For many years, chefs and the food media championed Bangalow Sweet Pork for its exceptional flavour and tenderness.
It even made the pages of The New York Times in 2005, when R.W. Apple recounted a lunch at Sean's Panaroma in Bondi: ''The homey highlight of a thoroughly unpretentious meal was a hunk of thrillingly juicy Bangalow pork, Australia's finest, rimmed by amber crackling and flanked by mounds of crunchy cabbage, prunes and roast sweet potatoes. Yum, yum and yum!''
Bangalow was the best pork available then. While it is still raised without hormones or antibiotics, it's not free range or organic - both relatively recent innovations in pork production, in response to a market demanding more humane methods of raising animals for consumption.
In a country as large as Australia, extremes in climate and poor soil conditions are a hindrance to free-range pig farming. A minuscule quantity is produced in this way; even less is certified organic.
Whether we can produce enough free-range pork here to satisfy a changing market is debatable but consumer demand is the most effective way to change how animals are raised.
Both my restaurants still feature salumi made with Bangalow Sweet Pork but we use organic pork whenever we can.
Dandelion are considered weeds in many gardens but in some restaurants they're a prized ingredient. If dandelion is not available, use radicchio, treviso or spinach instead.
6 pork chops, each 160g to 180g
4 tbs extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
300g dandelion leaves
2 eschalots, peeled and minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp good-quality balsamic vinegar
A wood-burning grill will give the best results, imparting a smoky flavour, but a gas barbecue, flat grill or large frypan will do. Rub chops with 2 tablespoons of oil. Season lightly on both sides with salt and pepper. Grill for 2-3 minutes each side, then rest on a tray above the grill for 10-15 minutes in a warm spot. Meanwhile, wash dandelion leaves well and blanch for 30 seconds in boiling water. Drain and squeeze water from leaves. Heat remaining olive oil in a pan and gently fry eschalots and garlic for 1 minute until soft. Raise heat and toss in leaves. Fry, constantly moving around, for 2-3 minutes. Turn off heat and add balsamic. Season to taste. Serve pork chops on braised dandelion.
Serves 6 as main course
Wine Cabernet merlot
Adapted from a recipe by Fabio Picchi from the book Pigs and Pork.
200g pork rind
1 celery stick
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 bay leaf
1 sprig each of sage and rosemary
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Ground black pepper
1 cup canned tomatoes
2 celery hearts, thinly sliced
8 small new potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
Crusty bread, to serve
Cut rind into finger-length strips. Plunge into boiling water and simmer for 90 minutes until tender. Drain, rinse under running water. Finely chop onion, celery stick and carrot. Fry gently in oil in heavy casserole pot until just browned. Add herbs and garlic. Season with pepper and chilli to taste. Stir in pork rind, tomatoes, celery hearts and potatoes. Add 1 ladleful of water and simmer for 1 hour. Season to taste with salt.
Serves 6 as a first course
Wine Sangiovese or Nero d'Avola