Pitt Cue; Pork Heaven

We’d been wanting to get to eat at Pitt Cue for ages but for various reasons, until this weekend, we hadn’t managed to get through the door (at least whilst they were open — MEMO TO SELF: arriving during the staff break time really doesn’t help & only serves to frustrate the hungry potential pork-eater).

Finally, Saturday a couple of weeks ago, we managed it…

After a morning of kulcher & learning, spent wandering through, amongst other things, the “Vikings” exhibition at the British Museum (some spectacular stuff on view including a model of their 100-man invasion ship & some hugely interesting detail about this Nordic group of ruffians — did you know for example that the words “egg” and “sister” both came to the English language from this part of the world?), we strolled over to Soho, to Newburgh St. and grabbed a pair of seats at the bar.

The vibe was the same as that in The Butcher, in Amsterdam. Different country; same attention to detail and an obvious love of great meat.

This isn’t a place for those of you of the vegetarian persuasion (I wanted to spell that as perversion, can’t imagine why) to go to, but then if you’re reading this site, you’re probably not overly worried about meat (& the many gorgeous, tasty juices that seep out) and other carnivorous comestibles anyway. And if you are worried, you should probably stop reading now & go elsewhere.

Above where we sat was this great print:

Pitt Cue

Pitt Cue

The wallpaper in the toilet was also by the same designer and could well make you miss if you failed to pay attention to the business in hand…

The menus change seasonally, maybe not daily but regularly, so there’s no guarantee that what we ate will even be available anymore but even if you don’t get exactly what we had, I do guarantee, 100%, that you’ll not want for amazing mouth-watering taste experiences & smells.

And so, to the chase:

My choice, on the right, is delicious roundels of pig’s head sausage, succulent, firm, rich, accompanied by a sharp, crunchy, bread & butter pickle and a side of peppered mash, in the centre of which sat a heart-warming mound of bone-marrow. Next to it is the first (or maybe second) of the picklebacks (a shot of rough whiskey chased with a shot of pickle-juice) and a great London brewery pale ale. Finally, on the left hand side Val managed to nearly finish her pulled pork “inna bun” with a fantastic green chilli slaw.

I though that’d be enough but having attained pork nirvana, the guy behind the counter easily managed to convince me (nothing to do with an excess of picklebacks, no Sir, not me) that an additional side of duck sausage with pickled cherries on top should also be tried. He was right. It was great. I forget to take a shot of this — I was too busy eating — so shoot me.

Their bourbon choices are rightly legendary:

© Nina Fitton 2014

Bourbon baby, bourbon.

I could have carried on eating & drinking all afternoon and into the next day, to be honest but, deciding to make this a regular stop, managed (unusually for me) to exercise some small measure of restraint, saving the rest of that goodness for the next visit.

I bought their cook-book some time back (although I’ve only managed to get around to cooking their baked beans so far). You should too. As it says on the back “…we both left the place feeling like the little baby Jesus had hand fed us personally”. The (otherwise anonymous) Bert wasn’t wrong…

Pitt Cue Cookbook

Pitt Cue Cookbook

Friendly fabulousness from Franklins Farm

Having just discovered a great new butcher, Adrian at Franklins Farm, near Sandy, this was the result. A superbly juicy rendering of their Gloucester Old Spot pork:

Pork Braised in Sherry with Tomatoes and Chorizo

Pork Braised in Sherry with Tomatoes and Chorizo

Pork Braised in Sherry with Tomatoes and Chorizo

Chop the pork into largish cubes, remove the skin (if you wish, I didn’t) from the chorizo and slice it into thinnish rounds.

Then heat one tablespoon of the oil in a casserole over a high heat and, when really hot, add a few of the cubes of meat to brown well on all sides.

Remove them to a warm plate then continue to brown the rest of the meat in small batches, adding a little more oil as required.

Now add the rest of the oil and brown the onions (for about 6 minutes), before adding the garlic and cooking for another minute.

Return the meat to the casserole & stir in the flour to soak up the juices, then add the chorizo followed by the tomatoes, sherry and sherry vinegar. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle in the thyme and bay leaves then give everything a good stir. Lastly bring the casserole up to a gentle simmer, put the lid on and transfer it to the centre of the oven to cook for 1½ hours.

