Now, for some people, this one is going to present a challenge. You may well love to eat meat, consider yourself to be experimental and are always willing to try something new. But let's be honest, the prospect of serving up a pig's head does push the boundaries somewhat. This isn't a case of simply whacking some pork chops on the grill after all.
However, the idea of cooking a pig's head is something to be celebrated in more ways than one. The initial reward obviously comes in the form of all the wonderful morsels that can be found from the jowl, cheeks and tongue. Soft and yielding after slow cooking, they really are delicacies to be picked upon and discovered. And plus the crackling to be had is amazing. There is also the theatricality of serving it up. It is always a showstopper and will leave guests agog. Most importantly of all though, is that this sort of dish demonstrates a full-on commitment to nose-to-tail eating. An animal well lived and cared for should not be wasted. Not one bit.
This recipe is by Andrew Clarke, Chef Director at Brunswick House and brains (!) behind the offal fest that is Glandstonbury, held annually at The Drapers Arms in Islington. With origins in an Alsatian dish, that originally uses lots of different salted meats, Andrew's use of pig's head is an excellent foil for the bed of sauerkraut that accompanies it. Because the head contains quite a lot of fat that renders out during cooking, the acidic cabbage and cider combines brilliantly, to temper and prevent everything from becoming too cloying. In fact, the accompanying vegetables and herbs, all mixed in together with that sauce is almost as good as the pork itself. Almost.
The icing on the cake is the use of Doreen's Black Pudding, to provide another rich, iron element to proceedings. When Andrew sent the recipe through to us, he initially suggested that boudin noir would go well - along with some extra bits such as heart, kidney, trotters, etc - but when pressed, he was more than happy to go with some British blood sausage. So long as the dish was accompanied with celeriac and apple mash and plenty and plenty of mustard.
One of the tricky aspects is of course, sourcing a pig's head. We don't sell them online but just drop us a line at the shop and we will happily get one in and prepare it for you (it will need to be cut in half).
It wouldn't have quite the same impact but it would still be one hell of a crowd-pleaser.
- Cut the carrots, onions and celery into large chunks and brown in a little oil with the lardons, in a large heavy bottom pan.
- Transfer to a large, deep baking tray with the bundle of herbs.
- Season the pigs head on cut side with salt and pepper, then rest the pigs head on top of vegetables.
- Pour in the glass of cider and the chicken stock. Ideally you need the liquid to come halfway up, exposing the top of the head like an island.
- Bake in a slow oven at 130°C for about 6 hours, depending on size. The meat will come away from the bone with ease when ready. Keep an eye that liquid doesn’t completely evaporate. You want to be left with a little. Top up with water during cooking if necessary.
- Take the head out of the tray, being careful to keep in one piece.
- Scatter the sauerkraut into the tray and mix with the vegetables and residual juices. Lay the black pudding on top.
- Pop back in the oven for 10 minutes until piping hot
- Transfer to a large serving plate and create a bed for which to put the pigs head on. Put the black around the head.
- Take to the table and pour a little more cider over the head, in front of the guests.