Uncanned heat’s rather neat

Spam has been talked about here before, served as posh fritters. Yet, taken on its own, seared & crispy, it’s also remarkably close in taste and enjoyment, to its ‘brother from a different mother’, smoked belly bacon. And to give it even more of a boost, heat a small amount of oil in a hot pan and using the Maillard reaction to do all the hard work, quickly brown it on both sides, until crisped up, drain in some paper towel and serve hot, straight away.

Or, how about Spam chips (“fries” for our US readers)?

No sooner said than done. Put at least 5cm of a suitably robust oil into a fryer or a deep, heavy pan and bring it up to 190°C. Next, slice the entire can contents into 1cm strips lengthwise, in as close an approximation to a real French fry as you can contrive. Drop into the pan or fryer until suitably crispy, drain and serve straight away. Spam’s already quite salty, so all you need to add is maybe some freshly ground black pepper and (personally favoured here) a dollop or two of Kewpie mayonnaise for dipping. Accompany it with a cold beer and you’ll be in Spam heaven.

Courtesy Mathew Ramsey. And look out for his “Pornburger” book is a great set of ideas, recipes and terrible, terrible puns.

Pricing the whole hog

this is camino

“When you buy whole animals, you can’t help but think of every part of them as being equal. If I pay $4.75 a pound for a pig, it is $4.75 for fat, $4.75 for shoulder, and $4.75 for loin. I don’t throw away the loin and I don’t throw away the fat. We always look for ways to use a little animal fat here and there to make it economical to buy expensive animals.

When you have pigs, you have lard. Somehow lard has a bad rep. (Maybe the phrase “lard ass” is partly to blame?) What I like about it is that a little goes a long way to add depth to a dish. It works very well for sautéing vegetables over high heat that are going in a braise and it’s great for browning meat.”

Excerpted from: Russell Moore’s “This Is Camino”, a book I strongly encourage you to rush out and buy. Right now. I’m re-reading it again, as I love his touches with food, the tweaks he makes and the total adherence to a “no waste, circular restaurant economy”. Highly recommended. And it’ll arrive in plenty of time for the holiday period as well if you click this link.

The stinking London streets…

Today’s Seven Dials in London (on what looks like a suspiciously quiet day)…

contrasts rather vividly with this etching of the same area, dating from the Victorian era.

As villages grew into towns and those towns merged together — almost silently and apparently seamlessly leaving only a few names that reflected their earlier rural location– to become the rapidly expanding cities, pigs quite happily followed man into these urban sprawls; it was after all the best place for the former to find food from the latter.

There is always a place for the pig. Well, except in those few areas where religious maniacs have strictures against their consumption. More fool them.

From the 1300s on, London was full of piggeries and they were just getting bigger & bigger & bigger. The owners would routinely let their pigs out into the streets to scavenge and fatten up and, although these city pigs were good for dealing with decomposing human waste, they produced their own as a necessary by-product of this consumption; soon becoming a (yet another) new health hazard.

A few more fun facts: there were (possibly apocryphal) stories of whole families of pigs seen living in the sewers of Hampstead. In 1850 Shepherd’s Bush was dubbed ‘the pigsty of the metropolis’ because nearly every house (sensibly) kept at least one of them as part of the family. And around this same time (in the newly minted role of) health inspectors, over 3,000 pigs were found in the Potteries (now Notting Hill), distributed between some 250 properties.

Seven Dials isn’t anywhere near as smelly as this nowadays….

It’s the soil, stupid.

@hlovins Hunter Lovins explains how we should start grazing to save the planet…

…no, not us. Not humans. That’d be silly. No, she’s truly excellent on why it’s cattle we should be grazing more of, in her piece entitled “why George Monbiot is wrong: grazing livestock can save the world

Or listen to Rick Haney, a U.S. Department of Agriculture soil scientist in this piece called “Dirt First”, flagged up by Dan Barber.

@defendingbeef The Science of Soil Health: Compaction


and by Nicolette Hahn Niman:

Well managed cattle improve soil health by increasing organic matter-soil carbon. This in turn improves the soil’s capacity to hold more H2O

© Nicolette Hahn Niman

Great description of how to raise pigs; in this case some very beautiful Hindsholm hogs from Denmark but this process should apply everywhere around the globe. Slow is good. Fast is bad.

And how to solve the bread over-supply? This piece from Eater is interesting.

Here’s Grant Achatz

“He stood up and greeted her loudly in rapid-fire Italian, waving his arms and kissing her on both cheeks. She bear-hugged him back. The woman appeared to be eighty years old, even though she was probably sixty. She wore a blue dress with small white flowers scattered across it and a white apron loosely tied around her rotund midsection.
A man who I assumed was her husband walked over, plunked down wineglasses and a plate of crostini with chicken liver, bean, and tomato toppings. He filled our glasses with a hefty pour of red wine.
“She usually just cooks, well, whatever!” Tom said. “Today she’s made chicken under a brick, some gnocchi, wilted greens, and fagioli al fiasco. You guys know what that is? Basically a very typical Tuscan way of cooking white beans. She’ll place them in a glass flask over a dying fire until they’re creamy. They’re pretty awesome.”
“Yes they are,” I thought. “Yes they are.”
I peeked around the corner and saw the woman bent over a makeshift grill with glowing embers beneath, pushing a plain old brick on top of our chickens. Four glass flasks filled with beans were positioned around the edges.
We ate and drank for two hours. I didn’t want to leave. Everything was more perfect, more delicious, and more inviting than any of the three-star restaurants we’d been to. Even the service was better.
At the end of the meal the woman brought out a plate of almond cookies and we dunked them in Vin Santo. “Grazie,” everyone said.
I left the restaurant in a daze, and not because of the wine.
I realized immediately that I had just had the best meal of my life.

And finally, if this picture isn’t the very definition of “happiness” then I don’t know what is…


Fried brain sandwiches

Harvesting pigs brains. Not a huge best seller nowadays, I’m led to believe…

© The Butcher & Larder https://www.instagram.com/p/BpKfiOiA-qH/

Ask a friendly butcher to save you some next time they’ve got some heads in stock. And ignore all thoughts of zombie movies. As well as any fears about mad pig disease. Use a reputable source — as always — and you’ll have nothing to worry about.

When you have them home and on the work-top ready, start by giving them a quick rinse in cold water to make sure there are no stray bits of bone hanging around. Next, you need to poach them — lightly simmered for only a few minutes — in a court bouillon (which will also serve to remove any remaining blood) to ensure they’ll firm up but won’t break apart in the cooking and will retain a ‘custard’ like texture. Once done, take them straight out of the pan to cool. Make sure to check for and peel away any membrane you find on the top side, then, using a knife, split them down the middle between the two lobes.

You’ll then need to make up a simple, thin batter:

1 large egg, beaten
250g. flour
3g. baking powder
Salt and black pepper to taste

Gently dredge the brains in the batter, then fry quickly to a golden brown in a hot pan, for no more than 2-3 minutes. Serve in a crisp roll. There’s no need for any added extras but you can throw a squeeze of lemon juice or a sharp pickle into the mix, to cut through the delicious creamy, rich texture.

According to the redoubtable Chris Cosentino, a 150g. tin of Rose’s canned pork brains in milk gravy contains around 3,500 mg of cholesterol which, it turns out, is 1,170% of your daily recommended intake. By way of comparison, that’s also apparently approx. 44 times the amount of cholesterol to be found in a standard Big Mac. So, probably not something that you’ll be wanting to throw down your neck on too regular a basis.

But, “waste not, want not” and “nose to tail”, remember? Go and enjoy!