Crackling and Stripping

That’ll be the crackling on a pork belly, and the stripping of a Victorian Fireplace. Not some traditional pre Christmas party games, sorry to disappoint!

First, the food…for who can work on an empty stomach? Inspired by a recipe in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s book “River Cottage Everyday” (his crackling was made with coriander and fennel seeds), I gave a thick piece of pork belly a few minutes of love before popping it into the oven with some whole sweet potatoes and ended up with a fabulous lunch and lots of lovely cold pork for leftovers.

Cumin & Anis Pork Belly 009

Ingredients (to serve 4)

  • 3 heaped teaspoons of cumin seeds (coriander in the original recipe)
  • 2 heaped teaspoons of fennel seeds
  • 1 piece of thick-end pork belly (scored, if possible) mine contained 4 ribs
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 220C/Gas 7

Put the seeds into a mortar and crush them lightly. Rub the pork skin with the salt and pepper and just over half the seeds. Scatter the remaining seeds into a roasting tray and lay the meat on top. Cook on high for 30 minutes, turn the heat down to 180C/Gas 4 and continue to cook for 1 ½ hours.

If your crackling hasn’t fully crackled, turn the oven back up to high and check every few minutes until it is done to your liking. Remove the meat from the oven and leave it to rest in a warm placed (but uncovered) for about 15 minutes. It will stay warm and keeping it uncovered will keep the crackling “crackly”. If you need to leave it for longer before eating, remove the skin and keep that to one side, wrap the meat in foil and keep warm until serving.

Serve with your favourite veggies and be sure to make enough to enjoy leftovers another day!

Meanwhile, all other sensible folk are starting to get their homes in order for Christmas. We, on the other hand, pulled up some horrible carpet which will soon be gone permanently, then the floorboards in the dining room. This was to find the source of the mysterious bouncing floor. A rotten joist awaited us so Big Man set to repairing the damage.

Rotten Joist

Not wanting to be left out of the DIY session, I decided to start stripping the first of the three cast iron fireplaces which were fortunately not ripped out upstairs.

Little Bed Fireplace (1)

We have one in each of the bedrooms and one in the bathroom.

Little Bed Fireplace (3)Little Bed Fireplace (4)

As you can see, I think this may be a long job, but I have a lot of patience for jobs like this, and I love a challenge!

Runner Bean Salad and Back Home Up the Mountain

Another hectic few days in the UK, but more of that in a moment. It was a good trip, and I even got to meet my blogging buddy Claire from Promenade Plantings. We had a wonderful little break sitting on the sea front, drinking rosé wine and getting to know each other better.  And then she gave me a bag of her super delicious peppery radishes. How lucky am I?!

As ever, I came back with some goodies to enjoy here Up the Mountain. A fabulous Ottolenghi cookbook, which is already inspiring me with some amazing recipes. Can´t wait to try them out.

I also bought myself some cooling racks for my baking which I had wanted for ages. Well, I had been balancing an oven rack on top of tin cans which wasn´t ideal. And in the shop, next to the baking racks I spotted some adorable mini loaf tins which just pleaded with me to leap into my suitcase. Of course, I obliged them!  I expect you have also spotted my guilty (not so) secret of Cheese & Onion crisps.

Big Man had kept busy in the veggie garden in my absence and picked tomatoes, courgettes and almost three kilos of runner beans…and I had only been away for four days.

Some of the beans went into a delicious salad at lunchtime today. Thinly sliced raw runner beans, tomatoes, sweet onions and green peppers with chopped basil and a lemon and garlic vinaigrette.  All from our garden, it did make me feel a very happy Chica.

Then, just when I thought my first day home couldn´t get any better, my lovely neighbour came round with a fantastic present for me. Look at this beautiful mixer. She said she had it stored away in her garage and hoped I would make good use of it. You bet I will!

And now for some exciting news. Regular readers may have noticed that I have been making more trips than usual back to the UK in the last few months. Well, they weren´t all back to London to visit my family, but to sort out a project that Big Man and I will soon start working on. We will be heading over to a little seaside town on the south coast of England, called Bexhill on Sea. In just under 3 weeks in fact, so not long to go now. We will pack up the car with tools, supplies, two dogs and almost definitely some Spanish cheese and jamon. We will drive across Spain and France and when we get to the UK we will be setting up base in a little Victorian house which is in need of some love and attention.

Scary carpet…this house needs some love!

Hopefully over the course of about a month we will be able to restore it to a liveable condition (while we live in it ourselves). We will be polishing floorboards, putting in a kitchen and bathroom, unearthing the little garden and breathing life back into it.

I think there´s a pretty little garden hidden in there….

It´s going to be hard work, it´s going to be stressful but it´s going to be fun and a wonderful experience.  While we do this we´ll have to cook and eat and we´ll be sharing our little adventure with you before we head back to Spain once it´s all done. I do hope you join us for the ride, and please be prepared for dust, rain and laughter along the way.