March 12th, 2011
Oli returned from Barcelona on Saturday with a suckling pig in his suitcase – promptly named Perceval. I was amused by the thought of customs officers looking at an X-ray image of the case – Perceval looked quite child like in his shrink wrap. It might sound a bit weird, bringing back a suckling pig from Spain, but Segovia is probably the suckling pig (cochinillo) capital of Europe and suckling pig in Spain is quite common as a feast day meal (like Christmas or Easter) – it costs a quarter of the price you’d pay in Britain!
Having had prior warning of Percy’s arrival, I went to the butchers on Saturday morning and bought a dozen morcilla (Spanish black pudding). I looked up a couple of recipes for suckling pig – Fergus Henderson’s, of course and one by Stefan Gates (famed for his naked appearance, aged 4, on a Led Zeppelin album cover). Fergus suggests making a large quantity of stuffing, but having seen the suckling pigs at the St. John, I knew that they use piglets considerably larger than Percy. Stefan Gates suggests naming your pig – very sensible and an idea we adopted without hesitation, he also suggested sausages, black pudding and a number of other ingredients.
Perceval Pig was ready to cook inside his shrink wrap, so I dried him off and tried the morcilla for size – they fitted, in the stomach, perfectly, so I took some butcher’s string and sewed them up inside him. I scored the skin on his back and rubbed in some coarse sea salt. It seemed prudent to follow the advise given in all piglet recipes, to cover the ears with aluminium foil to stop them burning.
Percy sat majestically on the grill rack with tray and went into a pre heated, fan assisted, oven at 180º C for 3 hours. He was left alone without basting and came out looking perfect.
In the meantime, we ate some delicious foie gras on toast, debated making apple sauce (which somehow, went by the wayside) and eventually got it together to make a huge saucepan of mashed potato.
Perceval came out of the oven to much fanfare. His entire skin had become beautiful crackling. After a 20 – 30 minute rest, Oli carved the pig – the meat fell off the bone and the black puddings had burst and released all their flavour in the stomach cavity. Apparently, if you have cooked a suckling pig properly, you can carve it with a plate! The meat was tender and delicious, going beautifully with the sweet, oniony, morcilla. Perceval was consumed without mercy. Following Fergus Henderson’s “Nose to Tail” philosophy, everything was eaten except for the bones – I had an ear, an eye and the nose – the tail seemed to have gone missing while resting, I think someone had a sneaky advanced tasting.
Oli’s verdict was, “Perhaps I’ll bring a bigger suitcase next time!”