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Roast Pork Belly with Apples, Cavolo Nero & Marcona Almonds

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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.

Enjoy!

Recipe: Roast Pork Belly with Apples, Cavolo Nero & Marcona Almonds
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Recipe: Roast Feta with Tomatoes, Oregano, Chilli & Red Onion

RECIPE: Roast Feta with Tomatoes, Oregano, Chilli & Red Onion
RECIPE: Roast Feta with Tomatoes, Oregano, Chilli & Red Onion

RECIPE: Roast Feta with Tomatoes, Oregano, Chilli & Red Onion

My return from Greece last weekend was chaotic, to say the least. I woke up feeling far from fresh and very sleepy. I had with me a stockpile of Greek ingredients: feta, fava, oregano, extra virgin olive oil and vinegar. I wanted to play.

I invited a friend round for dinner. I had spent the day making eclairs (recipe on My Daily) and had already eaten four before I dialled in my eclair SOS. Save me from myself, come immediately, I just can’t resist them, I plead. So we had a backwards dinner, eclairs to start, while I pottered around the kitchen playing around, a glass of Santorini Assyrtiko wine keeping me company.

I made several dishes that night, and will share this Roast Feta with you now. I was thinking of the Santorini tomatoes, tiny and intensely sweet having grown on that arid volcanic soil. I hadn’t brought any with me, but I did have oak roasted tomatoes from the Isle of Wight Tomato Stall, a regular from my culinary arsenal. They are so intense and sweet, and require no work, as it has all been done for you. They are brilliant for veggie friends too, and work really well in a veggie carbonara, as they have all of the umami intensity that bacon does (trust me, they do).

This dish is very simple and barely requires a recipe, but there are a few things you should pay attention to. Buy good and proper Greek feta, it is protected so once it is called feta you will be fine but beware of fetta or similar. Proper feta is just made with sheep and goats milk, with no cow, and has a wonderful sweet, sour, salty flavour. Also use the best extra virgin olive oil that you can afford.  If you are investing, you might as well go Greek, given the recipe that you are using it for. If you can’t get the Tomato Stall tomatoes, roast some good cherry tomatoes at home yourself under a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil at 150 deg C for about half an hour.

RECIPE: Roast Feta with Tomatoes, Oregano, Chilli & Red Onion
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Slow Roast Wild Boar Belly with Cider & Puy Lentils

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One day, on a trip to Borough Market, I spied two burly butchers carrying what looked like a small and very hairy headless werewolf about the size of a large dog with great hurry into their shop. I had had a couple of glasses of wine, so with much speed and no hesitation I ran in after them to enquire, is that a wild boar?! YES, I was told grumpily, as they slammed it on the counter. It was bristly and muddy, and very much wild; this little guy had come straight from the forest.

Fresh wild boar! OOOH, maybe I could buy some of the belly? I popped in some days later to enquire. There was none on the counter but they had some out the back, and carved a 1.5kg slab for me to take home and play with in exchange for £12 per kilo. I sound like a wild boar myself now, don’t I? But, my, I was curious and very excited! What would it be like? How would it compare with my beloved pork belly?

I decided, in the interest of science, and obsession, to do a controlled experiment, and to cook it as I often cook pork belly, on a semi-slow roast, with cider and lentils so that I could compare and contrast.

What was it like? Clear, there was real clarity of flavour, if that makes any sense, but that was the first thing I thought. It was fatty, as belly always is, but it seemed less so, as this fella had been running around the forests, getting very muddy as he went. He didn’t have the same opportunity domestic pigs have to pile on those piggy pounds, but it had enough fat to retain much moisture and give it a beautiful flavour. The fat was present but didn’t overwhelm. I loved it.

The only problem is the price and lack of availability, but for a special treat, I’ll be seeking this one out. Delicious! The lentils are unctuous and creamy with the wild boar fat, and a lovely compliment to the tender meat and crispy crackling. If you want some vegetables on the side it’s lovely with some extra roasted carrots and a little cavolo nero. The vegetables in this recipe function as a trivet and supply flavour but are discarded at the end of the cooking process.

