Pork

I have a theory about so many of the highly flavoured and sugar laden ‘rubs’ that are used to enhance pork on the grill. I think that the reason they exist is to try to bring a bit of life to otherwise insipid and uninteresting meat. Some of you may spring to argue with this assertion. You might say “If you ever tasted my Uncle Jessey’s ten chilli rub, you would know how flavour can punch you in the gullet.” or “Sue Ellen does a mean brown sugar, corn syrup and honey wet rub.” I don’t deny that either of these probably have some value to add (Lord help us!). My issue is with the unfortunate meat that so many rubs serve to aggrandise. I’m not trying to cause any friction with my rubbing. I’m just making the case here for high quality meat, a balance of rub flavour and some gentle smoking.

Pork with ancho and cherry sauce (1 of 10)

Just over a year ago, I was asked to come up a recipe for a fundraising barbecue. The brief was straightforward. It had to use pork. It had to be simple, as it was going to be prepared in quantity, and it had to be a real crowd pleaser. With all that and seasonality in mind, I devised a delicious Pork with Ancho and Cherry Sauce. I was delighted with it. Then it all went wrong.

As Oriental as they get.

Globalisation is a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing in that it introduces us all to foods and flavours from all points on the compass. It also has a very annoying habit of promoting fake food. Many Brits are shocked when they discover that the most popular Indian dish in Great Britain the ‘classic’ Chicken Tika Masala is English not Indian. Tempura is Portuguese and Sauerkraut hails back to the building of the Great Wall, not a German in sight. Not that any of these are fakes they are just misunderstood. The fakes are in the ranges of foods like the Tex Mex crud of which any Texan would be ashamed or the Oriental sauces that sell themselves by combining fake flavouring with too much sugar. We buy it because it has a picture of a junk  and  some vaguely oriental looking text on the label. Thats globalisation for you.

I prepared some home cured, home smoked pork loin a couple of weeks back. It was fantastic and most of the comments I had from the European side of the pond were pretty positive. One of my American friends had to make the point that bacon is made only with pork belly. He had to make the point in the way only an American would. That is he was unequivocal, forthright and definitive. He was certain that bacon can only be made with pork belly. Anything else “just ain’t bacon”. (Put on a Southern drawl while reading that.) So to run with the stereotype, here’s how to prepare good ole’ rootin’ tootin’ American bacon (All Americans use the “good ole’ rootin’ tootin'” type language pretty well all the time.

Bacon loin (9 of 12)I should have got most of you with the fifth word “bacon”. It seems to excite such passions. How often have we heard “Everything tastes better with bacon” Sadly, I have bad news for most of you. Yes, you are labouring under a misconception. What you think is great bacon is not. It pales into insignificance next to this. I know, I have eaten both. Let me tell you why.

pork-and-chestnut-stuffing-balls-18-of-19Let’s get to the rules first. Stuffing is just that – Stuffing. It should be carefully crafted, blended, seasoned and finally stuffed. It should be rammed into the opening in the unfortunate creature you intend eating. It needs to be shoved in so far that there is no space left for doubt. There is no arguing about it. 

pigs-cheeks-sous-vide-3-of-5Do you see what I did in the headline? That subtle little play on words. A sort of culinary double entendre. The pig’s cheeks, cooked sous vide are cooked rare. Pig’s cheeks are not very easy to come by. Both play to add a bit of wit to the headline. You will just have to take my word for it, this is a rare treat. It is not very difficult to prepare any element of this dish but, you will need to have your timing chain well adjusted. 

Loin of pork smoked

My darling mother is, to use her own words, “closer to 90 than 80 years young” Mum has a remarkably open attitude and a positive outlook on life. She paints in oils, having graduated from watercolours some years back. Her pictures are bright and bold and they reflect a fun, childlike humour and her bubbly personality.

Pork chops and mango salsa (16 of 16)

This dish of pork chops with mango salsa probably has as many variations as there are dance styles at a country Irish wedding. Not that I get to attend too many weddings these days. My stage of life falls well after the ‘best friends wedding’ stage, the ‘christening the baby’ stage and even the “Is that your third wife?” stage. Thankfully, I haven’t arrived at the ‘funeral a week’ stage either. I am in that happy place of caring less and less what people think of me. This is a period in one’s degeneration where one also admits stuff to oneself and those around them. My admission here is that I hate to dance. I don’t waltz. Nor do I rhumba. If you see me doing a quickstep, I’m probably avoiding a creditor. However, one can’t think about eating a huge, 4cm (1.5 inch) thick, free range, organic, rare breed pork chop without feeling the need to take a quick turn around the island unit. 

Oriental Pork Belly Sous Vide (11 of 13)

I have a dark secret. I lock myself in a darkened room. I make sure there is nobody around to catch me. Then I do it – I watch TV cooking competitions. Yes, I have even seen a couple of episodes of The Great British Bake Off, where Mary Berry with the help of a comedian (and the girl in the heavy specs), separate the competent from the inept. I’ve sat aghast at some of the efforts on Irish Masterchef. I’ve suffered foul-mouthed tirades of Gordon Ramsey on Hell’s Kitchen from the safety of my couch. Greg Wallace and John Torode regularly put in an appearance, criticising the pathetic efforts of people who obviously can’t cook and should not be asked to try. Why do I do this? 

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