The Garden Cookbook is all about the pleasures that fruit and vegetables can give you; its aim is to put them at the centre of every meal. It’s also a practical guide to all that is wonderful in the edible plant kingdom. It’s not a vegetarian book, although it contains plenty of recipes that have nothing but vegetables in them. Fruit and vegetables lend themselves to simplicity: the less you do to them, the better. Food cooked this way is alive with the flavour of its raw ingredients.
If you’re lucky enough to have access to any outdoor space, growing fruit and vegetables is a wonderful thing to do. Yes it’s time-consuming, but it is, I believe, a way to be happy, involving a little thinking, some physical work and some creativity. Harvesting and cooking from the garden is one of the greatest pleasures in life.
In the kitchen, stuffing things often feels a step too far, but once you’ve made this, you’ll realise how quick and easy it is to do, and that the chestnut filling can turn an ordinary bit of meat into something that’s very delicious.
- 1 pork fillet
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 150g pancetta or streaky bacon
- several garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 225g spinach, chopped
- freshly grated nutmeg
- bunch of sage leaves, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp breadcrumbs
- salt and black pepper
- 15 prunes, stoned and roughly chopped
- 15-20 chestnuts
- 6 full slices of prosciutto for wrapping the fillet
- 8-10 baby onions or shallots
- 2 glasses of white wine
- 1 tbsp redcurrant jelly
- 2 tbsp crème fraîche
1. Preheat a medium oven (180°C/350°F/gas 4). Make a cut along the length of the pork fillet, without cutting it in two, and open it out. Put the pork between two sheets of cling film and beat it out until it is at least twice the size.
2. Chop the onion and sauté it in the olive oil with the pancetta or bacon and garlic for a few minutes until the onion is softened. Add the spinach, nutmeg, sage and enough breadcrumbs to absorb any liquid given off by the spinach. Season and take off the heat.
3. Stuff the length of the pork fillet with this mixture. Add the prunes and chestnuts, scattered through, and roll it up. Wrap the roll with the prosciutto and tie at intervals with string.
4. Brown this for a couple of minutes all over in the pan in which the stuffing was made and then put it in a shallow ovenproof dish with the baby onions or shallots – whole if small, cut in half if large – and cover with the white wine.
5. Roast in the preheated oven for 40 minutes then remove the meat from the roasting dish and keep it warm. Scrape up the juices from the dish, add the wine (or some stock) and allow it to bubble up and reduce a little before adding a little redcurrant jelly and the crème fraîche. You can add more chestnuts at this stage. Pour this sauce over the meat.
Sarah Raven’s Garden Cookbook (repackaged edition) was published in August 2023 (£35 Bloomsbury)
Sarah Raven is a teacher, broadcaster, has a gardening podcast (Grow, Cook, Eat, Arrange) and runs a mail order plant nursery. She is the author of many books on gardening and cooking.
The wines to drink with chestnut-stuffed pork fillet
Pork and chestnuts may be headlined in the title of the recipe, but there’s quite a lot going on in the way of other ingredients including spinach, sage leaves and prunes along with a white wine, crème fraîche and redcurrant jelly sauce, which could nudge you in the direction of a white wine rather than a red.
Given the sweetness from the chestnuts, prunes and redcurrant jelly, I’d go for a wine that has a touch of sweetness itself – Alsace or New Zealand or Oregon Pinot Gris, for example, or an old-vine Chenin Blanc. A Vouvray or Montlouis, would be a good choice, too, though I would stop short of the demi-sec style. New World Pinot Noir from, say, Martinborough or the Mornington Peninsula would probably be my red of choice, but given the sage, and if you wanted a contrast to the sweetness, you could go for a young Chianti Classico or a riper, more forward Sangiovese from the Maremma. A Merlot-dominated Right Bank Bordeaux should work as well.
By Fiona Beckett
Wines selected by our Decanter experts