When the time is up, add the sliced peppers and the olives (left whole), give it all one good stir, cover again then leave it to carry on cooking for another ½ hour or until the peppers are tender.

Serve with new potatoes and, at this time of year, young broad beans or fresh shelled peas.

 2 lb (900 g) piece trimmed shoulder of pork
 8 oz (225 g) Iberico chorizo sausage
 2 tablespoons olive oil
 2 medium onions, thickly sliced
 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
 1 rounded tablespoon plain flour
 1 lb (450 g) ripe tomatoes, skinned and chopped (or 1 x 14oz (450 g) tin of chopped tomatoes
 10 fl oz (275 ml) dry sherry, preferably a manzanilla
 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
 A few sprigs of fresh thyme
 2 bay leaves
 2 red peppers, de-seeded and cut into thick chunks (approx. 2 x 1½ inches, 5 x 4 cm)
 3 oz (75 g) mixed green and black olives, pitted
 salt and freshly milled black pepper
 Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 1, 275F, 140C.

The MAD-ness of “Carne e Spirito” and Dario Cecchini

“The poetry of butchery.”
“This is an ancient art.”
“Respect the animal.”

This man loves meat. He loves the craft (for craft it definitely is) of butchery. He loves the animals that he butchers and then serves in his restaurants in Panzano. And to hear him speak, albeit filtered through the translation into English from the more melodic sounding Italian, is to understand a little about the poetry of what he does [in case you hadn’t guessed, I too love pigs & butchers, so have no qualms about referring to them & poetry in the same breath].

© Homme magazine, Greece 2014

© Homme magazine, Greece 2014

Obliged, by the death of his father in 1976, to take over the family business and become the 9th generation of the Cecchini’s to work this trade in the village, he became a reluctant butcher; until this sudden change of direction, he’d been studying to become a vet at the University of Pisa.

You wouldn’t know that today; now he has a stripped down, movie-star quality to him — now this man dominates the stage at the MAD food conference in Copenhagen in front of 500 fellow chefs from around the world, quoting Dante whilst cutting into the pig & cleaning his hands of the blood, shit and innards from what looks like an Oxford & Sandy sow.

Dario and the guts © MADfoods 2014

Dario and the guts © MADfoods 2014

This is a 26 minute long rhapsody on meat, butchery & life. It’s well worth 26 minutes of your time. Watch it. Now.

What a load of tripe.


A word that you might have only heard from your granny. Along with “offal” (which some folk seem to think rhymes with “awful”) and “gizzards”, it is one that has been known to send American friends run screaming for the security of their psychiatrists couch (or at least a white bread peanut butter & jelly sandwich rather than something “adventurous” like their own native Philadelphia Pepper Pot) unable to comprehend why these strange foreigners would think of putting that stuff anywhere near their mouths, let alone then swallowing the damn thing.

Well, “that stuff” is some of the best, tastiest, interesting, most under-appreciated, under-utilised parts of so many animals, including, of course, naturally, pigs. Just take a look at some of the amazing dishes that Wikipedia has recorded as being made with tripe or as a form of regional “tripe”, inc. andouillette and butifarra from France and Spain respectively and, closer to my home, haggis, the national dish of Scotland (please don’t mention deep-fried Mars Bars here OK?).





Andouillette from France

Andouillette from France

Can anyone say that looking at these items, they don’t find their mouths watering? What? You’re feeling sick, squeamish, stomach-churning? Unadventurous and want to go home & have a McDonald’s? Poor, simple fool. Take your courage in your hands, gird your loins and maybe start exploring food that’s just a little bit more fun & interesting? OK, accepting that andouillette may start pushing your nasal passages into a convulsive spasm from which they may not recover easily, maybe let’s start with something slightly less of an olfactory assault, such as the butiffara?

So, Tripe (from French: tripe, of uncertain origin) is a type of edible offal from the stomachs of various farm animals where Offal refers to the internal organs and entrails of a butchered animal, sometimes discarded after butchering or skinning and Gizzards means an organ found in the digestive tract of some animals although is often used to mean more generally the intestines.

