Friday 15 December 2017

A Sloppy Mess

Marzipanning the cake. 
After the excitement of our snow and the beautiful pictures that were possible, the thaw was always going to be a come down. The snow is all gone now and the melt water is sitting on the surface, waiting to drain away, turning our grass and any soft paths into a sloppy mess. The ducks don't help, of course, with their keenness to dibble about in any puddle with their bills, sifting for grubs and worms in the slop. Areas that should be green are brown. We need it all to drain, which does not usually take too long, and then for a short, sharp rain shower to wash the grass blades clean.

This loaf had me worried this morning, but seems to have come
 good. When I first went to knead it after the overnight "sponge"
stage, it seemed cold, dead and dense. It then rose sluggishly, but
I had no need to fret. Looks and feels OK now.
This may well be the shortest post ever as we are literally just getting ready for the start of Christmas visitors. Coming this weekend we have old Friends of the Blog, formerly "Dan and Dan". Dan and Dan(ielle) are now famously wed on a cruise ship off Italy earlier in the year, so maybe we should call them Mr and Mrs Dan. They arrive tomorrow for a quick break but we will get them involved in decorating the Christmas Tree and sharing in our glühwein, so it should start to feel like Christmas for all of us.

That half-deer still giving us some useful joints - this a half leg
of venison, up for roasting tomorrow for the guests. 
With Liz away and the snow coming and then thawing, the dogs, cats and I have inevitably walked a fair amount of wet into the house. We can train humans to wipe their feet on the rugs and to take off their boots at the door (well, most of the humans, anyway!), but cats come and go through the cat flap at will and the dogs are so pleased to be back indoors and have eyes only for their dog-treat ('sweeties' here), so if you can get them to put each paw down on the rug even once in passing, you are doing well. It's a never ending battle.

A new way with belly pork. Mini 'porchetta'
A quick sorry update on those duck eggs we have (had) in Sue's incubator. They were keeping us waiting - a week ago we could see little feet kicking about in the 'candling' light beam but then day 28 rolled round to 35, 36 and now 37. Sadly they have now failed to hatch and are dead in their shells. It happens. They would be VERY late season, laid in November, so probably the drake and ducks are not doing their 'mating season' with the required amount of spring in their step. Their various contributions were not in peak of health and these babies were never going to be. Thanks for trying, Sue. We will give it another go in Spring. We have another string to our bow, of course - there are 5 duck eggs under very late broody 'Connie', which come to Day 28 on Christmas Day. Perhaps a real bird might fare better than the incubator. Watch this space.

A 'Swiss roll' of belly meat with inter-leaved herbs, all rolled
up in the skin. 
Meanwhile, we have found a new use for those big squares of belly pork. Bacon rashers and fried strips of belly are all well and good, and Black Spring's Nan's recipe is Divine, but we saw on the Internet, some people making a mini 'porchetta'. Our go-to You-Tube butcher, the 'Scott Rea Project', shows how to take a foot-square chunk of the belly, lay it flat on the chopping board and slice through it horizontally so that you can open two 'pages' like a book.

Nom nommetty nom!
Don't cut all the way through - leave yourself a 'hinge' at one end. You now have a sheet of 'meat' 24" by 12". Smear all over this sheet a mix of as many herbs and flavours as you fancy - we used salt, garlic, rosemary, thyme, sage, fennel seed and lemon zest. We strip all the stems out of the herbs and use just the softer leaves. Now roll the whole thing up leaving the skin outside and facing out, and do your best butchers' knots to make it keep shape. Score the skin all over to help the crackling. Sprinkle with salt or oil according to preference.

We served our porchetta with steamed kale (2 varieties), carrots
and white rice. 
Pre-heat oven to 230ºC (very hot!). Put the roll on a rack sitting out of the roasting dish. Have a mug's worth of water in the dish to stop the worst smoking and spitting. Cook for 20 minutes on hot, then turn oven down to 150ºC and cook for another 3 hours or so. Take joint from oven, cover with foil and a tea towel and rest for a good 20 mins to relax, while you do the veg. Ours was lovely and...oh!... the crackling. Thank you Scott Rea and the rest of the Internet pork-chefs. Good eating.

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