I am a sucker for pork belly. I don’t mind how it comes: braised in cider with apples, chinese style, or simply slow roasted with nothing but a grating of salt. Just so long as it’s cooked on a low heat for a protracted period, and ideally with the fat crisped beautifully at the end, I’m happy.
This week, two moods collided, and I felt insatiable cravings for both a BBQ and my beloved slow roasted pork. So since I had some time, and some guests coming round, I got to work…
Pork belly is one of the cheaper cuts of pork, so a great bargain from a supermarket; though if you have a little cash spare and a desire to splash out, do try and get it from a butcher. That we did, from Canterbury’s Goods Shed. And a beautiful piece of meat it was! If you’re just planning to roast it, best to ask the butcher to remove the bones and rind for you: it’s a little bit of a faff, unless you have razor sharp knives. Last time I tried, it took me about an hour, and I massacred the poor thing. But since I was planning to braise this, I left the bones in, to give it some added flavour.
I decided to braise the belly with white wine and chorizo for a few hours, before crisping it up on the barbecue. Sadly, my barbecuing skills left much to be desired, and the darned thing never quite made it to a useable temperature! So I ended up frying the pork off to crisp it up, thus missing out on some of the smokey goodness it should have had.
My ineptitude aside, the result was great! The meat was tender, and the fat crispy. The meat had a nice, faint hint of white wine, and I was also left with a beautiful liquid, some of which I thickened to make a sauce, and the rest of which I used as the base for a stock to make Boulangère Potatoes. We also served it with a courgette and mint salad and green beans.
So here’s my recipe. Do feel free to customise it. Having never made it before, it was a bit of an experiment, and I’m pretty sure it could be improved. Perhaps if I were serving it with particularly spanish themed foods, I would add some extra paprika and chilli to give it a little more of a kick. And I’d suggest doing it as part of a larger barbecue repertoire. Serve it alongside other barbecue regulars, as it does seem a little bit of a waste to heat up the coals for only 15 minutes of its 4 hours of cooking time!
Braised and (Theoretically) Barbecued Pork Belly with Chorizo
1.5 kg pork belly, rind removed. Bones left in.
100g chunk of chorizo
500ml white wine
1 large onion
3 garlic cloves
1 tsp. brown sugar
Preheat the oven to around 150°C, and find a casserole dish or deep roasting pan big enough to house the pork.
Assuming the rind is already removed, score the fat and grate a little salt over the top. Start off by frying the pork for a few minutes; just give it a minute or so on the meaty side in order to seal it, and then focus the majority of your time on the fat, until it goes golden and begins to crisp.
Meanwhile, dice the chorizo and chop the onion into around 8 pieces. Sweat them off in the casserole dish, allowing the paprika to bleed and dye the onions a kind of menacing red. Then add the peppercorns and garlic cloves, peeled, but left whole. Fry off until the onions have coloured (if you can see that beneath the chorizo stains!) then place the pork belly in the dish, fat side up, nuzzling it down in between the onions.
Pour in the wine, and top it up with approximately the equivalent of water; just enough to cover the pork. Then stir in a teaspoon of brown sugar. Depending on the wine you’re using, you may want to add a splash of white wine vinegar as well, but our wine was acidic enough without: an embarrassingly cheap bottle from our France trip!
Then cover, either with a lid, or parchment paper, and pop in the oven. Braise for about 3 hours. If you happen to have an entire day free, then feel free to drop the temperature and cook it for even longer, but 3 hours will do just fine.
Remove the pork from the liquid and leave to cool (chill overnight if you want). When cool enough to handle easily, cut into strips, using the bones as demarcations. Then when it’s time to eat, make sure the barbecue is good and hot (ha!), and then put the pork on, skin down to crisp it up. Once the skin is beautifully crispy, give it a couple of minutes on each side to ensure the pork is heated right through. And serve!