I have been getting right into The River Cottage series on iView lately. It’s perfect procrastination. I have managed to kill everything I’ve tried to grow in recent years (except a chilli plant which was at the brink of death a dozen times over the summer) so as much as I’m tempted by the idea of the landshare program, I know that for me – while in Perth at least – producing my own fruit and veg is a bit of a pipe dream. I love how they are putting people in touch with where their food comes from, and not just the vegetables but also the meat. Voicing over some footage of a gamekeeper clubbing a squirrel in a sack to death, Hugh reminds the viewer that while that may make them uncomfortable, all meat involves a death. Obviously no one enjoys seeing a fluffy squirrel clubbed to death. On the other hand, (hopefully) no one enjoys the idea of baby cows being separated from their mothers and killed, but many of those people enjoy veal and the products of the dairy industry, so I appreciate The River Cottage politely making that link for them.
Back on topic, one of the smallholders was being given a crash course in butchering a pig carcass (super cool) and Hugh made Rillons to show how to make use of the pork belly. I am a fan of both pork belly and confit, so what’s not to love? We had them hot rather than leaving them to set.
(inspired by this recipe)
~2kg boneless plantagenet pork belly (we used more like 3.5 and I was still eating it 4 days later)
500g lard (or more if you are game, TBP was traumatised by even this much)
6 garlic cloves
3 or 4 sprigs of thyme
fine or flaky salt (not rock salt)
half a bottle of white wine
half a wine bottle of water
Preheat oven to 180c.
Cut your pork belly into thick chunks, ours were about 4cm long and 2cm wide when raw. The butcher did this for me since he was bored and had way sharper knifes at his disposal than I did. Salt the pork belly, and if you have time, leave it overnight or for a few hours.
Crush the garlic cloves with the flat of the knife and slide the skins off them. Hugh said to leave the skins on, but didn’t explain why and I didn’t fancy fishing them out later.
Heat a few tablespoons of lard in a cast iron pot or oven proof saucepan and brown the pork all over in batches. If you don’t have a splatter guard, it’s worth investing in one for this as there was quite a lot of hot fat flying around and I have the scars to prove it.
Once the pork is browned all over, return the other batches to the pan with whatever remains of the tub of lard. Add the white wine (which we decided to use instead of red, in an homage to the recipes origins in the Loire) and enough water so that the top pieces are just submerged. Add the garlic and thyme, and keep on the heat until all the lard is melted and the mixture is just starting to bubble. Transfer to the oven and bake for as long as you can allow. From memory, ours were in there for 2 or 3 hours. By that point the meat should be incredibly soft and tender.
Remove the pork from the lard with a slotted spoon. Heat a heavy based frying pan on the stove and fry the pork (you won’t need to add any fat, obviously) so that it crisps up on each side. Pay special attention to the skin side to see if you can get it crunchy – because the plantagenet pigs are quite young, the skin was tender and sticky and not unpleasant to eat, but just about everything is better with crackling.
The rest of the pork will keep happily for a week, and quite possibly longer depending on how long you salted it for and how clean the storage vessel is. Make sure the top of the meat is submerged in fat, and keep it in the fridge. Getting it back out of the fat in small batches is a bit of an adventure though, so splitting it up into portions so you’re not tempted to re-heat the whole thing would be a good idea.
8 juniper berries
Half a red cabbage
Red wine to taste (maybe half a bottle)
splash of vinegar (balsamic, cider apple, whatever you prefer)
Slice the red cabbage into strips. Squash the juniper berrie slightly using the side of a heavy knife, as you would for a garlic clove. Heat some olive oil in a heavy based saucepan, add the cabbage and berries, and fry lightly. Add the wine, and top up with water until the cabbage is just covered. Simmer until tender, adding a splash of vinegar to taste if you like.
TBP – This episode was a bit of a nothing episode. Notice that there was no Joffery though, a plus, but it also meant they didn’t include any boobs to balance the Joffery out. I still enjoyed it though, just not as much as previous episodes.
