‘first thought was for my Crackling Pork Shoulder that went into the oven at 249C earlier. I needed to turn the heat down to 190C at the half-hour, and I was a few minutes late: the supporting onion halves might be charring.
But the smoke alarm was silent and the densest smoke was billowing brown outside.
I ran out the front and down a few doors, over a low brick wall into the yard fronting a modest ranch house. I could already hear the crackling behind the house, and rounded the corner to find the garden ablaze, nobody tending.
I ran door to door right, left, center: nobody home anywhere. A Shepreth man dropped his dog walk and came running across the cricket field, but neither of us had a phone to call the Brigade. ‘back to the yard to find the flames licking up a 25-foot shrub towards the trees and house. A wizened lady stood next to the blaze with a limp hose, water dribbling out.
‘You okay there?” asked the man; I said Excuse me and took the hose away, playing it up the burning shrub.
Two more neighbors arrived and surrounded the blazing garden,pointing out hot spots and suggesting where to stand for the best angles. I crawled under the bushes and over the piles of sticks to get the worst of it.
It took half an hour to reduce the fire to sodden ashes: Joy allowed that she had been trying to burn some papers and it had gotten beyond her. She sweetly offered to make it up to me and asked if I drank. Her daughter came back from a dog walk to great surprise and to warn that the whole garden was built over a 10-foot deep cistern, generally unstable.
Which, in the intervening 2 1/2 hours, produced a superb Crackling, deep glossy gravy, and rich flavor that went perfectly with roast potatoes, spinach and Chilean Shiraz.