Rillons

So, it’s been a while since I posted anything up here. So long in fact that it feels kind of strange to be writing a blog post. Anyway, rather than make a load of excuses about why I haven’t posted recently or resolutions about how I’m going to blog more in 2013 (I’ll try, alright?) I thought I should just get on and tell you about why I’m writing this blog post.

About six months ago I was walking past the Sillfield Farm shop at Borough and noticed that they were selling off huge hunks of rare breed pork belly for super cheap. Consequently, I ended up with a couple of kilos of tasty belly pork which I promptly froze and they’ve been sitting in my freezer waiting for me to use them ever since. Every time I’ve opened the freezer, it’s been sitting there reminding me that I still haven’t cooked it. Eventually, I couldn’t stand it any more, knowing that it was in there like the tell tale pig, so I defrosted it, reasoning that would force me to cook it.

But what to make? Given that it’s Christmas, my house is already awash with a surfeit of roasted meat and much as I love roast pork, I couldn’t quite face any more rich roast meat so I decided on using some of the meat to make rillons, juicy tender cubes of belly pork, slow cooked in fat and aromatics and then preserved under a layer of lard. REALLY TASTY!

This recipe is very similar to the one for rillettes that I made a year or so ago, the main difference being that I’ve cooked them with some extra aromatics and haven’t shredded them like you would do with rillettes.

You can use rillons much like you would rillettes, spooned straight from the jar and spread on toast.

They’re also amazing when refried until crispy and served with potatoes, spring greens etc. They make a perfect store cupboard food for when you don’t have the time or inclination to make something fancy as they keep for ages!

Rillon ingredients. More green than pink...

Rillon ingredients. More green than pink…

Jon’s Rillons
800g belly pork
2 tsp celery salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
2 tsp fresh picked thyme leaves
4/5 garlic cloves
150 ml white wine
3 bay leaves

Preheat your oven to a super low setting,(Gas Mark 1/4 or about 80c)

Whilst it is coming up to temperature, take your belly pork, derind it, and chop it into cubes of about an inch in size.

Cubing the pork with my favourite jamon knife.

Cubing the pork with my favourite jamon knife.

Next, place the pork in a large casserole dish with a close fitting lid. Add all of the other ingredients and mix thoroughly.until the meat is well covered in seasonings. Make a lid for the casserole dish using foil before adding the actual lid. This will ensure that the meat gently steams in its own juices and makes it super tender.

Ready for the ole low'n'slow.

Ready for the ole low’n’slow.

Put the pork in the oven and cook for at least 8 hours. It’s good to cook overnight or whilst you’re out at work. It doesn’t matter if you cook it for longer than eight hours, it’s only going to get more tender. When you’re happy that the pork is thoroughly cooked, remove it from the oven and discard the foil. By this time the meat should be meltingly tender and relaxing in a jacuzzi of its own fat.

Carefully strain the meat through a sieve to separate out the fat. Reserve the fat. You may want to discard the garlic or leave it in there. I got rid of mine as it’d oxidised slightly and gone an unattractive green/blue colour.

Packing Pork

Packing Pork

Take your pork chunks and pack them loosely into sterilised pots or jars before pouring over the liquid fat to create an airtight seal around the meat. Set them aside to cool and there you have it; a finished jar of rillons. Dig in!

Finished jar of rillons.

Finished jar of rillons.

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Crêpe Complèt

load of Crêpe

Every year, pancake day comes around with unerring regularity. Having lived through 29 of them now, you would think I might actually remember one of them before it actually happens. I’m sure if I were a more organised person I’d have planned, cooked and written about the following recipe weeks ago in order to give people time to cook it for pancake day themselves. Unfortunately, I’m not that person and so here I am, giving a porky pancake recipe a week after Shrove Tuesday. Fortunately this recipe is damn good whenever you make it and I doubt if many of you are giving up dairy for Lent anyway. If you are, well it’s not too long until Easter….

I love pancakes in all their forms, from big fluffy american style ones, through to your classic pancake day pancakes, complete with icing sugar and a squirt of jif lemon from one of those weird lemon shaped bottles. I think my favourite pancake though has to be the classic breton crêpe: wafer thin, light brown and deeply nutty and savoury down to the use of buckwheat flour.

Many, many moons ago when the earth was young, and Liz and I had just met we went on a short break to stay with a friend in Nice in the south of France and it was there that I had my first crepe complet as an adult. Ham, cheese, fried egg, and basil sealed up in a featherlight batter of buckwheat flour and scoffed down on the beach as the sun set over the mediterranean. There are few things better. Since then I’ve eaten an awful lot of crêpes and whilst they may not have had the romance of these formative ones (A woman who can still love me with melted emmental stuck in my beard is clearly a keeper!) they have all been damn good.