Notes for the recipe: keep an eye on the lentils once you add them, and make sure they have enough liquid adding more cider/stock if you need to. You can’t go wrong if you add a little at a time, worst case scenario is that you have lots of lovely wild boar gravy left over. Make sure you keep the crackling dry when you add more liquid.

PS. Forgive the photo. I’ve lost my photo mojo since my camera was stolen. Styling seems pointless with a small semi-broken thing. (I have to open the lens shield with my fingernail). Next purchase = a new one.

Slow Roast Wild Boar Belly with Cider & Puy Lentils

Ingredients:

1.5kg wild boar belly, skin scored by your butcher or with a Stanley knife
3 carrots, cut in half lengthwise for the belly to sit on
2 large shallots or 1 medium onion, skinned and halved
A few cloves of garlic, skins on
A bay leaf or two
A few springs of fresh thyme
White peppercorns (black if you don’t have them but I love white peppercorns with pork)
250g puy lentils
250ml cider
250ml stock (pork or chicken best, vegetable is ok too) plus a little extra stock/cider on hand should you need them
Sea salt

Method:

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius.
Pour some boiling water over the skin of the pork in a colander or similar. Dry the skin, wiping with a kitchen towel. Sprinkle with some sea salt. The skin will have puffed up which will aid the crackling.
Place the pork in an oiled deep tray on top of the carrots, shallots, garlic, peppercorns, thyme and bay. Roast the pork for 20 minutes. The skin will start to blister.
Turn the heat down to 160 degrees and roast for a further 40 minutes.
Add the lentils and the cider and stock and roast for a further hour. The lentils should be tender by now.
Turn the heat back up to 220 and roast for 10-15 minutes, to make sure the crackling is crisp – take care not to burn it. It really doesn’t need very long.
Discard the vegetables and serve the sliced wild boar belly with the lentils and some of the lovely cidery gravy.

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A Roast Lunch with English Fizz

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Borough Market is a frequent stomping ground, and as many years as I have been going there, there are some nooks still unexplored. One of these was Roast, a restaurant dedicated to British cooking using seasonal produce. I had sampled their breakfast wares on occasion, and they do a scoffable scotch egg, but on this occasion, I had an invite to lunch from Chapel Down Wines, one of our fantastic donors for the blaggers banquet and one of the market leaders in the budding English wine industry.

Chef Laurence Keogh

Chef Laurence Keogh

I know the sparkling well, I’ve had it many times, and I really like it. I also really like the Bacchus 2006, a fine white wine, but their other wines, and new beers were unexplored territory. Roast were making a lunch with some blind matches aranged by the chef and the winemaker. I really enjoy this kind of lunch, as it gives me an opportunity to learn some more about matching, and to speak to the people that produce the wine and make the food. We’re too dissociated from our food and drink, used to viewing items on supermarket shelves and not thinking of the winemaker, perfecting his craft and tinkling with his wine recipes (if that’s what they are called :) We rarely get a chance to speak to the chef, ask him how he came up with his dish, how he sources his food and what inspires him. It’s a rare opportunity to strip the facade and get to the bones of the matter, and I love it.

Winemaker, Owen Elias

Winemaker, Owen Elias

Nothing I do is without drama and this is no exception. I was flying from home that morning, and with my camera stolen, had precisely half an hour to locate my old camera, a memory card and charge the battery. No problem! I had had a 5am start, and an exhausting few days, so was very pleased to be handed a glass of Chapel Down Brut Rose on arrival. A lovely sweetish sparkling, with lots of strawberries on the palate, a nice appetiser.

Roast is a lovely space, upstairs in Borough Market, with lots of big windows perring down to the market below and letting in lots of bright grey November  light. It’s quite busy, lots of people what lunch and the place is abuzz right unil we finish our lunch.

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A quick perusal of the menu revealed a starter of smoked Lough Etive Trout with Dorset Crab Cakes, black pepper and lemon matched with Chapel Down Pinot Reserve 2004 and Chapel Down English Rose 2008. The smoked trout was delicious, a revelation. Smoky and peaty, it reminded me of Frank Hederman’s wonderful smoked salmon from Cork, in that it lacked oiliness and spoke only of delicioius trout flavour and the smokehouse. The crab cakes were a real nice light addition, and my preferred match was the Pinot Reserve 2004.

