Let’s get to the rules first. Stuffing is just that – Stuffing. It should be carefully crafted, blended, seasoned and finally stuffed. It should be rammed into the opening in the unfortunate creature you intend eating. It needs to be shoved in so far that there is no space left for doubt. There is no arguing about it.
I have a mental picture of you in your lovely kitchen. You have mixed your stuffing and have wrapped it in aluminium foil. You have placed it on the shelf below the meat. You are feeling like a chef. Food safety people recommend cooking the stuffing separately. Jamming it into the middle of a bird or hunk of meat will alter the cooking times and expose you to danger. You are best kept safe from yourself and your inability to cook your dinner. This is the nanny state creeping into the kitchen. This is not stuffing. This is farce. In short, if you are going to stuff, stuff.
With that off my chest, here’s a recipe for Pork with Chestnut & Sage Stuffing Balls. Yes, balls of stuffing. Yes, cooked separate to the meat. Yes, my stuffing rules are made to be broken.
- 1 joint of prime rack of pork – Free range, organic, rare breed, if available.
- 3 onions
- 500 grammes of chestnuts
- A big handful of sage
- 2 eggs
- 200 grammes of oats
- 100 mls of good pork stock
- Salt and pepper to season
- The apples are to make an apple sauce, requiring only some ginger and sugar.
Side note on the stock: At the front of the photo above lie 5 cubes of homemade, highly concentrated, pork stock. This made up 100 mls of ‘punch in the face’ strength pork stock. Making your own pork, chicken, beef and prawn stocks is so well worthwhile. Do put it on your list.
To make the stuffing balls, first cut a cross pattern on each of the chestnuts.
Place the chestnuts on a roasting tray and pop them into a 180ºC oven for 15 minutes.
While they are still warm, peel the chestnuts and remove the inner furry lining around each nut. This tastes pretty bitter and will ruin your stuffing. Next, slice the onions into small pieces.
Fry the onions over a medium low heat until they become vaguely translucent.
Slice the sage leaves until they are about the same size as the onion pieces. These will be also about the size of the oats, if you have being doing it right. It is not an exact science. It is not science at all.
Place the chestnuts into a blender….
Next, blitz them until they are a fine crumb consistency, like in the photo below.
Place all the ingredients into a big bowl. Season well.
Mix this lot up with a large spoon until well combined. It will be a bit of a mess.
Divide this into balls, about the size of a golf ball. This is a messy job as the oats get pretty gooey and slimy. Bear with it. It’s worth it.
Pop these into the fridge. This will allow them to firm up and they will hold together when cooked.
Preheat the oven to 230ºC (very hot). Cut slices in the skin of the pork, running parallel to the line of the ribs. This makes for easy cutting. I measured mine so there would be two pieces of crackling per bone-in chop. Rub with oil. Season very well.
Place the pork on a rack in a roasting tray, in the hot oven. Turn on the oven fan. Leave the pork there for 25 minutes. Turn down the heat to 200ºC and cook for another hour and a quarter or so. Remove the pork from the oven and let it rest for 20 minutes before carving.
The chestnut stuffing balls take about half an hour to cook. Pop them in the oven about 10 minutes before you remove the pork. They will look like this when they are done.
While your balls are cooking (don’t snigger, I didn’t mean it that way) add a couple of teaspoons of flour and some salt and pepper to the roasting tray.
Mix up a porky roux and add water to make a delicious gravy. Finish it off on the stove top. Peel and slice the apples, grate in some ginger and add a little sugar to taste. Warm through until the apple just begins to break down. Carve the pork.
Serve with some potatoes and enjoy. I really liked these stuffing balls. There are a few reasons. Firstly, they tasted delicious. Secondly, they had a lovely texture thanks to the use of oats. Thirdly, they worked really well with the pork (Think of pork, sage, chestnuts and onion). Lastly, I broke the rule of stuffing. Even if it’s my own rule, it fun to break out every now and then.
I served it with a nice, modestly priced Bergerac white on the side. This was well appreciated by all. Go on, balls up your stuffing. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist the crudity).