Happy as a pig in a bun….
BLOSSOM is exploding all over Wiltshire at the moment with magnolia flowers and cherry blossoms bursting out from the branches and woodland floors being smothered in bluebells. It is truly stunning.
For a cook it is an exciting time of year as lots of spring produce is now available; asparagus, purple sprouting broccoli, nettles, rhubarb and my favourite….wild garlic. If you are out and about in the UK or Ireland, sniff the air and see if you can get a waft of the sweet, aromatic, tender young leaves. Often found in damp broadleaf woods with dappled light, this taste sensation is best eaten before it flowers and gets slightly tougher. I have found patches in Dorset, Wiltshire, London, Edinburgh and Dublin, the exact locations of which I keep secret as if I had found a precious patch of white truffles.
Wild garlic can be wilted down in a little butter or olive oil and added to soups, stews, as a side dish, pasta, risotto, or even folded through scrambled eggs.
1. Disregard any advice your parents gave you and stray as far from the path as you can as you never know who or what has heeded the call of nature along its way…
2. Wash very thoroughly before use
3. Only take what you are going to eat
4. Be sure you know what you are foraging, ( the only other plant that wild garlic looks like is Lily of the Valley which won’t do you any good, so be careful!)
This week, as I was in Wiltshire, I wanted to cook a good hunk of pork. Pigs have been farmed in the area for centuries and delicious products like Wiltshire baked hams, really good bacon and the truly delicious lardy cake (a spiced fruity bread laced with pork fat and sugar) are easily found.
The joint for Sunday lunch was to be a shoulder of Gloucester Old Spot pig bought from the local farm shop in Stourhead. This cut can be roasted but I think that it is best slowly cooked until tender and then can be pulled apart. I remove the skin before cooking (leaving what fat there is on the shoulder) and cook it separately for crackling perfection.
When slowly cooking meat it is worth really thinking about what flavours you want to add while cooking as you will get lots of juices at the end. I decided on apple, fennel, rhubarb and white wine. Served stuffed inside a ciabatta and with a radish and rhubarb salad it made a scrumptious Sunday lunch especially with the sun shining and a chilled glass of flinty Chenin Blanc.
2 thin sticks of young rhubarb
10 red radishes
4 sticks celery
handful of mint
handful of parsley
2 tbs mayonnaise
2 tbs olive oil
juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 tub of cress
Mix in a bowl the mayonnaise, olive oil, zest and juice of the lemon. Season with salt and pepper. Thinly slice the rhubarb, celery, apple and radish and add to the mayonnaise. Add the parsley, mint and cress and mix well.
For the slow roast pork and other recipes and to keep up with Philippa’s travels, visit www.philippadavis.com