I went out and bought Stéphane Reynaud’s amazing “Book Of Tripe” but I’ll probably steer clear of describing some of the more “out there” recipes, such as the spinal cord with oyster mushrooms espoused by him (at least for the moment).

Stéphan Reynaud Tripe book

© Stéphan Reynaud 2014

Even so, and putting aside the more er, exotic, items he uses, there are some truly, wonderfully, stimulating recipes here using all of the bits that too often just get thrown away by butchers in England and elsewhere, because there’s “no demand for them” or merely get turned into dog-food. Why the hell should your canine companion get to munch on these delicacies rather than you? Are you mad?

It wasn’t always that way over here: dressed tripe for example, was a popular, nutritious and cheap dish for the working classes from Victorian times up until the latter half of the twentieth century, when its popularity faded, but it still remains a widely cooked & eaten dish amongst the more sensible Continentals and Asians who think that wasting such delights is a crime. The Tripe Marketing Board in England remains committed to keeping its appeal alive. Who couldn’t thrill to a perfect mix of Lancashire & The Mediterranean in the recipe for Pesto alla wiganese?

And don’t forget: “Tripe helped discover The North Pole”

Ad. © Tripe Marketing Board,1952

Ad. © Tripe Marketing Board,1952

So, what of the pig? This new recipe book reminds me so much of the classic “The Complete Nose to Tail: A Kind of British Cooking” by Fergus Henderson, dating back to the 1990s. Both chefs hate the idea of not using everything from the dead beast; both of them show an impassioned love for cooking, for ingredients that work beautifully together & encourage the reader to discover and most importantly, eat what they write so well about.

© Fergus Henderson 2012

© Fergus Henderson 2012

How about Pig’s Ear with a Chicory and Sorrell Salad? Yup, that hits a spot.

Pigs ear & sorrell

Pigs ear & sorrell

Go out and buy them both; try out dishes from both of them. The ‘photos alone will have you drooling over your keyboard. Encourage your local butcher to stock these less popular cuts and body parts. What a load of tripe? Rubbish. What a load of joy awaits you on this trip.

Out damned spot(s)…

Give them shelter from the weather but let them out to roam across the fields & pastures.

That’s how pigs were always treated until the comparatively recent advent of factory farming and a lot of people are currently now, and rightly, trying to reverse this decline.

The pig farms I knew and lived on as a boy* were already showing signs of becoming the precursors to these huge, profit driven, stark “meat production” units now common. Huge covered stalls, pigs crammed inside all day & night, no room to move, to play, to explore, antibiotics used like Smarties.

There isn’t as far as I know, an equivalent word for pigs, to “inhumane” used for the two legged people. There should be.

*[As a side-note, I well remember on one farm, a huge barrel of black, molasses-like treacle, used as a treat for the pigs — it was also a treat for any children who managed to dip their fists into it whilst running past, trying not to let the farmer (and my father who was one of them) see your act of thievery.]

It was understandable why most farmers chose to take this approach, as both pricing, being driven by huge buying units, such as the supermarkets, pushing down prices to a rock-bottom and “taste” (driven by ill-conceived government edict & ill-informed “medical” advice) were changing the economics of farming, in a way that hadn’t been seen in any of the previous hundreds of years leading up to the last century and, counter-intuitively,  was one of the reasons why Danish bacon managed to get such a strangle-hold on the English market and shopping basket.

If you want bland, tasteless, watery, lean pork (lean pork; whoever thought this was a good thing?), supplied through a supermarket counter, then this is where your meat still comes from — but if, like us, you want good meat, flavoursome, different, interesting meat, from people who care passionately about their animals, then buy from the increasingly common small, far less intensive, rare breed suppliers.

[And before I get torrents of abuse from UK farmers: Yes, I know that pig living conditions have been improved slightly recently – although it took legislation to force you to make this happen – and that European farmers are now worse villains in the piece, as they’re failing to implement the relevant directives. But it’s still hugely far from the ideal.]

On a brighter note, the recent visit to Sylvia & John at Old Weston Garden Farm where Old Spots (and Berkshires) were running outside, prompted some great art-work by Val and a page on the history of this breed by me.

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