Poking around on Food 52 the other day, I ran accross a recipe for ‘Fugly Lentils and Drunken Pig’ and was entranced by the mental image of the idealistic world where tables are made from whole trees, and wine is quaffed, not sipped. It sounded like something GRRM would dream up, albeit with more murders. Unfortunately I don’t know anywhere I can get Plantagenet Pork hocks, and I typically don’t have three hours to boil them for stock before we even get started. This recipe is inspired by that ethos and the magic combination of pork and lentils, but it is definitely the lazy version.
Crusty fresh bread, chicken and cognac pate (not even slightly ethical, which is why I was offloading it), blue cheese and free range salame from Smoult’s Continental Deli to tide us over
Pork and Lentil Stew
Pork and Lentil Stew
Pork shoulder roast
optional – ground bay leaf, fresh garlic, salt, pepper, thyme powder, sage powder
2c Puy lentils
Soup vegetables – turnip, swede, onions, celery, carrots and parsnip, adjusting the quantities to suit your tastes. We grabbed a pre-assembled soup pack because I was feeling lazy, and parsnips are still $10/kg at my IGA which I think is daylight robbery and a soup pack made good financial sense.
1.5 Bottles of white wine
500ml Chicken stock by the Stock Merchant
oil for frying
I bought the shoulder roast pre-seasoned from my butcher, who used a mix of salt, pepper, garlic, bay leaf, thyme and sage. It added a lot of easy flavour to this dish, which you could do at home by rubbing the meat with a home-made version and leaving in the fridge overnight to marinate. Shoulder roasts will normally come rolled up with some bonus crackling, which once you’ve cut the butchers twine off, you can normally just roll off and put aside for later.
Pre-heat the oven to 180c.
I was aiming for the meat to break into large, tender chunks. What we got was more threads of pork strewn through a lentil stew, but I suspect that was mostly because I got a bit vigorous with my stirring. Either way, you want to leave the meat in pieces big enough to give them a fighting chance of staying together, but small enough to cook all the way through. Falling apart rather than fallen apart. Once my shoulder piece was unrolled, I cut it into four sections about 5cm by 5cm and the length of the roast. I then scored them fairly deeply to help get the heat and the liquid into the centre of the pieces. I browned them in a heavy-based, ovenproof saucepan, while I chopped the vegetables into rough dice.
Once the meat is browned, put it aside and fry the vegetables until they get a bit of colour and just start to soften. Add the meat back to the pan, and pour the wine and stock over the top. Top up with water if needed to make sure everything is submerged.
Bring the pot to the boil then cover and place in the oven. Cook for about two hours, checking periodically to see how tender the meat has become. To cook the lentils, either return the pot to the stove and boil for ~30 minutes, or add the lentils and leave in the oven for about an hour.
We crisped up the crackling by salting it and putting it in a hot oven. Wet skin (like if your shoulder roast was wrapped up with a marinade, woops) tends to crackle poorly if you don’t have time to dry it out properly. Ours was my first dud batch in ages, which was a bit of a downer, but it was still fun to dunk in the stew.
Warning: chesnuts can be deadly. They can be cooked in the oven, a skillet, on coals, or boiled, but no matter which way you cook them, you need to cut a slit into the outer skin (and preferably inner too, to make them easier to peel) otherwise they explode. Sometimes they explode anyway, even when you cut a slit in not only the chestnuts but also your finger. I have cooked them successfully a number of times though, and I can’t rule out that the sheer power of TBP’s oven was to blame. Nevertheless, chestnut at your peril.
TBP – Joffrey should just die. I do love eating these meals though. This was probably my favourite yet (but I really liked that cherry stuffing). If you agree with me (about Joffrey) you should check out this gif. You’re welcome.
This is a recurring favourite from last years Game of Thrones cookery. It’s as savoury and warming as you’d expect, hailing from the Wall.
Last year the Swansea Street Butcher was closed due to a fire and refurbishment and didn’t re-open until Christmas. I drove to four butchers looking for mutton, to no avail, and eventually settled on some fatty, boney chump chops figuring they’d have the most flavour. I was pretty excited this year to finally get my hands on some mutton so I could make this properly. Swansea Street have all sorts of exciting goodies, from the legendary ‘curry meat’ to sheep’s testicles and just about any other offal you care to name. I spotted some black pudding and decided to push my fellow diners buttons by adding that to the menu. Luckily they all rose to the challenge. Next time I’ll deep fry it.
