I've made mention in the past about how I reckon that I can cook at least as well as the places we can afford to go out to eat, if not a little better (IMHO). But that's not to say we don't like to go out to eat, not by any means. However, there are certain harsh realities that simply must be faced, and I'm sure that a lot of people out there have been there too. Since we went from the lazy hazy life of a working couple to the non-stop rigours of parenthood, we've found ourselves short both the time and the money to go out to dinner very often. I can recall one night out at a restaurant since Isaac came along, not counting family affairs.
It's at times like this that I really appreciate that someone, somewhere along the way, taught me how to cook. Besides what my mum drummed into me, a lot of my culinary skills I picked up by trial and error, from waiting and bar jobs in the hospitality industry, and a fair amount I've just made up as I went along and hoped it turned out well, but all those things add up. I've read lots of cookbooks (and then ignored a lot of recipes), watched a lot of TV cooking shows (and been equal parts awed and incredulous by what I've seen - for example, who really uses all those little glass bowls for prepped ingredients? People with paid kitchenhands, I'd say. But I digress.), talked to butchers and chefs, tried lots of different things when we did go out, listened to the cooking guests on the radio, and more recently, read lots of other food blogs.
I will point out at this point that before starting Freshly Ground, I had read one blog. I had no idea what a cooking blog looked like, so I pretty much allowed myself to create my own format here. Thus the food, the politics, the ramblings, the humour (or so I like to think of it). Freshly Ground is a food blog because food is something that I find integrally important to so many aspects of life: Health, Family, Economics, the Environment, Entertainment. It could have been any number of things, but food is something that, while not being any sort of catering professional, I'm rather passionate about and can write about with at least a modicum of experience and authority. And if anyone disagrees with me, well, that's just a matter of taste, isn't it?
Do I have a point (you'll be starting to wonder, I'm sure)?
The point is that recently we had our wedding anniversary, and for the reasons mentioned above, we didn't treat ourselves to a night out; instead, we stayed home and I cooked up a roast pork. Did we feel like we'd missed out on something special? Not at all. As usual, I just made up dinner as I went along, dragging together whatever I could find in the cupboards and garden.
It's not about being able to go out and blow a hundred bucks on dinner. It's about sharing good food with good people.
I've covered all the basics of roasting pork already, with one minor addendum: after the initial salt crusting, wash the salt off. Yip. Sounds obvious, doesn't it. Did to me too, when I was told. Ah, well. So to make things interesting, I decided to crust the pork in something a bit more flavoursome than flour.
I coated the pork with olive oil and dressed it with: Freshly ground pepper, chopped fresh sage leaves, dukkah, brown sugar, cider vinegar, and a dusting of semolina flour.
Then I deliberately salted the rind to make it go extra crispy and placed the meat in an oven dish on a raised tray and popped it in the oven at 210C. After 20 minutes I turned the oven down to 190C and cooked for a further 3 1/2 hours, turning the meat and basting every 40 minutes or so.
I always let the meat rest out of the oven for 5-10 minutes before carving.
The end result was a bit spicier than Dessert Chef likes, but with a roast this big, its pretty easy to find slices everyone will enjoy. The best thing about this, of course, is that it went on to feed us leftovers for lunch and dinner for two or three days.
So here's my final point: you don't need to pay big money to eat well. You have the power in your hands. Use it.