Crispy pig’s ears with nasturtium and caper tartare sauce

The finished dish

The finished dish

I finally got around to making the crunchy ears starter. I saved the ears from the last head I bought (for guanciale / brawn). The Nasturtiums are pretty much finished now so I wanted to do this whilst they were still in flower.

You need:

  • 2 fresh pig’s ears (ask your butcher or farmer – they’ll like you even more for asking)
  • A small white onion, a carrot and a celery rib, diced
  • Half a sliced leek
  • A bouquet garni (Parsley stalks, bay leaf and sprigs of thyme wrapped in the outer leaf of a leek and tied with string)
  • About 10 black peppercorns

For deep frying the ear slices:

  • Panko breadcrumbs (you could use matzo meal instead, or just normal breadcrumbs)
  • Beaten egg
  • Well seasoned flour
  • Veg oil

For the caper tartare sauce:

  • A few finely diced shallots
  • A tablespoon of finely chopped nasturtium capers (normal capers will do nicely too)
  • A tablespoon of gherkins or cornichons, finely chopped (bonus points for pickling your own)
  • A hard boiled egg
  • About 100g of mayonnaise (bonus points if you make it yourself)
  • Nasturtium flowers
  • Nasturtium leaves
  • Finely chopped fresh parsley
  • The juice of half a lemon

First of all get the ears on the go. Give them a good scrub. Shave them, or use a blowtorch to get rid of any hairs.

A matching pair of ears

A matching set

Pop them into a pan with some cold water. Bring to a simmer for a couple of minutes then take them out and discard the water.

Refill the pan with cold water and add the ears and the other ingredients.

Ears and other ingredients ready to simmer

Ears and other ingredients ready to simmer

Bring to a simmer (don’t boil them), and simmer gently for a couple of hours, until a knife or skewer passes through them easily.

After simmering for a couple of hours

After simmering for a couple of hours

Whilst the ears are simmering away, make the tartare sauce:

Put the finely chopped egg, gherkins, capers and parsley into a bowl and add the mayo and the lemon juice. Mix well, season to taste, and then add most of the nasturtium flowers and leaves. Save a few flowers and leaves to for garnishing.

Once the ears are tender, put them between sheets of greaseproof paper, weigh them down with a couple of books or something else flat and heavy, and leave them to cool.

Dried and ready to be pressed

Dried and ready to be pressed

Weigh them down with some heavy items

Weigh them down with some heavy items

Fry the ears up:

Once they’re cool and flat, slice the ears into long, thin strips

Mmm, cartilage

Mmm, cartilage

Dust with flour, then beaten egg, and then cover with the Panko breadcrumbs and deep fry until crispy

Everything ready for coating the ears strips

Everything ready for coating the ears strips

Crisped up nicely

Crisped up nicely

Serve your crispy ear-based crackling snacks to your unsuspecting guests, or sit and munch them all yourself 🙂

Verdict: Not at all bad. The panko breadcrumbs are super crunchy and not greasy (make sure the oil’s hot enough!) The cartilage is crunchy when you bite into them. However, the real winner of this plate is the nasturium caper sauce, which is bloody delicious and offsets the ears brilliantly. Next time I’ll get more heavy handed with the seasoning of the flour.

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