Rillettes de porc

Main course: Serves 8




Found in most French grocers, rillettes make the perfect picnic dish with some crusty bread, cornichons (little gherkins) and a glass of red. They transport very easily, are simple to make yourself with pork, goose or duck legs, and keep for months in a sealed, sterilised Kilner jar. I've done this recipe for eight because, as with pâté, there's no point making a small amount. It's unlikely to hang around for long.

1½kg pork belly, rind and bones removed. Cut into 2-3cm pieces
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and halved
½ tsp ground nutmeg
2tsp freshly ground black pepper
2tsp Maldon sea salt
2 bay leaves
1tbsp fresh thyme leaves

With a small, sharp knife make a cross in the top of firm tomatoes, and remove the little core where the stalk was attached. Drop tomatoes into a pan of rapidly boiling water for 10-12 seconds and remove with a perforated spoon into cold water. The skins should easily peel away, if not drop them back into the water for a few more seconds. The tomatoes can then be cut in half, the seeds squeezed out and the flesh diced up ready to cook. Preheat the oven to 150°C/ gas mark 2. Put all the ingredients into a heavy-bottomed oven or hob-proof dish (a Le Creuset type casserole is perfect), pour in 150ml of cold water and gently bring the contents of the pan up to a simmer. Cover with a lid and put into the oven for 3 to 3½ hours. Stir occasionally and add a little more water if the liquid has evaporated. The meat is done when it's falling apart.

Empty the contents of the pan into a colander or sieve over a bowl. Allow to cool a little and remove the bay leaves.

With a fork or very clean fingers break up the pieces of meat into shreds; any large remaining pieces of fat will have to be chopped up with a knife or broken up in a blender. Transfer into a clean bowl, then mix in enough of the strained fat to form a creamy paste. At this stage check the seasoning and add a little more salt and pepper if required.

Transfer the mix into little individual pots, a sterilised Kilner jar or a suitable serving dish. Spoon a little more fat on top, especially if you plan to keep it for some time. Pack them into a cool box and serve spooned on to crusty baguette with crunchy cornichons.

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