Black pudding, crumbly cheddar and bread
Mutton cooked in a thick broth of ale and onions
Greens dressed with apples and pine nuts
Stewed quince with honey yoghurt
Mutton and Ale Stew
Ingredients (serves 6-8):
Leg of mutton
~12 375ml bottles of your favourite ale or equivalent volume (I like James Squire Nine Tales Amber Ale, and we buy a carton. To be on the safe side.)
~6 large onions
2c barley (or more to taste)
oil for frying
flour for dusting
optional: actual vegetables. This has worked well on various occasions with some combination of diced carrot, swede, turnip and parsnip.
Break the leg of mutton down into similarly sized chunks with a very sharp knife. You can either include the bone in the pot or save it for making stock later. Toss the chunks of mutton with some flour, heat some oil in a heavy saucepan, and brown the mutton in batches.
While the mutton is browning, roughly chop the onions. I leave mine in hefty wedges, I think if you cut them any smaller you’d barely notice them after a long cooking time. Remove the last batch of mutton and fry the onions until they start to soften. Place the mutton back to the pan and add about two thirds of the ale, and top up with water until the meat is all submerged. Bring to a boil, stirring, to avoid the pot foaming over. Reduce the heat somewhat and cook at a medium-high heat for two and a half to three hours, topping up with the remaining ale if the liquid gets too low, and diluting with water if the taste is too strong.
About 45 minutes before you want to eat, add the barley and stir through. Make sure there is a little more liquid than you think you need at this point as the barley will absorb some of it.
Serve with a hunk of bread to soak up the leftover broth.
Sugar to taste (ballpark 200g, allow far more than you would for most other fruits)
Vanilla pod and/or a lemon (either a squeeze of juice or some sliced rind, without the pith), if you like
Peel and slice the quinces. You’ll need very sharp tools and getting the core out can be a real challenge, so watch your fingers. Place sliced quince in a saucepan, add the sugar (and any other extras) and cover with water. Bring to the boil to dissolve the sugar and reduce the heat down as far as it can go. Simmer, uncovered, until the fruit is done to your liking. I never really pay attention to how long this takes as it seems to vary greatly between quinces, so check every 10 minutes or so and allow 45 minutes or so.
When the fruit is tender, remove it from the liquid with a slotted spoon and put aside. Boil the syrup aggressively until it reduces somewhat to make a sauce. We served it with honey yoghurt, but it makes a great filling for a crumble, or a cereal topping for breakfast.
Being fussy about the meat I eat and having been impressed by their attitude on a previous occasion (more on this when I actually have some of their beef to cook), I was planning to get out to The Beef Shop in Maddington to buy the roast for this meal. Unfortunately, fate and a truck load of rocks on the Narrows intervened and I only made it as far as Claytons Quality Meats in South Perth, which turned out to be a bit of a gem. They are a tiny little butcher with only two small cabinets on display but are very happy to break something up for you, an attitude I really appreciate. They also had a couple of more unusual meats like rabbit, so if you’re into that, go and say hello. They were very good about me swinging in and asking for something ridiculous right before they closed up, so I’m sure they’ll treat you well. Would you believe they actually had an even bigger version of what I bought in the cabinet? And ours was already a serious piece of cow.
Roast beef with a red wine reduction
Bread (Abhi’s sourdough)
The beef, spinach, and red wine reduction don’t really deserve recipes.
Salt and pepper the beef and brown it, fat side first, in your very biggest frying pan. You’ll probably want two sets of tongs and a spotter to pull this off if your roast is as big as ours. Place it in a baking tray and roast in a moderate oven for about an hour a kilo. I can count the number of times I’ve eaten roast beef on my fingers so I’m no whizz at this and asked the butcher’s advice – if you have a favourite family method, use that instead. Next time I’d favour a hotter oven for a short period of time so the finished product is a bit rarer. Rinse and drain the spinach and add it to the roasting tray in the last few minutes of cooking so it wilts in the juices.
Set the roast aside to rest for a few minutes before carving.
