There are only three things I love about my near-hour-long commute to work. One is seeing the dozens of Beaufort Polo Club ponies grazing and galloping as I whiz past (OK, pootle past) in my Ford Ka. Two is following the seasons with the changing colours of Westonbirt Arboretum. Three is getting a daily excuse to pop into Cotswold Edge Farm shop, on Tetbury Road in Old Sodbury. David Anthony, at the farm, stocks some of the best meat in this area: he also sells at Stroud Farmers’ Market and Whiteladies Road Farmers’ Market.
This week I spotted a rather good bit of belly pork, with beautiful, even layers of fat and meat – and it was as cheap as chips. That’s my kind of cut. I couldn’t wait to get home and cook it. I searched through my cookbooks for a bit of help and Matt Tebutt’s Country Cooks book had the answer. With an extra boost from Matt via Twitter “30 minutes at 200°C, two hours at 180°C, then 20 minutes or so more 200°C again. Simples” said he, I simply rubbed some sea salt and crushed, dried bay leaves into the skin and got it roasting. (I placed it on the wire rack, with a roasting pan underneath).
At first I was thinking of serving it with some gnocchi and a light, mushroom cream sauce; but, the less said about that the better… Oh, OK, the homemade gnocchi disintegrated (I should have baked the potatoes and scooped rather than boiled) and I had a strop. So, a change of tactics was needed. Instead I chucked some sliced fennel in the bottom of the roasting dish and splashed in some ouzo until it was sticky and tender. I kept the fronds of the fennel back and bound them into some silky smooth mashed potato (laced with butter and a bit of crème fraiche). And that was it. Dinner was finally served. It probably could have done with a sauce, but hey, it’s a school night and without TOH here I’ve got to do the washing up by myself! The meat was spot on – soft, tender, meat naturally basted by the fat; sticky, flavoursome edges; and, even if I do say so myself, the best crackling I have ever achieved. I should have added a sound recording, it was that crispy. The fennel was really complementary and there wasn’t a lump to be seen in the mash. A success!