Serve up a slice of St John at home with ready-made Trotter Gear

Fergus Henderson
Fergus Henderson speaks to Josh Barrie about his new St John range of products about to hit the shelves, which includes Trotter Gear for flavouring recipes and his Welsh Rarebit mix Credit: John Nguyen

Fergus Henderson tells me that he’s “a little emotional about the pie”.

Henderson, chef-patron of renowned restaurant St John, is disgruntled because he rushed the guinea fowl and bacon pie we’re tucking into in his sunny garden and as a result it doesn’t quite meet his lofty standards. To me, it tastes perfect: deep, rich and gamey. 

At least my dining companion is pleased with the suet crust top. He exclaims that “it’s flirting with the burn”, but is, in fact, only “wonderfully singed”. As it should be. 

Fergus Henderson and Josh Barrie tucking into the pie Credit: John Nguyen

Suet pastry is paramount, Henderson believes. It envelops the meat, with a soft bottom not dissimilar to a Victorian steamed pudding, and a crisp and floury top that breaks up and slides into the meaty puddles below.

Earlier, I watched as Henderson filled the pie. He softened shallots, reduced stock, paused for a Fernet Branca, and, at the “crucial moment”, added pre-packaged Trotter Gear. 

Trotter Gear is stock on steroids: its purpose is to add rich and complex flavour to anything from meaty pies to baked beans, stews, onion gravy - or even tagliatelle.

The jellied broth (made from pigs’ feet, vegetables, peppercorns, herbs and madeira) is one of St John’s two new culinary crutches for home cooks, which launch on Ocado this week.

The Trotter Gear with Welsh Rarebit Mixture Credit: John Nguyen

The other product is a Welsh Rarebit Mixture which will allow you to make one of the restaurant’s most famous dishes in minutes. Henderson says it’s “savoury, not too greasy, but not too dry; perfect with a glass of port”.

St. John initially planned to retail Trotter Gear – then named ‘Unctuous Potential’ – ten years ago. The plan was shelved because the company chosen to make it couldn’t deal with the volume. Now, Henderson says that he’s excited about “spreading possibility” and having it out there, along with the new rarebit kit. He’s even keen for other restaurants to use both products.

Trotter Gear dates back to the earliest days of St. John – well over 20 years – and acts as the foundation to many dishes. “It soothes meat through the trauma of the heating experience,” Henderson explains. “It creates a nurturing force field in which the meat can tenderise and flourish. It’s a wobbly magic potion”.

Fergus Henderson making the pie Credit: John Nguyen

To produce enough for St John, Henderson says they “get through 50-60 pigs’ trotters a week. It’s a long process, very fiddly. Taking the knuckles out of the trotters takes skill, but so important to get that unctuous jelly.”

To make the stuff yourself, you’d have to set aside a whole day. Now you don’t have to: the recipes are exactly the same as you’d find in one of Henderson’s recipe books. 

We move onto the Welsh rarebit. All you need to do to the potted-up mix is spread it onto bread, grill, and speckle with Lea & Perrins.

I nibble a slice, warmed further in the sun. There’s the telltale mustardy cheese, the crunch of toasted bread, then the tickle of Worcestershire sauce. It’s the perfect easy snack or supper. 

Leave for the pie filling for 24 hours to thicken and concentrate the flavour Credit: John Nguyen

Later, I return home and scan my empty fridge and depleted kitchen shelves. I find onions, wine, a rind of pancetta, a bay leaf and some canned butter beans and add half a packet of Trotter Mix. Hopefully, at the crucial moment. 

It simmers, reduces and a heavenly smell fills the air: larder leftovers have become a feast.

£4.99 for Trotter Gear, £3.99 for Rarebit Mixture from Ocado