The red wine reduction was a bit of a lazy job – half a medium onion, finely chopped (shallots were not to be had), two bay leaves, two star anise, a couple of peppercorns, and a bottle of red wine, simmered until syrupy and thick. I stirred through a bit of pan juices in lieu of the more traditional knob of butter, so it wasn’t exactly restaurant quality, but it was delicious.
Strain the solids out and serve.
Recipe - Mushroom Barley
200g shiitake mushrooms
50g dried forest mushrooms
1 star anise
1 c barley
500ml beef stock (I used the Stock Merchant – a great brand which supports small farms and uses free-range, hormone free animals, and consequently isn’t cheap)
2 egg yolks
This is an interpretation of the Barley recipe from Pleyn Delit – I’ll spare you the original wording, but you can check it out here if you choose.
Place the beef stock, star anise and dried mushrooms in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and set aside to rehydrate for half an hour.
Cut the mushrooms into quarters, or otherwise into meaty chunks if they are small.
About an hour before you want to eat, bring the stock back up to the boil and add the barley. Turn down to a simmer and allow it to bubble away for half an hour or forty minutes. Check that there is still plenty of liquid (if not, top up with some water) and stir through the shiitake mushrooms. Continue to simmer until the barley has been cooking for around an hour total and check for tenderness. If the mixture is very soupy, pour off a little of the liquid (add it to the wine reduction if you don’t want to waste it).
Remove from the heat and quickly stir through the two egg yolks until the mixture is creamy.
TBP – Yes you can see my toes. DealWithItNerd.
Don’t panic, we cut that in half after TBP took the photo. It was still too big for me to finish though. I’m pretty sure eating vegetarian most of the time shrinks your stomach (NB probably not actual science).
TBP – I got a complaint earlier about including too many photos! So today you don’t get as many ingredient shots as I took (you only get two! *gasp*). But this meal was amazing, and our friend said he had never tasted chicken so tender. I, on the other hand, fell in love with the stuffing. CHERRIES IN STUFFING, it’s like having TWO desserts!
Sorry this took so long to get up, I’ve been horribly busy with assignments and stuff and I was feeling pretty out of it that day. But we have three more posts on their way to you very soon.
A couple of weeks ago I discovered the food history section of our University Library. Somehow, amazingly, I’d never run across it at work and as TBP and the Breeze can attest, I got a bit excited. Showing great restraint I borrowed a mere seven titles and am currently plugging through them under the justification of it being ‘practically study’. Pleyn Delit by Constance B Hieatt and Sharon Butler gives a recipe in the original language (if that language bears a vague resemblance to modern English, and otherwise translated) with a reference to the text it was drawn from, followed by a version of the recipe translated for modern readers and their tastes. While they go to great lengths to explain that medieval cookery was not all heavily spiced sauces on boiled chickens, there is still a fair bit of that going on. Fabulous Feasts by Madeleine Pelner Cosman on the other hand (and granted I haven’t finished reading this one yet) features more recipes that seem accessible for modern tastes and comes recommended by Julia Child, so what more could you want? This menu draws from both of them. As it was, yet again, a public holiday rounding up the (fairly standard) ingredients was somewhat of a trial, made no easier by the fact I had my clumsiest day so far this year and managed to knock something off the shelf in every store we went in to as well as ruin a caramel, nearly ruin a thermometer, drop a mug and cause two boxes of plastic cups to fall on my foot. Ladies and Gentlemen, I am all class.
Chicken with oats, ricotta, cherry stuffing & a bread sauce
Farsed Chicken from Fabulous Feasts
(recipe is verbatim except for my comments in parantheses and quantities/temperatures were translated to metric)
1 large roasting chicken, 2-2.5kg
½ c dry lentils
1 ½ c ale
1 c chicken broth
200-300g cherries (we used jarred)
200g ricotta cheese
½ tsp salt
½ tsp sweet basil
2 TB butter
⅔ c white wine
¾ slices of white bread, crumbled
¼ tsp salt
Soak lentils in ale overnight (or skip this step if you’re disorganised). Boil lentils in residual ale plus broth for 15 minutes. Drain lentils and reserve 1 cup of fluid.
