Should you ever need to get hold of me on the first weekend in May, look first at the feria in a small seaside town just outside Jerez. You’ll most likely find me there drinking fino and eating tapas amongst a throng of the friendliest people in the world and to the incessant beat of the sevilliana. One of the local bars does a cracking cold tapas of sliced pork tenderloin wrapped in jamon, and so this way of cooking pork always reminds me of that. I’m styling it here for our chillier weather but the Spanish way is well worth keeping in the back of your mind for those first evenings when you can sit in the garden with a glass of something cold. They’ll be here soon.
And, yes, I know parma ham isn’t Spanish. But I never said this was a Spanish dish only that it reminds me of one. There’s a nuttiness from the chestnut-eating parma pigs which marries especially well with the pork.
Pork tenderloin wrapped in parma ham with braised fennel and mustard leeks
Serves up to 4
For the pork :
- Piece of pork tenderloin – approx 600g
- 2 big sprigs of rosemary – leaves taken off the stalk and finely chopped
- 1 tbsp thyme
- 1 tsp juniper berries
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1tbsp olive oil
- 7 or 8 slices parma ham
For the fennel:
- 3 fennel bulbs, trimmed and quartered through their root
- 25g butter
- 4 cloves garlic – peeled and flattened
- 100ml dry vermouth
For the leeks:
- 3 leeks – trimmed and cut into 5cm lengths
- 20g butter
- 1tbsp wholegrain mustard
If you have the time, wrap the pork in the parma ham an hour or so before you want to cook it. Preheat the oven to 180C.
- Sit a large piece of kitchen foil in a baking tin that’s big enough to take the pork and then arrange the parma ham slices in a line down the middle of the foil.
- Pestle together the rosemary, thyme, juniper, lemon and olive oil with some salt and pepper. Rub that mixture all over the pork which you then lay on top of the parma ham. Wrap the ham around the pork, securing it as you go by skewering cocktail sticks through. Leave this be and put it into the oven an hour before you want to sit down and eat.
- Fennel next: melt the butter in a large saucepan or frying pan with a lid. Brown the fennel quarters and add the garlic, salt, pepper, and vermouth. Bring it up to bubbling point, turn the heat right down and cover. Leave it like this for 30 minutes.
Then take the lid off and let it cook for another 15 minutes uncovered. The fennel should be tender and the liquid reduced. Transfer it – with all its juices – to a serving dish and keep warm.
- When the pork has been in the oven for 45 minutes, take it out and bring together the edges of the foil to wrap it up. Turn the oven down to 140C and put the pork back in for 10/15 minutes
- Get the leeks on once the fennel is in its final 15 minutes. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the leeks with a good going of salt. Make sure the leeks are well coated in the butter. Put the lid on and leave for about 10 minutes – they’ll be just going tender and well-browned in places. Stir in the mustard and allow to cook with the lid on for another 5 mins or so, stirring a few times.
- Let the pork sit out of the oven for 5-10 minutes before serving, but it should still be wrapped in its foil parcel. If the fennel and leeks are ready they will happily sit in the warm oven until its time to eat.
Serve with boiled potatoes dressed with butter, salt, parsley and mint. Carve the pork as thinly as you can (that’ll be tricky whilst it is so warm and tender, but in a good way) and gravy the juices from the fennel over the meat. Any leftover pork should be saved to enjoy as tapas the next day – fino optional but highly recommended.