Perfect roast pork belly in apple cider

Perfect roast pork belly in apple cider

By
From
Have You Eaten
Serves
6-8
Photographer
Billy Law

What makes the perfect roast pork belly? In my opinion it is a slow-braised succulent tender belly that simply melts in the mouth, and it has that golden earth-shattering crunchy crackling on top. Well ... actually, it’s all about the crackling! Here are a few handy tips to achieve that perfect crackling. Firstly, when scoring the skin, make sure the score lines are cut all the way to the edges so the fat can be rendered out. Secondly, make sure the rind is as dry as possible, leave it in the refrigerator overnight to help dehydrate the skin further. Thirdly, salt – it helps to draw moisture out of the skin when roasting. Lastly, if the pork belly comes in uneven thickness, raise the thinner part by putting some vegetables off-cuts underneath until you have a flat surface.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
1.8kg pork belly, with skin on
65g rock salt or sea salt flakes
olive oil, to drizzle
3 carrots, cut into chunks
2 celery stalks, cut into chunks
2 apples, cut into chunks
365ml apple cider
375ml chicken stock
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs thyme
2 tablespoons cornflour, mixed with 4 tablespoons water
20g chilled butter, cut into cubes
salt and pepper

Apple gratin

Quantity Ingredient
3 granny smith apples
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
3 sprigs thyme, leaves picked

Roast carrots

Quantity Ingredient
1 knob butter
1 bunch dutch carrots

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 250°C. Move the wire rack in the oven to the level closest to the top element.
  2. To clean the pork belly, scrape the skin with the blade of a knife to remove any hair, then pat dry all over with paper towel. Score the skin crosswise in vertical lines about 2–3 cm apart, then flip the pork belly over and do the same on the meat side, cutting about 1 cm deep.
  3. Bring a kettle to the boil, then pour the hot water over the skin to scald it. The skin will tighten and the score lines will widen, revealing the fat underneath. Pat with paper towel until completely dry, then place on a baking tray. For the best results and a crunchier crackling, you can dehydrate the pork by leaving it uncovered in the refrigerator overnight. If not, rub salt on the skin and into the score lines, then drizzle with olive oil.
  4. Transfer the tray to the top rack in the oven and grill the pork for about 45 minutes until the skin evenly crackles and is blisteringly crunchy. Make sure the kitchen is well ventilated, as it will get very smoky because of the burning fat on the tray. Take the tray out of the oven every 10 minutes or so to tip the rendered fat out into a bowl; discard it.
  5. Once ready, take the pork out of the oven, reduce the oven to 150°C and move the wire rack to the middle of the oven. Transfer the pork to a baking dish and surround it with the carrots, celery and apples. Open the bottle of apple cider and carefully pour it into the dish without wetting the pork skin. Then top it up with chicken stock, using only enough to cover the meat and not the skin. Add the fennel seeds and bay leaves to the stock. Place the dish on the middle rack in the oven and roast the pork for 3 hours.
  6. Start preparing the apple gratin and roast carrots and get them into the oven for the last hour of cooking. For the gratin, use a mandolin to thinly slice the apples into a bowl. Add the apple cider vinegar, sugar and thyme leaves, and toss to mix well. Spread the mixture evenly in a small rectangular baking dish.
  7. For the roast carrots, melt the butter in a frying pan and cook the carrots for about 5 minutes, or until caramelised on the outside, then transfer to a small baking dish. Place both the apple and carrot dishes on the wire rack in the oven below the pork and roast for 1 hour, or until the pork is ready.
  8. Remove all the dishes from the oven. Let the pork rest in the liquid for 15 minutes before transferring it onto a chopping board. Strain the liquid in the baking dish into a saucepan to make a gravy, and keep the braised vegetables and apples to make a purée. To make the purée, put the braised vegetables, apples and 3 tablespoons of the braising stock into a food processor and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. To make the gravy, put the remaining braising stock and thyme sprigs into a saucepan. Bring to the boil, then reduce the liquid until there is only 250 ml of liquid left. Stir in the cornflour and water mixture, then whisk in the butter a bit at a time until the gravy thickens. Season with salt and pepper, then strain through a fine sieve into a jug.
  9. To serve, place a few spoonfuls of purée on each plate, and then top with some pork belly and roasted carrots. Cut the apple gratin into smaller portions and serve it on the side. Pour over the gravy.
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