For a foolproof crepe recipe, I always use my own variation of the one in the bible of high gastronomy, The Usborne First Cookery Book. You can even make the crepes up in advance and just fill and reheat them when you’re ready. The recipe follows

Jon’s Crepe Complet

Batter
125g plain flour
75g buckwheat flour
50g spelt flour (or other wholemeal flour)
2 eggs
3/4 pint milk
1/4 pint water
1 tbsp melted butter

Filling
2 shallots, thinly sliced
Good quality cooked ham. 1 slice per crepe
Emmental Cheese, grated
Eggs, 1 per crepe

To finish
Espelette pepper (optional but it’s bloody good)
Green herb sauce

For the green herb sauce
1 clove garlic, blanched in boiling water
1 bunch basil
1/2 bunch parsely
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar

First make your batter. Start by sieving the flours into a large bowl. You’re doing this to help get some air into the batter rather than  sieve out impurities so feel free to tip the grains that have accumulated into the sieve back into the bowl.

sieved flour

Make a well in the centre of the flour and crack in your eggs. Now whisk the flour into the eggs before gently adding in your water milk and salt. Continue whisking until all of the flour is combined and you have a thin and light batter. Finally slowly fold in the melted butter and whisk for another minute or so. The batter really improves with standing so set it aside for an hour or so if you can.

Eggs in a flour well

While the batter is standing, thinly slice the shallots and fry them in a little butter until they’re completely soft and very lightly coloured.  Set them aside until ready to use.

Next make your green herb sauce. Throw all your ingredients into a mini chopper and pulse until combined. Alternatively you can chop the herbs and garlic by hand and combine in a bowl with the oil and vinegar. Set aside to chill until you’re ready to serve.

Green sauce ingredients

When you’re ready to eat, melt a small amount of butter over a medium heat in a large frying pan. You will only need a very tiny bit. I tend to wipe round the pan with some kitchen roll dipped in butter before frying each crepe.

When your pan is hot, add a ladle of batter to your pan and roll it around until the batter touches the side. Fry gently until browned on one side. This should take 3-5 minutes.

Flip your pancake. You can do this as flamboyantly as you like. Me? I just tend to turn it over with a spatula. Showboating in the kitchen is all well and good but no one likes a floor pancake.

You can now proceed to fill and serve your pancakes or simply cook the crepes and fill and reheat at a later date. As I was making these for dinner, I did it all in one go.

Filling a crepe

To fill, place a slice of good quality ham in the centre of each crepe. Cover generously with cheese and a spoonful of the fried shallots then very carefully break an egg into the centre. Immediately fold in the side(s) of the crepe to make it into a square shape and continue cooking for a couple of minutes. Remove from the hob and flash it under a grill for a couple of minutes until the yolk is set. Transfer to a plate, drizzle with your green herb sauce and dust with espelette pepper if available. Pure indulgent pleasure.

Petit Salé

Ingredients. Pork looks menacing.

I’ve been wanting to try making a basic salt pork recipe for a while now. I’ve had a real craving to cook some classic french dishes like Cassoulet and Petit Salé aux lentils but that is hard to do without the star ingredient, petit salé. Petit salé is a very basic French dry cure salt pork, cured with Sel Aromatise and generally soaked before use, As with the Sel Aromatise recipe posted earlier in the week, this recipe is an adaptation of one of Lindy Wildsmith’s. I’ve made a few tweaks to the recipe to save time and cut out the soaking stage, the most important of these is reducing the salt content substantially.  I’ve also used a pinch of Prague powder to ensure that the meat retains its lovely bacon pink colour when cooked. This results in a beautiful, delicately spiced piece of pork that is equally at home in a soup, stew, or used to enhance the flavour of side dishes. It’s particularly good in my basic gumbo recipe that I’ll be writing about in a few weeks.

The pork I used for this was a tasty bit of belly that came from the Sillfield farm shop in Borough Market and came with thick creamy layers of tasty tasty fat on it (as well as quite a lot of hair. It’s strange starting a recipe by shaving your meat. I should do a post on porcine grooming at some point!)

Jon’s Petit Salé
700g pork belly, rind on.
30g sel aromatise
10g dextrose
2g Prague powder #1
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1g juniper berries, crushed.

The recipe for this,like most other bacons is incredibly simple so forgive me if the below recipe is slightly shorter than usual. It’s simply a case of some basic preparation then having the patience to wait until its ready. If however, you are confused by anything, I’d recommend casting an eye over my previous cured pork posts.

Take your piece of meat and trim off any loose bits of fat. A square or rectangular piece of petit salé is easier to cut than a misshapen piece. If your meat is hairy, you can shave it or use a lighter to burn off the excess hair.

Sprinkling the meat with cure.

Take your pork and place it in a freezer bag. Next combine your seasoning ingredients and rub them thoroughly into the meat. It makes sense to do this when it’s already in the bag as that way you won’t lose any seasoning. You want to aim for about 80% of your cure rubbed into the meaty sides and maybe 20% on the skin. My skin piece came from the butcher with the skin scored for roasting so I was able to work more cure in that way.

Meat wrapped, and ready for the fridge.

Wrap your meat in the bag and place in the fridge to cure, turning occasionally and rubbing the meat through the bag to work the salt and seasonings in. After about a week, take your meat out of the bag and place on a rack to dry. Place it back in the fridge and leave for another week to dry out by the end of which you’ll have petit salé ready to go. As I mentioned earlier, this is great in cassoulet, gumbo, or with lentils. You can also use it in place of ordinary bacon and the taste of it is just great; slightly spiced, salty and deeply porky.

Finished Petit Sale