In the oven, the mighty oven, the loin cooks tonight (wrapped in bacon).
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As recent Broadway hit Something Rotten demonstrates, a musical version of Hamlet is a ludicrous idea – and involving animals? Pah! And yet, the Mouse-House pulled it off with great success in it’s 1994 collaboration with Elton John and Tim Rice, toning down some of the Shakespearean tragedy (what, do you mean Nala doesn’t drown herself in the river?!) and upping the comedy, with breath-taking animation and a stellar cast, garnering two academy awards and a legion of devoted fans. Given the popularity of the soundtrack (the only animated film to reach diamond status, the equivalent of ten platinum disks), a musical was perhaps inevitable despite the challenge of realistically representing animals on stage (stunningly achieved through puppetry, stilts and masks.)
The Broadway production of The Lion King opened in 1997 to great acclaim and swept the board at the subsequent Tonys (as the 1999 London production did at the Oliviers in due course). Both productions are still running, as well as numerous others around the globe. Applying the Circle Of Life to itself, one of the additional songs from the show (The Morning Report) made it back into the animated movie for its 2002 IMAX re-release (and the subsequent Platinum Edition DVD).
So many great songs… so many potential puns (I’m sure you MUST have seen The Circle Of Loaf) – but why not start with the title itself… The Loin King! In the absence of impala loin, pork will do very nicely.
This entree recipe is based on one my aunt, Gill Stallard, cooked on Masterchef on BBC TV back in 1991 in the days where they had a weekly guest celebrity judge. She had been promised Charles Dance, but it was actually Ronnie Corbett on the day! Her original filling was sage and shallots with a port and red currant sauce which I have change to an apple-based filling with a sharper red-wine sauce.
Having slightly annoyingly fussy children who seem to be able to pick out a small piece of onion out of any dish, I roasted then puréed the onion so that they wouldn’t detect it. Assuming you don’t have this problem, you may prefer to simply finely chop the onion and sauté it in a little butter. Either way, set this aside and sauté the finely chopped apple in butter (the purpose is to remove some of the water from the apple). Meanwhile, bring the cranberries and the white wine to the boil in a small pan and leave to simmer for a few minutes while the cranberries plump up. The cranberries were an addition for the festive season, so feel free to remove!
Now, over to Auntie Gill’s instructions:
Cut a slice through each pork fillet two thirds of the way along so that you have two short pieces and two long pieces. Slit each piece horizontally but do not cut right through the meat so that you can open each piece of pork like a book.
Spread some of your fillings (the onion, apple and cranberries) along one of the open long pieces of pork. Put the two short pieces on top of this, end to end. Cover with more of the filling and the final long piece of pork, creating a triple-decker pork fillet sandwich. Don’t over-fill or the eventual dish may burst!
Stretch the bacon rashers with the back of a knife and line them up parallel and overlapping one another. Place the pork sandwich on top of the bacon and wrap the bacon tightly around the pork.
Place the whole thing on a baking tin and into a preheated oven at 190C for 1 hour. Towards the end of the cooking, bring the red wine to a simmer and reduce down by a third. Allow the pork to rest for at least 20 minutes and combine the delicious apple and bacon juices with the red wine to form your gravy (I use a little concentrated beef stock to boost the flavour if needed – just be careful with the saltiness from the bacon). If feasible, stand on Pride Rock and present the future Loin King to the assembled masses, Simba-style.
Serve with roast potatoes and vegetables of your choice!