Tag Archives: pig



Mention you’re cooking Bolognese to an Italian and you’ll get a serious rolling of the eyeballs. Risotto? More of a sceptical narrowing of the eyes. But Carbonara? That’s a fighting word.

Per person you will need: 120g dried pasta, 60g pancetta finely diced, a whole egg, 10g of butter and 20g of Parmesan or your favourite Italian hard cheese. It’s allegedly a Roman dish, so perhaps Pecorino might be better. Use whatever long dried pasta you have to hand: spaghetti, fettucine, linguine etc.

Pancetta can be replaced with sweet-cured belly bacon, but see below about getting some help from nutmeg and garlic. Fancy supermarkets often sell Pancetta pre-cubed in little sealed plastic pouches that can be popped into the freezer, meaning this can be whipped up al pronto if needs must.

If you have a bit of practice, then you should be able to prep and cook the sauce in the same time it takes to do the pasta, but I’d err on the side of caution, and start with the pancetta.

  1. Gently fry the pancetta and the butter, stirring occasionally, until it starts to colour.  Grind over some black pepper.
  2. Get the pasta going.
  3. In a bowl or jug, combine the egg and Parmesan.
  4. Once the pancetta is lightly browned, but not crunchy, turn off the heat.
  5. Once the pasta is done, use a teacup to fish out a few tablespoons of the starchy cooking water, and put to one side.
  6. Drain the pasta, and add to the saucepan with the pancetta, combining thoroughly. Add a splash of the reserved cooking water to loosen it up, and then the cheese and egg mixture, stirring like mad. Serve immediately, with more Parmesan.


Stuff you could add…

This is where controversy begins. Don’t mention any of this to your Italian friends.

  • a clove of garlic, split down the middle, fried with the pancetta, and then discarded, is nice
  • a small grating of nutmeg won’t hurt – if you can’t get Pancetta, and you’re using bacon, then the nutmeg is useful
  • I don’t think cream is necessary
  • a spot of peperoncino, fried with the pancetta could be fun

Sausage and Beans

A kind of elemental cassoulet, this is a good thing to cook when you’ve got a large hungry group to deal with. Maybe your church choir has been playing drinking games in the crypt. Who knows. To feed sixteen (not the sixteen) you’ll need the following quantities:

  • 3kg pork sausages (they need to be moderately fatty, some expensive sausages are commendably lean, but no good for this recipe)
  • 1kg onions
  • 1kg carrots
  • 1 large head of celery (800g or more)
  • 1kg tinned chopped tomatoes and their juices
  • 1kg tinned canellini beans (that’s four 450g tins’ worth)
  • one head of garlic (or as much as you dare)
  • a bunch of thyme
  • a few dried bay leaves

You can cook this in two stages:

  1. Start by putting the sausages into a large roasting tin (single layer is best) and into the oven at Gas 6. They’ll need around an hour – but check and turn them every fifteen minutes or so. We’re aiming for dark wrinkly skins and sticky fatty juices at the bottom of the tin. So maybe they’ll need longer.
  2. Meanwhile, chop up the carrots, onion and celery: no need to dice, just 1cm pieces. I don’t bother peeling the carrots, but just give them a good scrub to get any dirt off the outside. Peel the individual garlic cloves; no need to chop or crush.
  3. When the sausages are done, fish them out of the roasting tin, and leave them somewhere to cool. The tin should have a layer of fat in it, do not discard.
  4. Put the carrots into the tin, combine with the sausage fat, and return to the oven for half an hour. Carrots are tough little bastards, and they need a head start.
  5. Add the onions, celery, garlic and bay leaves, plus salt and pepper. Return to the oven for another half an hour. Check them regularly and turn every ten minutes or so, making sure they’re lightly coated with the sausage fat. Again, we’re aiming to get them properly cooked, and lightly caramelised, with a hint of brown about the edges. Onions have a slight tendency to burn, so feel free to reduce the temperature if they’re browning too fast.
  6. When they’re done, decant them, and if there’s a particularly good fond on the roasting tin, then deglaze it with a little hot water, reduce, and add that liquid to the veg.

At this point you can stop, and park the cooked sausage and veg into a large container. When you’re ready to continue:

  1. Into a large pot, pour in the tinned tomatoes, and about a litre of water, bring to the boil, and simmer for about half an hour. (This is just to get the tomatoes properly cooked, which makes them sweeter and less acidic.)
  2. Add all the other ingredients: roast sausages, roast veg, beans, herbs.
  3. Gently simmer, stirring from time to time, until everything is hot, and you’re ready to go.

