I've been eyeing up the recipe for slow-roasted pork for months. I am very partial to slow-cooked meat in general, although I'd never tried roasting pork for as long as this recipe requires. Undoubtedly I'd have tried it earlier, but for the instruction to cook a 5-6 kg piece of pork shoulder on the bone, followed by the reminder to check that your roasting tin - and your oven - are big enough. I don't suppose either my trays or my oven would have been; in any case, we'd have been eating pork for months, which might have prejudiced my feelings about it. Usually I am undeterred by scaling recipes down, but another sentence put me off: 'this recipe only works with a whole shoulder'. I couldn't see why but I am an obedient cook and I thought that this (along with those elusive live lobsters) might prevent me from cooking right through this book. Which would be a shame because I genuinely love slow-cooked meat. Anyway I consulted an anonymous Scottish oracle who advised me on how to adapt the recipe to the meat I could find. I bought a 3kg piece of pork shoulder and cut the cooking time slightly; the smell emanating from the oven all day was seriously tempting, a clarion call from the kitchen as I indulged in a Sunday afternoon novel. I could hardly wait for it to be ready.
To prepare the pork, lay roughly chopped carrot, obion, celery and fennel (fennel again...) in a roasting tray with bashed garlic cloves and some thyme sprigs. Bash up fennel seeds with salt and massage all over the scored skin of the pork, pushing the mix into the scores to boost the flavour of the meat. Put in an oven preheated to maximum for 20-30 minutes until it has begun to colour, then turn the oven down to 120C and cook for 9-12 hours. Then tip a bottle of white wine into the tray and cook for another hour. Mash the vegetables in the tray. Add chicken or vegetable stock to the tray and boil until you have an intense gravy. Serve with borlotti beans, braised greens, roast veg mash and tasty sauce.
My method differed marginally. I did everything as suggested, kept the oven at 120 even though mine is a seemingly turbo-charged fan oven, wherein 120 is not really 120. I cooked it for 6 1/2-7 hours at that temperature before adding the wine.
I also didn't mash up the veg; I threw it out. I know that sounds wasteful, but it had absorbed so much fat from the pork that it didn't look appetizing. I served the pork with borlotti beans, steamed purple sprouting broccoli and the light gravy.
It was utterly delicious; Simon called it a 110% dinner. The pork was as promised meltingly tender and it had absorbed masses of flavour from the fennel. The sauce was equally lovely. I would make it again, like a shot - it was so easy and yet fantastic.
It occurs to me that I would never think of making this sort of food when people come over. When people invite you over, they tend to serve prime cuts, presumably so you don't write them off as cheapskates. That is all wrong - this sort of food cooks itself while you rest; nobody ends up flustered and red-faced thanks to the last-minute cooking that prime cuts inevitably demand. This is ideal food for entertaining, or for a lazy Sunday when you feel like reading and drinking tea while the meat looks after itself in the oven. Given the oven is on so low, you could even pop out to the pub...