Pork, especially Scottish pork, is delicious and it varies, like any other meat, according to the breed, how it is raised, and how it is hung. It is worth seeking out special-breed pork, and asking your butcher about the pork he sells, and its provenance.
One of the most delicious ways to cook and eat pork is the Italian porchetta, which is even more delicious eaten cold than hot. I have read several variations on recipes for porchetta, but the one I like best is the simplest, given to me by the butcher in Montepulciano, a family business run by a couple and their son where we buy our meat when we are there on holiday. Their porchetta is meltingly delicious, with pork belly encased in a boned loin, and the whole rolled around a simple paste of lots of chopped garlic, chopped rosemary, salt and black pepper. Slow roast till the crackling is crisp and the meat and fat within are permeated with the flavours of garlic and rosemary.
Pork is the perfect meat for braising, when I use shoulder meat. Fillet of pork is ideal for stir-frying, as well as for quick special occasion main courses. But fillet of pork needs to be brushed with melted butter or oil, or wrapped in streaky bacon or, as in a recipe I gave you a couple of weeks ago, wrapped in Parma ham, to prevent the meat from drying out as it roasts.
Pork en daube
This involves a marinade, which becomes part of the whole dish, so make sure the onions and carrots are evenly diced and sliced.
For the marinade
2 onions, each skinned and halved and finely sliced
6 carrots, of medium size, each peeled and trimmed at either end and sliced thinly – about ½ cm thick
2 fat cloves of garlic, skinned and finely diced
1 pint/570ml red wine
¼ pint/140ml olive oil
a few parsley stalks, bashed, which releases their flavour
2 bay leaves, a sprig of thyme approx. 2in/5cm long
1 rounded teaspoon salt, about 20 grinds of black pepper
For the casserole
2lb/900g pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into large chunks about 2in/5cm in size
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1 just rounded tablespoon flour
½ pint/285ml stock
3 rashers of unsmoked back bacon, sliced finely
Put all the ingredients for the marinade into a large saucepan over moderate heat. Slowly bring the liquid to the boil, and simmer for 5-7 minutes. Then cool this marinade completely.
Put the pieces of trimmed pork into a wide dish and pour the cold marinade into the dish. Mix it thoroughly amongst the pieces of pork, and leave for at least 6 hours. Turn the pieces of pork over during these hours, to marinade the meat evenly.
When you are ready to cook, lift the pieces of pork from the marinade on to absorbent kitchen paper. Pat them dry.
Heat the 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil in a large casserole and brown the bacon and the dried pieces of pork on all sides. Scatter the flour into the pan and stir it into the oil and amongst the meat. Add the stock, and the contents of the marinade, and stir until the liquid reaches simmering. Cover the casserole with its lid, and cook in a low moderate heat, 300F/150C/Gas Mark 3, for 2 hours.
Remove the sprig of thyme and the bay leaves, if you can find them without too much searching. Cool completely, and reheat carefully, on top, till the liquid simmers gently, then recover the casserole and cook it in the same temperature oven for a further 30 minutes.
This is delicious with well-mashed potatoes, and a green vegetable, such as stir-fried cabbage.
Slow-baked pork chops with shallots and tomatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 loin chops, the edges snipped with scissors in 3 places
6 banana shallots, each skinned and halved lengthways
1-2 fat cloves of garlic, skinned and sliced finely
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt, about 15 grinds of black pepper, ½ teaspoon sugar
Heat the olive oil in a wide sauté pan and brown the chops on each side, removing them to a warm platter when browned. Add the halved shallots to the oil in the pan, and fry them, turning them over to fry on their other side, for 4-5 minutes. Add the sliced garlic towards the end of this time.
Put the contents of the tins of chopped tomatoes into the sauté pan with the shallots and garlic, and stir in the salt and black pepper, and the sugar. Bring to a gentle simmer, and replace the chops in the sauté pan, spooning the tomato and shallots over them. Cover the pan with its lid, and bake in a low moderate heat, from simmering, 300F/150C/Gas Mark 3 for 45-50 minutes. The chops should be very tender in their tomatoey sauce. This is good with green beans of any variety, and well-mashed potatoes.
Minced pork sauce
This is delicious with pasta of any shape or size.
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, each skinned, halved and diced finely
2 carrots, each peeled, trimmed at either end and diced finely
2 sticks of celery, trimmed at either end and each peeled with a potato peeler to remove the stringy bits and then sliced finely
2lb/900g minced pork
2 tablespoons tomato purée
1 teaspoon salt, about 15 grinds of black pepper, ½ teaspoon dried chilli flakes – the latter is optional
½ pint/285ml red wine
½ pint /285ml stock – I use a vegetable stock for this
Heat the olive oil in a wide-based pan and, over moderate (not high) heat fry the diced onions with the diced carrots and finely sliced celery, stirring from time to time, for about 10 minutes. The onions should be softened and transparent. Scoop the contents of the pan into a warmed bowl.
Raise the heat beneath the pan and fry the minced pork, stirring it and turning it so that it browns evenly. Replace the contents of the bowl in the pan, stir in the tomato purée, the salt, black pepper and dried chilli (if you are including it) and the wine and stock. Stir until the liquid simmers, then cover the pan with its lid, and cook in a moderate heat, 350F/180C/Gas Mark 4 for 1 hour. Drop the heat to 300F/150C/Gas Mark 3 and cook for a further 30 minutes.
You can make this sauce up to two days in advance of serving it, providing that you store it in the fridge. Reheat to serve with pasta.