Spiced shoulder of pork

Some Sunday meals are all in the planning, some are hasty and last-minute, but in my house, they’re always treated seriously. You’ll never find me skimping on Sunday lunch. I’m a traditionalist. It just wouldn’t feel right.

But I also live in the modern world, and yesterday I had work to finish and no time to plan and prepare. So come 2pm, when I suddenly realised that I had nothing but a frozen pack of sausages in the house (and feeling the need for a good meal and a nice bottle of wine), I ran down to the shops, leaving the gods of fate in charge of my lunch, and picked up what I could find… in this case, a rather nice looking rolled shoulder of pork (I’m lucky to have a decent, farm shop-quality butchers in my local co-op).

Now, personally, I’m not a fan of boned and rolled joints. I like fatty cuts (whole or half shoulders, usually) with their bones left in. Sure, they can be tricky to carve, but they also cook much better and have a lot more exposed surface area to infiltrate with various ‘aromatics’. I find boned and rolled joints just too tightly bound, so that the heat has to spend ages working its way through to the middle and the outside takes all the punishment. Anyway, it’s hardly the end of the world, but this particular joint posed a challenge to me. So here’s what I did:

Spiced shoulder of pork

Firstly, I loosened the string that was keeping it so tightly bound. I thought about unwrapping the whole joint, but I was worried about it drying out if it didn’t have its bone inside. The last thing I wanted was dried out roast pork. I then toasted fennel and coriander seeds and ground them with three garlic cloves, two tblsps sea salt and enough olive oil to make a paste. This was rubbed and massaged all over the pork, specifically into the scored fat. Then I sprinkled the whole thing with a mixture of smoked paprika and thyme and laid the joint on top of a halved onion, a split carrot and two celery stalks. I poured some water into the roasting tin and put it into the oven at 220° fan for 30 mins, to dry out and ‘crackle’ the crackling.

After 30 mins of 220° fan heat, I turned the oven right down to 130° (fan) and let the pork roast slowly for another hour and a half. 30 mins from the end, I added two Bramley apples to the pan, halved and cored (the EASIEST apple sauce ever). I also let the joint rest, upside down, for about 15 minutes before carving it. I made a gravy using the pan juices, the mashed up trivet veg, white wine and cider vinegar. The fluffy baked apples were served alongside the pork, and I accompanied it with mashed potato and steamed spring greens. Very easy, and very delicious.

Spiced roast pork with cheats apple sauce and 'trivet' gravy

And to drink? Well, if I’m honest, the whole point of cooking this meal was that I really fancied opening a nice bottle of wine, and what better way to enjoy a good wine than with a nice plate of roasted meat. I opted for a bottle of Prunotto Dolcetto d’Alba (available here), a gorgeous medium-weight Italian red with a good mix of sweetish ripe fruit (to balance the sweetness of the apples), cutting acidity (to handle the juicy fattiness of the pork) and enough spicy, licquorice-y flavours to stand up to the smoked paprika, fennel and coriander flavours. Even if I do say so myself, it was a cracking match, although I was let down a bit by the meat, which, as I suspected, suffered from being a rolled and didn’t fall apart like a proper roasted shoulder should.

Bitter ––> sweet

©William Thomas 2012

Seville orange marmalade 'blessed' with Monbazillac dessert wine

As a sort of footnote to my recent post about dessert wines (here), I just wanted to share with you my recipe for yesterday’s homemade marmalade, which I ‘pimped’ with Monbazillac dessert wine.

I’ve been making marmalade at home for a couple of years now. Really, if you’re a fan, you’ve got to either try making it yourself or at least get hold of some good quality homemade stuff. The difference is incredible.

In the past I’ve followed Delia’s recipe, which always worked well and felt right as my Mum used to make marmalade when I was a kid, and was a big fan of Mrs Smiths. But this year I changed tack and went with Dan Lepard’s recipe. I’m a huge fan of Dans, his recipes are always really well thought out, and I love the ‘demystified’ professionalism of them: the way he explains, in very simple terms, the underlying science of a recipe so you can understand it and adapt it to your own tastes. Seriously, if you’re interested in baking, his book Short & Sweet is an essential purchase.

But I had one problem: I’d bought too much fruit for one batch, and I didn’t want to make two. So instead, I followed Dan’s recipe to the sugar and water calculation stage, then cut back on both in order to fit the whole lot in one pan. This essentially gave me a super-intensified marmalade, with a far higher percentage of fruit than normal. Nothing wrong with that, plus I knew it would be much easier to set this way.

And then I got to thinking, inspired no doubt by my recent musings on dessert wines, would the caramelised orange peel nuances of a botrytized sweet wine add another layer of loveliness to a marmalade? It’s a pretty expensive experiment, but hell, no-one makes marmalade to save money, you do it because you want great quality, so why not push that as far as you can go?

I actually consulted Dan on this idea, as I wasn’t entirely confident about when to add the wine or if it was indeed a good idea. He very kindly got back to me and explained that by adding a tablespoon of the wine to the jar before pouring in the hot marmalade, I’d get the maximum amount of flavour into the preserve. And so that’s what I did…

The result? Well, I only made it last night and in my experience, marmalade improves greatly with a bit of ‘jar age’, but yes, it worked a treat. The tingling tanginess you get from homemade marmalade is buoyed by a cheeky, boozy edge, and you get nuances of those petrolly, grapey notes from the Monbazillac. Worth the expense? Hmm, probably not, but if you asked that question about everything, life would be pretty dull. So if you want a jar, let me know, I’m only charging £20. Bargain.