It was my birthday on Wednesday and I had no plans, other than taking Sydney for a long walk on the beach.
Graeme (most of you know hubby as Graeme, so I'm doing away with hubby) got up unusually late for work, but another bad night meant I was too tired to question (Kian, bless him, has had two teeth pushing their way through, so the sleeping through was short-lived).
I left the house in a tip to drop Luca off to Michelle's, came back to find a serene, orderly living room and a spotless kitchen. Except no one was home. I did wonder for half a second if Luca had managed to tidy the lounge before we left. Possible. But was he capable of loading the dishwasher?
Then there was a knock on the door with Graeme standing there laughing! That was my first surprise of the day.
Followed by my favourite pikelets for breakfast. Then cheese from Meredith Dairy for lunch and an afternoon at the spa for a massage, facial and pedicure (thank you honey, sis and Jimmy).
As if that wasn't enough, he had saved the best till last. I know it's not cool, but it's my blog and I can brag if I want to. (Do you know how long I've been saving that line?)
My darling husband had managed to find me some outdoor-bred pork from Thomas Dux. And not just any cut of pork. We're talking one of the best cuts. The belly.
Outdoor-reared and hormone-free with a fine layer of fat. Just how pork should be.
Aside from the odd butcher sausage here and there, we haven't bought any pork since we left the UK two years ago.
Uh-oh, I feel a rant coming...
The modern pig is bred to get to market faster and leaner. This is why supermarket pork, which is mostly intensively farmed meat, tastes of nothing — at best. Aside from zero flavour, it's laced with promoters and antibiotics.
And let me add something else: leanness has bugger all to do with quality. When I walk into a butcher's and they shout about the leanness of their pork, I walk straight out. If it's lean you want, buy goat.
Fat equals flavour. You don't have to eat it, but that gorgeous layer of fat will make for tastier pork on your plate, not to mention good crackling (which of course you'll want to eat!).
I'm still on the hunt for pork from traditional breeds. They don't suit intensive farming and therefore the pigs aren't subjected to the appalling conditions that go hand in hand. The result is a slow-grown meat with that all-important marbling that renders down to add beautiful piggy flavour. Yes, this sort of meat will be more expensive, but hey, I haven't had a decent pork roast for two years!
And it was worth the wait.
Graeme cooked it slowly with fennel seeds, thyme and pepper. It was sublime. The meat was how it should be, rich and meltingly tender. The crackling crisp on one side with yielding gooeyness underneath. We're both still talking about it.
And to go with it, a buttery apple sauce.
One of the nicest birthdays I've ever had. I was truly spoilt and I rediscovered just how good pork could be.
Thank you honey.
P.S. If you live on the Central Coast, have you found a decent pork sausage? I've tried the finest ranges in the supermarket and the last place I tried was the butcher in Avoca. I figured a 'gourmet butcher' would tick all the boxes.
I walk in and ask if his sausages are any good. He proudly shows me all the dozens of awards on his wall. I wouldn't get these awards if my sausages weren't any good, he says rather arrogantly.
Oh good, let's give them a try. So, just as I'm about to ask for half a dozen of his fat pork sausages, I assume they're free range?
Go on, can you guess what he said?
Can you guess what I did next?
Awards, my ****.