Updated: Aug 21
This is one of the meals I make for celebrations like Christmas or long family Sunday roast lunches. The recipe for the pork is based on the best recipe I've tried (online at BBC Food), and the lentils are from Nigella Lawson's book, 'Feast'. The Braised Lentil recipe is in a separate post, as they go with so many things - lamb, fish, sausages - you name it!
To achieve beautifully successful crackling, it's absolutely imperative that your pork belly is as dry as possible before starting this dish, so buy it a few days before, wrap it fully in kitchen towels and change them once if you can, to ensure minimal moisture!
You need a roasting dish lined with baking paper with a wire rack for the meat to sit on - if you don't want the lemon-juice-blackened spices etc on your meat... though I often don't bother with the wire rack because I quite like the burnt ends! It's not for everyone though...
2 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 small handful of thyme leaves or chopped sage
1 tsp flaked sea salt
3 garlic cloves
3 tbsp olive oil
2kg piece boneless pork belly (or near to), skin scored (I like to make my scoring really deep, so if you're buying it pre-scored from a supermarket or butcher, run through it with a very sharp carving knife till it's about 7mm deep, and make more scores if you need to)
2 lemons, juiced (this is what ensures the meat stays beautifully succulent and tender!)
Toast the fennel seeds and peppercorns in a dry frying pan for a couple of mins. Pound them together in a pestle and mortar with some flaked sea salt, the thyme and garlic to make a paste. Mix with 2 tbsp olive oil and rub all over the flesh of the pork. Cover and chill, leaving to marinate for a few hours or overnight.
When ready to cook, rub the skin of the joint with plenty of salt and 1 tbsp more olive oil. In the prepared roasting tin and roast at 200C/180C fan for 30 mins. After this time, squeeze the lemons over the skin and turn the heat down to 170C/ 150C fan. Roast for a further 2 hrs. Finally, turn the heat back up to 220C/ 200C for another 30 mins or so, to finish the crackling. Allow to rest somewhere warm for 20 mins. Carve up into chunks or slices and serve with the braised lentils, steamed cavolo nero (I just pop a large bunch of washed cavolo nero leaves in a steamer or large pot with a little water), sweet potato puree and apple sauce (recipes below).
Spiced Sweet Potato Purée
750g sweet potatoes (UK)/golden kumara (NZ) chopped in to 3cm/2in chunks
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
¼ tsp chilli powder
Salt and pepper
3 Tbsp crème fraîche
a splash of milk (around ¼ cup, but more if you can't get it to your desired purée)
Place the sweet potato/kumara in a large pot, cover in water with a good sprinkling of salt and bring to the boil. Simmer over a low heat until tender - about 15-20 minutes. When ready, drain, and immediately add butter, cumin, smoked paprika, chilli powder, salt, pepper and crème fraîche. Mash together and add a little milk, until smooth. I use a stick blender like this one to get mine to a puréed consistency, but don't make the mistake of adding too much milk at the beginning! Add it little-by-little. .
3-4 granny smith or similarly tart apples - peeled, cored and chopped
2 whole cloves
Juice of 1 lemon
Place the apples in a suitably-sized saucepan, and fill to about the bottom third of the level the apple goes up to with water. The, add the lemon juice and cloves and bring to a boil over a medium heat. Simmer for about 15-20 minutes while the apple gradually stews and breaks down, making it easy to stir in to a sauce. It's a thing of beauty with so many uses, but so utterly delicious with pork.