I love pork belly. Everyone who knows me knows that I am obsessed with it. If it’s ever on a menu, I will order it. It’s as predictable as me being in love with Padma, but that’s another story! The best pork belly I have eaten is at The French Room in Dallas where the chef makes it with a garlic jam – just amazing!
I think pork belly is the new foie gras. Foie gras is so 2000. I hardly ever order it anymore, though I did recently at Per Se, and it was pretty damn good. Pork belly could use a new name or some brand marketing. For those who have never tried it, the thought of trying it just seems unappealing at best and disgusting at worst. I say, get over it – you are missing one of the culinary pleasures of the world! My personal obsession with pork belly started with Richard, the contestant who should have won Top Chef (oh Padma) 2 seasons ago.
I’ve been contemplating making pork belly at home for some time now and tried a recipe which wasn’t so good. After some searching around I found this recipe from Jamie Oliver. I like the simplicity of his food whihc relies on the quality of the ingredients. The recipe itself is pretty simple and the end result, simply amazing.
• 1.5kg pork belly (roughly 3lbs)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 2 red onions, halved
• 2 carrots, peeled and halved lengthways
• 2 sticks of celery, chopped in half
• 1 bulb of garlic, skin on, broken into cloves
• a small bunch of fresh thyme, leaves picked
• 600ml water or stock
The lovely thick layer of fat on this particular cut keeps the meat really moist as it roasts, and also gives you an incredible even layer of delicious crackling. Belly is a very underrated cut in the UK, but it is becoming a favourite on gastropub menus, and rightly so. If you’re worried about scoring the crackling yourself, ask your butcher to do it for you, that’s what he’s there for.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 2.5 hours
Preheat your oven to full whack, it needs to be at least 220°C/425°F/gas 7.
Place your pork on a clean work surface, skin-side upwards. Get yourself a small sharp knife
and make scores about a centimetre apart through the skin into the fat, but not so deep that
you cut into the meat. Rub salt right into all the scores you’ve just made, pulling the skin apart a little if you have to. Brush any excess salt off the surface of the skin and turn it over. Season the underside of the meat with a little more salt and a little black pepper. Place your pork, skin side-up, in a roasting tray big enough to hold the pork and the vegetables, and place in the hot oven.
Roast for about half an hour until the skin of the pork has started to puff up and you can see
it turning into crackling. Turn the heat down to 180°C/350°F/gas 4 and roast for another hour.
Take out of the oven and baste with the fat in the bottom of the tray. Carefully lift the pork up and transfer to a chopping board. Add all the veg, garlic and thyme to the tray and stir them into the fat. Place the pork on top of everything and pop the tray back in the oven. Roast for another hour. By this time the meat should be meltingly soft and tender. Carefully move the meat to a serving dish, cover with tin foil and leave to rest while
you make your gravy.
Spoon away any fat in the tray, then add the water or stock and place the tray on the hob.
Bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to
scrape up all those lovely sticky tasty bits on the bottom of the tray. When you’ve got a nice, dark gravy, pour it through a sieve into a bowl or gravy boat, using your spoon to really push all the goodness of the veg through the sieve. Add a little more salt and pepper if it needs it. Serve the pork with the crackling, gravy, some creamy mashed potato, nice fresh greens and a dollop of English mustard
I decided to pour the gravy into the serving dish with the pork belly to keep it moist. Just before serving I cut up the pork belly because the skin can get pretty hard. Overall, this recipe is a definite keeper.
For more pork belly recipes go to www.porkbellyrecipes.com