Lechon – fantastic porky goodness

Warning – This post is not diet-friendly.  Not at all.  Even a little bit.  Unless the diet your on is one where you’re actively looking to gain weight.  In which case, bring it!


Sometimes, running in the morning feels like incredibly hard work.  I mean *incredibly* hard work.  This morning was one of those mornings.  And I blame my body’s apathy entirely on Lechon.

I thought I’d come across the best ways to slow cook a lump of pig already.  Pibil, carnitas, what could beat those 2?  And then along comes Lechon.

For those of you who didn’t watch Mary Berry’s Easter Feast (watch for it on the BBC iPlayer, it’s bound to come back), Lechon is a Filipino pork dish that can be cooked using a cut as small as a large slab of belly or scaled right up to the whole hog.  It’s prepared for Easter and served to the whole family.

World-record breaking Lechon
Good, but what’s everyone else having.

Long story short, it’s a slab of pork, skin on, slow-roasted until the skin is crackling and the pork is moist and gorgeous.  And if you do it with belly pork from the butchers, this one isn’t going to break the bank.

There are as many recipes for Lechon as there are families in the region, it seems, so while mine won’t be 100% authentic, it’s a good approximation.  We had a slab of belly pork roughly 60cm long by 30 wide (2 feet by 1 foot in old money).  Adjust ingredient quantities accordingly.

Phase 1 – Brining

You will need…

  • Pork belly, skin on.  It’s up to you whether you have the skin scored or not.  On the program, it wasn’t scored, in the pictures and recipes I’ve found it wasn’t scored.  Our butcher scored ours on autopilot and we ended up with the MOST AMAZING CRACKLING EVER at the end.  YMMV.
  • Salt.  Loads of it.
  • Bay leaves
  • Black pepper
  • Garlic
  • Lemongrass, 2 stalks, bashed
  • Water

Into a couple or 3 litres of water – more if you’ve got a bigger slab of meat – mix the salt until it’s dissolved and then add all the rest of the ingredients.  Brine is seriously salty stuff, so if it tastes a bit insipid, add more salt.

Leave the meat submerged in this overnight.  The next morning, dry the meat, discard the brine and prepare for…

Phase 2 – The Cooking

Alrighty.  Oven to 130°C, quick spin around the ingredients, Clive, then back to me.

  • 6 lemongrass stalks, pounded with a rolling pin and split lengthways with a sharp knife.
  • 2 onions, chopped in half then thinly sliced (or a bunch of spring onions)
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Sea salt
  • Oil
  • String

Lay the meat skin-side down and arrange the lemongrass, (spring) onions and garlic along the centre.  You’re going to roll this up, so these need to be in the middle.

Several recipes I found include a “milking” step at this point, where the skin is painted with milk and left for an hour for it to soak in.  We didn’t do this, largely because we wanted it in the oven and hadn’t banked on needing another hour.

Roll it up, tie it off with the string – one loop and knot every 3 inches or so – then oil it and rub in the salt.

Place on a roasting tin, cover with foil and stick it in the middle of the oven for 2 hours.

After 2 hours, remove the foil and give it another 4 hours.

Finally, once you’re about 20 minutes from wanting to serve, jack the oven temperature to 230C and let that scored skin crackle up good!

Once all that is done, you’re ready for…

Phase 3 – The Eating

And if you need my help with this stage, I’m more than happy to oblige.

We served ours with some plain white rice, a tomato and onion salsa and some home-made chutney, all wrapped up in a, well, wrap.

And it was all going so well until about 10pm when we fancied a snack watching Maigret and stuffed ourselves with a large sandwich – Lechon, mayo and the chutney you first thought of.

24 hours later and I’m still full.

I may never eat again.

Is that the leftovers?  Pass the chutney.

What were you thinking?

 

This was going to be a long post about how I’ve been disappointed with some of the recent releases from bands and artists I’ve been following for years. But then, as a mind far greater than mine once said:

It is easy to criticise.  It is far harder to do better.

And as I’ve got the musical talent of a toddler, I’ll stop there.  Almost.  Ritchie Blackmore, what were you thinking when you covered “Moonlight Shadow”?

Instead, I’ve got some recommendations for bands I’ve discovered through these underwhelming releases.

Die Geyers & Faun

Turns out that Germany has a far better folk-rock scene than England does.  Die Geyers worked with Ritchie Blackmore on occasion, particularly the song linked above.  They sing in a mix of English and German, and their rendition of “What shall we do with the drunken minstrels” has filled the car on more than one occasion.  Faun are a slightly different beast, only slightly, discovered when I searched online to find bands running an amped-up hurdy-gurdy.

Metheglin

One of those occasions where “You might like…” on Facebook came up with a winner.  British progressive folk group.  Wonderful choice of instruments.  I’m always wary when I read the word “Progressive” in a band description.  If it goes too far down the prog road, you’re in to 15 minute keyboard solos and stuff far stranger than I’d ever care to listen to.  But these guys strike the right balance.

An Assortment of others.

Names for you to Google and, hopefully, catch in concert:

  • Pennyless (Play at all sorts of venues and festivals around Peterborough/Stamford/Bourne/Lincoln) – ever so slightly trippy 3 (and occasionally more) piece folk band.
  • The String Contingent (Saw perform in Broadstairs, absolutely loved ’em)
  • Nate Mainland (thank you Twitter)
  • The Demon Barbers.  These guys and girls take folk and run with it.  Saw them perform in Spalding last year, can’t wait to see them in Broadstairs for the Lock In this year.

Who’s been your best musical discovery recently?

The 7 Days of Christmas

Most Christmas traditions we pick up either from the Christmases of our childhood or by osmosis from the world around.  When you get married, it gets a little interesting with the “but our family always did this…” conversations.  A final little centre table present instead of crackers is one we got from my wife’s family.

Starting a new Christmas tradition is always fun.  Last year we decided to go for a Rosace a l’orange rather than a Christmas pudding – lighter than a Christmas pud, the citrus cuts through the fat of the slow-roast duck and goose we did for the main course.  This turned out so well, we did it again in 2016 (all of it, slow-roast birds included) and are looking forward to doing it again from now on.  If you’ve not tried it, this is a gorgeous, light, creamy, pudding made using Mary Berry’s recipe here.  The tricky part is getting the oranges to candy successfully – took 3 goes first time, 2 this last time, so I’m getting better!  And ignore the order the instructions are presented in, you want to get the oranges on first so you know they work!

This year we went for something new.  7 of us, 7 days, each day one person gets to chose:

  • 1 movie for the family to watch together
  • 1 thing for us to bake/cook
  • 1 game for us to play

For the most part, this worked out well.  It was thrown off-track by Eldest either working or disappearing up to Yorkshire to visit her boyfriend, but this was Year 1 of the New Tradition.

Some things were to everyone’s taste – Youngest wanted to make chocolate brownies, watch The Force Awakens, and play Carcassonne.  Not bad at all!

Middle Boy wanted us all to watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.  Which is unmitigated rubbish (and yet on a par with every other TMNT movie they’ve ever made).  Eldest Boy wanted to make Koeksisters, which we never quite got round to.

Over the week, we watched most of the movies – and then had a catch-up day where we had a Labyrinth/Stardust double feature – baked most of the bakes and played a few, but not all, of the games.

But we did it.  And the kids were excited to plan it – they drew it up, helped each other choose what to bake, what to play, stuck the whole thing on the fridge (where it promptly got covered in crossings out and rewritings as minds were changed).

Going to do it again next year, definitely.  Might even do a version of it over the summer holidays – they’re long enough to be able to drop a few special days in here and there…