Remove pits from cherries (we used jarred so this was already done) and cut each in half, or if very large, in quarters.
Mix lentils, cherries, ricotta, and oats. Sprinkle on salt and basil (which I replaced with thyme).
Stuff the bird, rub the skin with butter (or dot if you’re lazy) and bake at 180 degrees celsius for about 2 hours or until flesh is tender and skin crisp. Prepare a ‘gravy’ with 1 cup of reserved lentil fluid, wine, bread and salt, gently simmering all for 10 minutes.
I admit I was a bit skeptical about the ‘gravy’ as I’d never had a bread sauce before, but it did all come together passably smooth. Just keep stirring, it works even though it looks unlikely.
L: “gravy” at the point where I started to panic. R: barley just before the eggs are added.
Frumenty from Pleyn Delit
(recipe is verbatim except for my comments in parantheses)
Aym clene Wete and bray it in a morter wel that the holys gon al of and seyth yt til brete and nym yt up, and lat it kele and nym fayre fresch broth and swete milk of Almandys or swete mylk of kyne and temper yt al, and nym the yolkys of eyryn; boyle it a ltyl and set yt adon and messe yt forthe wyth fat venyson and fresh moton.
Cracked Wheat (Barley Variation)
1 c pearl barley
3 c meat stock or bouillion, or use half milk (can be almond milk)
optional: pinch of saffron, 1 or 2 egg yolks (both highly recommended by the book)
Bring the stock to a boil and stir in the barley and saffron (if you have time, heat the stock and saffron and let them sit a while first). Cover the pan and turn the heat very low; let the frumenty cook for about 45 minutes (or a little longer for barley). It may be served as it is, or you can remove it from the heat, stir in beaten egg yolk, then return to very low heat and stir for a few minutes before serving.
I added some extra liquid so I could safely leave it on the stove while I did something else and had to strain some of it off so it wasn’t soupy. Depending on how high you have the heat, you may have to do this even if you use the correct quantity.
Spynoch Yfryed from Pleyn Delit
(recipe is verbatim except for my comments in parantheses and quantities/temperatures were translated to metric)
Take spynoches; parboile hem in sepying water. Take hem up and presse out he water and hewe in two. Frye hem in oile clene, & do her-to powder & serve forth.
1 kilo fresh spinach, washed, picked over for withered leaves, and trimmed
salted water for parboiling
2-3TB olive oil
pinch each of ginger and allspice
parboil spinach in a large pot of water for about 4 minutes; drain, press out excess water with your hands, and chop the spinach; put in a saucepan or small casserole with oil and seasonings. Stir and leave to cook over very low heat for another 15 minutes or so; or put in covered casserole in a low oven for about 20 minutes
This spinach was not amazing. Spinach is my go-to lazy vegetable for Game of Thrones dinners but I normally wilt it in the pan juices. Maybe I didn’t fry it long enough? I only gave it about five minutes because I was pretty convinced there’d be nothing left after fifteen. It’s probably worth giving this one more go with something a bit hardier like cavolo nero.
We went down south last winter and road-tripped home again via the Blackwood Meadery near Karridale (and the Venison Farm and everything else delicious we passed). They don’t have a website but if you’re in the South-West you should consider going to check them out. One of my favourites was the plum and mead liqueur, which we had a nip of in keeping with the stone fruit theme. On the hot tip that it would be a good match for roast chicken we challenged my irrational fear of Chardonnay and tried a lightly oaked specimen from Margaret River that did indeed go quite nicely.
Verdict: all round delicious. I would definitely make the chicken again for a non-themed dinner as the flavours were modern and although it sounds odd, unusual but not unfamiliar. The barley was a bit of a dark horse and may become a staple at Game of Thrones night in the future. I’m going back to my usual spinach method in the future though.
Okay, so the titles are really terrible. They’re all my fault. – TBP
In hindsight, working until 5 then trying to scrounge up the ingredients for a feast on a public holiday was probably an ambitious move. I had been thinking seafood but after noticing The Inn At The Crossroads (an ASOIAF food themed site you should check out) had done a seafood stew recently and not wanting to be a copycat I fell back on the Westeros equivalent of an easy weeknight dinner.
