A French term literally meaning 'four-spice', this blend is commonly used in charcuterie such as pâtés, rillettes, sausages and terrines, as well as soups and stews. In its original form, it is a mixture of ground white pepper, nutmeg, ginger and cloves, but it's not uncommon to see other spices, such as cinnamon and allspice, added. In fact, a traditional mixed spice has the same four ingredients, plus greater amounts of milder and sweeter spices. Quatre épices can therefore be used as a more pungent alternative to mixed spice. Jane Grigson suggests in Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery that it can be added to a mustard and brown sugar glaze for baked ham, or sprinkled into mashed potatoes to be served with sausages or warm terrines.
- ½ cup sea salt flakes
- 2 tsp quatre épices
- 1 kg pork belly
- 1 onion, quartered
- 5 parsley stalks
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tbsp duck fat
- 5 golden shallots, thinly sliced
- 2 bulbs baby fennel, thinly sliced
- 1 kg frozen broad beans, blanched and peeled
- 250 ml chicken stock (1 cup)
- 2 tbsp tarragon leaves
- 1Combine salt and quatre épices in a bowl. Place pork belly into a non-reactive container and rub one-third of the spice mixture evenly over surface. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Repeat process for two more days with remaining mixture.
- 2Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil over high heat, add bay leaves, parsley stalks and onion, and reduce heat to medium. Add pork belly and simmer for 3 hours or until tender.
- 3Meanwhile, heat duck fat in a large frying pan, add shallots and sauté over medium heat for 6 minutes or until softened. Add fennel and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes or until soft. Add beans and chicken stock and simmer for 3 minutes or until chicken stock is reduced by half, then stir through tarragon and serve immediately.
- 4To serve, divide ragoût among plates and top with thick slices of pork.