Negneg Farm with a plate of amazing penne, arugula and sausage

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I have often written here that the island’s pork is one of the most superior in both texture and taste and I am sharing with you today my lunch of a simple but most delicious plate of pasta with arugula and local sausage that is made with coriander seeds, garlic and flat leaf parsley. If you do not live on the island use a continental type sausage or merguez and you will find the recipe at the end of this post.

And one day last week we drove to an isolated farm situated in the remote hills past the Tower of ‘Allis’ beyond the chapel of Santa Maria and up to an area known as that of ‘God and his Mother’ until we finally reached Negeg Farm where I met Leli, now 74, and his two sons George and Marco. I basked in the glow of their Mediterranean welcome. For many generations the family have dedicated their lives to tending sows and their litter.

And sadly the Negnegs now face a daily struggle for survival, barely making ends meet mainly because consumers are buying imported pork that is mass-produced and cheaper. But unknown to most it is not necessarily more economical.

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How can you compare mass-produced meat to that of an animal bred conscientiously in humane conditions? Dr Oliver Frendo, a veterinary surgeon who manages the Co-Operative of Pig Breeders on the island accompanied me. He explained that mass-produced meat is sometimes plumped up with with saline of up to 40% of its weight.

The pigs at Negneg Farm live in extraordinarily clean and spacious pens with no evidence of faeces or filth. The pig smell noticeable when I arrived faded away within 10 minutes and I was no longer aware of it. The pigs’ food is flavored with vanilla and the Negnegs have taken measures to keep disease away. Leli keeps his pigs in separate pens according to their age and sex. The new borns are kept warm in comfort.

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There is constant round-the-clock supervision and preventative medicine is practised. Leli tells me that the breeding cycle is continuous all through the year. Contrary to my expectations, these pigs have clear skin, with no open wounds as I had seen on a TV documentary of a farm in a country very far away from here.

The consumer needs to know the source of the pork they buy . They can choose local or perhaps they may prefer to buy imported pork. It is all about freedom of choice and consumers have the right to make their own choices.

I was saddened to leave Negeg Farm that day seeing Leli and his boys organising their weekly trip to the slaughterhouse, with a drop in their quota down by 50% over the last few years…..

And for penne with arugula and pork sausage, you will need :

Penne, allow 75 to 120g per portion depending on appetites, i use Barilla
Continental Sausages, allow 1 per person, skin removed chopped up
Cherry tomatoes, allow 5 to 8 per person, cut into quarters
Arugula, according to your preference, I used about 10 leaves per person, torn up not chopped
Whole dried chilis, allow 1 per 2 portions, cut up
Dried Oregano, allow 1/4 teaspoon for 2 portions
Dried flaked garlic, allow two flakes per portion, chopped up
1 spoon light single cream per two portions
6 spoons white or rose wine per two portions
Maldon Salt
Freshly Ground Pepper
Drizzle of olive oil
Freshly grated Grana Padano

Cook the pasta in plenty salted water, and follow the cooking time instructions on your pack.
In a saucepan, heat up a touch of olive oil and cook the sauce eat on gentle heat until browned together with the garlic flakes.
Add the chili, oregano and cook further.
Add the wine, cook and reduce.
Add the single light cream, just a touch, the dish should not appear creamy and cook further.
Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
Drain the pasta.
Add the sauce and mix with the pasta.
Add the cherry tomatoes and arugula
Plate the pasta and top with a fresh light grating of Gran Padano.
Serve immediately.

And last week’s paper

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