Thursday, 25 July 2013

Leftover pork

Someone said to me the other day - it must have been on Twitter - that she was annoyed by suggestions from television or celebrity chefs of what to do with "leftover cheese".

"There is never," she said "leftover cheese in my house."

I know what she means. I know what to do with leftover cheese, or leftover chicken or leftover lamb: you put it in a fucking sandwich. Or you eat it out of the foil, cold, with your tremblingly ravenous fingers, dipped hastily in mayonnaise, or recurrant jelly or mango chutney or whatever.

But - I had cause the other day to have some leftover pork belly. If you do not cook pork belly frantically at any opportunity, then you are a fool, by the way. It costs about 9p to feed 18 people and you just rub it with salt and then put it in the oven at 140C for 4 hours. If you want crackling you turn the oven up to full whack for 20 mins at the end.

Anyway so I had this leftover pork belly and I couldn't put it in a sandwich, because dun dun DUUNN I am on a DIET.

A very serious diet, too. No carbs, no sugar, no drinking during the week. And no sandwiches.

"Oh but you've just had a baby" everyone says. "Give yourself a break."

NO THANKS!!! Don't want to be fat anymore, ta. Bored with it now, bored with my fat arse and my thighs that rub together at the top and my back fat and my beefy shoulders. And if having two children has taught me anything, it's that if you want something, you have to get it your fucking self. I can't just sit around with my fingers crossed eating custard creams hoping that the weight will fall off by itself because it won't. Not at my age.

When you are young and single there is a vague sense that you are the star in the movie that is your life. There is the sense that when you find yourself in a dramatic situation that some dramatic solution will present itself. A handsome man will appear with an umbrella, a handsome man will pay your taxi fare, a handsome man will fix your broken down car. You get the idea.

This feeling can linger on in the early days with your first baby, as you find yourself stuggling with a buggy and a screaming infant, who then vomits and then your trousers fall down or whatever and you can find yourself in a glorious maelstrom of self-pity and sort of feel "look at me! It's like in a movie and I am a hopeless new mother!!"

Then you realise, quite soon, that nobody is coming to rescue you. No-one is coming to help. It's just you. And very quickly getting into scrapes with your child or really scrapes of any sort ceases to be funny.

I realised this one day when I didn't put the brakes on the buggy properly, (Maclaren buggy brakes are bizarrely wobbly and shitty and hard to apply properly), and it rolled down some steps with Kitty in it. Fuck it was so awful. I have never forgiven myself. I squirm around in actual physical distress when I recall it.

Kitty was just screaming and screaming with blood in her mouth and I couldn't get the stupid buggy harness off and the buggy was squashing Kitty and not one person came to help. I mean, I'm not surprised they didn't - a screaming kid on our street is nothing new. But it was at that moment that I realised that this is it, now - this is real, now: so don't fuck it up.

And it brought back to me powerfully that line in The Secret Garden when Mary Lennox is alone in her house in India because everyone else has died of cholera and two British civil servants come to send her back to England. "Why does nobody come?" shrieks Mary. "There's nobody left to come," says one of the men.

So if you want something done - if you want to be thin, if you want to be successful, if you want your kids to say please and thank you, you have to do it yourself. This is why women with children can, if they're not careful, end up being really quite bossy, because there is a strong sense in their lives that if they don't do it, no-one else will.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes leftover pork.

The thing about a fatty piece of pork, like a pork belly (the same applies to bacon) is that to get the best results you have to cook it slowly - this makes the fat render and then crisp up.

So with some leftover pork belly what you do is cut it up into small squares - about 2cm by 2cm if you want me to be exact about it, and then let it all sit in a dry frying pan over a low to moderate heat for about 30 mins. The fat will melt and crisp up the pork.

If you would like your crispy pork also spicy, then add in a teaspoon of dried chilli flakes, some finely-chopped spring onions, some chopped garlic maybe? A fine grating of ginger? A sprinkling of Chinese five spice? Any or all of these things would be simply capital.

Serve with a salad. No sandwiches allowed.


  1. Ooh I had forgotten about Mary Lennox! I used to love that book - and I also had it on a "story tape" i.e. audio recording on cassette tape before CDs were big (or iTunes was invented). Thanks Esther - I am going to dig it out and re-read it. And make pork belly again - haven't done that in yonks, and you're right it's stupidly cheap and so tasty. Cheers!

