Pork chops and spring gems

by Mister North on May 6, 2011

After the harsh winter (thankfully an ever-more distant memory now we’re firmly into May) the recent bout of superb spring weather has brought welcome warmth and cheer in more than one way. Spring heralds two of our favourite fresh British delights: wild garlic, and asparagus. We’ve already written about both on several occasions, but with seasonal goodies this great, I’m not ashamed to sing their praises a little more. They provided the perfect partnership to prime Pennine pork last month.

My friends from Porcus at Height Top Barn have recently expanded both their list of produce, raising fabulous rare-breed pigs on the moors above Todmorden, but also their sales outlets, including my regular butcher in Todmorden Market, Paul Stansfield. So I was excited to see their free-range Saddleback pork on Paul’s blackboard just before Miss South came to visit recently, and took home a couple of massive chops for our first dinner together in some time. These really were enormous, so any accompaniment was in danger of playing second fiddle to these magnificent meaty marvels. We needed to ensure a good balance on the plate.

As the first British asparagus had also hit the shops that week we just had to include this on the plate… and if there’s one thing asparagus goes well with, it’s black pudding. We’d already decided to mark Miss South’s visit with a long-planned black pud ‘cook off’, so she came from south London armed with various Iberian black pudding types she’d sourced. If we were being strictly local with this meal we’d have used local black puds from Bury or Rossendale, but after she arrived with a massive morcilla in tow we elected to use that instead.

Years ago I made a vegetarian starter of apple & potato rosti, using RS Ireland’s then newly-launched Veggie Black Pudding, which I’d heard Simon Rimmer recommend. Having been a lover of black pudding for some time, I was initially skeptical about how one could successfully replace pig’s blood with beetroot and still enjoy the flavour and texture. I’ve got to say, the veggie version is surprisingly good. However this post is entirely carnivorous in its focus, so we went with the rosti but made sure the pudding was purely porcine, hence the morcilla.

In a nod to the more Mediterranean nature of the morcilla, and because I’m still smitten with its fresh spring flavour, I added some of my wild garlic pesto to the dish. We grilled the chops carefully, and let them rest while the rostis were pan-fried in butter and the asparagus steamed, before plating everything up. As you’d probably expect, it tasted as good as it looked; the chops maintaining a slight pinkness and enough moistness to make every mouthful memorable.

We’re both big fans of good, ethically-produced, and fully-flavoured British pork, but it’s a shamefully under-appreciated meat in the UK. We love our cured and processed pork in this country, but a great cut of fresh, flavoursome meat is a pleasure some may not consider. It’s also often hard to source, so I’m really pleased I have the option of buying really great, extremely locally-raised rare breed pork from my local butcher. It’s good to pig out once in a while!

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