Friday, November 26, 2010

Shoulder of Pork with Quince & Chilli

Quick note to regular readers: I've not written for a while since my son Max was born a few weeks ago. Whilst I've still been cooking,  I've not had quite as much time to write about it as I'd like to!

Quinces on the tree
I guess I've always been a seasonal cook, and whilst that means you get the pros of having the very best produce to cook with, it also means that you have to cope with various gluts of products now and then through the year. Right now if there's one thing I tend to have a lot of it's quince, a wonderfully fragrant hard fruit that needs to be cooked before eating. I bought my particular tree, a Quince Vranja, many years ago now, and although it's never grown particularly large it does crop very well, with prolific large, heavy golden pear shaped fruits. They have the most wonderful perfume to them, though they can go brown and decay quite quickly if you don't use them quick once they've fallen from the tree. For that reason I never tend to pick them, just take them as they fall.

Cooking wise quince is most often paired up with apple, added to fruit pies and sauces, and adds interesting notes of flavour and texture. I've also made jams and jellies with it, various interesting desserts, as well as the famous quince cheese - an odd concoction, but certainly tasty. Kind of like home made jelly sweets, though more often paired with cheese. This time around though I wanted to try something roast'ish, but had already bought a good looking shoulder of pork for Sunday. Luckily I came across an interesting looking recipe from Sophie Grigson on the BBC's website, Slow-roast shoulder of pork with quinces served with savoy cabbage and roasted potato wedges.

I was a bit suspect of the recipe to start with, thinking that it might turn out too sweet with tough pork and soft crackling, but knowing what an experienced cook Sophie is it hardly seemed my place to question her, so I pretty much went along with it. My main differences were:

  • Shoulder on the bone, not rolled
  • Normal onions, not red
  • Dark muscavado sugar, not light

I also didn't bother greasing the dish before hand, and decided to cut my quince and onions into chunks rather than slices. Here's a picture of my ingredients before preparation:

All the ingredients before preparation
And two pictures before going in the oven, one without the dressing and one with:

Ingredients ready for the next stage

Ingredients with 'dressing'
You'll notice I'm using a Dutch Oven here, or what I call my French Roaster. Oddly enough it's something I picked up that was discarded by someone else, and it's been a gem in my collection ever since. It's ridged bottom together with the dimples in the lid mean it can cook wonderful pot roasts and self-baste at the same time.

As Sophie suggested I did this with potato wedges and cabbage. I have a neat (lazy!) trick with potato wedges, that means I can cook them from cold. Once the dried potato wedges have been tossed in cold seasoned olive oil I arrange them on the roasting pan making sure that they're all skin side down. I then put them in a hot oven (200° or so) and make sure I don't touch then for at least half an hour - this stops them from sticking to the pan, avoiding that horrible moment when you go to toss your potato and the skin sticks to the pan whilst the rest of the potato just breaks away!

Potato wedges - all skin side down!
And the result? Well the flavour was outstanding. The quince was in no way too sweet, and the chilli was a revelation. Great combination. Knowing how well quince and apple go together I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that quince would also be a good match! The crackling was too soft, but I have another trick to deal with that. If this happens to me I simply take the crackling off the meat, put the meat to rest somewhere warm as usual, and then pop the crackling back into a hot oven on a new roasting tray for 20 minutes or so as the meat rests. That usually does the trick. The meat was pretty tender considering it had been roasted rather quickly - shoulder would usually be done cooler for longer. But it was in no way too tough. Perhaps that's also a mark of the quality of the meat - a saddleback from Oakcroft Farm, bought at Cullompton farmers market. As I've said before in my Top Roasting Tips, the quality of your meat is more important than pretty much anything else in my opinion.

The roast out of the oven. Looks a little 'caramelised' on the edges perhaps (i.e. burnt :-) but there was no bitterness at all

Sliced meat ready for serving. Lovely and tender.
Finished dish
All in all I can definitely say this is a dish I think I'll be doing again, though perhaps with one or two more tweaks.

P.S. It also went on to make a great sweet & sour pork dish later in the week with almost no more effort, so two dishes in one here!


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