Best of British
The Boy and I agreed to contribute the main course to a great British feast, prepared in honour of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee which we celebrated with my family in a big house in the heart of Derbyshire. After searching for three kilos of fantastic quality British pork belly, we finally procured a great slab of juicy meat topped with a thick slice of plump fat and skin from Cambridge Farmers' Outlet on Lensfield Road and set about making plans for roasting this bad boy.
|Grasmere Farm, Lincolnshire, Pork Belly|
We decided to add a burst of smoky flavour to the crackling by adding crushed coriander and fennel seeds prior to cooking, the aniseed quality of the latter being a well-known companion for pork belly. We hoped to bring depth to the crispy, fatty crackling, without overwhelming the soft, pink meat of the belly. Before whacking the piece of pork belly into a hot oven to start the crisping process, we rubbed a mix of crushed seeds all over the skin and into every score mark (prepared for us by the butcher, but you can do it yourself with a sharp knife). I also added a generous helping of a sea salt, fennel, chili and lemon mix (lovingly made for me by Best Friend Jess and becoming an increasingly useful store cupboard essential) and rubbed this all over the skin. You can add a glug of oil to help the crisping process too, but it's not strictly necessary. I like to sprinkle some crushed seeds, salt and pepper around the baking tray too, so they mix with the juices to give a rich flavour should you wish to drizzle some over the finished product!
Here's what you need to do:
1. Prepare the pork belly as above and place on a large baking tray in a hot oven (220 degrees) for thirty minutes.
2. Turn the oven down to about 160 degrees and cook for another 2-3 hours, basting the crackling occasionally with the juices. This may depend on the ferocity of your oven and the size of the piece of meat, so keep checking after about 1.5 hours until it's cooked to your liking.
3. Remove from the oven and rest for thirty minutes. The crackling will crisp up even more at this stage so don't despair if you like it nice and crunchy! Before carving, remove the crackling in one piece and smash into chunks. If the skin has been scored as above I find this much easier to break up and eat. We cooked a smaller piece of pork belly recently which had been scored in long lines rather than cross hatching and this means the crackling comes apart in long, thin strips instead (below).
|Peasenhall Pork Belly from Friday Street Farm, Suffolk|
We accompanied the delicious, moist chunks of pork belly and crackling with some mashed potato to soak up the juices and a side dish of Chorizo and Butter Beans, made by the Big Sis. The thick tomato sauce and piquant, smoky chorizo made the perfect partner to our crispy, spiced crackling. Apparently the dish was super easy and quick to make (you can read the Big Sis' blog here, in which she writes about reading books in between cooking up some fabulous feasts up in Yorkshire).
|Chorizo and Butter Beans on the side|
As usual I couldn't resist bringing a touch of France into the proceedings and cracked open a bottle of Picardie cider to enjoy alongside the pork. Parfait!