Meaty, Recipes

Pulled Pork – recipe

Pulled pork bun

Pulled Pork bun of joy

It’s hard imagine a pub/festival/café/market menu without pulled pork appearing somewhere. Whether served on its own, drowning in (often sadly generic) BBQ sauce, piled on a burger, folded into a pasty (yes really), or chucked onto a pizza, the true wonder of this stalwart of American BBQ has become a sadly abused dish that deserves a bit of attention and re-vitalisation. I am in no way trying to re-invent this truly wondrous piece of cooking, merely trying to show how bringing it back to basics can elevate it to its deserved place atop the meaty heights of glory. And the best thing is that you can do this recipe at home in your oven (although arguably it would be even better if you did it in a smoker) with minimum fuss. It really is a case of having faith in the low and slow school of cooking and just leaving it alone until it is done – that can be anything from 8-18 hours depending on oven temperature and how big the piece of pork is. I would highly recommend getting a meat thermometer for this and, if you can, get one with a remote probe that you can leave in the oven and thus preventing the need to keep getting the pork out to check. This recipe is pretty much as laid out by the excellent Felicity Cloake and all I’ve done is lowered the temperature slightly and tweaked the rub.

I would highly advocate using bone-in shoulder of pork for this with the rind still on. The bone will add flavour and the rind and fat will help keep the meat lubricated as it cooks and slowly breaks down into melting, tender piggy joy. Once shredded the pork also needs to sit for a while (preferably overnight) in the fridge with the juices so make sure you plan ahead for the time. This version of the recipe will easily feed 20 people – if you are using a smaller piece of shoulder then simply reduce the rub quantities and cooking time (a 2kg piece should be done after 6-8 hours) and keep an eye on that internal temperature….

Ingredients

  • 1 whole shoulder of pork, bone-in and with rind still on – weighing about 6.5kg
  • 6 tbsp fine sea salt
  • 6 tbsp soft brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp smoked paprika or ground chiplotle
  • 2 tbsp ground black pepper
  • Soft white rolls, BBQ sauce, coleslaw – to serve
  • Preheat your oven to 220c/Gas Mark 7.
  • Score the rind with a sharp blade (or get your butcher to do it for you) so the rub can wiggle its way through – a criss-cross or just lines, it’s up to you.
  • Mix together the salt, sugar, paprika, and black pepper and rub about half of it on to the pork. Really work it in and cover the whole shoulder with it.
  • Put the pork in a roasting tin (you will need a big one) and place in the oven, letting it sizzle and crackle for 30-40 mins.
  • Take the pork out and turn the oven down to 110c/Gas Mark ¼, stick in your remote thermometer (if you have one) and cover the vast slab of pig with a tent of foil to keep the moisture in. Don’t wrap it tightly as you want the humid air to circulate a bit. Put the pork back in your low oven and leave well alone for anything from 12 to 18 hours. The pork is ready for pulling when the internal temp is between 85 and 89 centigrade – be patient! The wait is worth it. If you haven’t got a remote thermometer, check the pork after 8 or so hours and keep cooking as needed – try to keep taking it out of the oven to check the temperature down to a minimum as it will only slow things down.
  • When your thermometer reaches the longed for temperature (your kitchen and probably entire house will probably be full of porky aroma), take the pork out, remove the tent of foil and then turn the oven back up to 200c/Gas Mark 6.
  • Drain off the juices (there will be a lot) into a jug or bowl and set aside. Put the meat back in for 10 mins or so to firm it slightly then remove and leave to rest, covered again with a tent of foil, for half an hour. It should practically escaping from the bone by this time.
  • Using a couple of sturdy forks, shred the pork into ribbons and chunks, skin and all. The bones should slide out clean but give them a scrape if reluctant meat is clinging to them. Once you have shredded the meat, mix in the rest of the rub and then return the juices to the meat and stir it all together. It will smell epic.
  • Leave to cool then cover and place in the fridge to mingle and mix – overnight if you can.
  • When you are ready to eat, remove from the fridge and reheat in a moderate oven. If you are serving this as part of a buffet or party, you can always leave the pork in a slow cooker to keep warm.
  • Grab a bun and slice it in half, put a goodly dollop of your favourite coleslaw on the bottom, pile a huge mound of sticky, glorious pork on top, squirt on some quality sauce, and put the top on. Eat instantly and expect to be liberally covered juice and sauce. Then sneakily reach for another bun and repeat. You know it makes sense!
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After 18 hours it should look a bit like this…

