I once ate a ball. An actual, honest-to-god testicle. I ate a bollock and enjoyed it and am in no way ashamed. The same applies to eyeballs and brains. Fuck, I’d eat a tiger’s nipple if it was dressed up like that delicious little piece of the lamb’s undercarriage.
But one thing I’ve never been privy to – until now, that is – is feet. It’s not, as you’d probably guessed, a matter of squeamishness. The opportunity had simply never presented itself. There’s something about feet…they’re neither exotic enough to justify the prurient excitement of eating a lamb’s ball nor ordinary enough to slip onto our usual menu.
So, neglected and forgotten, feet had never made an appearance in my diet. That had to change and when Pork Off 2011 presented with me with the tantalising challenge of creating a dish which used three cuts of pork I knew their moment to shine had finally arrived.
I did need some help here, and I owe a debt of gratitude to MiMi Aye of Meemalee’s Kitchen, Rachel McCormack of Catalan Cooking and the ever-insightful Oliver Thring for their advice on how to get the best out of my trotters. The delightful stock they create is without equal. Thick and buttery, it sings on its own and lights up anything it’s combined with.
The choice of stir-fried spicy pork shoulder and crispy belly pork to join the trotters hardly needs explaining. The piping hot spice of the pork shoulder seemed a simple and tasty compliment to the almost unctuous stock whilst the belly provides a much needed variety of texture.
Three Pork Soup
For the soup
- Two pig trotters, halved the expose the marrow
- A little knob of ginger, finely sliced
- Two spring onions, sliced. Green bits ‘n’ all.
- One star anise
- Four cloves
- A cinnamon stick, snapped
- Half a teaspoon of fennel seed
- Three garlic cloves, smashed with the flat of a knife
- Five dried red chillis, split
- Two blocks of dried noodles
- Coriander leaves to serve
For the stir-fry pork
- 500g pork shoulder, deboned and diced
- One onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 10 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- One fiery green chilli, sliced
- One tablespoon dark soy sauce
- One tablespoon light soy sauce
- Splash of sherry or rough red wine
For the pork belly
- 500g belly pork
- Sea salt
- Black pepper
- Olive oil
Put your split pig trotters in a big pan of cold water and bring to the boil with a lid on. Every twenty minutes scoop away any scum that forms on top of the water. When no more scum is being produced, turn the heat off and allow to cool.
Add the ginger, spring onions, cloves, star anise, cinnamon stick, fennel seed, garlic and dried chillis to the water and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook long and slow – around 3 hours should do it – until you’ve got a thick, clear, aromatic stock. Strain and remove the pig trotters. Allow to cool, and when they’re not too hot to touch remove the skin and shred the meat. Set to one side.
Whilst the stock is preparing, get your pork belly ready. Heat the oven to 200ºc. Dry the skin of the belly with a clean tea towel or kitchen roll and score down to the fat. Rub all over with olive oil, sea salt and black pepper and roast for around 15 minutes, or until the skin is starting to puff up and crackle. Turn the heat down to 180ºc and roast for another 45 minutes. The skin should be crisp and brittle, the meat and fat meltingly tender. Slice the belly into strips.
Whilst the belly pork is in the oven for its final 45 minute stretch, get your pork shoulder ready. Get a good glug of oil fiercely hot in a wok and add the pork. Stir frantically until it’s starting to colour. Add the soy sauces and the splash of booze, followed by the onion, garlic, chilli & trotter meat. Keep stirring. It’s ready when the onions are soft, which should just be a couple of minutes.
Get the stock hot again on the hob and add the noodles. When the noodles are almost cooked, add everything from the wok. Serve into bowls, with the noodles just peaking over the level of the stock. Pile the strips of belly on top of each bowl & garnish with a sprig of coriander.