I am up to my oxters in bacon and pork belly, testing recipes and cures for my next book, Project: BACON, and making bacon boxes to send to people who subscribed for them. Something had to give, and today, it was me. I stole 1kg of the pork belly earmarked for a cure that would transform it into chilli bacon, and roasted it instead.
I needed it. I had too much wine last night and I am pretty fragile (er, maybe hungover) today. It is a typical routine really: work hard, play hard, fall over, roast some pork belly. I love the stuff and it is so comforting. I have two pork belly recipes in Comfort & Spice, and one is a slow roast over 6 hours, but at 11am I decided that I wanted it and I wanted it NOW so this is the quicker version which results in a firmer meat, and not a tender yielding meat that results from the slow roast.
A few years ago I was going through a pretty intense pork belly phase. I am a little obsessive and I get hooked on ingredients or dishes for weeks (or even months) at a time. Right now, I am in the waffle zone (I now have 3 waffle irons and am working my way through recipes, which I will post some of soon). People joked that I ate nothing else, and I thought, that I probably should snap out of it and explore some other things. Which I did. However, the results of it are quite a few pork belly recipes on this here blog and I joke that every Sunday there is a pork belly stampede (there is – lots of people come here for my straight forward roast pork belly recipe on that day alone).
I often roast pork belly with lentils and I wanted to do that today. But I was too lazy to go to the shop (well, truthfully, too lazy to get out of my pjs to go to the shop), so I worked with what I had and I loved the results. I had some evita apples that I bought at the farmers market at the weekend. Small, crisp and sweet, but with a slight tang that worked brilliantly when in the pork fat and juices for ten minutes. Cavolo nero was also roasted alongside, at this time of year it is less velvety but still good, and the earthiness went well. Marcona almonds, tossed through the slightly mushy apples, cavolo nero and fat and meat juices finished it off. It was lighter than with the lentils, and I will definitely be roasting it like this again.
Recipe: Roast Pork Belly with Apples, Cavolo Nero & Marcona Almonds
Takes 2 hours
1kg pork belly, on the bone if you can get it (better flavour and moisture for roasting)
a handful of cavolo nero
2 nice eating apples, something crisp and sharp like granny smith would work well if you can’t get the evitas that I used
a handful of marcona almonds, toasted (mine came like that)
Preheat your oven to 220 deg C.
Score the pork belly by cutting the skin in lines using a very sharp knife (I have a stanley knife just for this purpose). Cut it just to the fat but not through the the skin, which will give nice strips of crackling.
Put the pork belly skin side up and pour boiling hot water over it to puff up the skin. Drain and dry the skin completely with some kitchen towel. Season with sea salt and roast in an oiled tray that can hold it snugly at 220 deg C for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 170 deg C and roast for a further 90 minutes. If your crackling isn’t crisped to your liking, raise the temperature, again to 220 deg C for the last 10 minutes (and keep an eye on it).
Core the apples and cut them into quarters (leave the skin on). Remove from the oven, and let the meat rest covered in foil on a plate for 10 minutes.
Cook the apples in the tray that you roasted the pork in, in the meat juices and fat. After 5 minutes add the cavolo nero for the 5 further minutes, ensuring that you toss them in the juices too. The dry bits of the cavolo nero will crisp slightly, which i quite like, but if you don’t, cook the cavolo nero separately and add at the end. After the 5 minutes remove from the oven and stir the almonds through. The apples will be starting to mush, so be gentle.
Serve immediately on the side of the rested pork, which is great served in slices (remember that there are bones as you cut it!).
You might also enjoy some of my other pork belly recipes of yore: