One of the ‘trends’ I am noticing with restaurants is towards really small sites opening up. These places, which can take a maximum of 20 people, are more intimate for customers and are much less unwieldy for owners and chefs to run. They require less staff and often feel more like eating in someone’s front room, rather than in a restaurant. I think one of the forerunners of this kind of restaurant was ‘Marianne’ in London, which was opened by Masterchef The Professionals runner-up Marianne Lumb three years ago. Within my patch of Beds, Herts and Bucks, Crockers in Potten End recently opened its doors. Run by a lovely chef called Luke Garnsworthy, he only has 10 seats around his fine-dining chef’s table. But Luke also loves the kind of simple recipes he makes on my Weekend Kitchen programme, like this foolproof slow-cooker pork shoulder dish. Meltingly tender, full of flavour and so easy to make, this is great home cooking. If you don’t have a slow cooker, just cook this gently on the hob for 2-3 hours, topping up the liquid as you go…
To serve 4 people
4 good-sized pork shoulder steaks
200g pearl barley
2 tbsp mixed fresh herbs (tarragon works especially well here), plus extra to garnish
One small butternut squash
Set the slow cooker to low.
Chop all the vegetables into big chunks and fry them in batches in a pan on a medium to high heat until they are nicely coloured. Add them to the slow cooker as you go.
Season the pork with salt and fry it until brown on both sides. Pop this into the slow cooker on top of the vegetables.
Drop in the pearl barley and herbs and mix well it all well.
Add the cider to the pot and cover everything with chicken stock. You don’t want too much liquid. It’s important that it just covers the contents.
Put the lid on and relax for 4-5 hours (or more) until the pork is tender. Have a little look halfway through, just to check if more liquid is required. Add in a final small handful of chopped herbs right at the end.
With the addition of the pearl barley, this really is a super one-pot family supper.