Roast honeyed chicken on trenchers
Sweet pickled baby beetroots
Caramelised onions & parnsips with thyme
Spinach in pan juices
Soft & crumbly cheddar
The very first dinner I cooked for our AGOT role playing game back in 2010 was trenchers with individual roast cornish hens so I felt I was on pretty safe ground here. Last time, I bought some excellent thick crusted bread days before we wanted to eat it and let it go authentically stale. Coming off the end of an extra-long-weekend, I was lucky to find two loaves even barely big enough, and paradoxically unlucky in that they’d been baked that day! By that point it must have been just about the only fresh bread left in Perth. I toasted them on both sides on the bottom shelf of the oven and we served them on top of plates in case they weren’t strong enough.
For a public holiday I really lucked out with my ingredients – I managed to get two Mt Barker Free Range chickens from a local IGA and had stockpiled some new baby beetroots and parsnips from the farmers markets at Clontarf (as of yesterday they are now on winter hours) on Saturday. The crumbly cheddar was from Cape Naturaliste via said IGA and the spinach and onions were all I could get at that time of day.
1 Free Range (& preferably organic) chicken per 4 people
1 TB honey per chicken
1 very large loaf of rustic bread per 2 or 3 people
1 bunch of baby beetroots
¼ c balsamic vinegar
¼ c brown sugar
1 bag of young parsnips
a few sprigs of thyme
1 bunch of spinach
1 pickling onion per person (or more if you’re keen)
100g butter (or more to taste)
a litre of chicken stock (organic, or homemade, or from vegetarian powder)
a few tablespoons of plain flour
Salt & Pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 180.
Unwrap the chicken, rinse it clean (including inside the cavity), drain and pat dry with paper towel. Wiggle it’s limbs around a bit to limber things up (especially if you’ve defrosted it) and check for broken bones. If you find any, do the world a favour and take it back to where you bought it from and make a stink. Rub the skin around a bit to loosen it up.
Cut a few thin slices of butter and put them to one side. Place the chicken breast side up on a board and starting at the cavity, ease the skin away from the flesh with your fingers. Push a few pieces of butter under the skin (if you have access to duck or goose fat, use that instead). Crack some salt and pepper over the skin and place chicken on the top shelf in the oven. Roast until done (82c if you have a thermometer, or until the juices run clear, or an hour a kilo) then remove from the oven, drizzle lightly with honey and put aside (under a little alfoil tent if you are so inclined) to rest. Pop it back into the oven 5 minutes before you’re ready to eat so the honey gives it a bit of a glaze.
Peel and trim the beetroots, avoiding any sort of porous surface in the process. Place in a small saucepan with an equal quantities of brown sugar and balsamic vinegar – not your best vinegar, as you’ll want around a quarter cup according to taste. Cover with water until all the beetroots are submerged and bring to the boil. Simmer until beetroots are tender enough that you can spear them with a fork without too much resistance.
Trim and wash the parsnips. Cut them into quarters, longwise. Simmer or steam them until almost tender.
Meanwhile, skin, trim and cut the onions in half from root end to root end. Melt the remaining butter in a heavy frying pan, add the onions, cover and start to slowly fry. Once the parsnips are tender and the onions look softened, add the parsnips to the pan and increase the heat to medium. Strip the thyme leaves from the stalk and add to the pan. Fry, turning occasionally, until the onions are caramelised and the parsnips have picked up a bit of crunch.
15 minutes before you want to eat, place the baking tray, sans chickens, on the stove top on a low heat (if your tray is not flame-proof, carefully scrape it into a small saucepan). Add the spinach and heat gently in the juices until wilted. Put the spinach to one side and use the remaining juices to make a gravy.
Cut the chicken into quarters using sharp kitchen shears. You could leave them intact and carve them at the table, but I find you get less wastage this way and I wanted to get the same vibe as that first time where we had a whole cornish hen each. Slices are way less visceral and way less fun. The chicken here is done, even though the juices are red – they ran clear until I cut through the bone and we checked with a thermometer to be sure.
Place everything on to the table and let everyone serve pile up their own trenchers. Cutlery was strictly forbidden.
