Last night I went to the Ginger Pig butchery class on pork (courtesy of CJ – thank you!). If you’re a Londoner I’m sure you’re familiar with the burgeoning empire of trendy meatmongers who specialise in cared-for (but notably not ‘organic’ – that ship has sailed) cuts. They raise their own animals in the Yorkshire Moors, giving meticulous attention to their breeds and bloodlines, and over the last few years they have become very successful. In fact, they’re opening their sixth shop in Clapham tomorrow (North London awaits, but meanwhile I’ve got Baldwins).
So, the course. How much can you fit into 3 hours (minus 45 mins for dinner)? A lot if you’re talented butchers like our guides Borut & Perry. We are talked through one side of a gutted pig, which weighed around 20kg. Working down the cuts our butcher goes through the loin, the shoulder, the hock, tenderloin and the rest. We are shown smoked hock (which smells incredible) and back bacon. He makes home-curing sound simple, and I feel I may have to try it. We even get a little demonstration of removing the cheeks from the head, which again looks relatively simple (but what to do with the rest?). So far it has primarily been a observatory lesson though, and I’m wondering when we’ll get our hands dirty. As soon as Perry is done taking the side of pig apart however, we are tasked with putting it back together. A pigsaw, if you will.
Next we are given our own cut to work with and take home. Watching Perry chine & bone a pork loin is akin in precision and speed to seeing a professional solve a rubik’s cube. But will we be as fast or as skilled? The answer, predictably, is no. But under the master butcher’s kindly guidance we all get there. I was quite proud of my attempt at removing the spine without taking off too much meat – although my seasoning may’ve been a little heavy-handed.
After we’ve rolled, tied and bagged our cuts, Borut carves up delicious ‘one I made earlier’ plates full of pork loin and crackling accompanied by potato dauphinoise (cholesterol be damned!). It was truly a beautiful bit of meat – the perfectly softened fat hung onto the fennel seed and tasted wonderful, and the brittle skin was painfully moreish. And when I thought it was all over, there was chocolate-veined bread & butter pudding. I still feel a bit full today.
UPDATE: The pork loin turned out great! Here’s the recipe below:
A quick and simple recipe for a great bit of roast pork with crackling.
Author: James III
Recipe type: Main
2.3kg pork loin (bone removed, skin on & scored)
4 cloves garlic, crushed
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tbsp fennel seed, toasted & ground
2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp pepper
1 large white onion, peeled & quartered OR 4-5 shallots, peeled & halved
Lay the pork skin side down and rub the meat firstly with the crushed garlic (this helps everything else to stick), and then with the fennel seed, pepper and half the salt.
Turn the meat over and rub the remaining salt across the scored skin.
Make a C-shaped crease along the long edge of the pork, folding the meat in itself and keeping the skin on the outside. Tie it into this position with a couple of lengths of string.
The meat will keep like this for a few hours, or a couple of days if you hold off salting the skin. Some liquid will be drawn out of the meat, but nothing to worry about.
Pre-heat the oven to 170 Celsius.
Put the garlic cloves and onion/shallot into a roasting pan with a little oil, and put the meat on top, skin side up, and place in the oven.
Cook for around 1 hour 45 minutes - more or less, dependent on size of your cut (22 minutes per 500g is a good rule). Or, if you have a meat thermometer, cook until the deepest part of the meat reads 63 celsius. In the last 15 minutes of the roasting, give the skin a tap with a fork to see if it's crisped up. If it could do with more, ramp up the temperature for the last stretch, leaving your oven door slightly ajar if it is steamy in there (mine was fine kept at 170 C the whole time).
Remove from the oven and leave to rest for 15 minutes, and then carve and serve!
Chickpeas are definitely in my top 3 legumes, and they go brilliantly with Persian flavours like pomegranate molasses and preserved lemon. I was inspired by a recipe for them on EatTheRightStuff with spicy beef which incorporates an interesting ingredient I wasn’t familiar with – barberries. Apparently the sour little fruits are traditionally served at weddings, to remind guests that marriages have their downs as well as their ups. Unable to resist a philosophical fruit I set out to explore the array of Turkish and Middle-Eastern grocers in my neighbourhood. Each an Aladdin’s cave of strange nuts and dirt-cheap chillies, they bore success. Buoyed up, I also bought some odd-looking flakes of dried yoghurt which can apparently be turned into a kind of sourdough soup. But that’s for a later date.
I added a little freshly ground cinnamon, pomegranate molasses and extra preserved lemon to Abby’s recipe, and it came out great. It tastes wonderfully citrussy, which along with the last-minute coriander really lifts the dish.
I served it with some lavash and a bowl of simple baba ghanoush topped with a swirl more pomegranate molasses, which was a delicious accompaniment. After spending quite some time trying to get the aubergines to char under the grill (I’d usually use the barbecue, but weather stopped play), I resorted to the kitchen blowtorch, which worked surprisingly well at finishing them off.
Recently I made a version of Simon Rimmer’s White Chilli as a soup. Lacking either the requisite chicken stock and chipotle (so good, must order more from MexGrocer), I found something that would substitute for both. Enter the leftover smoked belly pork stock LINK. I carved off (it was frozen) only around 150ml, but it had the most incredibly unctuous and hammy flavour, somewhat reminiscent of the liquor left after making Nigella Lawson’s Coca Cola Ham, but without all the sweetness. I’ve made Nigella’s recipe for Black Bean soup in the past, which she recommends for using up said ham-coke, and although divisive, I thought it was pretty good (if a small enough quantity of stock is used to dilute the sugar). The resulting white chilli was so moreish that I almost went to go and check in the fridge again just now for leftovers.
Last night a friend cooked a delicious spiced roast chicken with dahl, and after adding some of the juices to said red lentils, we kept the rest and cooked it down with the chicken bones and got a delicious 1.5 litres of stock that’ll no doubt be the backbone of a risotto next week.
The moral of the story? If you’re cooking any meat with more than a couple of handfuls of bone leftover, then well, Carl Weathers put it pretty well – “throw it in a pot, add some broth, a potato. Baby, you’ve got a stew going”. And you don’t even really need a potato (or any other veg) in my book. Making stock is quick, easy and saves you money while helping you make great meals.
Got some white beans? Got some stock? Make this delicious spicy and filling soup.
Author: Simon Rimmer (modified)
3 onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 fresh chillies (jalapeno or similar), chopped
1 tbsp cumin seed, dry roast and crushed
200ml/14fl oz good, strong stock (preferably smoked pork, but vegetable if you want to keep it vegetarian)
2 chipotle or 1 ancho chillies (if not using smoked stock)
bunch fresh coriander, plus extra coriander leaves, chopped, to serve
1.5 limes, juiced
800g/14oz can cannellini or butter beans, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp fresh or 1 tsp dry oregano
150g cheddar, grated
Bring the beer, onions, garlic, chillies, ancho/chipotle, ground cumin and stock to the boil in a large pan, then reduce the heat to a simmer and simmer for 8-10 minutes.
Blend three quarters of the bunch of coriander, all the lime juice and a good pinch of salt to a smooth paste.
Add the coriander and lime paste, and the beans to the stock mixture. Stir well to combine, then continue to simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until the volume of liquid has reduced by about three quarters.
Add smoked paprika and oregano and stir well to combine.
Serve topped with grated cheese and the remaining chopped coriander leaves.
Why not re-use beef shin bones to make candlesticks? Okay, sure it’s a bit macabre.