Monday, 1 June 2009

The Widow's Cookbook #3

This will be the first year since we moved to Wales that we haven't had a couple of weaners to fatten.
With the exception of their final road trip, every aspect of keeping pigs is an absolute joy. Their infectious enthusiasm, playfulness and appetite for eating the most unlikely-looking food combinations are so endearing. I love how they throw their empty food bowls in the air for the sheer fun of doing it, the way they fall over in a heap of quivering ecstasy when you scratch behind their ears or rootle in their bowls looking for the best bits to eat first. I am sure the world would be a better place if everyone who fancied keeping pigs were able to do so.

I can't have any more yet because it takes one person with not much appetite a long, long time to eat half a pig. I have also lost my pork pusher - R used to sell it to his colleagues at work. I'm hoping they will still be interested if I go it alone next year.

In the past, when the pigs came back from the butcher as pork we always invited a few friends and made a weekend of it, making bacon, brawn (not for the faint-hearted!), pâté and sausages. Kilos and kilos of sausages.

The first day largely involved deboning, chopping and mincing. Then came the fun part, when each participant would run riot in my spice drawers. The mixes would be made up, a couple of small patties fried, solemnly tasted and critiqued. A little more chilli needed here, too much allspice there. Perhaps polenta would be a better filler, rather than breadcrumbs.

Only after the recipe had been tweaked to perfection would the sausages be made and the ingredients written down in our Book of All Things for the smallholding. We each had our favourites, but I have to say with all due modesty that my lemon, fennel and black pepper sausage is a culinary masterpiece!

Inevitably at the end of the day there would be a small amount of minced pork left over that was not enough to put into casings. By that time, the last thing that anyone wanted to eat was another sausage. Mr M, one of our regulars at the sausage weekend, devised a Chinese-inspired mix that we put into some bread dough and baked, and so was born the Welsh pork bun.

Today it was far too hot for bread, and I needed something a little healthier than the crisps and black coffee that had been sustaining me for most of the weekend. I found a small amount of minced pork in the freezer, and decided to make Mr M's recipe and serve it with lettuce wraps, which seemed a lot more summery:

Finely chop a clove of garlic, a few slices of ginger and a couple of spring onions. Fry quickly for about 30 seconds, then add the pork mince and brown over a high heat. Add 2 or 3 finely chopped mushrooms, followed by 1/2 tsp chilli bean sauce, about 3 Tbs Chinese rice wine and a good splosh of soy sauce. Turn the heat down and cook gently for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a little stock or water if it sticks. When cooked, stir in a small amount of sesame oil, then spoon onto large lettuce leaves and sprinkle with a little chopped spring onion and a few sesame seeds. Wrap up tightly and enjoy.


  1. What a lovely, simple meal & a beautiful presentation!

  2. What a terrific story. I love your cradle-to-grave perspective. You know in the U.S. we have a big slow food/local food movement that's quite big? I thnk you'd get a following if you wanted to start a separate food blog (or book!) someday.



  3. Thank you.
    I had thought of separating out the food posts as they don't really fit in with the rest. I used to think that blogging was something that only Internet wierdos did, now I'm thinking about starting a second one. Isn't it strange how life turns out?