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The next course was Ramsey of Carluke haggis with celeriac and oxtail sauce, with a glass of Chapel Down Rondo Regent Pinot Noir NV. I like Haggis a lot, it’s aligned with black and white pudding in that family of foods made from unspeakable things that people are afraid of. But why? Ok, so it’s offal stuffed with offal, spiced and boiled for hours, but the result, is a fantastically savoury and intense dish, and if you didn’t know what it was and just ate it, you would love it. I found that the oxtail dominated it a bit too much sadly, but it was still a lovely dish. The Pinot Noir was light and had some nice spice which went nicely with the oxtail and haggis. We also had a Chapel Down Vintage Reserve Brut, which was great with the dish. You just can’t beat sparkling!

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The star of the show, our main course, and favourite of mine was next. Slow-roast Wicks Manor pork belly with mashed potatoes and Bramley apple sauce, served with a glass of Roast Bacchus Reserve 2007. The pork belly was crisp and unctous and the Bacchus Reserve was quite floral and had a lovely acidity which made it a great match. The mash was again, Robuchon esque, more butter than sense, but who needs sense, when you can have great mash?!

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Desserts next, two of them. A very festive one too to start. Spiced clementine custard with anise biscuits, followed by a Warm Chestnut and Conference pear cake with hot chocolate sauce served with a glass of Chapel Down Nectar 2007. The first dessert was my favourite, nice and light but still indulgent and the citrus picked up some nice citrus notes in the wine.

Roast impressed as did the Chapel Down Wines. I look forward to exploring both further. They have put together a special menu and wine deal for readers, which screams excellent Christmas gift to me. Enjoy, and let me know if you try it.

Thanks to Chapel Down and Roast for a terrific lunch.

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Offer details:

– On arrival, a glass of Chapel Down Brut Rose

– Ramsey of Carluke haggis with celeriac and oxtail sauce, with a glass of Chapel Down Rondo Regent Pinot Noir NV

– Slow-roast Wicks Manor pork belly with mashed potatoes and Bramley apple sauce, served with a glass of Roast Bacchus Reserve 2007 (NB this will be the full sized portion, not the sampler size you had yesterday)

– Spiced clementine custard with anise biscuits, served with a glass of Chapel Down Nectar 2007

– Tea or coffee

To take advantage of this menu, including the wine at just £44.50, quote Chapel Down Roast Bloggers’ Dinner when they ring the restaurant to book – 0845 034 7300.

As an extra special offer, Chapel Down have offered the fabulous Pinot Reserve 2004 for a remarkable price of £99 for a case of six including delivery to any UK mainland adddress. This wine would normally be £150 plus delivery. Christmas gifts sorted!

All you need to do is call the vineyard on 01580 763033, ask for Lizzie or Wendy and quote Blogger offer.

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Spiced duck legs with pancetta & coriander potatoes

Spiced duck legs

Spiced duck legs

I do like spice, especially when it’s on some crisped skin. Chicken, pork crackling, duck… the fat on skin lends itself wonderfully to spicing, adding some flavour, and, should you choose it, heat, to the crispy skin with the unctous fat underneath. Swoon.

Last night I found myself at a loose end, mentally at least. Nothing agreed with me.

What  to do? Out, in? In, out? I wanted to go out but I didn’t want to leave the house. I was tired but I was restless. I decided to stay in.

I wanted wine, but I didn’t have any. I didn’t want to go out to get any. I had a half bottle of fino. Not quite the sleepy red that I had in mind but I do love fino, so that will do.

What to eat? I had duck legs and pork belly in the fridge. I couldn’t decide and I wanted both. So both it was. Until I realised that it was 10.30pm and the pork belly still wasn’t in the oven, plus the duck leg dinner was shaping up to be a sizable one, so I would stick with that. And it looked good.

Duck legs? Why not duck breast? Duck legs are delicious and saturated with flavour, fat and crispiness. Duck breast is delicious too but it’s more delicate and feels less rustic. I wanted rustic. I wanted bones. I wanted fat, and I wanted flavour. Lots of flavour and lots of crispy skin.

