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:: Fergus Henderson Nose to Tail Demonstration At Donnybrook Fair!

A few weeks ago, I received a lovely email from Monique McQuaid who runs The Cookery School at Donnybrook Fair, inviting me to a cookery demonstration with English chef, Fergus Henderson. To be perfectly honest I had never heard of Fergus before, but after a quick search on Wikipedia, I discovered he is the man behind the highly respected St. John's restaurant in London, which is famous for it's use of off cuts and using the whole body of an animal. Fergus was coming to Dublin to demonstrate cooking a pig from nose to tail, which was enough to grab my attention and I confirmed my attendance!

We arrived slightly late and had to clamber over people to find seats at the back of the room, which wasn't all bad, with the tiered seating, we could still see the whole thing. The cookery school is located above the shop, and is a fantastic set up with plasma screens showing everything going on in the beautiful, modern kitchen which is fully equipped with everything you could imagine! Monique, a graduate of the famous Ballymaloe Cookery school, was dressed in chefs whites and although Fergus was doing all the talking, it was quite clear she was the one keeping things ticking over, pulling things out of ovens and prepping things as she went!

To say Fergus is a slightly off-beat individual is an understatement, but I suppose I should have expected it, from a creative genius who is famous for cooking a pig from nose to tail. Throughout the course of his charming 2 hour long demonstration, amongst the amazing dishes he produced, he left us with with some fantastic uncommonly eccentric quotes, which had us chuckling in our seats, such as:
1. "I spent my wedding night talking to my trotter."
2. "Tripe is sexy, tripe is the way forward."
3. "There is a certain Jedi knight quality to cooking."

Fergus worked his way through the different cuts of pig, cooking up goodies like deep fried crispy pig tails which he suggested were perfect for a child's dinner, braised pig head, crispy pig's ear, and thinly sliced pig heart served in a delicious salad with pickled walnuts. I will leave you with Fergus's recipe below and make sure to check out Monique's website which has details of all the upcoming cookery demonstrations.

Fergus Henderson's Pot-Roast Half Pig's Head
I say only half a head, as it is a perfect romantic supper for two. Imagine gazing into the eyes of your loved one over a golden pig's cheek, ear and snout.

Serves 2
A dollop of duck fat
8 Shallots, peeled and left whole
8 cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole
1/2 pigs head (your butcher should have no problems supplying this) - remove any hairs with a razor
A glass of brandy
1 bundle of joy- thyme, parsley and a little rosemary
1/2 bottle of white wine
Chicken stock
A healthy spoonful of Dijon mustard
1 bunch of watercress, trimmed, or other greens- a case of Liberty Hall
Sea salt and black pepper

Dollop the duck fat into an oven tray wide and deep enough to accommodate your half pig's head and put it on the heat. Add the shallots and garlic and leave them to do a little sweating to improve the flavour of the dish. Shuffle the tin occasionally to prevent any burning, but you do want some colour.
When happy with these, cover the ear of your demi-head with foil so that it doesn't frazzle, then rest the head in the tin. To welcome it to its new environment, pour the glass of brandy over it, nustle in your bundle of joy, add the wine and then the chicken stock in a not dissimilar fashion to an alligator in a swamp!
Season with salt and pepper, cover the tin with greaseproof paper, offering some protection but not denying the need for the rigours of the hours to come in the oven- which is where you should now put your tin, in a medium oven for 3 hours, until the head is totally giving. Check it after 2-2 1/2 hours; you could remove the greaseproof paper at this point and get a little colour on your cheek.
When ready, remove the head to a warm place. Whisk the Dijon mustard into the pan liquor, in which you should then wilt the bunch of watercress.
Finally, on the head presentation platter, make a pillow of shallots, garlic and wilted watercress, where you then rest your head.
There you have it- dinner for two; open something red and delicious: Moon, June, Spoon.

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