George R R Martin is one of my favourite authors. His universe is detailed, his plots are intriguing and infuriating, and you can barely turn a page without running into some kind of food, be it acorn paste or suckling pig. Luckily for me, a list has been compiled of almost all the mentions of food in the series (although they haven’t included A Dance with Dragons yet). I’ve been using that list as inspiration for themed dinner parties since mid-2010, originally for a friend’s role playing game, and later as we watched the TV series. For the return of the second season, we got together for a not-entirely-accurate-but-nonetheless-delicious feast. And if anyone knows where to get wild boar at short notice in Perth, please let us know.
Boar cooked with apples and mushrooms
Crispy roast potatoes
Roasted onions, dripped in gravy
Summer greens tossed with pecans
I kept forgetting to order the pork so I had to go to a different butcher because I was too embarrassed. I have a pretty great relationship with my local butcher and he is always happy to help enable my ridiculous food adventures but it’s also a running joke how I leave my projects until the last minute, and asking for a piece of meat that big only about 6 hours before I wanted to eat it would have been sure to get me in trouble. I headed to a butcher in a more pretentious part of town where I figured no one would bat an eyelid at an outrageous request and had a glorious 10-bone rack of Plantagenet Pork in my arms fifteen minutes later. Hopefully the apprentice wasn’t too put off by me hanging over the wall watching as he broke it up.
Boar with Apples and Mushrooms
(“it tasted like victory”)
1 pork rack (ours was around 2.5kg with 10 bones and allowed 6 people to absolutely gorge themselves)
1 cooking apple
knob of butter
200g interesting mushrooms, or more to taste (we used shiitake because they were local, but you could use any variety, or substitute dried forest mushrooms soaked in hot water)
2 cloves of garlic
Salt and pepper
Start with the stuffing so it can cool while you prepare the pork. And, as I always forget to do, pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees.
Peel, core and cube the apple. The size is up to you, I went for very rough 1cm cubes. The larger they are they more they will retain their shape and texture, and the smaller they are the more likely to turn to apple sauce, so it depends on how you like it. Melt the knob of butter in a frying pan and gently saute the apple.
Peel and finely chop the garlic. Wipe the mushrooms clean and cut them into pieces around the same size as the apple. Add them to the frying pan and continue to saute until the apples are tender and the mushrooms soft. Set the stuffing aside to cool.
Lay the pork rack skin side down on a chopping board or piece of baking paper and grab a long, narrow bladed knife, the sharper the better. Find the end of the bones and cut down behind them, being careful not to cut all the way through to the skin and fat. Pull the flesh away from the bones a little so you can see what you’re doing and change direction, cutting parallel to the table heading away from the bones. Continue to ‘unroll’ the pork as you go until you’re happy with how far you’ve flattened it out and that you have enough room to fit the stuffing in.
Cut some lengths of twine long enough to wrap around the pork with another 15cm or so spare so you have plenty to hold on to. I cut one to go between each bone to make sure everything was really secure but you could make do with 3 or 4 if you’re in a rush or short on string. Slide these into position under the pork with the ends trailing out on each side.
Season the exposed meat and add the stuffing. The size of the ingredients you use may mean you have too much – you don’t have to use it all. You still need to roll it back up and any leftover stuffing would make a great garnish (though if you laid it on the raw meat and then changed your mind, you’ll need to cook it again). Starting with the middle, draw the pork back together and tie it tightly closed. Do the ends next and work your way back to the middle.
When you’re happy it’s all secure, trim the ends of the string close to the knot, flip the rack over and place it in a roasting pan. Wipe the skin with a paper towel, mix together some baking powder and salt (I find a really finely ground salt works much better here than flakes or rocks) and rub the combination into the skin. Place the tray in the oven and roast until done to your liking.
If you have a meat thermometer, the minimum temperature you want is 71 degrees celsius. If not, as a rule of thumb roasts tend to cook for around an hour a kilo. In this case I knew we had more than an hour a kilo up our sleeves and there was enough fat on the cut to keep it moist, so we left it in until we were ready to eat. The crackling was amazing and the meat was falling off the bone.
Make a gravy. Feast.