Pork belly might be a cheap cut, but if you show it a little love and attention it can be fantastic. Slow cooking means the meat is soft and juicy, while you get the most incredible crackling on top. It’s served with a quick homemade apple sauce, which unlike the shop-bought stuff is tart & tangy rather than sweet. The richness of the pork and the freshness of the apple pair perfectly with the full-bodied, fruity Sutton Ridge Dewdown Yeo Valley Sparkling.
Serves 2-4, depending how hungry you are!
- Piece of pork belly (about 800g)
- 1 tbsp fennel seeds
- Small handful of fresh sage
- Coarse sea salt
- 1 fat garlic clove, chopped
- Olive oil
- Lemon juice
For the apple sauce:
- 2 Bramley apples
- 40g butter
- 30g caster sugar
- The pork belly takes a long while to cook, in a couple of stages, but not much actual effort is required. First, grind together the fennel seeds, sage, 1 teaspoon of sea salt, garlic and a splash of olive oil together with a pestle and mortar, to make a thick paste. Spread all over the underside of the pork belly and leave to marinade for at least an hour.
- Next, preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan). Lay the pork belly on a wire rack over a roasting tin, with the skin facing upwards. Use kitchen paper to blot the skin dry, and then sprinkle with a good layer of salt – this will help it really crisp up. Place in the oven for thirty minutes.
- After thirty minutes, sprinkle the skin with lemon juice and then turn the heat down to 180°C (160°C fan) and cook for 90 minutes.
- After 90 minutes, turn the temperature up to 200°C (220°C fan), and roast for a further 30 minutes. Then remove the pork belly from the oven and use a sharp knife to remove the crackling from the top – it should come away quite easily. Wrap the meat in tinfoil and then a clean tea towel, to keep warm, and put the crackling back in the oven, on the wire rack, for a final 30 minutes – this is the secret to getting it really crisp and crunchy.
- Finally, make the apple sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan on the hob. In the meantime, peel and core the Bramley apples, and chop into bite-sized pieces. Once the butter has melted, stir the sugar and the apples through it, put the lid on the pan, and leave to simmer gently – after about ten minutes the apples should soften and disintegrate. Stir really well to remove any lumps, and then serve with the pork and crackling.