I absolutely love roast pork belly … the combination of the crispy skin and the soft, rich layers of meat that melt in your mouth (when it’s done right) is delicious! But I am a little bit afraid of most pork cuts that depart from the usual suspects, so I have been hesitant to try this myself. That, and for this recipe you need to make yourself reasonably available for around 4 hours on and off. I probably didn’t leave this cooking for long enough (I followed the recipe, however the crackling could have been…well…more crackly!) So just a word of advice, don’t be afraid to keep roasting it for longer than the recipe says to, it is pretty hard to mess up – the longer you roast it, the more tender it will become.
Seeing as it is so rich, I can only ever really stomach an entreée size portion of pork so it is a good idea to supplement it with something subtle and hearty to serve as a main, like root vegies or as i have done here, root vegetable puree. The relish in this recipe is delicious and cuts the rich flavour of the pork, while adding a sweet dimension to the meal. The watercress is a nice garnish and adds something fresh and untouched to the plate.
The recipes for the roast pork belly and the cranberry and elderflower relish are based on recipes by Ottolenghi’s creators; Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. Both born in Jerusalem, their food has a strong middle eastern influence and is very much about colour, texture, presentation, of course flavour and the freshest of fresh ingredients. They don’t over complicate the cooking or preparation process and their food is not wanky. Their successful stores are located in London and are very hard to label one thing or another – they themselves sum it up with the words ‘food shop, patisserie, deli, restaurant, bakery’ and yet this still doesn’t do it justice … and to think I have never actually set foot in one of their stores! (although I have seriously considered forking out the $3000 + for a plane ticket just to do so). Thank the lord for their recently released cook book ‘Ottolenghi, The Cookbook’. Yotam and Sami’s passion for, nay, obsession with food is so evident in every dish… something which I hope is true of my own creations.
roast pork belly – serves 4
1.5kg pork belly, bones removed
handful of thyme – roughly chopped
handful of rosemary – roughly chopped
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
5 cloves garlic – crushed
150ml olive oil
bottle of white wine
sea salt & cracked black pepper
bunch of fresh watercress, rinsed
5 washed potatoes
4 parsnips peeled
2 fennel bulbs, stalks removed
3 celery stalks
2 tablespoons butter
cranberry & elderflower relish
small knob of ginger, peeled & sliced
1 tsp mustard seeds
300g cranberries (frozen are fine) – the ottolenghi recipe calls for gooseberries but as they are hard to come by in australia, these are a good substitute
80g caster sugar
70ml elderflower cordial (you can find this at a natural grocer or in some supermarkets)
Heat the oven to 250 degrees Celsius, fan forced. Combine the chopped herbs, fennel seeds and olive oil in a bowl with some salt and pepper. Place the pork skin side down and rub the meat with the marinade.
Turn the pork belly over and pat dry with paper towel before sprinkling sea salt evenly over the skin (not too much). Roast in a deep tray for 1 hour, turning the tray around at 20 minute intervals.
Meanwhile, place the ginger and mustard seeds in a sheet of mesclun and secure. place in a saucepan with the cranberries, sugar and cordial and place on a low heat. Simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and discard the parcel of ginger and mustard seeds and allow the relish to cool. (Should last for about 2 weeks in the fridge).
Once the pork belly has been roasting for an hour (there should be some crackling already), turn the oven down to 170 degrees celcius and pour the wine into the tray (avoid the skin) and roast for another hour.
Turn the oven down to 110 degrees Celsius for another hour. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to the boil and begin to steam the potatoes. After 5 minutes, add the parsnip and fennel. Add the celery to steam for the last 5 minutes. Place in a bowl with the butter and puree with a hand held mixer or masher. Gradually add milk until the desired consistency is reached. Season to taste and keep warm.
Back to the pork, if the skin has not crackled completely, continue roasting for another 10 – 20 minutes (the whole surface of the skin should look dried and bubbled like the corners of mine do in the picture below). Remove from the oven when and use a sharp knife to slice into thin strips about 2.5 – 3cm wide.
Place some puree in the centre of each plate, followed by 2 or 3 pieces of pork belly. Top with a generous spoon of relish and some watercress.