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Ramblings..., Reviews

Helen Browning at The Royal Oak, Bishopstone – review 

It is tempting, when you find a gem of a pub lunch, to keep it yourself and sneakily return again and again merely to satisfy your own gastronomic desires and revel in the fact that no-one else knows about your secret. However, it is equally tempting to shout loudly and rejoice, to share your discovery with the world and tell anyone who’ll listen that they simply must try it. They must. Simple.

The Royal Oak had been on my radar for some time and I’d marked it out as a place to investigate as I’d read many great things and thought it sounded just like my sort of place. The little village of Bishopstone nestles beneath the flanking escarpment of the Ridgeway on the Oxfordshire/Wiltshire borders and is just the kind of place that one would hope, nay expect, a fine pub with an excellent kitchen. The sort of place for balmy summer barbecues, autumnal pints, and warming winter suppers. And, with The Royal Oak, the locals are blessed and lucky enough to have such a pub.

Helen Browning has a well earned reputation for excellence with regards to organic farming and animal husbandry and her farm is based in the village with pigs and sheep roaming the nearby fields. In fact, you can even book a farm tour and see the happy animals for yourself, although some diners may prefer to eat before they meet the meat. Some years ago, she took over the pub in Bishopstone and quickly established it as one of the places to eat in the area. And with organic meat and veg supplied on its doorstep, a network of excellent local and national suppliers, and an excellent selection of beers, ciders, and wine, it is no wonder that it quickly became a hit with rural gastromomes and discerning scoffers.

Annoyingly for me, it always seemed a little far from we usually stay for a gentle evening meal after a day walking the countryside, so for some time it seemed ever so slightly out of reach. I could have driven of course but then ale wouldn’t have an option. Or wine. And that wouldn’t do at all. However, while organising a pre-wedding trip for a friend, I discovered that they do offer a free land-rover ride home for up to ten people so I booked a table and made the necessary arrangements.

We arrived and were greeted like old friends, beer at the ready and some plates of homemade sausage to nibble at while the table was prepared.The Royal Oak is a Victorian building with a very snug interior and tables rambling around a generously sized bar. The menu is straightforward and tempting with an array of pig-based dishes as well as excellent sounding vegetarian and fish options. We ate a vast amount, drank a vat of wine and beer, and tumbled into the rickety land-rover for a bracing drive back to where we were staying.

It was only the next day I realised that while we were eating, the laughs and merriment had given way to silent, appreciate devouring of some of the best food any of us had had from a country pub. And I can safely say that, having returned several times since, The Royal Oak is up there as being my favourite pub to eat in in the country. No joke.

Roast pork belly

The sticky, tender spare ribs (available as a starter or main course) hint at oriental flavours and would satisfy even the hardiest BBQ fan. Their burger is fat and juicy and can be customised with extra cheese, pickles, egg, and bacon and is served with chips that rustle for your attention. A main of pork belly with root mash, roast potatoes, and cabbage consists of two hugely generous slabs of rolled pork, cooked slowly to produce tender, juicy meat that flakes apart as you cut through it. A rich, herby gravy and vast fluffy Yorkshire pudding complete this mighty take on a pork roast and a bargain at £15. Also highly recommended is the pig cheek ragu – outrageously tasty meat in a hefty sauce which fills all the corners and comforts the soul.

Puddings (all £7) are simple and wonderful – apple crumble, organic ice cream, sticky toffee pudding were all jostling for attention on a recent visit. The sticky toffee in particular is a thing of true beauty with a decadent toffee sauce soaking through a rich, spicy sponge and topped with a scoop of organic ice cream. The stuff that dreams are made of and tasty ones at that.

