Once upon a time I was a vegetarian. For 16 years in fact and I have to admit I was very happy. Then, after a series of long haul holidays in places like Australia, South America and South Africa I started to feel I was missing out (particularly on the steak and red wine!), so I began to eat meat again.That was about 6 years ago and I have to admit I’ve never looked back!
When I was veggie, and at the start of resuming meat-eating, we used to spend a fortune on dinner parties and food with friends. As I’ve become a better cook and – frankly – less able to afford fillets of beef and the like, I’ve become much smarter about cooking cheaper cuts. One particular favourite here that we often feed a bunch of people with is roast pork belly. I picked up the recipe a few years ago from one of the Jamie Oliver programmes promoting the use of cheaper and less popular cuts of meat. The page its printed on is now very splashed and manhandled – a sure sign of a popular recipe!
P.S. My single photo is not great – but its hard to keep 6 hungry people waiting!
Roast Pork Belly (Serves 4-6 (hungry) people)
1.5kg pork belly (*ask the butcher to score the outside, or if you have to do it yourself, make diagonal, criss-crossed cuts using a Stanley knife or similar blade)
sea salt and ground black pepper, to season
2 onions, halved
2 carrots, peeled and halved lengthwise
2 sticks of celery, chopped in half
1 bulb garlic, skin on but broken into cloves
small bunch of fresh thyme
600ml of water
1. Preheat oven to 220 degrees C
2. If not already done, score the meat. Rub salt and pepper into the scores.
3. Place the pork on a baking tray, skin side up. Roast at 220 degrees for 30 minutes.
4. Reduce the heat to 180 degrees and roast for another hour.
5. Take the roast out of the oven and baste with the fat in the tray. Add all of the vegetables into the tray along with the thyme. Roast for another hour.
6. Remove the meat and place on a heated serving dish, covered with tin foil, and allow to rest while you make the gravy.
7. Place the baking tray on the hob on a low heat. Spoon away the fat as much as possible, leaving the vegetables in the tray along with the juices. Add the water and bring to the boil. Allow to simmer for a few minutes stirring constantly with a wooden spoon and gently scraping all the juices from the bottom of the tray. When the gravy reduces and thickens, strain in a sieve and serve.
We have enjoyed this with everything from roast or mashed potatoes or celeriac to a fairly simple green salad. I’m not a big fan of the crackling which is just as well as it seems to be very popular with my husband and kids. If there are any, the leftovers are great the next day with some apple chutney and crusty white bread. If you have any!