This little piggy…
Sardinia meant a new destination and new client for me so all seemed very exciting. The initial introductions were done over the phone and all seemed like it would work out very nicely until…
“ Oh yes we eat practically anything”! (client)
“Yes, and we wondered how you felt about cooking baby … phone line crackles at inopportune moment.
“Baby…!” more phone crackling.
Cripes I thought what had I got myself into?!
Turns out they were saying baby pig or “Su Porcheddu” the Sardinian specialty of suckling pig. Which is totally delicious, though I was surprised when I got mixed reactions of me giving ours a little massage with olive oil on my instagram account phollowphilippa. Personally I have much more of an issue with people buying non local or non free range or processed meat and or when they don’t make use of all the meat and bones that they buy. ( High horse moment over)…
I flew into Olbia airport and had made good arrangements with my client of what I looked like and what they looked like ( I almost went home with the wrong chap back in Val d Isere earlier this year, so didn’t wanting repeat confusion). The spectacular drive to the house took about an hour along the winding roads that over looked the rugged and hot hills of the island.
The first shop had been done for me, which was a fun way to start the weeks cooking. Jumping into the very pretty blue tiled kitchen I was delighted at the perfectly ripe tomatoes, peaches and soft fresh mozzarella they had chosen and guessed that shopping would be very much what was local and in season.
For an island that is super popular with the jet set crowd I was pleased to see that the shops in our area really did stick to what was local. This translates to what is at its tastiest although not always aesthetically beautiful. I am pleased to report Italians don’t have the same problem as us in the UK where every fruit or vegetable has to be the same size and lumps and bumps are not permitted. I was amused when I couldn’t find any chocolate at the local supermarket to cook with but I could find five different varieties of peaches.
For those wishing to embrace the Sardinian food culture here are my favorite things you should look out for:
Su Porcheddu – suckling roast pig
Malloreddus – my new favorite semolina pasta that is like a curled up contact lense. It scoops up sauces brilliantly and is a delight to eat.
Bottarga – dried fish roe
Fregula – small round cous cous like but actually pasta balls that can be cooked like risotto or pasta.
The malloreddus pasta nearly pipped the pig to the post for this postcard recipe. A delightful size to eat and went particularly well with the sausage, fennel, chili, tomato, saffron and pecorino sauce I made.
The island, although not home to many of the charming old settlements has an interesting Gaudi esque style archictecture and a mix of brown orange and white villas dotted over the hills. A trip around the coast or to one of the islands is a must and we were interestingly near where Nelson kept his fleet in the Napoleonic wars though he himself never set foot ashore as was in ill health.
So for this weeks postcard I give you suckling pig which will be what you are eating if you are at our table for Christmas lunch . The smells as it cooked were superb and everyone including me couldn’t help but occasionally open the oven to have a peak at the pig.
Super yachts spotted : 8
Peaches bought and eaten ( by us all) : 103
Varieties of peach bought : 5
Pasta cooked : 5.1 kilo
Olive oil used : 4.2 litres
I’m loving: walking to the end of the garden and falling into the med.
Every home should have: a bosse wireless mini speaker ( they are amazing)
I’m reading : The Magus, compelling read despite some of the most dislikable characters ever written.
Suckling pig .
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 suckling pig
1 fennel bulb
2 apples plus one small one for serving
handful each of parsley and thyme
1 garlic head cut in half horizontally
1 onione red or white peeled and chopped into four.
½ dry white wine like vermentino
Pre heat the oven to 160 C
With a damp kitchen paper towel give the pig a quick wipe.
Sprinkle with salt and give a quick massage with oil all over
Stuff the belly with fennel , chopped apple , thyme , parsley stalk , garlic , onion . If the kidneys and heart are in you can leave in as they can be eaten and or will add the flavor.
Then sit pig upright and try to position front legs stretching out and back legs tucked under – like an Egyptian jackal statue .
Cover the ears in foil for cooking as otherwise will burn .
If you want to stuff apple in mouth at end stuff a ball of foil in mouth at this stage.
Slit the pig in a few places so skin does not burst when cooking ( I made incision by armpits and back legs – but not too deep)
Bake at 15 mins per pound at 160 °C
After 1 1/2 hours add 1/2 pint water to the tray .
At 2 1/2 hours add 1/2 pint white wine to the tray .
The Liquids will keep the pig moist and produce your gravy but you don’t want to add them too soon as you also want the pig to roast.
Once cooked Let rest for 1/2 hour after cooking lightly covered in foil .
There should be lots of lovely natural juice you can strain off and use for gravy.
Remove the foil ball and earmuffs and stuff a small apple in its mouth
Serve at the table to lots of oohs and ahhs with some delicious Sardinian wine.