Party in a cow shed

Pork shoulder for 16 (I think it weighed around 7kg with the bone in)
3 kg sweet potatoes
1 head of garlic
½ pint of cream
3 cabbages
1.8kg fresh cannellini beans
2 onions
800grams smoky bacon
3 soft, tablespoons brown sugar
Tomato puree
Lots of Worcestershire sauce, Lea & Perrins and Tabasco

11am Take command of the pork – wrestle the whole damned thing into a roasting tray, skin side up. Score the fat, then rub rock salt right down into it. Put the pork into an oven at 220C and blast it for half an hour.

11:30am Cover the pork with foil, and move it into a cooler oven for a few hours – round 160C.

1pm Drain your cannellini beans and rinse. Tip the beans into a casserole dish, and cover them with water, with an extra couple of inches of water over the beans.

Put them on a hot stove, and boil furiously for 10 minutes, then simmer for an hour.

2:10pm If there’s lots of excess water still left, then tip the majority down the sink – the beans needn’t be bone dry though.
Add the diced onion, and chopped-up smoky bacon to the pan, and then put in as much or as little of the sauces as you fancy.

I purposefully haven’t given any quantities – I don’t think that Cowboys would have stuck to recipes, so fling in the sauces in a cowboy fashion, and base it purely on what tastes good.
Now put the beans into an oven at 170C. They really don’t need fussing over, but do remember to keep tasting them from time to time to see how they’re coming on, and decide whether you should add any more of the ingredients. My one piece of advice would be not to add too much salt to start with – the bacon becomes saltier as it cooks, so wait right until the end to assess the salt-levels of the dish, otherwise you might regret it.

(I was lucky enough to be using an aga, so I popped them in a low-heat oven for about 3 hours, then I left them sitting on top of the aga for a few more hours, so they were kept hot, and all the delicious flavours continued to meld together. Base these cooking times accordingly – I’m sure that a couple of hours inside a medium hot oven would do the trick – especially if you left the pot inside as the oven cooled.)

5:30pm (This step is absolutely not compulsory) if you’re with a group of boys who have discovered a creme brulee torch, then allow them to take out the pork and blow torch it. This will not make any difference in the quality of the crackling – it’ll just create a burned-hair smell.

6:00pm When the boys have stopped wielding about said blow torch, then gently encourage them to start slicing the 3kg of sweet potatoes.

Crush up the garlic, and begin to layer sweet potatoes then garlic then sweet potatoes then garlic in an enormous roasting tray. Do not put garlic on the top layer – this’ll burn and taste really bitter and horrible. Instead, finish with a layer of sweet potatoes, and then pour ½ pint of cream over the dish. Put it in the oven at 180C for at least 50 minutes – always err on the side of caution and leave more time than you think you might need, because there’s nothing worse than an undercooked gratin.

6:45pm Take the foil off the pork. Baste it with all the juices in the bottom of the tray, and then blast it in a hot oven at 220C for ½ hour.

Despite the blasting with a blow torch, the crackling came up just beautifully as you can see – lots to go round…

7:15 Cut up all your cabbages. Boil water in the bottom of a huge pan, then blanche the cabbage for a few minutes – don’t let it go dark green and soggy though. If you’re cooking three cabbages all at once, you’ll need to keep turning it all over, otherwise the cabbage at the bottom with go dark and dank and the cabbage on the top will be raw.

Now you’re ready with the cabbage, the sweet potato gratin, the cowboy beans and the pork – all you need to do is serve it all up. Delicious.

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