A winter pork belly supper


Pork and crackling ready for eating

Pork and crackling ready for eating

On Friday we had another great evening at All Saints – 60 in for baba ganoush, coq au vin, daube of beef, prune and cider fool etc). In case you hadn’t gathered we’re now open in Hereford every Friday evening for great value home-cooked dinners.

And then back at home we had a lovely bunch of people round for dinner on Saturday. Good chat & great grub. We started with sloe gin and prosecco which is my newly found best friend. A generous slug of home-made sloe gin – which we made in the autumn following the Sipsmith instructions – and topped up with prosecco in a good-sized flute. A great simple cocktail.

Then a salad of roast leeks in lemon and parsley dressing (chopped curly parsley, lemon zest and juice, olive oil, a little garlic) with roast squash and some Rosary goat’s cheese on top. We ate this at room temperature but I think doing it again I’d serve it slightly warm. The leeks, squash and parsley all came from our veg patch which I continue to feel inordinately proud of given the lack of time and attention that we give to it.

I’d tried to get hold of some beef cheeks to cook in beer but it seems that even in Herefordshire (world centre of cattle body parts) you have to order beef cheeks in advance. So I fell back on my current obsession which is belly pork with cider sauce; accompanied by mash, roast beetroot with ginger yoghurt, beet tops with butter and mustard, sweetheart cabbage. There are many wonderful things to do with pork but I think that my current desert-island pork dish would be this one.

I was going to make rhubarb bread and butter pudding but that felt a bit massive after pork belly so in the end I made meringues with apple puree (cinnamon, butter, lemon juice, apples that had been sitting in wheelbarrow with rainwater for the last 2 months), salted caramel flaked almonds and cream.

Ingredients ready for cooking for supper

Ingredients ready for cooking for supper

So here’s the recipe for the pork belly. Once you know what you’re aiming for with the flesh of the belly this is a reliably fantastic dish to serve that’s great for doing at home when you don’t want lots of last minute faff. I do this with a whole belly of pork (about 3kg including the bones) as it takes a bit of time to cook and any that you don’t use on the day heats up incredibly well either for serving as it is a second time round or for chopping up and having in soups/stir-frys/noodles etc.

At the cafes we cook the belly overnight at 105C/100% humidity but since I don’t (sadly) have a commercial combi oven at home I do the following.

Slow roast belly pork with cider and crackling

serves 8-12 depending on appetite and accompaniments

1 pork belly, rind scored, bones separated (ask your butcher to do both these things)
1 litre cider – cheap stuff is fine for this

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Put the rib bones in a large roasting tray and put the belly on top rind side uppermost. Roast for about 30 minutes until the top is beginning to brown.
  2. Add the cider, cover the tray with foil and return to the oven for about 15 minutes then turn the temperature down to 140C and leave for a further 3 to 5 hours. Check every hour or so that there is still some liquid in the roasting dish – add boiling water if the liquid is disappearing. The amount of evaporation seems to vary hugely from oven to oven. Liquids will evaporate much more quickly in a fan oven even when the roasting tray appears to be carefully covered in foil. After about 4 hours the pork belly flesh should be collapsing – you should be able to pull strands of flesh off with your fingers. If it’s still firm then leave it for longer.
  3. When the meat is ready take it out of the oven. Carefully remove the meat and bones and put on one side. Pour the liquid into a bowl and allow it to cool completely. Once the fat has solidified it’s easy to remove and discard it. If you don’t have time to let the liquid cool completely in a fridge then use a gravy separator to get rid of the fat. Once you’ve got the cidery juices without the fat put them in a pan and reduce until you’ve got a bit less than half a litre of very tasty thin sauce. Season if necessary – it probably won’t be. Leave on one side until you need it.
  4. Meanwhile, using a large knife, carefully remove the crackling (which at this point will almost certainly be soggy and un-promising) and, using some kitchen scissors, snip it into long thin strips. Put the thin pieces of crackling on a fresh roasting dish and put back in a very hot oven (200-220C). After about 10 minutes take it out, pour off any excess fat which has come off the crackling and return to the oven. Keep checking at least every five minutes (it can go from not quite done to burnt very quickly) until the crackling is very nearly as crisp as you will want it – you’re going to return to the oven for 5 minutes just before serving the pork.
  5. Portion the pork (between 8 and 12 rectangular chunks for a whole 3kg belly) and cut up the ribs and then refrigerate it all until about 20 minutes before you want to eat.
  6. About 15 minutes before you’re ready to eat (or longer if the you’ve stored the portioned meat in the fridge) but the belly and bones back in the oven at 180c. When the meat has nearly heated through put the crackling on top. Meanwhile put the cider juices back on the heat. In about five more minutes the whole lot will be ready to serve. Give each person a couple of ribs, a pit of belly, a few bits of crackling and some sauce and watch happiness grow around the table.