A few things to note:

  • If you want to double the quantity of garlic, then go for it. Double it again if you need. Go on. You know you want to.
  • You can perform the second stage in the oven if you have a large enough roasting tin, or tins. Make sure that the meat and veg are poking above the liquid, and the heat from the oven will make them get sticky and crisp.
  • You could replace the sausage with an equal quantity of hacked up pork shoulder.
  • If you want to use dried beans, then you’ll need to soak and cook in advance.


Braised Pork in Cider


What it says on the tin. To feed four, you will need:

  • 750g pork shoulder (or something fatty, sinewy and interesting)
  • 750g baby potatoes
  • 500mL of cider (you could use a light sweetish ale, if you prefer)
  • a handful of fresh sage leaves (or thyme)
  • half a teaspoon of fennel seeds
  • salt, pepper
  • 60mL cream

Here’s what you do.

  1. Chop up the pork into 3cm pieces, doesn’t need to be particularly neat and leave the fat attached.
  2. Halve the potatoes lengthways – if there are any large ones chop them in four. (Baby potatoes have delicate skins, so no need to peel.)
  3. Wash and pull the stalks off the sage leaves; I ended up with about 10g of leaves. (I don’t think dried sage will work.)
  4. Place everything in a shallow casserole, add the fennel, salt and pepper.
  5. Pour over enough of the cider so everything is half submerged, you’ll probably need most, but not all of your 500mL.s-DSC01704
  6. Pop into a pre-heated oven on Gas 5, around 180°C, or 160°C if using a fan oven, what you’re aiming for is a gentle bubbling in the liquid around the very edges of the pot. Turn the oven down if this becomes too furious.
  7. Give everything a stir from time to time, so the meat and spuds are browned all over.
  8. It will need around two hours; less if everything is in a single layer. Start checking after ninety minutes: the pieces of pork will fall apart quite easily when they’re done. Note that a fan oven may cook things faster than this, so watch out. The liquid will reduce, and you’ll end up with less than a centimetre at the bottom when done, but if looks like drying out, top up with water from a freshly boiled kettle, and again, consider reducing the temperature.
  9. Stir in the cream just before serving.

Serve with something wintery, like kale.

And plenty of beer.


s-DSC01688This is ace. I used:

  • 1 kg diced pork shoulder from the posh supermarket (a whole five pounds)
  • 10g sea salt
  • 3 whole dried chipotles, roughly chopped, seeds and all
  • four cloves garlic, peeled and squished
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds

Mix the pork and salt and leave for an hour two, or overnight in the fridge.

Put everything into a roasting tin, where it will fit in a single layer, and pour over boiling water to almost, but not quite cover the meat. Place in the oven for two hours at Gas 4 (thermometer reckoned 160°C) – uncovered – stir once or twice as the top starts to brown. It may dry out a little fast in a fan oven, so you may want to top up the liquid level. After two hours, start poking and prodding: the meat should more or less collapse given a squeeze, the fat should have rendered, and there will be a scant quarter inch of dark gooey juices at the bottom of the tin, into which the chilli and garlic will have collapsed and dissolved.

Extract the meat with a slotted spoon and shred with a pair of forks, but leave the roasting tin on the bench, and under no circumstances discard the liquid.


Return the shredded meat to the roasting tin, and combine with the liquid: the extra surface area will probably absorb most, if not all of it.

Return to the oven for another half an hour to crisp up, but keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn.

Chorizo Scrambled Eggs


That was a turn up for the books.

Here was I thinking it would be nothing but scrambled eggs on toast for supper* when my beady eyes alighted on some chorizo; the sort that comes pre diced and packed into cryogenically sealed plastic bags. (Expensive, I know, but they keep for ever and can be thrown into all manner of things when you’re having one ogf those “I hate my job and can’t be ****ed” evenings.)

So, fried these up in a small pan ’til crispy, tipped in the eggs (beaten with a splodge of milk) and after the necessary scrambling, onto toast. And a splendid combination it is: creamy unctuous egg but with all the upfront fire and more subtle notes of the chorizo.

Three eggs, two tablespoons milk, 50g chopped chorizo/pancetta/bacon.

I should do this more often.

*by this I mean an evening meal, and not some clutch of braying poshos gathered around a lasagne.


I’ve been busy and life has gotten in the way of blogging. Oh dear.

A quick note from today: another kind of ooops. That recipe for butternut squash and chorizo soup? Yeah. The one where the guests lick their bowls clean? Yup. That’s the one.

I was wondering what would happen if you used, well, y’know, a whole chorizo.


DIY Baked Beans

This is very easy, but takes time. Elapsed time that is – there’s barely ten minutes’ work but it is spread out over twenty four hours.

