James Martin at pig farm

James Martin returns to his farming roots with a visit to one of Asda’s top pork producers

'There's nothing more delicious than a beautiful piece of crispy crackling'

By Asda Good Living, 22 September 2016
James Martin returns to his farming roots with a visit to one of Asda’s top pork producers

James Martin is familiar with the sight of piglets playing in the mud – his family farmed pigs in Yorkshire’s Howardian Hills. So he was keen to visit the farm rearing pork for our new Extra Special Outdoor Bred Pork Loin Joint With Caramelised Bramley Apple, Yorkshire Black Pudding & Lovage Stuffing.

I grew up on a pig farm and worked as a farmhand for many years, so I know that a combination of good welfare, good feed and good breeding is the key to good pork

When we join James, he’s talking to the farmer, Ben from Cranswick, surrounded by hundreds of sows and their piglets. As one of Britain’s best-loved chefs, James knows all about the importance consumers place on where their meat comes from and how it’s produced.

‘People understand food more now than they ever have before, which is why provenance has become so important to all of us,’ he says. ‘I grew up on a pig farm and worked as a farmhand for many years, so I know that a combination of good welfare, good feed and good breeding is the key to good pork.’

How are the pigs bred?

Ben explains that the pork used for our Golden Apron-winning joint comes from outdoor-bred pigs fed on a healthy diet of cereals and soya, and raised according to high standards of animal welfare.

Outdoor-bred pigs are kept outdoors until they are weaned, then moved to high-welfare indoor accommodation. During their breeding lives, the sows are housed outside in fields, allowing them to get plenty of natural exercise, and to express natural behaviours, such as rooting and wallowing. 

Ben says, ‘We’re proud to be raising pigs that are well looked after. We’re producing good-quality meat here for people to enjoy, and happy pigs make happy pork.’

So many ways to cook it

James is keen to sing the praises of a meat, which he says is not only versatile but also affordable. ‘In simple terms, good food comes from great ingredients,’ he says. ‘Good pork’s all about the fat – without the fat, you have no flavour. There’s nothing more delicious than a beautiful piece of crispy crackling, is there?’

In fact, pork is rarely off the menu in his Manchester restaurant. ‘At the moment, we’re serving belly pork, braised pigs’ cheeks – which are phenomenal – and crispy crackling with loin and black pudding,’ he says. ‘Pork and chicken are often the most inexpensive meats out there, and you can do even more with pork than you can with chicken.’

And of course, as the face of Asda, chef James couldn’t be more pleased that fellow Yorkshireman Kurtus Auty’s Golden Apron-winning stuffed pork loin dish will be on our shelves from October.

The Golden Apron Awards

James was delighted to meet fellow chef James Mackenzie to talk about his involvement in the Golden Apron Awards, sponsored by Asda. The competition aims to inspire and guide budding chefs, aged 14-19. To catch the eye of the judges, they must bring innovation, flavour and presentation to the table, and use the very best British produce.

Chef James Mackenzie, above

Current champion Kurtus Auty, 18, ticked all the boxes – and got to join forces with James Mackenzie, chef-owner of the Michelin-starred Pipe and Glass in South Dalton, East Yorkshire, to create three amazing roasts for our Extra Special range. 

The results of their hard work will be available at Asda from October and Chef Mackenzie is enthusiastic about the pair’s innovative twists on traditional recipes. The beef joint has a unique parsley and horseradish stuffing, the lamb a tangy redcurrant and mint butter, and the pork is a crackling joint stuffed with apple, black pudding and lovage. ‘They taste absolutely excellent,’ he says. ‘We want people to enjoy something a little different to what they normally cook when they do a roast at home.’

Golden touch

The dishes are certain to be crowd pleasers and fit perfectly with Kurtus’ winning kitchen philosophy. ‘My passion for cooking comes from making people happy and giving them new flavours and experiences to enjoy,’ he says.
And, as chef James Martin puts it, ‘As a young cook, what could be better than seeing the fruits of your labour end up in Asda?’

Give it a whirl

For the perfect marriage of sweet and savoury, try this slow-cooked pork loin recipe with spiced apples for a special Sunday roast.