Spiced roast pork belly you say? Not a cut of meat you’ve seen here before? A new direction for Eat Like a Girl?
I jest. I have more than over blogged pork belly, but I tried a new spice mixture and a new way of cooking it, and it was delicious, so I thought that I would share. I had no intention of blogging it so I didn’t make an effort with the photos, however, the taste proved delicious, and I thought, hey, I should really be blogging more frequently anyway, and this is worth talking about.
I had pork belly in the fridge, 1kg, a really nice piece I got from a local enough butcher, with the bone still in. I asked the butcher for pork belly, and he asked if I wanted tenderloin. Huh? No, pork belly. Was I sure? Did I want to eat all that fat? Did I like the flavour in the fat? Hell, yeah. Gimme some pork belly please! I’ll get tenderloin another time.
I had guests staying and a friend popped over. Two meat eaters and one strict vegetarian. I wasn’t planning on going anywhere and I wasn’t much in the mood for the pub, so we decided that we would stay in and I would conjure up a dinner using, mainly, what I had to hand. I faltered and went out to get lots of fresh herbs and some fresh vegetables which were sadly lacking, but otherwise, I was good to go.
I had plans for the vegetarian food, two big salads, one with beans, and therefore reasonably balanced. Noone was going hungry on my watch! As for the pork belly, the Saturday kitchen recipe had piqued my curiosity. I decided that I would take a similar approach with mine. I hadn’t added lemon zest to my pork spice rub before, so definitely wanted to try that, and I added fennel seeds (always so good with pork), sea salt, some red pepper flakes that I had bought in a local Turkish shop and which have become a staple, and finally, some fiery chilli powder.
I’ve been experimenting with how I roast meats recently, starting at a low temperature and blasting it at the end to give some crispy crackling skin, and I think I have it down now. I ground the spices in the pestle and mortar and then poured some boiling hot water over the scored skin to part the bits that are scored and improve the resulting crackling. I dried the skin with some kitchen paper and rubbed in the spice rub, all over the pork.
Ready to go! I had preheated the oven to 150 degrees celsius. In went the pork, snugly in a roasting tray that just held it, with 100ml water in the tray. I usually add cider, stock or wine, but with so many flavours on there already, water was right for this. I roasted it uncovered at this temperature for 2 hours, then turned the oven up to 220 degrees to crisp the crackling for about 20 minutes. And we were done.
It’s not the prettiest dish. The spice rub was well and truly charred at this stage but the crackling was crisp and the meat so, so tender, not to mention delicious. The rub conferred a lovely spiciness and citrus kick, which lightened it. Next time I might not put the rub on the skin, as it charred a little too much. This may become my regular pork belly dish. It’s important to play with your food, sometimes you improve something you didn’t know you could or should.
This recipe made enough for 3 and I served it with khobez (flatbreads) and 3 salads (more on those later). Enjoy!
1kg good pork belly, on the bone, if possible
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp sea salt
1 tbsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tbsp fiery chilli powder
Zest of one unwaxed lemon
Preheat your oven to 150 degrees celsius.
Grind your spice rub ingredients to a fine paste in a pestle and mortar.
Score the skin on your pork belly, if your butcher hasn’t already done it for you. Put the pork in a colander or on a wire rack and pour over some boiling water to fluff up the skin a little. Blot dry with kitchen paper, and rub the spice rub all over and in between the grooves in the scored areas.
Add to a roasting tray just a little bigger than the meat, and pour 100 mls water at the side, not touching the meat. This will keep the end of the meat moist and will prevent it drying out.
After two hours, the belly should be cooked through but still very moist. Turn the heat up to 220 degrees celsius for 20 minutes or so, until the crackling is crisped up but not burned. If you prefer you can do this under the grill.
Rest for 10 minutes and serve in slices.
EDIT: I incorrectly said 180 degrees in the text. Typo – apologies. Should be 150.