Last time in was in Los Angeles, I bought several pounds of dried chilies from a Mexican market. It was kind of hilarious as a pound of chilies is a lot and I ended up with two grocery bags stuffed full to cram into my suitcase. Luckily, I hadn’t brought many clothes since I had sensibly predicted the food shopping potential of LA before I left. I used up the anchos and pasillas relatively quickly, but I still have quite a few chile californias left, partly because I’m never quite sure what to do with them. They’re milder in both spice and flavour than the others and thus they often end up last picked for Mexican chile-oriented meals. But when Mr Lemur brought home a pork loin in one of his many Ready Steady Cook-style shopping excursions, it hit me that the mild flavour of the pork might be nicely matched with a chile california sauce.

I don’t usually (read: ever) cook with pork loin. Regular readers will know that I like longer cooking cuts with succulent meaty flavour. I can honestly say that I’ve cooked more pig cheeks than pork chops in the last year, so I had to do some research on how to cook the loin. That said, while delicacy is not my main focus in the world of meat, pork loin can be delicious if you get enough flavour into it and don’t overcook the damn thing. I started by marinading it in achiote paste and lime juice for a good 8 hours, then served it with a chile california and blood orange sauce and a big bowl of avocado salad. You could almost pretend it wasn’t November…

Chile california pork loin

For the pork:

  • 1 pork loin
  • 1 tbsp achiote powder
  • 1 tsp white or cider vinegar
  • enough water to make a paste
  • juice of 1 lime

For the sauce:

  • 8 chiles california
  • juice of 1 blood orange, or regular orange
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 small tomatoes

To make the marinade, mix the achiote powder with the vinegar and as much water as you need to make a paste, then add the lime juice. It should be thick enough to coat the meat but liquidy enough to spoon out easily. Cover the meat and refrigerate for 8 hours.

When you’re ready to cook, open the chilies out lengthways, remove seeds and membranes, fry them quickly on both sides in a cast-iron skillet and then soak for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to gas mark 7 / 425F / 220C and put in the pork. Cook pork for between 30-45 minutes – your oven will hopefully be different from mine, which is on the crappity side, but in any case it’s hard to predict how long exactly it will take to be juicy and pink rather than grey and dry. An oven thermometer is probably the best way to do it – you want to take it to about 145F. I think we overcooked ours marginally but it was at least still nicely pink.

While the meat is cooking, make the sauce. Take the chilies out of the water and blend them to a paste in a mini-prep. Push the paste through a sieve into a bowl. Put the tomatoes under a grill/broiler until blistered and blackened, then peel and dump them into a food processor and whizz until mushed up but not totally smooth. Chop the onions and sauté in a medium sized pan until turning brown. Turn the heat up to high and add the tomatoes and puréed chilies. Fry on medium-high heat for a couple of minutes till the sauce thickens, then turn the heat down and add orange and lime juice. Salt generously.

Pour the sauce over the pork, and serve with rice and a generous green salad.

Serves 2.

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