Monday, 19 December 2011

The hoover - the charcutier's friend

I was hoping to make porchetta over Christmas. I'd usually do this using boned shoulder of pork. However, there was a pig's mask hanging in the School's chiller on our last day, so I got given this as a  'project' and duly went off to research porchetta di testa.

It was clear from the one good video online:

and various other posts, that my main problem was going to be how to sous-vide the pork, in order to cook it in its cure on a really low temperature.

I considered various options, including taking it in a bag to my butcher's, and asking them to vacuum seal it for me, or using a Ziploc bag and hoping for the best, until I remembered that I had some spare vacuum bags left from my recent house move - bought with bedding, rather than porcine, storage in mind. I found one the perfect size, got the mask in its marinade into it without incident, when I discovered - disaster - the bag was just a bonus one that came with the set, and didn't have a vacuum cleaner plughole. But necessity is the mother etc etc. I got as much air out of it as I could, zipped it up, then opened the zipper slightly and shoved the hoover nozzle into the opening. I was a bit concerned that I would end up with the marinade in the hoover, but it seems to be ok. Although I won't know until I start the cooking process whether my cunning plan has worked. I'm also concerned that I've done a marinade, rather than a cure, but it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. Watch this space.

In the meantime, here is what I did to prepare the mask for its 3-day wallow in the vacuum spa....

Onions and garlic, fresh rosemary and bay, fennel seeds, ground cloves, salt and pepper for the marinade. Based on Nigella's Porchetta recipe in Forever Summer.

The only decision remaining today is what to do with the pig's ears. I hate throwing anything away, and I thought they'd make a nice present for the two dogs on Christmas Day, but when I googled 'pig's ears for dog food', I ended reading a load of stuff about how they can be bad for dogs. As I write, the jury's out and they're still on the cutting block. Watch out for next week's thrilling instalment.....

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

A ray of hope...

A couple of events recently have given me hope for the future, of this little bit of world, at least. The first was the Tasting the Future Assembly in the London Living Room on November 28th.  Frustratingly, I can't find any mention of the assembly on the WWF website, but here is where it all happened.

I never thought I would attend a conference that started with singing, let alone being taught a song by a bloke with long hair and no shoes or socks, walking round playing the guitar. Instead of finding it too happy-clappy for words, it actually kicked off what turned out to be a brilliantly-facilitated conference. I can think of a few consulting firms who could learn from the way it was run. The discussions that took place were fascinating and heartfelt. I pinned up on the 'agenda' board a question around the supermarkets and whether we should be acknowledging their power and living with them, instead of bashing them all the time. Not because I think that's what we should be doing, but just to get the debate going. I was amazed to find that 12 people turned up to take part in the discussion, including the Head of Sustainability from M&S.

I also took part in a 'hear the story' session from London City Farmers, and ended up sitting next to Rosie Boycott, whose journalism I have always admired, and who heads up Capital Growth on Boris's behalf.

Now that I've lost my 'southernist' viewpoint, I have started challenging the notion that everything starts in London - with all the zealousness of a new non-smoker who won't tolerate anyone smoking around them. I asked her to what extent Capital Growth had engaged with other UK cities and was disappointed that she answered in terms of 'oh yes, Manchester have been to see us' and some others that she couldn't remember. I wondered if she had any idea how Londonist she was being. I know that's her job, but really....I felt exasperated by the response.

The second event was a visit to the School by Stephen Gould, the MD of Everards in Leicester, to talk to us about Project William and their collaboration with artisan food producers and publicans. They have come up with a startlingly simple way of investing in local businesses that is really working. And in some cases has obviated the need for those businesses to beg for investment from those pesky bankers. Brilliant!

And in the meantime, here's a picture of the class's pork pies back at the ranch, just to prove I have been doing some Butchery as well...