We’ve had a great weekend: the new tent was super quick to put up so by 9.30 on Friday night, the kids were tucked up in bed, and I had my first G&T of the weekend sitting by a roaring camp fire in the wilds of Hampshire (OK, so the Hampshire countryside’s not that wild, but we felt pretty remote).
We were camping at a slightly odd and lovely place called The Sustainability Centre. The Husband is fairly sure it used to be a military establishment and that he had been there in his previous life. The assault- course- wall-turned- ‘Rural Skills area’-boundary, coupled with some typically military red brick buildings would tend to bear this out, but beyond that, there’s little evidence of its previous use. Now, it’s a haven of peace and tranquillity, there’s a ‘Natural Burial Site’ there (I ventured that way with the dog, and then got confused with Waking the Dead and started hallucinating about Tara Fitzgerald’s body farm place and went the other way), and a small camping ground, complete with yurts and a couple of tipis for those who don’t want to bring their own tents.
We were there for my friend’s 40th. By yesterday evening there were about 60 adults and children and 2 dogs. We had great weather all day, and a fabulous evening: drinks and a curry (catered by the on site veggie cafe) in an amazing open sided wooden event structure in the woods. The children ran riot, got muddy, built dens, we had a camp fire for marshmallow toasting, and then later for general conviviality. However, the upshot was some fairly sore heads this morning, and although the veggie cafe opened early to do us all breakfast, bacon was definitely missed. Oh, and I can confirm that compost toilets and hangovers do not go well together.
We decided to forego hanging around today, in favour of getting home and cleaned up and just chilling out, but not before stopping in Tescos in Winchester to get MEAT for supper. Despite my recent forays into vegetarian food, I still haven’t found anything to beat either a bacon sandwich or a roast dinner when I’m feeling like this. In the absence of bacon for breakfast, it was going to have to be a roast for tea.
We had hoped that it might have been the Winchester Farmer’s Market today but sadly not, so Tescos it was, for a piece of belly of pork. I won’t bore you with the story of how we bumped into the most glamorous person I know while we were there, and how it would have to be on a day when we all smelt of wood smoke and looked like we’d been dragged through several bushes backwards but there we go.
Back home, and I’m sitting here, salivating at the smells that are now coming from the oven. For dinner we are having: Roast thick end of Pork belly with coriander and fennel crackling, thanks to Hugh’s River Cottage Everyday, and rhubarb and ginger crumble, from my head, because there is rhubarb in the garden, and it’s that kind of day.
Roast thick end of Pork belly with coriander and fennel crackling
I got nearly 2 kilos of meat (the lady in the meat counter sold me slightly more than I wanted on the basis that it would tip me over the £7 threshold thus qualifying me to use a £2 money off voucher.
Following St Hugh’s advice, I bashed up 3 teaspoons of coriander seeds and 2 of fennel seed, rubbed just over half into the crackling, which I had to score with a craft knife because I didn’t feel up to sharpening any of the kitchen knives, and put the rest of the seeds in the bottom of the roasting tray, laid the pork on top, and put it into a really hot oven for 30 mins to get the crackling going and the meat cooking. Once the ‘sizzle’ was over, I turned the oven temperature down to 180 for the rest of the cooking time. Hugh’s recipe says this will be 1.5 hrs, but I’m not so sure I can wait that long – it smells so good. We’re having mash and chard from the garden , along with 6 asparagus spears that have pushed up while we’ve been away. How exciting!
There isn't a picture of the asparagus yet because it's still in the ground waiting for literally the last moment when the Husband will leap out, cut the spears and race back to the kitchen for maximum freshness...
Rhubarb and Ginger crumble
For the pudding, I’ve used 800g of rhubarb, which I sliced up into chunks, and mixed in a baking dish with the juice of nearly a whole orange and a tablespoon or so of soft brown sugar.
I covered this with foil and bunged it in the oven with the pork for 20 mins, just to get the rhubarb going. I don’t always pre-cook the fruit when I make crumble, but I think you need to with rhubarb. Once I’d done that pre-cook, I added in a thinly sliced ball of stem ginger and stirred that in with the rhubarb. The ginger was a bit of an afterthought but we’re all a little cold, and ginger is very comforting. For the crumble topping, I used 110g oats, 110g plain flour, 100g soft brown sugar and 75g of unsalted butter rubbed in. It’s already cooked, because experience has taught me that if I serve crumble straight from the oven, at least one of us will be unable to wait till it’s cooled down enough, and give ourselves third degree burns in the process.
So there you have it – comfort food for a slightly dreary and hungover May Sunday. If anyone’s got any veggie hangover cures, I’d be pleased to try them out!