Roast Pork Belly

Pork belly seems to be one of those cuts of meat that is coming back into fashion. The best one I’ve had so far was in Scotland where they studded cloves of garlic in between the belly layers accompanied with a delicious gravy that had hints of star anise and cloves in it.

There’s a recipe for roast pork belly in the Ottolenghi cookbook that I have been craving for a while, so one weekend when I was in the mood and had the time for it I had a go. Because of course cooking not only calls for adequate time, but the best of moods to produce the best results.

The white wine forms a herby bath around the meat so it stays nice and succulent. I babied this thing all the way through but the skin Just. Wouldn’t. Crackle. So I whacked up the grill at the end and it crisped up beautifully. With all the hard work I put into it I was so happy it turned out well! The relish that accompanies it is wonderfully sweet and tangy. The original recipe had rhubarb in it, but it’s not in season now so I just omitted it and altered the ingredient ratios.

Roast Pork Belly

Serves 3-4

1 bunch of thyme, chopped

1 bunch of rosemary, chopped

1 head of garlic, cloves peeled and crushed

150ml of olive oil

1 piece of pork belly, 1.5-2kg

1/2 bottle of white wine

Coarse sea salt and black pepper

  1. Heat the oven to 250°C or its highest setting. Puree the herbs, garlic and olive oil roughly.
  2. Line an oven tray with aluminium foil. Lay the pork belly skin side down and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Spread and press the herb mixture all over the top.
  3. Turn the belly skin side up, wipe the skin dry with kitchen paper and sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Have a really light hand with this, I thought mine was sparse enough (see pic) but I had to scrape off bits later on as the meat shrinks and the salt forms a crust which prevents the crackling from forming.
  4. Roast for 1 hour, turning the tray around every 15 minutes so it browns evenly.
  5. Once the skin has formed some crackling, turn the oven down to 170°C and pour the white wine into the tray, carefully avoiding the skin. Roast for another hour. Cover with foil if the belly starts turning black.
  6. Turn the oven down to 110°C and roast for another hour, until the skin has crackled up completely and is thoroughly dried.
  7. If the belly doesn’t crackle, switch on the grill to medium heat and place the meat under it. Be careful as it will spit.
  8. Cut up the belly into portions and serve with relish. Enjoy!

Spiced red plum relish

5 red plums, stoned and cut into quarters

1 red chilli, halved and seeded

1 cinnamon stick

1 star anise

50-75ml red wine vinegar

100g caster sugar

  1. Place everything in a saucepan. Stir well, bring to a light boil and simmer for 20-25 minutes. Skim off any froth if necessary.
  2. The relish should have a jam-like consistency. Put a teaspoonful of relish on a sauce and run your finger through it, it should stay separated. Remove from heat and cool. The relish will keep for about a week or two and goes well with other roast meats.

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