Glorious sticky toffee pudding

All the staff, and especially the landlord, are friendly and jolly – happy to chat or recommend anything that is enquired about, be it how the pig racing went or whether we should listen to the blackboard and try the organic ale on offer (we did, it was amazing).

They (rightly) get busy at weekends and it is worth booking ahead if you’re making a special trip. There was a relaxed and pleasing sense of mild irreverence that immediately appealed and this is part of what makes the place so good – no pretensions, no snobbery, just passion and pride. And that is something lacking in many eateries in the world right now. So if you want to eat in a genuinely friendly environment which serves consistently excellent and lovingly prepared food, head to The Royal Oak and rejoice – we always do.

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Meaty, Ramblings..., Recipes, Reviews

Pig’s Trotters on Sourdough toast – review & recipe

It may seem odd to be reviewing a recipe but sometimes a dish requires more than a list of ingredients and a method. Generally I always try to follow instructions as closely as possible on the first attempt of a new recipe, only making changes if something is not working properly i.e. burning. Which does sometimes happen. But every cook will tweak recipes as they go and I’m no different. However this recipe is so good that I find very little adjustment is required.
It is one I’d been wanting to try for a while but had never quite been brave enough to attempt – the ingredients alone fill one page of the recipe book and the process takes several hours. However it was the first dish I ever ate a fine dining restaurant (the excellent Trinity in Clapham) and has stayed with me ever since. I saw that it featured in Trinity chef Adam Byatt‘s book ‘How to Eat in’ and I managed to get hold a copy to ogle over. And there it was ‘Pig’s Trotters on toasted Sourdough’. Brilliant. But, as I said, complicated and time consuming. It also features a fair amount of meat and, as my wife is a vegetarian, it was never going to be something that I could present for a normal dinner at home. And it’s a starter anyway so there you go.

However, as she was away for a couple of weeks and I had a good friend coming to stay – one with whom I often cook over-the-top and ambitious dishes – it seemed like a good opportunity to give it a go. And the recipe says that the cooked trotter mix can be kept refrigerated for several days (ideal for making in advance) and also frozen so allowing me to make a full batch and only use what was required for two before storing the rest. Or scoffing it myself. However, in the end I decided to do a half batch as I wasn’t sure I’d get four trotters in my casserole.

As the title suggests, the main component is pig’s trotters which was not something I had ever cooked with but that never stopped me before. It also needs smoked ham hock along with stock vegetables, vinegar, and spices. I had decided to forgo the garnish of crackling – not because I dislike it but purely because as I was only cooking for two it seemed a bit excessive and crackling doesn’t exactly keep well. After ringing various butchers with no avail to enquire about the availability of trotters, I meandered into Brixton where, of course, I was soon in possession of two huge trotters and a good hunk of smoked hock. The recipe says that some trotters need to cleaned and soaked overnight to remove impurities before having any hairs removed but these were ready to go and so no fuss for me. Thankfully.

The cast iron casserole was dug out and my instinct about only doing a half quantity was proved wise – the two trotters I’d bought only just fitted in. Lucky me. I carefully prepared everything – chopped vegetables, measured oil and vinegar, found the right amounts of spice – then, after re-reading the recipe again, I began.

Trotters ready to go!

Trotters ready to go!

It is here I must tell you that although I said the recipe was complex, the processes involved are actually very straightforward – there are simply several of them. Vegetables and spices are browned in oil then quickly caramelised with honey, vinegar added and then reduced before the meat and stock are added. All very simple. This is where the time factor comes in. The trotters need to be simmered slowly to break down all the gelatinous tissue so the initial cooking-time is five hours with regular basting. Note that the trotters will curl up slightly (as if they are still alive) during this period – this may be slightly alarming the first time you open the lid to baste them. Well, I was alarmed.

