I've got a guilty secret. I like pork scratchings. Until recently, every day on my way home from the Blacking Factory (a quasi-heated, cavernous warehouse found in the scrappy, semi-industrial inner suburbs of North London), I would pull over at a garage on the A40 and buy a packet of Mr Porky's Pork Scratchings. It was sort of addictive. I kept this one quiet from Mrs Aitch, carefully removing the greasy, empty packet from the floor of the car before bounding up the steps to our shiny, Grecian knockered front door.
You see, it's been a sort of secret love affair over the years- I mean with the Pork Scratchings. If you're not British, you probably don't know what I'm talking about. Pork Scratchings are off-cuts of pork rind or skin, deep fried in fat, and then sprinkled with salt, flavourings and undoubtably, our old friend monosodium glutamate. They have a dodgy reputation; they're about as classy as a Knees Up Mother Brown at the local dog track. Those on a diet can look away now.
But now and again, you would run into tantalising, if raffish, home-made versions. The Star Tavern in Belgravia (that excellent traditional London pub; the former haunt of the Clermont gambling set and the Great Train Robbers) sold fresh scratchings, cooked to their own recipe, salted and presented in large glass jars, into which you could plunge your grubby mitts. I liked this.
And now, at last, Pork Scratchings can truly come out of the cold. Tom Parker Bowles, Matthew Fort and pig-farmer, Rupert Ponsonby, are the brainchildren behind a new venture: Mr Trotter's Great British Pork Crackling ('Hand Cooked For a Crisper Crunch'). I'm munching on a packet as I write this, it's a sort of manly, substitute breakfast. According to the packet, "it's seasoned with a special blend of ingredients, without a trace of MSG. Unlike other pork scratchings, Mr Trotter's Great British Pork Crackling is made with 100% prime British pork skin from the finest British Pigs".
They are indeed divine, and far less salty than the more ersatz brands. It's also nice to know that British pigs are being turned into scratchings- sorry boys, crackling, rather than Danish beasts. My only sorrow is that currently, they only seem to be available at the usual up-market parade: Harvey Nick's food hall, Fortnum's, the Chatsworth Farm Shop. But you can, at least, buy them online, and in bulk (£57 for 30 bags, if you're wondering). I quite like the idea of a pork scratchings hoard; in this case, there's going to be no need to keep it a secret.