By Marc Fosh

PORK is, perhaps, the supreme winter meat and has some wonderful cuts for stuffing and roasting.
The tender fillets and loins, prized for their white, succulent meat, are perfect for pan frying or grilling and it also has some excellent, flavoursome odds and ends in the shape of trotters, knuckles and cheeks for braising and rich stews.

Ribs are a relatively cheap cut of pork as they contain a smaller ratio of meat to bone. The discarded bones from chops are sold as spare ribs, pieces that have some meat, but not enough to be classed as proper chops. These can be marinated and grilled or barbecued.

Ribs are also cut and sold in the same way as chops, with quite a large amount of meat still on the bone. The rib joint of pork contains more meat and can be treated like the rack of lamb as a piece that's ideal for open roasting or glazing and can be carved easily between the ribs so long as the chine bone is removed.

RATHER INFERIOR
Gone are the days when pork was considered a rather inferior substitute for more expensive meats and pork is now the favourite meat in Spain. Nothing goes to waste as just about every part is put to good use in the making of sausage-like “Embutidos” (charcuterie). Among these are Chorizo, Salchichon, Morcilla, Butifarra, Sobrasada and of course, cured hams, Spain's most outstanding meat product. The most highly prized are those of Jabugo (Huelva), Guijuelo, Salamanca and Extremadura, made from the black Iberian pig (pata negra).

The “Cerdo Iberico De Bellota” are dark-coloured animals with longer legs and leaner haunches than the domestic pig. They roam free, feeding on acorns in the oak forests of Andalusia and Extremadura. These acorns impart an intense, aromatic flavour and give the finished ham its unmistakable taste and texture.

The art of producing top quality hams is a complex process regulated by strict controls as the legs are first salted and then hang to mature for a period of between 18 months to 3 years.

The best hams should have a shiny dark red-brown colour, speckled with tiny white flecks from eating fatty acorns. They should be sliced into almost transparent, wafer thin rashers from the leg and eaten immediately.

A special support is used called ”Jamonero” and a very sharp knife with a long narrow blade. Pigs today are bred leaner and slaughtered younger than they used to be so when cooking lean cuts such as fillet and loin, care should be taken not to overcook them. The meat can sometimes be a little bland so it's always a good idea to spice your pork up a little in Chinese style stir-fries, Thai curries or Cajun chilli dishes.

Marc is the head chef at Read's Hotel in Santa Maria and gives regular cookery classes at Fosh Foods gourmet boutique in Palma.

CHINESE STYLE CHILLI-SPARE RIBS (serves 6)

· 1kl pork spare ribs
· 1litre chicken stock
· 1tbsp. Brown sugar
· 100ml rice wine vinegar
· 4tbsp. Soy sauce
· 2tbsp. Chilli bean sauce
· 2tbsp. Black bean sauce
· 3tbsp. Hoi sin sauce
· 1tbsp. Tomato puree
· 2tbsp. Corn flour
· 3 crushed garlic cloves
· 1tbsp. Chopped fresh ginger l Place the ribs in a large bowl and dust them lightly with seasoned flour. Fry the ribs in hot oil for about 2-3 minutes and drain well to remove the excess oil.

Bring the chicken stock to the boil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan.
Dissolve the corn flour in a little cold water and whisk in to the boiling stock.
Add the rest of the ingredients and turn down the heat to a gentle simmer. Add the ribs and cook for 45 minutes until tender. Remove from the heat and leave to cool in the liquid. Remove the ribs from the sauce and roast the ribs in a hot oven for 10-15 minutes until crisp.

Serve with a big green salad and plum sauce for dipping.

FRIED PORK WITH FRESH CLAMS (serves 4)

· 900g diced pork fillet
l 500g fresh clams (shells tightly closed) l 2 Medium onions (finely chopped) l 2 tbsp's. Paprika l 3 Garlic cloves (crushed)
· 200ml dry white wine
· 100ml olive oil
l 3 tbsp's. Freshly chopped parsley
· Seasoning
l Place the pork fillet in a large bowl and add the paprika, crushed garlic and olive oil. Place in the fridge and marinate for at least 3-4 hours.
Heat a little olive oil in a large saucepan and fry the pork fillets quickly until brown on all sides. Add the chopped onions and cook for 2-3 minutes more to soften and brown the onions.

Add the clams and white wine, then cover and cook for 6-8 minutes until all the clams have opened.
Season and sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve immediately.
THAI PORK SATAY KEBABS WITH COCONUT SAUCE (serves 6)

l 570g pork fillet, diced
· 175g smooth peanut butter
l 50g salted roasted peanuts, finely chopped
· 200ml tinned coconut milk
· 3 kaffir lime leaves
l 1 stalk lemon grass, roughly chopped l 1 medium red chilli, deseeded l 1 clove garlic, peeled l 1/2tbsp. chopped fresh ginger
· Juice 2 limes and the grated zest of one
· 1tbsp. Thai fish sauce l 20g fresh coriander, finely chopped
· 25g light brown soft sugar
l Place the lime leaves in a food processor with the lemon grass. Add the deseeded chilli, garlic, peanut butter, coconut milk and light brown soft sugar, ginger, the lime juice and zest and the fish sauce.

Blend to form a paste. Pour half the sauce into a large bowl; add the salted roasted peanuts, chopped coriander leaves and pork fillet. Mix well and leave to marinate for at least one hour.

Thread 3 or 4 pieces of pork on to wooden skewers, keeping them slightly spaced apart, and arrange the kebabs on a wire rack.
Brush liberally with any remaining marinade and place under a hot grill, turning occasionally, for about 10-12 minutes until just cooked. Serve with lime wedges and the rest of the coconut sauce for dipping.

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