Slowly does it: Mark Hix cooks with rare-breed pork
The succulent and tender meat is a world away from the pork you'll find in supermarkets...
This week I am concentrating on rare-breed pork – it's massively different from the meat that you can find on the high street and in supermarkets, and its high fat content gives it real succulence, flavour and tenderness. There is some great free-range outdoor reared pork around at the moment and I love cooking with the stuff, as it is such a flexible meat to cook with; most of the cuts are pretty tender and rarely require long, slow cooking.
Honey roast ham sandwich with dill pickles
A joint of ham is still a good-value cut whether you boil or roast it, and the flavour hot or cold is second to none. It's so satisfying getting two or three meals from one cut of a boiled ham or bacon.
A raw smoked or unsmoked ham joint weighing a kilo or so
10 or so cloves
3-4tbsp clear honey
4 slices of sourdough
4 large dill pickles, thinly sliced lengthways
2tbsp grain mustard
2tbsp good-quality mayonnaise
Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 5. Score the rind of the ham and stud the cloves in randomly. Put a double layer of foil on a baking tray, place the ham on top and spoon over half of the honey. Roast the ham for about 45 minutes, basting it as it's cooking and adding a little water to the tray if it's caramelising too much and burning. Spoon over the rest of the honey and cook for a further 20 minutes, then remove from the oven and leave to cool.
Once cool, mix the mustard and mayonnaise together; thin down with a little water if it's too thick. Slice enough of the ham for four sandwiches as thinly as possible. Toast the bread. Spread some of the mayonnaise mixture on the toast, then arrange the ham and pickles and spoon the rest of the mayonnaise on top.
Bacon chop with raisins
I love a good bacon chop and I'm not sure why more butchers don't sell them – we have been buying some fantastic Moyallon sweet-cured, smoked bacon chops from Hannan Meats in Northern Ireland, which were awarded a 3-star gold in the Great Taste Awards.
4 bacon chops, weighing about 200g each
Vegetable oil for brushing
40g of raisins soaked for 24 hours in warm water
1 medium onion, peeled, halved and finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
20g flour, plus some for dusting
200ml cider or wine
300ml chicken stock
Preheat a ribbed griddle pan, brush the chops with a little oil and grill for about 3-4 minutes on each side. To make the sauce, melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan and gently cook the onion for 2-3 minutes until soft, add the flour and cook on a low heat for a minute, then gradually add the cider or wine and stock to avoid lumps forming, bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 20 minutes. Drain the raisins; simmer them gently in the sauce for a couple of minutes. Serve the sauce spooned over the chops or separately.
Pork cheeks in perry
A few butchers and good supermarkets are now selling pork cheeks. They're a great cut of pure meat and they have natural marbling, so the meat stays moist during slow cooking.
500-600g pork cheeks, cut into 4-5cm chunks or left whole
2 medium onions, peeled, halved and finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
50g flour, plus some for dusting
700ml chicken stock
Season and lightly flour the pork cheeks. Heat a frying pan with a tablespoon or so of vegetable oil and fry the cheeks on a high heat for a few minutes, browning them on all sides then drain on some kitchen paper. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan and gently cook the onion for 2-3 minutes until soft, add the flour and cook on a low heat for a minute, then gradually add the perry and stock to avoid lumps forming; bring to the boil, add the pork cheeks, season and simmer gently for about 1-1 hours or until the cheeks are tender. The sauce should have reduced and thickened by now; if not, remove the cheeks and simmer the sauce until it's thickened, then return the cheeks and serve in a warmed sharing dish or individual plates.
Pork steak with jasmine flowers
My friend Hieu at London's Vietnamese restaurant Cay Tre serves jasmine flowers as a side dish; they are absolutely delicious and have a luxurious flavour somewhat reminiscent of asparagus (which would also work well here). You can find them in Chinese and Vietnamese supermarkets.
I've also scattered a few Chinese chive tops over, which you can also find in Chinese supermarkets.
4 pork steaks, cut from preferably the rib, weighing about 150g each
100-120g jasmine flowers (or asparagus)
2tbsp vegetable or corn oil for frying
A handful of Chinese chives, tops reserved and bottoms finely chopped
2-3tbsp sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)
Preheat a ribbed griddle pan or heavy frying pan, season and brush the pork steaks with a little of the soy. Brush the griddle with a little oil and cook the steaks for about 3-4 minutes on each side until just cooked but still slightly pink. Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon or so of the vegetable oil in a heavy frying pan or wok and quickly fry the jasmine flowers and chopped chives for 2-3 minutes without colouring them and seasoning lightly during cooking. Blanch the chive tops in boiling salted water and drain.
To serve, cut the steaks into 4-5 slices, spoon the jasmine flowers on to warmed serving plates, arrange the pork on top and scatter the chive flowers over. Spoon a little sweet soy around and serve.
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