When you have loads of people round it's important you don't do something that requires a huge amount of attention. Otherwise you miss out on all the chat which is the reason you all get together anyway!
You need to cook something that can feeds lots of people and isn't that expensive. I went with belly pork. 2.5 kgs of belly pork, leeks and spring greens, a wholegrain mustard mash with a cider reduction sauce to go with it. All for £12 each. Including wine. Total bargain. Belly pork is coming back into fashion in a big way but to get the best out of it, it does need to be slow cooked so you need to have the time to be able to do it. Luckily I had time.
The girls and I headed to the supermarket to pick up the essentials. Ingredients, wine, gin and lots of olives. At one point our trolley just looked like this...
I mean what else do 4 girls need for a great night in?
Heading home it was time to stick on some tunes, pour ourselves a gin and elderflower and get down to some catching up. Luckily my kitchen at home has a massive table in it and it tends to be where everyone congregates, which meant I could join in the chat whilst I prepared dinner.
Pre-heat your oven to 220 C or GM7 then start scoring the skin on the pork, you need a really sharp knife for this, some people even use a scaple and salting it. Salting the skin draws out excess moisture which gives you a better crackling, ideally you would salt the skin and leave it for at least an hour but as I was feeling pushed for time I only left it for about 25 mins. I still managed to get some of that moisture out though!
Scoring the fat. Make sure you don't go down too far and cut the flesh.
Make sure you really rub the salt into all the gaps.
While the skin is salting, prepare the trays. I had 5 pieces of pork so I used 3 trays. I didn't want to risk over crowding them. I made each piece of pork its own tasty bed of slabs of red onions, thyme and rosemary, this keeps the pork lifted off the bottom of the tray as well as adding extra favour.
When you have left the skins for as long as you can, blot all the moisture that will have come to the surface with some kitchen towel, and lay each of the piece on their beds of goodness.
Thats all you have to do! Making sure your oven is really nice and hot (if you turned it on at the beginning it should be) throw in the trays and shut the door. After 20 mins turn the ovens right down to 160 C/GM3 and cook for another 2.5 hrs.
Everyone had arrived by this point and I wanted to give them all my full attention so I quickly prepped the leeks, sliced the spring greens, peeled the potatoes and put everything in their designated pots to be switched on when the time came.
Coming down to the final crunch time it was all hands on deck. Clearing and laying the table, opening the wine, plates in to warm and making sure there was enough serving platters.
The pork came out and was transferred to one of the trays making sure all of the juices had been emptied first into a jug. Then the oven was turned up full and the pork thrown back in again. I reason I did this was because the skin just wasn't quite crispy enough. While that was back in the oven, I sweated the leeks in lots of butter, salt and pepper. Steamed the spring greens in a big wok with a bit of water in the bottom and then finished them off with some more butter, salt and pepper. When in doubt, use butter.
The potatoes had been sat in the colander for a while so they were nice and dry. This is really important, its the same as when roasting potatoes, you really need to make sure they are really dry. Tipping them back in the pan I added lots of butter (yes, more butter), lots of salt and pepper and at least 2 big heaped teaspoons of wholegrain mustard. Proceed to mash (for extra creamy mash I use a ricer, however my ricer was in London, so I had to make do with a but of elbow grease). If it looks a little crumbly, add more butter or dash or milk or cream or creme fraiche.
Whilst I was doing this, Harri was on gravy duty. After combining all the roast trays juices and onions into one tray I put this on the hob and added a bottle of Henny's dry cider. Keep stirring and reduced down, taste it to make sure you have burnt off all the alcohol, otherwise it's too harsh.
Now its time for the pork to come out, and by now the skin should be really nice and crispy. So crispy you could crack a tooth on it, which incidentally I did, joy.
Carve up into pieces, put on a warmed serving plate and your good to go.
You can feel hungry grins as you place it down in the middle of the table. Now, make sure everyone has a decent slug of wine and get stuck in!
Cheers to that.
After dinner it was all hands on deck to do a big clean up and then it was off to the bottom of the garden to light the fire in the hut and let Harri entertain us with a guitar. Perfect.
Even the cat got involved.
It was the perfect evening and Ben has decided to bugger off to Peru for a while, so it was a great way to say goodbye to him.
The next morning my favourite labrador in the whole world returned so we decided to take her for a long walk on the beach (which would also clear our slightly fuggy heads). Of course this was after a delightful fry up of sausages, bacon, mushrooms and scrambled eggs.
Tilly thought it was a great idea.
All too quickly it was time for everyone to depart and go our separate way. Weekends are just too short, aren't they? Until next time my lovely lot!!