Sunday, 30 October 2011

This little piggy...

Two comments I often get when I mention this blog to friends:

"I never had you down as a gardener," (even my mum said that)

"I just don't get Twitter"

Gardening began as a way to keep me and my mind occupied in the months after a relationship ended. My motivation was the anticipation and intrinsic pleasure of eating something I'd grown. It didn't need sharing or talking about because it gave a very personal, very private happiness.

But when I began writing, and got a bit carried away with the joy of this particular craft a Twitter presence was recommended by the friend who got me writing in the first place.

I have just this evening polished off quite possibly the best meal I have ever cooked. Now, I'm about as creative in the kitchen as I am skilled in the garden but tonight I got so excited I got my whizzer out to get all sorts of ingredients singing together in honour of one prime piece of pork belly. However, the real story lies behind the supporting cast which I hope will become clear

I love crackling. It's a vice of mine, but I haven't often cooked my own. The other day I wrote about fennel seeds (sowing the aniseed of love) that were a present from my friend Ruth. I originally met Ruth through Twitter and we have found a shared passion for growing your own, and she has been trying her hardest to inspire me to get into the kitchen.

After writing, I asked followers on Twitter whether they loved or loathed the fragrant/pungent seed of the fennel plant. Two of the responses tickled my tastebuds with passionate responses. @Grajeras and @AKentishKitchen both professed their love of the seed and over the course of a conversation persuaded me to crush the fennel into pork skin and accompany with caramelised apples.

You only have to say the word caramlised to start drooling

So this evening I donned the apron and got crackling...

I followed @grajeras' advice and mixed crushed fennel seed, crushed garlic and salt together.

I rubbed the mix into my pork belly, which I had the butcher score for me given the lack of anything but blunt kitchen knives in my home. On this occasion I went to a butchers (Ruby and White, newly opened in Bristol) for my meat. I thought, my  accompaniments are of the highest quality, so should the star be.

Because it's the accompaniments that meant I've treated this meal as if I was eating at a Michelin quality restaurant. The garlic was planted in my soil as a clove in February and when I pulled up my first one I was thrilled (Clove Tuesday) has treated me on several occasions now. This was my last bulb.

To roast with the meat went apples and onions. Sadly I'd run out of home-grown onions, but for apples I have plenty because I made it my ambition this year to cajole, coax and convince the tree to bear fruit, which it had almost failed to do last year (Ripe for a tart). So three were cut into chunks and laid in a roasting dish with onion and some olive oil, meat rested on top.

I decided to go with a comfort of my childhood and roast some potatoes. My potatoes have been long eaten, but in with the ones I bought went more garlic, and some rosemary. Now I've not written about my rosemary because I forgot about it. But a year ago a friend gave me a cutting from hers and said 'see if it takes'. For a long time it didn't, but the other day I noticed it had started to spread. So torch in hand I went out and cut myself a stalk.

And an hour later, out the oven, a meal in which I, friends and acquaintances have created. Sadly for the others the distances between Bristol and Poole, Kent and Andalucia respectively have meant that the pleasure, including the best crackling I have ever tasted, is all mine this time. Although naturally I burnt the potatoes...


AKentishKitchen said...

Well done, you! Cracking post, cracking, er, crackling ;)

Indie said...

Mmmm.. it's making me hungry! Good job! That must be so fun and satisfying to make a meal with so many homegrown ingredients!

Hapless gardener said...

Thanks AKentishKitchen, dead proud of the meal and enough pork to keep me going a couple of days too!

Hi Indie, yes it really did make the whole thing really rewarding and makes planting new seeds all the more exciting in anticipation of future suppers!

The Hapless Kitchen Gardener

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I only feel hapless because some people make it look easy to grow 10 ft marrows or a banquet of greens whereas my courgettes got nabbed by killer slugs and I only got one raspberry. So tips and stories from people less hapless than I are more than welcome. As a disclaimer though, none of my comments should be taken as expert advice on which you can rely! © Unless stated otherwise, and with the exception of guest content where that guest retains copyright, all photos and posts are the copyright of Tom Carpen and may not be used without permission.