I’ve been keen to try cooking pork belly for some time, having seen some nice looking recipes on Rick Stein and Jamie Oliver TV programmes, but a good excuse to do one came this weekend, when I cooked a belated birthday meal for my Dad.
As he’s always keen to try different things, I thought I’d give one a go and in a nice combination of chance and opportunity, I found an interesting recipe very quickly in a Nigel Slater book and popped to the butcher, who had a very handily-sized piece of meat.
I hadn’t shopped at Sonny’s in Hadlow before, but it has a great selection. The price of pork belly is great too. I worked out it was about £1.40 for a healthy dinner portion each, which compares favourably against some recent portion calculations for lamb leg (£2.10), lamb shoulder (£1.70) and chicken breast (£2.40).
As encouraged by Slater’s narrative in “Appetite”, I followed the recipe quite loosely. In essence, the recipe involves scoring the skin and marinating the meat (1.7kg ish) in a marinade consisting of the following:
- 4 tbsp runny honey
- 4 tbsp hoi sin sauce
- 4 tbsp muscavado sugar
- 2 tbsp of both light and dark soy sauce
- 2 tbsp rice wine (I used cider)
- 1/2 tsp (but I’ll be using more next time) black pepper
- 1 tsp salt (I didn’t use this as I think there’s already plenty of salt going on here)
My version differed as follows:
Slater suggests serving alternative versions of this dish with potatos and having them sit beneath the belly on a roasting dish so as to use the pork fat. For this version, he says putting a tray of “finger’s depth” water underneath. Because I wanted potatos too, I ended up doing the following:
- Save 50% of the marinade for basting during cooking and to make sure you marinate it in the oven-tray that you later use to stand beneath the meat (on either a rack or higher oven shelf).
- Par-boil the potatos and cook them at the bottom of the oven. Use some of the water for par-boiling the roast potatos to loosen the marinade left in the roasting dish, then place it beneath the meat in the oven
- Baste with more marinade a few times during the 1.5 hrs cooking (at 180C), This will fall into the dish underneath, adding to the meat juices, vegetable water and tasty marinade
- I found that the water in the dish below conveniently reached a beautifully syrupy bubbling consistency by the time the meat was ready to come out and rest. I seperated it in a jug while the meat rested and I cooked the greens
I cannot enthuse enough how much this sauce made the final dish. The meat, rested and roughly carved with this sauce on top was a real treat. The crackling wasn’t a headline act, due to the constant basting, but there were a few strips which were nice to lay over the top to serve.
And if you’re not already great at roast potatos, I find you can’t go wrong with carefully chunked/chopped maris piper, 10 minutes par-boiled. Leave them on the turned-off hob to steam, before pouring in your fat of choice (olive for me) and shaking the pan. Chuck them on a baking tray with more fat on and turn while roasting. Leave them in for about an hour or more. Putting them in at the start with the pork in this case and doing them for 1.5 hours was fine.