Recipe: Slow Cooked Roast Fennel Pork

It is a busy time at the Meriden Bar and Grill.  We are gearing up for Christmas, and we have a whole new menu to learn.  But it is very exciting, as it is all very yummy indeed.  All I need to do now is memorize how to cook it all. One menu item really caught my eye, and since I was told to practice at every opportunity, I thought I would share it with you. You will need the following equipment:
  • Baking tray
  • Baking foil
  • Cooking pot with a steamer inset and lid
  • Mixing bowl
  • Small pan and a sieve
  • Yellow chopping board for cooked meat
  • Brown board for chopping vegetables (green is actually for salad and fruit)

 And the following ingredients:

  • A Shoulder of pork
  • 2 bulbs of fennel
  • a white onion
  • 2 large carrots
  • a bottle of decent cider
  • Fennel seeds, and seasoning
  • 5 decent sized potatoes
  • Half a head of cabbage
  • Spring onions
  • Butter
  • Cornflour

Before you start, set your oven to 160c.  Set up a chopping board, with a piece of damp kitchen roll or a cloth underneath.  This helps grip and stops the board from slipping dangerously.  Set up a baking tray next to it.

Start by cutting the ends off the fennel then slice it lengthways.  Place it in the bottom of the baking tray and spread it out a bit.  Peel the onion and slice it up, not too finely, and place it over the fennel.  Finally chop the ends off the carrots and chop them lengthways and place them over the onions. Now wash your hands.

Open the packet of pork.  Rinse it under the tap to clean off the blood, and cut off the string.  Place it on the baking tray embedded in all the chopped vegetables.

Now wash your hands again, please.

Next, you need a mortar and pestle, or a food blender with a grinder attachment.  Add one tablespoon of fennel seeds, one teaspoon of salt and one teaspoon of pepper.  (Or, if you have them, use fresh sea salt crystals and peppercorns, finely ground) Massage a little olive oil into the skin of the pork.  

Now rub the seasoning mix you have just made into the skin. Now wash your hands again!

Cover the whole tray and it's contents tightly in foil. Next we place the tray in the oven and leave to cook at 160c for three hours.  It isn't called slow cooked pork for nothing. After three hours, take your  oven gloves and open the oven door slowly. Allow the heat to escape before you open the door completely or it will hit you like a truck.  Take the tray out and remove the foil, carefully, using oven gloves.  Steam burns hurt like hell, trust me on this. Place the tray back in the oven and turn the oven up to 185c for a further 40 minutes.

This will allow the fat to crisp up, and smell delicious. 

Mash

So, you have 40 minutes to make your Colcannon mash. This is an old Irish recipe, and I still can't get mine as good as my aunt Lily in Donegal.  Fill a pot with a pint and a half of boiling water.  Put it on the hob on full power.  Peel your potatoes and chop them into quarters; the smaller you cut them, the quicker they cook.

Now take your half-head of cabbage and shred it as finely as you can. Chop your spring onions finely.  Place the cabbage and onions in the steamer inset and put it in the pot, over the potatoes and cover.  Leave it for about half an hour or until the potatoes are soft.  Steaming cabbage is better than boiling and it doesn't smell half as bad.  

Try the cabbage and onion. Nice and soft? Then it is ready. Poke the potatoes with a knife.  Did it slip straight through, like butter?  They're ready. Drain the potatoes and add to a mixing bowl.  Using  a potato masher, hack it down to mash.  Add a tablespoon of butter and a little salt and pepper.  

Add the cabbage and mix well. And that is your Colcannon mash.

By now your pork should be ready.  Again, open the oven door slowly and carefully. Move the pork to a cooked meat board (that's the yellow one). Allow it to rest for a few minutes.  The fat should now be nice and crispy, and very tasty indeed.

Take one small saucepan, and place a sieve over the top.  Carefully drain the juices through the sieve and into the pan.  Heat it gently for a minute.  Add one heaped tablespoon of cornflour to a jug, add a little water and stir into a smooth paste.  Add it to the juices in the pan and stir slowly.  If there isn't much juice there, add a little water. Taste it with a spoon.  

Taste good?  If so, great, if not then top it up with a little instant gravy. I'll never tell anybody.

Finally, to serve up, take a pasta dish and ladle a little Colcannon into the bowl.  Cut the pork into portions and place on top of the Colcannon.  

Finally drizzle it with gravy over and around the pork. And enjoy!

By chef Nick Gilmartin who can be contacted on @Nick1975 or find out more here.