Thursday, 23 July 2009

Piggy Heaven

When I first came up with the idea of Where's My Pork Chop? I wasn't entirely sure whether it would take off. The concept may be quite simple, at its heart the message is basically "I tell you what, feed me some of your lovely grub and I'll give you something in return". Slightly cheeky? Well maybe but since I've started posting about my adventures, I've been taken aback by the number of people who have contacted me saying they're are up for it, asking when can they cook for me. The amount of goodwill out there is really heartwarming but after my latest exchange with Linda of With Knife and Fork at Cafe Nero, Chancery Lane, I was knocked sideways on two counts. Not only did she provide an enormous feast for my consumption but she also gave me half an hour of her time, taking on the role of careers advisor (talk about food acting as a conduit!).

To explain further, I am standing at a kind of crossroads in my life at the moment. It's the usual scenario, I hate my job, I want to change, I want to do something I really enjoy. Mid-life crisis is not the domain of the forty something anymore so here I am, scrambling about, desperately trying to think about what I can do about it. Linda caught wind of this via my whinging on twitter and said that she would be happy to have a chat about it with me, as in her own words "she's been there and is also a professional studier" so perhaps she could give me a few pointers. And blimey did she give me a few pointers. I'll be honest and say at times during the conversation I was completely bamboozled and I suspect that Linda noticed this as I stared gormlessly back at her with the Magic Roundabout theme tune playing in my head. But the underlying advice that she gave me was very helpful and I left the café with a renewed purpose and vigour in my step.

As such it wasn't until I got back to the office that I bothered to look into the very heavy bag that Linda had given me and take out the menu she had printed off entitled "Pork five ways - an experiment in porcine cooking". Yes she had made 5 little piggy dishes, all individually wrapped and labelled, for me to try out. Now I know she likes studying but Linda had approached this project with all the zeal of Hermione Granger! Not that I'm ungrateful, no this little piggy was extremely happy of course and ran wee wee all the way home later that evening to share the meal with his wife because for once, he didn't have to work late in the office. So what was on the menu?

Spiced Pork Crackling
Hammy Pea Soup with White Sourdough Bread
Pork Rillettes
Chicken Liver and Pork Pate
Deconstructed Piccalilli with White Sourdough Bread
Spanish style Lard Cookies

By Linda's own admission the spiced crackling didn't come out as planned (and I make her right!) but the rest of the food was absolutely delicious. The pea soup had a luscious, velvet consistency and was beautifully green in colour. The chicken liver and pork pate was airy and delicate, almost mousse-like in texture and we lapped up the deconstructed piccalilli, a lighter, fresher version of it's cousin which was nice and clean on the palate. Her Spanish style cookies wouldn't go amiss on Christmas Eve with their sweet, cinnamon bite but the stars of the feast had to be the pork rillettes and sourdough bread. It may not have been the healthiest of options but the rillette really was manna from heaven, truly indulgent with shredded pork, fat and a background flavour of mace or nutmeg. Mrs Food Urchin had to take the jar off me by force (but later I snuck it back into my rucksack for lunch the next day). And spending a day with Mr Dan Lepard has certainly paid dividends on the sourdough, again I had to be physically stopped by my wife from shovelling the lot down my throat so that she could get a look in. I maybe starting to sound like a proper pig here but I'm not used to sharing my WMPC you see. (Well that's my story and I'm sticking by it).

For the swap, I picked some curly kale, french beans and 4 courgette flowers along with some charlotte potatoes which in light of what Linda had come up (along with the free consultation) my contribution seems quite meagre now so perhaps I should try and send a bottle of sloe gin her way. I'm afraid that I can't link the recipes here as Linda took this as an opportunity to try out dishes that she's meaning to do for ages but credited Jennifer McLagan, Gary Rhodes, the aforementioned Dan Lepard, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Fergus Henderson and her mum. If her mum was responsible for the rillette recipe then I would like to pass on a big smacker on the lips but if it was Hugh's.......well go on then.

Cheers Linda, oink oink!

It was just like Christmas it was!

Oink Oink!

Lots more porky photos can be found here.


  1. Glad you liked it :)
    Ok so I got a little carried away with the WMPC idea but had great fun experimenting (there's no excuse too small to make me want to start a bit of a project). Apart from the pate and bread I'd never made any of these things before so it really was an experiment with Dan as the (guinea) pig.
    I'll be posting the recipes on my blog next week for anyone interested plus a write up of the fresh veggie heaven I got in return .
    Oh and Dan if you ditch your job you might also lose the WMPC - is it worth it ;)

  2. WOW! Oh my goodness, what an incredible feast Linda laid on for you! I'm very envious as it sounds truly scrumptious!

  3. Oink, oink indeed - move along the trough! What a fabulous effort from Linda. Well, in view of the excesses witnessed here, I think when it's my turn I will be supplying a round of fish paste sandwiches, a two fingered Kit Kat and a flask of bovril.

  4. Brilliant. The bar has been raised! Talk about attention to detail- packaging too!

  5. Incredibly impressive. Loads of good pig based stuff there, and very nice packaging as well. Well Done Linda!

  6. Love this idea for a menu! Great job.