When it comes to a Sunday roast there is always a difficult decision to be made; which meat do you go for? Each has its benefits but also it’s pitfalls; especially when ordering in a pub or restaurant for the first time. Arguably one of the most risky choices is the pork belly. Done right it is a wonderful thing. Crisp skin, succulent meat and a beautifully rich fatty flavour. Get it wrong and you end up with nasty chewy skin, wobbly fat and dry meat. Despite the dangers I would choose pork belly more often than not given the choice.
When cooking at home you are able reduce the danger levels to nearly zero provided you follow a few important steps. With this is mind I decided to tackle pork belly one Sunday afternoon before the inevitable reappearance of Monday morning and work.
What I used
- A boneless pork belly joint approx 650g
- Fennel seeds
- Crushed dried chilli
- Maldon sea salt
- cider vinegar
- Maris piper potatoes
- Chantenay carrots
- Green beans
What I did
To prepare the meat pre-heat your oven to as high as it goes. Place the pork into a colander and pour boiling water over the skin before patting dry with kitchen roll; make sure it is completely dry. Score the skin deeply at regular intervals, about a fingers width apart, avoiding cutting right down to the meat. Combine the fennel seeds, chilli flakes and some salt with a little oil and cider vinegar and rub into the cuts. Sprinkle more salt, fennel and chilli over the skin but leave out any of the wet ingredients. Place into the oven for about 15 minutes at the high heat or until you see the skin starting to crisp up then turn the oven down to about 160C and cook for around one and a half to two hours. If the skin has not fully crisped up then turn the heat back up for a little while. Alternatively you can pop it under the grill for a few minutes, although be very careful if doing this as it can burn quite quickly and dry out. Leave to rest for around 20 minutes before carving.
To go with the pork I decided to make some simple skin on roast potatoes. These are really low effort with no peeling or par boiling required. Simply chop your potatoes into good sized chunks and place into an oven proof dish. Add some sliced shallots, lightly crushed cloves of garlic, sprigs of thyme and a quartered lemon. Drizzle over a good amount of olive oil and plenty of salt before tossing it all together. Place into the oven with about 45 minutes to go until the pork is cooked. When you remove the pork you can turn the heat up higher to around 200C to crisp the potatoes if required.
Finally I boiled some chantenay carrots and green beans in a pan. Once drained I returned them to the pan and added some butter and salt before placing back onto the heat for a minute or so. There’s nothing like taking some healthy vegetables and adding salt and butter to make them taste better.
Once you have let the meat rest for a little while slice with a really sharp knife. Provided your skin is nice and crisp this should not be a problem. The amount of pork I used should feed two people well, it depends on how hungry you are. Add the slices of pork to your plate with the potatoes and veg and some of the roasted garlic. I’ve not made a gravy with mine but if you want to go down that route then something made with cider would be perfect.
The meat should be meltingly tender and full of flavour. The crisp skin will be satisfyingly salty and have a little heat from the chilli alongside aromatic fennel. The potatoes will give a freshness that will cut through the rich meat thanks to the lemons and thyme. They will not be fatty and crisp like traditional roast potatoes but that is not what you want with this dish. Finally the buttery sweet carrots and green beans bring the whole dish together.
I am pretty sure that pork belly is my favourite roast meat, what is yours?