  • 250g dried Haricot beans
  • 400g total of diced carrots, onion and celery (or whatever you happen to have to hand)
  • one 400g tin of chopped tomatoes (with the juice!)
  • a handful (75g) of finely diced bacon
  • some herbs (I used a bunch of fresh thyme on this occasion)

Here’s what I do:

  1. soak the beans overnight in cold water (won’t hurt if they stay soaking until you get back from work the following day)
  2. put the beans in a change of water, and bring to a savage boil for fifteen minutes, reduce to a gentle bubble and leave for 45 minutes, but an hour won’t hurt – you could chuck in a bay leaf if you wanted to keep them company in the simmering phase
  3. meanwhile, gently fry the bacon in a heavy casserole until it’s brown and most of the fat has oozed out
  4. add the chopped veg, and a glug of olive oil, and continue to fry (you could use butter instead of olive oil for a more North European flavour)
  5. let the veg gently fry until they’re soft, and the onion is going gold around the edges; probably a good twenty minutes
  6. now is probably a good time to get the oven going at 150°C
  7. by now the beans should be starting to soften up, so drain them, and add to the casserole, reserving the cooking liquid
  8. add the tin of tomatoes, and then enough of the cooking liquid to cover
  9. there’s probably enough salt in the bacon, but taste, and add a touch more if you feel it’s warranted
  10. add the herbs, grind over some black pepper, give the pot a good stir and consign it to the oven

It will need around two hours. Not only are the beans continuing to cook, they’re soaking up liquid, and the rate at which they do this is known only unto themselves. So, keep an eye. If the liquid looks low, top up with some water from a freshly boiled kettle. At the ninety minute mark, have a taste – the beans need to be cooked through, so no grittiness. (Otherwise they will expand in your stomach and make you explode, at least that’s what my grandmother told me when I was small.)

Serve up as a posh side to sausages or duck, or a mid week supper in its own right.

Or wait ’til nobody’s watching and scoff it on toast with cheese on top.

You could of course add stuff. A splash of Worcester sauce wouldn’t hurt. You could replace the bacon with chorizo, and maybe add some garlic as well. Once you get going with the sausages and duck it becomes full blown cassoulet, which is glorious in its own right, but lacks the comforting simplicity of this dish.

Art of the Tart

This is a rough and simple tart; not as refined as a quiche. The addition of egg to the pastry makes it remarkably forgiving. No blind baking, rolling, or faffing required.

For my 10″ diameter, 1½” deep pie dish, I use:

  • 220g plain flour
  • 110g butter, cold and cut up into small cubes
  • pinch salt
  • one egg
  • some milk

In a large mixing bowl, rub the butter into the flour and salt until the consistency of breadcrumbs. Beat the egg and mix it in with a palette knife, or failing that, a spoon. You may be able to coax it into a ball with your hands, but more than likely you’ll need to mix in a tablespoon of milk; maybe more. Wrap in cling film and pop in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

The basis of the filling is three eggs and 250mL double cream. For a richer consistency, you can replace one egg with two yolks. This produces a fluffy, but set consistency, for a more wobbly version, increase the cream.

Today, I’ve got some pancetta (10 wafer thin rashers, about 70g) so I fry that gently until crisp, and set aside. No need to drain on paper towels, as the fat is flavoured with the spices in the cure, and we want it to infuse the rest of the filling.

Push the pastry into the pie dish with your hands. (I don’t need to butter my ceramic dish, your mileage may vary.) You could roll it, but there’s really no need. If it tears, just patch it. If you end up with more on one side of the dish than the other, just rip some off and patch. As I said, it forgives much, although if you work it too hard, and it’s a hot day, the butter will start to melt, so whack it back in the fridge if this happens.

Today I spread the pancetta in the bottom of the pastry case, and beat together the remaining ingredients, with some salt, pepper, nutmeg, and some grated grana. Any kind of Italian hard cheese will do.

Into the oven at 150°C for an hour. The case looks underfull.

…and then the filling puffs up, alarmingly…

…before relaxing at the end. Keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t burn. You’ll see that the pastry shrinks away from the sides of the dish, so easy to rescue.


This is only the beginning. You could:

  • peel and slice 750g of brown onions, and gently gently gently fry them in butter for an hour or so, with salt, pepper, and maybe a clove – allow to cool and pour over the cream/eggs
  • do the same with some leeks, and add some goat’s cheese to the mix
  • replace the goat’s cheese with some salmon, smoked or otherwise
  • add some steamed (and vigorously squeezed) spinach to the fray


Let’s forget about confit of duck, goose fat, and all the fancy stuff. Cassoulet is about fat and beans, so today’s is done with sausages and bacon. Annoyingly, the beans need to be the dried ones, so you will have to soak them. Tinned beans would turn to mush during the cooking. Delia makes a good point that if you’re using sausages, make sure the meat content is reasonably high, as bready sausages will also collapse.

