It’s a bright summer dawn and I’m lying on my back staring at a cool blue sky. I was woken by the sun painting green and purple Pollock on my eyelids but elected to stay here, next to the remnants of last night’s campfire. A flag flutters in my peripheral vision, tatty but proud, and in the distance somewhere there’s a bang and a scream followed by a column of smoke which joins the others in a noxious fug above the field. It’s Monday morning at Reading Festival 2006 and I’m about to taste my first hog roast.
Having dragged myself to my feet and shaken the dew from my hair, I stumble through the knee-deep detritus of a weekend of debauchery and onto the shit-slathered duckboards that pass for paths at Reading (which, for the record, is the arsecrack of the world). I’m surprised to find that not only is my wallet still in my pocket but there’s also a grubby little fiver nestling in amongst the scrawled memos to self. The £5 note hasn’t escaped my attention, though. Scribbled over the Queen’s face in red pen are the words “DFA made your balls drop. NEVER FORGET.” It’s not my handwriting, but I murmur “noted” and lurch towards the blue and red peaks of the Big Top, 200 metres and a hundred miles away.
It was at this point that my morning suddenly became worth living for. I smelt it first, a meaty, fatty whisper of pork penetrating the stench of stale beer and bad weed. Without thinking, I changed direction and started pushing through the milling tides of tired, wired bodies. When I was a few metres away and the smell had become so strong as to be intoxicating, I heard it. The spit creaked. The fire roared. The skin cracked and hissed. Holy mother of all that’s good and right in the world, I’d found the grail. I understood Saul on the road to Damascus. I understood the Pillar of Salt and the burning bush. This was my moment of revelation. And it only cost £3.50.
Thing is, it’s not easy to replicate a hog roast when you’re living in a house with about as many amenities and as much comfort as an upturned rowing boat. I got tired of waiting, though, for rich friends to turn 21 or festival season to roll around again. It was time to adapt, and pulled pork is the perfect substitute. Tender, flaky, salty and rich, it ticks all the boxes that hog roast so emphatically put its mark on that morning. Originally the roasted vegetables were intended as a peace offering for my veggie girlfriend, but they went beautifully with the pork.
Join me in the cult of pork. It’s cheaper than Scientology and provides more instant gratification than Christianity. All fucking hail.
Pulled Pork Burgers with Apple Sauce
- Pork shoulder, 2kg
- One big onion, sliced
- Salt & pepper
- Three cloves garlic, chopped finely
- About half a pint of proper cider
- Allspice, a pinch
- One courgette, sliced widthways
- One aubergine, sliced widthways
- One big carrot, halved and sliced lengthways
- Four big flat mushrooms
- Four soft white buns
- Two sour green cooking apples
- Sugar, a teaspoon (ish)
- Cinnamon, a sprinkling
First, lay the the pork shoulder on an oiled roasting dish. Rub it all over with salt, pepper, finely chopped garlic and a little allspice. Pour the cider into the dish with the meat. Cover with tin foil and roast for three hours at 170ºc.
After about 2 and a half hours, start thinking about your veggies. Place the aubergines, courgettes and slices of carrot in another roasting dish and add a big glug of olive oil and a little squeeze of lemon juice before seasoning with salt and pepper. On the 3 hour mark, put the veggies in and remove the tin foil covering from the meat. Roast for another hour, regularly checking the vegetables to make sure they don’t burn.
During this last hour, make the apple sauce as it is better served cool with the hot meat and veggies. Peel, core and chop the apples. Melt a big knob of butter over a medium heat and add the apple pieces. Stir until the pieces are all covered in butter then add enough water to almost cover the apple pieces and put the lid on. Allow to simmer, stirring occasionally until the apples are gloopy and can be squished into a sauce. Stir in sugar and cinnamon to taste.
Finally, fry the slices of onion until they’re translucent. Add the flat mushrooms and continue frying until the onions are dark and sweet. Mix the mushroom and onion into the other vegetables.
Eat piled into a bun whilst cooling your mouth with the rest of the cider.