Generally in January I yearn for rib-sticking, stodgy, winter warmers; the kind of hearty, satisfying food that provides an extra layer of insulation against the cold and damp outside.
But occasionally I find myself craving sunshine food; dishes that remind me of blue skies, eating al fresco and the scent of honeysuckle. And this slow roasted pork does exactly that. The sweet, fragrant and tender pork neck is shredded and served simply with flatbreads, salad and tzatziki, very reminiscent of incredible gyros we enjoyed on holiday in Kefalonia last summer.
Pork neck is a very cheap cut of meat but you’ll probably need to ask your butcher for it. Ours doesn’t have it out on the counter as it’s not all that popular; he normally uses it in his sausages. But it is perfect for slow cooking – so delicious and full of flavour, especially when you marinade it in plenty of herbs, garlic and lemon juice. Don’t be tempted to rush the roasting. For a wonderfully succulent texture, the pork neck will need around four to five hours in the oven.
Slow roasted pork neck in thyme, rosemary and bay
1kg pork neck
6 cloves of garlic, peeled
large bunch of fresh thyme, leaves stripped
2 large sprigs of rosemary
handful of bay leaves
Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6. You begin with a high temperature to get it started and then whack it right down low to slow cook.
Using a pestle and mortar, roughly crush the garlic cloves with the thyme, a handful of rosemary picked from the stalk and the juice of half the lemon. Put the piece of pork into a medium-sized ovenproof dish, pierce all over with a sharp knife and rub all over with the garlic and herb mixture so it penetrates the flesh.
Chop the remaining lemon half into half again and place in the dish alongside the pork with the rest of the rosemary and bay leaves. Cover tightly with foil and place in the oven. (If you’re using an Aga, place in the middle of the top oven.)
After 15 to 20 minutes, just enough time to really get the meat hot, turn the temperature down to 140°C/gas mark 1, or the middle of the simmering Aga oven.
Roast for four to five hours until the meat is tender and beginning to fall apart.
Remove the foil and increase the temperature to 200°C/gas mark 6 (back to the top Aga oven) again for another 10 to 15 minutes to brown the pork a little.
Shred the pork using a couple of forks and pile onto a large serving plate. Bring to the table with a simple salad, tzatziki and a stack of warm mint flatbreads (below).
These flatbreads were inspired by a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe in his wonderful book Plenty. I’ve swapped coriander for mint, which perfectly complements the Greek-style pork and yoghurt.
280g plain flour
3tsp baking powder
1½ tsp salt
280g Greek yoghurt
1 tbsp dried mint
Place the flour, baking powder, salt, yoghurt and mint in a large bowl and mix together to form a dry dough. Add a little more flour it it’s a bit sticky. Knead the dough for a couple of minutes until it is smooth and stretchy. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for an hour.
Divide the dough into 10 to 12 pieces, form into balls and then roll with a rolling pin into round discs about 2mm thick.
Heat a knob of butter and a little olive oil in a large, heavy-based frying pan over a medium heat and fry the flatbreads, one at a time, for a couple of minutes on each side until golden brown. Add a little more butter and oil as required. Keep the flatbreads warm until you’ve cooked them all.
Enjoy with your slow roasted pork!