Ps. If this seems like too much bother we’ve currently got roast belly pork on the lunchtime menu at All Saints.

Pulled pork

Happy pigs make lovely pork

Happy pigs make lovely pork

Pulled pork isn’t pretty but goodness it’s delicious. Proper caveman food.

We’ve been developing our pulled pork recipe for the last few months and it’s now reached a stage of deliciousness where I want to eat it most days. Luckily for me it’s on the menu at All Saints every day.

Realistically it’s a recipe that’s tricky to replicate at home but I’m giving it here in its full glory and you can decide whether to try to simplify it for home use or just to come to us for lunch instead.

Our pulled pork journey started at All Saints when we bought our beautiful Rational Combi oven earlier this year. This is a stunningly beautiful machine which controls every aspect of cooking: temperature, humidity and timing. And all with the precision of German engineering. To the basic machine we’ve added a smoker which is important for this recipe. With a bit of luck I’ll have saved up enough pennies (they cost roughly the same as a new small car) to get one for Michaelhouse in 2015.

You can see the ‘bark’ and the soft pullable meat

When we first made this dish we didn’t use a spice rub but it’s been massively improved by the addition of the rub. Our spice mix is very minimally adapted from that used by the renowned Pitt Cue company, specialists in barbecued food from the Deep South. The list of spice ingredients is annoyingly long, but it’s worth putting everything in. I also learned from Pitt Cue an excellent piece of pulled pork jargon: they stress the importance of developing a good ‘bark’ i.e. the browned edge of the meat developed during the slow-roasting. So when you pull the meat you’ve got mostly soft pinkish/brownish interior with flecks of tasty spicey well-browned exterior meat. Yum.

The quantities below feed between 30 and 50 depending on how hungry you’re feeling. The overall process for our version of pulled pork goes like this:

  1. Get your butcher to supply you with a large (about 7kg) boned and skinned (but not rolled) pork shoulder cut into two roughly equal pieces.
  2. Prepare the spice rub (recipe below)
  3. Rub the raw meat with the spice rub working it into all the nooks and crannies
  4. pork rubbed with spices prior to smoking

    pork rubbed with spices prior to smoking

    Smoke the rubbed meat on an open rack at 90C/100% humidity for about 90 minutes

  5. Put each bit of a meat in its own deep roasting tray. Mix the sauce ingredients together (recipe below) and divide equally between the two trays. It should come about a quarter of the way up the meat.
  6. Roast overnight (about 12 hours, but the timing is not critical) at 105C/100% humidity
  7. Pull the pork – use two forks like for roast duck in Chinese restaurants. Mix the pulled meat with the sauce and any juices/fat which have come out of the pork during the overnight roast.
ready to mix with the sauce and juices

ready to mix with the sauce and juices

Put in a freshly-baked All Saints olive oil bap with your chosen accompaniments and eat. We put roast pepper ketchup in the bun and serve coleslaw and salad leaves on the side. A lot of places serve it with a gloopy barbecue sauce. I’m not keen on this and prefer our method of mixing the meat juices/sauce in with the pulled pork.

Spice rub

10g fennel seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp coriander seeds
150g light muscovado sugar
10g garlic powder (I’ve never used this before, but it works well here)
100g salt
15g smoked paprika
30g paprika
1tsp dried oregano
1 tsp cayenne

Toast fennel, cumin, black peppercorns and coriander then grind to a fine powder. Add all of the rest of the ingredients and mix together well.

Sauce ingredients

70 cl dry cider (we use Dunkertons)
75cl cloudy apple juice
120g molasses
120g Dijon mustard