Eating the yucky bits

After a week of immersion in paperwork as we catch up on our taxes we are settling back into everyday life – he’s writing a paper and I’m planning next year’s garden, planning and attack on the clutter in the bedroom (planning is better than dealing with it), and making dinner. The tax bill has left me feeling very conscious that food is supposed to be eaten, not left to go out of date. Very fortunately I invested in beautiful free range pork and bacon last weekend. It seemed extravagant at the time but when I sat down and worked out how many meals it would make I reckon I got great value. Especially as the wonderful Peter Whelan, of @TheWholeHoggs gave me a couple of pigs trotters and some bacon ends as a bonus. More of the bacon ends later but here is what became of the trotters.

Recipe – pigs trotter and barley risotto


.Stage 1

2 pigs trotters

2 litres water

2 carrots

2 medium onions

2 sticks celery

2 sprigs rosemary

2 large sprigs thyme

Cover the trotters with water and soak overnight. Bring to the boil and boil five minutes. Remove from the heat, pour off the water, rinse pan and trotters in cold water well to remove any scum.

Cover with 2 litres water and add the carrots, scrubbed and half lengthwise, the onions, with the skin on but quartered lengthwise, the celery cut into lengths that wil l fit in your pan and the herbs – I used these because I had them in the kitchen and they worked well, use what you have to hand.

Place it all on the lowest possible heat and leave to simmer until the trotters are soft. (Next time I’m going to use the pressure cooker for this stage and see what it does to the texture and flavour.) Leave until the trotters are cool enough to handle.  Lift them out and separate the bones from the rest of the trotters – bin the bones (or bury them deep in the garden – bone meal is a useful fertiliser).

Chop the meat, tendons, fat and skin into quarter inch pieces. Do the same with the carrots, onions and celery. Discard the sprigs of herbs and the outside skin of the onion and any carrot tops, celery leaves etc that have gone mushy.

Stage 2

I cup pearl barley

1 cup white wine

Chopped trotter and vegetables

1 litre stock

1 tsp salt

Bring it all to a simmer and leave until the stock is absorbed – 20 minutes to half an hour depending on how long the pearl barley has been sitting at the back of the cupboard. Add hot water if necessary, stir as and when needed.  You don’t need to stir barley as you would rice – indeed in my book it is better only stitrred towards the end to stop it sticking.

You will notice I didn’t use all the stock – trotter stock is so rich it is too gloopy in my book if you don’t cut it with water and wine.

I didn’t tell the family offal hater what was in it – he loved it. A soothing dish for an autumn evening.  Even if I’d had to buy the trotters the whole dish would have come in at around €1 a head! And there’s still nearly a litre of stock (some of the liquid evaporated) for soup.


Adding saffron would be good. And of course the brilliant Fergus Henderson uses Madeira to make his famous (infamous) trotter gear, which I didn’t find out about until after I made this. Where has it been all my life.

A bayleaf would have been good in the stock but it was raining and I didn’t want to go out to pick one. Chopped parsley added at the end would have been brilliant, and maybe a little Moroccan preserved lemon. Don’t know why I didn’t think of both as they were in the fridge at the time.

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