Pig’s head terrine with edible flowers and crispy pig’s ear scratchings

Whilst the process of making pig’s head terrine (also known as brawn or head cheese) may not be for the squeamish, sometimes in order to make something beautiful you have to get your hands dirty.

The idea of combining pig face with flowers is not simply a visual one. Although using the violets does make it look very pretty I wanted to use the flowers of herbs such as sage, thyme, chives and parsley to create little bursts of intense herbal notes through the dish.

I had a look online for various recipes, but none of them really worked for me in terms of flavour so I turned to Fergus Henderson‘s Nose To Tail Eating as a rough guide and decided to make it up as I went along using whatever I had to hand in the veg rack and garden.  £3.30 worth of meat from the butcher made 2 big terrines. Bargain.

Washed thoroughly and in the pot ready to go

My butcher provided me with 1 split pig’s head (£3) and 2 trotters (30p).

Ingredients:  Makes 2 terrines

Stock pot:

  • 1 pig head
  • 2 trotters
  • 3 carrots, peeled
  • 1 leek, cut in thirds
  • 3 celery sticks
  • 2 onions, quatered
  • 2 bulbs garlic, halved
  • handful of fennel seeds
  • tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 6 sage leaves
  • stems from a bunch of parsley
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • handful dried sliced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon lapsang souchong strands

Then:

  • bunch of chopped chives
  • chopped parsley
  • chopped fennel fronds
  • saffron strands
  • chive flowers
  • sage flowers
  • thyme flowers
  • parsley flowers
  • violets
  • Halen Môn salt flakes
  • freshly ground pepper

Method:

1: Rinse the head and trotters thoroughly and remove the ears (if you are making the crispy pigs ear scratchings) and clean the wax out (I have a little brush that’s only reason for existing in my kitchen is to clean the wax out of severed pigs’  ears) then put in a massive pot, cover with cold water and bring to a boil, lots of scum will rise to the surface. Drain of water, refill pot with fresh water, add the rest of the stock pot ingredients and bring to a simmer.

Head, ears and trotters at the bottom then veg and spices added

2: After about 2 hours remove the 2 ears and set aside to dry thoroughly.  Continue to simmer the head and trotters for about another 2-3 hours or until the flesh is starting to fall away from the skull.

3: Remove the head and trotters and set aside. Strain the stock through a sieve ( I usually do it a few times) to remove all bits and return to the pot and reduce by about two thirds. Taste and add salt and saffron.

4:  Remove meat from the head.  How much of the head you use is entirely up to you.  I only had 2 terrines to fill so used the meat and skinned the tongue and used this too but some use the snout and fat also.Chop your meat and combine with chopped herbs and black pepper.

5: Line your terrines with cling film and place a few violets and chives on the bottom.  This will of course become the top, it makes it look pretty. Add your meat then fill with reduced stock. Bang the filled dish against the worktop a couple of times to get rid of any bubbles and make sure your stock gets to the bottom. Cover with cling film and chill overnight to set.

6: The following day just gently turn it out, admire your amazingness then make some toast, slather it in butter and top with your terrine.

Pig Face and Flowers version 1 with less flowers

Crispy Pig’s Ear Scratchings:

These are seriously good! Once the ears were cooked in the stock I just treated them as I would when making regular pork scratchings.  Just whack the oven on full, make sure the ears are completely dry (they will be really sticky though) then using sharp kitchen scissors cut them into strips and put on a grill tray over a roasting tin, sprinkle with Halen Môn salt, cook until crispy and serve with a kickass dip.

Next time I make them I will probably braise the ears in a chinese broth first if I’m not making a terrine at the same time.

Dip:

  • Chopped coriander
  • chopped mint
  • chopped chilli
  • 1 red onion, microplaned
  • 2 cloves garlic, microplaned
  • Thai fish sauce
  • Sesame oil
  • Filipino spiced vinegar
  • lime juice
  • Tony’s Ginger and chilli sauce
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Hot Smoked Chicken Gizzards

Compared to the rest of the world the UK tends to be a lot more squeamish about nose to tail eating.  I was brought up in Hong Kong where everything from the animal is eaten and chickens are sold with heads and feet still attached.  I happen to love chicken feet but outside of a Chinese supermarket they are pretty hard to find here, so where do they all go? Likewise poultry gizzards are popular throughout the rest of the world and yet when was the last time you saw some for sale?

Here in Melton we have two fantastic Eastern European food shops.  One has the most fantastic deli selling cooked meats and cheeses (their smoked garlic brawn is amazing) and the other focusses more on preserved goods and has a brilliant selection of vodkas of all descriptions (also amazing!).  Today I popped in for some Pierogi and found they had some hot smoked chicken gizzards for sale, well, not to turn down a chance for some kitchen experimenting I immediately bought some and headed back to the cottage.

I bought about 40 gizzards which were pretty heavily smoked and faintly garlicky.  My first thought was to flash fry them – they were like amazing chicken smoked bacon! Because they had been hot smoked they were already cooked so a really quick fry made them lovely and crispy on the outside and meaty on the inside, however if left slightly too long they toughen (like bacon) so if you miss the perfect moment you then have to carry on until they are thoroughly crispy like scratchings!

A quick forage in the garden and fridge provided some baby carrot tops, beetroot and chard leaves, some baby broad beans (frozen last year), a quick feta sauce and some nutty rapeseed oil to accompany. The feta sauce I whizzed up ended up being drizzled all over the dish as it was so good!

Feta sauce was simply feta cheese, lemon juice, a bit of freshly ground pepper and a splash of double cream (normally I would use yoghurt but I didn’t have any plain so used the cream instead) simply mixed until smooth.  If you grow your own carrots then you will know how amazing the young tops are, they are one of those things like courgette flowers or nasturtiums that have to be eaten straight away to get the best out of them.

So that was today’s quick starter of hot smoked chicken gizzards, definitely something I will be buying again and more experiments to come!