I often come across recipes by Yotam Ottolenghi via my Guardian food & drink Google feed (isn’t it incredible that that phrase makes sense?), though his column there is called “The new vegetarian“, so I rarely pay it much attention. But last weekend I had the good fortune to be stuck in a country house with a copy of O’s “The Cookbook”, and after a quick flip through I was forced to sit and read the thing from cover to cover. Well, as far as rapid intake of all recipes goes.
A desirable cookbook falls into one of two categories for me: either I open a random page and find something unique and interesting that I hadn’t thought of, or I find myself wanting to make every single recipe. O’s falls into the latter.
Two days later I started my quest with the pork belly. I’ve been playing with this piece of piggie fat for a while now: I’ve done the confit, I’ve done the porchetta, the brining, the overnight pressing. This was probably the simplest recipe (one hour at max oven temp, one hour at 170C plus a bottle of wine, one hour at 110), but it may have been the best one yet. The crackling on that baby was outrageous.
Outrageous, I tell you (and so will the Philosophe).
Amazingly, I also had a punnet of gooseberries in the fridge, so I mimicked O’s suggested gooseberry relish (boil them up with some mustard seeds, ginger, onion, vinegar, sugar etc), which quickly became a fantastic friend to the pork. But the friendships didn’t end there: enter O’s cucumber salad with poppy seeds and chillies, throw in Signe’s addition of avo and fresh mint (the chillies were darn hot), and the table was like a frikkin’ Seinfeld reunion. We had much good mouth fun.
The question of what to do with leftover pork belly is less troublesome than how to recycle crackling. Until I discovered that the good people of the US south have been making crackling bread for quite some time. Brilliant! I took it from there myself, and threw the crackling into the food whizzer. The essence of fried pork that emerged went into this batch of ciabatta-ish rolls:
After that, there was only one respectable thing to do with the remaining pork. Take two forks and pull.
Without a certified slathering sauce in the kitchen, I pulled out a variety of sweet, sour and hot things and boiled them up with a glug of whisky, and smothered the meat in it.
Dinner: toasted crackling bread (I Can’t Believe It’s Not Crackling!) with pulled pork and a generous dollop of mint-avo-gooseberry relish. There was no time to take a picture.
And for those of you who think eating meat is somehow destroying the planet, take heart. Pigs fart much less than cows.
Thanks, Mr. O. We will be back.