You lovely regular Readers (*waves*) will know that I’m a big fan of pork belly. I thought that I’d never be able to do it as well as in restaurants, but it’s actually surprisingly easy to make excellent roast pork belly yourself at home. Its such a lovely cut; the meat is tender, and the crackling… oh, the crackling *sighs*. If you do it right the crackling is straight from piggy heaven; crunchy and tasty and just the right amount of fatty. YUM DOT COM. It’s quite a fatty cut of meat so it’s difficult to overcook, which makes it perfect for a first time roast. It does take quite a long time though, so it’s best attempted on a lazy Sunday (if you hurry you might even be able to do it today).
I used meat from Godfrey’s butchers in Highbury who are AMAZING. It’s quite a cheap cut so if you can you should go to a butchers. Shop local and all that. You can also ask them to score the skin both ways to save you doing it yourself which is a huge bonus as the skin is really tough and you’re bound to blunt your knife which is a real ballache.
What you need:
About 4 bones of bone in belly pork (serves 2 people, generously – multiply as necessary)
Salt and pepper
Tbsp plain flour
200ml white wine/red wine/cider
200ml chicken stock
An apple and some butter
What to do:
1.On the morning you intend to roast, salt your pork belly. Take the meat and sprinkle two generous pinches of salt over the skin, rub it in like you’re giving your meat a lovely massage and then leave it covered in the fridge. This dries the skin out for optimum crackling work. It’s allllllll about the crackling, as we know.
2. About an hour before you’re going to stick the meat in the oven, take it out of the fridge to let it get up to room temperature. Sponge excess moisture off the skin with a bit of kitchen roll, again to dry out for optimum crackling. You won’t regret making this effort.
3. Pour yourself a glass of wine, it’s Sunday after all, and you’ve got a lot of cooking ahead of you. Sprinkle the pork skin with a pinch or two more salt, lots of black pepper and fresh thyme.
4. Massage all that goodness in. Really get into the cracks for tip top, super duper crackling. Or get someone else to do it for you if you’re a bit squeamish. Wuss.
5. Slice an onion and layer it onto the bottom of a baking tray or oven proof dish, add some sprigs of thyme and place your seasoned pork belly on top, skin side up.
6. Preheat your oven up to 220ºC. Put the pork belly in for 30m, skin side up (turning the dish – NOT THE MEAT LEAVE THE SKIN ON TOP BECAUSE CRACKLING – every 7m or so to get even crackle). By the end of the half hour the skin should be starting to blister.
7. Turn the oven down to 150º for an hour or so.
8. While your pork is cooking, make the apple sauce. The easiest thing in the world, ever. Peel an apple – ideally a cooking apple but it doesn’t matter too much – chop it finely and put it in a small saucepan with salt, pepper and a knob of butter. Heat it with a lid on until it’s mushy. Sir it to make it more mushy. Leave to cool. It’s literally impossible to balls this up, I have no idea why anyone buys apple sauce.
9. After an hour your pork belly should be done. If the crackling isn’t quite as crispy as you’d like, whack the heat up to 220ºC again and check the pork every 5m or so until it’s perfect.
10. Take the pork out of the oven and wrap it in tinfoil to ‘rest’ – it’s been very busy this last hour and a half! You can now use those lovely caramelised onions and porky juices to make the kind of gravy people write poems about…
11. Add a tablespoon of plain flour to the juices and onions left behind in the oven dish and stir for a couple of minutes to make a roux. Add a glass of wine or cider and the chicken stock and stir stir stir to make non-lumpy gravy. Add more stock/water as necessary depending how thick you like your gravy. Taste, and adjust seasoning if necessary. I doubt you’ll need to tbh, this gravy is seriously dreamy.
12. Carve the pork (either taking the crackling off first or not) and serve the delicious, juicy, fall-apart-in-the-mouth meat with mash, veg, apple sauce and that wonderfully rich, dark, sexy gravy.
13. Boom. You just became the most popular person in your house.