Saturday, May 23, 2015

Pig's Head Parcels

Usually when we kill a pig we discard the head, along with the guts, and I always feel guilty about it.
This time I decided to keep the head and discard the guilt instead! There is actually quite a bit of meat on the head and, when cooked well it is meltingly tender and succulent.

After pressure cleaning the dirt and blood off at the rubber mat (normally reserved as the spot for washing vehicles and machines) I tried to de-hair the head but was spectacularly unsuccessful so I just placed it whole in a big pot of brine overnight. I'm not really sure why I did this, it just seemed the right thing to do for some reason! The next day I drained the brine off and refilled the pot with fresh water- adding parsley, garlic, onion, carrot, bay leaves, cloves, salt, peppercorns and vinegar. I then boiled the head gently for about 4 hours, until the meat was falling off the bone. At this point the skin (with attached hair) was very easy to remove and I fed it to the chooks.
I picked the rest of the meat off the bone, removed the tongue (which was also tender) and collected it in a bowl. As you can see, the skull was stripped clean! To the meat, including the chopped up tongue, I added salt and white pepper, freshly grated nutmeg, fresh thyme leaves, a splash of brandy and a bit of cream before covering and popping in the fridge to cool completely.

Meanwhile, onto the pasta. I love fresh pasta but tend not to make it very often as, in spite of what Jamie Oliver says, it is a bit of a palaver in my opinion. But hey, it's not everyday you have a pig's head to play with!
You can tell by the colour of the pasta that it is made with egg yolks - home grown, of course :) This, by the way, is Jamie's pasta recipe as published in the May 2015 edition of delicious. magazine.


400g '00' flour
75 g fine semolina, plus extra to dust
12 egg yolks
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil

Place the flour and semolina in your mixing bowl and mix together. Add the egg yolks, oil and 80ml of cold water. Mix with the dough hook until the dough comes together (this can be done by hand if you don't have a mixer) It will be very stiff at this stage but take it out of the bowl, knead it for a couple of minutes and then wrap in cling film and put it in the fridge to rest for half and hour. Some kind of magic will happen while it rests and when you bring it out it will be soft and pliable and ready to roll!

Divide the pasta into 6 equal pieces. Take one and cover the rest in cling film and set aside.
Start on the thickest setting of your pasta machine and run the dough through at least six times, folding into thirds each time so that you hopefully get a nice rectangular piece with neat edges. Keep rolling through the settings, reducing the thickness each time, until about 2mm thick. Once finished put aside and cover with a tea towel while you roll the remaining pieces.

When making a filled pasta there is a fine line between having it thin enough that it's not stodgy and robust enough that is doesn't tear. I went to the second last setting on my pasta machine.
After rolling out strips of dough I took one and piled about one and a half tablespoons of the pork mixture at about 6cm intervals along the length of it then brushed the edges and the middle bit with water. I placed another sheet gently on top of this and pressed the two strips together between the mounds of meat before cutting the dough into sections and gently pressing all the way around the meat, being careful not to leave any pockets of air in the parcels. This is quite tricky and takes a bit of time….well it does for me but I'm sure a practiced Italian nonna would do it with her eyes closed in no time at all!

Once finished I boiled the ravioli in salted water for a couple of minutes to cook the pasta then tossed it in a frying pan with brown butter and a squeeze of lemon juice. After plating I garnished with crispy fried sage leaves and a little more of the brown butter.

Yes, it was a lot of work but gee it was delicious, and it went down very well with a glass of virtue for not wasting the delicious meat from the pig's head - oh, and a drop a red.

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