I’m a big fan of using cheaper cuts of meat and what we call “head to tail” cooking in the industry. Head to tail cooking basically means using as much of an animal as possible. Having grown up in a poor community one learned to be creative with all parts of an animal and nothing is ever wasted.
Although I’m used to seeing chicken, goats, sheep and cows being slaughtered ritually, it’s near to impossible to ever see a pig being slaughtered. One part of the pig that is hugely popular in South African cuisine is also one of the cheapest cuts you get. Pig trotters. My dad used to buy ready cooked trotters at markets in the Soweto and they would come covered in hot masala powder or paprika. He would never share with us though! Telling us that it was “grown up food”. Later I realised he just didn’t want to share! It didn’t stop me from sneaking into the fridge now and then to grab some of his stash. He liked to eat his trotters cold and that’s how I prefer that too. I also like to cook them all the way down, add some curry powder and salt and cut them up, add some large chunks of ham and chopped cooked bacon and make a brawn with them. Brawn is one of my most favourite things to eat but it’s rare to find on shelves these days.
Please note trotters can’t be rushed. They take a while to get right and you want them to be as soft and gelatinous as possible. I like mine spicy, hence the title of the recipe but you can leave the hot stuff out if you’re not a fan. I also eat mine cold but they still as good hot.
6 pig’s trotters
8 cups vegetable stock
1 leak, chopped roughly
3 carrots, chopped
3 spoons paprika
4 red chillies, chopped
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 handful sage
1 handful tarragon
1 handful rosemary
2 large onions, chopped
2 spoons salt
6 stalks of celery, chopped
3 lemons, cut into slices
– Using a sharp knife, cut a large gash down the middle of each trotter from the hoof til the end of the trotter. Using rope, truss (tie) the trotter tightly in three areas along the trotter. This helps the trotter keep shape as it cooks and prevents too much cramping.
– Place the trotters in a large pot on the stove with all the ingredients and bring to a boil, turn the heat to as low as possible and cover tightly with a lid.
– Check up on the trotters every hour. The cooking process should take about 3 to 4 hours. Top up the stock if it looks like it has reduced too much.
– When the flesh is tender, remove the pot from the heat and let it the trotters rest in the cooking liquid for 20 minutes. Drain and sprinkle them with good quality paprika and salt and pepper.
Note: For an added twist, simmer the liquid left in the pot for another 30mins, drain, add a little balsamic vinegar and allow the sauce to reduce to a thick syrup consistency on a medium heat. Drizzle over the seasoned trotters.