I wanted red wine but I was starting to get over it.

I placed the duck legs in a baking dish about an inch deep, so that I would capture the fat that oozed out of it. I sprinkled a little hot chilli powder over each leg and about twice as much five spice, I would estimate a half teaspoon of five spice and a quarter of the chilli powder. It need some sea salt to round it off and crisp it up. I rubbed it all in with a little groundnut oil, and made sure to wash my hands thoroughly after. That chilli powder can make your hands firey for hours after.

Into the oven, and I went back to watch Medium. I was firmly immersed in a marathon of it. I love that show!

After 20 minutes I parboiled some diced potatoes, skin still on, until soft, then drained them and chopped some pancetta, 2 generous thick slices. The duck by now was looking and smelling good and had released lots of delicious duck fat.

I removed the legs from the baking dish and put them on a tray with the pancetta. The idea here was to crisp the pancetta up to mix in with the potatoes.  I put the potatoes into the dish with the duck fat with some sea salt sand freshly ground black pepper and gave it a good mix. Then left everything for a further 10 minutes or so, when the duck was perfectly crispy and moist underneath, the pancetta crisped and the potatoes had roasted nicely in the duck fat. I added the pancetta to the potatoes and mixed in some chopped fresh coriander, about a tablespoon, and served it up.

It was delicious. So good I had to share. I hadn’t intended on blogging it so there’s no photo of the finished dish unfortunately, I was too keen to eat it and not keen on missing any more Medium. It was my Saturday night after all. Lazy, grazy and lovely! I hope you had a nice one too.

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Spiced Roast Pork Belly

spiced roast pork belly

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.

spices for roast pork belly

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.

pork belly

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!

roast pork belly with salads

Ingredients:

1kg good pork belly, on the bone, if possible

Spice rub:

1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp sea salt
1 tbsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tbsp fiery chilli powder
Zest of one unwaxed lemon

Method:

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.

Enjoy!

EDIT: I incorrectly said 180 degrees in the text. Typo – apologies. Should be 150.

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Roast Pork Belly, cooked simply

Pork Belly

Pork Belly

It’s fair to say that I like pork belly. Just a little. Or, is that alot? Yes, it is. ALOT. It’s such a fine cut of meat, packed full of flavour and with that gorgeous crispy crackling as a bonus. It’s cheap too!

I’ve blogged about it in the past (Slow Roast Pork Belly with Cider & Lentils), and it occured to me recently that I ‘ve never blogged about doing it simply without wine or cider, herbs or spices, just au natural. Now, there’s a petit oversight and one which I’ll rectify now.

There are a couple of important things about cooking pork belly. Start it off at a very high temperature, to wake up that crackling and get it moving. Then turn down the heat and roast it long enough to render out the fat. Then blast that sleepy crackling under the grill so it blisters and crisps, almost aching and arching with the effort.

I got another great new tip recently from one of my many cookbooks. Before roasting, pour some boiling water over the pork belly skin, so that the lines that your butcher has cut through the skin pull apart, encouraging fantastic crackling, and reminding it of the job ahead.

This was enough for two, and I had leftovers. I served it with cavolo nero flash fried with red chilli and garlic. It was a fantastic accompaniment.

Ingredients:

1kg pork belly, ask your butcher to cut through the crackling (score it) or do it yourself with a stanley knife, cutting parallel lines through the skin as far as but not through the flesh underneath
Sea salt
Olive Oil

Method:

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees celsius.
Put the pork belly in a metal colander and pour boiling water over the top. Drain then pat dry with kitchen paper. Rub some olive oil and sea salt into the flesh (not the skin) and rub sea salt into the skin, and into the grooves cut there.
Place on a rack in a baking tray, to allow the fat to drip out, and roast for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 170 degrees and roast for a further hour and a half (roughly – depends on your cut of meat and the oven – keep an eye on it).
Put on the grill and put the pork belly under it to crisp the crackling. This only takes a few minutes. Take care not to burn it, which can happen very quickly.
Rest for 10-15 minutes, and serve sliced, with the crackling on top. This is delicious served simply with greens like cavolo nero, sprout tops or kale.

Enjoy!