud, though its aroma and flavour, depth-charged with apple and rosemary, are lovely with the pork. If you do go down another route, try something with a bit of colour, it will look so much better in the finished, carved slices, perhaps some cooking chorizo or sausagemeat with plenty of green herbs.
This will go with almost any style of Rioja you care to pop the cork on, including white versions, and you can change the sauce to suit too, from a red wine gravy through sherry or Marsala sauce, to a creamy but tangy version made with reduced dry cider, stock and crème fraîche. It’s almost as versatile as Rioja itself!
Ingredients (serves 6)
- 3 pork tenderloins, each about 350gm, trimmed of sinew and any excess fat
- 125g black pudding, skinned and chopped (use any firm textured black pudding you like but Spanish morcilla would work well. Alternatively, cooking chorizo would make a good authentic alternative though any sausage meat will be delicious)
- ½ apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
- 1 tbsp rosemary, finely chopped
- A good grind of black pepper and a pinch of salt
- 12 rashers streaky bacon (smoked or unsmoked, the choice is yours)
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 apple, chopped
- Preheat an oven to 200°c/180°c fan.
- In a small bowl mix the black pudding, diced apple and chopped rosemary, salt and black pepper, squeezing the ingredients together.
- Make sure that the pork tenderloins have been trimmed of sinew and any excess flaps of meat so that each is one smooth tenderloin fillet. Cut each tenderloin along its length without cutting all the way through, so that they can be opened out flat, rather like an open book.
- Gently stretch the streaky bacon with the back of a knife and lay it out on a board so that they just overlap or at least touch.
- Lay one of the tenderloins cut side up on the middle of the bacon rashers and at a right angle to them, so that they can wrap the fillets.
- Lay half the half of the black pudding mixture onto the cut side of the tenderloin. Spread the mixture lengthwise so that it forms a flattish sausage along the length of the centre of the pork, taking care to leave the edges of the meat clear, and don’t pile it up too high or wide. It should be a low ridge of stuffing along the length of the tenderloin.
- Lay the second tenderloin on top, opened-out/cut side down. Repeat the process with the stuffing, shaping it into another low ridge the length of the fillet. Place the last tenderloin on top, cut side down.
- Wrap the bacon on which the now stuffed pork is sitting around the stacked tenderloins so that they are covered and the ends of the rashers overlap or at least meet. This is why it’s a good idea to gently stretch the rashers.
- In a roasting tin long enough to contain the pork, add the chopped carrot, onion and apple to form a long bed. Place the bacon-wrapped tenderloin onto the bed with the overlapping side of the bacon down to hold the rashers in place as they cook. Cover with foil and put in the hot oven for 25 minutes.
- After 25 minutes take the pan out of the oven, remove the foil and then put the pan back into the oven with the pork uncovered for a further 25 minutes or so, until the bacon colours and the pork cooks through. You don’t want the bacon very crisp as it will make it more difficult to carve neatly, so if the pork needs a little more time cover it with the foil again.
- Take the pork out of the oven, place the ‘joint’ on a carving dish/tray, cover with foil and allow to rest for 25-30 minutes or so. If you try to carve it while still piping hot it will fall apart.
- Carve the pork into thick (about half-inch) slices. Any thinner and they won’t easily hold their shape. The slices should be marbled with two layers of stuffing.
- Serve with the thick slices slightly overlapping and with the sauce or gravy and vegetables of your choice.
This is also absolutely delicious cold, particularly if you are a piccalilli lover like me, which seems to work beautifully with the pork, bacon and black pudding. When cold the pork will be much easier to carve into thinner slices if desired.
Though this pork dish is fairly simple to make it looks stylish on the plate, so you can roll out a fine Rioja to partner it, preferably something with the plumper fruit of the more modern styles, though I think that really good Rioja of any style is a remarkably versatile wine. To be honest, this dish is very wine friendly with most styles, though I wouldn’t partner it with very hefty, fruit-bomb styles myself but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, after all. A cru Beaujolais would be good, and so too an Austrian red wine or a Spanish mencía or juicy garnacha, as would fruitier, richer styles of pinot noir from places like California, Chile and New Zealand. Côtes-du-Rhône red wines with a little spice will also do nicely. Put quite simply, this dish is easy to pair with reds. Just avoid heavyweights.
Riper, perhaps oaked styles of white are quite capable of dealing with the black pudding in the dish, and the apple in the stuffing helps a ripe chenin blanc from South Africa or the Loire (Vouvray anyone?) cut the proverbial mustard. White Rhône wines and Rioja can work well here too, as can a generous and/or oaky chardonnay, and even an off-dry riesling will do well with pork.