  2. Yay you're back. Have been worried about you since troll-gate. Told all my girlfriends about the evil witch who called you horrid things and they all agreed, even though they don't all read blog, that you are amazing and she is insane x

  3. Glad to see you back here Esther. have never cooked belly pork but will now try it, maybe this weekend! I'd also forgotten that scene in secret garden (it's the ones where Colin screams in the night that stayed with me....) Such a haunting book, but I kind of loved it too. Jan x

  4. Yes. It's the turning point for women... don't know about men, I suppose so. The moment when you realize I'm the Mom. For me it was when my baby had a (febrile) seizure. (He was fine! Grew up and is now headed off to Uni with all our money)
    And just like that, (GONG!) I was a grown-up.

    The pork belly? Well yes ma'am! I've been wanting to learn to cook it. It's my husbands favorite thing to order while out. No guarantee that there will be left over.
    Also, glad to have you back!

  5. "This is why women with children can, if they're not careful, end up being really quite bossy, because there is a strong sense in their lives that if they don't do it, no-one else will."

    I am 56 and my daughter is 32, but until you wrote that sentence and I read it, I never really appreciated what it was that had happened to me. The BUCK (whatever the fuck that is) had stopped with me, and it had my name engraved on it, and that feeling has never, ever entirely gone away...

    However, also very fond of a small and wonderfully consoling embroidered cushion I bought once which reads


  6. thank god you're back. I have missed your unconventional wisdom. don't leave it another month!

  7. My mum is still waiting for a knight in shining armour to rescue her from life's dramas: ie finding her car keys, opening her front door and, generally, just breathing. Thank god for us sensible young 'uns, heh?

  8. Pork belly. So much nicer than tapenade. Glad you are back x

  9. My favourite meat is pork, and slow roasting pork belly is just abut the best. Normally with the leftovers my husband makes one of his rare appearances and cooks a pork in salty sauce (sounds awful, but is divine) from Vatch's South East Asian cookery book, with leftover pork belly. I will get him to try this out next time. I hope the diet goes well too.

  10. awesome writing style!!! massive smile reading it throughout

  11. I totally remember my "stroller" moment when I realized there was no one else to do it. I was really sick and in my tired state tried to explain/whine to my 10 month old about it. Surprisingly, he didn't care and just wanted to be nursed and held and played with just like always. No days off in this biz.
    And your pork belly plan sounds delicious.

  12. yay - you're back! Hello :)
    Ooo - you've made me realise how crappy I've been at getting rid of my wobble - every weekend I tell myself that this monday I'll start not eating every biscuit that crosses my path and I last till about morning tea break on Monday, scoff whatever is lying around in the tea room/in the ward office (I work in a mental health hospital)but then still get on the scales Thurs/Fri expecting the weight to have miraculously dropped away just because I was planning on not being a pig...I need to take a leaf out of your book...oh but it's so hard!! x

  13. OH GOOD. You're on a diet. Me too. Tedious as fuck, isn't it? More recipes, please, so I don't brain myself with my four thousandth poached chicken breast.

  14. I'm new to your blog, and I just wanted to say to say how much I absolutely loved it!! Fresh, sassy and have a new fan, and I can't wait to read your next post :)

  15. I realised recently that I have become one of those horrible bossy mothers when Mr W turned round to me and said "For god's sake, stop telling me what to do all the bloody time!". I hadnt realised that with 3 kids to sort out and a busy house and a job I had turned into a frightful bully. Always ordering people around. So that's it, I now never tell him to do anything or how to, and I spend my whole life biting my lip. But he's miles happier.

  16. Elizabeth Medovnik28 July 2013 at 22:54

    Wait, thighs aren't supposed to rub together at the top? lol

  17. Hi Esther, I was pretty fat after having two kids in one year (not twins, mind you), even though I hardly had time to notice it myself. Finally started doing something about it when I had the urgent deadline to do so: a tummy tuck. Had to be thin, and fit, before that one could be done. I hate being hungry and have almost no self discipline, so I started running with an app (Couch to 5k). Lost 17 kgs in a few months. People who haven't seen me in a while still give me compliments, which is great. Plus, I fit in all my old clothes but bought new ones to celebrate. The tummy tuck did wonders too, but that's only for the very stretched-bellied.
    Love your blog! A reader from Amsterdam