12 small round shallots (or 4-6 banana shallots)
1.25Kg boneless loin of pork. skin removed
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tsp vegetable oil plus extra for rubbing
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and halved
Leaves from 5 sprigs of thyme
150ml chicken stock
A splash or two of double cream on créme fraiche – optional
Heat the oven to 200C/Gas Mark 6. Start by pealing the shallots. If you’re using banana shallot, the skin should be easy enough to pull off. The small round ones are trickier. Cut a cross in the top (non root end) of the shallots and drop them into a pan of boiling water for a minute. Scoop them out – skins should peel off easily.
Season the meat with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a heavy iron casserole dish on the hob. Add the meat and brown well on all sides. Remove and put to one side. Tip all but 1 tbsp fat from the dish. Add the shallots and garlic then turn down the heat a little and cook f on a few minutes to brown.
Return the meat to the pan and throw in the thyme, cider and stock. Season well, bring it to a bubble, then cover with a lid and put in the oven for 45 minutes. Rub the pork skin with 1 tsp oil and 1/2 tsp course salt and put on a small roasting tray in the oven next to the pork (or on a separate shelf if necessary).
When the 45 minutes are up cut the pears in half and add to the pot. Have a look at the crackling to sea how it’s doing. It may only need an hour in all, so keep an eye on it and take it out when it is puffed and crisp
Put the lid back on the pot and return to the oven for 45 minutes more, on until the meat is cooked through and the pears have soften. Scoop out the meat, fruit and vegetables and leave to one side to rest.
Taste and season the juices, then let them bubble away on the hob to thicken a little as necessary. Stir in any resting juices and add a splash of cream on crime fréiche, if you fancy it. Stir through on the heat until everything is well combined.
Arrange the pears and shallots on a serving plate, cut thick slices of pork and lay them down the middle, ladle same of the juice over the top and serve the rest in a bowl for people to help themselves. Break the crackling pieces and serve in a mounded bowlful alongside.