To be fair, all the signs were there from the start.
I didn't actually know which recipe I was supposed to be making. Dom, over at Belleau Kitchen challenged us for this month's Random Recipe blog to go to our cuttings & clippings
heap neatly filed, well-organised folder. I gleefully grabbed mine, and said to Andy "right, I'm just going to throw them all on the floor! And then we'll pick!" "Noooooooooooo" came the reply, moving towards me like some slow-mo action hero. We're trying to keep the house a bit show-homeish at the moment, you see, what with the landlords popping round all the time to do the DIY necessary to sell the house. Fun times. Anyway - instead of me giving this place a new carpet of recipes, Andy rifled through the file until I said stop. And here is the first sign - the piece of paper he dubiously handed me had four different recipes on. All French, all country-esque, 75% of them the kind that would take me flipping hours and then Andy wouldn't really like anyway. In all honesty I couldn't remember which one of the recipes had tempted me enough to rip it out of the Jamie magazine, so I went for the one that looked like we would both enjoy. Looked like.
Pork Rillons, the recipe I went for, are - you've guessed it - yet another pork recipe. Any suggestion that round here we are one pork meal away from turning porcine ourselves would, frankly, be accurate. It turns up quite a lot round here. We are both, in short, heartily sick of pork at the moment. So picking yet another gratuitous pork recipe? Sign two.
The recipe suggests serving this dish with 'a lively Sancerre'.
This recipe takes flipping hours. You have to start it the night before, salting cubes of pork belly. Then you have to fry and slow cook the pork belly. Then you have to leave it to cool. Then you reheat it. Flipping. Hours. For a flipping (and I quote) 'snack'. A snack, FYI Jamie Oliver and Ed Wilson, from whom the recipe came, is cheese on toast. An apple. Yoghurt eaten straight from the pot. It is not something you have to start the night before. And yes, I am saying 'flipping' a lot but my Mum reads this blog. Sometimes.
I had literally no idea just how much 250g of lard looks like, until I measured it out. Trying to kid myself, I pretended that the fluffy white solids in the bowl were ice cream. And then I realised I wouldn't even allow myself that much ice cream. That was the point, sign five, at which I knew we were really in trouble.
Frying cubes of pork belly, skin side down, in some of the aforementioned lard, creates a lot of smoke. Enough to set off the fire alarm and make your newly-cleaned carpets smell of acrid pig fat. Oh, and the skin STILL wasn't crisp enough, like some kind of flipping heat-resistant kevlar jacket for the pork. Every window and door in the place wide open, autumn upon us so not as warm as it has been. Sign six, right there.
Serving up, after all that time and effort and just flipping everything, what essentially comes down to cubes of flabby pork belly that taste of lard. Not the promised chic bistro-snack. I guess that was the biggest sign. That and the uneaten pork pushed to the side of the plate. The nicest part of the meal were the green salad and the bread and listen, I am not the sort of person who says that lightly.
We don't eat much pudding day-to-day, but I'd made an apple crumble, on a hunch. Just in case. We ate it all.
So yeah, in the future, listen to the signs. My sign to you is - DON'T MAKE THE LARD CUBES, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. Or if you do, make sure that the green salad and bread are really good, you have apple crumble for afters, and that glass of lively sancerre translates into a whole bottle. You will need it.
From Jamie Oliver magazine
1kg pork belly, bones removed if there are any
250ml dry white wine (I suggest you use your lively Sancerre and neck the rest from the bottle in a fit of disappointment)
3 bay leaves
1 large sprig thyme
4 garlic cloves, halved
Green salad and bread to serve (this is important)
The day before you want to eat your snack, plan well ahead. Cut the pork belly into 5cm cubes, sprinkle with the salt, cover and put in the fridge.
The morning before you want your snack, rinse the salt off the pork and pat dry with kitchen towels. Over a high heat, fry the cubes of pork belly in a small amount of lard. Curse the recipe and open the windows.
Heat your oven to 140C. In one layer in an oven proof dish, put the cubes of pork, the wine, the garlic, thyme, bay, peppercorns, the rest of the lard and the water.
Cook for 1.5 hours until the pork is tender and tastes of lard.
Pour away most of the lardy juice and leave to cool in a small amount of it.
When you are ready to eat your snack, heat your oven to 200C. Heat the pork for 10 minutes until sizzling.
Leave most of the pork, eat the salad, the bread, and drink the wine. Realise as you smell the lard lingering in your hair that some recipes remain in your folder, uncooked, for a reason.
Serves - god knows. Depends on how many lard cubes you will eat, per person. This made about 16 cubes, so take it from there.