George R R Martin is one of my favourite authors. His universe is detailed, his plots are intriguing and infuriating, and you can barely turn a page without running into some kind of food, be it acorn paste or suckling pig. Luckily for me, a list has been compiled of almost all the mentions of food in the series (although they haven’t included A Dance with Dragons yet). I’ve been using that list as inspiration for themed dinner parties since mid-2010, originally for a friend’s role playing game, and later as we watched the TV series. For the return of the second season, we got together for a not-entirely-accurate-but-nonetheless-delicious feast. And if anyone knows where to get wild boar at short notice in Perth, please let us know.
Boar cooked with apples and mushrooms
Crispy roast potatoes
Roasted onions, dripped in gravy
Summer greens tossed with pecans
I kept forgetting to order the pork so I had to go to a different butcher because I was too embarrassed. I have a pretty great relationship with my local butcher and he is always happy to help enable my ridiculous food adventures but it’s also a running joke how I leave my projects until the last minute, and asking for a piece of meat that big only about 6 hours before I wanted to eat it would have been sure to get me in trouble. I headed to a butcher in a more pretentious part of town where I figured no one would bat an eyelid at an outrageous request and had a glorious 10-bone rack of Plantagenet Pork in my arms fifteen minutes later. Hopefully the apprentice wasn’t too put off by me hanging over the wall watching as he broke it up.
Boar with Apples and Mushrooms
(“it tasted like victory”)
1 pork rack (ours was around 2.5kg with 10 bones and allowed 6 people to absolutely gorge themselves)
1 cooking apple
knob of butter
200g interesting mushrooms, or more to taste (we used shiitake because they were local, but you could use any variety, or substitute dried forest mushrooms soaked in hot water)
2 cloves of garlic
Salt and pepper
Start with the stuffing so it can cool while you prepare the pork. And, as I always forget to do, pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees.
Peel, core and cube the apple. The size is up to you, I went for very rough 1cm cubes. The larger they are they more they will retain their shape and texture, and the smaller they are the more likely to turn to apple sauce, so it depends on how you like it. Melt the knob of butter in a frying pan and gently saute the apple.
Peel and finely chop the garlic. Wipe the mushrooms clean and cut them into pieces around the same size as the apple. Add them to the frying pan and continue to saute until the apples are tender and the mushrooms soft. Set the stuffing aside to cool.
Lay the pork rack skin side down on a chopping board or piece of baking paper and grab a long, narrow bladed knife, the sharper the better. Find the end of the bones and cut down behind them, being careful not to cut all the way through to the skin and fat. Pull the flesh away from the bones a little so you can see what you’re doing and change direction, cutting parallel to the table heading away from the bones. Continue to ‘unroll’ the pork as you go until you’re happy with how far you’ve flattened it out and that you have enough room to fit the stuffing in.
Cut some lengths of twine long enough to wrap around the pork with another 15cm or so spare so you have plenty to hold on to. I cut one to go between each bone to make sure everything was really secure but you could make do with 3 or 4 if you’re in a rush or short on string. Slide these into position under the pork with the ends trailing out on each side.
Season the exposed meat and add the stuffing. The size of the ingredients you use may mean you have too much – you don’t have to use it all. You still need to roll it back up and any leftover stuffing would make a great garnish (though if you laid it on the raw meat and then changed your mind, you’ll need to cook it again). Starting with the middle, draw the pork back together and tie it tightly closed. Do the ends next and work your way back to the middle.
When you’re happy it’s all secure, trim the ends of the string close to the knot, flip the rack over and place it in a roasting pan. Wipe the skin with a paper towel, mix together some baking powder and salt (I find a really finely ground salt works much better here than flakes or rocks) and rub the combination into the skin. Place the tray in the oven and roast until done to your liking.
If you have a meat thermometer, the minimum temperature you want is 71 degrees celsius. If not, as a rule of thumb roasts tend to cook for around an hour a kilo. In this case I knew we had more than an hour a kilo up our sleeves and there was enough fat on the cut to keep it moist, so we left it in until we were ready to eat. The crackling was amazing and the meat was falling off the bone.
Make a gravy. Feast.