Keith had his way with a moderate-sized slab of pork a week or two ago. Now it’s my turn…
This is pretty much the ultimate in fire-and-forget cookery. It goes into the oven one day, you get it out later. Much, much later. The following day, usually, although if you get it in before breakfast it can be ready for dinner time depending on the size of the slab. I’ve had 12 for dinner with this dish, everyone’s eaten until they’re fit for exploding and there’s still been leftovers to make sandwiches with later in the week.
I can’t claim credit for this dish, it comes from the absolutely superb Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall book, “The River Cottage Meat Book”. This book is known in our house as “the big book of meat” and is pretty much exactly that. There’s chapters in there on buying the right meat, what to look for in the assorted meat groups, what to do with the different bits (including heads and knuckles!). It’s an enjoyable read (assuming you’re not vegetarian) and has some fantastic recipes.
For the spices…
- 2 star anise
- 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
- 1/2 a cinnamon stick
- 4 cloves
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
Grind, mix, keep in an air-tight container. You’ll need 1 tablespoon of this and the rest will keep happily for another day.
For the paste itself…
- 5 large cloves of garlic
- 5cm fresh root ginger, grated
- 2 teaspoons dried chilli flakes (for the kid-friendly version, substitute paprika or dried bell pepper)
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon sunflower oil (Hugh recommends groundnut oil if you’ve got it)
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon of the spice mix.
Mix everything together into a wonderful aromatic paste. If using chilli flakes do not, repeat do not scratch your eyes/nose after mixing the paste. I do these things so you don’t have to.
- 1 whole shoulder of pork, on the bone. 5-8kg depending on how many people and how hungry you expect them to be. Buy generous here, the smell will be driving you mad by the end of cooking and if you’ve got to make pork sandwiches with the leftovers (or rissoles), then quel domage!
- Oven to 230°C – Very hot.
- Score the rind of the pork shoulder to a depth of 1/2 – 1cm, lines about 1cm apart, with a very sharp knife.
- Place the shoulder, skin-side up, on a rack over a roasting tin. Rub a generous half of the spice paste into the scored rind.
- Place the joint, on the tin, into the oven for a half-hour blast at this high heat.
- Take the meat out, (very carefully, it’s hot) turn it over and use a knife or spoon to smear the rest of the spice mix into the underside of the joint.
- Pour a glass of water into the roasting tin, put the oven heat down to 110°C, replace the joint.
- Wait. 16-24 hours is a good wait (though it can be done in less with a smaller joint). We tend to do this first stage the night before we’re going to eat, turning the oven down at about 11PM, midnight, thereabouts. If you’ve got a really big joint, and are wanting to eat the following evening, you can bring this forward to 6 or 7 PM, providing someone’s an early(ish) riser who will…
- About halfway through the cooking, turn the joint skin-side up again and baste with the fat and juices that have accumulated in the pan. The smell when you open the oven for this bit is just heavenly.
- 45 minutes before you want to eat, jack the heat back up to 230 to crisp up the crackling. Keep an eye on it now to make sure it doesn’t burn.
- Remove from oven.
- Remove the crackling and break into pieces for everyone to nibble on.
- Place in the centre of the table. Let everyone admire.
We tend to serve this with mashed potatoes or roast veg. We have been known to serve it just with bread rolls and an assortment of mustards and chutneys. The trick is to keep it simple. This is not a roast that requires “all the trimmings”.
If you have enjoyed this, I exhort, plead and nigh-on beg you to purchase a copy of The River Cottage Meat Book from whichever source you find most convenient. And then pay a visit to The Reluctant Housedad to see what Keith’s cooking today.