Slow roast pork for a long summer evening

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When the cousins come to stay we feast fatly. And when cousins of the cousins come to supper as well then there’s going to be some serious eating.

We started with Kir Royales made with Herefordshire cassis and moved on to a small but rich mushroom mousse (mushrooms gathered in the field next door where they’ve been growing in extraordinary profusion this last week) with some courgettes fried briefly with a little finely diced chorizo (the chorizo brought back by the cousins from their Spanish holiday).  Then on to slow roast pork with rosemary flatbread and rocket. And finally Sarah’s honey and almond cake with gooseberry/strawberry/nectarine compote and cream. I’m feeling a mixture of hungry and very full just writing it all down.

If I’ve ever given the impression in this blog that I’m a capable gardener then I must disabuse you now. The vegetable gardeners in our household are Sarah’s father Jim (executive head gardener) and my son Jonathan (skivvy slave gardener who needs the cash). However, I’m proud to say that I planted the rocket seeds so I’m going to claim the credit for the rocket which has been astonishingly successful. Serving it as a vegetable with roast meat is not only tasty and a great contrast with the cidery juices of the roast pork but also one of the few ways that we can eat enough at a time to keep up with the rocket’s vigorous growth.

Slow-roast pork has become a modern classic. There are competing but similar versions probably kicked off by the River Café  and then tweeked byNigella Lawson and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. This version is simpler than all of them and stunningly delicious. Most of them specify 16 to 24 hours at 110C. I cooked the pork for about 10 hours (which avoids the necessity for overnight cooking) at about 130C – turning it up when it looked like nothing was happening and turning it down again when there were serious signs of the liquid evaporating. It’s not really even a recipe more of an approach to a fine bit of pig.

Fresh soft bread is the ideal accompaniment for mopping up the juices. I made a batch of slackish white dough starting with a 1.5kg bag of strong white flour & a slug of olive oil, rolled it out into 2 very flat rectangles – as though for pizzas – and then put chopped fresh rosemary, crunchy salt and more olive oil on top before baking. I then made a standard white loaf with the final third of the dough which was perfect for roast pork sandwiches to sustain us on a walk up the Cat’s Back the next day.

Get a good sized shoulder of pork on the bone (mine was just over 4kg) which the butcher has scored. This served 12 for dinner and another 6 with roast pork sandwiches.

Then make a rough paste by finely chopping together:

6 good cloves garlic (peeled)
4 tbs fennel seeds
2 dsp salt

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 220C.
  2. Put the pork in a roasting tin and rub half the paste into the skin side of the pork, working it into the slits in the skin where possible. Put the pork into the hot oven for half an hour for an initial sizzle, skin side up.
  3. Then turn the oven down to 130C (without the fan on if you have the option – probably 120c if your oven forces you to use the fan). Take the meat out of the oven and turn it over and, preferably without burning yourself, work the rest of the paste into the underside of the joint. Add a 500ml bottle of good quality cider and another 300 ml of water and put it back in the oven for about 4 hours.
  4. Then turn the joint the other way up again – so the skin is once more on top – and continue cooking for another 4 hours or so. All these timings are highly flexible. An hour more on one or both 4 hour stretches will do this marvellous joint no harm at all. Just check the liquid in the bottom of the roasting dish from time to time and add a bit more hot water if necessary
  5. When you are about half an hour from when you want to eat, take the pork out of the oven, turn the oven back up to 220C and slice the skin off the pork discarding any excess fat which clings to it. Put this back in the now hot oven to create lovely crunchy crackling.
  6. Meanwhile slice/pull (depending on how well done it is) the meat into thick chunks returning them to the cidery juices as you cut.
  7. As soon as the crackling is done you’re ready to eat and create much happiness for many people. Make sure everyone gets their fair share of meat/cider juices as well as the meat itself.