January 10, 2007

Cavolo Nero

Exactly one week into my new life as a freelancer. It’s OK. Some days I sit in the kitchen facing towards the fridge, other days I sit facing the back door. Occasionally I walk through to the front room and look out the window, to check the weather. Haven’t yet been tempted to turn on the telly before Eastenders, haven’t yet sat down to start work much after 9am. Things are going pretty well, I’m pleased with progress.

I like not having a job. The feeling of being free to sit down and apply for any vacancy listed, however ridiculous, irrelevant or badly paid. Today I saw that Brighton Museum are looking for people to do 3 months research into any object in their collections which relates to courtship – wooing, getting it on, having it off, however you want to put it. They’re offering a bursary of £5000. Not much dosh, nothing to do with the web, but still, sounds interesting. Suddenly life is full of odd tangents, tempting diversions. Must stay focused though, I’m too easily distracted, like proverbial kid in candy store.

Mmm.. what’s this over here? Interesting… hmm let’s just take a quick look… er what was I meant to be doing… oh, yes…

Boiling cavolo nero

The veg box, as always, continues to inspire culinary diversions. Thanks to the good folks at the River Cafe (not to be confused with HFW’s metro-peasant posse over at River Cottage) we’ve discovered that Cavolo Nero makes a magnificent pasta sauce. Just boil the leaves from 2 or 3 heads with a couple of peeled garlic cloves, drain, and blitz to a rough paste. Finish by stirring in plenty of olive oil, more raw crushed garlic, goodly amounts of salt and pepper. Stir it into a bowl of tubby pasta shapes and serve with parmesan and more oil at the table. A worthy winter pesto-substitute.

Grating parmesan

I’ve also had a kilo slab of pork belly kicking around in the freezer since our last trip to the Farmers’ Market. I’ve been meaning to have a go at making home-cured bacon for a while, and according to HFW in the Meat Book, it’s a pretty simple procedure.

Pork belly

So I’ve mixed up a bowl full of coarse salt, brown sugar, juniper berries, pepper and chopped bay leaf and rubbed it into the belly meat. This salty pork slab is now sitting in the fridge, and I’ll need to drain it off and add more cure mix each day for the next week or so. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Measuring curing ingredients

And now it’s nearly 6pm. Time to get my coat, hat and scarf on, tuck my laptop under my arm and walk round the block, returning home with my domestic head on. A little fake-commute to remind myself I am in reality a poor boy wot must work for his crust and not, alas, a lady of leisure.

8 Responses to “Tangents”

  1. 6p.m. and you’re dressed already? That’s not what I call self-employed.

  2. Claire Says:

    Tried the Huge Feathery Walkingstick bacon recipe last Christmas, but on the advice of my butcher, I kept in the cure mix for well over a week, which resulted in a very salty bacon, only suitable for ccoking as part of a larger casserole etc. So I would recommend curing for a shorter length of time. Look forward to reading how you get on with this.
    Off to turn my green box-monsters into pesto …

  3. Cloggie Says:

    Excellent idea for Cavolo Nero – will try this next time I’ve got one in my veg box!

  4. gastropunk Says:

    Claire, thanks for the tip on the bacon – i’ve now rinsed off the salt after just 3 days – and it seems sufficiently cured and already quite salty.

    I guess it won’t keep as long as a belly thats been salted for over a week, but is probably more usable as an everyday bacon or pancetta substitute. it’s a pretty economical way of bringing home the bacon – i’ll be trying it again next time i can get my hands on a nice slab of fatty pork belly

  5. gastropunk Says:

    cloggie, we got another bunch of cavolo nero in the box this morning – it’s ear-marked for another bowl of this delicious pasta sauce. hopefully you’ve had a bunch too. if so, let me know how you get on with it…

  6. amalee issa Says:

    Belly pork = quite fatty. Breast of lamb = quite fatty. Bakewell farmers’ market = last Saturday of the month. I’m dithering with the notion of curing a boned out breast of lamb in the style of Hugh Feathery-WalkingStick and your bacon. I’m thinking of salt, thyme, rosemary and outrageous amounts of mint. I’m also thinking of clearing out the freezer and throwing in the bags of redcurrants I froze and forgot about. Is this Delia or the g&t talking? What do you think?

  7. gastropunk Says:

    amalee, dry cured lamb is a brainwave, although whether it’s genius or madness can only be proved by experimentation. i think you have no choice now but to go for it. you only regret what you don’t do etc etc.

    lamb-bacon could be the second great culinary masterpiece to emerge from the bakewell gastro-scene. although no doubt mr kipling will muscle in with some bastardised version of the original. if it turns out good, i recommend you get a patent in quick with the folks in brussels.

    i haven’t been to the farmers market at bakewell, despite it being very near my parental home in baslow. must take a gander next time i’m in the peak. have you sampled the delights on offer at chatsworth farm shop? their pork pies are a remarkable feat of piggy engineering.

  8. amalee issa Says:

    Hello gatropunk. It’s Bakewell farmers’ market tomorrow, and I’m defo looking to buy belly pork to try out the home made bacon thing, AND I’m dithering no longer… I’m going to try it with a breast of lamb too. I’ve thought about it a lot in terms of the taste of the thing, in between watching saturday kitchen and bill granger’s slinky baking shots. As for chatsworth farm shop – I first tried stinking bishop there and as for the pork pies… gastroporn of the topmost shelf variety I’d say. Yr blog’s great. Amalee

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