Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Pork you pine for


The other day, whilst minding my own business, I stumbled across this bombshell, and chose to take it entirely out of context. It was, after all, a headline on a discarded newspaper lying on the pavement, between a grubby chewing-gum mark and a cigarette butt: obviously whoever else had read this didn’t believe it either and had chucked the offending article away in disgust, without even waiting for a bin to come into view. I am pretty sure that in the unwritten rulebook of autumn, Sunday lunches are near the top. The one that we had at Tam’s house in Suffolk was a case in point.

Dare I say it, we had all slightly overdone the Moscow Mules (not to mention the wine and champagne) the night before, and her herb-rubbed shoulder of lamb, roasted directly on the Aga rack, its juices dripping over silky boulangère potatoes, was the edible equivalent of an almighty hangover-busting hug. To follow, a couple of dark plums plucked straight from the tree, some squares of dark chocolate and some velvety coffee took the Sunday blues far away, for a little while at least.

taters 2

But where am I?

This was Suffolk, where it’s all about pigs and apples.

What luck to find, having cycled through the leafy tunnels to the local farm shop, that Saturday was Apple Day; cooked, pressed, toffee-d, brewed, these versatile and seemingly uncomplex fruits were presented and celebrated every which way. This chance to peruse was welcome as the day had started unseasonably warm. Each variety displayed differences in the look of its skin, perhaps due to how much the sun had touched it, which branch it had been on or leaf it had resided under: from emeralds to neon-greens, russets to coral pinks; sweet, tart, pink-fleshed, smooth or nobbly, these were all there for the tasting. The crisp acidity of the Lord Lambourne made it my favourite on the day, but I suspect that, rather like wine, it depends upon your mood and what you are going to accompany it with, if anything at all, that is.

apples crates (3)

So here it is: the pig section. And greedily on Saturday I had it twice. Lunch at the pub after a good morning’s activities had to be pub-like, if you know what I mean. So I opted for a ham sandwich with crisps and a salad, (well, an onion and tomato wedge, on the side). Boring? Not at all – for this wasn’t something you would apply the word ‘wafer’ or ‘value’ to, or perhaps even the word ‘slice’. Every uneven hunk looked like it had been shaved off with a chainsaw, dwarfing the bread that was trying desperately to contain it – the kind of meat worthy to be included in a ploughman’s lunch. Salty pink and delicious, I am afraid it had to be adulterated with the obligatory smudge of hot yellow English mustard.

This was a simple example of the sheer gloriousness of British fare which surrounds us throughout the year, and it is British Food Fortnight now until the 4th October so we must celebrate it now!

The second porcine delight of the day was slow braised pork belly, taken from that sweary Ramsay man’s book Secrets, and it has prompted me to do more cooking from books. I would probably get into all sorts of trouble for reproducing it word for word here, so go and track down the recipe - this is the kind of dish you cook for someone who will then instantly fall in love with you. After cooking for a few hours in a mixture of soy sauce, sherry vinegar, stock and aromatics the meat only needed to be looked at to fall apart in a melting, treacly mass, atop a pillow of the creamiest mash you can imagine (the BSG’s heart soared at the discovery of a potato-ricer in the house). Alongside these glistened leaves of squeaky forest green chard, its rhubarb-hued veins a sharp contrast, its iron taste a welcome palate cleanser between shovelfuls.

Completely sublime are two words that fall embarrassingly short of doing this dish justice. I took no photos of it – there was no time to waste – but suffice it to say we all fell just a little bit in love with Tam on the spot.

Oh, and we (notably the BSG) couldn’t let perfectly good crackling go uncrackled…


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