Last weekend my friends from Bristol invaded us ‘demanding’ a bed and sustenance for two days. Thank goodness they didn’t ask for laundry service too. We were of course totally delighted to see them, especially when we saw that they had brought a case of wine with them. However at the end of February, after the Valentine’s Day celebration and saving for a holiday, we were feeling a bit broke. So how to do a feast for seven people, where five of them are big blokes and you do not want to end up serving a stir-fry or a spag bol?
I’m sure there are many options but I used one which worked well in the past and doesn’t involve hours of preparation, time that I would rather spend with my friends: a roast dinner of slow roasted shoulder of pork with an apricot stuffing and all of the yummy trimmings one can imagine.
I have to admit that the case of wine and Ana’s generous offer to bring the lovely French pate and a bottle of stunning Sauternes for the starter helped substantially to lower the total cost but I think its not so bad from time to time to allow your guests to bring something to the table.
We went to get the pork from local butcher in the morning and for 4kg of prime British rolled pork shoulder we spent under £23! Not bad. Shoulder is a cheaper and tougher, fattier cut requiring slow roasting but damn, it’s tasty! The rest: the veg from the market, the stuffing ingredients and pudding cost us around £15 Total cost? Only £38!
The pork was just rubbed with salt all over the skin to make beautiful crackling and stuffed with an onion, pistachio and dried apricot stuffing, then tied and put into a low temperature oven for around 5 hours. There is really nothing more you need to do with it. Let it be and it will cook itself perfectly. The smell of the meat coming from the oven was so divine that we almost ate it before it was ready. Only the iron will of the chef (i.e. my husband) managed to stop our guests from picking. He also makes the best roast potatoes and Yorkshire puddings in the world so success was almost guaranteed. To complement the pork and spuds (potatoes) I decided to make a homemade apple sauce with nutmeg and cinnamon, and served leeks, honey glazed baby carrots and steamed kale to add some colour to the meal.
The pork came up fantastic, golden brown with plenty of crunchy crackling and falling apart delicious meat. Someone suggested adding some cider to the cooking juices after around two hours to make gravy even tastier, and it worked.
We had a lovely pudding too. Salvaged from going to the bin, a bit of stale French brioche made superb bread and butter pudding with dry fruits and vanilla ice-cream.
Et voila! A dinner for seven on the budget served! Possible? Sure!
And apparently the best meal my guests had eaten in month!
P.S. If you have any leftovers the roast pork sandwich and apple sauce makes a great lunch the next day.
WINE OF THE WEEK
Beautiful bubbly to start the evening : Grande Cuvée 1531 Crémant de Limoux NV (£15 at Dulwich Winters)
Limoux is the oldest sparkling wine producing region in the world – even before the famous Dom Perignon, hence the date in the name. Chardonnay (70%), Chenin Blanc (20%), Mauzac (10%) a slightly unusual blend for bubbles but the result is stunning. It is dry sparkling, yellow-gold and really fine bubbles making a superb mousse. A very fresh and intense nose with mixed aromas of white flowers, stone fruits, green apple and citrus. The well balanced palate is fruity, light and refined, delicately nutty with something like hazelnut or marzipan, and a touch of toast flavours by the finish. A truly outstanding creation.