After five hours in a low oven, the casserole is removed and the mixture allowed to cool (time factor again) then the meat and skin is separated and diced, the vegetables strained and discarded, before the stock is left to chill in the fridge (again, plan you day carefully to allow for this), skimmed of fat and then reduced. Not complicated stuff – just a series of processes.  I didn’t add all of the skin as the recipe suggests, opting for about two thirds as it seemed to be plenty.

While the stock reduces, more onions are fried in a pan and joined by the meat and stirred together before the rich coloured stock is added and everything is reduced to the consistency of a sticky, juicy and chunky pâté. At this point, the mixture can be cooled and stored for future reheating and this is what I did. Although I had a sneak preview first of course.

My sneak preview

My sneak preview

It was gloriously rich, almost overpoweringly so, but the finished dish features a sharp and creamy Sauce Gribiche and a fried quail’s egg to help counterbalance the richness so I wasn’t worried. The Sauce Gribiche was a recipe I’d used before so I didn’t use the same as Adam although the ingredients and flavours were the similar – hard-boiled egg, oil, vinegar, cornichons and capers, tarragon and parsley. Great with many things not just trotters.

I had got some quail’s eggs from the local butcher and, once the toast (my own sourdough of course) was on, the trotters reheating, we carefully cracked them into the pan and cooked for about one and a half minutes. The dish was assembled and looked, well, pretty damned impressive I must say. Almost professional standard in my own rather humble opinion. And it tasted utterly amazing with the richness being perfectly balanced out by the Gribiche and quail’s egg. A truly wonderful starter and one of the best dishes I have ever cooked.

The finished dish.

The finished dish.

So in conclusion, should you try this recipe out for yourself? Yes. Absolutely. Don’t be put off by the size of the ingredients list and the time involved – other things can be done while the trotters simmer and the advance preparation make it perfect if you’re planning a special dinner. Or just a greedy night in. Is it as good as the one in the restaurant? Well, that’s a matter of opinion isn’t it?

If you want to try it, here is the version that I used – it makes enough as a starter for 4-6 people.

Ingredients

  • 2 shank pig’s trotters (check with the butcher if they need cleaning and soaking)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 carrot
  • 1/4 head of garlic
  • 2 large white onions
  • 1 stick celery
  • 1 small leek
  • 100ml vegetable oil
  • 1/2 star anise
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 25ml red wine vinegar
  • 500g smoked ham hock
  • 1 litre Chicken Stock
  • 2 quail’s eggs

For the Sauce Gribiche

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 100ml extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 5 cornichons – finely chopped
  • 1 tsp capers – rinsed, dried, and finely chopped
  • Handful each of parsley and tarragon leaves, finely chopped

Method

Preheat your oven to Gas Mark 3/170⁰c.

Peel and roughly chop the carrots, garlic cloves, and one of the onions.  Trim and roughly chop the celery and leek.  Peel and finely dice the remaining onion and keep separate (to add to the cooked trotter mix later).

Heat half the oil in a large cast iron casserole and colour the roughly chopped vegetables with the spices over a high heat.  Onceed brown, stir in the honey and boil for a few minutes and caramelise lightly, then add the vinegar and boil for a further 2 minutes until reduced by half.

Drain the trotters and place on top of the vegetable mix with the ham hock.  Pour in the stock, put the lid on the pan and bring to the boil, before transferring to the oven and cook for 5 hours, basting the trotters from time to time and turning them over at hourly intervals (and not being too freaked out by the movements of the toes!)

Remove the casserole from the oven and leave to cool, then lift out the trotters and ham hock and set aside.  Tip the contents of the pan into a fine sieve set over a bowl and let the stock strain through.  Chill the stock in the fridge so that the fat rises and sets on the top.

Carefully remove the meat and skin from the trotters, then dice both the meat and skin and place in a bowl.  Separate the meat from the skin and bones of the hock.  Dice the meat and add to the bowl.

