Friday, 28 September 2012

Pig - Cooking with a passion for pork by Johnnie Mountain

Johnnie Mountain is the chef and owner of a London restaurant celebrating the versatility of pork called, unsurprisingly, The English Pig. You might also know him as the chef who walked off Great British Menu in a tirade of beeps after he was (in my view) harshly judged by Marcus Wareing. If he's going to write a book, it can only be about pork, can't it?

Johnnie kindly arranged for a copy of his book to be sent to me to give it the once over. Even from a distance, there is no mistaking what this book is about!

The front section is full of useful and interesting information about pork, its different cuts, how to buy and how best to cook each part. I had never really thought too much about the different cuts so I found it very useful.

The pork recipes are divided into 4 chapters  - home favourites, cured, dried, preserved and smoked, spicy and aromatic and slow-cooked. There is an enormous variety of recipes - pretty much something for everyone. Some will be very inexpensive family recipes, others much grander for special occasions. They cater for every occasion, every budget and pretty much every level of cooking ability, whether you have a few minutes or several hours to cook. The layout of the recipes is nice and clear, with lots of lovely photographs which just make you drool.

I always worry that cookery books written by chefs will be, well, too cheffy. I have one book from which I have never cooked a single recipe - all the recipes are over a page long (and we're talking a large A4 book) and the list of ingredients is huge, with some ingredients difficult to find. I was glad to see that this was nothing like that. As you can see, the recipe is short and you can see at a glance how long it should take to make (although I always take those with a pinch of salt). For this recipe, the most unusual ingredient was smoked pancetta which I bought from a supermarket. I had a lot of ingredients already in my store cupboard.

The instructions are clear and simple, and easy to follow. However, if you need some extra help, some of the recipes (including this one, it's just out of shot) have QR codes which if you scan them, take you to videos that show you how to do some of the techniques described in the book. This is a brilliant feature of the book as sometimes, it's just so much easier to watch someone make something and then do it yourself with confidence. In this recipe, the video shows Johnnie moulding and wrapping the meatloaf. Here's my attempt.

The recipes really are mouth-watering. I have a list saved on my computer of things I want to make soon so I will be working my way through them over the coming months. They range from burgers to curries, stir fries to pasta dishes. And perhaps, one day, I'll try curing my own bacon or doing Johnnie's signature dish of slow roasted pork belly.

There's also a section at the end of the book containing recipes for standard accompaniments like mashed potatoes, gnocchi - even sticky red cabbage.

So far, I have cooked two recipes from the book. This is how my spicy pork meatloaf, which is served with a sauce a lot like home made brown sauce, turned out.

I also made a pork chilli which was very hard to determine was made from pork not beef, lifted by adding some dark chocolate near the end. Both dishes were very popular with all the family. Monkey particularly liked the sauce on the meatloaf but I feel this is just his northernness coming out. Missy Woo wasn't wild about the sauce but loved the meatloaf. Both were requested again by the children, which I always take to be a very good sign.

Quite simply, this book is THE definitive guide to cooking pork and turning even the humblest cut (pig's ears anyone?) into something delicious. Popular dishes are adapted for pork as well as the old favourites, plus some new dishes you want to try. If you love pork, or would like to love pork and cook it better, you will love this book.

(I was sent a free copy of this book.) 
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