Loin of pork is a wonderful thing to cook. It’s always incredibly tender, yet refreshingly simple to prepare. Here I’ve chosen a classic French approach, of white wine, mushrooms and creme fraiche. This combination delivers flawless results every time, and has that real wow-factor, which makes this the perfect thing to cook for a dinner party.
No such grandeur for us however! I’ve chosen this for a cosy meal for two on a cold Autumn night. This means we have the added bonus of being able to enjoy the leftover pork for lunch another day. It’ll carve beautifully into thick, succulent slices; to be served with salad, peppery radishes and fiery hot mustard. I’m all for meals which have ‘ongoing promise’ – you just have to make sure you’re disciplined enough not to eat the lot!
Romanesco is a true jewel. Sometimes the beauty of nature is breathtaking in every way. The almost crystalline turrets formed by this member of the cauliflower family, bare its ancestor’s texture but have more the delicate taste of broccoli. Romanesco is packed with nutrients, which has earned it the prestigious accolade of ‘superfood’, and yes; it’s low in carbs, so diabetics and keto-dieters can tuck in with vigour! Beyond all that however, it’s totally delicious and goes with anything. For people who think that vegetables tend to lose their colour or interest levels in winter, romanesco will be music to your ears. I challenge even the hottest of summers to come up with anything as beautiful and tasty as this!
Place a heavy-bottomed pan on the hob and melt in a generous knob of butter, with a little oil to stop it burning. Season your pork and seal it until caramelised and golden on each side. Add a large handful of sliced shallots and two cloves of finely chopped garlic. Roughly slice your mushrooms and sauté alongside the shallots, or keep them whole if you’re lucky enough to find mushrooms small enough. Once these are soft and tender, deglaze the pan with a generous glug of white-wine or vermouth.
I want to share a tip here. Wine is not great on a ketogenic-diet due to its relatively high sugar content. If you wish to use it in cooking, then invariably you’ll be stuck with the rest of the bottle which you must either drink (bye bye diet) or throw away (tragedy). To avoid this, I keep two bottles in the cupboard – one of dry vermouth, to take the place of white wine; and another of port to serve as red. Neither of these suffer from being opened and consumed over a long period of time. It also makes it considerably cheaper in the long run, as their taste is robust enough to warrant a smaller quantity in cooking.
Once the alcohol has reduced, pour in a little water, so that the pork is waist-high in liquid, then crumble in a chicken stock cube. Season well and stir in a handful of chopped herbs. Tarragon, sage, basil or oregano are all good. I used sage on account of its warm and perfumed flavour. Place the pan (lid off) into a hot oven, to braise for 20 minutes, whilst you get on preparing the romanesco.
It is almost heartbreaking to cut into this vegetable’s cryptonite crowns. It’s so pretty that it almost seems a shame to eat it! But do so we must. Detach the florets from the stalk one by one, so that you preserve their fine structure. Bring a pan of water to the boil then add the romanesco-florets respectfully into the water.
Second tip of the day. As any Victorian cook would tell you: if it grows above the ground, boil with the lid on! If it comes from below the ground, lid off! This handy mantra will see you safely through any recipe and mean your vegetables cook to deliver their optimum.
After two minutes on the boil, drain and plunge into cold water to preserve the verdant green and texture. Once cool, tumble back into the pan and place into the oven for a final 5 minutes to heat through. You can simply serve this straight from the boil, but it always seems a shame if it loses its bright vibrancy.
To make your low carb mornay sauce, heat a cupful of double cream in a saucepan and stir in a handful of grated cheese. I used cheddar and a snide amount of parmesan. It must be admitted that any cheese which delivers a noble taste-profile will serve just as well. Grind in some pepper, and leave on the simmering plate until smooth and glossy.
Take your pork out of the oven and place the loin onto your pre-warmed serving-dish. Return the pan to the hob and stir in a tablespoonful of creme fraiche for richness. Once this is incorporated and the sauce is piping hot, pour over all and around your pork, assembling the mushrooms into an accessible pile to one side. Spoon your romanesco next to the pork-loin and pour over your mornay sauce. Garnish with more chopped herbs and volia! Dinner is served.
A true treat that’s as low in carbs as it is delicious. And all done in 40 minutes!
Thanks for reading and bon ap!