I hadn’t really heard of this before this summer, and suddenly it’s everywhere. It’s essentially a cheap joint of pork cooked long and slow with barbecue-sauce-like marinade. After cooking, you reserve the sauce, take out the pork and remove the bones and fat, and pull it apart with forks, like rillettes or Chinese restaurant Peking duck. The sauce has its fat removed, and then to serve, you reheat the sauce and mix it with the shredded meat.
I cooked it for our dinner party on Saturday, and apart from it tying up your oven for an entire day ((or a slow cooker if you have one. I’m almost considering getting a slow cooker again just for this!)), it’s a really good dinner party dish. I had cooked the starter and pudding the day before, and it came out of the oven in good time to let me make the canapés in the half-hour before the guests arrived.
As I put the starter out, I set the fire under a big pan of potatoes which would eventually become mustard mash (potatoes with the skins still on, but cut smaller; wholegrain mustard; butter and something creamy – cream, yoghurt or quark, whatever was in the fridge). Then about halfway through the spud cooking time, I put prepared French beans and broccoli florets into boiling water. The pork had been ready since about 6pm, so I put the jug of gravy sauce into the microwave to boil it, stirred it through the meat, then brought out the meat, mash and veg in big steaming pots for people to help themselves.
The main recipe I read was Matt Tebbut’s, from last September’s Olive magazine, reproduced here. We’re not terribly seafoody people, and some of our guests had specifically said no fish, so no clams. Reading around on the internet found an enormous variety of different rubs and sauces, but the essential thing seemed to be that anything vaguely marinadey would do. So I rubbed mine the night before with salt and sugar, then on the day, improvised a marinade. It included: chopped onions, shallots and garlic; HP brown sauce, tomato purée, red wine vinegar, sherry ((I love sherry)), sugar, Dijon mustard. The lot was whisked together in a big lidded cast-iron casserole and the meat joint was wiped of its salt and plonked on top. I kept opening it up during the day to see how it was getting along, and ended up worrying it wasn’t cooking quickly enough. It got 7 hours in total, and each time I looked at it, I turned it up a bit, so it got 3 hours at 140 deg, a few more at 150 and had the last two hours at 180. It could well have been fine at the lower temperature, but didn’t seem harmed by the higher. I think this is a fairly forgiving dish. Each time I looked, I also basted, by spooning the juices over the side.
In terms of it being everywhere, it’s on the Clarkies supperclub September menu, for starters (their mixed grill sounds fab!)
And this evening I have been reading through the back posts on the blog of one of the Great British Bake Off contestants, Mary-Anne – and there was a gorgeous looking version made with apples, which sounds like a very good combination and which I am itching to try out.
So, pulled pork has a lot going for it. Delicious, cheap, flexible… but one final benefit, given that I am now starting to think with my “back to school” head on, is that it looks to be very easily doable either on a prepare ahead basis – make the marinade the night before and leave it cooking in the oven during the day on a timer – or that it looks eminently freezable. Make it at the weekend, and make ghost portions for the following week.
Mary-Anne on the GBBO is one of my favourite contestants, and her blog is top notch. Special shout out for her gorgeous looking and sounding Apple Rose Tarts.