A lot of the feasts we create at Lazy Sunday have been heavily influenced by food that I have eaten in other parts of the world. You probably have done the same - stumbled upon a little back street eaterie brimming full with a noisy and well oiled local clientele. I rarely look at the menu - partly because I often don’t understand the intricacies (and if it’s written in English in foreign climes I avoid it like the plague.) My strategy - to Mr Fitzgerald's absolute incomprehension- is to take a good look at what everyone else is eating and choose what is the most appealing, or the most interesting, or the most intriguing. This can be a bit hit and miss admittedly - I’ve ‘enjoyed’ some really unusual flavour combinations; some pretty tough meats; some very bony fish - but always, always, on at least one occasion, I get the meal that makes me want to immediately ‘put it on the menu’ back home; the meal that brings together ingredients that sing; the meal that speaks the voice of wherever we happen to be.
One year we stumbled across the historic city of Parma in Northern Italy. I think if I were ever to come back into this world as somebody else I would choose to be a Parmesan - Oh my goodness. The food. One lunchtime we wandered into a deli stacked high with custard coloured wheels of salty Parmesan. The queue at the counter was out of the door and the noise levels high as the owner and his staff enjoyed heated and humorous exchanges with each other and the locals waiting to be served. We worked out that we could have something to eat here if we could fight our way to the back of the shop; maybe 4 tables in total. No menu. And a waitress who delivered us platters of prosciutto di parma, shaved Parmesan and walnuts drizzled in honey. We sat for hours. Out of the lunchtime sun. Eventually we wandered outside and I can tell you that in the cooling Autumn sun this is what contentment looks like and feels like.
Later that day, after a visit to the cupola’d Piazza Duomo where I saw Correggio’s Assumption of the Virgin for real, (as opposed to the textbook copy I studied as part of my fine art degree many years earlier) we wandered away from the centre, to a side street littered with osteria and ristorante . We chose the one with the fig tree outside and sat sandwiched between a romantic couple to our left and a noisy, happy family to our right. My husband studied the short menu whilst I examined the plates of my dining neighbours: A side dish of glazed pears with honey and walnut caught my eye - the pears golden and skin side up; the walnuts lightly roasted and shiny with honey. Yep. I’d have whatever went with the pears please. And what went with the pear was Rosa di Parma - butterflied and rolled tenderloin of pork stuffed with Parmigiano Reggiano and Prosciutto. I ate every last morsel, sharing small (like very small) pieces with Mr Fitzgerald, who seemed to prefer my meal to his.
I never forgot this meal - somewhat surprisingly given the amount of robust, full bodied and ruby lambrusco that we imbibed not just that evening, but across the next few days - which is perhaps why I share this recipe with you now. We buy our tenderloin from Puddledub - a farm local to our kitchens. We wait until Autumn arrives and with it, golden pears. Local honey is the icing on this particular dish. It takes a little practice to butterfly the loin, but persevere. Or ask your trusty butcher to do it for you. Then imagine yourself sitting outside in the golden setting Italian sun. Buon appetito!
Preparation time 20 mins.
Pears with honeyed walnuts
5 pears, halved lengthwise, stalks and core intact
A handful of walnuts, chopped
A handful of fresh rocket
3 tbsp of clear honey
1 tsp olive oil
Rosa di Parma
2 pork tenderloins (half a kilo each) fat removed and butterflied by your friendly butcher
4 slices of Prosciutto di Parma (Parma ham)
2 teaspoons finely chopped sage
2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon finely chopped lemon thyme
3 cloves garlic, crushed
225g of grated Parmigiano Reggiano (parmesan)
Freshly ground salt and pepper
2 tbsp Olive oil
Heat your oven to 450F. 230C. Gas mark 8
Roughly chop together the herbs, pepper, salt and garlic
Unroll the butterflied tenderloins, cover each with 2 slices of Prosciutto di Parma and half of the Parmigiano Reggiano. With the longest side facing you, roll up each tenderloin and tie with string - so that the filling is securely encased.
Using your hands, rub olive oil over both tenderloins and then massage the herb mixture into the oiled surface. Place both tenderloins in the fridge for a couple of hours to let the flavours mature.
Whilst the meat is marinading, saute the chopped walnuts in a dry pan over a hot heat. They’re ready when they smell walnutty and not burnt. Remove from the pan and let cool.
Add the teaspoon of olive oil into the hot pan and add the pears , flesh side down. Quickly brown then remove the pan from the heat.
Place the browned pears, flesh side up this time, in a lightly oiled roasting pan and drizzle with the honey. Keep covered - these will then be roasted in the oven at the same time as the tenderloins.
Remove the tenderloins from the fridge and sear all over in oil in a heavy bottomed pan. Once the outsides are well browned transfer to a roasting pan and place in the oven. Put the honeyed pears into the oven at the same time. Roast the tenderloin for 20 minutes then remove from the oven and leave to rest for 10 minutes. Let the pears carry on roasting for another 5 minutes and then remove from the oven also.
To serve, remove the string from the tenderloin and slice into 1inch slices. Place onto a long serving platter.
Pile the rocket onto another long serving dish. Add the pears, glazed side up. Scatter the walnuts and drizzle with the juices from the roasting dish along with a little extra honey if required.