Well this is novel.
I’m currently writing this from my lap. On my brand new MacBook Pro. Yes indeed. I have joined the new and shiny brigade. This purchase has been at least 2 years in the making, actually more. A large chunk of the money went into Student Loan Company deductions from my wages long after the balance had hit zero. Seriously, post Lehman Brothers and Northern Rock, if any other financial institutions undertook its calculations like the SLC, they would have been lynched by Joe public years ago.
I’ve been chuffed with myself for setting up this blog actually. It’s quite cathartic to have something to focus my thinking on. And also somewhere I can share my photos of the dog. Like this one of Daphne stood by a tree blow over by Storm Doris. Look how proud she is as she stands there. This was day three of Tonsillitis. Thats right, day 3 of a 7 day intense bout of Tonsillitis I thought I would never shift. I have spent quite a few moments over the last week or so contemplating a religious conversion, one where I would offer my soul to some higher being if s/he made it possible for me to sip water as if it weren’t hotter than the sun, or contemplate food that wasn’t tepid at its hottest and any texture other than paste-esque. I am pleased to announce penicillin has now become my best friend and has kicked in and my throat no longer has any festering within it.
I tried to slap a brave face on it all whilst going through the worst of it. If I’m honest with myself, I was being a martyr to myself. The worst thing about it was that I was actually feeling guilty about feeling ill. I should have been born catholic, I do guilt so well. I was worried about how disappointed I would be if I didn’t get my step target in every day, and if I missed my 5 day exercise challenge on my FitBit app. Seriously. As long walks count as exercise, I trotted out into the Mayfield Valley, trying to walk off my delirium and fever. It didn’t work. I took some selfies, and its only post-infection that I can see what a mess I looked!
Also, note to self: bushier beard gives me a bit of a Punch and Judy-esque chin. Time for a trim.
So, I was in a right old pickle on Sunday and I could not face a Sunday dinner. Although I had bought a piece of pork, a rolled belly joint, which sat unloved and untouched in the fridge. Once I could swallow solid food, it was time to put the joint to good use. As I have alluded to previously, I was raised in the Black Country. There are several things living in the Black Country gives you- a fondness for a canal system, the ability to finish any night out with a trip to a balti house, the stomach for offal and the appreciation for a pork scratching. It is this final point which is of keen focus with any pork dish made. A fatty, chewy, wet skin is the single most disappointing thing experienced with any pork joint. Now, it can often be remedied by removal and placing on a tray in a piping oven, but if you cannot dine on a bit of crackling whilst carving the joint as a chef’s treat, then there is no point. NO POINT, I TELL YOU.
So this was part of the memo I set myself. A crisping crackling, and sunday dinner on a weekday that doesn’t feel like Sunday on a Tuesday. This last bit maybe needs a bit of explaining. I just don’t like Sunday dinner on a weekday. It doesn’t taste right to me. It reminds me of all those quick gravy laden pork or lamb chop dinners I had as a kid, which weren’t as nice as the southern fried chicken and chips dinners i would have on other nights. So I always feel like it’s a bit of a chore to chow it down. It doesn’t make sense, I get that. But it’s my weird mental association. So for this beauty, a 1.5kg rolled belly of pork, I rubbed the meat and skin in a salt and spice rub. In no particular order, I went for black mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds and cumin seeds, all bashed to a powder in a pestle and mortar and rubbed in liberally. Approx a tablespoon of seeds, ground, with a teaspoon and a bit of salt.
A trivet of leek, onion, celery, potatoes and carrot awaited it all. Now I did a bit of reading around- what do the celeb chefs say about cooking a piece of pork belly? Obviously for me its about keeping it moist, crisping the skin, but also allowing as much of the fat to render down so you aren’t picking fat out your mouth for half the meal. Unappetising mental image, I know, but it’s something we carnivores can all relate to. It has happened, and we’d rather it doesn’t again, thanks. Consensus seemed to go the same way as baking a crust on a loaf- blast of hot oven for first 10 minutes before low and slow. I’ll have a bit of that, and no mistake. So I opted for an opener of 15 minutes at 220C before a reduction to 160C for an hour. At this point I poured a generous glass of white wine in, and put it back in. This I’m sure helps keep it moist, but it’s ultimate grace I found was it helped to keep the vegetables from just turning to a solid dark mass under the meat, and they turn out to have turned very soft, with a sweetness and spiciness from the rub. Another Hour, another glug of wine went in. 2 hours later- we had pork heaven.
I deglazed the pan with a drop of wine, a generous pouring of cream and a teaspoon of grain mustard, which I poured over the sliced meat and some accompanying mashed potato. I have recently discovered that a hand mixer helps make the best mashed potatoes. I’m surprised it took me as long as it did to attempt this. In reality a hand mixer beater is no more arduous to wash up that a masher or a fork, but it feels more difficult to get a hand mixer out the cupboard. A mix of butter and milk I find makes the creamiest mashed potato, and I find being generous is never a bad thing. I think we sometimes cling to that thick, floury, ice-cream scoop compatible memory of mashed potato we were served so readily in the 80’s, and don’t adapt. A creamier mash, pipe-able and smooth, is a far more rewarding side dish. No one wants a runny mash, but I for one am glad I expanded my horizons.
Not so much a recipe, as a method recommendation. And Pete hates pork, yet ate this and actually complimented it. Not a usual “it was alright, yeah”, or a “I didn’t mind it”, which I get some nights. I got a “that was fantastic”. With that added emphasis on the t “fan-Tastic”. He wolfed it down, then ran out the door on a weeknight to see 50 Shades Darker. At 8:40pm. Who goes to the cinema that late on a weeknight? Other than students? Ridiculous. He came in nigh-on midnight and woke me and the dog up. It’s a good thing I have absolutely no interest in 50 Shades of anything after I wasted almost 2 hours of my time on earth watching the first film. I can understand the attraction to Jamie Dornan but to the character of Christian Grey? I can’t understand this.
At this point, I have to leave you. Jane McDonald is Cruising in Alaska and I can’t possibly miss a moment of this magical programme. To quote the sisters from Leeds on Gogglebox, this woman is loving life. I love Jane. 😍
I hope this finds you well. I will leave you here. Well, once you’ve mentioned Jane McDonald, you’ve peaked.