For the Love of Food

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

Busy, busy, busy. I’m having trouble finding the time to write things up these days. The obvious culprit is 2 hours of daily commuting. I don’t regret choosing to be a commuter, not in the slightest, but loosing time is always frustrating. Part of my time is spent on the train, so maybe I should get myself some sort of teensy laptop (but with a keyboard I can negotiate) and make some use of the 70 or so usable train minutes. At the moment I use them mostly by reading news/blogs/stuff on my iPhone.

This weekend, leveraging our recent discovery of a good old fashioned butcher here in Hitchin, has been somewhat full-on in the kitchen. On Saturday I picked up 2 trotters, 2kg of pork belly, some bacon, and some bones from Mr Fosket, the aforementioned butcher. His bacon is excellent, the lack of such bacon is what prompted me to start making my own, but I’m not equipped to smoke bacon myself. So now I know where I can get what I want in the smoked bacon department – cut a succulent half centimetre thick, it fries without any shrinkage or leakage. Perfect stuff. But that’s just breakfast.

The bones were for stock of course, and consisted of a sawn up set of rump bones. Since his supplier had forgotten to drop off the marrow bone I’d asked for last weekend. The rump bones were enough to make a well flavoured litre of stock though, which did me for the weekend. The stock, you see, had a destiny – a warming winter minestrone!

The minestrone was a simple affair, 2 onions fried up with 25g of EVOO and 100g of my own pancetta-alike. Just lightly browned before adding, 5mm dice: 3 carrots, 2 small zucchinis, 4 sticks of celery, and a small bag of beans. Herb-wise I added a tbsp each of dried oregano, basil, and fresh-ground black pepper, plus 6 finely chopped garlic cloves. For liquids, the stock, 700g passata, a 400g tin of chopped tomato, and about 1 litre of water. For carbs, 250g of pre-boiled (for 30 minutes) and rinsed pearl barley. This lot simmers on the stove for about 45 minutes I guess (until the veggies are all cooked, but the carrot still retains a little bite. Simple stuff, about fourteen 300g serves of soup – I should be able to skip soup making next weekend since I have 6 serves of previous soup in the fridge and freezer.

The main event of the weekend, however, is bunny-brawn. Two bunnies I was given by a guy down the pub, two trotters, an onion, a large parsnip, some herbs. The trotters I clean well, trim of any hairy parts (between the toes!), halve, then split longways. These are simmered for about an hour, just covered with water, and skimming off the scum that forms until it stop forming. Then everything else is added and the water is topped up until it is about an inch above the bits. Herb-and-spice wise, 4 bay leaves, and a bouquet-garni of 8 cloves, 1 tsp juniper berries, a heaped teaspoon of black peppercorns, and the same of corriander seeds. Bring to a very gentle simmer, weight down the content of the pot by submerging a small plate on top of everything, and simmer for hours. I simmered this for about 4 hours (enough time to go out for coffee and shopping.) Fish out the bits with a slotted spoon and put aside to cool, strain the stock through some muslin, and put it back on the heat to reduce – to about a quarter of its volume probably. I reduced it until it turned into a fairly firm jelly when a tablespoon of it was put on a cooled plate in the fridge for about 5 minutes. I also added about a tablespoon of green peppercorns (in brine) to the stock as it neared the end of its reducing. Tear up the meat, skin, and fat being careful to extract all the bones. Then roughly chop the meat, add the stock, and spoon into moulds of your choice. Refrigerate, eat. A proper brawn is made with a pig’s head of course – I’ll give that a go someday. Apparently brawn ages well, and is often better after a week than the day after you make it. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Finally, just now I’ve popped a sourdough loaf into the oven. That’s my latest thing, I make a sourdough loaf every Sunday. A slice of bread a day for a week for each of us. This is pretty much the only way I can get good bread and have a relatively confident nutrient info for it, supermarket bread is crap, and good artisan bread comes without nutritional information. I keep a rye sour on the go, pulling it out of the fridge twice a week (Tue, and Fri, say) for a top-up and overnight revival. On Saturday evening I use it to kick off a wheat sourdough starter, and finish off the loaf on Sunday.

Oh, I also have another pork belly salting now, the one I mentioned I got from the butcher. This will be my fourth salted belly! The last one came out very much like pancetta, it was hung in a fairly breezy spot next to an open window for about a month. Which reminds me, I better salt my belly now, and then get to bed.

Sometimes I wonder why I don’t just order a pizza.

2 thoughts on “For the Love of Food”

  1. If I end up moving to the UK (possible) I am so inviting myself over for dinner one night 😉

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