Cook a dish with as much pork as possible… that’s the brief for Pork Off 2011. A shiver of porcine excitement ran from the tip of my snout to the end of my curly tail when I read that. “This is it”, I thought. “This is the big one”.
I put on my pork thinking hat (a custom made flat cap constructed from pork belly), and set about planning a meal of such porkyiness that there was an actual risk of pork implosion, the opening of a pork black hole™, from which nothing, pork or otherwise, could escape.
My Pork Off dish is a rack of Iberian pork, Swineherd’s pie with curly tail crackling, Scotched Pork and Bacon Bread.
- The rack of pork needs no explaining other than Iberian pork is among the fattiest, most tender and well flavoured pork that there is.
- Swineherd’s Pie is a porked up version of a shepherd’s pie (swineherd being the correct name for a pig farmer), which uses a whole rack of ribs braised with black garlic to make the filling, topped with a curly tail of crackling (more of which later).
- Scotched Pork is essentially a scotch egg where all non-pork elements are replaced by pork
- Bacon bread is bread made with bacon.
I have split the method and ingredients into the individual items, starting with the Swineherd’s pie which took two days.
- 1 rack of pork ribs
- 3 cloves of black garlic
- Smoked bacon
- 2 carrots
- 2 sticks celery
- 2 onions
- White wine
- Red wine
- Buttery mashed potatoes
- Crackling curly tails (see the Scotch Pork section)
Season well and fry the ribs off in a large pan until golden all over. Meanwhile chop the bacon, half of the vegetables, the thyme, and add this to the pan. Pour in about half a bottle of white wine, cover and gently braise for 3 hours. Let it go cold overnight so the meat can soak up some of the braising juices. The next morning take the ribs out and refrigerate, strain the remaining liquor and keep in a jug in the fridge.
When you’re ready to start making the pie filling, chop the remaining vegetables and fry in utter until golden. Rip the meat off of the ribs in chunks and add to the veg, add about 2 – 3 glasses of red wine, the reserved braising liquor and simmer for around 2 hours until it’s reduced and thick and rich, season if necessary.
To build the pie; scoop the filling into mini Le Creuset style pans, pipe hot mashed potato over the top, brush the potato with butter and grill until golden brown. Finally; top with a curly tail of crackling.
The Scotched Pork is quite process intensive but doesn’t require a lot of ingredients:
- Cured chorizo sausage
- A 1kg piece of pork belly
- Caul fat
- Sausage meat
- Mild mustard
Pass the chorizo through a mincer a couple of times. This gives it a surprising consistency similar to hardboiled egg yolk. You’ll then need to wrap it tightly in yolk sized balls with cling film. Chill in the fridge to firm up.
Take the pork belly and slice of one or two thin shards of skin with fat attached, this will be our curly tails. The rest of the pork should be scored through the skin with a arts and crafts blade and have Maldon salt energetically rubbed into it. Leave this for 30 mins and you will see water being drawn out and settling on the surface.
Wipe the pork off, then lay the it meat side down on a bed of onions and season again. The shards of skin that were sliced off should be seasoned and tied firmly to the handle of a wooden spoon like a curly tail.
Roast at 160 degrees, take the curly tail out after the first hour (allow to cool, snap into inch long pieces). After the second hour turn the temperature up to 200 degrees and leave for around 30 – 45 mins until the skin has reached terminal crackle. Take out and leave to rest and cool. When cool enough to touch, remove the crackling, try not to eat more than about half or there won’t be enough for the dish. Split the meat into white and fatty parts and dark and burnt parts. The dark and burnt parts can be consumed immediately since they’re not required for the dish. The white and fatty parts should be blended down to the consistency of rillettes, adding some of the rendered pork fat if necessary.
The crackling needs to be broken down to breadcrumb size pieces; the best way to do this is in a spice grinder.
The start building up the Scotched Pork; wash and lay out some sections of caul fat. Place a small handful of compressed white pork meat in the middle and top with a chorizo “yolk”. Carefully surround the chorizo with more pork and start wrapping the caul fat around. Remember the final shape you’re looking for is an egg. When done, trim off any flappy bits of caul fat and chill to set the fat in the pork.
When the pork eggs are well chilled, press out some sausage meat on the worktop to quite a thin layer (we don’t want to overdo it on the pork), and place a pork egg on top. Carefully wrap this up just as if you were making a real scotch egg! When done, wrap in cling film and chill.
We won’t be using egg and breadcrumbs since neither egg, no breadcrumbs are made of pork. So we will roll it in the crackling powder we made before.
When the time comes for the final cooking, drop the pork into very hot oil and fry for around 5 -6 minutes. Drain on kitchen paper, then paint on mustard with a pastry brush and roll in the crackling breadcrumbs.
I was loathed to serve such a porky feast with meat free bread, so came up with the following:
- 350g strong flour
- 175g cold water
- 4g dried yeast
- 15g tomato puree
- 3g salt
- Streaky bacon to taste
Put everything except the bacon in a KitchenAid style machine and mix on medium speed for 9 mins. The tomato puree will give the dough a nice pink bacon colour. Leave to rest in the bowl for around an hour.
Scrape the dough out onto a floured work surface, deflate and gently stretch out to a flat oblong – don’t use a rolling pin; not necessary and over tightens the dough. Cut into long strips with something like a pasta cutter or an actual pasta cutter. Leaving some dough exposed at each end, lay bacon along the length and dab the far end with water. Roll the dough and bacon up, seal the ends and place each one on a baking tray; leave to rise for about an hour or 90 mins if it’s a cool day.
Bake on 190 degrees for 22 mins. While still hot, brush with melted butter then leave to cool.
Rack of Iberian Pork
Meat this good shouldn’t be messed about with and shouldn’t be overcooked. I like my pork on the rare side, but of course it’s personal preference.
- 1 rack of Iberian pork (600g)
- Sprigs of rosemary
- White wine
Season the meat well then sear on all sides very well in a heavy based Le Creuset style pan. Add about 2 glasses of white wine and put the lid on; leave to cook to your preferred amount; 5 – 6 mins rare, 12 – 13 mins well done.
Wrap the pork in tin foil to rest and rest for 10 mins while you get the rest of this shabang ready.
I served mine on a wooden board, the Scotched Pork in egg cups (ironically), everything else straight on the board and only a sprig of inedible rosemary as a garnish (wouldn’t want to accidentally eat a vegetable). And so finally here is the meal itself:
And the entire process in case you want to see it all in one gallery: