Tuesday, 29 November 2011

for the love of pig

when we first moved into Belleau Cottage nearly 10 years ago I had no idea of the wonderful community I was entering... of course as a fully fledged, born and bread city boy I had my fantasy imaginings of what the bucolic life would bring... pear-hipped, lavender scented old ladies preserving rhubarb in jars on their sun drenched window-sills... sun-kissed, craggy skinned farmers driving hay-stack laden tractors along hedgerow shrouded country lanes... tea and scones in the local village hall... cattle lowing gracefully in the fields...

... and of course, anyone who lives in the countryside knows it is everything like that... and more!

what I wasn't really expecting was the true sense of community... a community that expects you to put in much time and effort but with rewards that are many-fold.  At first it was hard to do as we were really using Belleau Cottage as a bolt hole from the city and never expected the need to make friends... but as our love for it grew and our time here increased it was inevitable that we were already a welcomed and excepted part of a loving community... and one, luckily for me, that has a real passion for food and produce...

... we are surrounded by the most incredible artisan food producers... we are at ground zero for many of  those amazing products you see in Waitrose... but better than that we are at the heart of a community who rear their own free-range meats and organic vegetables and many of these producers and growers are good friends...

... last week Zena my dear friend from Troutbeck Farm turned up our doorstep with a whole belly of pork... as you can image it caused mixed reaction in our household but joy outweighed The Viking's feigned fainting as I handed over just £12 for the best part of the pig... this belly is from pigs I helped feed this spring, pigs I knew had a happy life snuffling around a wonderfully happy farm.. this is not the time or place to debate the death of one animal to feed the belly of an other but I do consider myself a very very lucky man...

Roast Belly of Pork
with all this wonderful pork belly i'm starting with the classic, slow roast and i've got about 7 great recipes for roast pork belly in my many cookbooks and most of them are pretty similar, here i've combined three... one from HFW for the method and two from both Gary Rhodes and James Martin for the technique of roasting over a rack of vegetables... I am in hog heaven!

... i'd love you to suggest any other pork belly recipes you may have... I have a lot to get through...

at least 1kilo of pork belly
fresh thyme leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
an assortment of root vegetables - peeled and roughly chopped (I used carrots, swede and parsnip)

- pre-heat the oven to 200C

- place the pork belly skin side up on a rack over a baking tray

- rub the scored skin with plenty of salt, pepper and thyme leaves

- roast in the oven for 30 minutes, then turn the heat down to 160C and roast for a further 2 hours

- in the last hour, take the pork and tray out of the oven, drain half the fat out of the tray and place the veg into it.  Then return the whole lot back into the oven.

- serve with some of Zena's wonderful mulled apple jelly (more of which later...)

eat and of course, enjoy



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