While you wait for the stock to chill you can make the Sauce Gribiche (or whenever you need it to serve) by placing the egg in a pan of boiling water and simmering for 7-10 mins until hard boiled. Remove and run under cold water until cool then peel the egg and separate the white from the yolk (which should be a solid ball), reserving the white for later. Mash the yolk with the mustard in a bowl until you have a smooth paste.

Slowly dribble in the oil (as if making mayonnaise) and mix the paste – it will look like it has split or turned into a horrific mess at first but keep mixing until it turns into a smooth, silky mixture.

Chop the egg white into small cubes and stir in to the yolk-mix, along with the chopped capers and cornichons, then finally add the chopped herbs. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary and keep refrigerated until required.

Skim the fat off the chilled stock, then transfer the stock to a pan and reduce by half over a high heat.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a frying pan until hot and fry the diced onions until caramelised. Mix with the diced meats, and stir in the reduced sauce.  Season and keep warm until ready to serve – or cool and store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 10 days.

Toast some sourdough bread and carefully fry the quail’s eggs for no more than one and a half minutes (any longer and you won’t get a runny yolk) then assemble your dish by spooning a generous amount of the trotter mix onto the toast, top with the fried egg and garnish with a dollop of Sauce Gribiche and a scattering of parsley.

Feel very pleased with yourself.

I’d like to thank Adam for not only creating this brilliant recipe but also giving me encouragement via Twitter as I made it!

 

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Bready, Meaty, Recipes, Snacky

Braised pork cider buns

wpid-dsc_051222.jpg.jpegThis is an adaptation of the brilliant bierocks recipe by the Hairy Bikers. Meat-filled bread buns are a staple of many different countries and this is my interpretation – pretty straightforward to make and they freeze really well. If you want a deeper flavour mix half and half cider and pork stock for the stew. Make sure the mixture isn’t too wet when you fill the dough otherwise you’ll find yourself covered in a porky doughy gloop…
Makes about 20

For the dough
500g strong white bread flour
300ml dry cider
5g fast-action yeast
5g salt
1tbsp caster sugar (or honey)
1tbsp olive oil

For the filling
Olive oil for frying
500g diced pork shoulder
1 onion – diced
1 clove garlic – chopped
1-2 carrots – diced
500ml cider (or good pork stock)
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
1-2 sprigs if thyme, leaves picked and chopped
Salt and pepper

Method
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 3.
Season the pork with salt and pepper
In a large ovenproof casserole dish or pan, heat the oil then add the pork shoulder and brown the meat on all sides then remove and set aside.
In the same pan, add a splash of cider to deglaze and then add the onion, garlic, and carrot and cook gently until soft.
Stir in the mustard and cook for a minute then add the browned pork shoulder, thyme and cider and bring to the boil then cover and transfer to the pre-heated oven for 2-3 hours until the pork is falling apart. Check every now and then to make sure it isn’t drying out, adding more cider/water as required.
When the pork is ready, shred it with a fork and, if the mixture is still very saucy, return to the hob and reduce until it is just coating the meat and veg.
Set aside in a bowl to cool.
Meanwhile, make the dough by combining the flour, cider, yeast, salt, sugar and oil in a large bowl.
Mix it together with your hands until you have a rough dough then knead on a clean work surface for about 10 minutes until it is smooth and springy. Roll it into a tight round ball.
Place in a clean bowl and pour a glug of oil over the dough then cover with cling film and leave to rise in a warm place until roughly doubled in size.
Line two baking sheets with parchment.
Knock back the dough and divide into 20 balls of as equal a size as possible, then roll each ball out into a disc about the same size as a saucer – dusting each one with flour as you go.
When everything is ready, put about 2tsps of the stew into the centre of each disc and brush the edges with water then pull the sides of the disc up over the pork mix and seal tightly (you may need a bit more water). Place each one on the lined sheets with the seal at the bottom.
Once you’ve filled all the buns, cover with a clean tea towel and leave for about 20mins until doubled in size.
Place the sheets in a preheated oven at gas mark 4 and bake for 20-25 minutes until risen and golden.
Enjoy hot or cold!

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