This afternoon, in preparation for Sunday, I headed down to the farm and set about preparations for our first course - the Tamworth Brawn, or as I have decided to rename it, the Nose to Tail Terrine
Brawn is an old English meat thrift dish, which came about to use up all the meat and other juicy bits on a pigs head. Even now that Fergus Henderson and the like have popularised this kind of cooking, tackling a pigs head still seems somewhat daunting. But it shouldn't. Admittedly it's not as easy as buying pate from the supermarket, but the method is nothing more than a series of simple processes, that are actually very satisfying.
This recipe combines a number of odds and ends that Philippa, head chef at Mudchute Kitchen had to hand, but there are many other recipes that are less ingredient heavy, such as the one in Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's excellent MEAT book.
Since the cafe is equipped with a wood burning stove, and that is a kind of theme for all the Feasts, we roasted our pigs heads for a couple of hours first, but it's not essential. Many recipes don't.
A pigs head quartered (and trotters & tail), pot roast with carrots, celery, onion, thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, and some water / wine
Gooseberry's - roasted in a medium oven for 20 minutes or so
Salt and Pepper
Once the pig's head is roast (we roasted ours whole, but if you've had yours quartered, it shouldn't take more than an hour), put it in a pan over a medium / high heat with all the veg, and herbs, allspice, peppercorns, liquid, and top it up with water.
After an hour, the meat around the cheeks should be coming away nicely, and feeling tender. Drain the pan over a sieve, but keep the liquid, and put it back on a high heat to reduce. You want to get it down to less than half a pint if possible.
Separate all the veg and break, mush, and chop into rough chunks. Put them in a large mixing bowl. Now onto the pig. Take the head and pull the cheeks away from the jaw. They should fall off the bone. Do the same below the jaw, so the tongue comes out, and up around the ears too.
The idea now is to get every last scrap of meat from the head, trimming off the fat as you go (and there is quite a lot, particularly around the lips and snout) and getting out all the juicy morsels. Don't be shy now! Chop it roughly and seperate the fibres with your fingers. Some parts will almost shred. Chuck it all in the mixing bowl with the veg.
Do the same with the trotters and tail if you're using them.
You should be left with a pile of fat, bones, herbs, and whole peppercorns, which are pretty much done with - give the bones to the dog, and chuck the herbs on the compost. You can, however, re-roast the skin in a hot oven to make crackling, but make sure you've trimmed the fat off first.
Mix all the meat and veg together with lots of fresh, finely chopped parsley, and plenty of salt and pepper. Be generous with the seasoning, as it will need a lot. Add the gooseberry's and give it a final mix. Check the taste, then put it all in a terrine, and cover with the cooking liqour.
As this cools, the natural gelatine from the bones will form a jelly, and the Brawn will set.
Serve with toast, pickles and tangy preserves to cut through the fat.
Pictures to follow...