NB. I’ve had this recipe post sat in drafts since the 1st lockdown. Of course we were released from that lockdown, only to re-enter again. I’ve also gone vegan, then vegetarian and back to flexible eating in the meantime.
Well, long delayed but probably more of a November than May recipe anyway.
Do not be put off by the slightly frightful sounding pork knuckles. They are a ham hock that has not been cured. The porcine equivalent of the revered lamb shank. In fact, Morrisons incorrectly labelled them as pork shanks.
Way back in those early days of 1st Lockdown, I had found that the meat shelves of all my nearby supermarkets had been ransacked. Nothing but expensive steak left. All of the butchers had stopped taking orders from new customers. I just didn’t know what to do. Well, I remembered that Morrison’s had a very diverse range of meat, including unpopular cuts like pork knuckles (as well as all manner of ribs, turkey legs, lamb hearts and oxtail). So I wrote down the ingredients for half a dozen unpopular meats and set off. I managed to get the lamb shoulder I was after, as well as a slab of brisket and two pork knuckles. Sadly no beef short-ribs in sight, but I had enough meat to be getting on with.
I had a bottle of suitable beer in the fridge, left by a houseguest at some time pre-lockdown. The rest of the ingredients are basically store-cupboard staples: apples, onions, potatoes, garlic et cetera. So if you do get your hands on a pork knuckle, you can pull this recipe off with ease.
Now this recipe does take a couple of hours, so it is perfect to get it started late Tuesday afternoon if you’re working from home and fancy a Germanic mid-week dinner. It also has that easy Sunday afternoon vibe, like a one-pan roast dinner. Nigella gives the recipe a TWO PAGE headnote, which is wonderful reading but thankfully the recipe itself is pretty concise.
Pork knuckles might be my favourite new cut of pork. They have the fattiness of a pork shoulder with the flavour from the bone AND a much better crackling to meat ratio. The whole knuckle (each comfortably serving 2-3) is fully encased in crackling. If you dine on swine, you’ll know that crackling is the best part of roast pork. The more crackling there is, the merrier I am.
The beery, onion, appley braising juices make a wonderful gravy. To speed the thickening up I whisked in a few teaspoons of Bisto Best chicken gravy as I found the 500ml of liquid Nigella adds made the gravy a bit thin. I like my gravy northern style, as thick as custard.
The pork, potatoes, apples and the onion gravy is really a complete meal for four, with the requisite dollop of mustard. It is truly beige food though. If you wanted to eke the meat a bit further and add some colour, some greens on the side would be welcome. Robust kale or savoy cabbage would go well.
At £2.25 a knuckle, the beer-braised pork knuckles with caraway, garlic, apples and potatoes was a really, really frugal feast. I cannot recommend it enough. The only thing I would change is upping the caraway and garlic in the rub, but that’s because I like to be hit over the head with garlic.
You can find the recipe in Nigella’s Kitchen, which I have been revisiting a lot recently. It has some very eatable, comforting recipes, which are invaluable in these dark times. Or it is also on Nigella’s website. Thanks Nigella.