I called this ugly, because when I went to photograph the finished product – there really was no way to make it look attractive, but hey, food doesn’t always need to look good to taste fabulous!
Its Easter, and traditionally Lamb is served, but I had a hankering for these Hocks, So Pork it was. Pork Hocks are a cheaper cut of meat, but I just love their gelatinous goodness when slow roasted. And Fennel and Pork go together like best friends. A single Hock will feed 2-3 people depending on size and appetite (though some people in my house would be happy with a whole Hock each, lol)
By using both Fennel bulbs and fennel seeds it gives different fennel notes to the dish and adds a lovely fragrant flavour to the gravy made with the pan juices.
The only hit and miss to cooking the hocks this way is that crackling is not always guaranteed. To counteract this, I often buy a strip of pork skin and do the crackling separately… (more about that on another day).
This is more of a method of cooking rather than a precise recipe, I cooked 3 Hocks tonight, and so used 3 fennel bulbs, but you could make it for 2 people by using 1 Hock sitting on 1 fennel bulb.
Fennel bulbs cut into quarters
Carrots cut into large pieces
Salt and Pepper
Preheat the oven to 150C
Using a sharp knife; make a slit through the skin on the back of the Hock – this will make it easier to remove the skin once cooked, so you can turn it into crackling.
Place the cut fennel and carrots on the bottom of a roasting pan, that the Hocks will sit snugly in. Season the Hocks well, all over, and place on the nest of fennel and carrot and sprinkle well with the Fennel seeds.
Pour in ½ C water.
Cover with a double layer of foil and seal around the edges. You don’t want any steam to escape when cooking.
Place in the middle of the oven and cook, undisturbed for 2-3 hours. The longer you cook it, the more melt in the mouth it becomes.
At the end of the cooking time, remove from the oven, leave covered, and rest for 5 mins.
To make the Crackling, uncover and ease off the skin – it will look very unappetising grey and flabby, but spread it on an oven tray and grill for 5-10 minutes, watching it like a Hawk, until it starts to turn into crunchy crackling. Be warned, it can go from flabby to burnt, very quickly, so check it every couple of minutes. It won’t be perfect but will have a satisfying crunch.
2-3 T flour
1 C water or chicken stock
1 T (15ml) Soy Sauce
To make the gravy to go with this luscious Pork, remove the pork from the roasting dish, and set aside, covered with the foil to keep warm.
Carefully remove the fennel and keep that covered to keep warm too – it will have become a lovely soft vegetable to eat with the pork.
Then strain the rest of the pan contents and reserve the cooking liquor.
Melt the butter over a high heat in the bottom of the pan and add the flour. Stir together and cook until it starts to brown. This will cook out the “raw flour” flavour, and if you brown it, will add depth to the flavour of the finished gravy.
Using a whisk, pour in the reserved pan juices, add the chicken stock and stir vigorously, over a low heat. It will look hideously lumpy, but some swift whisking should remove most of the lumps and it will eventually smooth out. Turn up the heat and bring to the boil. Cook for a couple of minutes until the gravy thickens. Add the soy sauce. This is a trick I learned from an old friend. It adds an umami flavour and a bit of colour to what will be quite a pale gravy – a good trick to know for most gravy making. The butter will also give the end gravy a lovely sheen.
To serve, shred the meat, and serve with the cooked fennel, gravy and any other sides you want. I served it with the perfect Roast Potato, a recipe I’ll share another day and link back in….