At the Appetite for Excellence Hunt & Gather Dinner I attended recently, one of the stars on the menu was Slow Roasted Pork Belly. The dish, served with baby fennel and chestnut and apple stuffing, was prepared by national finalist young chef, Sarah Knights, of Uccello in Sydney. Not only was it beautifully cooked, the pork itself was exceptionally good, described by a fellow diner as having 'just the right amount of fat and meat'. The pig was sourced specially for the event and shipped to Canberra by Pork Star and Australian Pork Limited.
Provenance is key to all good chefs, including Ms Knights, who says that 'developing knowledge of the produce you use, where it comes from, how it was farmed, right down to what soil it grew in or lived on, what grass it grazed on and what it was fed, is as important as cooking the produce.' This philosophy fits well with English chef and restaurateur, Johnnie Mountain, who has released a delicious new cookbook titled Pig: Cooking with a Passion for Pork.
Mountain takes sourcing of his produce very seriously and makes this point clear in the introduction: 'With today's modern approach to pig farming, unfortunately there are still varying standards of animal welfare. Though I'm always pleased to discover that there are still a number of amazing farmers who believe in their product, and finding them is of utmost importance to me. I visit farms at least half a dozen times a year, checking on quality control and whether these wonderful omnivores are being looked after in the right way.'
Further, he writes: 'My preference is for outdoor-reared pork, as this allows the pig to follow its natural instincts of foraging and burrowing for its own food. ... Outdoor rearing allows for socializing and this [makes] sure the animal is happy within its environment and itself. A calm pig is a happy pig, and a happy pig produces the most amazing meat!.' This is food for thought, particularly given the concerning rise in animal welfare issues highlighted by the media in recent times.
So, to the book. Mountain explains the different breeds of pigs and cooking with various cuts of pork, demonstrating that pork is 'an incredibly versatile meat, with cuts to suit most tastes, budgets and occasions.' Pig is divided into four chapters: Home Favourites; Cured, Dried, Preserved and Smoked; Spicy & Aromatic; and Slow-Cooked. There is also an Accompaniments section. The recipes range from family favourites, such as roast pork, pork chops, pork pies and sweet and sour pork; to smoked pork tenderloin, home-cured bacon with maple and juniper; through to Vietnamese baguettes and pork salad, Korean-style fiery pork; and confit of pork, as well as the essential slow-roasted pork belly. The accompaniments include delights such as apple jam and goose fat potatoes. The recipes are detailed, well explained and easy to follow, and Mountain's passion for pork comes through on every page.
As a bonus, there are also Quick Response (QR) codes scattered throughout the book, which link to 'Show Me How' videos. The codes work best on a smartphone or tablet with a 3MP camera. Interesting, fun and amazing!
Incidentally, if you'd like to learn how to make Mountain's signature dish of 21-hour Slow Roasted Belly of Pork
from his restaurant, The English Pig. Watch it here and learn from the master! Better still, buy the book. You'll love it.
Pig: Cooking with a Passion for Pork by Johnnie Mountain $35.00 (Duncan Baird Publishers). With sincere thanks to Simon and Schuster and Duncan Baird Publishers for giving me the opportunity to review this book.
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