I’m using the following (feeds four with seconds and leftovers):

  • six Toulouse sausages (about 400g)
  • 250g dried haricot beans
  • an onion, a couple of carrots, and a couple of sticks of celery; all chopped up (a similar weight to the sausages)
  • four cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
  • about 75g tasty bacon of some sort chopped into quarter inch cubes (a single vacuum pack of cubed pancetta ideal)
  • a 400g tin of chopped tomatoes, drained – if we leave the juice then it’s too tomatoey and starts to resemble high class baked beans
  • two bay leaves
  • about a teaspoon dried thyme (or half a bunch fresh)

The pot. Pick a large one that’s good for the oven and the stove top, as we’re visiting both locations.

The beans need to be soaked in a litre of cold water, overnight, after which they’ll double in mass. (St Delia mentions the idea of putting the beans in cold water in a saucepan, bringing to the boil, turning the heat off and leaving for three hours as a way to accelerate the process.)

Once that’s done, change the water, apply some heat and get them going at a vicious boil for 15 minutes. After that, reduce to a simmer, and pop them on them on the back burner, both literally and figuratively. (You’ll need the front of the stove later.)

Crank the oven up to 160ºC, putting the sausages and bacon into the pot and the pot into the oven. Keep an eye on them, turning the sausages occasionally so we get an all over tan. After about half an hour, the sausages will be done enough for our purposes, so transfer the pot to the hob, on a low heat. Also, at this point, the beans will have been simmering for about 30 minutes, leave ’em on the back burner, ready for action in a moment.

(But don’t turn off the oven.)

Remove the sausages from the pot, and set to one side. Tip the veg into the pot, and gently fry in the fat that will have been exuded by the pig. After about five minutes add the garlic, and fry until translucent; about two minutes. (Best way to do this is shove the veg to one side so there’s a small exposed bit of the bottom of the pan where the garlic can fry. A splash of olive oil to assist if required.)

Deglaze with a splash of wine (white or red, or failing that some hot water) and then add the beans plus enough of the cooking liquid to almost-but-not-quite cover everything. Think runny, rather than soupy. Herbs, salt, pepper.

Return the sausages on top. I’d slice the sausages into three or four pieces each. Return to the oven for another two hours, lowering the temperature to about 140ºC. Leave the pot uncovered so the top gradually darkens and becomes sticky. Pretty much impossible to overdo, but check the liquid levels every so often, and if necessary, top up from a freshly boiled jug.

Despite every town in the south of France claiming that it (and it alone) is the Home of Cassoulet, there’s no definitive recipe. You could…

  • sprinkle some breadcrumbs on top about 30 minutes before it’s done
  • double the quantity of sausage
  • do it with pork belly cut up into two inch cubes instead of the sausages – the pork belly will need much longer – at least an hour – and a splash of water in the bottom of the pot – you might even want to do the pork belly for three hours so it totally breaks down

The Major is threatening to feed us with his cassoulet, which is a far superior product, and will feature his very own confit of duck. (I shall report back.)

Butternut Squash and Chorizo Soup

Another easy soup for the mid-week zombie march. You will need:

  • one butternut squash (or a very small pumpkin)
  • about a handful (50g) of chopped up chorizo (a reasonably spicy one, preferably – you could use pancetta but I don’t think that would deliver the same amount of excitement)
  • about a litre of stock (chicken, vegetable, or just reach for the Marigold powdered boullion)

Cut the squash down the middle, scoop out the seeds with a metal spoon, and slice a channel down the middle, with channels across as well. Butternut squash are treacherous, so be careful when you do this.

Pack the chorizo into the hollows, and grind over a spot of salt and pepper. Put them in a shallow baking dish, and into the oven at 180ºC for an hour. (The pancetta will ooze fat, so don’t use a baking sheet unless you want hot pig fat on the floor of your oven.)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, get the stock into a saucepan, and hot. I had a block of stock in the freezer (no idea whether it was animal, vegetable or mineral) so popped it in the pan to defrost. (End result: vegetable, if a little on the bland side.)

When you retrieve the squash from the oven, the channels will have opened out and the chorizo fat soaked into the flesh. In addition, the flesh on the surface will have started to caramelise. Yum.

Let the squash cool a bit. Using a pair of barbecue tongs to hold them, use a metal spoon to scrape out the soft flesh and chorizo, and add it to the saucepan of hot stock. Stroke the flesh gently with the spoon and it should come off the skin easily. The biggest challenge of this operation is not to simply eat the hot squash then and there. (It does make a terrific side dish.)

The soup will then need to be simmered for another fifteen minutes or so, but another half hour if the flesh was a little fibrous, i.e. hadn’t cooked all the way through in the oven.

I use the hand blender (purée wand in US English) to smooth out any last pockets of resistance. You could just have a go with a potato masher and leave it chunky.

Salt and pepper to taste. Maybe a teensy pinch of paprika if you’ve used pancetta.