I'd been wanting to try cooking with pork belly for ages. The combination of this desire, my mate Blacks (aka Scar aka J-quon) coming for dinner and a completely free weekend meant I fulfilled my belly desires (some would say excessively so).
First task was braising the pork belly which laid the foundation for all that was to come.
The skin and the first layer of fat was removed and saved for crackling. The two pieces of belly were covered with water and brought to the boil then taken off the heat immediately (this was to remove as much of the scum as possible). The belly was returned to the pan along with an onion, studded with cloves, five whole black peppercorns, two bay leaves, two cloves of garlic (unpeeled), two sprigs of thyme and a carrot. Enough water was added to just cover the ingredients and the pan was bought up to a gentle simmer for two hours.
After this time the belly was drained and the cooking liquor reserved. The belly was then pressed overnight between two baking sheets (weighted down with (many) cans).. It was then trimmed into two portions (approximately 150-200g each) and the excess diced (my very own home-made "cubetti di pancetta" or "lardons"!)I used the lardons in my recipe for cabbage and pork pasta (serves 2)
~100g Diced pork belly
1/2 savoy cabbage, shredded
~100ml pork stock (the reserved braising liquor)
~75ml double cream
1tbsp whole grain mustard
butter for frying
1. Put the pasta on to cook in plenty of furiously boiling salted water.
2. Fry the pork belly in the butter until crisp.
3. Add the mustard, pork stock and cabbage and cream. Cook until the cabbage is tender and the liquid has reduced to a coating consistency.
4. Once cooked drain the pasta and add to the cabbage. Also add a splash of the pasta cooking water.
5. Mix thoroughly and season.
6. Serve liberally covered with grated parmesan.
On to the main event:
Pork belly and crackling with savoy cabbage and mustard cream sauce with an apple and onion purée and caramelised apple and onionIngredients: (for 2)
Braised pork belly with skin removed, pressed
1/2 savoy cabbage, shredded
For the purée:
1+1/2 Cox's apple, peeled, cored, quartered
1 onion, sliced finely
For the mustard sauce:
400ml braising liquor
125ml double cream
1tsbp grain mustard
For the caramelised apple and onion garnish:
Onion, cut into eighths (root still attached)
Cox's apple, peeled, cored, cut into eighths
1. To make the crackling, score the skin and pour an entire kettle of boiling water over the skin. Pat dry and leave to drain for about an hour.
2. Rub a little vegetable oil into the skin and then rub in some salt crystals. Roast at 200°C for 10 minutes before turning down to 190°C for about 30 minutes (or until done).
Note: The crackling can be cooked between two heavy baking trays to keep it flat
There are two ways to make the apple and onion purée.
3a. Toss the apple and onion segments in a small amount of olive oil and place in the bottom of a roasting tray with the skin on a rack above (this will allow the rendered pork fat to glaze the apple and onion). Place a sprig or two or thyme in the pan too. Once caramelised add some water (or use the braising liquor) to the pan to prevent the apple and onion from burning.
3b. Gently brown the onion in butter in a pan. Remove the onion and caramelise the apple. Add the onion back to the pan together with a ladle of braising liquor and a thyme sprig. Simmer gently until tender and the liquid has reduced. Purée and season. Keep warm until ready to serve.
4. For the apple and onion garnish gently fry the segments in butter, until caramelised and tender.
5. Briefly sauté the cabbage in butter before adding some of the braising liquor and cooking until tender.
6. To make the mustard sauce add all the ingredients into a pan and reduce until it has reached a coating consistency.
7. Fry the pork belly in butter until browned on all sides.
To assemble the dish, put the sliced pork belly atop a portion of cabbage. Spoon over the mustard sauce and top with a slice of crackling. Arrange a selection of the caramelised onion and apple segments over a spoonful of the purée.
To finish we had individual steamed lemon sponge puddings with lemon sauce taken from New British Classics by Gary Rhodes
Ingredients (for 2):
1.5oz caster sugar
Zest and juice of a lemon
2oz plain flour
1/2tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
For the sauce:
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1oz caster sugar
1tsp cornflour slaked with water
1. Butter and flour two dariole moulds.
2. Cream the butter and sugar, together with the lemon zest.
3. Add the egg and beat in the sifted flour and salt.
4. Add the lemon juice.
5. Divide between the two moulds. then cover and secure with a folded grease-proof paper lid.
6. Put into a steamer for 35-40 minutes.
7. For the sauce make the juice up to 150ml with water.
8. Pour into a pan with the sugar and zest and bring to the boil.
9. Once boiling stir in the cornflour mix.