‘Would you do a pig butchery demo with Emily Watkins, chef patron of the Kingham Plough in the Borough Market hall?’
‘Yes’ I replied.
Being a bit ignorant, I googled Watkins and her ‘pub’. Emily trained first in Italy and then with Heston Blumenthal at his famous Fat Duck. After further varied experience in a wide range of kitchens and as a private chef, Emily opened the Kingham Plough, near Chipping Norton in the sublime Cotswolds in 2007. Last year, 2014, Emily competed in Great British Menu and won with her fish course. Emily cooked for war veterans at St Paul’s Cathedral in a banquet commemorating the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
By happy chance I had watched some of the episodes in which Emily had featured. So it was clear that I would be working with a serious talent. Emily emailed to say that she would like to cover true nose to tail cooking at the same time as I talked about and butchered half a pig.
The thing about cooking some of the more old fashioned cuts is that the recipes require the single most rare and valuable ingredient available anywhere. Time. I decided to sacrifice part of a day and drove across country to Kingham, with my two sons, via the ancient Fosse Way, with a car boot full of so-called lesser cuts of pork.
The Kingham Plough looks out upon the classic English village green of Kingham. The Extraordinary Daylesford Farm Shop is minutes away. This is what the rest of the world thinks all of England looks like and it is what we natives forget all too often to take the time to appreciate.
Emily unpacked the box of pork like it was Christmas, tucking away its contents neatly onto the shelves of her immaculate walk in fridge. She gave us a tour of her newly refurbished kitchen and, it being midday, and there being room, it seemed rude not to book in for lunch, especially as Emily was cooking.
Inside, the pub is all beams and gentle pastels, open fires, friendly staff and delightful quirky spaces. A large stone pig sits smiling in front of the open fire near the bar, his head impossible not to pat as you pass by. We chose to eat in the bar area rather than the restaurant.
Emily is a big fan of Slow Food and her cooking epitomises the Slow Food values of Good, Clean and Fair. She gives time, passion and as we were to discover, her extraordinary talent to every dish. We ordered swiftly and hungrily from the menu.
This is not a meal review. Potato bread, fragrant salami, sublime mini full-cooked breakfast, soused herring, diaphanous home cured pork loin, perfect blue and nearly blue hanger steaks, wild rabbit wellington. All faultless, no room for pud, a bar menu board definitely worth coming back to explore, many times. That must say it all. If you want more padding, see the huge pile of ecstatic reviews on Emily’s website.
Pre-dawn on Thursday 19th March I heaved half a pig and my wallet of simple but effective knives into my vehicle and pointed its nose south towards the big smoke and my figurative second home of Borough Market.
I met up with Emily, showed her around the market, introducing her to other traders and just before 11.00 I returned to the Market Hall next to the stage with my half pig. Our double act seemed to go well, our audience ebbed and flowed like a tide hitting a large beach. Mysteriously the tide was always in just as Emily set out another tray of amazingness to be tasted. The two hours flashed past and its highlights can be seen here on Youtube:
I suppose that I should say that the pig was the hero, but in this case it really was the cook. If you get the chance, visit http://www.thekinghamplough.co.uk & watch out for other demos at Borough Market