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Pig ugly

Is this the scraggiest, ugliest, most brutal piece of raw meat you’ve seen in your life? It could have been painted by Soutine. It is a cut called secreto, which is from the shoulder of an Iberico pig. I buy it from Jack O’Sheas newish shop in Primrose Hill. After he opened last Autumn there were demonstrations outside every week from insistent people who didn’t like that he sells foie gras. They held up pictures of animals in pain and chanted things like, ‘Jack O’Shea has blood on his hands’. You might expect a butcher to have blood on his hands but that’s what they shouted. Self awareness and irony don’t seem to be part of the protesters’ armoury. They seem to have moved on, now. Somewhere else needs telling, I suppose.

Mr O’Shea once had the butcher’s concession in Selfridges but lost it because they disapprove of foie gras, too. People would come in and ask for french fillet and everyone knew that what they were after was goose liver. Many people disapprove of foie gras, it seems. I’m all for animal welfare but if you’re going to demonstrate a better cause, it seems to me, is the shit chickens sold in shit chicken shops everywhere or the two for £5 shit chickens sold in supermarkets. Those are chickens that know what a miserable life is. Their luckiest break is that their lives are very short. They taste of disinfectant. I’m lucky enough that I can afford chickens that have had better lives, but if I couldn’t I wouldn’t eat the shit chickens for less than a fiver. I would eat veg and lentils, maybe with a rasher of bacon or a decent egg over it and my skin would glow with health and moral rectitude. But I was talking about pork…

The Iberico meat is as addictive as cocaine. I don’t have first-hand experience of cocaine addiction, but you know what I mean. You don’t have to worry about the pigs’ happiness because they trot around and snuffle at a forest floor all day. The chops are gorgeous but I most often buy the secreto. The meat is heavily veined with fat that melts as you cook it. I salt it with a heavy hand, a coat of Maldon crystals is perfect. I then lay it in a cold pan with a low-ish heat underneath, as I would with duck breast. When it starts to crackle I turn it over until that side starts sizzling, then again, letting the fat liquify. After ten minutes or so I turn the heat up and let it sit for a few minutes. It develops a golden, savoury crust. Turn it again, let the other side get crisp. Then back for some more, then back again. The whole process isn’t quick. It can take twenty or twenty-five minutes. I don’t eat it rare like I would beef. I’ve seen places that want you to eat undercooked pork but I don’t like that idea one bit. We’ve been told for many years that pink pork is a health hazard. I can’t unlearn that now that pig husbandry has improved. Your meat won’t be tender, it’ll be quite chewy, but it will also make you swoon with its flavour.

Jack O'Shea outside his shop in Primrose Hill. Photo by Simon Wilder

Jack O’Shea outside his shop in Primrose Hill. Photo by Simon Wilder

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