Thursday, 28 April 2011

Easter Madness

What an epic Easter weekend! This definitely goes down in the family history books for the extraordinary weather (25˚C), the 17-people family get together, the amazing food and the witch-hunt over the missing Lint Lindor egg.

It all started with a perfect picnic under a shady tree in the parents’ allotment. We were meant to be digging and planting, but eating and drinking seemed more appealing. I had made a Rosemary and Sea Salt Focaccia that morning and Mum brought the rest – salami, finely sliced dried pork loin, cold BBQ chicken thighs, mozzarella with basil, Dad’s home-made pate, home-grown green salad and homemade elderflower – all consumed on a rug in the blossomy shade.

Saturday was the family get-together and we all piled over to my uncle and aunt’s, so that 17 people could trash their house rather than ours! The Gang: Mike, Sal, Avril, Tom, James, Annie, Rob, Kate, Justin, Laura, Garvin, Martha, Elijah, Petra, Mia, Josh and Nyah. The whole day was spent in the garden eating delicious barbeque shoulder of lamb with herb-covered new potatoes, grilled peppers, green salad and a delicious mix of shelled broad beans, peas, green beans, spring onions and mint. Uncle Mike was a fab host offering champagne, Pimms and beer but on a day like that there was only one thing for it – ice-cold Rosé.

There was also a frantic Easter Egg Hunt where all the adults tried to hide the eggs as fast as possible with the kids following in hot pursuit picking up melting blobs of foil covered chocolate. Thank you Burrows for hosting a fantastic day and as The Prawn King said "Family days don't get better than that."

Mrs. C outdid herself on Sunday night when we had Slow Cooked Belly of Pork. I am not a huge pork fan as I think it can be dry and seriously dull with the only real reason for eating it beaing crackling. But this was outstanding – succulent and juicy, yummy little strips of meat with bits of good fat on. Oh, and the best part …… THE best crackling I have ever tasted (which of course had to be weighed and measured to ensure equality). We had a big green salad on the side and that was perfect as it was so filling. Don’t be tempted to serve it with anything too heavy, the pork is the star of the meal here and it doesn’t need much else.

The recipe for Easter 2011 needs to be written down as it was an all-time classic. Perfect.

Sea Salt and Rosemary Focaccia (Dough – Richard Bertinet)

500g strong bread flour
20g coarse semolina
15g yeast (fresh if possible) – same amount if dry
10g salt
50g olive oil
320g (320ml) water
4tbsp olive oil plus a little extra
A few springs of fresh rosemary
Rock salt

Preheat the oven to 250C. Mix the bread flour and semolina together and rub in the yeast, using your fingertips as if making a crumble. Add the salt, olive oil and water then mix the ingredients using your hands or a scraper to bring the dry up into the wet. Lift out the dough onto your work surface.

Again like the previous bread do not flour or oil the surface – it may look sticky, but it will all come together. Knead the dough for 10-15 minutes, stretching and pulling, getting as much air in as possible. Put the dough into a oiled bowl and leave to prove for an hour in a warm place, until it has roughly doubled in size.

Turn the dough onto an oiled tray. Chose a tray size depending on how thick you like your focaccia – the bigger the tray the thinner the focaccia. Drizzle the oil over the dough, then, using your fingers, push and prod the dough so it spreads from the centre towards the edge of the tray. Try not to stretch it too much. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rest somewhere warm for 45 minutes.

Prod again, dimpling it with your fingertips, and rest for a further 30 minutes.
Take the leaves off the sprigs of rosemary and push them evenly into the dough. Sprinkle on the rock salt and immediately put into the preheated oven. Turn down the heat to 220C and bake for 25-30 minutes, until it is light golden brown. Brush with a little more olive oil while still hot.Cool on a wire rack. 

Slow-Cooked Belly of Pork (How I Cook - Skye Gyngell)

2kg pork belly with skin and ribs
2 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt and ground pepper
4 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 large red onions, peeled and roughly chopped
6 garlic cloves, skin on and smashed
5 bay leaves
Handful of rosemary, roughly chopped
250ml of verjus or dry white wine
4tbso red wine vinegar
5 tbsp water

Preheat the oven to 200C / Gas 6. Using a small sharp knife, score the skin of the pork belly 2cm apart and 1cm deep (or far easier, get your butcher to do this as they will do it better!). Rub in the oil and sea salt into the skin.

Place in a large roasting tray skin-side up and cook for 50 minutes on the middle shelf until the skin starts to colour and blister. Remove from the over and take the pork out of the tin. Remove all the fat that has been produced. Scatter the veg, garlic and herbs in the bottom of the tray and pour over the liquid. Put the pork back on top of the veggies. Cover with foil and return to the oven. Turn down the heat to 160C / Gas 2.5 and cook for a further 2 ¼ hours, turning the veg from time to time.

Uncover the meat and turn the heat back up to 200C / Gas 6 and cook for another 15 minutes to brown the meat (and crack the crackling!). Allow to rest in a warm place for 20 minutes (discard the veggies).

Cut the pork into 2-3cm slices , sliding out the bones as you go.

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