Pork belly is a beautiful boneless, fatty cut of meat from the belly of a pig. Many will say it is best served pink when stuffed and roasted although I prefer a longer cooking time, that yields perfectly moist and tender meat.
There is much debate about the perfect crackling and there are many methods to achieve the crunchiest crackle, although I have learned that it only takes a little patience and the right preparation to achieve this tasty, teeth breaking goodness.
In my view, the toughest part of cooking the perfect belly is scoring the meat, which is an impossible task without a very sharp knife. I have, in the past, used a shaving (minora) blade, which certainly isn’t the ideal but it works quite well.
My butcher, however, was kind enough to score, roll & tie this large pork belly on my behalf, which really simplified things. To save you time and effort I suggest contacting your butcher to arrange for them to do all the hard work so that you can focus on the important task of cooking this tasty piece of meat.
ingredients | serves 6 | a little effort
for the belly
1.4kg pork belly, scored and dried
1/2c – 1c coarse salt
for the stuffing
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
60g butter, melted
2t fennel seeds
20g fresh sage leaves
zest of 1 lemon
40g semi-dried tomatoes
large handful fresh parsley
for the trivet
1 whole garlic head, halved
1 onion, quartered
4 celery ribs, halved
2 large carrots, halved
3 leeks, halved
1/2lt chicken stock
juice of 1 lemon
1c white wine
2 stalks rosemary
1c apple juice
how to do it
preheat the oven to 230 degrees C/210 with fan.
Lay the pork belly down on the meat side and score the skin in a diamond shape, taking care not to cut all the way down to the meat.
Dry the belly using towel paper. Set aside.
Heat one tablespoon of olive oil and a little butter in small skillet and cook the onion & garlic until tender, taking care not to burn it. Set aside to cool.
Combine the fennel seeds, walnuts, dried tomatoes, parsley, breadcrumbs and butter together in a food processor and process until well combined and almost finely chopped. If the mixture is too dry, add olive oil a little at a time until you have reached a paste like consistency. Set aside.
Turn the belly over with the meat side facing up. Sprinkle the meat with the lemon zest.
Combine the onion mixture & the stuffing mixture and spread it over the belly leaving about a centimeter open on each side.
Pack the sage leaves on top of the stuffing. Season with black pepper and a little salt.
Carefully roll the belly and lay it down on the seam side. Using cooking string, tie the belly at about 2cm intervals.
Rub the belly with olive oil and then rub the coarse salt into the skin making sure you get into the scored lines.
Place the halved garlic head, onion, celery, carrot & leek into a roasting tin, place the belly on top and into the oven to roast for 35-40 minutes to crisp up the skin.
Remove the tin from the oven and turn the heat down to 160 degrees C/140 degrees with a fan.
Pour the apple juice & white wine around the belly taking care not to touch the meat. The liquid should not reach the meat and only cover the vegetables.
Place the rosemary stalks into the liquid and roast the belly for further 2 – 2.5 hours.
If the skin is not crisp enough after the cooking time, pour the liquid & vegetables into a pot and roast the belly again at 230 degrees C for a further 15-20 minutes while you make the sauce.
If you are happy with the crackling, set the belly aside to rest for about 20 minutes while making the gravy.
Make the sauce
Using a handheld blender, blend the vegetables & liquid until almost smooth. Add the chicken stock and bring it to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for about 15-20 minutes until reduced. Pour the mixture through a fine sieve back into a pot. Reduce the mixture for a further 15 minutes if necessary. Taste and season.
Slice the belly in thick rounds and serve it with spring onion & mustard crushed potato, glazed carrots & gravy.
From my kitchen to yours, with love x