ʽʽHi, I’m Benjamin Nunn – critic, gourmand and author of Ben Viveur. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You might have read me in an in-flight magazine, or a beer publication, but here on my own blog I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others so anything goes.

I deal with real food and drink in the real world, aiming to create recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. Likewise, I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended.

Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Lockdown Lunches #2: 24 Hour Carnitas

My birthday last week was the first one for 20 years in which I haven't been to the pub.

And even in 2000 I did manage a quick birthday pint with my Sports coverage colleagues in the BBC Club at Television Centre, where I was working at the time.

I used to commute there every day - imagine that! On buses and tubes! To work in a big, doughnutty building with hundreds of people!

Anyway, as promised, here a few further thoughts on Lockdown and this whole COVID-19 thing. Some of these opinions will be controversial. If you can't handle that, skip straight to the Carnitas recipe, or fuck off back to your videos of kittens or whatever you're doing to pass the time.

So, this rather peculiar, locked-down birthday reminded me of how much I miss going to the pub. Going to the pub to socialise and drink cask beer is one of my things. Like going to church to sing in the choir, going to football matches to support the mighty CCFC, going to gigs to complain that the band isn't as good as they used to be, and so on.

All gone from my life.

But 0.04% of the population has died!

Now, I know there will be people saying 'People are losing their lives FFS, how can you be thinking about XYZ?!?', but, the thing is, without the Xs, Ys and Zs of life, we're not really living, merely existing.

I tend to agree with the kind of views expressed here and here. There comes a point where making sacrifices isn't worth it, and I'm not convinced that we haven't made a huge misjudgement about where the sacrificial line needed to be drawn.

A lonely, naked birthday
Yes, I understand that the policies are based on the best available Science and that scientists know a lot more about this stuff than I do - but the end that the application of the scientific knowledge is aiming to achieve is based mainly on emotion. Emotion and PR.

What I mean is that we buy into the idea of 'preventable deaths' and, by extension, actively aiming to prevent them, but the truth is that no death can be prevented, only delayed. Delaying a death by 40 or 50 years is an admirable aim, but we obsess almost as much over delaying it by weeks and months, with scant regard to the quality of life during that extra time on the planet.

This is why I'm a healthcare skeptic, and I know that's basically sacrilege in a country where the NHS has become even more of a religion than it already was, which was an holy lot.

Let's say that 500 people die with COVID-19 today instead of 800. 500 looks better than 800. 500 will make people feel more encouraged than 800. If the reality is that almost all of those 'saved' 300 go on to die go on to die of something else in the next year, that doesn't matter because they won't show up in the figures and you probably won't hear about them, or care about them. PR.

What will be the price of delaying a few inevitable deaths? The worst recession in living memory is something we're already taking for granted. It's also widely accepted that there will be some
further deaths resulting from the measures currently in place rather than from the Coronavirus itself. People awaiting treatment for the usual killers of cancer and heart disease are, rightly, very frightened. Mental health will also become an even more serious issue than it is now.

What if these deaths actually outnumber the lives 'saved' in the final analysis? Will anyone then challenge the decisions that were taken on our behalf? 

What else will we blithely accept? Ongoing restrictions on freedoms we previously took for granted? The complete reframing of ideology to freeze out Libertarian thought forever? No return to what we understand to be 'normality', ever?

The problem with the prevailing 'all in this together' mentality is that it's flagrantly untrue. We're actually living in a world of double standards. 'Them and us' is more of a thing now than it's ever been, but we're collectively hiding it under the bushel of collective NHSmania and emotional outpouring.

Lockdown affects people unequally. Very unequally.

Some small businesses - even some larger ones - will go bust. But big supermarkets will do very well out of it all. Run a pub or restaurant? Work in aviation or brewing or any one of God-knows-how-many Godforsaken sectors? You're in serious trouble. Work at a hospital? You're a hero and you get to leave your home. People will be buying you drinks for the rest of your life - if there's ever anywhere left to buy them.

Enjoy drinking cask beer in a pub? Fuck you and your life choices? Enjoy drinking cans at home - carry on as you did before.

Without the twin institutions of pub and church, Britain loses its heart and soul. That displeases me.

What if the football season is nulled and voided? Some teams stand to lose out massively, quite possibly including mine, while others will actually benefit.

These are horrible, horrible times and they could get a lot worse. The 'peak' might not be a day when 1,172 people died of COVID-19, it might be at some point in the very near dystopian future.

Anyway, enough bleakness. The one positive is that I have been cooking a lot and coming up with a load of new recipes. So here's one if you're ever stuck for something to do with the inside of a joint of pork once you've eaten all the good bits...

24 Hour Carnitas

Ingredients - Day One:

Roast pork, leftover from a roast dinner, about two portions worth

American Mustard
Barbecue Sauce


Ingredients - Day Two:

24 Hour Leftover pork Carnitas

Onion, 1 large or 2 small, roughly chopped
Tomatoes, 2-3, chopped
Kidney beans, a can, drained

Chillis, 1, 2 or more, depending on your temperature preferences, finely chopped
Celery Salt
Oil for cooking

To serve:

Strong Cheddar, plenty, grated
Flour tortillas/wraps


When you have served as much roast pork as you are going to eat, including all of the crackling, take the remainder of the joint, slather it with plenty of American Mustard and Barbecue Sauce, pour a little beer into the bottom of your roasting dish, put a lid over it, and put it back in the oven.

For 24 hours. Yes, really. 20 will do, if you're planning on eating earlier the following day.

Pull that pork apart, boy!
The oven needs to be on the lowest heat that won't cause it to switch itself off, but you can basically leave it for a very long time and it won't overcook.

When a day or so has passed, heat a little oil in a big pan and soften the onion, chilli and garlic. After a few minutes, add the cumin and celery salt, followed by the beans and tomatoes.

While this is cooking, you can finally turn off the oven and take out your pork. It should now be so tender you can pull it to shreds with a pair of forks.

When you have done so, add it to the pan, along with any juices and debris that have accumulated at the bottom of the roasting dish.  Make sure it's all nicely mixed up. If it's too dry you can add a drop of water or beer, but it's not really necessary.

Keep it all on a fairly low heat until the tomatoes have softened. A further hour or so of extra cooking won't do it any harm, although you might be feeling a tad impatient having already cooked this pork in excess of an entire day!

Serve with melted cheddar and heated tortillas for a delicious lockdown leftover lunch.

1 comment:

Comments are always welcomed and encouraged, especially interesting, thought-provoking contributions and outrageous suggestions.