When I started up back in the Jurassic age, pork tenderloin/fillet was all the rage. Chefs used to butterfly, stuff and put it back together then wrap in prosciutto, pancetta or thin cut streaky, quickly roast it, slice into medallions and serve with the ‘jus’ of their choice. It seemed to be one of the early staples of ‘Modern British’ cuisine.
I can’t think of another cut of meat that’s fallen out of fashion quite so dramatically and despite years of gentle inflation, pork tenderloin is the same price, or less, than it was thirty years ago. You can pay more for oxtail than pork tenderloin and its bovine equivalent, goes for £50 a kg plus. At £13 a kg its a steal but we need to convince you.
Like all pork cuts, its relatively neutral flavour makes it an excellent vehicle for virtually all flavourings – from Malaysian to Mexican and as with most lean meats, it’s a crime to overcook it.
First stop could be the Parmesan crumbed escalopes we recommended for the pork leg steaks a couple of weeks ago. The recipe is on our website and with tenderloin, just slice at 45degrees and give them a gentle tap before coating.
Across the Alps, we have schnitzel. Felicity Cloake gave it the full treatment in the paper a while ago – I had no idea choosing the right sort of breadcrumb was such a big deal.
Further south, Involtini are the thing. Literally, the word translates to a small bite of food wrapped around some sort of filling. Here, we call them olives. Preparing the pork fillet for involtini is a little tricky. You need to lay it on a chopping board and cut, lengthways keeping the knife horizontal about 7mm above the board. Cutting and unrolling, you can slowly and carefully ‘sheet’ it. A bit like in this video, but with fillet rather than loin. Then it’s a question of carefully tapping out to an even thickness and cutting into the right size rectangles. I’ve always had better results this way than with individual pork medallions. Our recipe is on the website – but options for the filling are endless.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall invented the pork salt and pepper ‘squidlets’. The recipe is in his Meat book but unlike so many, doesn’t seem to have gone viral. Or how about Pork Kievs?
Stuffed Pork Tenderloin
450g pork fillet
3 slices of Jamon Serrano
100g Manchego cheese, finely sliced
80g membrillo (quince paste)
olive oil, for drizzling
6 cloves of garlic – skin on
1 thyme sprig
150ml fino sherry
1 tbsp muscatel or balsamic vinegar
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 220°C
Lay the tenderloin on a board and slice, lengthways, three quarters of the way through. Open the meat out to form a long kipper shape and season with salt and pepper.
Arrange the slices of cheese and the membrillo along the centre of the meat. Scatter half the thyme and sage on top, and roll the meat up to enclose the stuffing, turning in the tin end so you have a reasonably even sausage shape. Lay out the ham and wrap around the pork fillet, tie with string every 5cm or so, then wrap in a single layer of tin foil. Place the thyme and remaining sage in a roasting tray with the garlic. Lay the pork on top, drizzle with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper.
Transfer the roasting tray to the preheated 200°C oven and cook for 20 minutes. Carefully unwrap, returning any roasting juices to the tray and cook for another ten minutes until the pork ham crisps but doesn’t burn. Remove the pork from the tin and set aside on a plate to rest.
Put the roasting tray on the hob. Pour in the sherry and bring to the boil, scraping up any bits stuck in the bottom of the tray. Lower the heat, squash the garlic and remove the herbs. Add any more juices from the meat. Carve the pork into thick slices, strain the sauce and pour it over the meat.
Classic Roman recipe, equally good with veal, beef, chicken or turkey but best of all with pork fillet (so Delia says). Picture above.
1 large (450g) pork tenderloin
12 slices air dried ham – about 125g
12 large fresh sage leaves
350mls dry Marsala or white wine
50mls olive oil
salt and freshly milled black pepper
First cut the pork tenderloin into 12 medallions approx 2cm thick. At the thin end you’ll have to be a little creative –cutting ¾’s of the way through and butterflying and the end one will have to be on its side. Carefully tap out the medallions to make them approx 1 cm thick. You can do with your fist (it’s that tender) or steak hammer or mallet.
Season the meat with salt and pepper and lay the slices of Parma ham on top of it (because they won’t be precisely the same size, fold the ham and double over the pieces if necessary to make them fit).
Now place a sage leaf in the centre of each piece and secure it with half a cocktail stick, using it as with a pin. Pour the Marsala or wine into a small saucepan and place it on a gentle heat to warm through.
Now heat the oil in the frying pan until fairly hot, then fry the slices of pork (sage leaf side down first) for 2 minutes, then flip the pieces over and fry them for another 2 minutes. After that, pour in the wine and let it bubble and reduce for a minute or so until it becomes a syrupy sauce.
Serve the saltimbocca with pasta, polenta or boiled new potatoes, new season greens (if we get any) and lemon wedges.