Happy as a pig in a bun….
Blossom is exploding all over Wiltshire at the moment with magnolia flowers and cherry blossoms bursting out from the branches and woodland floors being smothered in bluebells.
It is truly stunning.
For a cook it is an exciting time of year as lots of spring produce is now available; asparagus, purple sprouting broccoli, nettles, rhubarb and my favourite….wild garlic. If you are out and about in the UK or Ireland, sniff the air and see if you can get a waft of the sweet, aromatic tender young leaves. Often found in damp broadleaf woods with dappled light, this taste sensation is best eaten before it flowers and gets slightly tougher. I have found patches in Dorset, Wiltshire, London, Edinburgh and Dublin, the exact locations of which I will keep secret as if I had found a precious patch of white truffles.
Wild garlic can be wilted down in a little butter or olive oil and added to soups, stews, as a side dish, pasta, risotto, or even folded through scrambled eggs. When picking remember:
- Disregard any advice your parents gave you and stray as far from the path as you can as you never know who or what has needed the call of nature along its way…
- Wash very thoroughly before use
- Only take what you are going to eat
- Be sure you know what you are foraging, ( the only other plant that wild garlic looks like is Lily of the Valley which won’t do you any good, so be careful!)
This week, as I was in Wiltshire, I wanted to cook a good hunk of pork. Pigs have been farmed in the area for centuries and delicious products like Wiltshire baked hams, really good bacon and the truly delicious lardy cake ( a spiced fruity bread laced with pork fat and sugar) are easily found.
The joint for Sunday lunch was to be a shoulder of Gloucester Old Spot pig bought from the local farm shop in Stourhead. This cut can be roasted but I think that it is best slowly cooked until tender and then can be pulled apart. I remove the skin before cooking (leaving what fat there is on the shoulder) and cook it separately for crackling perfection.
When slowly cooking meat it is worth really thinking about what flavours you want to add whilst cooking as you will get lots of juices at the end. I decided on apple, fennel, rhubarb and white wine. Served stuffed inside a ciabatta and with a radish and rhubarb salad it made a scrumptious Sunday lunch especially with the sun shining and a chilled glass of flinty Chenin Blanc.
Next I am off to cook in Toulouse where I suspect the Easter bunny is safe but the ducks may well end up as part of the feast…
Slow roast shoulder of pork sandwich with rhubarb and radish salad
serves 8 – 10
To cook the pork you will need;
2.5 kilo of free range pork with the bone in and skin cut off.
1 head of fennel cut in half
6 sticks of rhubarb roughly chopped
2 glasses of dry white wine ( one for the pig, one for you as you have 6 hours to kill)
2 apples (Braeburn or similar) cut in quarters (no need to skin or core)
3 glasses apple juice
1 white onion peeled and cut into 4
3 bay leaves
1 head of garlic cut horizontally and outer skin removed
I was lucky enough to have access to a wood oven so I fired it up to about 400 C then let the pork cook slowly over night in the dying embers of the fire………. yes I did thoroughly enjoy that method! For those of you who don’t happen to have a wood oven in the back garden here is how it can be done.
Pre heat the oven to 200 C.
In a roasting dish add the pork seasoned with salt and pepper, add the rest of the ingredients listed above.
Cover loosely with baking parchment then wrap tightly in foil.
Bake for 45 minutes then turn the oven down to 150 C and cook for a further 5 hours.
Take it out to rest while you turn up the oven to 180 C and roast the skin, placed on a flat baking sheet, till it goes crispy ( about 30 – 40 minutes).
Once the meat has rested shred with two forks into strands and cut some of the cooked fennel, rhubarb and onion into thin slithers and add to the meat for serving. Toss well with all the delicious juice.
2 thin sticks of young rhubarb
10 red radishes
4 sticks celery
handful of mint
handful of parsley
2 tbs mayonnaise
2 tbs olive oil
juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 tub of cress
Mix in a bowl the mayonnaise, olive oil, zest and juice of the lemon. Season with salt and pepper
Thinly slice the rhubarb, celery, apple and radish and add to the mayonnaise.
Add the parsley, mint and cress and mix well
10 ciabatta rolls
1 peeled garlic clove
To serve lightly toast the ciabatta then rub with raw garlic and drizzle with olive oil. Stuff the bread with warm pulled pork and serve with some crunchy radish and rhubarb salad.