If you're not a fan of pork belly you're simply not doing it right. Here's a quick recipe for how I like to do mine:
It all starts at the butcher's shop. The butcher is likely to ask you a few things:
- How much you're after?Be sure to overestimate this one, as it shinks a lot during cooking and most of the fat (which makes up a lot of the belly) will render off
- Bone in or out?The bones in pork belly are american bbq ribs. They cook up much more quickly than the belly and I often do them as a cheeky entre. If you leave them in the benefit is they protect the belly from over cooking and they easily pull out once the belly is cooked.
- Would you like it scored?Just say yes! you need a very sharp knife and a dozen dangerous flicks to score a pork belly, we're happy to do it for you so please ask.
Pre heat oven to 220C Fan Forced
Core your apples and slice them thinly. Arrange the apple pieces in a square shape, the same shape as your belly in an oven tray. These will make a bed for the belly to roast on.
Take your scored belly and place it on a wire cake rack in your kitchen sink skin-side up. Pour boiling water over the skin. You'll notice it tightening up and changing to a lighter colour. This does a few things:
- Starts the cooking process off as a head start and
- Pulls the skin tight which opens up the cracks you've made by scoring
To get perfect crackle you need dry heat. There is natural moisture in the skin of the pork thats what the salt is for; to dry it out. First you need to remove any water or fluid sitting on the surface. Dry the belly off with the paper towels patting it so its completely dry. Next cover the skin with olive oil, and then it’s time to get liberal with the salt.
When it comes to salt you need to use a lot, sea salt flakes work well. Work the salt into all the scores. At this stage you can sprinkle with fennel seeds too.
Place your belly on top of the apple slices, and put in the centre of the oven. Keep an eye on it at this temp things happen quickly. My rule of thumb is that I want the crackling to be 80% of where I want it to be before I turn the heat down. You should be looking for a colour change to a rich yellow, bubbles under the skin, and the whole belly having no soft spots. Once you're 80% there turn the heat down to 160C. This usually takes 30mins or so.
Cook for a further 2.5 hours at 160C. You can turn the heat back up again at the end if you have to.
When carving, use the scores to guide your knife or you'll never get through the cracking. The apple can be mashed with a fork and add a little cider vinegar and pepper to make a sauce for the pork.
Pair with a wine with some decent acid like a cool climate riesling, a fresh dry cider, or a hoppy beer.Bon Appetit!