Pigs in The Smoke

We didn’t get a chance yesterday to grab one (or more) of their truly excellent hot-dogs from Herman Ze German’s place in Old Compton Street but this omission will be remedied very soon…


Popped quickly into the Wellcome Institute gallery (dodging around the building works) to see the “Foreign Bodies, Common Ground” exhibition.

Some interesting work, including this necklace piece on fossil history by Katie Paterson — there are some more great linked images by Val in her blog at Pencil and Leaf.


And some very red pig imagery by Lêna Bùi from Ho Chi Minh City in her pieces on how cultural and sociopolitical backgrounds affect our own perceptions.

London. Just the best.

Buy & eat them today – way down West

An interesting piece on BBC Radio 4’s “On Your Farm” this morning; talking about The British Lop pig that I wrote about before, being bred at Trevaskis Farm in Cornwall, farmed by the Eustice family (in a strange quick of fate, one of whom happens to be a government minister — for food). A timely reminder of just quite how endangered this great pork species still remains. The best way to help? Buy and eat some of them. Today!


You can hear this piece here.

And finally, a quote from the Eustice family encapsulates just why these species should be encouraged (and eaten):

The rare breed British Lop Pigs reared at Trevaskis Farm today, are of the same bloodlines as those reared by the Eustice family since the late 1890s. The ‘Actress’ bloodline has only 29 registered breeding sows in the country, 10 of which are here at Trevaskis!

Rare breeds, such as the British Lop, take longer to grow to killing weight than, for example, the White, Landrace or Welsh breeds that are bred for supermarket supply. In rearing our own pigs in this way, we have avoided the pressures of needing a fast – growing breed and can be sure that the meat we produce is tastier, has been reared at home in a free –range environment and is killed locally.

We cure all our own bacon, gammons and hams as well as making our own delicious sausages and hogs pudding.

More Essex goodness (or the The Croshaw throwback)

It’s the first day of 2014. I’m 4 hours into the Johnnie Mountain recipe for Slow Cooked Belly Pork so, whilst waiting for this to come to fruition, I’ve ordered the “The Pig: A British History by Julian Wiseman”, to check up on the history of the Essex Saddleback and others as well as to read the famous “Dissertation upon Roast Pig” by Charles Lamb.

The pig; a British history

The pig; a British history

Cooking the pig the Mountain way

Thanks to my son, who bought me this for Christmas, we’re now working our way through the great recipes from Johnnie Mountain’s “Pig: Cooking With A Passion For Pork”.

Mountain's pig book

Mountain’s pig book

Photographs and success (or failure) stories to follow…

You can follow the man on Twitter [email protected]

When aromas set you off and running down memory lane

Smell is reputedly one of the strongest and most evocative of the senses available to us humans — this note about the smell from a piece of mortadella reminding the writer of the same food his mother gave him as a child living in Italy, strongly supports that idea.

And some recent research shows that we may be able to distinguish up to 1 trillion unique scents. Not as good as dogs. Or pigs. But not too shabby either…

In my case, this memory road jaunt is set a-rolling by the smell of pork bacon cooking in the frying pan, reminding me of family breakfasts cooked by my Mother (it was always Bar — I remember Bernie was up and out & about very, very early for the farm work) every day, over the old Rayburn range, for the five children before we (often) walked to school.

This picture reminds me a lot of of those days.

The old Rayburn

The old Rayburn

For years we lived on pig farms, so access to fresh, locally sourced, locally slaughtered pork and other pig goodness wasn’t ever a problem. I recall helping my Dad kill the annual Christmas pig he was given each year (as a “bonus” on top of the pretty poor wages he and others involved in farming received) using a bolt gun, grunting & heaving as we lifted it up, tied its legs together hanging the carcase and slicing the carotid & jugular veins to drain the blood — used later in black puddings — finally watching as the local butcher went on to dissect, rend, chop and slice the pig into every one of its constituent parts (some of which you can see here in an old French “map”). I’m not sure it was strictly according the more relaxed food hygiene regs in place then but no one was going to refuse it…

Slaughtering the pig in the Middle Ages

Slaughtering the pig in the Middle Ages

It’s a messy, sometimes very noisy process as pigs are bright, smart, clever animals and often knowing what’s ahead of them, divine what’s about to be done to them and their companions. I love them alive and I love them when dead. Dad always said “you can eat everything on a pig, apart from the squeak”. And of course, he’s right, well mostly right — people will discard the gall bladder, the eyes and the rectum [see the fuller descriptions in this section on butchery].

Not us either... Illustration of medieval pig stunning, from The Medieval Cookbook

Not us either… Illustration of medieval pig stunning, from The Medieval Cookbook

The smell of the lard — in those days the option available to most, long before olive oil or vegetable fats became generally available — the brightly yellow-yoked, warm eggs, again fresh from hens wandering around the farm or in the garden and toast, dripping with butter & chunky cut marmalade, completes the olfactory picture that I sketch in full colour in my head, every time I catch these aromas.

Beautiful back bacon

Beautiful back bacon

It was a particularly vivid memory lane picture today, prompted at breakfast time by cooking some of the Mangalitza dry cured bacon from Rectory Reserve