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Junior Apprentice and 6 Hour Slow Roast Pork

A title you wouldn’t see very often, or would you? Junior Apprentice branched into cheesemongering this week and were my neighbours at the Covent Garden Real Food Market. It added a little spark to the day, and nosey ole me kept a close eye on proceedings, although I was careful to dodge their camera, having no ambition to appear on any form of The Apprentice, even as an innocent and very nosey bystander. I can’t bear the show.

I have been in front of the camera before. I have been on TV before in a starring role on ” A Prayer at Bedtime”. I jest but also it is true, it was a favour to a friend producing them at the time. It was laced with ironies, and every elderly lady in Cork loved me for a time, and that, my friends, was my brief sojourn into TV.

This one was quite funny as they seemed to have a mix of the usual characters, some grafters working hard, persuading people to buy cheese, not stopping in their efforts and quite understated in their dress. And then there were the others, there to make an impact, sporting striking clothes, one a bright white beret and sparkling red lipstick. Who am I to judge? She may be the brightest of the bunch and did manage to sell £50 worth of cheese to a neighbouring startled trader. Although,  I did also heard her describe one of the many cheeses to a customer: “well, it’s basically, like, a blue cheese”. I sound like a snob. In truth, I would have been the same at that age. It was amusing to witness however. I’ll take what I can get.

Lingering in the background all the while was a large production crew, frantically scribbling notes, guiding, instructing, ordering, directing. Sternly overseeing all junior apprentice activity was Nick Hewer. I caught him glaring at me and my camera at one point. Haha!

Junior Apprentice aside, this week had the usual mix of drama and high activity. In my fourth week now, I am still coming to grips with how these things work and I am, as ever, a horrible chronoptimist (defined by the urban dictionary as a person who always under estimates the time necessary to do something or get somewhere – HELLO, c’est  moi). This week, culminating with me in a state of slight panic the morning of the market wondering how I could get everything done, having utterly stretched myself. Ambitious as always, aiming to deliver too much and not as organised as I should be. I always do this, and always get very annoyed if what I do is even slightly under par. I felt as I did before all exams, underprepared and extremely annoyed with myself, hoping to scramble through. Stressful.

I made it though, and I survived.

The drama started ever before I approached my kitchen with the sourcing of ingredients. Last week I asked my butcher if I could order bone in shoulder of pork and he assured me that I didn’t need to, that they always have some out the back. I was surprised, following the high drama associated with getting one for my birthday. So, off I trundled on Wednesday, ready to purchase my shoulder of pork, bone in. They had none. CRAP. Already I was having problems with the bread with no time to make it, and through the advice of the wonderful Willie Lebus of Bibendum, had managed to secure a new order via Sally Clarke’s bakery (fabulous bread & service, I will be using them again).

What to do? I couldn’t use bone out, I wanted to slow roast it, and needed the bone to retain the moisture and add flavour. I wasn’t sure how pork belly would work cold in a sandwich, without experimenting it was too risky to try. They did have a leg of pork, bone in. I was a little worried as this is a much leaner cut of meat, and the fattier cuts lend themselves better to a slow roast. I thought I should give it a try. They’re a great butcher and the meat is high quality, it’s as good a place to start as any.

Anxiously I wheeled my third leg home in my new bright pink shopping cart, wondering how best to do this. It was heavy, as was the chorizo and minced pork I had also purchased, and my wrists were starting to ache. I was getting stressed, and I needed to reel it in, so that I could get everything done, and do it well.

I prepared the roast, exactly as I had done with the shoulder. Pouring some boiling water over first, drying and salting with a sea salt and fennel seed rub. Roasting at maximum temperature for 40 minutes to crisp the crackling and reducing to a little lower than the shoulder as there was less fat to protect the meat, 150 degrees this time for 5 hours or so, basting occasionally, turning the temperature up for the remainder, or until the crackling was perfectly crisp all over.

The result? A perfectly good roast leg of pork with great crackling, but I don’t find these leaner meats as appealing to slow roast, and as they cool they can dry out. The meat close to the bone was moist and delicious but that closer to the skin, despite being protected by a layer of fat, for me just wasn’t as good as it could have been with a fattier joint. I know fat isn’t healthy, but it is tasty, and you do need it for this.

I served it with a celeriac and parsley salad, although in hindsight something like a remoulade might have been better, the leaner meat could probably have done with the extra moisture while cushioned in the bread. The bread was really great, half was a white buttermilk roll which was sweet and light, and the other half a nuttier wholemeal, with some butter in the dough. Both good partners for the pork.

In addition I made chorizo and pork rolls. These I played with for some time, knowing that cold they would not have the unctous fat providing moisture. Encased in a homemade butter shortcrust, they were quite popular, selling out early in the day. I’ll be making more of these this week, with a couple of tweaks.

If  you were vegetarian or weren’t a pork fan for religious reasons or otherwise, there were three vegetarian tarts: beetroot, ricotta & mint; pumpkin, spinach & roquefort and last weeks start burnt aubergine with feta and also red pepper this week. There was no wine this week unfortunately as Denise had to work, and so I sailed the ship solo. However, my aforementioned hero, Willie, arrived on the scene with two bottles of delicious red, proclaiming them perfect partners with the pork. A bottle of D’Arenberg Derelict Vineyard Grenache, 2006 & Chianti Rufina Fattoria di Basciano 2007. He was right, and we enjoyed a glass, as did several other visitors who I gave tasting portions.

No sweet treats this week, these I had to shelve as I was running out of time. Learning, as I am, this week I’ll be more realistic, and I will endeavour to have some there.

So, that’s it. Another day at market, another frantic day of prep, and 16 hour Thursday. The Thursday is actually the best day, as I do get a buzz from being there. The build up is a killer though.

This week: less chornoptimism, more organisation, and help from Dan from Food Urchin should make it a thoroughly enjoyable week. I’ve also ordered the shoulders of pork this week and hope to have them delivered, saving my wrists and my sanity. And I may attempt the bread. I’ll plan it out on Tuesday, so watch this space. Denise will be matching the wines this week, she’s going to get back to me and let me know what these are, and I in turn will share here.

Thanks to everyone who came again, it warms the heart so it does. I hope that you enjoyed it as much as I did.

The full photoset is on flickr.