This is a really economical cut of meat to buy, and when you slow roast it, you get the most meltingly tender, flaky meat. We often have this on a Sunday as the leftovers are great to have during the week that follows.
There are lots of recipes out there for slow roasted pork belly, and I think this was based on a Jamie Oliver one. My partner (who always cooks Sunday lunch/dinner) has been making it for a few years now though so does it slightly differently.
- 1.3 kg piece of pork belly
- 1 tbsp fennel seeds
- 2 tsp peppercorns
- 1 tsp sea salt
Preheat your oven to 230°C, 450°F or Gas Mark 8 (10° less for fan ovens)
If you’re buying your pork belly from a butcher, ask them to score the top for you as shown in the pictures here. Otherwise you’ll need to do it yourself (and I bet your knives aren’t as sharp as the butcher’s…). If so, use the sharpest knife you have to score lines into the skin (but not all the way through to the meat) in a diamond pattern.
Crush your spices and salt in a pestle and mortar, then rub them thoroughly into the skin, making sure you get them in the cracks. Most recipes say to rub olive oil in as well, some say to rub it into the meat too, and marinade it for a while. It will still taste lovely if you do it like this, but I think you get a nicer crackling if you rub a bit of olive oil into it.
Put your pork belly in a roasting tin and whack it in the oven on 230°C for 25 minutes, to crisp the skin. Then turn the oven down to 150°C, 300°F, Gas Mark 2 and cook for a minimum of 4 hours. You could leave it for 7 hours on that low heat and it would just get more and more meltingly tender. It won’t dry out because there’s so much fat to keep the meat moist; the longer you cook it, the more the fat within the meat renders down.
We like to cook it on a bed of florence fennel so that the meat juices saturate the fennel wedges, adding the fennel for the last hour or so. You could put in whatever vegetables you fancy, but do be aware that the belly does give off a lot of fat during cooking, so you’ll probably need to pour some off before you add the vegetables to it, and drain off excess fat at the end. You can always cook your vegetables in a separate roasting tray, adding as much of the pork fat as you want.
Similarly, lots of recipes tell you to make a gravy or jus from the pork juices. Make sure that there isn’t too much fat in there, or you’ll end up with a greasy oil slick.
I had my pork belly with roasted mashed celeriac, roasted broccoli and fennel, pictured just before I drowned it in gravy. :-)