Question: Can you make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear?
Answer: No, but you can make some darn good snacks!
For the Dinner at the Manor November event we chose the theme it around Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and the original River Cottage Cookbook, which celebrated its 10 year anniversary. we chose Hugh because we love his rustic, hearty dishes and the way he sometimes concocts some wonderful dishes from weird and wonderful ingredients.
One dish I was immediately drawn to was the crispy pig’s ears. “Why?!” Many of you may cry, and I would say that it’s because I fully support nose to tail eating. I suppose being brought up with a Chinese father I was exposed to such treats as chicken feet, gizzards and tripe from a young age and whilst I might not be a fan of some of these, it shows that all parts of an animal has some worth.
Anyway, my story with the ears begins with actually being able to track them down! a couple of the butchers I went to see just couldn’t get hold of them as the pigs don’t tend to get delivered with heads and it’s a special request. However, my dad’s lovely butcher Roy had ears a plenty! (You could always just procure a whole head and make up some brawn too, but I am not that brave!)
I then trotted (he he!) home and opened my bag of 10 ears… let’s just say pig’s ears need a bit of washing, wax, etc! but this is a relatively easy task.
Anyway, not to gross you our with the gory bits, the process of making this dish is pretty low maintenance. you boil the ears for a few hours with herbs and veg, drain them and leave to dry and bake them in an oven. That’s it. It’s a long process, but the results are startling, in a good way!
The crisp, hot ears can only be described as “part calamari, part pork scratching” in texture and flavour. Served with tangy tartar sauce, this forms a delightful combination. the hot crunch against the acidic cream. Perfect!
I think a lot of our guests were a bit hesitant about trying them, but I have to say they were enjoyed by all.
Be aware that you only need 2 or 3 ears to make a decent quantity to serve about 6-8 people. I now have 5 ears in my freezer for a later date!
Crispy Pig’s Ears – Adapted from the River Cottage Cookbook
(Serves 6-8 as a canape)
4 pig’s ears, washed of all dirt and any wax
1 large onion, quartered, no need to peel
1 carrot, chooped into 3-4 pieces
1 stick of celery, cut into 3
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 cinnamon stick
A bouquet garni (parsley, thyme, bay)
Pop all of the ingredients apart from the mustard, breadcrumbs and butter into a large stock pot. Cover with water and bring to a simmer. Stick a lid on the pan and leave to simmer for about 2 and 1/2 hours.
Drain off the ears and leave to cool / dry out slightly (note, if the ears have any hair still on them, remove them whilst they ears are hot. I used a blow torch)
Once cooled, slice the ears lengthways into finger sized strips.
The ears need to be hot, so an hour before serving, coat the strips with mustard and then coat with the breadcrumbs. Spread out onto a baking tray and then drizzle with melted butter. Place in a hot (full whack) oven for about 35-40 mins and they will be golden and crisp.
Serve with tartar sauce, either home made (we did) or shop bought. If you want to make your own, for the tartar sauce mix together some mayonnaise (preferably home made) gherkins, capers, boiled egg and lemon juice.
Crunch away on these wonderful pork snacks!