A ‘crazy’ Pig Fest like no other…
6th June 2011
I first came across Johnnie Mountain on Great British Menu (Series 5, 2011) competing for the NW heats, unfortunately Johnnie didn’t make it through, but his personality certainly did. Here he is recreating his famous Belly Pork…
So much so that when he appeared as a guest Chef at the Critical Couple’s Dinner Party, I jumped at the chance to sample a ‘Pig Fest’ and the 9 courses that ensued truly bowled me over!
On arrival I was greeted at the door by the ‘hired help’ not unusual apart from the fact this young lady called ‘Abdul’ was head to toe in a burka, traditionally a male name, suspicion arose. I knew this was odd as it was a ‘Pig Fest’ and obviously Pork, a forbidden meat to Muslims… but hey this was no ordinary dinner. Later in the evening we found Mrs C.C chasing ‘Abdul’ around the room with a cleaver announcing her as a ‘thief’… (of course, entertainment!) Johnnie finally introduced the veiled one as his wife, Manjri. The night had been played out with a charade of loving bickering, calling for divorce… Manjri was charm personified for FOH with the patience of a saint!
The venue, the Critical Couple’s classy apartment, overlooking a night-time London cityscape featuring the Gherkin. Aperitifs to hand, Dom Perignon Rose, started the evening in the style and the rest of the drinks were selected to match the ‘Pig Fest’ by @WineChap (Tom Harrow). Tom was away on hols, but sent his drinks matches and tasting notes through a pre-recorded video for the group, we gave listening due to a tech-fail at the outset and just enjoyed the drinks instead.
Canapes came in an array of colourful Thermo-mixed veg purees, deliciously sweet palette cleansers, to start the evening with. It was one way to ensure we got our 5-a-day, knowing the cholesterol charged pork menu ensuing.
A platter of Iberico ‘Bellota’ Ham with cornichon, Gruyere beignets & acorn praline laid resplendent in the centre of the table. It looked so beautiful it seemed a shame to plate it, the pouring of the Inocente Fino sherry aided the way. This was then followed on by a vibrant green Pea, leek & knuckle soup had a velvety smooth texture. Then came ‘Jabugo’ roasted tenderloin with pickled apples & mustard onions. The onions with a slight piquancy that cut through the fattiness of the pork.
A welcome respite from the main event of pork (well apart from the sprinkling of dust) came in the form of Iced apple with pancetta dust. The delicate flavour combination and sorbet restored an element of soberness through it’s refreshing temperature.
The 38hr ‘Deconstructed’ Gloucester belly with Boudin noir, carrot & leek, was like a compressed sandwich of sumptuous goodness. A truly melt in the mouth experience with the added textured layer of very fine pork crackling.
The Braised Cheeks were tender and falling apart with a salty-sweet Trotter jam. I was a complete wimp when attempting to try the Brains Millefeuille. Pork was off menu on this instance and Johnnie opted for Lamb instead, offal of any type, is not my ‘cup of tea’. I tried a little the millefeuille deliciously light but the texture of the brain was not for me. I loved the way these were served, so dainty presented on Chroma cleavers.
Johnnie and Tom carried in a large banqueting platter of BBQ’d pork sticky ribs, pig’s head, suckling pig, belly, shoulders and gigantic beef ribs. It was an astounding feat of gastronomy, a real showcase with pork as the hero. I loved the BBQ glaze a sweet and sticky mix of Aspall cider and Coca-cola, certainly ‘finger lickin’ good’.
The Chocolate ‘Plant Pot’ reminded me of a 2am Dessert bar dish I’d seen created by Janice Wong. Tom Kneale (Johnnie’s Head Chef @ The English Pig) created this pretty dessert with a accompanying Bacon Ice cream. However the latter didn’t make the cut (a little too salty) so a swift substitute of mini white chocolate Magnums were brought in.
The unpasteurised British cheese with biscuits to finish the meal, were untouched. I don’t think a soul had a single ounce of room to take a bite, as amazing an array of cheese that it was. Post dinner entertainment was an oddity, a raffle with a difference for sponsors Chroma Knives. In my opinion an ‘unlucky’ dip into a bag of innards to retrieve a raffle ticket for a gift. This was too much, a brave few volunteered, I forgave my turn, thankfully just to take whatever was left, which turned out to be a nice Chroma fork.
I can’t thank the Critical Couple, Johnnie, Tom & Manjri enough, I had a superb night of fun, frivolity and pork delicacies like I’ve never tasted
I made my donation, a contribution for their charity choice – Action Against Hunger gladly, a great charity and brilliant event.
Check out the Critical Couple’s own post here.